Thursday, August 26, 2010

perfect blueberry muffins

blueberry muffins, craggy tops

When blueberries first show up at the market, it feels like sacrilege to bake with them — ditto with raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Mother Nature made them perfect! Why drown them in batter, wilt them with heat and then leave them out to dry? What brutes we’d be! But there’s a day in August — I think it might have been yesterday* — when something shifts. The high for the day is in the 60s, you run out to the market and what is this? Did you wish you’d brought your cardigan? How strange! And all of a sudden the prospect of a berry baked into something warm and cozy, that you might eat with your first hot coffee of the season, seems very right.

blueberries
batter

And it is around this time every year that I try to find the best blueberry muffin. I’ve made them with buttermilk and yogurt and cream cheese too, with streusel and dipped in butter and rolled in cinnamon-sugar; I’ve tucked them into corn muffins and bran muffins too, back to one I got from Cook’s Illustrated eons ago (introduced to me by the lovely Elise), but that’s different from the recipes in the two Cook’s Illustrated cookbooks that I own and also at least three of the five other blueberry muffin recipes on their site (the last two are hidden behind a pay wall put between people already paying and people paying more than people who are paying, not that I’m venting or anything, ahem). It has a high dome and a thick batter that’s really more of a dough (a classically brilliant technique of CI’s to keep berries from sinking) and every time, they’re as pretty as a picture.

blueberry muffins

I mean, I play with them too. I like them with yogurt but I like them even more with sour cream. I halve the recipe because 10 muffins is just the perfect amount to keep you from getting in too much trouble. I find it doesn’t much matter whether your berries are frozen or fresh, but I don’t care for defrosting them first as they just get so wet and slumpy. And although I made these in greased muffin cups, I forgot that I prefer them with paper liners because occasionally, a blueberry gets lost, stuck to the pan, and that’s just no way for a blueberry to go out.

cooling

* Or two days before that, when I started writing the post. Why does it take so long to update these days? You’ll have to speak to the boss.

One year ago: Cubed, Hacked Caprese
Two years ago: Dimply Plum Cake and Crisp Rosemary Flatbread
Three years ago: Smoke-Roasted Stuffed Bell Peppers
Four years ago: Punition Sandwiches and Moules à la Marinière

Perfect Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Muffins are really best on the first day (another argument for halved recipes) but I’ve never met one I couldn’t resuscitate split, toasted and patted with salted butter.

My major changes: As always, attempted to rewrite this into a one-bowl recipe (because muffins should just not require a lot of work), halved the recipe and added weights.

Makes 9 to 10 standard muffins

5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces or 71 grams) unsalted butter , softened
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces or 191 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon (7 grams or 1/4 ounce) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces or 105 grams) blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, don’t bother defrosting)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a muffin tin with 10 paper liners or spray each cup with a nonstick spray. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well, then yogurt and zest. Put flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a sifter and sift half of dry ingredients over batter. Mix until combined. Sift remaining dry ingredients into batter and mix just until the flour disappears. Gently fold in your blueberries. The dough will be quite thick (and even thicker, if you used a full-fat Greek-style yogurt), closer to a cookie dough, which is why an ice cream scoop is a great tool to fill your muffin cups. You’re looking for them to be about 3/4 full, nothing more, so you might only need 9 instead of 10 cups. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean (you know, except for blueberry goo). Let cool on rack (ha), or you know, serve with a generous pat of butter.


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