In An Experimental Mood: Blueberry Muffins

Summer fruits tend to inspire a flurry of baking at my house.

Now that I am pregnant, they inspire not only a flurry of baking, but a flurry of grazing, as cold, simple breakfasts such as plain fruit is about all I can handle in the summer heat. (I went out to the farmers market today, and nearly fainted from the heat by the time I got home; I have been inside ever since.)

But along with this summer’s large amount of baking and grazing, comes a desire to experiment.

I have a recipe for blueberry muffins from Cook’s Illustrated that I have been wanting to try, because, as you know, it is “The Best” blueberry muffin recipe, ever, because, well, the editors and authors of the magazine say it is. But, in point of fact, the recipe sounded pretty tasty, though I have to admit to being somewhat dismayed by the amount of fat present in the muffins: the recipe includes an egg, four tablespoons of melted butter and ten ounces of sour cream, along with, in my opinion, not enough blueberries (1 1/2 cups).

I wondered if I could boost the health profile of the muffins a wee bit by subbing some of the sour cream with Greek-style yogurt, and by substituting half of the all-purpose flour with some of King Arthur Flour’s White Whole Wheat Flour. And, of course, by using freshly picked organic berries, and more of them, because, dammit–there needed to be more.

And while I was at it, I decided to try out one of my newest kitchen gadgety things–Sur la Table’s Silicups.

Silicups, for all that they sound like “Sillycups” are not silly, but quite ingenious: they are silicone muffin cups that are not only reusable, but which will release from the muffins without the use of extra grease, butter or other lubricant. They also come in rainbow-brilliant colors (and pastels, if you are into those, which I am -not-), are simple to wash (dishwasher safe) and don’t require you to use a muffin pan with them. They can just sit on a cookie sheet happily.

I bought the silicups a while back, but hadn’t yet gotten around to baking with them, because I really prefer muffins to cupcakes. Cupcakes–well, maybe when our Kat is in school and needs to take a treat for her birthday, I might make cupcakes, but really, until then, probably not. No one in our household much cares for them, really. They can dry out easily, and often they are more trouble to make than a single large cake. So, the silicups had to wait until I had fresh fruit and the yen for muffins.

How did they work?

You can see for yourself that the silicone releases perfectly as advertised–all I had to do to get the muffins to drop out of the cups was invert them and give a wee squeeze to the outside edges, and pop! The muffin would drop into my waiting hand without any difficulty whatsoever. I suppose that I could have left them in the cups for serving–the bright colors are cheery and pretty, but I -had- to see if the muffins really did come out as easily as advertised.

As for the recipe–how was it?

Well, never having made the original as written, I cannot speak for it from experience, but my thought is that it was probably a little bland. All of the flavoring items–the spices and lemon zest–were my own additions. And to my taste, they really added a lot to the recipe. As for the white whole wheat flour–you could not detect it at all. It completely lacks the slight bitter edge to the flavor that typical whole wheat flour has. The muffins turned out to be quite tender as well. The next time I make this recipe, I may replace 75% of the flour with the white whole wheat and see what happens, but I suspect that I will be using this flour often in my future baking.

As for the sour cream and yogurt–the next time, I will use all yogurt. As it turned out, I couldn’t replace the 50% of the sour cream in the recipe with yogurt–I ran out of yogurt–but I think that with the thicker Greek style yogurt, there will be very little sacrifice in texture and flavor by using it instead of the sour cream. I ended up also subbing half the sugar required in the recipe with raw sugar; next time, I will use all raw sugar and in fact, probably reduce the amount of sugar somewhat. I don’t think it is necessary. (The dipping of the finished muffins in butter and then in sugar and cinnamon is a nice touch–I liked the crunchy topping, but the raw sugar made the muffins less pretty than they would have been had I used white sugar.)

And the fruit? Well, the original recipe called for frozen fruit–probably so it could be made year-round–and called specifically for wild blueberries. I used fresh, locally grown cultivated berries, and I added an extra 1/4 cup of them to the batter, which I determined was strong and thick enough to hold more fruit.

As you can see–the muffins turned out to be loaded with fruit–and in my universe, where muffins are primarily about fruit, that is an excellent and beautiful thing.

The only other thing I can think of that would improve these muffins would be to use a mixture of different berries instead of just blueberries. Imagine strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and sour cherries, for example. Or maybe just a mixture of sweet and sour cherries. Ooh. Maybe I will make some of those for tomorrow morning’s breakfast.

Blueberry Muffins with Cinnamon-Sugar Topping

Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup raw sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt
1 3/4 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and thoroughly dried
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons melted butter

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line up silicups on baking sheet, or spray standard muffin tin with nonstick baking spray.

Whisk together dry ingredients, including lemon zest in a very large bowl.

In another bowl, whisk egg until well beaten. Add sugar and whisk well until thick and well combined–about thirty seconds. Add melted butter in two or three additions, whisking well between. Add sour cream and yogurt and whisk until well combined. Do not overbeat once sour cream and yogurt are added.

