I watch a lot of tv. I watch a lot of food tv–often food tv that I don’t actually enjoy. For every episode of the Barefoot Contessa gaily mixing up two pounds of pre-shelled, pre-cooked lobster with a few handfuls of roquefort and a confit of hundred-dollar bills (I mock because I love), there’s an episode of Alton Brown insisting that he knows the best way to make the best version of whatever boring thing he’s making today (I mock because I don’t love). I know he has his devotees, but I am not one of them. He knows some perfectly valid ways of making some dishes that look perfectly fine–he also knows some weird, idiosyncratic ways of making somewhat bizarre dishes. Just like most cooks on earth.
Mostly, I feel there is no need for his brand of hegemony when it comes to something like a quick bread. His blueberry muffins, for instance: look at this iron fist. “Stir mixture for a count of 10. Add 1 cup blueberries to mixture and stir 3 more times.” You know, there are more important food-related choices we get to make than the number we count to while stirring our muffins. So I’m here with a little PSA: if you stir your muffins three more swirls than necessary, you will not ruin anything. You will not make them tough and intractable; you will not develop the gluten past the point of recognition. You will simply make delicious muffins.
Especially if you use this recipe, which many of my friends regard as one of the most brilliant items in my mom’s repertoire. It’s from an old Betty Crocker; I’m pretty sure the recipe was prefaced by some note about how it won “best muffins” at an Iowa State Fair. That seems totally plausible. These are excellent muffins and they have a crumb topping (crumb topping!). They won’t mind if you stir them to a count of 15, or until the flour is, you know, actually mixed into the batter. You can make them with fresh berries, or frozen. I used both today! A mix of fresh blueberries and frozen blackberries. No thawing necessary.
1 C milk
1/4 C mild oil (canola, grapeseed, whatever)
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 C white AP flour
1 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C sugar
3 t baking powder
1/2 t table salt
1 C frozen or fresh berries (blueberries or raspberries are great, as are strawberries if you cut them up a bit.)
3 T white AP flour
2 T brown sugar, packed
2 T cold butter
1 t cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 400.
Whisk together the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients plus the berries. In a food processor, pulse together the topping ingredients until the butter is well-incorporated. I think you want to go beyond the pea-sized butter chunk stage here–I pulse until the mixture is almost uniform.
Pam up a muffin tin, or line the tin with paper liners (I can’t be bothered, so I just use Pam, which is really an amazing product and when you’re serious about stuff not sticking it’s worth using it, I think [and so does my mom, it’s official then]). Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold together slowly until there are no hidden troughs of flour. Using a big spoon (or an appropriately-sized ice cream scoop, if you have one), fill the tins with the batter. Better to start by underfilling the muffin holes; it’s easier to add more than remove delicately. Then spoon the crumb topping over each muffin. There will be enough topping for you to blanket the muffin batter completely.
Stash in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until your trusty toothpick comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes in the tins, then dig out the muffins with a butter knife and serve. You can reheat these in the toaster oven, or split and crisp them in a fry pan with a little butter. They’ll keep a while in the fridge (up to a week, I’d say), much less time on your counter.