Friday, June 2, 2023

Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins

For a trendier presentation, cut baking parchment into squares. Use the bottom of
a glass or jar to push into each cavity to form a liner.

A blueberry muffin will only be as good as the blueberries in it. If using fresh, be sure they are not "soft or mushy." They should be plump, sweet. And they should taste like blueberries. Many do not.

Now is the time is to whip up a batch when blueberries are their most flavorful.  Here in the South, we are having a cool spring. Hooray! That means blueberries have much more flavor. Including strawberries. Heat and berries just do not go together. By the time it does get hot and humid, berries from the North will be available and those from the mountains nearby.

I worked in many produce departments and I can honestly say that I have never had a great tasting blueberry from South America. Never. 

I've used several blueberry muffin recipes through the years, but I've settled on this one which has a bit of history behind it. Apparently, in the mid 1980s, there was a bit of a blueberry muffin competition in The NY Times Food Section. They championed a blueberry muffin recipe from The Carlton Ritz only to be schooled by readers that the best blueberry muffins were from the now defunct Boston department store Jordan Marsh.

Jordan Marsh won.

I used to make American Test's Kitchen recipe but have since found it is really based on the Jordan Marsh recipe but a bit more fussy (they cook down the mashed blueberries until a jammy syrup is formed).

 When baking only 10, keep the two middle cups empty.

The Jordan Marsh recipe mostly floating around the Internet is close to the original, but not quite accurate. There is a video of a reporter interviewing the famous "baker" John Pupek, who made these muffins for 30 years. After reviewing the video a number of times, a baker noticed several major differences from the Internet recipe and made three attempts to duplicate these muffins as close to the original as possible. Their proportions are the ones I give in the recipe below. Here are the major differences: 

FLOUR: The original recipe, without a doubt, uses two types of flour: one cup bread flour and one cup pastry flour. I'm not a pastry baker. I've never purchased pastry flour. I've never seen it in the grocery store. I doubt I ever buy at all. But you can make your own, if you have cake flour. The ratio is 1/2 cup AP flour mixed with 1/2 cup cake flour. (If all you have on hand is AP flour, fine. Just note that the texture will be a bit different than using the recommended two cups of different flour. You do you.

FATS: In a video where the original baker talks about his famous recipe, you can hear him talk about creaming "shortening." Now, to be fair, it is not uncommon for bakers to call any solid "fat" shortening. Remember, these were produced on a major, industrial scale. From a profit point-of-view, I find it difficult to believe they used all butter. And, in the video, you can see the creamed sugar and shortening is "butter-colored." Unlike butter, shortening has less, if any, moisture. 

BERRIES: In the video, they use frozen berries. They are also sure to mix them with some of the flour mixture before adding them to the batter.

EGGS: The authentic recipe used "fortified" eggs. Eggland brand is an example. I'm passing on that one. But it is suggested to add one at a time, scraping down the bowl as necessary. You want to incorporate air into the batter.

FILLING and BAKING: It's agreed to fill paper-lined muffin cups to the top, a bit domed. This will make a well-rounded muffin. Bake at 400 F degrees for five minutes, then lower temperature to 375 and bake an additional 25 minutes.

TOPPING: In the video, they use A LOT of white sugar to top each muffin. Some people use turabando sugar for more crunch. The call is yours.

Hope that is not too confusing. Now, on to the recipe:

  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening 
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 whole 'fortified' eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups blueberries (frozen is fine, but thaw 1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1 cup pastry flour or
  • (1/2 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour) see notes above
  • 2 tablespoons extra flour (any kind) set aside
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar for tops

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees F with rack in middle of the oven.

  1. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with baking spray. Using shortening, also grease the top of the pan. Place ten paper liners in sprayed cups, leaving the two middle cups empty. Do not attempt to bake these without paper liners or they will fall apart because of their high moisture content.
  2. In a large bowl or mixer, cream butter and shortening until fluffy.
  3. Add sugar and beat on medium for a good minute or more until light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as necessary. Beat for about 2-3 minutes. Important to whip air into the batter.
  5. Add vanilla and and beat for a few more seconds to combine.
  6. Remove 1/2 cup of blueberries to a small bowl and mash. Set aside. (If using frozen and you have too much juice, discard some, but not all.)
  7. Sprinkle remaining blueberries with the 2 tablespoons of flour to coat.
  8. Mix flours with salt and baking powder.
  9. Begin adding flour mixture and the milk a little at a time with mixer running. Once they are both in, DO NOT MIX FURTHER otherwise muffins will be flat and tough.
  10. Fold in mashed berries. Fold in whole berries (if using frozen, include any juices that have accumulated).
  11. Using an ice-cream scoop, divide the mixture between the ten prepared muffin papers, piling high above the rim.
  12. Sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons sugar.
  13. Place in oven. Bake for five minutes then reduce oven temperature to 375 and bake for 20 more minutes. If your oven heats unevenly, rotate pan halfway. Do not over bake. Because of blueberries, the "toothpick" test does not really work. If you don't have to open door, don't.
  14. Remove to a rack to cool.
  15. Once cool, gently pry the muffins out by making sure the overhang did not stick to pan top.

 Fresh butter, cream cheese, or plain. Which is your favorite?

Many people have noted that this is actually a coffee cake "masquerading" as a muffin. And they are correct. Most cake batters and coffee-cake batters can easily become muffins. And vice-versa. 

Instead of muffins,  spread batter in a greased 8x8 cake tin.  Sprinkle with the sugar. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, a few minutes less if using convection. 

I've only found a few recipes and they differ on the amount of blueberries to add. And neither says anything about mashing a proportion. One adds one-and-one-half cups whole berries, the other adds all 2.5 cups. For a coffeecake, I  probably would not add all 2.5 cups. 


Michelle said...

These are amazing!! As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make them. When making the batter, after adding the last of the flour, I used a rubber spatchula and folded in the mashed blueberries while getting the flour incorporated. These came out beautifully after followingthedetailed instructions!! Thank you for another jaw dropping recipe.

Kitchen Bounty said...

Michelle: Thank-you so much for taking time to make this recipe and then to post a comment. I'm thrilled you enjoyed them!