Thursday, 7 March 2013
American Blueberry and Lemon Buttermilk Muffins
I have to admit that this recipe is a slightly odd choice for me, firstly because I've never been particularly keen on muffins and secondly, because I've never been particularly keen on blueberries. It's not that I actively dislike either of them, it's just that I've never found any muffins (either shop-bought or homemade) that have made me swoon with pleasure and delight and as for blueberries - well, they just don't taste like fruit should.
Then, as I was searching internet for a way of using up some buttermilk that was fast approaching its use-by date, I came across this recipe. Talk about serendipitous. The original recipe is by Ina Garten who I came to rather late but have rapidly become a fan. On any given episode of Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa, there's plenty to drool over: delicate salads of vibrant herbs and fresh tomatoes, oozing chocolate cakes baking in the oven, a well-shaken martini with plenty of Vermouth. Then there's her house and garden - faded clapperboard with rooms straight out of a magazine shoot and a garden, or rather gardens that wouldn't be out of place in a stately home. An episode isn't really complete without a visit from one of Ina's gay male friends - there's Miguel the architect and home stylist, Michael the florist, and TR, who although can't really contribute to the napkin folding and flower arranging, certainly adds to the drool-factor of the programme with his stunning, chiselled face, silver-streaked hair and twinkly blue eyes. His charm certainly has an effect on Ina who becomes positively giddy in his presence, despite the fact that he's gay and that she's probably old enough to be his mother. She simpers and giggles like a schoolgirl, taking every opportunity to touch and hug him. But who can blame her? Not me that's for sure. I love the pure escapism of the whole thing - the endless parties, not just dinner but breakfast parties, beach parties, picnic parties, Ina's generous and flamboyant use of break-the-bank ingredients such as lobster and truffle butter, her elegant table settings and of course her fabulous recipes.
Her recipe for blueberry muffins completely converted me to both muffins and blueberries. These are light, fluffy, moist and sweet with a nice crunch on the outside. The blueberries are transformed by the cooking, bursting with juice and flavour. Don't think that the lemon zest is an optional either - it gives the blueberries the added tartness they need and makes the muffins fragrant and zesty. Everyone I've made them for has said that they're the best muffins they've ever tried. After making them the first time, I continued to bake them every Sunday for a month and have had to stop myself from buying any more buttermilk, thus eliminating the temptation to whip up a batch at weekends.
I have slightly tweaked and adapted Ina's original recipe but you can find it here. My changes have resulted in a recipe that makes eleven muffins - I know it's odd but it just means you'll have one empty place in your muffin tin.
225g plain flour
160g granulated sugar
2 and a quarter teaspoons baking powder
half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
half a teaspoon of salt
284ml (1 carton) buttermilk
55g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
grated zest of one lemon
1 egg, beaten
about 130g fresh blueberries
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.
Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarb of soda, and salt into a large bowl and mix together. I add the blueberries at this point too because I found that if I added them last of all, they didn't mix in as well. Adding them at this stage means that they are evenly dispersed throughout the muffins.
In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk, melted butter, lemon zest, and egg. Make a hole in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in. Mix with a fork just until blended, being careful not to over mix. With a standard ice-cream scoop or a large spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared cases, filling them almost full.
Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.