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Blueberry Battle August 18, 2009

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Fattiness, Food, random stuff.
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You know how, when something is in season locally, it’s so easy to, well, to go a little overboard?

You know, like when asparagus is plentiful and everywhere, so you buy several pounds . . . then you eat grilled asparagus and asparagus omelets and asparagus risotto . . . Or maybe you’ve been picking garden-fresh spinach out of your teeth for a couple of weeks . . .Perhaps you score a deal on sour cherries and make pie and jam and sorbet. . . We all know that produce is best when it’s fresh, no matter how well it freezes.  And the closer to home you can get it, the better!  And that especially includes lovely, seasonal blueberries that you pick yourself!

In addition to freezing a (very full) gallon bag of the blueberries, and besides the blueberry pie experiment, and even after enjoying a couple of colorful blueberry smoothies for breakfast, there were plenty of the berries left for muffins.  Plenty.

A couple of months back, we received our May/June issue of Cook’s Illustrated, and we kind of glanced at the blueberry muffin recipe . . . OK, nice, but who really cares about blueberry muffins in April?

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Then, in June, we noticed that one of the (several) food blogs I subscribe to, The Bitten Word, made that very recipe, and they were very pleased with it. . . now I’m interested.  So I made them.

And they were good.  Very, very good.  So good, in fact, that I was loath to  give most of them away. . . which is necessary, especially given the earlier pie experiments, the curtailed puppy walks AND the disturbing lack of movement (in the correct direction!) on my fatty meter over there. . .

So I tried one, enjoyed it, then shared another with Peeps after they’d cooled and enjoyed it even more.

Then I packed the rest of them up and we delivered some to a couple of neighbors, and the rest came to the office.

Did I mention that these were some seriously tasty muffins?  Yeah . . . but here’s the thing.  They were a little fussy to make.  Which should not have been a huge surprise, given that it’s a Cook’s Illustrated recipe and all.

That, and I grew up with my mother’s blueberry muffins, and my mother’s muffins have always been kind of the gold standard of blueberry muffins, you know what I mean?  This was a recipe that came out of one of those little plastic-bound church cookbooks from her home church when she was a teenager – and let me tell you – THAT was a LONG time ago.

I’m just saying, that’s all.

Mother’s recipe was actually originally for “blueberry muffin cake” – it was baked in a 9×13-inch pan, and probably intended to be served as a coffee cake.  At some point, I guess my mother decided to try making the cake in muffin form (probably after one of our blueberry-picking expeditions!), and they were Pretty Darned Not Bad!  And since I was a teenager, that has always been the recipe I’ve used for almost every fruit-based muffin I’ve made  – blueberry, cherry, grape – a rainbow of muffiny goodness, all in one recipe.  Although I don’t actually make muffins much anymore, it’s still one of those bridges between a childhood treat and a grownup indulgence.

Meanwhile, I dropped a comment on the recipe post over at Bitten Word, mentioning that I’d made the muffins, and I’d enjoyed them very much, but I wasn’t sure how they’d compare to my old family recipe.  And I actually received a nice email response from Clay asking if I’d be willing to share that recipe. . .

So, now that I’ve dug the recipe out of the (ahem) archives, here I am, sharing.  And not only was that the way my mother brought me up – to share, I’ve also gone the extra mile and created a printable version for sharing, too.

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First, I whisk together the dry ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. table salt

Set aside.

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Additionally, the recipe calls for 3 cups of “floured” blueberries – take your fresh berries (or, if they’re frozen, thaw and make sure they’re WELL-drained), and toss them gently with a couple of tablespoons of flour – just enough to coat them.  Set those aside, too.

Meanwhile, cream together  (I use the KitchenAid):

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar

PhotobucketYou’ll want to beat that until it’s fluffy, then beat in 4 eggs.    (I didn’t say it was lowfat!)  Now for the real departure from your usual muffin recipes – this doesn’t use the Muffin Method!  Once your eggs are beaten in, with the mixer running, add the flour mixture alternately with 2/3 cup of milk.  I usually add each in 3 or 4 installments.

Beat it all together, and the directions are very clear on this – “mix very well, the longer the better.”

Nope, that is NOT the muffin method!  It’s actually more like a white cake than anything else, isn’t it?

Cake you can eat for breakfast!  YAY!

PhotobucketWhen you deem the batter to be sufficiently mixed, then very gently fold in the floured berries and 2 teaspoons of vanilla.  And I do mean GENTLY!  (You do know that if you mash the berries, you’ll end up with purply-greenish cake muffins.  Blech.)  As I said, the original recipe is for a 9×13-inch cake, though you can adjust the baking time for two 8×8 pans or about thirty (yes 30!) muffins.

Pour batter into prepared pan (scoop into muffin tins), sprinkle with a bit of sugar, and bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes for the cake (less for muffins – 25-30 minutes), until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Obviously, I went with the muffin option – they’re easier to freeze and to transport when I ultimately end up giving most of them to the neighbors.

PhotobucketSo were they better than the Cook’s Illustrated version?  It’s hard to say – they were different, that’s for sure.   And I did not actually taste the two versions side by side – and I’m not going to, either!

I will admit that it’s been a long time since I’ve used this recipe, and even longer since I’ve had muffins that my mother made (things always taste better when your mother makes them!). . .

I’d have to say, though, that Mother’s muffins are actually more like cupcakes with blueberries in them – not at all a bad thing – but trying to compare is kind of an “apples and oranges” thing, I think.

Say, speaking of oranges . . . I’ll bet they’d make an awesome dessert warmed up with maybe a scoop of orange sherbet on top . . . kind of like a shortcake.   I’ll bet Cook’s Illustrated has a recipe . . .

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Comments

1. anne - August 18, 2009

Grape muffins??? For real? I’ve never heard of such an animal.

Toy Lady - August 19, 2009

Would I make something like that up? 😉

Concord grapes come into season, I think, at the end of September. You’ll see. . .

2. sjbraun - August 21, 2009

Yep, I bet they are more like cake – all that beating is so anti-muffin (we made muffins for the fair this year, so I have studied up on muffin method)! They look wonderful. You are so Martha Stewart!

Toy Lady - August 21, 2009

Aww. . . now you’re makin’ me blush. 😳

I was making these muffins long before the “muffin method” even existed (or if it existed, no one had actually given a name to it!) – then, to learn that I’ve been making muffins WRONG all these years!


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