Add berries to dry ingredients and toss to combine. Fold in sour cream mixture until batter comes well together. The batter will be very thick–do not beat or overmix.

Use an ice cream scoop to portion batter into silicups or muffin tin. (The silicups are probably smaller than the muffin tin cups–you will have enough dough left over if you use silicups to bake in a mini loaf pan.)

Bake until light golden brown and toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean–about 25 minutes. (With a convection oven like mine–it will take between 15 and 20 minutes.)

Allow muffins to cool five minutes, then release from cups or pan. While cooling, mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Dip tops of still warm muffins in butter, and then in the sugar and cinnamon mixture, then allow to cool on a wire rack until just barely warm.

13 Comments

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  1. you can also replace eggs with ripe bananas to omit fat and then reduce sugar cuz the nanners make it sweet as well…

    Comment by becky — June 28, 2006 #

  2. In which issue is the original recipe located? Just for kicks, I would love to try both. :-)
    Thanks!

    Comment by Bryan — June 28, 2006 #

  3. I confess that Cook’s Illustrated’s “Best Ever _____” recipes never really impress me (especially when it’s ethnic food). Your version looks much better.

    Comment by Mel — June 28, 2006 #

  4. Those muffins look delicious! I too have the sillicups and they are a great thing – my muffin recipe was a disaster though, so I am going to make this recipe for sure.

    Comment by Megan — June 29, 2006 #

  5. [...] In An Experimental Mood: Blueberry Muffins [...]

    Pingback by In An Experimental Mood: Blueberry Muffins at Couteau Bonswan — June 29, 2006 #

  6. I have never hear of white whole wheat, by the name I can gather what it is. May I ask, where do you get it and how is it made/grown?

    Comment by KCatGU — June 29, 2006 #

  7. Yum! Great additions to the recipe.

    Comment by BNA — June 29, 2006 #

  8. Becky, if I were to use a fruit to replace fat completely, it would be applesauce. (It can be used in place of eggs, especially.) This is because I can -taste- the banana and I cannot really taste the applesauce, and I am not really fond of the flavor of bananas in things. They are fine by themselves, as themselves, but in blueberry muffins–nope. It would never get past me–I would be able to smell the banana in the muffin before I ever tasted it.

    Otherwise, it is a good idea.

    I thought it was from a recent issue, Bryan, but it is from September 2001–or at least, that is according to the CI website, which is a great site, so I figure that the publication date is correct.

    I have a long memory to remember it for five yeara and then look for it on the site!

    Mel–I -despise- thier bastardized ethnic food recipes. They are so–inauthentic and awful–they just middle of the road, watered down Americanized crap!

    But, their baking recipes–while I almost always have to jazz them up because they are very plain–are very workable, and so I will use them as a starting point for my own explorations. I can usually be certain that whatever baking recipe they come up with will make a servicable basic whatever it is the recipe is for. And as far as crumb, mouthfeel and all of that, these muffins were great–but I think that the recipe as written would have been very bland in flavor.

    Megan–this recipe does work beautifully. I think you will like it a great deal.

    KCatGU–white whole wheat is available from King Arthur Flour–if you click on the link I gave, you can order it directly from them. Or, if there is a store near year that carries King Arthur products, you can ask them to get it for it.

    What is it? It is from an albino form of wheat–a different variety of wheat than the red winter wheat most of our flour comes from. White wheat lacks the tannins and phenols that are in red wheat, and not only do these affect the color of the wheat when it is ground–it affects the flavor, giving whole wheat ground from red wheat a slightly bitter, acrid aftertaste that many people dislike.

    At this time, very little of it is grown in the US, but I suspect that is going to change very soon as this flour catches on with home and commercial bakers.

    Anyway, follow the link, and you can order it from King Arthur Flour Company….

    Thanks, BNA!

    Comment by Barbara — June 29, 2006 #

  9. I have to say, as a geeky researchy kind of gal, I LOVE reading Cook’s Illustrated – for their monomaniacal efforts in pursuit of the “best” of something. But their recipes never impress me, and I hardly ever make anything from the magazine. I just like reading it.

    Comment by Diane — June 30, 2006 #

  10. I wonder if white wheat is the same as Indian atta flour? I often use that when I feel like making something slightly healthier but don’t want to use whole wheat…

    Comment by Diane — June 30, 2006 #

  11. I just made these wonderfull muffins, with my own changes.

    They are delightfull.

    Thank you for the recipe. I will be posting my version shortly.

    Comment by Kitarra — July 5, 2006 #

  12. I am glad you liked this recipe, Kitarra. Come back here and post a link to your recipe so interested folk here can find it, after you post it.

    I look forward to seeing your variant!

    Comment by Barbara — July 5, 2006 #

  13. [...] reign as Sultana of Snacks, I brought blueberry mini-muffins that Kat and I made together. From my usual blueberry muffin recipe, though I did modify it a bit–instead of using sour cream, I used all Greek yogurt with an [...]

    Pingback by Tigers & Strawberries » Zucchini-Carrot Muffins: Perfect Kindergarten Snack — September 14, 2011 #

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