Chef Elizabeth’s Blueberry Muffins

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Summer is around the corner and everyone loves to have a delicious fruit muffin recipe in his or her repertoire. Here is a recipe that works well with all sorts of seasonal fruit. These blueberry muffins are absolutely delicious. The extra step of stewing some of the berries is well worth the trouble. These muffins are more like a coffee cake with its crumb/streusel topping. I am a huge fan of streamlined baking recipes that do not call for creaming the butter and sugar. This muffin recipe is fairly low in fat, and yet it stays moist. Many muffins dry out very quickly. I published a cake recipe last summer that called for the cooked fruit method, and it really does adds flavour, texture and moisture. (This recipe has been adapted from Cook’s America’s Test Kitchen.)

I pick my blueberries each summer at a local farm called Patch of Blue in Penetanguishene, Ontario. I use frozen berries all year round, and I love having them in my freezer to make these muffins, compote for my desserts and pancakes, to add to my morning cereal, to add to crisps, and to use in smoothies.

One of the great benefits of country living is that I am near several pick-your-own farms. I have always loved picking my own fruit and vegetables with my children, and we still do it every summer and fall. I have already picked local fiddleheads and my asparagus. I recall picking strawberries and apples when my eldest daughter was just a baby, and she waited patiently in the baby carrier. Picking peas was more difficult because I had to keep bending down, and she would almost fall out of the carrier. The chef in me is happy when I stand in the heat and stare at a sea of berry bushes begging to be picked.

This summer I strongly suggest you pick your own fruit and/or vegetables and that includes blueberries, or buy local organic – you will be happy you did. Picking your own saves you lots of money, and you will see how much hard work it is. Picking your own brings you great satisfaction, and it also helps to release your inner harvester – after all, we are hunter-gatherers. The best part is that you will have loads of berries all winter at a fraction of the cost. Blueberries that are frozen are just as good in baking as fresh ones. One piece of advice would be to pick what you think you can eat or put up for the year. It is best not to pick more than you need because then it becomes wasted energy and food. Last night I made sauce (ragu) with the tomatoes that I canned last fall, and it tasted as fresh as if the tomatoes were freshly picked. I hope everyone enjoys nature’s bounty this summer.

When you go to pick your own remember: Bring lots of water, a hat and wear sunscreen.

Best Blueberry Muffins
Yields 12 muffins.

For Crumb Topping:
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For Batter:
2 cups (about 10 ounces) fresh or frozen blueberries, picked over and divided into two amounts of 1 cup each
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon white sugar, divided
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup neutral flavored oil
1 cup buttermilk or soured milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1. To make the crumb topping: In a bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Pour in melted butter and toss mix until large crumbs form.

2. To make the muffins: Adjust oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat oven to 400 F. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or line with large parchment paper liners; set aside.

3. In small saucepan, bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 tablespoon sugar to simmer over medium heat. Cook gently while crushing berries with potato masher or whisk, and stir frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and stir the berry mixture until it cools to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes. To speed up the process, place the mixture in the fridge. (You can do this ahead if you like or even substitute thinned down jam.)

4. In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In medium bowl, whisk together reaming sugar and eggs until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk, vanilla and almond extract. Using a rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (The batter will be very lumpy, be careful not to over-mix.)

5.Divide half of the batter equally among prepared muffin cups. The cups should be about half full. Spoon 1 teaspoon cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using a skewer or the handle of a spoon, gently swirl berry filling into batter to evenly distribute the mixture. Cover the berry mixture with the rest of the batter. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over muffins, pressing the crumb mixture gently into the batter so that it sticks to the batter.

6. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time.

7. Place the cooked muffins on a wire rack and let the muffins cool for 5 minutes, then remove them from the muffin tin to finish cooling. If you use parchment paper, which prevents sticking, this job will be much easier. (They are delicious while still warm, try spreading some butter over the muffins.)

Please visit my website, Bucky’s View.

Chef Elizabeth