Blue-ti-ful! No? If you've never made blueberry muffins with fresh berries before, this is the recipe that will surely make you a convert. I think nothing says 'spring' better than fresh berries...except maybe 'citrus', so when you combine the two (dare I say it?)... so berry delicious! This is a delectable way to add some color into the diet (think anti-oxidants, vitamin C, fiber). So much more fun than popping that daily supplement.
The berry and citrus flavors shine, carried by an incredibly light texture from the flours. The glaze is like sticky sunshine in your mouth. I've recently discovered the joys of baking with spelt flour (found in the health food section of your local grocery store, at Whole Foods, or online). It adds an interesting dimension and softness to the batter, and produces such a light texture. I've read that spelt flour can have a 'bite', but I have not experienced this. Everything I've added it to has turned out beautifully, and I'm just wondering what took me so darn long to try it. If you don't want to use spelt, you could use whole wheat pastry flour, or all white whole wheat, but the texture will be slightly more dense. I encourage you to try the recipe as is, and if you've never used spelt before, I think you'll find yourself substituting it into some of your other favorite recipes once you taste it. The whole wheat benefits speak for themselves.
These are perfect for breakfast or as a mid-afternoon snack with a cup of tea or coffee. With Easter brunch right around the corner, they would also make a wonderful addition to the brunch table. No matter the occasion, they are not only delicious, but they are packed with good-for-you ingredients (but you don't have to tell anyone, and they'll never guess, honestly). I love baking with olive oil. The olive flavor bakes right out, and the oil produces an exceptionally moist crumb. Heart-healthy never tasted so good! The orange flower water is completely optional, but it adds such a unique, nearly imperceptible, undefinable perfume and flavor, I can't imagine making these without it. Orange flower water is a easily found in ethnic food shops, such as Middle Eastern or Indian, or can also be found online. I prefer to frequent the local shops. I usually find something exotic or unusual to add to the cupboard, and to the never-ending 'want to make that someday' list.
I employ a couple of practically fail-safe techniques for getting that bakery look when making muffins. I always sift the dry ingredients--I think it results in a lighter texture and requires less mixing of the wet and dry ingredients. And I always use a cookie scoop (4 tablespoon for a normal size muffin). Also, when baking with whole wheat flours, it's imperative to use a generous amount of baking powder. Another tip, based upon one or two (OK, more than I care to count) baking disasters, is to add the correct amount of batter to the pan or cups. Unless the recipe specifically advises otherwise, don't overfill the baking container; 2/3 is a good guideline. I think there is probably a huge amount of money to be made out there should a certain number of psychotherapists choose to specialize in Cooking PTSD (I think I heard an 'amen' out there?). All that careful measuring, sifting, stirring, decoratively placed nuts and/or chocolate chips, and then....
"What's that smell?" (The husband)
"Is something burning?" (The children)
Frantic running to the oven. (The incredulous baker/me)
Cue the high setting on the exhaust fan. (Also me)
Volcanic overflow onto the bottom of the oven is not a pretty sight, or smell. Anyway, fill levels are kind of important.
To make sure the berries don't sink to the bottom of the muffin cup, place about half a scoop of batter in each cup, add about three or four berries, then another half scoop of batter, then three or four more berries, then a tablespoon or so of batter on top, leaving some berries exposed while covering others, or adding a berry here and there as the whimsy strikes. It sounds like a lot of extra steps, but it goes really quickly with the scooper, and the results, I think, are well worth it. There are no mashed berries or trails of purple-gray in these muffins. They are just tasty, gorgeous and good for you. If I had a Jewish grandmother, I'm sure she would approve....oh wait, I've forgotten, were we chatting about matchmaking or muffins...?
Blueberry Nectarine Muffins
1 1/4 cup (4 3/8 ounces) whole spelt flour
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup orange juice
1/2 cup agave or honey (I prefer agave in this recipe)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 tablespoon orange flower water
1/2 to 1 pint fresh blueberries
Two large or three small tangerines
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup agave (or sugar)
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place muffin papers in 18 muffin cups.
For the batter: Sift together the dry ingredients (the first five ingredients) into a large mixing bowl.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then add the milk, orange juice, agave (or honey if using), olive oil, orange zest and orange flower water. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir lightly only until there are no more dry clumps of flour. Using a scoop, place about 1/2 scoop of batter (or a couple of tablespoons) in the bottom of each muffin liner. Place 3 or four berries on top of the batter, place another 1/2 scoop on top of the berries, covering the berries completely, then place three or four more berries on top, finishing with just a small spoonful of batter on top. Place any extra berries as they will hold, trying to avoid the sides of the cups if possible (this helps keep the berries intact while baking). The cups will be very full. Bake the muffins for approximately 20 minutes until lightly golden on top and when a wooden skewer comes out dry. Allow to cool in the pans for just five minutes, then remove to a cooling rack. Spoon glaze over each muffin while they are warm. Cool completely, or enjoy while still warm. The flavor improves as they cool.
For the glaze: Peel and cut each tangerine into sections (removing all the pith and membranes). Cut each section into small, bite-sized pieces and place into a small saucepan. Add the other glaze ingredients and simmer over very low heat while the muffins are baking. The glaze should thicken. Add more sugar or orange juice to taste. My preference tends to be on the less-sweet side of things, so tweak as you will. After the muffins are on the cooling rack, carefully place the tangerine pieces on top, equally distributing any leftover glaze.