[Reposting from “Baked!” at Yummy.ph (“Perfect Muffins”) January 21, 2010]

Perfectly domed muffins require precise ingredient measurements and
the right oven temperature.

If there’s one baked treat that has proven to be the most elusive, I would say it would be muffins—blueberry ones, in particular. Sure, in the past I’ve made banana chocolate chip “muffins” from a basic banana bread recipe; or even airy chiffon vanilla cupcakes, but those are quite different from the honest-to-goodness breakfast domes—perfectly crusty outside, cakey and crumbly inside—that we all look forward to in coffee shops and bakeries.

It has taken me a year to finally come up with blueberry muffins I would be proud to share with the world. After dozens of flat, sunken disasters, I’ve deduced that there are two essential things a home baker must have when broaching the crusty/cakey-dome territory: a kitchen weighing scale and an oven thermometer.

For two reasons: One, a good weighing scale—ideally digital with a ‘zero’ button—ensures precise proportions of ingredients, in the same way as using measuring spoons for baking powder and baking soda help achieve perfect leavening balance in the recipe.

Two, just as one would tediously measure dry and wet ingredients, one should also factor in the right oven temperature. In the recipe I’d modified below, “Good Eats” host Alton Brown recommends preheating the oven to 380°F and raising the heat to 400°F upon placing muffins inside the oven. This temp-tango is achievable with the use of an oven thermometer. And even if one’s kitchen is equipped with an electric oven, a proper temperature reading helps a baker gauge oven calibration and watch out for maintenance or repair requirements.

Good news is, these two initially unnecessary kitchen gadgets aren’t ultra-pricey investments: My thermometer from Landmark cost less than P400, and the digital scale from the department store set me back around P980—worth the mini-splurge considering a can of Comstock blueberries from the grocery, or a bag of frozen ones from Healthy Options are way too precious to be tossed in the trash if the muffins fall flat or form undesirable concave dips in the middle.

That said, baking truly is a numbers game. But for every patient participant, the rewards can be very fulfilling—and delicious.

Blueberry Muffins

Yield 12 medium-sized muffins or 6 extra-large ones Prep Time 15 minutes Baking Time 15 to 20 minutes

1 cup plain yogurt (or two 125-gram packs of Nestle Creamy yogurt)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 small egg

6.25 ounce cake flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup blueberries (or 1 can of Comstock blueberries, drained); reserve 1/4 cup for the topping

1 Use a fine sieve or a regular strainer lined with cheese cloth to drain extra liquid from yogurt. You’ll end up with about half a cup of thick yogurt. Set aside.

2 Preheat oven to 380°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan with oil or cooking spray, or use cupcake liners for easy removal and cleanup.

3 In a medium bowl, sift all dry ingredients together and discard tiny leftover lumps.

4 In a large bowl, blend yogurt, vegetable oil, sugar, and egg until pale yellow. You can either use a hand mixer or large whisk for this.

5 Add dry ingredients and stir for exactly 10 counts. Do not overmix or you’ll end up with holes—or ‘tunnels’—inside the muffins. Gently fold in 1/2 cup of blueberries into the batter for 3 counts and stop immediately. (Don’t worry about the flecks of flour, they’ll disappear during baking.)

6 Pour batter into muffin cups and top each one with a small mound of berries. Place in the oven and raise temperature to 400°F.

7 Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn pan around after seven minutes to distribute heat evenly. Muffins are ready when a toothpick inserted comes out clean or lightly crumbed.

8 Let muffins cool inverted on a parchment paper-lined wire rack. Store in a Ziploc bag in room temperature for the first two days, and transfer to the refrigerator if storing longer.