Twice as Tasty

Berry Chocolate Muffins

Turn a bag of last summer’s huckleberries that sank deep into the freezer into freshly baked muffins

By Julie Laing
Photo by Julie Laing.

One of the best parts about eating down last season’s food stash is finding treasures deep in the chest freezer – like huckleberries. Whether forgotten or intentionally horded, I feel like I’ve won the food lottery whenever a bag rises to the surface.

Most berries freeze well, but huckleberries and blueberries, their more accessible but less flavorful cousins, keep their shape beautifully when frozen on a baking tray until firm and then bagged for longer storage. That’s one reason I love them in muffins and other baked goods.

When added still frozen to batter, they bleed less of their color into the finished dough. This goes for mixed batters, like muffins, and stovetop meals like Overnight Sourdough Pancakes. I sometimes add them to pancake batter just before I start pouring it onto the griddle or press individual berries into each pancake as it starts to cook.

Although huckleberries star in this recipe, I developed it to use up homemade yogurt whey. If you like thick, Greek-style yogurt, you likely pour it through a colander and strain off a lot of whey from freshly made yogurt. The same is true of store-bought yogurt that hasn’t been predrained or thickened by additives. That whey carries lots of flavor, so I always try to use it, usually as a buttermilk substitute.

My niece and nephew instigated the addition of chocolate, which complements the berries’ brightness. (If you’re excited about putting huckleberries in your pancakes, you can poke in a few chocolate chips there too.) You can leave out the chocolate for pure berry muffins, but I wouldn’t recommend replacing it with berries; extra fruit can make the batter a bit soggy. As a garnish, I sprinkled these muffins with a little berry-infused or smoked sea salt.

Berry Chocolate Muffins

Makes 12

1-1/2 cups cultured buttermilk or yogurt whey

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup huckleberries or blueberries, fresh or frozen but not defrosted

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Flavored sea salt for garnish (optional)

In a large glass measuring cup, combine the buttermilk or yogurt whey, melted butter and vanilla. Add the egg and stir until well mixed.

In a large bowl, mix the all-purpose and whole-wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Fold in the berries and chocolate chips, coating them with the flour mixture. Pour the liquids into the flour mixture; stir with a fork until just combined.

Butter 12 muffin cups and fill each to the top with batter. Sprinkle on flavored sea salt, if desired. Bake at 400°F for 15 to 20 minutes, until the tops are golden and a skewer inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Pull the muffins from the oven, and let them rest for five minutes before removing them from the pan.

Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.