Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Muffin (March) Madness

March madness means muffins to me—at least this March. I’ve been on a muffin kick lately. See my previous post for more muffin talk. Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, I live in Utah at an elevation of 4,500 feet. This high elevation makes it tricky for baking. The higher the elevation, the less atmospheric pressure. Meaning that cakes and muffins rise really fast because there ain’t no pressure holdin’ em back! But then guess what? They collapse before the batter has cooked enough, leaving you with craters instead of muffins.

I have been on a quest to make muffins that are tall and fluffy with a mushroom-like dome. No craters please. I’ve made each recipe pictured here at least 2-3 times in the last 2 weeks, comparing flours, amount of leavening, buttermilk vs. regular milk, etc. It’s a song and dance baking at high altitude. Dang it. Then again, my family has not complained at all the baking tests going on in this house.  Who would? I will admit I am tired of the dishes though.

A good friend in my neighborhood (obviously at the same elevation) shared some of her muffin recipes with me—ones that she has already perfected at our elevation. I pretty much stuck with her changes, with a few minor exceptions. King Arthur flour has a great chart for high altitude baking. Click here. I’ve figured out that muffins have to bake at a higher temperature, which makes them bake faster.  (Which means they are in my tummy faster.) Also, 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of baking powder  is usually enough for 12 muffins. Most recipes call for more than 2 teaspoons which makes your tasty treats cave in. Adding more flour helps too. But make sure you go by the high altitude chart and not my recommendations, unless you live at 4,500 feet as well.

Below is the Lemon Poppy seed muffins. They are probably my favorite. Look how domed and crackly the top is. Mmmm.


The muffins pictured below are called Doughnut Muffins. The recipe is from King Arthur Flour and you can find that recipe here. Wowie, these were good and really did taste like a plain cake donut. I think brushing them with butter and cinnamon/sugar after they bake helps give them that extra donut flavor. Mmmm, butter. I didn’t have to make any high altitude changes to this recipe except to omit the baking soda.  Again, notice how tall and domed they are? This is unheard of for Utah baking—at least in my experience. I love to go home to California and bake in my parent’s kitchen because baking is easy there—baked goods turn out perfectly every time. Sigh. What would it be like to live at 750 feet elevation again? Smile Warm year round and perfect cakes and muffins. Double sigh.


The muffins below have been my standard “special occasion” blueberry muffin. They are rich and decadent with that all that streusel topping. You can see the blog post and recipe about them here. I made them again today for a dear friend’s birthday brunch party.  they don’t rise quite as high as the other muffins talked about in the blog post but I think all that buttery streausal weighs them down. Which is ok with me. But I did bake these today with King Arthur flour which did make them rise higher than ever. Yea!


Lastly, here is a more tamed down, Orange Blueberry muffin. Less sugar and very citrusy with lots of orange zest and sugar. The orange essence perfumes the whole house when they bake. So good. I want to try these with 1/2 wheat flour soon. You know, to assuage the guilt of eating cake for breakfast. Or rather, the guilt I should feel, but don’t.  Click here to download the Lemon Poppyseed and Orange Berry muffin recipes.


They are a beautiful slightly-orange color from all the zest and again, look how tall they are? Woo-hoo!!!


As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I think using King Arthur flour is really helping with the quality of these baked goods. I made a few of them with regular Lehi  Roller Mills flour and the results were less than perfect. I need to conduct a few more side-by-side tests to confirm this, but for now, I’ll be purchasing King Arthur Flour just for finicky baked goods like muffins and cakes.


So there you have it, Muffin Madness indeed. Let me know if you live at high altitude and if you try any of these. Of course, you don’t have to live at high altitude to try them, I have regular instructions (on the first link only) on the recipes below.

click here: Orange Berry Muffins and Lemon Poppyseed Muffins. 

click here: Blueberry Streusel Muffins

click here: Donut Muffins by King Arthur Flour

Friday, March 08, 2013

Blueberry Muffins

I have tried loads of blueberry muffin recipes and finally a few years ago I found the perfect one. I have  tried recipes where you cook the blueberries into a jam (from America’s Test kitchen) but that’s just too much work and didn’t yield anything so tasty as to warrant the extra work. And I’ve tried recipes with vegetable oil (fast and healthier) but they just don’t rise into nice fluffy muffins. (At least here in the high-altitude of Utah they didn’t.)

D7K_1460I really hate that the perfect recipe requires softening the butter, which takes foresight, but oh well, these are just perfect with a nice sugar crunch on top. Use fresh berries if possible. Oh, and notice how the berries don’t sink to the bottom and didn’t turn the batter bluish-purple?  Hooray! The perfect breakfast treat. Cake for breakfast….mmmmmmmm. Or any-time-of-the-day treat really.


This recipe isn’t on the Williams-Sonoma website but it’s found in their Muffins cookbook.

 Click here for my printable version.


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