We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Very Moist Blueberry Cake Muffins (Gluten-Free and Traditional)

by Michelle

A bird which eats berries can be caught, but not a bird that eats wood.
~Maori Proverb

   The muffin or the muffin cup, which came first? For this particular post the answer is the muffin cup. I found adorable "Spring Cupcake Papers" at a local kitchen shop and became insistently inspired to bake sweet treats. My moment of inspiration led to a longer period of contemplation when I had to choose between making cupcakes or muffins and what flavor. Ultimately I decided to riff upon a recent success story: Rose-Scented Raspberry Teacake.
   I particularly like this batter because it works equally well when made in a traditional preparation with all-purpose flour or when the ingredients are exchanged to create a gluten-free recipe. The almond flour adds weight to the batter and thwarts a high, puffed dome. Make no mistake though, these cake-style muffins are moist and delicious and are perfectly happy on the breakfast table, tucked into a lunch box, or enjoyed with afternoon tea. Try them and I think you'll agree.

My daughter Maddie captures me sprinkling on the streusel.

Very Moist Blueberry Cake Muffins (Gluten-Free and Traditional)

   This recipe is adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan (HMP, 2010). If you don't feel like making muffins, the batter can easily be transferred to a greased 9-inch x 9-inch baking pan. Just extend the baking time by 5 to 10 minutes. As always, let your nose be your guide.

One Dozen Muffins:
1/4 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp vanilla paste
2 cups (224g) almond flour
1 cup (120g) confectioners' sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 large egg at room temperature
2-1/2 Tbsps (30g) granulated sugar
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
zest of one scrupulously clean lemon
1/4 tsp lemon extract
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour mix, I prefer making the GF mix found here
8-ounces fresh or frozen blueberries
paper muffin cups

almond streusel or just a sprinkling of granulated sugar or sanding sugar

1 stick (8 Tbsps) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
1-1/2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp sea salt
1-1/2 cups sliced almonds

1. Egg whites are easier to separate from yolks when the eggs are cold. Conversely, room temperature whites whip up fluffier and higher than cold whites. I use three bowls to separate the eggs. A small bowl to catch one egg white at a time, a shallow bowl to hold the yolks, and a plastic measuring vessel to hold all the egg whites. Using one bowl to act as a catch for each egg white ensures that if I accidentally break an egg yolk, I don't taint all the egg whites. Any tiny bit of yolk will inhibit the eggs from whipping properly, so I am extra careful when separating the eggs. Cover the egg whites and let them rest while they come to room temperature, about one hour.
2. To make the streusel: Combine the butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a bowl; stirring well to combine. (Alternatively, you can combine everything in a food processor.) Add the softened butter and rub the flour mixture and butter together until crumbly. Mix in the sliced almonds and stir with your fingers until crumbly. Refrigerate until needed.
3. In the oven, moved one rack to the lower third and a second rack to the upper third of the oven. Place a cookie sheet on the top rack; it will act as a shield during baking to prevent the muffins from over-browning. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
4. Place the cookie liners in the muffin cups.

Weigh the almond flour and sugar for accurate measuring.
5. Stir the vanilla paste into the milk. Put the almond flour and confectioners' sugar in a sieve set over a bowl and stir the ingredients to pass them through the mesh; then whisk to thoroughly blend. (If you happen to make a double batch, it is far easier to pulse the almond flour and confectioners' sugar together in a food processor.)
6. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites just until they start to hold their shape, then gradually add the granulated sugar, beating until the whites hold firm, glossy peaks. If you need the mixer bowl, gently slide the whites into another bowl.

Vanilla paste is the bomb-dot-com.
Cubed butter in the foreground and whipped egg whites in the background.
7. Put the softened butter and almond flour-sugar mixture in the mixer bowl and using the paddle attachment, beat at medium speed, scraping the bowl as needed, for 3 minutes, or until very smooth. With the mixer running, tip one egg yolk one at a time into the mixer bowl, letting it fully incorporate into the batter before adding the next yolk. Then add the whole egg and beat for an additional minute. Add the vanilla-flavored milk, as well as the lemon extract, and beat for 1 minute more. Add the flour in three quick additions and turn off the machine as soon as the flour is incorporated into the mixture.
8. With a whisk, stir in one-third of the egg whites to lighten the batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and working with a light touch, alternately fold in the remaining white in two additions. do this as quickly and as gently as you can.

Fresh blueberries need to be tossed with a little flour to prevent the fruit from sinking in the batter.
9. Toss fresh blueberries with about 1 tablespoon sifted gluten-free or all-purpose flour (the flour prevents the berries from sinking in the batter). There is no need to coat frozen or partially thawed blueberries with flour. Gently fold the blueberries in the batter.

10. Divide the batter between the muffin cups. I used a mechanical ice cream scoop to help with the task. Sprinkle the muffin tops with almond streusel, if using, or with granulated sugar or sanding sugar.
11. Transfer to the oven and bake at 350°F for about 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325°F and continue to bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer the muffin pan to a cooling rack and let the muffins rest for about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and let cool to room temperature on a rack. The muffins will keep well at room temperature, individually wrapped, for at least 4 days.

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