Friday, July 15, 2011

Cooks Illustrated Best Blueberry Muffins

Before I started baking, my favorite thing to buy from the bakery was a blueberry muffin. Not because the bakery that I purchased them from had especially good muffins or anything. I just really like blueberry muffins. I don't know if you've noticed... I actually just really like blueberries haha.

Anyways, I don't know if you have ever tried making homemade blueberry muffins before.... but there are about a million different recipes out there. They can range from recipes using buttermilk, whole milk, sour cream, yogurt, butter, oil, etc. The list goes on in any combination of those ingredients. And most of them claim to be the best. Well, I won't tell you these are the best, but I will tell you that they were especially delicious. If you know me, you know that I don't like saying that certain recipes are the best. I just don't think it's right to make such a proclamation- who knows what else is out there in the unreached recipe world?

So, back to these muffins. They were realllllly good. And I will most definitely be making them again. They were moist and packed with flavor, something that is not always the case with muffins. Most blueberry muffins simply have blueberries stirred about the batter. These had a blueberry reduction that was swirled into the batter. THEN they were sprinkled with not just granulated sugar, but lemon sugar. Lemon zest was rubbed into granulated sugar to infuse the oils. Those are the kind of extra steps that put baked goods over the top. This one was successful. I will tell you, I was hesitant with the sugar because I felt like there was more than I could possibly spread across just 12 muffins. I ended up not using it all. Dumb. Don't be dumb like me. Use it all. Seriously, don't sprinkle and say good enough like I did. Take a good tablespoon or so and mound and spread it around the batter top. I realized afterward that it is the granulated sugar topping that creates that crisp, crunchy shell of a muffin top that is everybody's favorite. So since I didn't add all the sugar, I didn't get the full effect. Don't be hesitant like me, just go for it. I give you permission.

The other thing I did, which goes against all cardinal rules of baking, was overmix the batter a bit. UGH.  ALWAYS mix just until the batter comes together- then stop. Well, let me tell you why I over mixed it a little. The batter is really, really lumpy. It is human nature to want to get those lumps out.... so I gave the batter a few extra stirs and then I caught myself because the stirring wasn't loosening up the lumps so I was just making my dough tough (not tender) by over mixing... I am really upset about this. And at that point I still needed to stir in the berries (which I honestly had forgotten about ha) and swirl in the blueberry jam reduction. So not only had I already over mixed a bit, but I stil had to mix some more. They still came out beautifully and soft, but I am convinced they didn't reach the height of their greatness because of my OCD and those darn lumps. SOOOO basically, when you go to make this, stop mixing when there are still a few dry bits of flour and then add the blueberries. You'll be much better off.

Best Blueberry Muffins
adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Print Recipe

Lemon-Sugar Topping 
1/3 cup sugar
2-3 teaspoons finely grated zest from 1 lemon

2 cups (about 10 ounces) fresh blueberries, picked over
1 1/8 cups (8 ounces) plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups (12½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (if you have a scale weigh it, don't measure it - it's worth it)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk*
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
*If buttermilk is unavailable, substitute 3/4 cup plain whole-milk or low-fat yogurt thinned with 1/4 cup milk.

Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon (I used my potato masher) several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

For the topping- Stir together sugar and lemon zest in small bowl until combined; set aside. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk remaining 1 1/8 cups sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until combined, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be very lumpy with few spots of dry flour; do not over mix.)

Use ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using small spoon, gently swirl berry filling into batter. Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over muffins.

Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 15 to 19 minutes (don't over bake), rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving. Makes 12 muffins 

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