Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cook's Illustrated's Blueberry Muffins


The niece, who came to visit for two weeks in July, is a blueberry muffin hound.  Consequently, we made two batches of blueberry muffins.  One set was for the beach.  The other set was for camping.  

Having her visit was so delightful.  She is almost 14 years old now, and she is funny, sassy, and a bit ridiculous: meaning that she fits in right here.  There was much singing (our operatic renditions of our daily activities were something to behold) and much face making and the occasional need to "dance it out" in the car when I grew frustrated by my belief that I had donated an unyet worn pair of shoes to Goodwill (which turned out not to be the case).  There was a trip to Romeo and Juliet.  There was shopping for the latest in teen wear (turns out to be the same thing I wore in 1992 (who knew flannels and combat boots were making such a strong comeback?)).  There were many beaches. 

As in, a lot of beaches.

Ocean Beach (San Francisco)
Drake's Beach (Point Reyes)
There's just something about the beach that calls to her (and my) Midwestern heart, and she poked sea anemones, collected shells, wrote her name in the sand, waded out into the surf, prodded beached jelly fish, pointed out sea lions and otters, and sat by herself for an hour and a half, watching the sun go down and turning all of Monterey that beautiful shade of blue.  Something happens to her at the beach, and I like being able to see it.  She is all long legs akimbo and wide smiles.  Occasionally, she even lets me put my arm around her.

Perkins Park (Pacific Grove)

Hopkins Marine Station (Monterey)
Upon arrival in California, she requested blueberry muffins.  Well, I can provide, for I love me some muffins of the blueberry sort (the other thing she requested was no baseball games, and sadly, I acquiesced on that one, too).

We decided we would try two different versions of the blueberry muffin and conduct our own little taste test.

We began our experiment with the Cook's Illustrated The New Best Recipe Cookbook version.  In general I would argue that you cannot go wrong with this cookbook.  Around these here parts, we refer to the cookbook as the science cookbook or the geek cookbook, as this cookbook loves its science-y explanations and its multiple versions until it hits on just the right recipe.


As expected, this recipe spent some time trying to find the proper flour (bleached flour lacked the flavor they wanted and cake flour was too light for the heavy blueberries), just the right wet ingredients (they settled on sour cream to play off of the berries) and the perfect blueberries (they recommend wild blueberries, as they are smaller and, thus, less likely to take over the muffin.  I used fresh, regular-sized berries, and they were fine).  They adjusted leaveners and instructed one to be vigorous in the whisking of the wet ingredients to produce the lift needed in the muffin but cautioned not to overmix (a simple folding of the wet ingredients into the dry ones, leaving sprays (but not pockets) of flour).  In short, they did their homework.


Not surprisingly then, the niece and I gobbled these up, some on the beach, others in the kitchen.  They were lovely with melted butter, and even better with a tiny grit of sand and the salt air.

However, our final verdict was that while these were solid blueberry muffins, they could have been sweeter and were just a scotch dry (hence the melted butter).  The lack of sweetness is a bit odd, as I will soon be posting the Alton Brown version which has 1/2 the sugar and we liked his version a little better, but both of us agreed this version should have been sweeter.

Nonetheless, in the end, these blueberry muffins displayed a lovely crumbly, lumpy top and a nice texture.  We approve.  

Now I just need to fly her back to California, for I miss her already.  We need to go back to the beach.


One Year Ago: Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango
Two Years Ago: Mussels Linguica
Three Years Ago: Peach Cobbler

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Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from  I'm Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking

Yield:
12 Muffins

Ingredients:   
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) sour cream
1 1/2 cups blueberries (recommended: smaller wild blueberries)--fresh or frozen

Instructions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a standard, 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.

2.  Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl until combined.

3.  Whisk the egg in a second medium bowl until well combined and light colored, about 20 seconds.  Add the sugar and whisk vigorously until thick and homogeneous, about 30 seconds.  Add the melted butter in 2-3 additions, whisking after each addition to combine.  Add the sour cream in 2 additions, whisking just to combine.

4.  Add the berries to the dry ingredients and gently toss just to combine. (If you are using frozen blueberries, add them frozen (not thawed) to the flour mix.) Add the sour cream mixture and fold carefully with a rubber spatula until the batter comes together and the berries are evenly distributed, about 25-30 seconds.  Do not over mix.

5.  Divide the batter among the greased muffin cups.  

6.  Bake until the muffins are light golden brown and until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time.

7.  Invert the muffin tin over a wire rack, stand the muffins upright, and cool 5 minutes.






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