Blueberries straight from the pint—does it get much better? Oh, it does. We partnered with the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council to share simple, flavorful recipes that are sweet, savory, and everything in between. Today: Blueberry muffins, every which way, from our resident baker Erin McDowell.
If asked about my favorite muffin, I’m likely to say blueberry. It brings me back to my earliest memories of berry picking: tossing four in my basket, then six in my mouth. Then, with baskets full of berry spoils, heading home to decide what to make with them. The answer, almost every time: blueberry muffins. Sweet and tender with a crispy top and plenty of juicy pockets of the good stuff inside.
But why do traditional blueberry muffins get to have all the fun? Like with so many simple baking recipes, muffin recipes are perfect for tweaking—and you can add a dose of sweetness, gorgeous color, and those famous health benefits to almost any flavor your heart desires. Check out my fave combos above and then read all my my tips for perfect blueberry muffins, every time:
Prep your blueberries
The best blueberries are so good for a reason: They’re chock full of juice. This juice makes the seemingly small ones pretty heavy, and therefore extremely likely to sink inside your otherwise perfectly-mixed muffin batter. To prevent this disaster, just toss your blueberries in a tiny bit of flour before you add them to the batter. My golden rule is to take about 1 tablespoon of flour out of the amount dictated by the recipe for every 1 cup of blueberries. For particularly juicy berries, you can also toss them in a light dusting of cornstarch (toss the berries in 1 to 2 tablespoons cornstarch to coat, then add the berries and discard any leftover starch – do not add to the recipe).
Blueberries are delicate! If you mix too hard, they’ll burst. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you like the swirly effect, but their deep pigment can discolor your batter in a heartbeat! To avoid this, mix in blueberries at the very end of the mixing process, and use a wide, flexible spatula to gently fold them in. If your recipe has you mixing your batter with an electric mixer, mix it fully, then add the blueberries in by hand.
If you have a favorite muffin recipe that uses fresh fruit—it’s easy to substitute blueberries instead. For other berries, you can substitute in equal quantities. For larger fruits, try to think of things in terms of volume. If 1 peach gives you about 3/4 cup chopped fruit, then sub in 3/4 cup blueberries to replace it. Or just wing it—there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing—at least when that thing is really delicious in-season fruit.
If you’re trying to decide what kind of fruit to use—don’t compromise! Blueberries pair perfectly with many other fruits (and even veggies; talkin’ to you, zucchini muffin fans!). The easiest route is to go half and half—reduce the fruit additions in the existing recipe by half and substitute an equal amount of blueberries for the half you removed.
Add other fresh flavors
Muffins are practically a blank canvas for which to add your creative stamp—and in some ways, almost anything goes! Some of my favorite additions to fruity muffins include citrus zest (lemon, lime, or orange) and fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, or basil). They’re such simple, delicious additions to many muffins that really kick the flavor up a notch.
Mix it up, spice-wise
Sure, cinnamon is pretty much a muffin standard—but don’t be afraid think outside the box. Other warm baking spices can make perfect additions, like cloves, nutmeg, and ginger to name a few. But I also like to add a little kick of cayenne on occasion, for a surprising twist!
Search your pantry for inspiration
When in doubt, take a look at what you’ve got on hand. Some of my favorite combinations have come as a result of what I've just had lying around! Got a handful of nuts leftover from another recipe? They add a great crunch to muffins (I especially love pistachios, almonds, and pine nuts with blueberries). Some already toasted coconut handy? Add it in! Don’t forget dried fruit, as it pairs great with fresh! Golden raisins, for example, make a lovely addition to blueberry muffins. I especially like the little kick that some chopped candied ginger adds to my favorite blueberry muffins.
Don’t forget a garnish
My always muffin rule: A sprinkling of coarse sugar on top of the batter just before baking results in an amazing, crispy, lightly caramel-y top crust that I adore. Turbinado, demerara, or sanding sugar are all fair game in my book. Or when you like a little sweet-salty thing going on, try adding a sprinkling of coarse sea salt to the tippity top of your muffin for a serious win. And don’t forget the trusty BFF of many muffins: glorious, glorious streusel.
Variations to try
Numbers correspond to the infographic above!
1. Carrot: Add 1 cup blueberries and reduce golden raisins to 3/4 cup (this combo is delicious, actually!).
2. Bran: Replace raisins with blueberries and add 1/2 teaspoon of cloves to dry ingredients.
3. Zucchini: Add 1 cup blueberries and use pine nuts instead of pecans.
4. Lemon Poppy Seed: Add 1 1/2 cup blueberries and 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme.
5. Corn: Add 1 1/4 cups blueberries, 3/4 cup chopped pistachios, and use butter instead of bacon fat.
6. Coconut: Replace cherries with blueberries and add 1/2 cup chopped candied ginger or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger to the batter.
7. Banana: Add 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup toasted chopped (or sliced) almonds to the batter, and/or 1/3 cup of sliced almonds to the streusel.
8. Chocolate Chunk: Add 1 1/4 cup blueberries to the batter and garnish the tops with a pinch of cayenne pepper or flaky salt spicy, for salty chocolate-blueberry combo.
What is your favorite blueberry muffin combo? Tell us in the comments!
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