Blue Ribbon Blueberry Muffins
As a judge for the pantry division for both our state fair and county fair, I have certain criteria when it comes to awarding a blue ribbon for muffins. What makes a blueberry muffin a blue ribbon winner?
An excellent blueberry muffin should be light – so light that when you pick it up, you’ll be amazed that it weighs so little, even though it might be a great big muffin!
The outside should be golden brown, symmetrical in shape with no peaks or knobs at the top. The top surface should look a bit pebbled, rather than smooth and even.
The inside should have fairly uniform holes with no long slender tunnels (which means you’ve overmixed –this is the most common problem that we run into– only mix long enough to get the dry ingredients wet; the batter will look lumpy, and if there’s still a small amount of dry ingredients after you’ve mixed in the liquid, that’s OK).
If using fruit and or nuts, toss with flour – this keeps them nicely interspersed and prevents them from sinking to the bottom. A few years ago friend and colleague Cheryl Bullis and I held a “Baking 101″ class for the county. We made up a booklet for it, and here’s what we wrote about muffins:
PROBLEMS/CAUSES BLUEBERRY MUFFINS
Peaked, smooth crust –overmixed
Pale – too low temperature or overmixed
Dry, crumbly – too much flour, too low temperature or overbaking
Tunnels – overmixing
Toughness – overmixing
TIPS FOR PERFECT BLUEBERRY MUFFINS:
- Don’t overmix! (See above)
- Generally speaking, fill with 2/3 cup batter. If you have unfilled tins, fill them up halfway with water. This will cause the rest of the muffins to bake well, and will prevent warping of the pan.
- Remove from pans right away to avoid soggy muffins.
Now as far as a good recipe for blueberry muffins, here’s one from a lady who indeed won a blue ribbon, but she swore me to secrecy. ”Share the recipe, which I’ve had for years, but not my name”, she said. She also told me that it is similar to lots of other blueberry muffin recipes. (True, as I’ve seen ones that are close to this in my own cookbooks and on the web). Maybe her secret is having ingredients at room temperature. I know you get a better volume in baked goods when eggs are at room temperature. Or could it be that bit of butter flavoring?
OK so now you want to know how to get eggs to room temperature if they’re straight from the fridge, right? Just put them, unshelled, in a bowl of very warm water for a few minutes.
BLUE RIBBON BLUEBERRY MUFFINS
Now if you don’t have butter flavor, which is in with the extracts at the store, just up the vanilla to 2 teaspoons.
1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon butter flavor
2 teaspoons baking powder
Several dashes salt
2 heaping cups fresh blueberries or equivalent frozen, not thawed, no sugar added, tossed with flour that you use in the recipe
2 cups all purpose flour (whisk before measuring to lighten up and then spoon gently into measuring cup. and level off with a knife)
1/2 cup whole milk
Optional blueberry muffin toppings: (sprinkle on before baking)
Streusel topping: Mix together until crumbly: 2 tablespoons flour, 3-4 tablespoons sugar, up to 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 tablespoons butter.
Plain sugar topping: 2 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375. Spray muffin cups or line with baking cups. Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Blend in extracts, baking powder and salt. Very gently, and by hand, fold in flour blueberry mixture. Stir in milk. Spoon batter into muffin cups and if using topping, sprinkle with the topping. Bake 25 minutes or so until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Don’t over bake. (She said she checks after about 22 minutes). Yield: 18 or so regular muffins
Blueberry Muffin Tip From Rita’s Kitchen
How to make store bought blueberry muffin mix taste like homemade. Add about a cup of fresh or frozen blueberries, unthawed and 2 teaspoons vanilla.