Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Traditional July Treat with a Twist

July ushers in a host of fresh produce all over the country. In our area, July means fresh blueberries. Which means fresh blueberry pie, pancakes, coffee cake, and of course, MUFFINS. This could be the best blueberry muffin recipe ever. 

Blueberry Muffins

2 cups fresh blueberries, picked over, washed and dried
1 1/8 cups sugar plus 1 teaspoon 
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 cup), melted and slightly cool
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Lemon Sugar Topping:
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh zest of a lemon 
Mix together the sugar and lemon zest and set aside until ready to bake muffins.

For the muffins: Adjust the oven rack to the upper middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Line a 12 muffin tin with muffin papers or spray with non-stick baking spray. 

Bring 1 cup of the blueberries and 1 teaspoon of the sugar to simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times, stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and cool to room temperature (takes about 15 minutes).

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. 

Whisk remaining 1 1/8 cups sugar and eggs together in a medium bowl until thick well blended, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Use a rubber spatula and fold the egg mixture and remaining cup of blueberries into the flour mixture JUST until moistened. (Batter will be lumpy - don't overmix). 

Spoon batter into paper muffin cups, completely filling cups.  Place 1 teaspoon of the cooked berry mixture into the center of each batter-filled muffin cup, and swirl into the batter with a skewer, spreading the berry flavor throughout. Sprinkle lemon zest/sugar mixture over each muffin. Bake until muffin tops are golden brown and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating muffin tin front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool 5 additional minutes before serving. 

Makes 12. 

Picnic Cakes

Need a cake for a crowd, picnic, reunion or other summer event? Sheet cakes are the answer. Here's one from my friend Nancy in Houston:

Mom's Chocolate Cake
from The Houston Chronicle

For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup vegetable oil 
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, salt, and sugar in large bowl. In a saucepan, combine butter, oil cocoa and water; bring to a boil, remove from heat. Pour the boiled mixture over the dry ingredients and mix. Add buttermilk and stir just until blended. Add eggs, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat well and pour into a greased and floured 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until at toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool.

For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup cocoa or 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 tablespoons buttermilk
16 ounce box confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine butter, chocolate or cocoa and buttermilk in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Add the powered sugar a little at a time, beating well between additions; add salt and blend well. Add vanilla and mix. Frost cake after it has cooled completely.