Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Blueberry Muffins

When I was little, I assumed that all of my mom’s baking genius was rooted in the spiral-bound recipe book she kept in one of the kitchen shelves. Even though she had numerous recipes around the house, it always seemed to me that whenever she was making one of my favorite treats, the book was out there on the table, making sure everything turned out just right.

It was with the routine expectation of a gloriously successful product, then, that I set out to make her famous Sturbridge Blueberry Muffins – direct from the spiral notebook. I had copied the recipe by hand into a spiral notebook of my own when I got my first apartment. When I finally got to try one, I was beside myself with excitement. But alas! They were exactly like my mom’s…minus the flavor.

I called her up with the humility that only comes from a failed baking experiment, and whined that I must have followed the recipe incorrectly. There was a short pause on the receiver, then, “Hm… you know… I might have made a few changes to that recipe.” Wait wait wait CHANGES?! From the all-knowing BOOK?! As it turns out, my mom’s genius was not rooted in the book at all, but in – her genius. She made what a friend from my old office once termed “Mamafications.” There are some types of moms who deliberately alter recipes before distributing them to retain their family secrets, but mine isn’t one of them. When it comes to baking, she’s one of those intuitive individuals who just makes whatever changes she thinks are appropriate at that time. And they nearly always turn out fantastic. Phooey.

Okay so I haven’t inherited the talent for Mamafications, but I made a few changes of my own, and several mediocre batches later, here they are. They don’t photograph well, but they do make for a great breakfast. I am incredibly inept at making streusels, so instead I combine the topping ingredients into a bit of a paste and apply a little to each heap of batter prior to baking. This results in a sweet crust and a nicely shaped top over a moist, tender blueberry muffin.

Sturbridge Blueberry Muffins
(with norafications)

1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 TBS baking powder
4 eggs
1 TBS salt
1 cup shortening
3 cups blueberries (whole)
1 cup milk
4 ½ cups flour

Topping Ingredients:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, cut into cubes
1/4 cup flour
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Yield: 24 muffins

1. Put paper muffin liners in each cup of a 12-cup muffin tin (or paper two tins if you have two). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine sugars and shortening in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.
3. Add the eggs and mix heartily with a wooden spoon until well blended. Add milk and stir until combined.
4. In a medium bowl, sift dry ingredients using a fork or a whisk. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients with minimal stirring. Mix until just combined.
5. Fold the berries into the batter using a rubber spatula.
6. Use two spoons to distribute half the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups.
Topping Directions:
1. Sift flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
2. Combine butter and brown sugar with a fork.
3. Add dry ingredients to creamed butter/sugar mixture; combinue using fingers, and lightly pile paste evenly onto muffin batter (once divided between the cups in the tin) prior to baking.
7. Pop the tin into the oven and bake the muffins for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing them and setting them on wire racks to complete cooling.
8. Make sure to let the muffin tin cool before washing it out and putting the second set of cups in and filling them with the rest of the batter. Repeat the baking process.

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