Best Blueberry Muffins

A burst of sweet, juicy blueberries in every bite is my favorite type of muffin. I have a friend who purposely reduces the amount of blueberries when she makes muffins. Now seriously, what is the point of that? The best part of a blueberry muffin is the explosion of the fruity deliciousness.

However, simply overloading on berries isn’t the secret to the success of the Best Blueberry Muffin. In many recipes, this simply means the berries sink to the bottom of the muffin.

The folks at America’s Test Kitchen, via the Cooks Illustrated magazine, have yet again brought its readers a fantastic recipe in this version of the blueberry muffin, and one of their techniques involves making a berry jam to swirl around the batter in order to concentrate the sweet fruity flavor.

If you opt to make these muffins–and I highly recommend that you try them–please-oh-please-oh-please use organic berries. Fresh blueberries work best. Forget the bland grocery store berries. Frozen works in a pinch, but the organic and the Farmer’s Market berries are key to luscious flavor (trust me, I’ve tried all types of sources).

Restoration Oaks Ranch blueberry field.

I don’t make these too often for a couple of reasons: First, hubby and I can easily inhale the dozen muffins in no time at all–very detrimental to the size of our bellies (and my thighs). Second, fresh blueberries are very pricey here in Southern California.

However, we recently passed a u-pick blueberry farm just outside of Santa Barbara, Restoration Oaks Ranch, on our way north for a road trip. I made hubby promise that we would stop there on our return leg. We splurged and traveled home with 5 pounds of blueberries!! That was about 3 weeks ago, and I am finally making time to share one of the myriad of recipes I’ve tried. With so many blueberries, I froze a good portion mainly so I can continue to whip up these muffins when the whim hits, which is by far the best way I’ve used the ample amount of blueberries.

Hubby busy picking blueberries.

Since I adore blueberry muffins, I’ve tried several recipes and this particular recipe continues to top them all. As a matter of fact, every other recipe I’ve tried has resulted in disappointment: too oily, too bland, too dry, etc.

In addition to creating a dense, moist cake loaded with rich blueberry flavor, the folks at America’s Test Kitchen also provide several topping variations, which I’ll include in the recipe below, but just so you know, my favorite is the streusel topping.

A little sidenote: these freeze well when wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in a ziploc bag, which helps with the problem of inhaling them all at once.

So, go splurge on some fresh and flavorful blueberries and revel in the divine explosions of sweetness as you bite into these babies.

That’s 5 pounds of blueberries in those two buckets!

Best Blueberry Muffins

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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups (about 10 ounces) fresh blueberries (if you must use frozen, try to purchase Wyman’s or Cascadian Farm brands)
  • 1 1/8 cup sugar (8 ounces) plus 1 tsp. sugar (FYI: 1/8 cup = 2 tbsp.)
  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. table salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk (buttermilk substitution: add 1 tbsp. lemon juice, white vinegar, or cream of tartar to one cup milk–will be similar in sourness and acid content to buttermilk but not in thickness; or, Cooks Illustrated suggests 3/4 cup plain whole milk or low-fat yogurt thinned with 1/4 cup milk)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • for muffins that will use orange glaze: 2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
  • for muffins that will use the almond crunch topping: 1/3 cup finely ground almonds & 1 tsp. almond extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 tsp. sugar to simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10-15 minutes.
  3. While cooked berries cool, prepare topping using one of the recipes below.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk remaining 1 1/8 cups sugar and eggs until thick and  homogeneous, about 45 seconds.
  6. Whisk butter and oil into egg mixture until combined.
  7. Whisk buttermilk and vanilla into egg mixture until combined.
  8. For muffins that will use orange glaze, whisk in the orange zest at this point.
  9. For muffins that will use the almond crunch topping, mix in 1/3 cup finely ground almonds at this point as well as almond extract.
  10. 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 overmix).
  11. Divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Spoon a teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using a chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using a figure-eight motion.
  12. Sprinkle topping evenly over muffins.
  13. Bake until muffins are golden and just firm, 17-19 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.
Yield: one dozen muffins

Toppings

Streusel Topping

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • pinch table salt
  • 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp. (3 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 5 tbsp. warm, melted unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small bowl, combine both sugars, salt, and flour.
  2. Drizzle with melted butter and toss with fork until evenly moistened and mixture forms large chunks with some pea-sized pieces throughout.

Lemon-Sugar Topping

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 cup (2 1/3 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest from 1 lemon

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small bowl, stir together sugar and lemon zest until combined.

Orange Glaze Topping

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. orange juice

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and orange juice until smooth.
  2. Drizzle over cooled muffins.

Note: If desired, sprinkle Turbinado sugar over muffins before baking when using the orange glaze. You would use about 4 tsp. Turbinado sugar altogether.

Almond Crunch Topping

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 cup finely ground almonds
  • 4 tsp. Turbinado sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small bowl, stir together ground almonds and Turbinado sugar until well combined.

SOURCE: Cooks Illustrated magazine, May/June 2009

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