Eight years ago, my friend Meghan gave me a copy of The Best Recipe as part of an apartment-warming gift. It is, by far, my favorite, most-used cookbook. Written by the people behind America’s Test Kitchen, the book not only provides recipes for more than 1,000 dishes (both staples and fancier fare) but also discusses why the final recipe won out over, say, 16 similar versions. Nerd that I am, I love the explanations that precede each recipe — why one kind of flour works better than another, why it’s best to let the ham sit out for exactly three hours, and so on. There are also plenty of step-by-step illustrations. Actually, this is the book that taught me how to expertly cut up a whole chicken. Reading this cookbook is like reading a fascinating (and hunger-inducing) textbook.
It’s hard to choose my favorite recipe from this book, but the blueberry muffins rank pretty high. I make them about twice a month, laying out most of the ingredients and equipment the night before to cut down on prep time in the morning. It’s not too time-consuming (I’ve got it down to 15 minutes of prep if everything is laid out beforehand, and then I clean up while the muffins bake for 25 minutes), but if I know the next day’s going to be busy, I’ll make them the previous night. I also like to make some in my mini-muffin tin for the kids.
Blueberry Muffins (from The Best Recipe cookbook) – see the asterisks for my own notes
Makes 12-18 regular muffins (depending on pan size)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened*
- 1 cup MINUS 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1.5 cups plain low-fat yogurt
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest**
- 1.5 cups blueberries***
* I set out the butter at least 4 hours beforehand to let it soften. If you’re going to make the muffins in the morning, set out the butter before you go to bed. It won’t spoil, I promise.
** The cookbook calls for adding lemon zest when you add the blueberries. I don’t think it adds enough extra flavor to justify the work, so I skip this ingredient.
*** I’ve used frozen blueberries with great success. The batter will just be a little harder, but don’t be alarmed — it doesn’t affect the texture of the muffins.
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in medium bowl; set aside.
- Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes*. Beat in lemon zest**. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in one-half of dry ingredients. Beat in one-third of yogurt (that would be 1/2 cup). Beat in remaining dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with yogurt, until incorporated.
- Fold in blueberries.
- Spray muffin tin with vegetable cooking spray or coat lightly with butter***. Divide batter evenly among cups. Bake until muffins are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes****. Set on wire rack***** to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Serve warm.
*Rather than going by the time, go by how it looks. I’ve made the mistake of not beating the butter and sugar until it was truly light and fluffy, and it made the muffins rock hard. When it’s the right consistency, the mixture will look almost like whipped frosting or Cool Whip (but obviously not as airy as Cool Whip).
**As explained in the Ingredients section, I skip the lemon zest.
***The cookbook has this paragraph-long explanation about why it’s better to skip muffin liners — the muffins will rise higher without liners, there’s less waste (of the muffin that sticks to the liner, although I guess you could also argue that muffin liners are a waste of paper if you use disposable ones), etc. — but I’ve tried it both ways and have decided that liners are the way to go. First of all, clean-up is a lot easier with the liners. Second, you can spruce up the appearance of the muffins with seasonally appropriate liners (sorry, I just can’t pass up an opportunity to cute-ify my food!). Third, I don’t actually see a huge difference in how high the muffins rise with and without liners. Fourth, not a ton of the muffin sticks to the paper.
****If you decide to make some mini muffins and some regular ones, the two pans can go in at the same time. Just keep a close eye on the progress, because chances are the mini muffins will be done before the regular ones. I’m able to make 24 mini muffins and eight regular ones with this recipe.
*****If you don’t have a cooling rack, setting the pan(s) on top of your (unlit) stove to cool works, too.
Enjoy! I hope you love them as much as we do. I think these are worth the little bit of extra time, especially on weekends — they taste so much better when made from scratch.