In the Test Kitchen

March 21st, 2011

So I’ve been getting a little bored at home, waiting for the restaurant to get to the point where I can go in and at least do SOMETHING (once the water gets turned on I can go help clean things, wheeee!) and cataloguing recipes and making up menus just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I had to do something. I had to bake.

Lucky for me, I had ingredients for muffins after filling a St. Patrick’s Day request for Chocolate Chip Whiskey Muffins. Add to that a need to develop a super tasty blueberry muffin recipe for brunch. Then add to THAT some sour cream (leftover from tasty tasty tacos) and you’ve got the ingredients for a one woman muffin smackdown.

golden muffininess

Hello, breakfast.

The base recipe I use for the whiskey muffins is an easy yogurt batter, but a lot of great blueberry muffin recipes (including the one we made in pastry school) call for sour cream instead. Having both on hand, plus a trusty base recipe that was easy to divide in half meant that I was in business and ready to reveal the results in less than an hour.

berries all up in thurrr

Yumberries!

One thing I knew my Ultimate Blueberry Muffins needed was lemon zest, so I added that, along with a little vanilla and a sugary sprinkle. I do really love my blueberries with cinnamon, but feel that it goes a little better with the wild ones than with the gigantic cultivated berries I’d be more likely to have on hand. Cultivated blueberries can be really one-dimensional in flavor and the lemon brightens them up considerably.

excellent crumb

Giant explosions of BLUE!

You probably want to know who won. DID either of them win? The batters should have been completely identical, except for the yogurt vs. sour cream. Well, they weren’t identical. The yogurt batter was fluffier and stiffer, the sour cream batter a little runny. I figured the yogurt muffins would come out on top. So I stuck them in the oven. And waited. And rotated the pans. And waited. And pulled the pans from the oven. And waited. And stuck the muffins in the fridge to hurry their cooling. And waited. And made tea for a muffin-and-tea party when Zack got home. And waited…

blue juice

Love these wrappers. Wonder if I could use them at the restaurant?

I decided to try a yogurt muffin first. It was soft, the lemon was subtle but detectable, the blueberries had exploded into lovely pockets of juicy indigo pectin stickiness. It was good.

I moved on to the sour cream muffin. In the oven, the stiff-looking yogurt batter had melted a bit and looked a little flat in the wrappers. But the sour cream muffins rose evenly and didn’t develop too much overhang in the pan (muffin tops may be lovely but I’d rather have a smaller, tasty-all-over muffin than one with an overblown, crispy top and a dry stump). I admired the crumb and the berries…so far very similar. But then I tasted one.

I am now convinced that sour cream is magical when combined with blueberries in a muffin batter.

There’s a certain flavor and texture that just strikes me as ideal for a blueberry muffin. These muffins have it. They’re not too cakey, not too sweet, very light but still substantial. They’d hold up fine to being buttered. They’re like a bright little ray of sunshine in your kitchen. Best of all, they’re easy to make. Almost as easy as Whiskey Muffins.

purple = yogurt, blue = sour cream

The ideal muffin.

Blueberry Ultimuffins

  1. 1 3/4 cups AP flour
  2. 3/4 cup sugar
  3. 2 tsp baking powder
  4. 1 tsp baking soda
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 1/4 cup oil (canola or light olive oil work well)
  7. 2/3 cup sour cream
  8. 2/3 cup milk
  9. Zest of 1 lemon
  10. 8 oz. blueberries
  11. Raw sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium mixing bowl, whisking thoroughly. Combine the oil, sour cream, milk and lemon zest in a large measuring cup or small mixing bowl and whisk or stir with a fork until well mixed. Dump the wet mixture and blueberries into the dry mixture and gently stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until there are no more large streaks of flour, but don’t overmix. Spoon the batter into a paper-lined or floured-and-greased muffin tin. Sprinkle fairly generously with the raw sugar, if using. Bake 15 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the muffins to cool for at least 5 minutes in the pan before removing to wire racks to finish cooling. Serve within a day or 2. Makes 12.

You may notice that in my Whiskey Muffin recipe, I used melted butter originally. I’ve switched to oil for muffins because I think it produces a much lighter final product. I really like what it did to my most recent batch of Whiskey Muffins. I also increased the amount of blueberries called for – I used 6 oz. but I think the muffins need 8 oz.

Next time I make these (hopefully in my new station but I’d be ok with making them at home again) I may try slightly decreasing the amount of liquid, which is a change I made with the Whiskey Muffins (though that was to make them less like eating straight whiskey). I feel like the batter could be a little stiffer and it might produce even higher, rounder muffins if the batter wasn’t so wet.

5 Responses to “In the Test Kitchen”

  1. Carolyn Jung says:

    How interesting on the sour cream vs. yogurt muffin test. I almost always have yogurt in the fridge, but hardly ever have sour cream, so definitely one is more convenient than the other to just grab on hand. But sounds like it’s well worth the effort to make a special trip to the store for sour cream when I’m in the muffin-baking mood. Thanks for the tip! ;)

  2. andrea says:

    Oh, those look so, so good. My lucky son :)

  3. Hehe I chuckled at one woman muffin smackdown! :P And isn’t it funny how some ingredients react well whereas others react but not quite to the result that you want!

  4. Y says:

    Blueberry muffins are my favourite, and I usually like baking with yogurt, but your sour cream muffins sound very special.

  5. C&C Cakery says:

    I’m so glad you went through this process – I’ve always wondered about interchanging sour cream and yogurt. I usually side with the yogurt – the lower fat option usually gives me piece of mind. I think you’ve convinced me otherwise, though. I’ll have to try these! Now, if you could solve the buttercream vs. yogurt debate for me, that would be lovely :)

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