Sunday, May 31, 2009

Indulgent Breakfast: Best Blueberry Muffins

I think it's always a bit risky to label any recipe as the "best" anything, especially [baked] classics, like apple pie, chocolate chip cookies, and yes, blueberry muffins.  However, Cook's Illustrated (from America's Test Kitchen) did just that.  I have to say that I have a weird relationship with blueberries - when I was a kid, I'm pretty sure I liked them a lot.  Then at some point, I didn't (same with raisins, YUCK!).  And I didn't for a while, but recently I have started to like them again, especially in or paired with baked goods.

I've never really been a fan of blueberry muffins, mainly because the ones you get at the store are usually huge and, in my opinion, leaning towards the dry side.  I also usually find them to be pretty sparse on the blueberry flavor.  My favorite types of muffins are coffee cake (with cinnamon streusel on top, of course) and chocolate chip.  However, when I ran across this recipe, the muffins looked pretty good (even in black and white pictures), so I decided to give them a try.

So let me tell you, these are by far, hands-down, the very, very best blueberry muffins I have ever had.  They are flavorful, with the just the right amount of blueberries, and are super moist.  I followed this recipe almost exactly to the letter, with the exception of one thing: I used sanding sugar instead of regular granulated sugar.  I prefer sanding sugar for toppings, and it adds a nice, crunchy texture to the top of the muffin.

As another note, I would highly recommend that you get your mise en place set up before starting to make these muffins.  I don't always do mise en place, but I would definitely recommend it for this recipe.  The recipe calls for fresh blueberries, but you can also use frozen blueberries with some changes.  I haven't tried the recipe with frozen blueberries, but I've included the changes below.  There are also a few variations for the topping (streusel, orange glaze, and almond crunch), but I haven't included them.  If you are interested in them, please leave a comment as to which one you are interested in.

The recipe calls for 10 ounces of blueberries; I've made these using two 4 oz. (so 8 oz. total) containers every time, and the muffins come out fine.  I also recommend weighing the ingredients, as opposed to measuring them, where the weights are noted.  The exception to this would be the sugar for the topping and the blueberries.

For the Lemon-Sugar Topping
1/3 cup (2 1/3 ounces) sugar [I recommend sanding sugar]
1 1/2 tsps finely grated zest from 1 lemon

For the Muffins
2 cups (approximately 10 ounces) fresh blueberries, picked over, with stems and bad blueberries thrown out
1 1/8 cups (8 ounces) plus 1 tsp sugar
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp table salt
2 large eggs
4 Tbsps (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract

For the Topping
Stir together the sanding sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl until combined.  Set aside.

For the Muffins
1.  Melt the butter over low heat, and set aside.  (I include this as a step because I frequently forget to do it!)

2.  Adjust the oven rack to upper-middle position, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Spray a standard muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.

3.  Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 tsp sugar to a simmer over medium heat.  Cook, mashing berries with a spoon (I find a fork works very well, maybe even better) several times, and stirring frequently, until the berries have broken down and the mixture has thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup (you will just have to eyeball this measurement), approximately 6 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, and let cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

4.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Set aside.

5.  Whisk remaining 1 1/8 cups of sugar and the eggs together in a medium bowl, until thick and incorporated, about 45 seconds.

6.  Slowly whisk in the butter and oil until combined.  Whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla until combined.

7.  Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg mixture and the remaining cup of blueberries into the flour mixture until just moistened.  The batter will be very lumpy with few spots of dry flour.  Do not overmix the batter, or your muffins will be tough.

8.  Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide the batter equally among the muffin cups.  The batter should completely fill the cups and mound slightly.  You should have enough batter for exactly 12 muffins.

9.  Spoon a teaspoon of the cooked blueberry mixture into the center of each mound of muffin batter.  Using a chopstick or a skewer, gently swirl the blubeberry filling into the batter, using a figure-eight motion.

10.  Sprinkle the lemon sugar evenly over the muffins.

11.  Bake until muffn tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating the muffin tin from front to back, halfway through baking tin.

12.  Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes before serving enjoying.

For Frozen Blueberries
Follow the recipe above, substituting 2 cups of frozen berries for the fresh ones.  Cook 1 cup of the berries as directed in step 3.  Rinse the remaining cup of berries under cold water and dry well.  In step 7, toss the dried berries in the flour mixture before adding the egg mixture.  Proceed with the recipe from step 7/8 as directed.

I made a batch of these muffins with the blueberry filling and without.  While you can certainly get by without the blueberry filling, the muffins do taste better with it, even if they are a bit stickier.  If you make it without the filling, I'd put more blueberries in the batter.  And if you are tempted by these muffins, but know you should eat them (like me :)), remember what Weight Watchers says: a muffin is just a cake with a hat on it.  Although, that line never worked on me.


Julia June 11, 2009 at 12:30 PM  

I'm also wishy washy about blueberries, I'm a little scared of them! I'll have to try out these muffins and conquer my fears :) Thanks for posting!!

green_dino July 6, 2009 at 10:42 PM  

These muffins look DELICIOUS! I'm going to have to try the recipe.

oywidapoodles July 12, 2009 at 10:35 PM  

Just had to make some. They look so good. They're in the oven right now, and I'm trying to be patient. :D Added chocolate chips. Actually, I don't think I've ever made muffins without adding chocolate chips. XD It's just too good!

oywidapoodles July 12, 2009 at 11:08 PM  

Super good! Moist and tasty! Loved them; thanks for posting the recipe!

徵信社 November 27, 2009 at 10:30 PM  

I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.


grandmax5 June 16, 2010 at 11:52 PM  

I could not get this recipe of ATK (maybe because I'm in Canada) so I googled it and found yours so I must say THANK YOU! They are amazing!!