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Magical muffins

Wed., Aug. 20, 2008, midnight

Orange juice, rolled oats, key to the Ultimate Blueberry Muffin recipe

The blueberry muffin is a rich, indigo-spotted symbol of summer.

The Northwest’s blueberry and huckleberry seasons provide many glories – the blueberry pancake, the huckleberry milkshake – yet nothing quite surpasses the blueberry muffin and its interchangeable cousin, the huckleberry muffin. It may be the finest use to which a blueberry or huckleberry can be put, with the exception of popped in the mouth straight off the bush.

You’re in luck today, because I’m going to share what I am convinced is the ultimate blueberry muffin recipe. I am perfectly aware that I’ll get a few arguments about this. Lots of people claim to have the ultimate blueberry muffin recipe.

All I can say is, I’ve never tasted its superior. This muffin has two secret ingredients: orange juice and rolled oats.

For another, it has stood a crucial test of time. The recipe has survived and even thrived outside its original natural habitat, the bed and breakfast.

That’s where we first tasted it, about 20 years ago at a bed and breakfast in the tiny village of Mazama in the Methow Valley. It was a working ranch, which took in guests. We slept in the bunkhouse. At breakfast in the ranch kitchen one summer morning, a basketful of these hot, steaming beauties arrived on the table. We took one bite and immediately begged, shamelessly, for the recipe.

Two decades later, we are still using that old handwritten recipe, written on a sticky note.

In our experience these kinds of B&B recipes rarely taste quite as transcendent when we get them home. This one was the exception. It tasted great in a ranch house; it also tasted great in a suburban rancher. We immediately adopted it as our standard blueberry muffin recipe and have made it easily 100 times.

Sure, we’ve tried other blueberry muffin recipes. In fact, I am including several very good blueberry muffin recipes below, which include some change-of-pace ingredients such as cheese and cornmeal.

Yet we always come back to that old recipe on that sticky note. The orange juice gives it tang; the rolled oats (right out of the Quaker cylinder) give it body; and the cinnamon-sugar sprinkle gives it a warm brown color and sweet, aromatic accent.

It works just as well with frozen blueberries. But right now, when blueberries and huckleberries are plump and in season, it would be a crime to use anything but fresh.

The Ultimate Mazama Blueberry Muffins

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup orange juice (water can be substituted if absolutely necessary)

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup cooking oil

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 cup fresh blueberries or huckleberries (or frozen berries, thawed)

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put 12 muffin cups in muffin tin. Combine orange juice and oats. Stir in flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, oil and egg. Stir until just mixed. Fold in berries.

Fill muffin cups about two-thirds full. Stir the 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle generously over the top of each muffin. Bake 18 to 22 minutes.

Yield: 12 muffins

Approximate nutrition per serving: 204 calories, 10 grams fat (less than 1 gram saturated, 43 percent fat calories), 3 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrate, 17 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram dietary fiber, 153 milligrams sodium.

Blue, Blue Blueberry Corn Muffins

Adapted from “The Cornbread Gospels,” by Crescent Dragonwagon

Vegetable oil cooking spray or muffin cups

1 2/3 cups unbleached white flour, divided

1/3 cup stone-ground blue cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup low-fat milk, plain or vanilla soy milk, or a combination

1 cup blueberries

1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray 18 standard size muffin-tin cups with oil or line the cups with papers.

Stir together the flour, blue cornmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar in a small bowl, then beat in the egg, vanilla and nutmeg.

Stir the creamed mixture into the dry mixture along with the milk until not quite blended. Then add the blueberries and walnuts, if using, with just a couple of strokes, so the mixture is just barely combined. Spoon into muffin cups.

Bake 22 to 27 minutes, until the edges of the muffins are golden brown and the caps are rounded and golden.

Yield: 18 muffins

Approximate nutrition per serving: 134 calories, 6 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated, 39 percent fat calories), 3 grams protein, 19 grams carbohydrate, 22 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams dietary fiber, 185 milligrams sodium.

Blueberry-Cheese Muffins

Adapted from “Country Living, Country Mornings,” edited by Lucy Wing

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup shredded Lorraine cheese (a mild, lacey deli cheese available in many grocery deli cases)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 stick butter or margarine, softened (1/2 cup)

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 cups blueberries

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tin with 18 muffin cups. On a sheet of waxed paper, sift together 2 3/4 cups flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, blend the milk, sour cream, cheese and vanilla.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on high, beat the butter, brown sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. On low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the butter mixture. Beat until well-blended.

In a small bowl, combine the blueberries with the remaining 1/4 cup flour. Carefully fold the blueberries into the batter. In a cup, mix together the granulated sugar and cinnamon. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops with some cinnamon-sugar.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the cups and serve warm.

Yield: 18 muffins

Approximate nutrition per serving: Unable to calculate.

Jim Kershner can be reached at (509) 459-5493 or by e-mail at

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