Last weekend was my last truly lazy one for a long time – my triathlon training starts this coming Saturday, so most of my mornings from here on out will involve getting up early to ride and run with the team. So, taking full advantage of my lack of responsibilities, I spent the past Saturday morning lounging in my jammies and watching cooking shows on public television.
It just so happened that America’s Test Kitchen was focusing on breakfast items – specifically, French omelets and blueberry muffins. I was particularly interested in their discussion of blueberry muffins, since they never seem to meet my lofty expectations. They rarely have enough blueberry flavor, but the ATK pros asserted that simply adding more berries doesn’t solve the problem (since that just weighs the muffins down by adding too much moisture). Texture-wise, most blueberry breakfast treats are either too dense or too crumbly; the ATK cooks talked a lot about overmixing, and how the formation of too much gluten can really muck up a muffin. So what were the proposed solutions? For mega-blueberry flavor without extra moisture or weight, they made a concentrated jam with half of the recipe’s berries and then swirled it into the batter at the end. To avoid textural problems, the folks at ATK swore up and down that a) beating the egg/sugar mixture at a moderate pace for 80 strokes was the perfect amount of mixing, and b) that folding the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients JUST until the dry ingredients were moistened would avoid any excess gluten. I was skeptical that these nitpicky suggestions would yield any tangible (or, tasteable) results, but I was determined to give it a go.
The end product? The best. Blueberry. Muffin. EVER.
I know I can be prone to hyperbole, but that statement is no exaggeration. The flavor was incredible – very berry-y, and not cloyingly sweet (the citrus kick from the topping was a really nice touch). The texture was spot-on, with just the right amount of moistness and a perfect ratio of crusty top portion. I don’t know what else to say, other than that these muffins were the BOMB DIGGITY, and they really only required one or two extra steps. I guarantee that the minimal additional work will be WELL worth it when you bite into these delicious pastries. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!
Lemon Sugar Topping
Stir the sugar and zest together until combined; set aside.
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick spray. Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with a spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to bowl and cool to room temperature, 10-15 minutes.
Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk remaining 1 1/8 cups sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds (remember, 80 strokes). Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. The batter will be very lumpy with spots of dry flour; do not overmix!
Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound, pushing it below the surface. Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure eight motion. Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over muffins.
Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, about 17-19 minutes, rotating muffin tin (front to back) halfway through cooking time. Cool muffins in tin for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool 5 more minutes before serving.