Sunday, July 31, 2011

Best Blueberry Muffins

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with blueberry muffins.  Even though they sound so appealing, just about every blueberry muffin I've come across in stores or coffee shops remind me more of how my Strawberry Shortcake doll's best friend smelled than a delicious baked good.  Add to that, muffins are notoriously high in fat and calories makes me usually pass.

Until now.
Come to Mama
This recipe unashamedly belongs wholly to America's Test Kitchen.  I saw them make these muffins on an episode of their PBS show (love it) not too long ago and couldn't stop thinking about it.  What makes these special (besides the fact that those kitchen testers probably churned out 157 batches of blueberry muffins before landing on this particular recipe) is that they have really deep, concentrated blueberry flavor thanks to making a "jam" to swirl in to the batter and a crackly topping of lemon sugar.  Those steps add a few minutes to the process but they're totally worth it.

Beware you might consume your day's worth of calories in muffins.  These are best shared with a friend over a cup of coffee (make her take the leftovers).

Blueberry Muffins
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

2 cups (about 10 ounces) fresh blueberries, picked over (*see note if using frozen)
1 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk (**see note)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the topping, stir together the 1/3 cup sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Adjust the oven rack to the upper middle position and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

In a small sauce pan, bring 1 cup of the blueberries and 1 teaspoon of sugar to a simmer over medium heat.  Cook, mashing the blueberries with a spoon and stirring frequently, until the berries have broken down and the mixture is thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes.  Allow to cool to room temperature, 10-15 minutes.

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining cup of sugar and eggs together in a medium bowl until thick and well mixed.  Slowly whisk in the butter and oil until combined.  Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla.  Fold the egg mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened (the batter will be very lumpy with a few spots of dry flour; do not overmix).  Gently fold in blueberries just until dispersed. 

Fill muffin cups completely full with batter.  Spoon 1 teaspoon of the cooked berry mixture into the center of each cup of batter.  Using a chopstick or skewer, gently swirl the berry filling into the batter using a figure-eight motion (see picture below and also admire my antique muffin tins courtesy of my late Grandma Kaye).
We're swirling, we're swirling...
Sprinkle the lemon sugar evenly over the muffins.

Bake until the muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17-19 minutes.  Cool the muffins in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove them and transfer to a wire rack and let cool 5 minutes before serving. 

*Note: If using frozen berries, cook 1 cup of berries as directed above.  Rinse the remaining 1 cup berries under cold water and dry well.  Stir blueberries in as directed above as well.

**Note: You can make your own buttermilk substitute.  Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to 1 cup milk and let sit for 2 minutes or combine 3/4 cup plain yogurt with 1/4 cup milk.

Source: The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2010

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