Near perfect blueberry muffins

Near perfect blueberry muffins

I’ve long been on the quest to make the perfect blueberry muffins, primarily because the quality of Safeway blueberry muffins is so variable. I’ve tried recipes from Alton Brown, Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible and Susan G. Purdy’s Pie in the Sky, but never quite thought those recipes were exactly what I wanted.

Finally I thought to look to the many recipes at King Arthur Flour, however, and found a near perfect recipe. And I think the only thing that escapes perfection is finding out the proper portion size and baking time.

Here are the ingredients as listed and which I haven’t changed, although I use a mix of measurements (it’s much easier to measure the flour and sugar in grams):

2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (269g)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar (149g)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
coarse white sparkling sugar for garnish (optional)

The King Arthur directions have me whisking the sugar into the room temperature butter (in a stand mixer) as the first step. Frankly I always forget to bring the butter to room temperature and my guess is I could just whisk all the wet ingredients and melt the butter. However, I do whisk the cold butter and sugar in the stand mixer and then add the wet ingredients one by one as directed.

I also spin the dry ingredients in my food processor, and I think this step is especially important for muffins. You want light muffins with an open texture (lots of holes), and this is best achieved with sifted flour. I ignore the instructions to use the mixer’s paddle attachment, however. It’s too easy to over mix and get dense muffins. Instead I fold the dry ingredients and the frozen blueberries with a spatula.

One of these days I’ll get smart and buy a disher. Instead, with a spatula, I smear the muffins into my 12-muffin pan that has been liberally coated with a baking spray. I don’t keep muffin liners.

Generally I get about nine of the cups filled and fill the remainder with water. I also make sure that I don’t use the convection baking feature of my oven, otherwise the muffin tops get too browned. The oven’s been preheated at 375° and the muffins bake for 24 minutes. I find the toothpick test is unreliable, because it may not come out clean thanks to the many blueberries. The muffins bake on the middle tray and come out very easily.

UPDATE: I have reduced the baking time to 22 minutes. The muffins were a just a little dry.

And yes, I use those giant non-organic, non-wild frozen blueberries. Because they’re frozen, the blueberries make the muffins blue-ish green, but I don’t mind. And I garnish with Sugar in the Raw, my one deviation from the recipe. I may also experiment with a crumble on top (flour, sugar, butter and a very little cinnamon in pea-size pieces).

I think the vanilla extract and the sour cream are the keys to this recipe. I get very good muffin tops with the baking powder/soda ratio at 5,280. I’ve also tried using a muffin pan with larger cups, but haven’t quite figured out the baking time. And I have baked the muffins in two batches; the batter keeps quite well in the refrigerator.

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