Hiking, baking & berrypicking are near the top of my favorite activities list, and when they are done with family it only enhances the pleasure. This past Monday, we caught a few rays of sun and found some very late harvest plump wild blueberries on a hike up China Cap here in Dillingham. China Cap is the biggest view for the shortest mountain hike in town and Bronwyn calls it a hike that is “just her size”.
Last school year Bronwyn attended a local preschool for a few days a week, for her as a social butterfly school was a positive, but our values and expectations were not met regarding outdoor play and curriculum. So this winter, at 4 1/2, we have decided not send her to preschool. Instead she spends her days with us when we do not have nursing class obligations and with a good friend, her kids, & Gretchen when we do. In making this choice I feel firmly it was the right decision for us. That being said I want her to still be learning and expanding her knowledge through outdoor exploration, play, and helping us with household and subsistence activities.
Helping pick berries and baking them into all sorts of goodies is an excellent way to promote fine motor skill development, delayed gratification, learn basic math skills, and play. There can be teaching in every activity without your conducting formal lessons, and I believe this type of learning is the most effective for almost all children.
Of course eating the muffins and berries is never an activity that is frowned upon in our house by any child, and you could of course teach table manners… whatever those are…
Letting preschoolers help with baking is a task that at times makes me really have to scale back my Type A tendencies and allow for mess, a few missteps and occasional failures. This recipe is a pretty durable choice for getting your feet wet with your little one, for easy knife skills I like to make these mint chocolate chunk cookies with Bronwyn.
For all cooking endeavors we start by gathering up our ingredients which is much like an I Spy or Hide & Seek game for us, I tell Bronwyn we need Baking Powder for example, it’s in a white container in the cupboard where the spices are kept… from there we move on to more complicated jobs.
When baking with a preschooler, cracking eggs is certainly a task they can accomplish with a little demonstration and practice. I have Bronwyn crack them into a separate bowl first to allow the picking out of any errant shell pieces if needed before adding them to the mix. I also have her scoop dry and measure wet ingredients, after I hand her the correct implement and tell her how many we need.
Of course whisking and stirring are jobs that almost every kid I know enjoys doing, occasionally we get some sloshes over the side but it’s usually not too bad.
I usually have Bronwyn put the liners in the muffin tin, then fill them myself with the batter. This recipe calls for a jam swirl topping on the batter and that is a good job for little hands!
Most oven work I take care of at this point, but occasionally I let Bronwyn remove pans from the oven with mitts and place on racks to cool.
Regardless of whom you chose to make these Lofty & Moist Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins with be sure to serve them up with a little slather of butter and a steaming mug of tea!
Lofty & Moist Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins (makes 2 dozen muffins)
- 3 1/2 cups fresh wild blueberries, (if fresh is unavailable frozen works too, but I’ve found tossing them lightly in a little flour before mixing them in keeps the berries from smearing in the batter)
- 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 5 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoon table salt
- 4 large eggs
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups of buttermilk (In rural Alaska fresh buttermilk is not always available so instead I buy this powdered buttermilk. If you choose to do the same use 8 Tablespoons of the powder sifted into your dry ingredients & two cups of water when it calls for the addition of the buttermilk. This is consistent with the instructions on the buttermilk powder’s container.)
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two standard muffin tins with paper liners. In a small saucepan over medium heat mix 1 1/2 cups of blueberries with 1 Tablespoon of sugar bring to a simmer and cook until berries breakdown and reduce by about half. This takes approximately 10 minutes, once complete set aside to cool while you make your batter.
In a large bowl whisk together your dry ingredients of flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. (If you are using powered buttermilk whisk in the powder now.) Create a well in your flour mixture with your spoon and crack your eggs into the depression, whisk lightly then stir until the eggs are evenly distributed. Stir in the oil and melted butter, and lastly your buttermilk & vanilla.
Mix until batter is wet throughout and blended but still lumpy. There will be very small lumps of flour in the batter, this is fine DO NOT over mix. (This recipe can also be mixed in a stand mixer if you choose with a paddle attachment, just err on the side of caution with mixing times.)
Divide the batter evenly into your muffin cups, they will be filled and slightly rounded over once all batter has been used. Scoop a spoonful of your stovetop jam onto each muffin and use a small spoon handle or chopstick to swirl it over the top.
Bake on the upper middle rack for 17-19 minutes turning the pans halfway through baking to ensure they cook evenly. If your oven is prone to uneven heat try baking the muffin tins one at a time for better results. They are done when they are just firm to the touch and slightly golden. Allow to cool 5 minutes in the muffin tin and continue to cool on a wire rack at least 5 minutes before serving.