honeyed muffins with grapes and blueberries

My love of grapes began at the earliest of ages, but manifested itself at that time more as an aversion to all other foods. Fast forward two decades, to where I occasionally find myself still choosing grapes over complete meals. It’s a problem, I’ll admit, but a rather crunchy and delicious problem.

The other problem that comes to mind, of course, is what else can be done with grapes. It’s uncommon to see them for sale in your neighborhood bakery (and by uncommon, my count = zero), so one might think that grapes have no place in baked goods. I didn’t want to accept this though, so I looked up what seemed to be a mild pairing: grapes + muffins. And, lo and behold, the internet apparently supports a bounty of grape muffin fiends.

The most eye-catching recipe, found on epicurious, featured grapes as well as Vin Santo (“holy wine“), an amber-colored Italian dessert wine that can run the gamut from dry to sweet. Off to a poor start, I had no wine on the premises – that I was willing to sacrifice to the perhaps ill-fated grape muffin cause.  Looking for inspiration elsewhere in the kitchen, I decided to substitute a combination of oil, maple syrup and honey for the holy wine.

Unfortunately, the only honey in my possession was an oddball that I found while at the Formaggio Kitchen in Boston. Lo Brusc Forêt des Maures honey originates in la forêt des Maures, located near Toulon, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France. The honey is rumored to originate from white and pink heather, myrtle, lavender, mimosa, and chestnut flowers, and is labeled as having “a deep mellow sweetness that is at once floral and woodsy” (Formaggio Kitchen) or “hints of bitter caramel” (Travel + Leisure). As a fan of darker honey, namely buckwheat, I anticipated loving this selection.  However, my first taste of it revealed much more than a mellow sweetness or hint of bitterness. It was really strong! Simply smelling it also proved to be too much for me. I can mix it into my oatmeal from time to time, but that’s about it for this jar – it rarely makes it out of the drawer.

I thought, however, that a tablespoon of it would play nicely with the wine flavoring of cooked grapes. And I was half right. It did play, but it was also overpowering, and a bit more than desired. All that I could smell while baking these muffins was the characteristic strong honey smell. Out of the oven, the muffins retained a honeyed flavor, and the scent faded with time, but it persisted. I put more maple syrup into the recipe than honey, but I couldn’t get any sense for maple in the muffins.  And finally, if I made these again, I would put in less oil. The muffin tops sank after they were taken out of the oven (too much oil, and heavy grapes), so I’d hold back on the liquids.  Despite the honey conundrum, these muffins actually turned out pretty good – the handful of Maine blueberries thrown into the mix couldn’t have hurt!

Honeyed muffins with grapes and blueberries {recipe adapted from epicurious’ “Individual Grape and Vin Santo Cakes“}

++Ingredients:++

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for muffin tin and fruit
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. Grand Marnier
1/4 c. oil
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 heaping tbsp. honey
1 1/4 c. red grapes
1/4 c. wild blueberries

++Directions:++

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Butter a 12-muffin cup tin and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Mix butter with 2/3 cup granulated sugar using an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in Grand Marnier.

Add flour mixture in 2 batches alternately with oil, maple syrup, and honey, beginning and ending with flour and mixing until barely incorporated.

Toss grapes and blueberries with remaining tablespoon flour, then fold carefully into batter.

Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake until golden and springy to the touch, 18 to 24 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then loosen with a knife and remove. Cool to warm, 5 to 10 minutes more. Devour!

++Optional:++

Sprinkle muffin tops with granulated sugar before baking.

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