Red currant berries, a welcome change from the usual
Red currants are definitely more common in European countries than they are in North America. The season is short and currants hit the market stands in July. Currants are tart and can vary in colour: there are white currants, red currants, and even black currants (known as cassis in French).
You can add currants to jams (like this strawberry red currant jam), muffins (like in the red currant muffin recipe below), and even cakes (like in this simple black currant cake).
Are currants the same fruit as dried currants?
The mixing method I used for this muffin recipe is the reversed creaming method. All the dry ingredients and the sugar are whisked together, then the softened butter is worked into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles sand. At that point, you add the wet ingredients (which are already mixed together before adding them to the dry mixture).
I prefer this method over the muffin method or the two bowl method for two reasons:
- I like to bake my muffins with butter, but incorporating the melted butter with the cold wet ingredients makes it clump and then it doesn’t incorporate evenly into the muffin batter in the end.
- You could first incorporate wet and dry ingredients, then stir in the melted butter into the muffin batter, but for this I find that adds too many steps and it can be hard to incorporate a liquid fat properly in an already mixed batter, which leads to more mixing, which isn’t ideal!
- I don’t want to use any small electric appliance for muffins, so the creaming method is out: muffins should be easy!
This is the easiest way I’ve found to bake muffins with butter and to incorporate the butter easily. This method works great! Try it!
Crispy sugary muffin topping
I’ve made these red currants plain, garnished with just sliced almonds before baking, and I’ve baked them with a streusel topping (made of butter, sugar, flour, and ground almonds). Another interesting topping is a crispy sugar topping made from roughly equal parts, by weight, of butter, sugar, and flour. This sugar paste is broken up into pieces and scattered over the muffin tops before baking.
In the oven, the sugar paste melts quickly, forming a crispy sweet coating on the muffin top that is super tasty, adding a good amount of crunch.
Since currants come in a variety of colours with varying levels of sweetness and tartness, you can bake with fresh currants interchangeably. But because fresh currants only grow in certain parts of the world, if you can’t find currants at all, wild blueberries (or other blueberries) are a good substitute for currants, though a little sweeter and less tart than red currants. You could also try raspberries, but you should freeze the raspberries before folding them in because they are very delicate.
Helpful tools to make muffins
These red currant muffins are easy to make and I like to mix them by hand, which means you don’t need a special electric mixer or a stand mixer. Still, there are a few tools that will make your muffin-baking sessions a little easier:
- Muffin pans: for regular muffins, you can’t get away without a muffin pan. And if you can, please invest in two 6-cup muffin pans (like this Wilton pan on Amazon) or one bigger 12-cup muffin pan (like these Wilton pans on Amazon). This way you will be ready to make full batches of most recipes, which can yield anywhere from 8 to 12 muffins, depending on how much batter you scoop per cup.
- Paper liners, parchment liners, silicone liners: we can debate over which is better for muffins, but personally, I like disposable paper liners (like these on Amazon that you would use for cupcakes too). For lower fat muffins or muffins with less sugar, these can stick to paper liners. In this case, use parchment liners (Amazon) or silicone liners (Amazon). Savoury muffins, for example, work best baked in either of these.
- Large cookie scoops: Some call them “dishers” and they are these are the most reliable scoops I’ve found on Amazon. They can handle firm doughs without breaking because the release mechanism is separate from the handle! This gives you a better, firm grip on the handle, without the risk of breaking the leaver. The handles are different colours according to the size.
- Cake tester and/or instant-read thermometer: if you bake a lot, you can probably gently poke muffins with your fingertip and instinctively know when they are done baking. The rest of us have to use a cake tester or thermometer to check if muffins are done baking.
- Tip #1: If you are experiencing particularly hot/humid weather, make sure you bake these muffins enough, until they are a deeper golden brown because otherwise they will be too moist to store for very long, especially if you add a lot of red currants to the recipe.
- Tip #2: You can freeze these muffins and then defrost them in the microwave on high for about 30 seconds—your red currant will come out of the microwave warm and fluffy, just like freshly baked!
If you need more fruit muffin inspiration, try these honey blueberry muffins, rhubarb muffins, or these plum coffee cake muffins. And if it’s not summer, my go-to are these date bran muffins, which is my all-time favourite muffin, even if it’s not really cool.
Red currant muffins
- 42 grams (3 tbsp) unsalted butter
- 50 grams (¼ cup) granulated sugar
- 40 grams (⅓ cup) all-purpose flour
Red currant muffins
- 250 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 250 grams (1¼ cups) granulated sugar
- 10 mL (2 tsp) baking powder
- 2.5 mL (½ tsp) fine kosher salt
- 115 grams (½ cup) unsalted butter room temperature, cut into rough chunks
- 125 mL (½ cup) whole milk (3.25 % fat)
- 2 large eggs
- 5 mL (1 tsp) pure vanilla extract
- 250 grams (1½ cups) berries (I used red currants) tossed in 1 tablespoon of flour to evenly coat the berries
- 30 grams (¼ cup) sliced almonds
- In a small bowl, using a wooden spoon, combine the butter, sugar, and flour until it forms a thick paste. Set aside.
Red currant muffins
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prepare two 6-cup muffin pans by lining each well with a paper liner. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- Add the butter to the bowl with the dry ingredients and work it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and vanilla, then pour that mixture over the dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon just to combine.
- Gently fold in the red currants.
- Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups.
- Top each muffin with sliced almonds and chunks of the sugar paste. Bake them for 25 to 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- These are a lovely light, cake-y muffins full of tart little red currants, fresh from the market. This is the perfect recipe to throw together with any of the summer berries you can find. Bake it in a cake pan to cut and serve later, or in a muffin tin for summery breakfasts and snacks.
- For this recipe, I used unsalted butter from Stirling Creamery
Janice Lawandi is chemist-turned-baker, working as a recipe developer in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and cooking at l’Académie Culinaire. She has a BSc in Biochemistry from Concordia University and a PhD in Chemistry from McGill University. Visit janicelawandi.com to see my portfolio.