Blueberry-Maple Muffins: Throwdown Practice

And the latest throwdown item is … the breakfast muffin! It’s been awhile since Renee and I have had a throwdown, and we keep putting this one off due to travel, but that’s meant I’ve had ample time for practice. I had an idea to make a swirled muffin – a “base batter” sweetened with maple syrup with a mashed blueberry-maple mixture swirled through the batter, almost marbled. However, I wasn’t sure if this would make an unappetizing, messy-looking muffin, so I decided to nix the swirl and keep the blueberries whole. Since it’s not quite blueberry season yet, I used frozen Shoprite brand blueberries; surprisingly, they had an authentic, ripe flavor (I was expecting something tart and not quite at the peak of flavor) which made them good enough to top a bowl of Grape-Nuts with. At least that portion of the recipe was a success. 

The recipe I used was the basic muffin recipe from Joy of Cooking, which I figured was a good place to start. My one alteration was to substitute 2 tablespoons of melted butter with an equal amount of plain, nonfat yogurt; this was my attempt to make the muffins healthy; not sure if that was a wise move, considering my audience….  Here is the recipe (a 1/2 recipe, actually):

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • less than 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp skim milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup frozen blueberries, thawed, tossed with 1 tsp flour

Bake at 400F for 22 minutes, with water in the unfilled muffin cups. Cool 1 minute in pan, then remove to wire rack.

 

Blueberry muffin, take one!

Blueberry muffin, take one!

And the verdict? They were passable – the texture was pleasantly fluffy and moist – but the flavor was definitely missing something. The maple syrup flavor was definitely not strong enough, as I could barely taste it, or the ginger. I wonder if the muffins really needed the melted butter for flavor, although I’m sure the yogurt contributed to the good texture. Also, the top was bland and not as soft as the rest of the muffin – maybe I can use a crumble of sugar/butter/ginger next time to crank up the interest? I could also add some very finely chopped crystallized ginger and more maple syrup (combined with less white sugar?) to sweeten them more. Perhaps some orange flavoring – zest or oil – would help things? 

For test batch two, I decided to tweak the “format” of the muffin, but I didn’t play with the flavor as much as I probably should have. I was thinking about blueberry coffee cake, actually – and really wanting to eat some – when I wondered if I could take that “construction” and turn it into a muffin. In other words, I decided to make a muffin with a tablespoon or two of “base batter” in the bottom of the cup, spoon a tablespoon or so of blueberry filling in the middle (1/2 cup warmed, mashed blueberries, 1/3 cup whole blueberries, and generous 2 tablespoons of maple syrup), and top with enough batter to fill it 3/4 full, making sure the blueberries don’t run into the sides of the muffin cup. I kept the “base batter” largely the same, but added a good 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and about 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger. I kept the yogurt in the batter. I also made a crumble by cutting 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter with 5 tablespoons of flour, 2 tablespoons of white sugar, and a sprinkling of ground ginger. Unfortunately, I made the crumbles too fine – they were like shards of dust rather than pea-sized crumbs – and the result was a sort of domed crust atop the muffins. The taste was good, but it was a bit messy to eat. 

 

Blueberry muffin, take two!

Blueberry muffin, take two!

Overall, the second batch of muffins was hard to eat overall, mostly because the blueberries in the middle separated the bottom and top layers of batter and caused the muffin to sort of collapse askew. That leads me to believe that the layer “format” should be kept strictly to coffee cakes! Despite the construction problems, the taste was okay yet still missing that kick of flavor. I wonder if the orange-blueberry idea would turn out better. I just had an idea pop into my head of an orange-vanilla-maple muffin with small chunks of orange sections and an crumble with orange zest. They would definitely need some vanilla bean specks and a hit of orange oil; I wonder how the texture would turn out, though…. I don’t think they’d be particularly well-received by the guys at work (and the goal here IS to win the throwdown!), so that might be a personal experiment instead. To fix these blueberry muffins, I think I need to go the butter route and perhaps ditch the maple syrup since it seems a waste of it for barely any flavor detection. Or, I could change course entirely and try some apple cinnamon muffins with a cinnamon-oat crumble … stay tuned!

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