It’s that part of the year when the weather goes from a perfect, slightly rainy mid-70 to a sweltering and humid hi-80. For those of us in the south, spring is a fleeting aspiration. But as spring quickly melts into summer, the heat reminds us of two things: the beauty of air-conditioning and the abundant produce to come. First, greens of all sorts, from crisp romaine to spicy arugula, second strawberries and then third, tomatoes.
There’s always more to celebrate during these hot days, but I like to grab all the strawberries I can. Eat them, jam them, pickle them, or pie them up. This time I decided to revisit an old recipe that I developed during my internship at America’s Test Kitchen. I took inspiration from my mother’s strawberry baked Brie and baked up a relatively good muffin. When I looked back at the recipe five years later, it definitely needed some work, but the bones were good enough.
Five years is a century in kitchen work. During that time, I have gone to pastry school and worked in three different kitchens, working faster and cleaner, but also learning the basics of baking in a way where it’s become second nature. Why have milk in a recipe when I could add buttermilk instead for a tangy punch? This way I can add baking soda, which give the muffins a fluffier texture. Small tweaks like this gave this pubescent recipe a push into adulthood.
I love jam of all kinds. Preserves too. And jellies. It’s such a wonderful addition to any plate during all times of the day and year. And there might be no better pairing than jam and cheese, with bread. And butter. Okay, okay, so all the food groups need to make an appearance. As I stated before, strawberry jam and Brie have a special place in my heart due to my mother, who made baked Brie for every special event she hosted. As soon as it came out of the oven, I would race downstairs to steal some, burning my mouth on the way back up to my room so I wouldn’t have to make small talk with their guests.
This recipe is a pretty straightforward muffin; mix the wet into the dry and divide. It has a layer of strawberries in the middle and on top. Brie is a rich addition that gives the muffins a savory component and when halved and toasted, the Brie melts slightly to add a delicious gooeyness. Brie is a soft cheese, so I like to freeze the cheese before I cut it into cubes. I find it slices easier. I also prefer the rind off, but I have tested this muffin with the rind on and it does enhance the Brie flavor. If you are so inclined, leave the rind.
The strawberry size is preference based as well, but I like them sliced or quartered. Any strawberry jam will do, but if you’ve made some, it’s even better. If you haven’t, not a problem! If you have time, mash up some strawberries and cook for 15 minutes, until soft. Add store bought jam or preserves to the cooked strawberries and you’ve ramped up the strawberry-ness to the next level.
Thank you for reading this far and indulging my story telling. Enjoy!
STRAWBERRY AND BRIE MUFFINS
MAKES 12 MUFFINS
2 1/3 cups (11 2/3 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
6 ounces Brie, rind removed and chopped into 1/4 in pieces
1/2 cup strawberry jam
2 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup sliced strawberries
raw sugar to top
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin with baking spray or line with muffin cups.
- Whisk flour, brown sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt together in a large bowl. Stir in chopped Brie.
- Add eggs, milk and oil to jam and whisk until combined. Add to flour mixture and fold together until it just combines; do not over mix. Spoon two tablespoons of batter into prepared muffin tin and cover layer with a layer of sliced strawberries. Cover strawberries with another two tablespoons of batter and cover again with sliced strawberries. Top evenly with raw sugar.
- Bake until tops are light golden-brown, about 14-18 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let muffins cool in tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Muffins are best eaten the day they are baked but can be placed in zipper-lock bag and stored at room temperature for 1 day or refrigerated for 4 days; toast and butter before serving.)