Wake and Bake: Cape Cod Muffins
Like most families with multiple children, my parents had "special" activities that they did with each child. My sister would do those insanely large table-swallowing puzzles with my mom and dutifully support women's basketball with my dad. Meanwhile, my mom and I were hitting up the local Italian bakery and, in summers on Cape Cod, I'd go to Fleming's Donut Shack with my dad. (It's a wonder that they didn't see the whole food writer career path coming.)
Our ritual hasn't changed in almost 30 years. My dad and I wake up around 7:30 a.m. I half get ready, throwing on a bathing suit and a sweatshirt against the coolness that's scented by slowly warming pines. We get in the car and head down Route 6—Fleming's is in Eastham, one town away from where we stay. Fleming's has moved since we first started going, but the atmosphere hasn't changed. It's one sparse room with wooden floors, white walls, and a half wall of doughnuts. The decoration on the wall is a framed copy of the letter which Senator John F. Kennedy wrote to the shop, thanking them for the doughnuts which were devoured by his campaign team. The women who work there aren't particularly welcoming (to their credit, it opens at something like 5 a.m, and moreover, JFK loved them. Who else do they need to impress?). But they're kind enough to always separate your doughnuts and your muffins in two distinct white paper bags.
And that's the trick—two bags. My mother and sister like the cinnamon crullers,each of which is a good 6 inches long and 2 inches wide. The outside is a burnished brown, coated with a fine sanding of cinnamon sugar. There is a definite crust on the cruller, and it imparts a chew that I haven't found on a doughnut anywhere else. I order a few plain glazed, and we get a collective sack of muffins to bring to the beach. Fleming's has blueberry and cranberry and, if you're lucky, you'll get a true Cape Cod muffin, which is a hybrid of both.
Blueberry-cranberry muffins are pretty easy to find on the Cape, and once you try it, I'm sure you'll love the combination. The blueberries are juicy and sweet while the cranberries add a tartness and chew. In the version I make at home, I soak the cranberries in boiling water to plump them up a bit, and I include slightly more blueberries in order to tip the muffins in the fresh fruit direction. Given that dry muffins are anathema to me, these get a nice dose of yogurt to keep them tender and moist. The crumb gets a hint of vanilla, and they bake up so perfectly golden you'd think they were kissed by the Cape Cod sun.