Whole Wheat Huckleberry Banana Muffins

August 23, 2013
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Why yes, those are blueberries in the photos.  Thanks for noticing.  Here’s the thing: I ran out of huckleberries making the muffins, so I had to find a suitable substitute to serve as a model for the photo.  For the record, blueberries work wonderfully in this recipe, too.

WWBananaBlueberry

Huckleberries are like gold here in Wyoming.  When I first arrived in Jackson at the beginning of August, I knew that it was just about time for wild huckleberries to be in season.  I had these delusional grand ideas of going to the Saturday farmers market at the town square and finding vendor after vendor offering mountains of the freshly picked ripe purple fruit.

Yes, I was going to make streusel-topped huckleberry pies, huckleberry ice cream and huckleberry cupcakes with huckleberry buttercream. Maybe I would find so many huckleberries that I would make pints of huckleberry jam to send to friends!!!

WWBlueberryMuffinsNot. So. Much.

The first Saturday that I went to the market, I found an abundance of beautiful blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries…….every type of berry except my coveted huckleberry.

Huckleberry

So I asked one of the farmers, “I really wanted to find a source for fresh huckleberries while I am here.  Will you have some at future markets, or do you know where I can find some?”

She kind of laughed at me and said, “Well, I do have a source, but I’m not going to tell you what it is.  Sorry.”

Ooooh-kaaaaayy then……

WWBlueberryMuffins2She then went on to tell me that even if they do have a supply of fresh huckleberries in the future, it will be small and they will sell out quickly, so I should arrive early.

I made my way around the market asking other vendors and locals the same question.  Same answer.  Every time.

And with that, my huckleberry dream started to fade.

WWBlueberryMuffins1Since that morning, I’ve learned that wild huckleberries are just that — wild.  They cannot be cultivated, making them quite difficult to source, even in areas where they should flourish, such as Wyoming.  This means that if a local has a huckleberry source, they are likely going to keep it closely guarded and they are not going to share.

I did see {what I think were} several almost ripe huckleberry bushes on our recent hike up to Amphitheater Lake, but when they are finally ready to pick I have a feeling that the grizzlies will beat me to them…….and I have no intention of duking it out with a bear.

WWBlueberryBatterAt last week’s market, I was fortunate enough to find one vendor who was selling teeny-tiny bags of wild huckleberries for $5 a pop, 100% targeted to suckers  customers like me, who are determined to bake at least one thing huckleberry during the summer.  I had to get it out of my system.

I decided to make a variation on one of my favorite muffin recipes from The Black Dog restaurant’s cookbook, substituting a few things here and there, as I tend to do (meddling is just too much fun.)  These muffins are hearty while still being relatively healthy, and they are especially great to bring along with you on a day full of activity, such as hiking or skiing.  You can even punch up the health factor by substituting applesauce for some of the oil.  Wild huckleberries add the perfect pop of tartness to these not overly sweet muffins, but blueberries work just as well.

Whole Wheat Huckleberry Banana Muffins

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 33 minutes

Total Time: 43 minutes

Yield: 24 muffins

Serving Size: 1 muffin

Whole Wheat Huckleberry Banana Muffins

These not-too-sweet muffins are a variation on a Black Dog Cafe recipe that I used to make when I owned a bakery. This version is inspired by fresh huckleberries, which are now coming into season at our local Jackson Hole, Wyoming farmers markets.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) old-fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup (250 mL) pure maple syrup, preferably Grade B
  • 1 cup (250 mL) safflower oil (see Note)
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 mashed ripe medium bananas (see Note)
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (500 mL) fresh wild huckleberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners or spray them with nonstick baking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the maple syrup, oil, egg, bananas and vanilla. Mix the ingredients together until well incorporated.
  4. Carefully fold the huckleberries into the batter. Try to avoid bruising or breaking them, which will color the batter purple!
  5. Divide the batter among the prepared baking cups. Bake the muffins until tops are set and a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean, 28-33 minutes.
  6. Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes in the tins then transfer to wire racks to cool some more (or you can just serve them warm!)

Notes

My favorite way to mash ripe bananas is the puree them in a food processor. This way, you get out all of the lumps, giving your baked goods a deep and even banana flavor. Feel free to replace the maple syrup with honey. Safflower oil can be replaced with either canola or vegetable oil.

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