Published May 1, 2009.
The best guarantee of a great blueberry muffin is to start with great blueberries. We wanted a recipe that would work even with the watery supermarket kind.
Supermarket blueberries look appealing, but can have a lackluster, watery taste, even when baked into a muffin. It’s no surprise why: Despite the fact that blueberries are indigenous to North America, they can come from as far away as Chile. Fruit picked before it is ripe and shipped thousands of miles away simply can’t match the quality of local, wild berries.
We wanted blueberry muffins packed with blueberry flavor and boasting a moist crumb, one sturdy enough to hold up under the weight of a substantial helping of fruit. Most importantly, we wanted muffins that would taste great with blueberries of any origin.
To intensify the blueberry in our muffins, we tried combining blueberry jam with fresh supermarket blueberries. The muffins baked up with a pretty blue filling, but tasters thought the sugary jam made them too sweet. To solve this, we made our own fresh, low-sugar berry jam to swirl into the muffins by simmering fresh blueberries on the stovetop with a bit of sugar to concentrate their flavor and evaporate excess their juices. This gave us thick, potent, deep-indigo jam that was chock full of moist, tart blueberries. Adding our cooled homemade jam to the batter along with fresh, uncooked berries gave us the best of both worlds: intense blueberry flavor and the liquid burst that only fresh berries could provide.
As for the muffin base, we found that a quick-bread method—whisking together eggs and sugar before adding milk, melted butter, and then gently folding in the dry ingredients—produced a hearty, substantial crumb that could support a generous amount of fruit. The key was to not overmix; as with pancake batter, overly strenuous mixing encourages gluten formation, which toughens the final product. We also found that an equal amount of butter and oil gave us just the right combination of buttery flavor and moist, tender texture. To make the muffins even richer, we swapped the whole milk we had been using with buttermilk. Changing out the dairy provided appealing richness without making the muffins heavy. Plus the slight tang nicely complemented the blueberries. As a crowning jewel, we sprinkled lemon-scented sugar on top of the batter just before baking. The oven melted the sugar slightly, which then hardened as it baked to create an irresistibly crunchy shell.list of recipes