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Friday, March 16, 2012

Best Blueberry Muffins

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Ryan and I get really excited when fresh berries return to the grocery store. I get even more excited when watermelon returns to the grocery store, but we're still aways away from that...so for now, I'll settle for the slow return of blueberries and strawberries! I wouldn't say blueberries and strawberries are completely in season yet, but you always know it's starting to happen when the price of them starts to drop at the grocery store. When I saw blueberries on sale recently for $2/pint, I quickly picked some up.

Of course, then the dilemma of what to do with them struck me. Streusel bars? Banana bread? Pancakes? I almost decided to make these muffins until I realized I didn't have a plain, no frills blueberry muffin on The Sweets Life. Off I went on a recipe hunt, which eventually led me to this Cook's Illustrated recipe, made and heralded by tons of bloggers!
These may be "plain" blueberry muffins, but they're anything but plain. Cook's Illustrated didn't name them "Best" blueberry muffins for nothing! The extra step of creating a blueberry jam out of some of the berries and cooking that into the muffin make for little cakes jam-packed with blueberry goodness. The lemon sugar topping was the perfect accompaniment to these. My favorite part? Definitely the magnitude of these muffins...although the pictures don't do a good job of showing it, these muffins look like they're straight from the glass case at your neighborhood coffee shop. Tall, with perfect domes, they looked as good as they tasted!

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Best Blueberry Muffins
from Cook's Illustrated May/June 2009

for the topping-
-1/3 cup sugar
-1 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest from 1 lemon

for the muffins-
-2 cups fresh blueberries
-1 1/8 cups sugar, plus 1 tsp sugar
-2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
-2 1/2 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp salt
-2 large eggs
-4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
-1/4 cup vegetable oil
-1 cup buttermilk
-1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. To make the topping, mix together the sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 425F (make sure the oven rack is in the upper-middle position). Spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
3. In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup blueberries with 1 tsp sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook, mashing berries, until they have popped and the mixture has thickened (approximately 6 minutes). Transfer to a small bowl and cool to room temperature (10-15 minutes).
4. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk 1 1/8 cup sugar with the eggs until thick. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Add buttermilk and vanilla, mixing until combined.
5. Fold egg mixture into dry ingredients along with remaining blueberries. Stir just until moistened (batter will still be lumpy with a few spots of dry flour. Do not overmix).
6. Divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter will come to the top of each muffin cup). Spoon 1/2 tsp blueberry mixture into the center of each muffin. Using a toothpick or skewer, gently swirl the filling into the batter. Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over the muffins.
7. Bake for 17-19 minutes, until muffin tops are golden and just firm (Rotate muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time). Cool muffins in tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool for an additional 5 minutes.