My sweetheart Peggy talked about wonderful blueberry muffins that used to be sold in the now defunct famous Boston department store, Jordan Marsh. She tried making those muffins in the distant past but without success as the proposed recipes clearly lacked one or more key ingredients. Well, we decided to have another look and see if we could be successful now. The Boston Globe® has a recipe that claims it will produce blueberry muffins like the original ones at Jordan Marsh created by baker Nick Malgieri. We decided to give it a try after analysing differences between that recipe and ones Peggy had used previously. The only ingredient we didn't have when making these muffins was the coarse or sanding sugar (large crystal sugar) used at Jordan Marsh as a muffin topping, so we used regular granulated sugar. I later found Demerara sugar at MySpiceSage.com and purchased it. Yes! Wise purchase.
As a side note, I was impressed by the recipe at a scientific or technical level as the effects of certain ingredients are bound to produce results very much like Peggy's description of the original Jordan Marsh muffins. Specifically, the use of buttermilk with it's natural acidity makes two contributions. First, it combats dingy grayish discoloring of the batter often caused by chemical reactions with blueberries. Second, the acidity enhances the performance of the baking powder in making the muffins rise to produce a soft cake-like consistency.
The pleasant answer from making a batch of mini-muffins is that Peggy gives the recipe a thumbs-up! Well, they do taste very good, and they are light as opposed to compact in texture, just the way they are supposed to be. We later made a batch in full size muffin tins with extra large paper liners and used the Demerara sugar and WOW! Perfect!
I know you will enjoy these muffins. What a pleasure it is to make excellent food!
It won't take long for you to think about variations for these muffins. In other words, blueberries are great but other fruits and combinations with ingredients like chopped nuts will also be great. For example, today I replaced the blueberries with 1/2 cup of dried sweetened cranberries and 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped pecans and 1/4 tsp. of cinnamon. They are wonderful! The next time I will make lemon muffins using lemon extract (1 tsp.) and lemon zest (1 tbsp.). The reduction in batter volume due to not using fruit is something I will accommodate by making only ten muffins instead of twelve, thus preserving the nice large muffin size.
Ingredients: (makes 12 large muffins or 48 mini-muffins)
2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups of sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
3 or 4 tbsp. of Demerara sugar (to be sprinkled on the top of the muffins prior to baking)
1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup of buttermilk (buy the real stuff made properly ... don't improvise)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 pint of fresh or frozen wild blueberries
Set the oven temperature to 375ºF and place the baking rack in the middle of the oven.
Line a regular muffin pan or two mini-muffin pans with paper liners. I like to use the extra large size paper liners in a regular size muffin or cupcake pan as that guarantees that the muffins will have plenty of room to expand while baking, ergo, not attach to each other. Worry not, the extra large size liners have the same base size as regular paper liners so they will fit fine, albeit slightly crowded above the pan, which is not a problem. In fact, it leads to the muffins being nice and tall, and they do fill the extra large size paper liners. That is good! It keeps them fresh for days after baking.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium size bowl.
Put the butter and sugar into a large electric mixer bowl and cream them on medium speed for two minutes or until the mixture has a light texture.
Mix in the eggs one at a time until the batter is smooth.
Add the vanilla and continue mixing for one minute.
Gradually add the flour mixture to the batter alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
Mix only until incorporated. Do not overmix the batter or the muffins will come out tough.
Fold in the blueberries with a spatula.
Spoon or scoop the batter into the the muffin pan liners, filling the liners to about 3/4 full.
Sprinkle the tops with the Demerara sugar.
Bake regular size muffins for 30 minutes, stopping midway to rotate the muffin pan to assure even baking. If you are making mini-muffins bake them for ten minutes, then check them and rotate the muffin pans, and then bake them for up to five more minutes until they are golden in color and well risen.
Note: For the regular size (large) muffins you may (or may not) find that they need to be baked a few minutes longer than the 30 minutes indicated in the recipe. I found that an additional four minutes was plenty of extra time to develop a nice tan color on the top of the muffins, which means the tops will be slightly crunchy as well as sweet with the Demerara sugar. As always, keep an eye on what you are baking as it nears the end of the baking cycle, for overdone is just as bad as underdone.
Remove the muffins from the muffin pans after cooling for few minutes and then store the muffins loosely covered at room temperature.