Maybe you have been here: Seven months go by and you get no more than 3 or 4 hours of continuous, uninterrupted sleep at a time, save for a number of notable exceptions. If allowed, you’re certain you could easily sleep for at least a week. And then one day your baby sleeps for 6 hours in a row, and then he does it again, and again, and then one miraculous night you get an entire seven and a half hours of pure sleep. And you wake up feeling like you just got away with something, and quickly run to baby’s room to make sure he is OK, and you find him…. happily awake, and well rested too. You smile, pick him up, and spin blissfully around the room, on top of the world.
You feel like superwoman and set out to seize the day, doing all of the things superwoman would do if she were a stay-at-home mom. You clean the floors; you scrub the bathrooms; you roast those chicken bones you’ve been saving in the freezer and start a stock simmering; you cut up that winter squash that’s become a fixture on the counter and throw it into the oven with carrots and onions for a vegetable soup that you’ll make later using some of the homemade chicken stock; after the vegetables come out of the oven, you start a fresh batch of granola. And then you remember that pint of crème fraiche in the fridge, leftover from a work project. It needs to be used. But what? You think for a few minutes. Coffee cake! Yes, of course, why not? You could freeze the cake for a breakfast occasion. Perfect.
But wait, what if you want a piece of that cake sooner than you plan to serve it? You’re going to try something new, and you wouldn’t want to serve it to guests without tasting it first; plus, wouldn’t it be nice to have a piece as an afternoon snack? You think a few minutes more. Muffins. Coffee cake muffins. Some for you, some for the freezer. It’s decided. But soon the baby will be up from his nap, so you hurriedly preheat the oven, measure flour, melt butter, crack eggs, and line the muffin tin. Just as you are about to slide them in, he’s awake! You feel like the basketball player who has just made a three-pointer to win the game just as time runs out. The kitchen is a wreck, but you feel satisfied.
Yet as it turns out, you’ve set the oven for 50 degrees higher than you should have. You are just fastening a clean diaper on the baby when you smell something burning in the kitchen. You run down, baby in arms, and swoop into the oven, suffering a small burn on your arm but managing to save most of the muffins from total disaster. Fortunately, only the ones in the back had started to burn. Crisis averted, you sit down to nurse the baby and find you are completely exhausted. And it’s only noon. You begin to doze off…
You don’t need to have a whole pint of creme fraiche sitting around to make these muffins. You can use one cup of whole milk for one cup of the creme fraiche, and use sour cream or even whole milk yogurt in place of the other cup, if that’s what you have on hand.
These little cakes are exceptionally tender with a delicious mellow flavor from all that cultured cream. They would be a delicious addition to a special brunch, although at the rate I’ve been eating them, I don’t think mine will last for an occasion. I did find that most of the blueberries sank to the bottoms, and I think that’s because I used pastry flour. Using all-purpose flour instead should provide a cake with enough structure to hold up those berries. I’d be curious to know your results if you test this theory.
for the cake:
3 C all-purpose or pastry flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
4 T butter, melted
2 C creme fraiche
zest of one small lemon, grated
1 tsp. vanilla extract
10 oz (about one and a half cups) fresh or frozen blueberries (do not thaw)
for the topping:
1/2 C pecans
2 T brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 400F (Yes, that’s right. 400F. Not 450F). Grease the top of a muffin tin and line with paper muffin cups (This recipe will make enough for about 14 muffins. Since my muffin tin holds just 12, I baked the remaining two in ramekins lined with paper muffin cups, and they came out great!) Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining cake ingredients, except for the berries. Using a spatula, gently fold the wet and dry ingredients together. The batter should be a bit lumpy. Fold in the blueberries. Do not overmix.
For the topping: In a food processor, pulse the nuts, sugar, cinnamon and salt together until the nuts are finely chopped.
Scoop the cake batter into the muffin tin, slightly overfilling each one. Generously sprinkle the topping over each one.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown. The tops should spring back when lightly pressed.
Cool for 10-15 minutes before gently removing them from the tin. If you try to pry them out when too warm, the tops may break off, and then you will have to eat those ones right then and there.