Other people’s recipes: King Arthur Flour’s Sour-Cream Muffins (with blueberries)

One of the very first real baking recipes in King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Baking — once you get past the waffles and the granola — is called “Sour Cream Muffins” (p. 33). It’s a generic recipe for a muffin batter that’s intended to have fruit added to it, and it uses a whole cup of sour cream, which makes it a great way to use that up as well. (If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll note that I’m often on the lookout for recipes that will use up leftover dairy ingredients after having made something that called for a small quantity of something that only comes in larger packages, like cream, buttermilk, or yogurt.) I had a couple of issues with this recipe, which I’ll explain below.

Mise en place
OK, you must be tired of me saying this now: it’s the mise en place. Of course I forgot something in this photo: the sugar, which at 7 ounces (a scant cup) is actually quite a lot given the amount of fat. I used frozen wild blueberries, but I left them out on the counter with everything else to come to room temperature, which was my first mistake. Also not shown here is the “coarse sugar for sprinkling” on top of the muffin batter just before going into the oven — I totally forgot this, and didn’t add the sugar I had planned to use (10 g of demerara sugar) until after the muffins were most of the way cooked. Of note here is the flour: this recipe is one of the few in this book that explicitly calls for white whole-wheat flour — most of the wheat recipes either specify traditional (red) whole wheat, or allow both kinds. There is also some additional all-purpose flour mixed in with the whole wheat, and of course the leaveners (since this is a quickbread, after all, even if it’s made with solid fat and the creaming method rather than liquid fat and the “muffin method”).

Problem creaming this small a quantity of butter
The other mistake I made, as I did with the peanut-butter muffins last time around, was trying to cream a very small amount of butter (just 2 ounces, half a stick) in my big six-quart KitchenAid stand mixer. The beater blade simply doesn’t make enough contact with the butter to properly cream a quantity this small: as you can see here, the butter sticks to the side of the work bowl, and the beater just passes straight over it without actually moving the butter at all. If I were to make this recipe again, I would either double it, or use a hand mixer.

Finished batter, before adding fruit
After adding the eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and the dry ingredients, the result is a rather stiff batter — intentionally so, according to the recipe headnote, to absorb the excess liquid released by fresh or frozen fruit. (I wonder if it wouldn’t be better, as I’ve seen some recipes do, to coat the fruit with dry flour or cornstarch.) The fruit is folded in at this stage — in my case, frozen “wild” blueberries, which I chose because “wild” (lowbush) blueberries are generally smaller than “cultivated” (highbush) blueberries. (And don’t let the name fool you: the ones you buy in the supermarket are all cultivated, not foraged, regardless of variety. Historically the highbush varieties have been more popular in large-scale agriculture because the taller plants are easier to pick and have a higher yield.)

Batter after folding in frozen wild blueberries
After folding in the blueberries, much of the batter is stained a rather unfortunate purple color. For good blueberry muffins you’d generally prefer to have the berries not leak like this, which I attribute to the facts that I used frozen rather than fresh berries (it’s not blueberry season yet, and I didn’t want to buy imported blueberries) and that furthermore I let them warm up on the counter rather than leaving them in the freezer. Next time, I’ll leave them frozen — especially since this recipe calls for letting the batter hydrate in the refrigerator for an hour or more. (In fact, the book claims that this batter will last for four days in the refrigerator, if you don’t add the fruit when the recipe says. This book is large and contains multitudes.)

Ready to portion muffins
After taking the batter out of the fridge, it’s time to get out my trusty #16 disher — exactly the right size for muffins of this sort — and lubricate the muffin tin with baking spray.

Muffins portioned
It’s pretty rare that I get anything like this perfectly portioned, and in this case I noticed a few wells that were a bit under-filled, and transferred some batter from the others to make up for it. This is the point at which I should have sprinkled on the demerara sugar, but I forgot, and put the pan right in the 400°F (200°C) oven for the minimum recommended time, 22 minutes. About 16 minutes in, I realized that I had forgotten the sugar topping, and opened up the oven to sprinkle some on; by the subtraction method, I measured the sugar used at about 10 grams.

Fully baked muffins, hot from the oven
Once the muffins are done, they rest in the pan for about five minutes so that the starch structure has a chance to cool and set; if they were removed from the pan too early, the muffins could collapse, but if left in the pan for too long, the residual water in the muffins would be trapped in the wells and make the muffin bottoms soggy. (Why no papers? Because these are muffins, not cupcakes!)

Muffins cooling on rack
I let them cool on the rack for an hour or so while I went off to replenish my seltzer supplies at the supermarket.

Muffin broken in half to show internal texture
I broke a muffin open to illustrate the texture. The blueberries are not quite as evenly distributed as I’d like, but I think using the smaller “wild” blueberries here did actually help. The texture is otherwise fairly coarse (again, these are muffins, not cupcakes), and even though it went on rather late, the demerara sugar on top still got hot enough to form a crisp coating.

I think I’ll have to make this recipe again, with the changes I described above, before I really have a final verdict. I do feel like it was a little bit lacking in blueberry flavor, but that may just be a result of the blueberries being handled a bit too roughly after being thawed. I wonder if perhaps the sugar could be cut down a little bit as well, perhaps to ¾ cup.

Nutrition

These calculations are based on 7½ oz of frozen blueberries and 10 g of demerara sugar as the topping. A streusel would be an even better topping but would probably double the toll.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 muffin
Servings per recipe: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 244 Calories from fat 72
% Daily Value
Total Fat 8g 13%
 Saturated Fat 5g 25%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 61mg 20%
Sodium 332mg 14%
Potassium 76mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 39g 13%
 Dietary fiber 3g 13%
 Sugars 20g
Proteins 5g 10%
Vitamin A 7%
Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 9%
Iron 6%
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