There’s a classic Seinfeld episode where Elaine only eats the top of the muffins and her former boss decides to start a business called Top of the Muffin to You! where he only sells the muffins tops.
The problem was that he only baked the muffin tops with these special muffin top tins and no one wanted to buy them. That’s where Elaine steps in and tells him that he has to bake the whole muffin, then just remove the stumps and sell the tops. Once he starts doing that, the muffin tops starts moving but he’s stuck with all these stumps that no one wants, not the homeless, not the dumpyards, no one. Hilarity ensues of course, because it’s Seinfeld.
I’ll be the first to admit that I love muffin tops. But I’ve had a lot of really boring bland muffin tops in my life. More importantly though, I love muffins in general, and yes, I actually love the stump of the muffins too. For me, the muffin top is a foil to the muffin stump, and I would be utterly dissatisfied if I had one or the other and not both.
I was thinking about muffins when I was at Trader Joe’s and came across blueberries on sale. Blueberries! It’s a little early in the season for blueberries but then it has been unseasonably warm here on the West Coast so…and then I looked a little closer and notice the sticker said “Product of Chile”.
I love blueberries. But there’s no point in me eating imported blueberries from South America. They are sad pale imitation of what blueberries should taste like. No fresh blueberries for me right now. No blueberry muffins on my agenda.
UNTIL I came across the frozen wild blueberries in the frozen food section! Whoo hoo! I wouldn’t necessarily eat frozen blueberries on their own, or make a pie out of them, but I’d totally make muffins out of frozen blueberries and wild blueberries are practically a different species from the cultivated ones. smaller, intensely flavored, so much more flavor packed into a tiny little package.
So I bought a bag and went home with the idea that I’d be baking blueberry muffins for breakfast. This actually solves lots of problems, as AJ, my partner, has repeated told me that I can bake breakfast goods as much as I want as he loves muffins. It’s the desserts that he had problems with. Which is just as well, as I can totally do without spending $6 at the local coffeeshop for a latte and muffin. Those drinks can get pricey and who needs a $2 mediocre muffin that had neither a tasty muffin top or a good muffin stump?
Blueberry muffins. I love a good blueberry muffin, but I wanted something slightly different. Blueberry muffins are so common, what can I do to perk them up a little bit? Why not add some lemon to them? As I’ve stated before, my lemon tree outside is BURSTING with lemons. So many lemons. I need to more recipes that involve lemons. Because there’s only so much hot water with lemon slices that one can drink.
Lemon Blueberry Muffins. It need more. Because I’m not one to just take it up just one notch. I gotta go for broke. Taking a cue from Cook’s Illustrated I decided I would make a wild blueberry jam to put in the middle of the muffin so the stump would be extra moist and bursting with blueberry flavor. And how about adding a little cornmeal to give it a little texture and crunch? Done.
So the stump of the muffin is suitably spruced up. What about the top? I settled on a streusel topping for the muffin. Who doesn’t love a streusel topping? No friend of mine. Hmmm… What else? Oh why not a lemon glaze on top of the streusel topping. Is that sufficiently over the top? Yeah probably.
That’s when I decided to add whole white wheat to it as well, because that sounds freakin’ unhealthy, streusel topping and lemon glaze. Ridiculous. But Elaine would approve. I know she would. She’d be eating those muffin tops AND stumps all the way to Jerry’s apartment.
Note: Whilst baking, I was listening to Vampire Weekend’s Contra. A rather uneven album compared to their last one, but it’s still good to hear new Vampire Weekend.
Cornmeal Lemon Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping and Lemon Glaze
(freely adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbls melted butter
4 tsp lemon juice
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen wild blueberries (see note) split into two 1-cup portions
1 cup and 2 Tbls sugar plus 1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup medium stone ground cornmeal
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp table salt
5 Tbls unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup canola oil (or other flavor neutral oil)
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
finely grated zest of two medium lemon
1. Preheat oven to 425 and move the rack to the upper middle of oven.
2. Line a standard muffin tin with 12 paper muffin cups (or spray the tin with nonstick cooking spray if you don’t have paper muffin cups.
3. Make the streusel topping by combining all the dry ingredients together and drizzling the melted butter over them. Toss with a fork until they come together into pea size chunks. Put aside.
4. Take 1 cup of the blueberries and the 1 teaspoon of sugar and simmer them in small saucepan over medium heat, all the while stirring and mashing down on the blueberries. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes until the mixture has thickened into a jam consistency and reduced to 1/4 cup. Transfer to a glass measuring cup and allow to cool to room temperature as you make the rest of the batter.
5. Whisk the cornmeal, both flours, the baking powder and the salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
6. Whisk the 1 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar with the two eggs together in a medium bowl until smooth and glossy. Slowly whisk in the butter and oil until combined. Then whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla until combined.
7. If using frozen blueberries, add them to the flour mixture and gently fold
them in the flour to coat. If using fresh blueberries, skip this step.
8. Using a large spatula fold the egg mixture and the fresh blueberries into the flour mixture until just moistened. DO NOT OVERMIX. The more you mix, the more tough the muffins will be. You want there to be lumps in the batter.
9. Using an ice scream scoop or large spoons, divide the batter equally in the muffin tins.
10. Now take the blueberry jam that you had set aside in the glass measuring cup and measure out 1 tsp of it. Stick it in the center of one of the muffin cups filled with batter and push it into the center of the muffin batter. Repeat this for the rest of the muffins, using up the jam.
11. Take a toothpick and stick it in the muffin batter and swirl it around to distribute the jam throughout the muffin.
12. Sprinkle each muffin with a generous amount of streusel topping and bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes (if your oven has hot spots, you may want to rotate the pan halfway through) or until a toothpick stuck in the middle of the muffin comes out clean.
13. Cool the muffins in the tin for 5 minutes and then cool them on a wire rack for 10 minutes more.
14. While the muffins are cooling on the wire rack make the lemon glaze by mixing the lemon juice and powdered sugar together whisking until the mixture is smooth.
15. After the muffins have had time to cool a bit on the wire rack, drizzle the lemon glaze over the muffins in a zig zag pattern.
Note 1. If using frozen blueberries, be sure to thaw them first by running them under warm water in a colander until the water runs clear. Then spread two or three paper towels on a baking sheet and pour on the towels and shake around to absorb the moisture. By the time you are ready to use the blueberries, they will thawed completely and be dry.
Note 2. If you don’t have white whole wheat flour (though I recommend you run out and get some as it’s great stuff) you can substitute regular whole wheat flour, but I would cut it down to 3/4 cup of regular whole wheat and 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour. Or you can just use 2 cups of all purpose flour.
Note 3. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own by stirring in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into 1 cup of milk and letting it sit for five minutes to thicken up. Or you can use 3/4 cups plain yogurt thinned with 1/4 milk as a substitute as well.
Note 4. Meyer lemons or oranges (sweet or sour) would also work well in this recipe. Oranges go well with blueberries. Just substitute equal amounts of meyer lemon or orange zest in the recipe and equal amounts of juice for the glaze.