I admit it. I bought the pint of them because they were beautiful, pure and simple. Red currants. Little red berries that are sold still attached to tiny stems. Champagne grapes have the same dollhouse-type appeal for me, even though I don't like them. I want to like them; I've bought them more than once. This summer, the boys are old enough to send around the store on their own to retrieve items on our list, treasure-hunt style. A definite improvement over other summers' constant refrain - "How many more things do we have to get? When are we gonna go?" - and I get a minute here and there to peruse in peace. And that's when I found them, enjoying the quiet of the produce aisle on a Monday morning. They were next to the pints of blueberries I added to my cart. So I got the red currants too, like a magpie with a shiny object, and brought them home, washed them, and popped one in my mouth. Well. As it turned out, they're mouth-puckering, in a way that reminds me of gooseberries. We had a bush of gooseberries when I was a kid, and my sister and I would pick and eat them from time to time, maybe out of boredom, as neither of us liked them. Since it was apparent I wouldn't be plucking these beautiful berries off their stems for snacking, I pulled out my go-to for fruit, Nigel Slater’s Tender, Volume II: A Cook’s Guide to the Fruit Garden, and just as I knew I would, I found something wonderful to do with them.
These are something special because of the brightly tart flavor of the berries.
Nigel Slater's Little Currant Cakes
adapted from Tender, Volume II
9 Tbsp. (125 g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (125 g) lightly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup (125 g) flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk
150 g (about 1 cup) red and/or black currants, removed from their stalks
Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat the oven to 400F. Line a 12 capacity muffin tin with paper muffin holders.
Place the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, and salt into a food processor and blend until well creamed. Add the milk a little at a time until the batter is of a consistency that will fall lightly from the spoon. Gently stir in the currants.
Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin papers. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the tin halfway through, until risen and lightly browned. They should be light but firm to the touch. They will fall slightly on cooling.
Best eaten the day they're made.
Yield: 12 muffins