Blueberry muffins: Back to basics

Home ec. Remember it? If so, you’re probably in at least your mid-30s, or maybe even a bit older. For those of you young enough to be scratching your head in confusion, home economics (“home ec.”) was what girls took in junior high (er, middle school) while the boys were taking shop. (And if anyone knows the official name for “shop,” illuminate me, please!)

Home ec. was invariably taught by an older lady, one well-versed in using paper patterns to make clothes, baking biscuits, and perhaps guardedly revealing a little bit about the birds and the bees: this was, after all, way before boys were allowed into home ec., or girls into shop. Nowadays, home ec. is often called something more all-encompassing, since it can involve up-to-date skills like credit-card management. It’s co-ed. And it’s probably not a required course, like it was back in ’60s.

I’m going to be upfront with you here: I nearly failed home ec. Every crooked seam I laboriously sewed was ripped out. I didn’t have “the touch” for biscuits. And I was bored to tears by the whole thing, preferring to stare out the window, at the athletic fields where I longed to be, while my classmates twittered around their Butterick patterns. When it came to housewifely skills, I just didn’t have the knack. Mrs. Deabler let me slip through, probably because she didn’t want to see me darken her classroom door again. And I thankfully washed my hands (literally) of the whole business.

One thing that stuck with me, though, was blueberry muffins. Once we’d graduated from biscuits, we tackled muffins. And though I never did master the flaky biscuit, I was able to whip up muffin batter with the best of them. My personal goal was to make blueberry muffins just like the ones at Jordan-Marsh, a Boston department store where we’d go once a year to buy school clothes. Big, moist, crumbly, and packed with berries, they were the ne plus ultra of muffin-dom. And their streaky blue signature look, the probable result of frozen berries, made blue food chic well before its “birth” in the ’90s.

The following recipe, Freezer-Case Blueberry Muffins, doesn’t come from my long-ago home ec. class. In fact, it was developed by fellow blogger Susan Reid who, with King Arthur Flour test kitchen director Sue Gray, is queen of all things cakey and muffin-y. I’ve upped the butter a bit, and substituted frozen berries (since that’s what’s always available), but other than that—thanks, Susan!

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These are my favorite frozen blueberries: they’re also the least expensive, at least at my supermarket. They’re the ideal size: not the TINY tiny little Maine blueberries, but not the huge fat ones you usually find in frozen form, either. These are about 1/4” across.

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First thing to do, if you want to minimize the blue streaks in your muffins, is to rinse the frozen berries, and pat them dry. Nice, huh? You could make a ’60s T-shirt out of this pattern…

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Mix the butter and sugar till they’re well combined; they’ll be crumbly, rather than creamy. Add the eggs…

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…plus the vanilla and almond extracts, and the sour cream or yogurt. Beat to make a thin batter. Add the leavening, salt, and flour; this will thicken it up and smooth it out nicely.

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GENTLY stir the blueberries into the thick batter. Don’t be too thorough; the more you stir, the more blue-streaky the batter will become.

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Scoop the batter into 12 muffin cups. I like to line the cups with muffin papers, which I also grease; this allows the papers to slip seamlessly off the hot baked muffins—no rips, no tears. I also like to sprinkle the muffins with coarse white sparkling sugar, for a glittery finish.

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Bake for about 30 minutes; the muffins will be a lovely golden brown on top.

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And there you have it: a classic favorite, blueberry muffins.

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Note the difference between muffins made with frozen berries that aren’t rinsed and blotted first (left), and the rinsed berries (right). Neither way is more or less “correct;” it’s just a “look” thing, and entirely up to you.

Check out our recipe for Freezer-Case Blueberry Muffins.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Teresa

    Mmmm. I can almost smell these. The bakery on the Univ. Ca. at Davis makes the best blueberry muffins I’ve had and the ingredients are somewhat similar to this one: 1.5 c AP flour; 1.25 c + 1 Tbsp. wheat flour; 1.5 tsp baking powder; pinch of salt; 0.75 c butter; 0.75 c + 2 Tbsp. brown sugar; 3 eggs; 1.5 Tbsp. vanilla; 1.5 c half-n-half; 2.5 c blueberries. I am guessing the use of ww flour and half-n-half created the delicious nutty top.

