A MODERN TAKE ON A LEGACY RECIPE
When I bake I check the recipe very carefully. Then I check it again. And again. And all throughout the baking process. I’m as thorough as a scrub nurse during a procedure.
But some people make baking look effortless. I remember sitting in my friend Dianna’s kitchen watching her make zucchini bread. She made two loaves without ever consulting a recipe, chatting with me the whole time. She gave me a loaf to take home. It was delicious. When I grow up, I want to bake like her.
I’m reminded of my experience in Dianna’s kitchen when I pick up “Jim Fobel’s Old-Fashioned Baking Book,” published by Lake Isle Press. It’s a modern cookbook steeped in tradition subtitled: “Recipes from an American Childhood.” Jim grew up in a baking family and inherited thousands of recipes from his mother, grandmother, and aunts; in this book, he personally and precisely recreated some of his favorites. You can almost smell the bread baking.
Jim’s grandmother baked a cake and a pie every day of the week. On Fridays, she baked bread all day long. This guy had a serious legacy to uphold. In addition to transcribing recipes scribbled on faded notecards that often neglected the baker’s adjustments over time — like doubling the amount of vanilla, folding in a key ingredient, or setting a different cooking time — he found the recipes used too much sugar for today’s health-conscious bakers. After some trial and error, he found the formulas that highlighted the old-fashioned character of these treasured recipes without making them excessively sweet.
I had previously made his peanut butter cookie recipe — it’s easy to follow and the cookies are delicate and scrumptious. Today I baked his blueberry muffins. The recipe is in the section of the book devoted to quick breads and coffee cakes. According to Jim’s section introduction, the best way to achieve perfect results with quick breads is to thoroughly mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in the other, then pour the wet into the dry ingredients and stir just enough to moisten and combine them. The batter or dough then needs to be put in the pan and into the oven, so it will begin rising there and not on the countertop.
Jim noted that all of his quick bread recipes can indeed be quickly and easily prepared, most of them from ingredients readily on hand. This was certainly true for these blueberry muffins. I had fresh blueberries in the freezer and all the other ingredients in the pantry (subbing in powdered buttermilk for fresh) so I was good to go.
The result was a dozen delightfully moist, tasty little muffins. And just like Jim’s cookie recipe, the preparation was fast and flawless. You could easily have these muffins baked, cooled, and on the table in about 40 minutes. The recipe was so uncomplicated, I could envision myself making it with barely a glance at the book. Almost.
1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Makes 1 dozen
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Line twelve 2 1/2-inch muffin cups with paper liners or generously butter both the cups and the top surface of the muffin pan around the cups. Rinse the blueberries and dry them on paper towels.
2. In a large mixing bowl stir together the flour, 1/2 cup of the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the egg and then whisk in the buttermilk or yogurt, vanilla, and melted butter. Pour this mixture all at once into the dry ingredients. Quickly stir just to partially blend; add the blueberries. Carefully fold together just to moisten; the batter will be thick and lumpy. Spoon it into the muffin cups, dividing it equally among them; the cups will be full. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake 25 to 30 minutes. When done, the tops will spring back when lightly touched. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then carefully remove and cool on a rack. If you have not used paper liners, loosen each muffin and tilt it in its cup (this prevents the bottom from becoming soggy). Cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm
Originally published at https://www.lakeislepress.com on September 10, 2020.