Dulce de leche and Strawberry Muffins

I’m a teacher in my spare time. Just kidding. I cook in my spare time but teaching is my real job. I teach language at the university level while working on my doctorate. I get to teach some of the best students in the country at my job. I’m very lucky. I teach at the bright and early hour of 8:45am. At this point of the semester, half-way through, my students’ eyes are drooping and I see a few of them sneaking in microsleeps during class. I’ve decided that there are two antidotes to sleepiness: music and muffins. I don’t make muffins all the time. But I already took them muffins once this semester and on Wednesday they politely asked me for more. Friday is our last class before fall recess so I thought, why not?

Muffins aren’t exactly a “cultural” thing for my classroom. Sure you find muffins all over the world (especially thanks to Starbucks) but they are pretty darn gringo. So while they wanted me to make Joy the Baker’s Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins, again, this time I decided to incorporate something distinctly Latin American: Dulce de leche or Manjar. Which is pretty fitting since we’re studying the Southern Cone this semester.

Dulce de leche is kind of like caramel, but not. I always prefer peanut butter, I just do. Chileans claim that their manjar is different than Argentinean dulce de leche. For me, it’s the same darn sweet thing. In the U.S. in the “Hispanic Foods” aisle you can’t usually find manjar so I opt for dulce de leche. Sometimes my husband turns up his nose. Whatever. If you want something more authentic I’ve heard you can find artisanal brands at Whole Foods sometimes. Usually Nestle is better than Goya. But really.

You may have noticed I don’t bake very much. I’m not really a baker. Which is funny because I am best known by most of my friends for something that I’ve baked. Baking is frustrating for me because it’s an exact science. If you forget the salt the cake doesn’t rise. It’s just too measured, too many things can go wrong. I’m more of an intuitive cook. But people LOVE baked goods. Don’t they? Don’t we all?

Strawberries are not even remotely in season right now. It felt like just a few months ago I was handpicking the sweetest little berries outside of Chapel Hill. Now they are pale and ragged. But I bought a carton and figured that baked it would be harder to tell.

Dulce de leche and Strawberry Muffins

(Adapted from Marian Blazes)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. fresh strawberries, washed, trimmed and diced into small pieces
  • 1 and 1/2 sticks butter (3/4 cup), softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 light brown sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups flour, sifted, 1/2 cup reserved
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup safflower oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup dulce de leche, warmed

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Cream together softened butter with white and light brown sugar. Reserve 1/2 cup butter mixture for streusel topping.
  3. To make the streusel topping: Using a fork or a pastry blender, combine 1/2 cup butter and sugar mixture with reserved 1/2 cup flour. Work together until crumbly. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl prepare the dry ingredients: sift together 3 cups flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk together to combine.
  5. In another bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: Whisk together buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla until just combined.
  6. Using electric beaters or a stand mixer, beat-in 1/3 of the dry mixture to the creamed butter and sugar.
  7. Then add 1/3 of the wet mixture.
  8. Then add 1/3 of dry, then 1/3 wet.
  9. Mix together final 1/3 of each until smooth.
  10. Using a wooden spoon, fold strawberries into the batter.
  11. Swirl dulce de leche into the batter.
  12. Spoon into muffin cups.
  13. Top each cup with a sprinkle of streusel topping.
  14. Bake for 8 minutes at 425 degrees F, then lower heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes until tops are golden brown and a toothpick pressed into the center of the largest muffin comes out clean. Total baking time should be 18-20 minutes.

Recipe makes 24 regular muffins or 12 large muffins.

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