Merrill's daughter Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.
Today: Blueberry, oatmeal and flaxseed muffins.
My child is a creature of habit when it comes to breakfast. She goes for a wide variety at lunch and dinner: stews, pasta, bean soups, chicken any old way, and most things that grow in the ground -- with the notable exception of potatoes that haven't seen the inside of a deep fryer.
But for over a year, Clara wouldn't eat anything for breakfast except for toast with butter and yogurt. Maybe with a piece of fruit on the side. Hoping to switch things up a bit, we tried oatmeal (along with every other type of hot cereal), pancakes, French toast, scrambled eggs with cheese, strata (which she'll happily eat for lunch or dinner). She'd have none of it.
She may not have been bored by this routine, but we were certainly tiring of it.
A few weeks ago I started taking Clara to Du Jour, my favorite local coffee bakery-cum-coffee-shop, for breakfast on the weekends. I'd give her a piece of buttered toast at home and bring her yogurt with us so she had something to eat while I enjoyed my latte and ham and cheese brioche. One morning, feeling unusually virtuous, I spied a blueberry oatmeal and flaxseed muffin and decided to sub that in for my usual savory breakfast.
As I peeled back the paper lining, I saw Clara watching me with interest. And then a minute later: "Cake?"
I broke off a corner of the muffin, staining my fingers with blueberry juice, and handed it over. I think I managed to get about three bites of that muffin.
Apparently, this muffin is a favorite among neighborhood kids. It's hearty and airy at the same time, thanks to a base of oats and whole wheat flour lightened with both baking powder and soda. It's chock full of plump blueberries and has a generous punch of cinnamon, which make the muffin seem sweeter than it actually is.
Clara now requests a muffin most mornings -- and because they're probably healthier than anything I eat for breakfast on any given day, I'm happy if she has one several times a week. Vera, one of the owners of Du Jour, who knows how much Clara loves her muffins, was kind enough to give me the recipe so we can make them at home whenever we're away -- or if the the bakery happens to be closed, like it is later this week.
We finally have a breakfast alternative, and I didn't even have to resort to frying potatoes.
Adapted from Du Jour Bakery
Makes 24 muffins
280 grams (2 cups) whole wheat flour
450 grams (5 1/2 cups) rolled oats
300 grams (1 1/2 cups) light brown sugar
80 grams (2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) ground flaxseed
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup neutral oil (vegetable, olive, and coconut are good choices)
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups blueberries (or use other fresh berries, or dried berries)
Photos by James Ransom and Mark Weinberg