    I do have a question about your cheese bread post. Everything seemed fine with the mixing, rising, shaping and proofing. But when baked, it did not have much oven spring, took longer to bake, and hence was dense. The chew was nice, but it was too dense. What could have gone wrong? What should I try to adjust next time? Thanks.

    Reply
  2. Sharon

    Love the looks of this recipe- think I’ll try them today. And “Shop” was called “Industrial Arts” in my neck of the woods!

    Reply
  3. mamafitz

    i made these muffins early this morning for breakfast (from the KA baker’s companion book AND used the same blueberries.). how freaky! :) ‘shop’ class is now called Design and Construction in my son’s middle school, and ‘home ec’ is called Family And Consumer Education (though the teacher retired last year, so my 6th grader didn’t get it, and i’m not sure if they’ve hired a replacement, or if they even are going to).

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  4. Alane Tentoni

    Our shop class was called Industrial Arts. I never took home ec – I wish now that I had!

    I’ve learned so much about baking from you guys. I always enjoy your recipes & articles!

    Reply
  5. Jackie Watts

    The obfuscatory name for “shop” was “Industrial Arts,” but everyone called it “shop” anyway. Metal shop was better than wood shop because you got to use a blowtorch.

    Reply
  6. PJ Hamel

    Teresa, I know you asked this already – sorry I didn’t get back to you re: no oven-spring. I assume you started with the overnight starter, let the dough rise in the bowl, then let it rise once it was filled and shaped, right? Yeast is growing all during that time… Not sure what could have gone wrong; perhaps it over-rose, and didn’t have any “pop” left once it hit the oven heat? That’s a possibility, and that’s usually what happens with breads that seem to be rising well, and then just sit there when they get into the oven. Next time, try letting it rise a bit less before baking.

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  7. PJ Hamel

    Oh, how could I ever forget industrial arts? And manual arts was, I think, even before the updated “industrial…” Jackie, I do remember both wood shop and metal shop; the guys seemed to love metal shop because they’d take their beat-up car parts in there and fix ‘em with, yeah, the blowtorch…

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  8. Margie

    I ‘remember’ Home Economics. That’s where I learned to make my first batch of bisquits. I was smitten from that day forward….lol.

    PJ, I don’t mind the purple/blue color of unrinsed blueberries, but other than washing away some of the color is there a real need to wash them? (pesticide residue, grit, etc.).

    As always, I have one more recipe to add to my 4 x 6 file. Thanks!

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  9. PJ Hamel , post author

    Margie, no reason to wash the berries other than to avoid streaking. Unless you picked them yourself and didn’t wash them before freezing in which case yeah, better give them a rinse…

    Reply
  10. Teresa

    PJ- Yes, I started with the overnight starter. Everything did seem to go well until the oven part. I will try again with a little less rise time. Thanks.

    Oh yea. I remember home ec in jr. high, though I don’t remember taking it. In jr. high I bought a cookbook for kids through a mail order catalog from school. I was fascinated and tried making cookies and bread out of the book. I still recall some of those attempts. My mother did not bake at the time, so that book was my only guide. I wish I still had that book.

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  11. Charlene

    There was no Home ec in my school, but we did have Nutritional Science, Shop was called STL, which I think stood for Science and Technology Lab. However, I graduated in 2001, so this was fairly recent.

    Reply
  12. Aubrey

    Shop was called Industrial Arts when I took it. Now I think it’s Industrial Tech or something. I’m not sure what Home Ec is called. But everyone boys and girls took it for a quarter. We had home ec, shop, art, and music for a quarter. So everyone learned how to use a sander and everyone sewed a sweatshirt.

