Every day I confront a pressing moral dilemma. The good and evil parts of my personality are fighting it out, and I’m really not sure which side is going to win. My predicament involves fresh strawberries, a friendly church, and potential jail time.
There is a lovely corner store just a two-minute walk from the house. Most days I hop over there for provisions. Between the house and the store is a sweet old church. I’m not particularly religious, but I find this church comforting, with its pretty steeple, tidy vegetable garden, and a sign that announces it as a “welcoming congregation” pegged with rainbow and earth day flags.
Someone has done their best to make the welcoming signage look pretty. Planted around it, in a small, straw-covered patch are purple and yellow pansies, bee and lemon balm, and strawberry plants. The strawberry plants are torturing me. As I type this, they are laden with dozens of deep red strawberries, swollen with summer sweetness, warming in the sun
And no one is picking them!
I know. I’ve been checking obsessively. Every day I make a mental note of the berries I see succumbing to rot, and the hopeful few that commit to changing from white to red even though their smooshy death is inevitable. Why, God, why? Why would no one take those beautiful berries to a loving home? Put them in a cake. Make a couple spoonfuls of jam. Stack ‘em between shortcakes. It’s hurting my heart. I want to pick them.
But that would be wrong, right? That would be stealing. Still, every day I have to practically slap my own hand away. So far I've been able to control myself. But I don’t know how much longer I can do it. Thankfully the berries in Deborah’s garden have also started to ripen. Right now there are a few low bush blueberries, blackcap raspberries, and the last of the wild strawberries. Raspberries and regular blueberries to come soon. It's still slim pickings out there, but after half an hour of foraging I was able to scrape together one beautiful cup of berries.
What to do with one perfect cup of fruit? It would have made a delicious yogurt bowl or maybe half a smoothie. A light snack. But I’m a baker. So bake I did. I made six little muffins. One for each of us to have for breakfast tomorrow with two to spare. If I can make it one more day without thieving berries from the church, maybe I’ll reward myself with two muffins. An extra one for good behavior.
Summer Berry Butttermilk Muffins
You can bake six muffins in a twelve-muffin tin without any problems. Or you can double the recipe.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
6 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup berries (preferable not stolen)
sanding sugar, for sprinkling
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Pop some muffin liners into a 6-cup muffin pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and egg. Whisk in butter, then buttermilk, and then lemon zest.
3. Add flour mixture to buttermilk mixture and fold until just combined. It’s ok if there are a few streaks of flours. It’s better to undermix a little then overmix. Fold in berries.
4. Divide the batter between the muffin cups and sprinkle with sanding sugar, if using. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then flip them on their sides (or transfer to a rack) to cool completely.