Well, strawberry season has come and gone but late July saw the start of bilberry season! The plastic berry scoopers and baskets (for the do-it-yourselfers) started to show up in stores early in the month and a couple of weeks later, the kiosks outside the markets all had fresh bilberries for sale. Apparently this year’s harvest has been a bit sparse, due to the unusually hot and dry summer. We were going to pick berries at the summer home last week, but the boy’s grandparents reported that there were barely any to be had, since they hadn’t gotten enough rain to really grow this year. Boo. Still, they are much easier to get at this time of year than any other, so I bought a liter on the way home last week. I was in the mood for berry muffins and they were perfect for the job.
Bilberries, by the way, are very close relatives of the North American blueberry, which is what I typically used for this recipe back in California. They grow plentifully in the wild here on publicly accessible land and are gathered both by locals and professional berry pickers. They actually don’t do too well under cultivation, so the annual harvest depends purely on what nature decides to offer up that year. They grow the larger domesticated blueberries here as well, but those aren’t as common in the stores. That’s probably because bilberries are juicier and more flavorful, while not costing anybody anything to grow them!
Based pretty closely on AR’s To Die For Blueberry Muffins recipe, one of the best I’ve tried. I went through several before settling on this one back in university, and I’ve had no reason to go searching for another since. And hey, this also happens to be a post for the Breakfast Club roundup, hosted by Fuss Free Flavours and fingers and toes!
Ingredients lineup! 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 egg, 1/3 cup milk (many people seem to favor the use of buttermilk, if you’ve got it), 1 cup fresh (or frozen, if that’s what available. any sort of berry will do, and you can increase this amount too, if you like your muffins chunky) bilberries, 1/2 cup white sugar (using brown sugar instead can also be very nice), 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup cubed and softened butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Prepare your muffin pan by greasing or using muffin liners. Toss together your dry muffin ingredients — 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir until integrated.
Pour your 1/3 cup of vegetable oil into a measuring cup, then top it up to 1 cup with milk.
Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and stir together by hand with a spatula. You don’t want to use a mixer or anything else that will disturb the batter too much — thick is good.
Gently fold in the berries. In the case of bilberries, this is the point where it can get sort of messy, because these guys are much softer and juicier than blueberries. That’s one of the reasons they’re only usually seen when they’re very fresh or frozen solid — they’re very delicate and can’t stand too much handling. Bilberries also stain like crazy, so hopefully you’re wearing an apron to protect against any splatter.
Fill the cups right up to the edges if you can, you should have just enough for a dozen nice-sized muffins. They’ll puff up a bit at the top and look all pretty and bakery-like. Check out the purple batter — those berries certainly had a lot of juice. Interestingly enough, they didn’t turn out that purple after baking — I guess the batter absorbed the color somehow? Weird.
In a bowl off to the side, put together your streusel topping. Mix together 1/2 cup sugar (white or brown is up to you, I’ve tried both and they both have their own attractions), 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup of that cubed soft butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon.
Mash and mix together all of that with a fork until it’s a a nice crumbly texture.
Sprinkle your streusel on top of the muffins generously. The tops will fluff up and be covered perfectly, even if it looks piled heavy right now.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven. You’ll be able to tell when they’re done because the tops will look fluffy and slightly toasted.
Let cool for a bit before popping out of the tin. You might have to gently pry around the edges if the topping has hardened around the tops. Enjoy! They’re good both warm and cold — we actually prefer to have them for breakfast after they’ve been in the fridge overnight. Very nice with a hot cup of tea 🙂