I’ve been prowling the produce department of the supermarkets recently in search of the best prices for blueberries. When strawberry season comes to an end I know that blueberries will soon be the “in” fruit. When I began writing this column in 1978, blueberries were traditionally available around the Fourth of July but the growing season — especially this year — seems to have changed so that local crops are available sooner.
Although blueberries are certainly the easiest fruit to work with, I admit that I find them somewhat flavor-less so I almost always combine them with another fruit to enhance the flavor combo — peaches (in pies or cobblers) and orange or lemon zest in muffins and quick breads. You can substitute for vanilla extract and use almond or lemon or orange extract to suit your family’s taste buds.
The recipe for Classic Blueberry Muffins comes to you straight from the pages of “The King Arthur Flour Baking Companion; the All-purpose Baking Cookbook.” The authors note that this recipe was served in the now long-gone Jordan Marsh Boston department store cafeteria.
Spicer and I have actually been doing some experimental canning and one of our successes has been our Blueberry Sauce. This is good served over vanilla ice cream and/or pound cake. We chose to double this recipe and process it in 1-pint jars (boiling water bath — 15 minutes) so that we’d be able to give some for gifts at Christmas.
Classic Blueberry Muffins
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and patted dry
8 tablespoons butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons sugar or cinnamon-sugar for topping
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease or paper-line 12 regular size muffin tins and set aside. Wash blueberries; pat dry and set aside to completely dry. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter, 1 cup sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the baking powder, and then add the flour alternately with the milk, beating well after each addition. Mash 1/2 cup of the blueberries and add them to the batter. Stir in the vanilla at the end, along with the remaining 2 cups of whole blueberries. Mound the batter evenly into the prepared muffin tins, filling each completely to the top (actually over the top; the batter is thick enough that it’ll hold its shape). Sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon-sugar if desired. Bake the muffins for 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the oven and after 5 minutes, remove them from the pan to cool completely on a rack or gently flip them sideways in the pan. Muffins left in the pan will steam, creating a tough crust.
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2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup water
1 cup orange juice
Zest of 1 orange (optional but desired)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cold water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla, almond OR lemon extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon OR nutmeg
In a saucepan over medium heat combine the blueberries with 1/4 cup water, orange juice, orange zest and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring often and bring to a boil. In a cup or small bowl mix together the cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water and gently stir to dissolve cornstarch and form a slurry. Gently stir this mixture into the blueberries so as not to mash the berries. Simmer gently until thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon — 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in extract and cinnamon. When serving, thin sauce with more orange juice if it is too thick. If you are going to can this, place into hot sterilized jars while hot and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Serve sauce slightly warmed.
The Absolute Best Moist Buttery Blueberry Coffee Cake
(slightly adapted from www.food.com )
3 cups flour
1 “semi-heaping” teaspoon baking powder
1 “semi-heaping” teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla OR almond extract
1 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
7 tablespoons evaporated whole milk
1 (8-ounce) brick cream cheese, softened
3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons soft butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place oven rack in second-lowest position. Grease a 13-x9-inch baking pan. Stir together 3 cups flour with the baking powder and baking soda and set aside. Cream the butter with the sugar and vanilla for about 4 minutes. Add eggs and cream cheese and continue to beat until thoroughly blended. Add in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Spread HALF of the batter (it will be thick) into the prepared baking pan then sprinkle blueberries over the batter. Gently press down. Spread the remaining batter over the blueberries. (I dropped it on with teaspoons and then gently spread it with a knife.) Mix together the topping ingredients until well blended then sprinkle over the batter and gently press the topping down over the batter. Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes.