Something about the beautiful windswept afternoon called for a summer’s end treat: warm, toasty blueberry muffins. It’s certainly not fall yet here in Nara, but my internal clock has already made the shift and my palette reflects the turn of the seasons, albeit a mental one. I’ve been lucky enough to see blueberries in the local supermarket every visit since my arrival here in August, and even now, mid-September, they still decorate the produce shelves.
Late afternoons always feel a little nostalgic to me, filled with waning sunlight, a reluctance to let go of the unhurried morning, and restlessness to start dinner despite knowing it’s far too early to wisely start a meal. And with any small does of nostalgia are the makings of full-fledged homesickness, which I’ve been able to put off with surprising success until now. It would have been easy, I admit, to give into loneliness and lament my humble single existence here, but I knew I’d have no one to blame but myself for spiraling into an incurable bad mood. Thank goodness I had the clarity of mind to remember that baking solves every unhappy problem! So before even a sniffle of sadness escaped me, I had whipped out bowls, measuring cups, flour, sugar, salt, and set the fresh blueberries to rinse in a bowl of cold water.
It was such a relief to focus entirely on carefully spooning out baking powder, throw in a decisive pinch of salt, determinedly cream softened butter and sugar into a fluffy mass by hand. The batter came together beautifully, glowing in the last rays of sunlight pouring in from the west-facing window, and tasting of summer with the sour bite of lemon zest, tangy yogurt, and tart blueberries. With a generous dollop of dough into a six-cup silicone muffin sheet, in went the muffins for a full 25 minutes. And oh, the smell of sweet and sour berries bursting to cooked perfection! Call me peculiar, but I can think of no better fix to a lonely heart than a handsome baked treat. I ate one (okay, two) with the happiest sentiments just out of the oven, and the satisfaction of baking just for myself was unparalleled :)