For years, I’ve heard family members rave about the blueberry muffins made by my grandmother, Nana, as she’s affectionately known. You might remember his Chocolate Pound Cake or his Icebox Fruitcake. However, in all those years, I never had the chance to be there when she made them.
Now, truth be told, it’s Aunt Peggy’s Blueberry Muffins – at least, according to Nana. She said the recipe came from her sister-in-law, Peggy. But isn’t that the only problem with the best recipes… they are so shared.
Regardless of the particular lineage, I can say with certainty that these muffins live up to the hype. No, Nana didn’t make them for me, but she gave me the recipe. And now I share it with all of you.
These start with simple basic ingredients that you probably already have on hand. That, in and of itself, makes them pretty awesome.
Now don’t tell Nana or Aunt Peggy, but I made some minor tweaks that I think really overwhelmed them.
Let’s start by talking about how they come together.
In pastry, we often hear about mixing methods. These are exactly what you would expect – the methods by which you mix the ingredients together. You may have heard of some people like the creaming method, the cookie method, the puff pastry method, or the muffin method. It is on this last point that we will concentrate.
What is the muffin method?
Also known as the two-bowl method, this involves mixing all the dry ingredients in one bowl and all the wet ingredients in another. Then you carefully fold the two together until the dry ingredients are just moistened. We don’t want to over mix when using the muffin method. Mixing flour with wet ingredients creates gluten. Gluten is what makes breads dense and chewy. We don’t want dense, chewy muffins, so we want to create as little gluten as possible when mixing them. This means that we want to stir the dough as little as possible. Even a few pieces are OK with this method. Don’t mix too much.
Does coating the berries in flour actually help keep them from sinking to the bottom of the muffin?
For years I’ve been told that tossing berries like these blueberries into flour before adding them to the batter will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the muffin or cake. As a result, I did it religiously, but almost always had trouble getting them to sink. My first batch of muffins for this post did the same.
So I decided to do a little research and found this article by Stella Parks on Serious Eats. She tested the theory and found it, in her own words, “total bunk”. She explains that, of course, coating the berries with flour does not allow them to escape the force of gravity. She says it seemed to keep the berries from bleeding into the muffin batter.
To prevent the berries from sinking to the bottom, she suggests instead mixing the batter without the berries first. Next, place a spoonful of berry-free batter in the bottom of each of the muffin cups/cups. Then gently fold the berries into the batter and finish filling the muffin cups with the berry batter. I tested his theory and it seems to be pretty solid.
If you’re in a rush or don’t care about your berries leaking, you can definitely skip this step.
Honestly, if I’m just doing this for the family, I’ll do the same and avoid the extra work. But if you’re looking for pretty muffins where those berries seem to defy physics theory and float beautifully in the muffin, this is the trick to use.
Take them to the next level…
These muffins are incredibly delicious in their original form. But you all know me, and you know that I can’t leave alone well enough.
So I spiced them up with a bit of almond extract to really make that blueberry flavor sing and added a generous sprinkle of turbinado sugar on top of the batter to give the muffins a little extra crunch. once cooked. I didn’t find the muffins to taste almond; the extract just made them taste more blueberry. But I guess the strength of the flavoring or extract you use might have an effect on that. So if you are sensitive to this flavor you can always leave it out or just start with a smaller amount.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 12 muffins
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup blueberries
- turbinado sugar* (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a 12 cup muffin pan with cupcake/muffin tins or spray cups with nonstick cooking spray. Put aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
- In another bowl, whisk together oil, sour cream, eggs, vanilla and almond.
- Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture and mix until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Do not overmix. A few lumps are OK.
- Stir in blueberries.
- Divide the batter evenly among the 12 cups.
- Sprinkle the top with a little turbinado sugar, if desired.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
- Let cool for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool.
* Regular granulated sugar also works. There just won’t be as much crunch.
To prevent your blueberries from sinking to the bottom of your muffins, see the text above for help.
Frozen blueberries will work – rinse very well and let dry before adding to batter.
This recipe originally appeared on SouthernBite.com. For more great recipes visit the website or check out ”The Southern Bite Cookbook.”