It’s strawberry season here! I think it has been going on for a while, but my poor head is used to the seasonality of fruit and veg from the more temperate zones that I used to inhabit. So this whole Mediterranean thing with winter being the most fertile period is really confusing me…
Anyhow, local strawberries or frawli as I think they are called in Maltese, (seem to remember seeing that on a sign…) are everywhere. Which is absolutely wonderful as I adore strawberries, these can’t compare with the ones that my granddad grew when I was growing up, but then that is to be expected…
What I realised was that although I’m used to strawberries in cakes, as in the traditional Norwegian bløtkake (I should of course point out that both my dad and my grandmother makes better ones than the ones I linked to, but again that is to be expected 😉 ). However I have never really baked them much, as most recipes I’ve encountered have used the berries raw or made into jam. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, actually it is absolutely delightful and I should run out and get another punnet to make some now. (Only it is after 10 at night and nowhere is open… Minor detail…)
Anyhow I felt the need to get my experimental pants on, so I made these:
Layered Strawberry Muffins (vegan, potentially gluten free and accidentally low fat)
1 cup oatmeal* (gluten free if using gluten free oatmeal or grinding gluten free oats into flour)
½ cup ground almonds
¼ cup psyllium husks (totally optional, I had some and felt like adding fiber, just for fun)
½ t cinnamon
1t baking powder
½t baking soda
1/3 cup rapadura sugar
1T (overflowing) fresh thyme finely chopped
1/3 cup raisins soaked and chopped
Zest of 1 orange
2 flax egg (2T ground flax + 6T warm water)
1 T vanilla extract
¼ cup balsamic vinegar reduced to 1 T
½ cup rice milk
Strawberries, I used about 1 small punnet however how much you need depends on the size of your strawberries. If unsure err on the side of too many, left over strawberries are a good plan! Put 6 slices aside for garnish.
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
2. Prepare flax egg by mixing ground flax and water and set aside to gel.
3. Measure up 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, and put it in a pot over high heat and let reduce until just 1T of liquid remain. (Approximately, it does not have to be totally accurate, I love the depth the balsamic brings to this recipe, but my guess is that it is not totally necessary. Adding a tablespoon of molasses might have some of the same effect as well as added sweetness if required)
4. Mix up all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
5. In a separate bowl mix the wet ingredients, including the orange zest, chopped raisins and thyme. (I love the taste of thyme, but be warned that it is pronounced so if you are not a fan you might want to half the amount or leave it out completely. I just happen to thing that it works wonderfully with strawberries and balsamic vinegar)
6. Add wet to dry and mix till smooth.
7. Put about 1T of batter in the bottom of your muffin mould, then follow by a layer of strawberries. I wanted the strawberries to cover every inch of batter so I cut them into random shapes to fit, this is not necessary. You can even cut them in pieces and mix the berries into the batter, it won’t be as fun, but probably less work…
8. Put another layer of batter, then strawberries and finish with a last layer of batter and garnish with one slice of strawberry. (Or should it be dough? I never really grasped what is what, please enlighten me if you have a good answer. It seems to have to do with how runny it is, but I am still not sure into which category this falls. What the eggs are used for was important too, but then there are no eggs here, very confusing…)
9. Put in the oven for approximately 20 minutes at 180 degrees, until a tester comes out clean
These were lovely and moist, even though I forgot to add any oil. That was totally not on purpose, I just happened to make low fat muffins, oh the shame… Seems like the moisture from the berries and the almonds were the saving grace of these, phew! Lesson learnt though, I don’t necessarily need to add some sort of fat to a batter if I make up for it with the other ingredients. Pretty logical really, and as I am wont to run out of the oddest things it’s a good one to remember.
I’ll leave you with this:
“Even the coeur flottant merveilleux aux fraises, presented with a great flourish, made little impression, for it was no more than what may happen to the simple, honest dish of strawberries and cream once it falls into the hands of a Frenchman.”
Dr. Watson in ‘Sherlock Holmes and the Hapsburg Tiara’ by Alan Vanneman (2004) source