My mother has a wonderful recipe to dress up fresh strawberries that never fails to wow friends and family: strawberries, sugar, and black pepper.
It is seriously — and surprisingly — amazing. The sugar breaks down the fruit and creates a syrupy juice and the black pepper’s spice brings out the flavours of the fruit. These strawberries can be eaten on their own or atop some yoghurt, ice cream, and all sorts of cakes.
So I thought: why not put them in muffins?
In a never-ending quest to make my baked goods healthier, I made these peppered strawberry muffins using quinoa. I wasn’t sure of what to expect, but the final product was really fantastic. In fact, these muffins received rave reviews when I shared some at work last week — there were four of us huddling around my container breaking pieces of muffin off and savouring every crumb. Good sign?
I prepared the strawberry mixture the night before baking and allowed the fruit to sit in the fridge overnight. While this step isn’t absolutely necessary, I do think it made a difference in this recipe because the strawberries absorbed some of the spice, as opposed to simply being surrounded by a spicy batter. It’s a subtle difference, but I think it’s worth the extra marinating time.
The muffins were light and fluffy (I actually had a lot of trouble getting them out of their molds — they were too soft!), and the quinoa gave each bite a slight crunch, reminiscent of cornmeal. I added a bit of allspice to the batter to add a bit of kick to the muffins and would have welcomed more of it. Actually, these muffins were a bit too sweet for my liking so I have adjusted the sugar content in the recipe below to tone down the sweetness. Feel free to play around with the quantities yourself.
Despite these few setbacks, I will definitely be making these again. I love the idea of using quinoa in baking and can’t wait to test out other recipes!
Peppered Strawberry Quinoa Muffins
for 12 muffins
2 cups strawberries
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups flour (I used spelt flour, which probably contributed to the muffins being too soft — a blend of flours, or simply using all-purpose flour, would probably work better)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup skim milk
freshly cracked black pepper
1. Wash the strawberries and remove their stems. Chop them into 1/2-inch pieces and place them in a bowl with 1 tsp of sugar and a very generous sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper (at least 1 tbsp worth). Cover the bowl and refrigerate for anywhere between 30 minutes and 12 hours.
2. When you are ready to being baking, preheat your oven to 350º and grease your muffin pan.
3. Place the quinoa in a bowl and cover with water. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, to allow the grains to absorb some of the water.
4. Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and allspice in a bowl. Stir with a fork to combine.
5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg. Incorporate the vegetable oil and milk into the egg mixture and whisk until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
6. Drain the quinoa. Add the wet ingredients and the soaked quinoa to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. The batter will be quite runny, but do not be alarmed. Add the strawberries, including the syrup, into the batter. If you wish, add more freshly cracked pepper at this time (I highly recommend it).
7. Spoon the batter evenly into your muffin pan and bake in the oven for 25 to 40 minutes, depending on the strength of your oven. Mine took 27 minutes but in retrospect I could have left them in for at least another 5 minutes to get crispier tops (the best part!!) and to get them out of the molds more easily.
8. Allow the muffins to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before removing them from the pan. Enjoy these on their own or with a bit of butter. Bliss!