When you think about it, farmer’s markets are an amazing thing.
Our food supply does so much to separate us from its producers. Your chicken burrito at taco bell contains from an anonymous chicken that lived under crowded, dark, likely unhygienic conditions; a tortilla that was made at a factory by workers who you’ll never meet; vegetables that were grown on industrial farms spread all over the place, likely picked by people with minimum pay and minimal rights. If you’ve gone through the exercise in masochism that is a viewing of Food, Inc., you know these things.
Which is why it is so amazing to have access (and believe me, I recognize how lucky I am to have it proximate to and affordable for me) to a farmer’s market. You go to the market, you say hey to your buddies, and they hook you up with a bunch of free fruit cause they like you :D
I mean, obviously, that is not the reason to go. My usual farmer’s market, which I attend most every Saturday, has vendors who routinely (though lovingly) mock me for the large quantities of kale I purchase. I don’t get freebies.
But this Thursday one I hit up occasionally- man they treat me right. I paid a ludicrously low amount for the initial quantity of peaches and apples in my bag (about half the amount you see above), and then when I told them I’d be starting a new job and not coming on Thursdays anymore, they stuffed in a whole bunch of extras (many of them those ugly duckling specimens with just the barest hint of bruises that often turn out to be the most tender and juicy fruit).
I also paid full price for some heirloom tomatoes that were JUST SO GORGEY.
They’d had some small green apples (whose name is escaping me at the moment) of which, when I inquired of their taste, they hooked me up with a free sample. The grower said it was a baking apple, and I went, “I dunno, tastes good for eating to me.”
However, if you have eight apples for a two person household, why not bake with some of them? As you all know, I like baking muffins on any day that ends in y!
I am comforted to know that there is something in the current generation that relates deeply to the urge to bake. Perhaps its the constant push for success combined with the crappy economy in which we’re coming of age. We all seem to be craving the calm, methodical ritual of baking. My Americorps coworker Patricia and I have been swapping unemployment baking stories. Over this past Saturday’s gabfest with my bestest friend Lydia, we discovered that we were both home alone with boyfriends out of town and both planned soothing, labor-intensive culinary projects (bread for her, ravioli for me).
Three cheers for making muffins and feeling good inside.
I decided to take out for a spin a new (discounted!) purchase my sister had made: spelt flour! I’m inordinately fond of Trader Joe’s spelt bread and have seen spelt touted over the blogosphere for whole grain yet tender and soft baked goods.
4 grams of fiber in 1/4 of a cup; not too shabby!
First I threw together a batter, held together with a flax egg. I just haven’t been using eggs for baking, because we get our eggs at the farmer’s market and they just seem too delicious to disappear into a batter.
Then I folded in huge quantities of the apples. Those good-for-baking green apples were teeny tiny (you can sort of see their relative size next to the other apples and peaches), so I used three.
Put them in my beloved muffin tin (it was inherited from my grandmother, I think. She took cooking and baking very seriously- and did it semi-professionally for a time as a caterer- so she always had good equipment. This tin is great because it is super heavy and solid, so it conducts the heat really nicely and doesn’t ever warp).
And then I decided I wanted these muffins to be AWESOME.
My muffins are always good. They are also always healthy, in that I always do most or all whole grain, limit added sweetener, and make the star ingredient something virtuous like fruit.
However, I wanted these to be AWESOME. I’d gotten these apples out of the kindness and generosity of someone’s heart, and I wanted to showcase them in the best muffins ever.
To me, that spelled crumb topping.
Walnuts and brown sugar. How can you go wrong?! Cha-ching.
Sure enough, the scent of them baking filled my entire house with the aromas of fall, crisp weather, orange leaves, comforting home.
They came out beautifully golden, with gently crisped nuts and brown sugar atop.
Here’s how it’s done!
2 T flax
¼ cup plus 2 T water
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ cup canola oil
1/3 cup stevia baking mix (or white sugar; if you are using this, use a bit more)
¼ cup maple syrup
1 cup buttermilk
3 small apples (or 2 large apples), cored and chopped into small pieces
3 T walnuts, finely chopped
2 T brown sugar
Mix together flax and water and leg sit until frothy and somewhat thickened.
Meanwhile, mix together flours, baking powder and soda, and spices, and set aside.
Whisk together oil, stevia, syrup, and buttermilk with flax mixture. Gently dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined. Fold in apples. Pour muffin mixture into a greased muffin tin.
Combine walnuts and brown sugar. Sprinkle evenly over the tops of the muffins.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the muffin tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
I mean, if you feel like waiting that long.
Obviously, a fresh hot muffin was required to play a starring role in my lunch.
To round out my other food groups, I put together a salad of spinach, some of those lovely cherry tomatoes. tuna, avocado, and oil and lemon.
And then, once I’d dispense with the protein and veggies, devoted my full attention to eating this fantastic muffin.
I eagerly await using more spelt flour in the future, because its influence contributed to a wonderfully battered muffin. The outside had that wonderful slight crispness that gave way to your teeth as you bit in. The inside was incredibly soft and tender, flecked with the yummy spices that’d filled it. The apples provided pleasant chunks of flavor but had cooked in the oven so that they were tender, not crunchy.
It was, indeed, a fantastic muffin.
One turned into two… then another that night… suffice it to say they went quickly.