Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blueberry Muffins, aka Why Canola Oil is the Bane of My Baking Existence

My obsession with blueberries this summer knows no limits.
But, just look at that gorgeous berry, bursting with goodness? How could I resist?

While this story ended happily with these delicious blueberry muffins,
there was darkness before there was light.

And the villain? Canola oil.

I will not mince words here: I think canola oil ruins baked goods. There, I said it. But, I can back it up. I made two batches of these blueberry muffins. The first ones were with canola oil and as soon as I bit into one, I had this gross vegetably taste in my mouth. And, as I was spitting the muffin out, I flashed back to another bad muffin I once made that had an equally vegetably taste: pumpkin muffins too gross to blog about. I rushed to compare recipes, and I soon discovered the culprit, with its insidious vegetably-muffin-ruining-flavor: canola oil.

To test my theory that canola oil is the devil, I made a second batch of these blueberry muffins, swapping out canola oil for safflower oil. And the second batch was delightful. Everything you want a blueberry muffin to be.

The scientific conclusion from this test:
Okay, now that I have ranted, time to tell you about this gorgeous blueberry muffins. They are really lovely little muffins: not too sweet, and with a slightly cake-y texture. But the lemon, oh the lemon, makes them perfect.
(Just looking at them you know they are best friends)

These muffins are a cinch to make. You don't even need two bowls: just one bowl and a liquid measuring come. How great is that? To start, combine your dry ingredients with the zest of one lemon.
Next, in a large measuring cup, mix together your not-canola oil (I used safflower), buttermilk, vanilla, and egg. Set aside.
Now, add those wonderful blueberries to the dry ingredients.
And fold them in lightly.
Then, make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in your liquid ingredients. The well helps you make sure all the dry ingredients, even the pesky ones on the bottom, get incorporated.
Fold everything until just incorporated. As ever, no overmixing unless you like tough muffins.
Now, bust out your muffin tin's best friend: the ice cream scoop.
Scoop the batter into the muffin tins, so each tin is full.
Pop them in the oven for 20 minutes.
Get ready to love what you just made!

Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins (from joyofbaking.com)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Zest of one lemon or orange
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup safflower oil (not canola oil)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries*

Preheat oven to 375.** Position rack in center of oven. Butter or spray a muffin tin. Set aside.

In a large measuring cup, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Set aside.

In another large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. Gently fold in the berries. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula fold in the wet ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are combined.

Fill each muffin cup almost full of batter, using two spoons or an ice cream scoop. Place in oven and bake until toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clear, about 20 minutes.*** Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about 5 minutes before removing from pan.

*Raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries would also do.
**Since I have a non-stick muffin tin, I lowered the temperature to 350 on the first batch. But, this was a bad idea, as the muffins didn't get very golden on top. So, for the second batch, I had it at 375, and they turned out much better.
***If you are using frozen berries, it might take a little longer.

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