Thursday, May 17, 2012

Earl Grey Blueberry Muffins

Let me say up front that the addition of earl grey into this recipe is still within the experimental stage. Even without the flavor of tea that I tried to extract, this muffin recipe is certainly wonderful and is my favorite (and reliable) muffin recipe. Thank you to Smitten Kitchen for sharing it!

A word about tea

Besides the green tea tofu chocolate pudding that I made years ago, I have little experience incorporating tea into cooking. With pudding, a recipe that required liquid, it was easy to steep the tea and extract those flavors. But it's a bit more difficult with muffins. In this recipe the closest you get to liquid is yogurt, but of course you'll denature yogurt if you try to heat it up. Fortunately I recalled a conversation that I had with a friend who told me about what was involved in making cannabis brownies. While the properties of tea are much different, it did make sense to attempt to steep the tea in heated butter. Sure enough, a few minutes of loose leaf tea submerged in hot butter produced a very pleasing aroma. Unfortunately this flavor did not translate as well as I hoped into the final product. 

The second method I tried was to create an extract. However, again, the results were less than stunning. This is likely due to the short length of time I allowed the extract to form. I also did not have vodka on hand so I used rum which, of course was too fragrant in its own right. Despite these shortcomings, the extract I produced did carry the scent of my tea, but perhaps it was not potent enough. Another variable could also be the strength of tea. Something that I would also like to experiment with. 

Nevertheless, I really am intrigued by the idea of cooking with tea and I think it is worth further experimentation to produce a tea muffin. If any readers have any ideas about using tea I would love to hear about them. 

This recipe comes straight from Smitten Kitchen, unmodified by myself (nothing wrong with these guys), originally adapted from Cook's Illustrated.

Makes 9 to 10 standard muffins
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces or 71 grams) unsalted butter , softened
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces or 191 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon (7 grams or 1/4 ounce) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces or 105 grams) blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, don’t bother defrosting)

To steep tea, measure 7-8 tablespoons of butter (you'll lose some when straining it) then heat over the stove until it becomes fully liquidized. Then add in about 3 tablespoons of your favorite loose leaf tea.
Let the mixture steep over low heat for 5 mins (you may want to try more). Pour mixture through fine strainer press, quite hard, the leaves, to extract as much butter as possible. Let butter solidify.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a muffin tin with 10 paper liners or spray each cup with a nonstick spray. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well, then yogurt and zest. Put flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a sifter and sift half of dry ingredients over batter. Mix until combined. Sift remaining dry ingredients into batter and mix just until the flour disappears. Gently fold in your blueberries. 

The dough will be quite thick (and even thicker, if you used a full-fat Greek-style yogurt), closer to a cookie dough, which is why an ice cream scoop is a great tool to fill your muffin cups. 

You’re looking for them to be about 3/4 full, nothing more, so you might only need 9 instead of 10 cups. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean (you know, except for blueberry goo). Let cool on rack (ha), or you know, serve with a generous pat of butter."