I hate mulberries. Not the flavour or texture or anything. I hate the mess. I was already living under a catalpa, a basswood, and a northern black maple, all of which lean over my tiny 16′ X 20 patio. I’d already gotten used to needing a snow shovel for 10 months of the year if I intended to use my patio. When the houseful of post-grad students next door to me let a mulberry tree grow RIGHT on the fenceline between our two tiny little yards, rather than pull it out before it could do any damage, I figured it was no big deal, ’cause the mess certainly couldn’t get any worse.
I figured wrong.
Mulberry trees are crazy messy. And they draw pests. Every night, under my window I listen to raccoons, possums, skunks and heaven knows what else rooting around my yard after mulberries, and every morning, just before dawn, an epic battle between blue jays, robins, and squirrels rages right under my window, tormenting both cats, as every other living thing in my neighbourhood fights over fruit, and then shits all over my patio furniture. The roots are heaving my patio pavers along the fence line, and I sweep, and then SHOVEL buckets full of berries out into the common green space on the other side of my gate (for the landscapers to deal with) at least twice a day. As I write this, there are now two of them (berries, not landscapers) floating in my coffee.
I hate that effing tree.
I also hate the idea of wasting anything that could be made useful. So with the burst of hyper-kinetic energy that arrives within a day or two of a chemo treatment, Boi and I were out early this morning, collecting the nicest of them before shoveling the rest out the gate, since if we leave them standing, we end up with mice, squirrels and far creepier critters constantly visiting our tiny yard in search of food, and I’d already filled the neighbours’ mailbox with them. Being on chemo means having virtually no immune system, so any and all fresh produce, regardless of origin is soaked in a vinegar/water solution for 10 min or so before being rinsed and dried for use. Normally both boys are sort ambivalent about eating fruit, but if I put enough cinnamon streusel topping on it, they’ll eat pretty much anything. So I adapted an old coffee cake recipe and made Cinnamon Streusel Mulberry Muffins.
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 (you can lower the fat/calories by substituting an equal amount of unsweetened apple sauce. It will produce a tougher texture though)
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh mulberries (Use more if you like. They’re all over the damned place! I will cheerfully mail you some if you don’t have a mulberry tree of your own!)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Oven 400 degrees
Grease 8 large muffin cups. My muffin pan has 12 cups. I always fill the empty ones with water to avoid damaging the non-stick coating by baking empty.
Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in large mixing bowl. Or if you’re me, in the bowl of your stand mixer. Fill measuring cup with 1/3 cup oil. Crack the egg into that, then top with milk until the cup is full. Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix until combined. FOLD in the berries. Don’t use the mixer for those, or you’ll end up breaking them and you’ll have lovely purple muffins with no discernable fruit. Unless you want that. I have kids. They like purple food.
For the topping, combine cinnamon with sugar, flour and cubed butter. The original directions say to just mash it with a fork, which I’m sure will work for most of you, but owing to non-working fingers (the result of a progressive auto-immune condition that causes arthritis, among other things) I have to use a pastry cutter. The result should be a coarse crumb.
Spoon batter TO FILL muffin cups. Top with as much of the cinnamon crumb as you can jam on without it falling off all over the bottom of the oven. (the bits left on the pan when you’re done are your reward for not just eating it all with a spoon)
Bake on center rack 20-25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Anytime they start to smell good is a good time to look in on them if you’re like me and don’t really ‘time’ anything.
Allow to cool a few minutes in the pan while you pick at any stray bits of topping that may have fallen off your muffins, and now be looking lonely, and in need of eating. Remove to wire rack and let ’em cool most of the way. Serve slightly warm with butter, jam or whatever blows up your particular kilt.