I was so excited about this theme for this month's Improv Challenge: Strawberries and Cream! If you are not familiar with this blogging challenge you can find more information at Kristen's blog Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker. Each month there are two assigned ingredients and unlimited choices. You can make anything you want (an original recipe or from another blogger), but it must have the ingredients. I usually try to be creative with the ingredients, however this month I opted to go with a Strawberries and Cream Muffin I found at Jane's Sweets and Baking Journal. This muffin recipe may look simple (it is actually very easy), but the flavors are out of this world! The muffin is layered with a vanilla muffin mixture, cream cheese layer, and tons of fresh chopped strawberries (makes a cheesecake like flavor). These muffins are so yummy! I think this would also be excellent with blueberries or raspberries. Thank you Kristen for another great challenge! Don't forget to watch out for next month's theme: cherries and almonds.
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. almond extract
2 large eggs
2 cups All Purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup fresh ripe strawberries chopped into very small pieces (the redder and sweeter, the better!)
4 oz. full-fat cream cheese, very soft
1 and 1/2 Tbsp. of liquid from one whole egg that's been beaten lightly
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Put paper liners in the cups of your muffin pan, or use nonstick baking spray liberally.
Cut up your berries and set them aside.
In a small bowl, mix together with a spoon the cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 and 1/2 Tbsp. beaten egg, and 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract. Mix until almost all the lumps are gone. Set this aside, but don't chill it.
Melt the butter slowly in a sauce pan on low heat. Add the vanilla extract, almond extract, and the milk into the butter, stirring to combine. Cool until the mixture is just warm, then whisk in the eggs.
Thoroughly combine with a whisk, in a large mixing bowl, the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour all of the butter and milk mixture into the dry ingredients, blending just until combined. Don't overmix. It's okay if a few little flour streaks are still evident.
Using a portion scoop, fill each muffin cup barely half full. Scatter a few pieces of strawberry on top.
Using a small spoon, dab a generous teaspoonful or so of the cream cheese mixture on top of the berries.
On top of that, add on another tablespoon or two so of the muffin batter.
On top of that, add a few more pieces of strawberry. Push them in just slightly.
Sprinkle the tops of the unbaked muffins very generously with coarse sugar.
Bake the muffins for about 15 to 18 minutes, until they're light golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. The middle of the cupcake should be kind of firm when lightly pressed with a finger. Check on the muffins early, and if they're browning too fast, lightly cover the pan with a sheet of foil.
Let the muffins cool in the pan, on a rack, for a couple of minutes, then carefully remove them from the pan to cool on the rack.