Blueberry Hill: When it comes to baking up a really, really good blueberry muffin, I finally found my thrill.
Many of you know that when it comes to my recipe development, I go through rigorous testing, tweaking, re-testing and re-tweaking until I feel it is exactly right before I would ever let it grace this little URL of ours. And with each reinterpretation and modification of the recipe that I have in mind, there is another arduous step in the final stamp of approval process that always makes me a little nervous…frightened even.
(dun, dun, dunn!!! Said à la Oprah): The Taste Tester.
The person whose sole job is to pass judgment on my profiteroles. The one with the final say on my scones. The individual who will give his thumbs up on my upside down cake. The one who will sing my praises over my puttanesca sauce or send me back to the starting block with a sub-par braise. Okay, fine, you know it’s Adam, but let me tell you guys that he is more than competent. More than qualified for that most important position. But, let’s just say that sometimes…sometimes…well, we don’t see eye-to-eye with the assessment and simply agree to disagree.
Like the first pass on these blueberry muffins.
Here was our conversation when they had been out of the oven for about five minutes, cooling on the wire rack. Adam, just through the door, sees them and is pulled to them like a rip tide. Like white on rice. He picks one up, enthusiastically peels off the paper liner and takes a greedy bite. Since I, of course, had immediately sampled a warm one hot off the presses (fine, two), my confidence soars and I am borderline cocky about the forthcoming evaluation. I smile broadly and knowingly in the anticipation of hearing him say that the angels, somewhere in heaven, are weeping because of the sheer brilliance of this baked good.
Adam: “It’s not sweet enough.”
(Cue sound of bowling ball crashing through a glass table.)
Me: (not even believing this) “WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY’RE NOT SWEET ENOUGH??? They’re plenty sweet. There’s like, almost a cup of sugar in there!”
Adam: “I don’t care. They’re not sweet enough.”
Not-Sweet-Enough-Muffin-Number-2 is now history as its papery carcass is discarded on the counter. I
obsess overcasually notice the crumbs now on the kitchen counter from their former owners. Dang you, evil Virgo sway! Focus on the important matter at hand!
Me: “I TOTALLY disagree. You don’t want a sugar bomb going off in your mouth first thing in the morning! Muffins should be subtly sweet. Like, Hey, baby, I know you’re in there somewhere. You want a hint of sweetness without being hit over the head with granulated love.”
Adam: “Cheryl, trust me on this. I am a connoisseur of the muffin. I’ve been eating them since I was a teenager.”
Uh, oh. He called me Cheryl! He NEVER calls me Cheryl! He only uses my name on very serious occasions. He means business here, bro. Proceed with caution.
He continues with a calming hand gesture.
Adam: “The texture,” he says with a full mouth, still chewing, “is fantastic.” (bouncing the muffin up and down with the cadence of his voice as I watch a shower of crumbs hit the floor. I’m only slightly distracted since the word fantastic is still hanging in the air like a cartoon balloon). “It’s got the perfect combination of moist and crunchy. But I think you could use a little more of the crunchy. (He takes another bite) “Definitely. Yes. You need more muffin top.”
Good Lord. Only a man could utter this phrase and be completely oblivious to a woman’s devastation in the connotation of those last two deadly words.
And adds, “But they need to need to be sweeter.”
Me: “Honey, I’m sorry! But you grew up in Europe! You KNOW they know from confections. They tend to tone the sugar way down over there. They’re the masters of sugar subtlety!”
He shrugs, snags Number 3 off the rack and picks at the edges. I notice he only eats the crunchy parts before tossing the rest aside without remorse. I notice more crumbs with a raised eyebrow. A few chews. A head bobble. And then…
“Nope (with a little too much emphasis on the “P”, if you ask me). Not sweet enough.”
A little more sugar. No added baking soda. They emerged domed, golden and beautiful and when Adam came home the other day to a wire rack full of these lovely beauties, took one bite and said, “Congratulations. Another triumph, my love.”
Cinnamon Swirl Blueberry Muffins
- 2-1/2 cups cake flour
- 1-1/4 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup (one stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pint blueberries
- For the topping: 2 tablespoons sugar mixed with ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease or line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners and set aside. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Using a hand-held electric mixer, add in the butter, yogurt, eggs and vanilla and mix just until combined – the batter will be very thick. Gently fold in the blueberries.
- Divide the batter between the cups (an ice cream scoop here is brilliant) until each is about three-quarters full.
- Evenly divide/sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the tops of each muffin. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean and the tops are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: Although most muffins are best fresh out of the oven, these are so moist they’re just as good the next day.
Product Purity: Cake flour gives these muffins a tender crumb and is so worth keeping on hand for so many baked goods. Feel free to dial back the sugar if you like your muffins less sweet. You can substitute sour cream for the yogurt and frozen blueberries for fresh – no need to thaw. Nielsen-Massey makes the best pure vanilla extract in my opinion.
Presentation: Here’s a little food styling trick – I hold back some berries and strategically place a few on top of the batter so they read better for the camera (and look so appetizing). Plus, it tells your eyes what kind of muffin it is before you sink your teeth into one.