Keeping Currant: Mini Currant-Kefir Muffins

When I become obsessed with an ingredient, I can’t rest until I’ve found it. Fresh currants, little rosy globes of tart juice, were calling my name. I had to have them.

But having scored the object of my desire, of course, I had to find something to do with it, and that can be tricky. Having never actually tasted a fresh red currant, I imagined that there would be loads of available recipes calling for them. No dice. These glossy jewels make very pretty garnishes, but I couldn’t find an appealing baking recipe that actually incorporated the fresh currants into the dough!

Luckily, I have a bit of a cookbook obsession, too. I recently acquired a discounted copy of Flo Braker’s Baking for All Occasions in the basement of the Strand. Her “Blue Ribbon Worthy” blueberry muffins seemed to be a classic worth riffing on. Instead of blueberries, I subbed the teeny red currants, perfect to be distributed among the cups of the too-cute-to-let-sit-on-a-shelf mini-muffin tin our friend Adrian gave us as a wedding gift.

The batter sounded a little sweeter than my usual, but I counted on the currants to provide a contrasting tartness, and they came through as promised. When the grocery store didn’t have organic buttermilk, I decided to substitute kefir, a newly-trendy traditional fermented milk that’s a bit like drinkable yogurt. To play up the flavor of the currants, I included a bit of cornmeal with the dry ingredients (though it probably would be good with more) and a little almond extract.

The little muffins puffed up enthusiastically, and they’re cheerful with bright red pops of color. It could be fun to make two batches, one with currants and another with blueberries—maybe for a 4th of July celebration? I bet the currant ones would disappear first, though. They’re fluffy and lemony, a little tangy from the kefir and a bit rich. They’d be delicious smeared with red currant jam—does anyone have a recipe for that? Not sure I’ve had my fill of currants yet, and the season is running out!

Mini Currant-Kefir Muffins
loosely adapted from Flo Braker
makes 24 mini muffins with some batter left over

2 cups minus 1 T all-purpose flour
1 T stoneground cornmeal
scant 1/2 cup granulated sugar (I would consider trying 1/3 cup if you like your muffins less sweet.)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup well-shaken kefir or buttermilk (I used nonfat)
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup fresh red currants

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 24-cup mini muffin pan with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking pwder, baking soda, and salt. Make sure it’s evenly blended.

In a medium bowl, stir butter into buttermilk. Whisk in eggs, lemon zest, and almond extract. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture, folding in gently with a rubber spatula until just moistened. Don’t overbeat. Fold in the currants just to incorporate.

Divide batter among muffin cups—there may be some left over. Cups should not be overfull. (I had about 1 cup batter left over.) Bake muffins until golden and starting to pull away from the muffin cups, about 18 minutes. Cool in the pan 5-10 minutes until they can be handled. Store at room temp for up to two days or freeze.

In 4th of July, baking, breakfast, currants, kefir, muffins

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