At my house, cooking for the kids often involves leftovers. Specifically, using up ingredients that they’ve taken a bite of and abandoned on the countertop. This is most often fruit. These banana, apple and more recently, strawberry, peach and nectarine corpses break my heart but have inspired our weekly muffin-making sessions.
My daughter Penelope drags her step-stool to the counter and helps me measure and mix, and about 30 minutes later we’ve got fresh muffins to eat or freeze. The sugar-pecan topping can be included or not, depending on how much sugar your child has already inhaled that day. The muffins are just as tasty without.
This is an indestructible, go-to muffin recipe because you can add any fruit you like and the whole-wheat flour will go unnoticed by the little ones. I love using fresh blackberries or peaches in the summer but if you want to use fresh strawberries, make sure to cut the tops off and cut them in half before using. (This is a great recipe for using up those on-the-brink berries and fruit.)
Cook’s notes: Rinse and thoroughly dry fresh berries before adding them; you don’t want any excess water in the batter. If you’re using frozen berries, don’t defrost them before adding them to the batter. The best tip for fruit muffins: gently toss the fruit in flour before folding them into the batter so they don’t sink to the bottom of the muffin cup. (Use a bit of the flour called for in the recipe rather than adding additional flour, which will throw off the recipe.)
Kid-Friendly Fruit Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
For the topping (optional):
⅓ cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Grated zest of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
⅓ cup pecans, finely chopped
For the muffins:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
grated zest of ½ lemon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups fresh berries, 2½ cups frozen unsweetened berries, unthawed, or 1 leftover banana, mashed; or 3 to 4 fresh peaches or nectarines chopped fine
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease 12 standard muffin cups with butter or nonstick baking spray. (You can also use any leftover muffin tin liners you have lying around.)
2. To make the topping, in a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and lemon zest. Stir in the melted butter until the mixture is crumbly. Add the pecans and stir to combine. Set aside.
3. To make the muffins, in a bowl stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, lemon zest and salt. In a small bowl mix together the egg, melted butter, and buttermilk. Make a well in the center and add the egg, melted butter, and buttermilk mixture.
4. Stir just until evenly moistened; don’t overmix. (The batter will be slightly lumpy.) Add the berries or fruit and gently them fold in with a large rubber spatula just until evenly distributed.
5. Try not to break up the fruit. Again, do not overmix.
6. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each to a bit above the rim of the cup. If using the topping, top each muffin with a tablespoon or so, dividing it evenly.
7. Bake on the middle rack of the oven until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for at least 15 minutes.
8. Unmold the muffins. Serve warm or at room temperature. The muffins will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days; just bring to room temperature or reheat in a 400 F oven for 5 minutes before serving.
Photo: Kid-friendly fruit muffins. Credit: Laura Holmes Haddad