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Practicing the basics: blueberry muffins

blueberry muffins on a plate

I have very fond memories of eating blueberry muffins when I was a kid. My mom used the recipe straight out of the Betty Crocker Cookbook, which in fact wasn’t a recipe for blueberry muffins as much as a “generic muffin” recipe that you could add blueberries to.

As it turns out, most cookbooks, including Mark Bittman’s encyclopedic “How to Bake Everything,” do the same thing and in fact Bittman cops to doing exactly that, calling it a “canvas for experimentation.” So let’s embrace that. This is a good, solid, blueberry muffin recipe from which you can go in all sorts of directions and substitute in your favorite flavors.

Suggested reading:

Makes 12 muffins. Total time: about 45 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a 12-cup muffin pan by either greasing the cups or lining them with paper or foil muffin cups.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. We are following the classic advice here and mixing together the dry ingredients, then mixing the wet ingredients, then combining them.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg, oil and milk until well combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. The batter will still be lumpy; that’s fine. Make sure to scrape thoroughly around the bowl, because there will be pockets of dry ingredients hiding near the bottom.

Gently fold in the blueberries. We are using frozen blueberries for two reasons. First, so they won’t get all squished in this step as you mix them in. Second, so that they retain their shape and much of their water as the muffins bake: by they time the berries thaw, the dough will have baked enough to hold its own shape.

Spoon even amounts of batter into the muffin cups, about two-thirds full. These will rise quite a bit as they bake.

Bake at 375 degrees until browned on top or a toothpick stuck into the middle comes out clean, about 25 minutes. The internal temperature will be about 200 degrees, in case you want to check it with a thermometer.

Remove from the oven, let the muffin pan cool for about 5 minutes, then remove the muffins. Either serve them hot or allow them to cool on a rack. It’s important to remove the muffins from the pan after five minutes because there is moisture trapped between the muffin and the pan that will make the bottom soggy.

Tips and suggestions:

  • If you want to use fresh blueberries, freeze them first. Some people have success with thawed blueberries if they are very small ones.
  • To add a bit more flavor to the dough, try adding around a teaspoon of cinnamon or some grated lemon zest (the bright yellow peel).
  • You can substitute all sorts of things for the blueberries. Cranberries work great (and dried cranberries don’t need to be frozen!). Raspberries and blackberries are big and tend to release a lot of their water which makes the dough soggy; try freezing them first then cutting them up into pieces before adding them to the dough. Other things to try: oats, shredded coconut, ginger, nutmeg, orange zest, or some combination of these flavors…
  • Try substituting 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter for the oil.