Joni Mitchell wrote a melancholy song called, "Blue" that comes into my head every so often. The lyrics don't reach out to me - I don't relate to them, but the way she sings the word, 'Blue,' gets to me. The notes of that one word travel up, down and back again. A one syllable journey. The lyrics keep going, but they don't matter - I am still stuck on 'Blue'.
Blue things - eyes, skies, seas - are romanticized, but the blue on my mind right now is the berry. More specifically, the blueberry muffin. Second only to the heavenly cinnamon roll, a blueberry muffin reminds me so much of being a little girl. My mom used to work in the Coco's bakery in Carlsbad when I was six or seven, and after her shift, she would bring me home a blueberry muffin if there were any leftover from the breakfast rush. We didn't have much of anything at the time, making that muffin all the more extraordinary.
I searched a long time for the perfect blueberry muffin recipe - tender, sweet but not overly so, piled with plump, slightly tangy berries, even more delicious the day after they are baked. I've got some high standards for this muffin - anything from childhood memory has to be just so to be right. This recipe is just so right.
Here is my best blueberry muffin recipe - I have adapted my recipe from the one in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook.
Makes 1 dozen
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 cups frozen blueberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray, or use paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Working over the bowl, toss blueberries in a fine sieve with about 1 1/2 teaspoons flour mixture to lightly coat; set aside the flour mixture and the blueberries.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a handheld mixer, beat butter and 1 cup sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Mix in vanilla.
With the mixer on low speed, add reserved flour mixture, beating until just combined. Add buttermilk, beating until just combined. Do not overmix. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the blueberries. Divide batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups.
Bake until muffins are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of one muffin comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Turn muffins on their sides in their cups, and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.