Cherry Almond Muffins

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Valentine’s day, to me, means muffins. When I was growing up my parents always gave us Valentine’s Day cards and my mom, who is most definitely not a morning person, would make us muffins for breakfast. At some point she bought a heart shaped muffin tin which lasted one, maybe two years, because we all thought it was a little silly. There wasn’t a lot of pink or chocolate and there were rarely flowers and no expensive gifts, but Valentine’s Day was always a day when my parents took some extra time to let my brother and I know that we were loved.

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Maybe it’s because of those muffins and cards or maybe it’s some other reason, but I’ve never gotten very worked up about the romantic aspects of Valentine’s Day. There are still no expensive gifts, not really any pink or red, rarely any flowers, and no more chocolate than on any other given night. I still try to send Valentine’s Day cards to the people I love. There’s a lot of pressure to make the holiday about romantic relationships but there are so many important relationships in your life that don’t get a celebration. It’s a good day to let the people you love know that you love them. No cupids, no pink (ok maybe a little pink, but only if you already liked it), and above all, no Necco conversation hearts – let’s all agree that those taste awful.

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If you love someone, you should really make them muffins. What is a muffin but cake in a healthy disguise? Making someone cake for breakfast – that’s a whole lot of love right there. The wonderful thing about muffins is that they are infinitely customizable which means that everyone can love them. You can even add chocolate to them if that’s your thing. They come together quickly, they smell heavenly when baking, and even when they’re stale you can just split them in half, toast them, and they’re still delicious. The spelt flour adds a wonderful nuttiness but if you can’t find it easily, just swap in an equivalent amount of all-purpose flour; they have approximately equal weights so you can substitute them wholesale. Feel free to add your favorite fruit/nut combination – or personalize it for someone else. Take them into the office, share them with friends; cake is always a good way to remind someone that you love them.

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Cherry Muffins
Adapted from Alton Brown

Makes about 16 muffins or 1 dozen regular size and 9 mini muffins

1 ¾ cup (8 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour*
1 cup (4 ounces) spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
1 stick (8 tbs) butter, melted and cooled
1 cup yogurt
1 cup cherry preserves
½ cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 375F. Line your muffin tin(s) with paper liners or grease it well, including the top of the pan so that when muffins spill out the top they won’t stick.

In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder and soda, and salt so that they are well mixed. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg, butter, and yogurt until well combined. Add the flour mixture in three batches, stirring well after each addition. Stir until most, but not all, of the flour mixture is incorporated. Add the cherries and almond and stir to evenly distribute.

Using two spoons or an ice cream disher, scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin(s). Redistribute batter if necessary to make sure that the muffins are about the same size. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the tray to ensure even cooking, then bake for another 10 minutes. They are done when a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out clean and the edges are lightly browned. Let them rest in their pan for 3-5 minutes, then tip them over onto a clean towel to finish cooling upside-down.**

* Whole wheat pastry flour is lighter than typical whole wheat flour but still has the whole grain taste. I find that straight whole wheat flour makes baked goods too heavy but if you like it you can substitute 1 ½ cups of whole wheat flour (8 ounces) or 2 cups of all-purpose (8 ounces). Different flours weigh different amounts so you can’t always substitute flours wholesale but the measurements above should give a roughly equivalent muffin batter.

**Using a towel instead of a cooling rack prevents your muffin tops from having lines in them. Cooling them upside helps them stay taller since the majority of the heat is in the bottoms and if they are left to cool on their bottoms then steam will accumulate underneath and may make the muffins sink a bit and become gummy.

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