Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Break From Cake: Better Blueberry Muffins

I do love my go to blueberry muffin recipe, but I will admit it does have one serious flaw: Not every bite of muffin contains a blueberry. Adding enough blueberries to achieve a taste of berry goodness in every bite would probably seriously mess with the chemistry of the recipe. So, I looked to The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook for a recipe that maximized the blueberry to muffin ratio.

As usual, the Test Kitchen did not disappoint! Their trick to upping the blueberry quotient in the muffins is to make and add a blueberry jam. Genius! The swirl of blueberry jam provides a taste of berry in just about every bite.

My husband, John, loves blueberry muffins and I made this version to serve him this past Father's Day. He loved them! The leftovers also freeze well and John was quite disappointed that my daughter Cadence and I polished off the rest of the batch in the following weeks. We just couldn't resist, they are so yummy!

I made just a few tweaks to the recipe. First, I eliminated the Lemon-Sugar Topping. I find blueberry muffins to be sweet enough as is so I never add extra sugar although most recipes do suggest a topping. Lastly, I used frozen blueberries, instead of the suggested fresh ones, because that is what we had in the house at the time.

Making the blueberry jam does add another step to the muffin making process, but I promise, it is very worth it!

Blueberry Muffins
Slightly Adapted from America's Test

2 cups blueberries
1 tsp sugar plus 1 1/8 cups
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Adjust and oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a standard-sized muffin pan with vegetable spray. Bring 1 cup of the blueberries and 1 teaspoon of the sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing the berries with a spoon several times and stirring frequently, until the berries have broken down and the mixture is thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. I used frozen berries to make the jam and they produced a substantial amount of water. I made a paste of flour and water and slowly added it and stirred it in at the end of the cooking process. Transfer to a smal bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the remaining 1 1/8 cups sugar and the eggs together in a medium bowl until thick and homogenous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in the butter and oil until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg mixture and remaining 1 cup blueberries into the flour mixture until just moistened (the butter will be very lumpy with a few spots of dry flour, do not overmix.)

Using a 1/3-cup measure or an ice cream scoop (I prefer the ice-cream scoop), divide the batter equally among the prepared muffin cups (the batter should completely fill the cups and mound slightly). Spoon 1 teaspoon of the cooked berry mixture into the center of each mound of batter. Using a chopstick (this is what I used and it worked great) or skewer, gently swirl the berry filling into the batter using a figure-eight motion.

Bake until the muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes before serving.

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