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  13. Bonnie

    I went to middle school in the early 80′s, and both “Home Ec” and “Industrial Arts” were co-ed & required for 2 years out of 3. I had a blast in both classes – I even thought about taking Shop in high school (where it was called “Wood Shop” or “Metal Shop” – but in high school things reverted to gender stereotype, and a girl in shop was likely to be harassed. Sadly, there was no Home Ec at high school level when/where I attended, or I might have taken it.

    PJ, I really enjoy the blog – thanks for all the photos & recipes!

    Reply
  14. Gigi

    PJ,

    No one has yet mentioned that these are so close to the Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins. I made a batch, brewed a cup of tea, and spent the next five minutes strolling down memory lane. I then packed up a half dozen, drove to my parents’ home and shared the muffins with them. Yes, it was one of those sickeningly sweet Hallmark moments. What was so wonderful were the stories that Mom and Dad started telling about our trips to the “big” store (the one in Peabody, Mass., not Boston). Okay. That was regional humor. Sorry.

    Anyway, thank you so much for a wonderful recipe and a wonderful afternoon with my parents!

    Gigi

    Reply
  15. PJ Hamel

    Gigi, what a sweet story! I’ll bet my mom would enjoy these muffins, too – unfortunately, we’re 1000 miles apart (physically—not emotionally), so it’s hard to share them. But next time I visit, I’m going to make them. You’ve inspired me! Thanks. P.S. If you remember Jordan Marsh maybe you remember your parents taking you to see the Christmas decorations in Filene’s windows in downtown Boston…?

    Reply
  16. gaye

    How should I store the muffins once the are baked ? there are only 2 of us at home now. I find that if I keep them sealed in a plastic box ( tupperware ) the muffins seem to sweat , even though they were completely cooled before storage . Any hints ?

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  17. PJ

    Gaye, you might try wrapping them loosely in waxed paper, rather than plastic wrap or a plastic bag. That way they can breathe a bit. Or put them on a plate with a cake cover over them – or an overturned bowl, anything were they have some breathing room-

    Reply
  18. Janet Birgeles

    I made these blueberry muffins last Monday, 4/21/08. They are the best I’ve ever had. Too good. I could not stop eating them. I do need to buy the crystalize sugar. More appealing. I’m ready to make another batch but my husband (who couldn’t stop eating them either) asked me to wait until his belly flattens alittle. I am planning to try this same recipe w/strawberries. I used fresh large blueberries and loved every morsel. Thank you so much King Arthur.

    Reply
  19. Jackie Watts

    PJ, the Patterson Park monthly bird walk club thanks you for your diligence. We ate two dozen of these today and were quite happy. This recipe’s a definite keeper, and I am considering buying a pound of that sugar too.

    Reply
  20. PJ Hamel , post author

    Jackie, I am deeply touched that the Patterson Park monthly bird walk club enjoyed the muffins. I hope you also enjoyed some birds… up here right now the cardinals are going crazy. And, by the way – did you see Saveur magazine highlights “Baltimore’s finest” cookie this month – the Berger? (I actually have a recipe for it in our cookie book… Saveur’s a little late on their “discovery”!) As for the sugar – ah-HA. I’ve been waiting to make an exchange for those reporter’s notebooks… : )

    Reply
  21. Dee

    I made the muffins and my family loved them. When I saw the sour cream on the list of ingredients, I knew this recipe would be moist and cakey. I don’t care for the oil version recipes, too oily and not enough oomph. I was hoping the muffins would rise a bit more and be the super collosial size muffins one would see in the bakerys. Any suggestions on making super sizing the muffins? Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Reply
  22. Kristina

    The official name for shop class is Industrial Arts…..I even took it one year (my dad taught it) I learned alot more in shop than Home Ec. and can make my own cutting board too!!!

    Reply
  23. Gordon Callihan

    When I was taking shop in Junior High School, also offered in Hight School in NE, it was called “Manual Training”.

