Sunday, July 6, 2008

The first mistake

One of my friends eats one quarter of a banana for breakfast. Another sucks down two venti Starbucks lattes and smokes a handful of cigarettes. Still another drinks virgin Bloodies to get to midday in one piece. I just skipped the meal altogether and allowed the surely decent parts of humanity which crossed my path to bear the brunt of my distaste for breakfast food.

Through my childhood and into college I was not a breakfast eater. Long into professional life, it became clear I would have more patience for the situations a morning and lunch-less day could bring if I would just eat something as I started out. Breakfast in several cultures did not save me: Pork dumplings in Hong Kong? Congi in Singapore? Gamy salami in Italy? Beige questionable eggs in Guatemala? Nothing put before me made the prospect of consuming food at an ungodly hour any more pleasing.

Until one frigid winter morning in London seven years ago. Josh and I tumbled out of a wind tunnel on the street in front of Harrod's looking only for a bit of relief from the cold. Earlier, we had experienced the offer of a hotel breakfast which looked quite depressing: All the cold things were luke-warm and all the hot items were cold. Nothing looked to be enticing enough to expend a good chew on. We passed. At Harrod's then, we followed signs to the cafe and ordered scones if only to give ourselves an excuse to be out of the winter for a moment.

The scones were fluffy clouds, speckled with berries and tipped with gold. Next to them sat clotted cream and the house preserves. Along side they brought good strong teas. The combination was memorable and exciting: Certainly if breakfast had been as delicious, as balanced in textures, and had flavors so complimentary, I would not have stayed away. We went back every day for three days. I took the preserves home, packed along side ten bottles of Molton Brown lotion (the best, hands down).

Breakfast remains the hardest meal of the day. At least I have been provided a reason to continue to seek out great breakfasts. As frequent readers know, the lemony, crunchy, zip of toasted zucchini bread passed muster, like a dozen of my favorite scone renditions, as do any number of toasted muffin possibilities. I share these with you today as they are great breakfast food (full of blueberry goodness) and munchies (Josh is still not a breakfast convert). This recipe makes enough for an army of breakfast non-believers.

Blueberry Crumb Muffins
makes 24

3/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter, at room temperature
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
3 1/2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh blueberries

Crumb topping:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ground pecans
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick cold butter, cut into 1/2 dice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

Using an electric mixer and paddle, cream the butter and remaining 3/4 cup of sugar until smooth and pale in color, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. In another bowl, combine 3 1/2 cups of the flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternately fold in the milk and flour mixture, being careful not to over mix. Fold in the blueberries. Spoon 1/4 cup of the filling into each prepared muffin cup.

In a small bowl, combine the crumb ingredients: 1 cup flour, brown sugar, pecans, and cinnamon. Mix well. Add the cold butter. Using your hands, mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumb-like mixture. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the crumb mixture over each muffin cup.

Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

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