For a number of years now, I have been fortunate enough to live in a house that had blueberry bushes in the garden. Right now I have about eight bushes, which having been attentively pruned and tended since we arrived, are now producing about a gallon each. That is enough to let us enjoy blueberry treats for several months, put up a dozen pints of blueberry habanero chutney, and still have a gallon or two in the freezer so I can make muffins to stave off the mid-winter no-fresh-fruit doldrums. In fact, I probably have enough berries for one more batch of muffins before I run out. Not bad for the end of February.
Most people would see this as the embarrassment of riches that it is, but I am utterly spoiled by our last house, which had a blueberry orchard! Two patches, each holding a five-by-five square of high-bush blueberries, kept us (and our friends) in berries all year. Each June found me in a race to empty the freezer of the previous year's harvest in time to make room for the berries that weighed down the fragile looking twiggy branches just outside my kitchen window.
This wealth also led me to an ongoing quest for the perfect blueberry muffin. During the heavy berrying season of late summer, when I could fill my basket in less time than it took the oven to preheat, I baked muffins weekly. (Remember what I said about berries for friends? I ate far too many muffins myself, but I did share!) This quest, however tasty, has proven fruitless-well, as fruitless as something involving gallons of berries could be-as I determined that there is no such critter as the perfect blueberry muffin.
Maybe I can blame it on my age. When I was a child, muffins were relatively dense and dry little things; tasty, but not particularly sweet or rich. Then sometime in the eighties, a transformation occurred. Muffins grew, more than doubling in size until one could be shared between two people who knew each other well enough to breakfast together. That wonderful rustic crumb, perhaps weighed down by the sheer bulk of the salad plate sized behemoths muffins had become, collapsed into a sugar-laden little cake-truly the only thing missing is the frosting. (I fear there is an entire generation of young people growing up who will think that the cakelets at every drive-through espresso stand are real muffins...but that's my own personal nightmare.)
My favorite recipe straddles the line between the two versions, making a reliable, middle-of-the-road muffin: not too sweet and with a fairly "old-fashioned" crumb...but not too dry. It's a very good muffin and I can make it in my sleep. More importantly, many other people seem to be able to make it in theirs.
What I really love about this recipe, however, is its flexibility. It can be simply varied to produce a muffin that is adapted to your particular taste and demands of the occasion. If I need a fancier more dessert-like version, I increase the sugar and top them with cinnamon sugar. Less rich muffins come from a reduction in sour cream while richer ones from a change to full-fat sour cream. Flavor changes come from citrus zest and/or spices. And you can always add a handful of chopped nuts or even change the kind of berries you use.
kitchenMage's everMorphing blueberryMuffins
makes one dozen normal muffins (or 5-6 huge ones)
sugar, 1/2 cup / 3 1/2 ounces / 100 grams
butter, melted and cooled, 3 tablespoons / 1 1/2 ounces / 42 grams
low-fat sour cream, 1 1/4 cups / 10 3/4 ounces / 300 grams
all-purpose flour, 1 3/4 cups / 7 7/8 ounces / 220 grams
baking powder, 2 teaspoons
baking soda, 1 teaspoon
salt, 1/8 teaspoon
blueberries, 1 1/2 cups / 6 3/4 ounces / 189 grams (if fresh, simply wash; if frozen,leave in freezer until you are ready to use them)
Preheat oven to 375°. Have all ingredients, except frozen blueberries, at room temperature. Prepare muffin pan with paper cup liners.
- In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg briefly with a wire whisk to lighten. Add the sugar and continue to whisk until you can no longer feel any resistance from undissolved sugar.
- Add the butter to the bowl and mix briefly to combine, then add sour cream and whisk until mixture is smooth and homogenous. (You can whisk an additional minute or two at this point, if your wrist can take it, to aerate the batter, making the muffins a bit lighter.)
- In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly to mix and eliminate lumps. (If you have a sifter-I use a 6" handheld sieve-this is a good time to pull it out; the muffins will come together more easily if the flour is well aerated.)
- Add the blueberries to the dry mixture and toss them gently for a few seconds to coat the berries.
- Add flour mixture to the liquid mixture and combine with a few quick folds.
- Scoop batter into muffin pan (a 4 oz scoop is about the right size).
- Bake for about 25 minutes.
Nutritional informationPer Serving: 190 Calories; 7g Fat (32.6% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 34mg Cholesterol; 295mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat; 1 Other Carbohydrates.
VariationsHere's where the real fun starts. These are adjustments that I have tried enough to vouch for how well they work. I am positive there are a lot more, but start here. Once you have made these a couple of times, you will find that you can make other changes with confidence.
The difference in nutritional data from the main recipe is included in parentheses, and is per muffin. (so you can decide just how badly you want to swap out that low-fat sour cream).
- To make the muffins sweeter, increase the sugar to 3/4 cup. Much more gets overly sweet, but you can probably go to a full cup if you really want to. (+17 calories, +4g carbohydrates)
- For muffins that are a little drier and less rich, reduce the sour cream to 1 cup. You may need to reduce baking time by a minute or two, but probably not enough that you would notice. (-6 calories, -1mg cholesterol)
- For a richer muffin, with a moister crumb, use regular sour cream instead of low-fat. (+22 calories, +4g fat, +6g cholesterol, -2g carbohydrates, -1g protein Exchanges: +1 fat)
- You can use 1 cup of regular sour cream but you undo the nutritional gains of using low-fat and end up with a drier muffin than with the larger amount of low-fat sour cream. (+11 calories, +3g fat, +3g cholesterol, -2g carbohydrates Exchanges: +1/2 fat)
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, or 1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon and allspice, to enhance the spicy, earthy flavors.
- Add the zest from an orange or lemon (with the liquids) for a different and subtle flavor.
- For fluffier muffins, let them sit on the counter for 20 minutes after you fill the muffin tin.
- Dress these up by brushing semi-cooled muffins with melted butter and sprinkling on a bit of cinnamon sugar. (+16 calories, +1g fat, +2g carbohydrates, +3mg cholesterol)
- It doesn't change the resulting muffins, but for extra entertainment, try whisking with your non-dominant hand. Isn't it amazing how difficult such a simple motion can be? I swear my left hand thinks that "clockwise" means something else!