    Gordon Callihan

    Reply
  24. Jill Olson

    Shope was called either Wood Shop or Manual Arts. My Grandfather was a Manual Arts Teacher. Oh yea they also called it Industrial Arts.

    Reply
  25. Candace R.

    I made these to go with a turkey dinner. Since I’m hopping around in a cast and crutches I really had to simplify the meal. These were quick to prepare and everyone gave them raves! I managed to save two for breakfast but the guests grabbed the rest of the leftovers to take home.

    Reply
  26. Ann K

    I am excited about trying this recipe. I have been trying for YEARS to duplicate Mrs. Fields muffins (the original recipe- from 1980′s- 2000). I am hoping these will taste like those wonderful, delicious muffins. The company was bought from Debbie Fields and the muffins just aren’t as good as they used to be. She knew what was good. They had the most fantastic aroma. Does anyone know how they made those muffins? Those muffins remind me of very happy days back in the 80′s and 90′s.

    Reply
  27. Elaine Chaika

    Okay, you give New Englanders a great muffin recipe using frozen blueberries? Here, where wild blueberries grow galore — yes, in Rhode Island. So, how do you convert your recipe to fresh blueberries, which I have in abundance all summer. However, I’m shaky on converting wet things to dryer ones, so can you modify this recipe?

    Reply
  28. PJ Hamel , post author

    Elaine, no conversion necessary – if you’re lucky enough to have fresh blueberries, just throw them into the batter -no need to thaw, blot, etc. Lucky you!!

    Reply
  29. L Bravacos

    I tried this recipe – I try all blueberry muffin recipes in pursuit of my perfect blueberry muffin and this one is not a keeper for me. However, those fancy department store muffins that were referenced – WOW! they were great! A definite keeper! I made some in greased popover tins and some in paper lined regular cupcake pans and I would just use the paper lined in the future – half of the greased muffins would not come out. (But they still tasted great!) I really appreciated all of the tips about handling berries – I never knew to thaw and blot. This is a great blog – I check it constantly for new recipes and ideas. Thank you so much for creating it!

    Reply
  30. Kevin

    Hi, about two years ago I discovered my love for baking. And now this blog, thank you so much!

    Now, I’ve made many a cake, and I’m fairly confident in my abilities to follow a recipe and ad lib when necessary. However, when I made these muffins (with all-purpose flour) in a mini-muffin tin, the result was a rather thick, dense muffin. Not fluffy at all!

    I’m wondering if anyone else had such a result. Afterwards, I used an old Joy-of-Cooking recipe that came out just fine. So what happened with this recipe? Was it not right for a mini-tin? Did the yogurt result in a thicker batter than sour cream produces? I appreciate anyone’s thoughts on what could be the cause of thick muffins!

    Hi Kevin, I’m sorry that you didn’t get the result you were hoping for with this recipe. Could you give us a little more info? Did you make any substitutions? What kind of flour did you use? Full fat, low or fat-free yogurt? How long did you bake the mini-muffins? We’ll try to help figure it out! Tara – from the Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  31. Kevin

    ‘afternoon, Tara,

    Thanks for your reply. I used King Arthur’s Unbleached All-Purpose Flour and Dannon’s All-Natural Plain Yogurt (full fat). I didn’t substitute anything, but I did cook the mini-muffins for the same length of time as the recipe calls for with standard-sized muffins (with a room-temp cookie sheet underneath to block some of the heat…baked in a mini-oven, too. Everything’s mini here, myself included).

    Hope you can help. I did use King Arthur’s whole wheat flour for the batch of Joy-recipe muffins, and those came out very well! So I’m guessing the issue is either heat/time or yogurt.

    My bet is on the bake time – I would suggest that if you want to try the recipe again either use a standard muffin tin or cut the bake time for the mini’s – check them at 15 mins, if they are brown enough but not fully cooked then lay the foil over the top and go for another 5 minutes. Good luck! Tara

    cheers,
    k

    Reply
  32. Kevin

    Hi again Tara,

    One last message! I tossed my 1950′s-era mini-muffin pan and invested in a regular sized state-of-the-art pan. Still had the problem of the small oven, but careful monitoring finally resulted in ideal muffins.

