Sunday, July 21, 2019

Maraschino Muffins

I am in a self-imposed writing detox, abstaining from pen and paper, abstaining from words. It's something I try do every once in a while, when clutter in my head becomes unmanageable. I slow down and take a break. To de-clutter. To make space for new, more beautiful words. Sort of like spring cleaning, if you know what I mean. Therefore, no story this time. I am just going to get straight to the point.

You've got to try these muffins.

They are I-N-S-A-N-E.


It was a bunch of unforeseen circumstances that led me to this recipe. Unforeseen circumstances are the divine inspiration behind some of my best dishes, so when the idea occurred, I knew that I had to bake them asap.

Like immediately.

It started with a bottle of Maraschino that's been idling for a while. I bought it to make a Maraschino-slash-Creme-de-Violette cocktail for the Ladies Night Out (a classy party I throw every once in a while, for my girlfriends). Classy LNO parties usually call for something like a Maraschino-slash-Creme-de-Violette cocktail, and I had just about perfect vision of it in my head -- an elegant lilac-colored concoction served in chilled martini glasses with a slice of lemon and violets on top. Except that the thing I ended up making was cloyingly, disturbingly, nauseatingly sweet-slash-perfumy, and not even a bottle of gin and a heavy dose of lemon juice could make it palatable. As a result, Maraschino went to the back of the upmost shelf of our liquor cabinet -- a dark, sad, and remote place where bottles of unwanted booze go to die.

Then, there was that bag of almond flour I bought to make a fig and almond cake, but I did not feel like following the recipe and pretended to be Ms. Smarty Pants about it. The cake turned into another disaster of Maraschino-Creme-de-Violette magnitude.

For a while, it appeared that I was getting nowhere on the Maraschino front, until, last week, the good folks from Northwest Cherry Growers sent me a crate of most beautiful cherries. A BIG crate of cherries. Like THIS big. (Thank you friends!) And that's when things presented themselves with unmistakable clarity. Muffins... Almond, cherries and vanilla, infused with faint notes of crushed cherry pits and bitter almond... Crispy on top, cloud-like in the middle, bejeweled with gigantic cherry halves that are melting, yet still crunchy.

I firmly believe that the Lady Heavens sometimes serves us obstacles, so that we can grow, and learn, and emerge victorious. That's how I feel about these muffins.

Enough said.

Please do make them, because cherry season is coming to an end. Go hurry.

p.s. Now that I made a dent with the Maraschino, if you happen to have an idea what to do with Creme de Violette, please drop me an email.

Maraschino Almond Cherry Muffins

* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 cup almond flour
* 1 cup + 3 tbsp white sugar
* 2 tbsp baking powder
* 1 tsp salt
* 3/4 cup melted butter
* 3/4 cup milk
* 3 large eggs
* 5 tbsp Maraschino
* 1/4 tsp almond extract (I use
* 1 tbsp vanilla extract
* 20 oz pitted cherries, cut in half

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, one cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl, beat the eggs. Add the butter, milk, Maraschino, vanilla and almond extract. Pour into the flour mixture. Stir gently until incorporated. Try not to overmix the batter. Fold the cherries into the batter.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 of the way. Sprinkle the remaining sugar on top of the muffins. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes for regular sized muffins, or 25-30 for jumbo sized muffins.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 20 regular muffins, or 12 jumbo muffins

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