March 16, 2011

The great blueberry muffin

This is what I was up to yesterday.

I made five very different blueberry muffin recipes to see which we liked best.  When you look at a recipe it can be hard to absorb the methods and piece together the final outcome.  So instead of 5 different recipes over a week or two I made a quarter of each recipe on one day.  It was very important, I found, that I made them together to really see how certain ingredients and techniques can completely change a dish.

We didn't find out favourite this time, but we found out what we liked.  Now I just need to combine a few elements and hopefully make our perfect muffin.

Let me explain; Muffin #1 was from Serious Eats.  We thought this muffin looked like one of the nicest with their pretty dome tops, but it was flavoured only by the bran that was added at the end, and bran can stay out of our indulgent muffins.  It was dry and didn't have enough blueberries.

Muffin #2 was a buttermilk oatmeal recipe I've made 3 or 4 times now, usually with chocolate chips.  In this recipe we really liked the vanilla, which brought up the comfort factor, the soft texture and the sweetness.  It's worthwhile to note that this recipe was made with a light touch, the muffin method of just incorporating the ingredients, not over mixing.  The muffin method also means that the "fat" ingredients are liquid and so the batter is very wet.  This all leads to your traditional muffin texture, a moist sweet slightly coarser crumb.  We really liked this recipe and the oats were awesome!

Muffin #3 was a smitten kitchen recipe I do believe I've used before.  This muffin used the creaming method, where the fat (butter) is still solid and creamed with the sugars.  This produces a lot finer crumb and a texture more like a cupcake.  These muffins however, we felt were dry.  Again they looked nice, the berry levels were good and we really liked the brightened flavour the lemon added.

Muffin #4 was from my Modern Baker cookbook.  #4 had an awesome crumb topping we both loved, and the cinnamon in the topping and the nutmeg in the cake were both very good.  But we thought those two spiced weren't welcome year round, they are probably better suited for fall-winter, to put a warm spin on things.  This recipe had a very fine crumb, it was a definite dessert muffin, not one to eat for breakfast.  And though the interior was dense and fine, the outside was crisp and crunchy.  Delicious.  Our biggest complaint here; the muffin was to sweet.

Muffin #5 was from The Good Food At Home cookbook (in my Best of the Best volume 10).  We found this muffin to be very disappointing.  The crumb topping was dry and didn't stick very well.  The flavour was lack luster and the blueberry levels unacceptable.  It is interesting to note that the crumb toppings in #4 and #5 have the same ingredients, brown sugar, flour and butter.  In #4 the butter is melted and the sugar added to it, then the liquid moistens the flour and it is quite wet.  In #5 the butter is only softened and then mixed with the sugar and flour, a drier crumb but also far less appealing.

In the end this is what we came up with; try #2 with #4's topping (without the cinnamon), add a little lemon zest and cut down on the sweetness.  I think we'll end up cutting down on the oat level too.  I'll post a recipe when we find a great one.  Email me if you'd like a recipe for any of the above.

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