Monday, May 3, 2010

Muffins on Mondays: The Best Blueberry Muffins

Last year during the blogathon, I used Mondays to write Meatless Monday posts. I may do this again at some point, but on this particular Monday, I want to write about muffins.

I took full advantage of having run yesterday morning to have an especially leisurely afternoon. I ate a bagel; I read the paper; I took a little nap; I read some more. (It was too hot to garden til later in the afternoon.) And then as the afternoon progressed, I decided to make muffins. Most of the time, I make muffins that are slightly virtuous--they have whole grain flour in them, and not too much butter, and maybe there's some wheat germ in there, or fruit, or something else wholesome. Yesterday, however, I went the other way, towards more dessert-like and decadent muffins.

It was partly that, now that May is here and blueberry season is in sight again, I don't need to dole out last summer's frozen berries quite so sparingly. But it was also that I hadn't made blueberry muffins in ages, and when I try to be virtuous with blueberry muffins, I'm never happy. It's one case where I'd rather have the real thing than healthy-it-up and be vaguely unsatisfied.

I first learned of these muffins from a muffin cookbook owned by my friend Emily. It's by Elizabeth Alston and called, simply, Muffins. I borrowed it from Emily multiple times and finally copied down the recipes for the blueberry muffins and the banana bran muffins (also delicious). Even though the blueberry muffin recipe is now available online, whenever I want to make these muffins, I still open the notebook where I wrote the recipe down, the purple ink now faded, the page splotched with butter stains and bits of flour.

The recipe is not complicated. The only unusual thing, really, is the addition of a half cup of mashed berries to the batter. Since my berries were frozen, I popped the half cup into the microwave for a few minutes to soften them up. The addition of the berries at that early point is rather dramatic, as the batter turns a lovely shade of purple once it's mixed together.

I suspect that if you use fresh berries, there will be less liquid (I probably left mine in the microwave a bit too long), and the batter will not be as purple. I kind of like the color, but if purple muffin batter is not your thing, then either use fresh berries or microwave them until they're just mashable but not runny.

Otherwise, the recipe is quite straightforward. There's the flour, butter and eggs, the blueberries, the flour and milk added alternately. The final step is to sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a sugar/nutmeg mixture. Even though the muffins are sweet enough as is, I wouldn't skip this step, as the sugar makes the tops crackly, and the nutmeg adds a nice echo of flavor.

I need to add here that I am a recent convert to muffin liners and now can't imagine making muffins without them. I've ruined more than one muffin tin by either using spray oil that eventually gets all gummy or by letting burnt bits bake onto them. Muffin liners (mostly) eliminate both problems. I feel rather dumb that it took me so long.

And whether or not you feel virtuous because you ran a 5K that morning, you should enjoy these muffins without guilt. Life is too short to eat mediocre blueberry muffins, and these are anything but.

The Best Blueberry Muffins

Barely adapted from Muffins, by Elizabeth Alston, reprinted many places

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar (or a bit less, depending on the sweetness of the berries)

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen will work), ½ cup mashed

2 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour, if desired)

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon granulated sugar, mixed with 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg for topping

Heat oven to 375°. Grease muffin pan or line with muffin liners.

In large bowl, mix butter until creamy. Add sugar and beat until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each. Beat in vanilla, baking powder and salt.

Mix mashed berries into batter.

With spoon or rubber spatula, fold in half of the flour, then half of the milk into batter; then flour, then milk again. (I use the lowest speed on my Kitchen Aid mixer for this step sometimes.)

Fold in remaining blueberries.

Spoon into muffin cups and sprinkle topping onto each muffin.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and springy to touch.

Try to let cool for at least 30 minutes before removing from pan.


Kathy Murray said...

These muffins look so yummy, I have to try. Nice blog, and interesting that you're in India when you're not in MA. What do you do there? I lived in China for three years, and India's on my list of places I'm dying to see.

Happy blogathonning. It's my first year, and a challenge!


Sue Dickman said...

Hi Kathy! Do try the muffins--they're quite delicious.

I've lived in India at various points over the years--for my longest stay, I was on a Fulbright doing research, and I also directed a couple of study abroad programs there. Now, I'm mostly able to get there for a month in the winter most years. It's not enough, but for the moment, it will have to do.

What were you doing in China?

This is my 2nd year of the blogathon, and it's definitely a challenge!

Alexandra Grabbe said...

Thanks for this recipe. Can't wait to try them!

Two Hands and a Roadmap said...

Wow, thanks for sharing this recipe. I usually try to do mostly whole wheat baking, but like you, I will leave this recipe alone.

Lisa said...

OK, I need to make these.