Thursday, July 11, 2013

National Blueberry Muffin Day ...

I've blogged about blueberry muffins in the past, but given this auspicious day, I'm reposting the post and recipe along with a more recent photo.

You can tell fall is on its way: I'm inspired to bake again.

It was a lovely, cool morning, so I went for a walk to Starbucks for some coffee and a low-fat blueberry muffin. And then, on the walk home, I strolled through the farmers' market and saw lovely boxes of blueberries. I couldn't pass them up. I bought a box, thinking I'd put them in oatmeal. But then, with the pleasant memory of my blueberry muffin fresh in my mind, I decided to make blueberry muffins and share them with my neighbors.

Once home, I pulled a couple cookbooks off my shelves. My first instinct was to check Baking with Julia. Surely I'd find a winning recipe in there. Julia baked with the most amazing chefs in that series. Sure enough, there was a recipe for blueberry muffins. But the recipe called for ingredients I didn't have on hand – cake flour, sour cream – and I'd have to haul out my stand mixer. Too much effort. And the picture of the muffin was forlorn. The recipe stated that the muffins, when baked, would be flat-topped. Well, who wants a flat-topped muffin? It didn't even look like a muffin. It looked like a failure of a muffin.

Harumph. No thank you.

I checked some other baking books and was surprised by the dearth of blueberry muffin recipes. And then I remembered Mostly Muffins, a little, unassuming square book, one of a three-book set I bought years ago, along with Completely Cookies and Simply Scones. Surely Mostly Muffins would have a blueberry muffin recipe. Blueberry muffins are the gold standard of muffins. Sure enough. Page 10. The third muffin recipe. (The sections are arranged alphabetically, otherwise I'm sure blueberry would be up front.)

I read through the ingredients list. Yup, I had everything on hand. But walnut pieces? Yeah, I have walnuts in my house. I always have walnuts in my freezer. But who puts walnuts in a blueberry muffin? I don't, and I put walnuts in just about everything. Plenty of recipes don't call for walnuts but I add 'em anyway. But a blueberry muffin should be unsullied by nuts of any stripe. The only thing I want to find inside my blueberry muffin is more blueberries.

So I got down to business. I was shy a few muffin liners, but I spritzed the unlined cups in my muffin tin with some Pam and forged ahead.

One useful tip out of Julia's book is to coat the blueberries with a bit of flour before stirring them into the batter, to help them stay suspended in the muffins. Left alone, they sink to the bottom. So once I measured the flour for the recipe into a bowl, I removed two tablespoons and added that to the bowl of blueberries and tossed them gently. (Note: I washed the blueberries gently in a strainer then turned them out onto a clean kitchen towel to dry them gently. [Yes, "gently" is the key when handling blueberries.] That also gave me the opportunity to check for smooshed berries and discard them.)

If you're not usually a muffin maker, a key to making muffins is not to overmix the batter. Don't beat it vigorously until it's perfectly smooth. Just mix the wet and dry ingredients until they're almost combined, then add the blueberries and gently (see?) fold those in. Then stop! Resist the urge to keep mixing.

Blueberry Muffins
(From Mostly Muffins, Published by St. Martin's Press, 1984)

2 C. all-purpose flour
1 C. plus 1 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 C. milk
1/2 C. lightly salted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 t. vanilla
2 C. fresh blueberries
1/2 C. walnut pieces (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 3 x 1 1/4-inch (3 1/2- to 4-ounce) muffin cups. [I used a standard muffin tin.]

In a large bowl, stir together flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, stir together milk, butter, egg, and vanilla until blended. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; add milk mixture and stir just to combine. [I didn't do the next step, but I'm including it because I'm copying the recipe exactly as written. I didn't want blue muffins.] Mash 1/4 cup blueberries and stir into batter with a few quick strokes. Stir in remaining blueberries and walnuts (if desired). [NOTE: I measure the flour out into the mixing bowl, then remove two tablespoons of flour to another bowl, into which I've placed the washed blueberries. Then I toss the berries gently with the flour to coat. This step helps the berries stay suspended in the muffins, instead of sinking to the bottom.]

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one muffin comes out clean.

Remove muffin tin or tins to wire rack. Cool 5 minutes before removing muffins from cups; finish cooling on rack. Serve warm or cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

These muffins freeze well.

Makes 12 muffins

Update: I figured out why I was short a few muffin liners. I went to the store last night and bought another package of 32 liners. Who's the genius who thought to put 32 muffin liners in a package when most people bake muffins in multiples of 12? Oh, and I should also mention that while these muffins are delightful while still warm, they're right tasty later, once the flavors have a chance to further meld. As I said to my mom last night, "Damn, that's a good muffin!" If you have any baking tendency whatsoever, try these babies. They're easy and delicious and they go together in no time, so you can whip these up for breakfast whenever the mood strikes. And you'll knock the socks off guests if you offer warm blueberry muffins in the morning!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cheese! ...

I had a bit of cheese left in the fridge from my earlier cookie-baking exploits. (Thank you, nice Greek lady, for not allowing me to buy the small quantity I requested.) But I wasn't about to bake more cookies. And I certainly couldn't bear the thought of wasting cheese.

So, being the cheese-loving logical sort that I am, I thought the best course of action would be to make a version of saganaki.

I dipped the slices of cheese in a bit of milk and then dredged them in a bit of seasoned flour and then placed them in a pan in which I'd melted some butter, let them brown on each side, took them out, hit them with a bit of lemon, snapped a picture, and dug in.

I didn't douse them with brandy and set 'em on fire. I thought that would be unwise. I'll leave that to the pros.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Good Times, July Edition ...

The July cookie installment for the angelo:HOME blog features Saganaki Sablés. Yes, based on the Greek flaming cheese. Try 'em. Trust me.