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Picnic & Beyond Coffee Sling and Blackberry Lemon Muffins: a Perfect Afternoon Picnic

I was in high school, eating my breakfast, and watching my dad fill up his coffee mug when these words actually came out of my mouth: “I’m never going to start drinking coffee because I can’t imagine waking up and needing it everyday. That sounds awful.” Yeah right.

A little kid that promises he will never consider taking candy from the creepy older man that follows him through the neighborhood in an unmarked white van is less naïve than I was.

Since the second day of exams during the fall semester of my sophomore year of college, coffee has been my lifeblood. To my credit, I lasted nearly two years after I made that ingenuous declaration of a caffeine free lifestyle. I now have until about 10:30 each morning before my caffeine headache hits. It rarely occurs, since tasting bitter, dark roast is one of my favorite sensory experiences.

Do I enjoy extending my coffee-induced happiness beyond the morning? Yes. But I try to not. This is partly because it gives me flashbacks to the beginnings of late nights in college spent writing papers and mindlessly Facebooking. It is also partly due to a teacher I once had who drank coffee for the entire day; you would know she was hovering over your desk by the faint odor of stale coffee. She was a wonderful teacher, though.

Picnic & Beyond’s Coffee Sling makes me want to spend my entire day drinking coffee and staring at the clouds. Drinking coffee outside on a lazy afternoon seems so much more acceptable and less late-night-at-the-office, than drinking coffee at my desk. The thermos perfectly fits four cups of coffee. Unlike the last thermos I used – which was made of neon-colored plastic and occasionally carried my lunch to school before I hit the four-foot mark, this thermos is totally leak-proof. The mugs are true to size with enough room for exactly one cup of coffee and some milk and sugar. While there is no picnic blanket, the napkins are perfect for holding whatever coffee house variety of snack you want to bring. I brought – and recommend – Blackberry, Lemon, Thyme Muffins. The adorable dog is not included, but I recommend that you bring one along to your next coffee picnic, as well.

Blackberry, Lemon, Thyme Muffins
Makes 6 large muffins
From Bon Appétit

1 cup cake flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
6 tbs chilled, unsalted butter, cut into ¼ inch cubes
1 large egg yolk

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbs finely grated lemon zest
1 ½ cups fresh blackberries (about 6 ounces), halved lengthwise
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

For Crumble:
Mix first five ingredients in a medium bowl. Add butter. Use your fingertips to rub in butter to form pea-size lumps. Add egg yolk and stir in with a spoon. BA very accurately says it will resemble a mixture of pebbles and sand. Cover and chill for at least an hour.

For Muffins:
Preheat oven to 325°. Grease muffin tin or line with paper liners. Whisk 1 cup all-purpose flour and next four ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside. With an electric mixer, beat butter until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add sugar and continue to beat until completely combined. Whisk eggs and vanilla together in a bowl and beat into the butter mixture. Continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Combine buttermilk and lemon zest in another bowl and gradually beat into butter mixture. Add dry ingredients and beat just to combine; do not overmix.

Toss blackberries and chopped thyme with 2 tablespoons of flour. Fold into batter and gently crush berries to release their juices. Spoon 2/3 cup batter into prepared muffin tins. Top with 2 tablespoons crumble.

Bake about 50 minutes. Muffins should be golden on top, and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out cleanly. Let cool in pan for at least 20 minutes, then remove to serve warm or to finish cooling on a wire rack.

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