    I think the main issue has been having to work with sub-par equipment. I’ve done the muffins several times now, with fresh blueberries and both whole wheat and all purpose flour. All’s well, so thank you for your time and thoughts!

    Reply
  33. Cosmo

    Hi! I have a question. Usually is necessary to mix together all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and wet ingredient in another bowl and stir for a few time. In this recipe is different, why?
    Thanks, and sorry for my bad english. Butter is the fat in this recipe. The procedure is similar to a butter cake where the fat is creamed with the sugar in the first step. The type of recipe you are referring to, where the liquids are added to the dry, the fat is in a liquid form, such as oil. The methods are determined by the fat and the desired texture of the muffin, in this case. Elisabeth@The Bakers Hotline

    Reply
  34. Cosmo

    Can I do another question? I would like to know if the muffin is like a cup cake because in Italy is usually to use a cake flour to make muffins. The result is similar a little cake, very soft. It’s right?
    Rgs

    A muffin is a little denser and not so soft as a cupcake and is made with all purpose flour, which is a higher protein flour, but they do resemble each other. Also, a muffin can be sweet or savory.

    Reply
  35. Cosmo

    Sorry, another question: what is the difference between all pourpose flour an cake flour? Because in Italy we use cake flour (farina 00)only for sweet preparation and is very thin and refined instead the all pourpose f (farina0) is less refined and is adapt to pizza and focaccia.
    Cake flour is milled from the softest part of the wheat, making it very fine and light. It is also bleached to break down the protein or gluten in the flour which allows for better absorption and distribution of fats in the batter and a higher rise. The protein in cake flour is approximately 8%, our all-purpose is 11.7%. Despite being very soft and fine, cake flour is able to handle larger amounts of sugar which make it very suitable for sweet cake batters. Tara – Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  36. ALlie

    that was very instersting I might have to take home ect. Which is now called Teen living. Also the other word for shop is tech et. Which is when you do all technical stuff and build with wood. If thats what you mean

    Reply
  37. Judith

    P.J. I love KAF!!! My High School had Home Ec though I never took a class, those of us in the academic program were excused from it. However ,to the shock of the entire school I won the Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow Award in my Senior year!! I took the test(to get out of Latin Class) As I explained to everyone I took sewing lessons from Singer when I was 12 and again when I was 13, I got my first sewing machine as an eighth grade graduation gift. In High School I used to buy and read paperback cookbooks (James Beard was my favorite). As for this muffin recipe—it is the best!

    Reply
  38. Bobbi

    I have raspberries coming out the kazoo and I’m wondering if I can substitute them for the blueberries in this recipe? It sounds delicious!If so, any other changes?

    Great substitution question! Many recipes that list blueberries also list raspberries, blackberries or any other berries as flavor options. Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  39. Madinat

    i love your blog! i tried this recipe on three separate occasions, the first they came out just okay, but the flavor (the almond extract i think did it) and smell were amazing. the next two times i tried this they were DRY DRY DRY!!! what gives? i followed the instructions to the letter, could i have overbaked them? has anyone else experienced this? please help!

    Could be the season, Madinat. In winter, flour becomes very dry and sucks up more liquid, which tends to make baked goods drier. Try adding additional liquid – like, 2 tablespoons milk – next time. And, as you say, make sure not to over-bake. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  40. Blueberries

    Does anyone know if I can make blueberry muffins with dried blueberries? I don’t want to make the mistake of using them, and then learning my lesson, being that the dried ones are pricey. But, I wanted to make use of them..should I soak them first, or could I just throw them in like they are?

    Any suggestions?

    Delicious use for dried blueberries – just thrown them in, the moisture from the batter will help “renew” them without making them soggy. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply

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