Fig and Whiskey Muffins

Yesterday when I was getting off work, I had NO IDEA what I was going to blog about today. NO IDEA. I was getting worried, and had decided to go to the little corner market by my house after work to see if anything inspired me.

…turns out I didn’t get that far.
There is an amazing fig tree a few blocks from my work, right between the fueling station and the Muni stop. It has been covered with hundreds of rock-hard green figs for months now, taunting me every time I walk by it (in fact, one time I thought it had finally ripened, but I realized that the fig I thought was ripe was only squishy because I’d tested it too many times while walking by).
Well, I must wait no more. They are finally ACTUALLY ripening, turning purple and soft and fragrant; swelling to unimaginable size (no, really – they’re monstrous), and they are mine for the picking.

Obviously I was not prepared for this exciting find, so I dug some empty plastic bags out of my purse (which had previously held my sammich and snackables for the day, and would now protect my valuables from that awful sticky fig latex), and got started. In a few minutes I had picked the largest and ripest figs, totaling about 3 or 4 lbs of fruit. The rest I would leave on the tree to ripen.
You know, so I can eat them later.
I missed the Muni, but that’s OK. We must sometimes allow foraging opportunities to dictate our schedules, or we will miss out on the beautiful bounty that is offered to us. Remember always – nature waits for no bus.

There are a million recipes online for how to use figs. Someday I will try them all. Last night, in fact, I marinated some in balsamic vinegar and wrapped them in bacon, grilling them until crisp. And yes, they were very good (though they were soggy before I got where I was going with them – next time I’ll cook them right before serving).
But today I wanted to make something different. Something easy to eat and less messy. Maybe…muffins. Yes.
I have an awesome banana bread recipe that calls for cream cheese and whole wheat flour in the dough. I adapted that batter to these muffins, and I think they are actually fairly tasty (though next time I will use those stupid paper muffin tin sleeves – they ALL stuck to the pan).

Fig and Whiskey Muffins

makes 12 large muffins, or 24-30 mini muffins

to prepare the figs:
1 Tbsp butter
1 c diced figs
2 Tbsp whiskey (I used Jameson, but anything you like to drink is fine)
2 Tbsp honey

Sautee the figs in the butter until beginning to soften. Add the whiskey and honey, and let it cook until the figs absorb the liquid and look a bit like a glaze or a jam (depending on their ripeness, they will still be lumpy).
If your figs are very ripe, skip this step, use raw diced figs, and just add a bit of whiskey and honey into the batter (mine were *almost* there but still a little firm, so I thought I’d soften them up a bit before baking).
to prepare the batter:

5 Tbsp butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese
1 c sugar (evaporated cane juice)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c prepared figs
1/2 c nuts (walnuts are delicious with this)
1/4 tsp cardamom or ginger, powdered, optional.

Mix all ingredients (except figs and nuts) until fully incorporated. Fold in the figs and nuts, and spoon the batter into WELL GREASED muffin tins (or use the paper sleeves – they really are a godsend). Fill the muffin cups up about 2/3 of the way full only – the batter will rise quite a bit.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until they feel springy to the touch and are beginning to brown.
Serve them on their own, or with a bit of fresh whipped cream (maybe with some honey or cardamom in it, hmmm?), or toast them and serve with butter. The fig flavor is mild and sweet – these are a great snack, breakfast, or dessert!
These are very delicate muffins and are prone to breakage (as pictured), but are mighty tasty nonetheless. Muffin sleeves, man.
Gotta use them.

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