Blueberry Harvest Muffins

IMG_3609I was reading through some old journal entries of mine, recently. I do this on days when I’m bored: I flip through pages of my past to uncover what has and hasn’t changed over the years. In there, amidst all of my uncertainties, angst, and all of those mundane, day-to-day details my personal journals are so vividly reminiscent of, I realized it’s around this time every year that I start longing for autumn. Not only do I long for it, but I “sense” it around every corner. And, true to form, every year in my journal I mention this anticipation of autumn as if it were a completely new sensation — something I’d need to write down for posterity.

So, naturally, when we were recently visited by a very welcome cold front that sent our daily highs plummeting from the lower 90s to the mid 70s, I was a very happy camper! With the heat and humidity gone, we were able to turn off the air conditioner, throw open the windows, and enjoy a cool, crisp breeze. I especially like cooking breakfast on crisp mornings like those — standing at the stove in my slippers, a breeze hinting at autumn swirling around my ankles as the scent of cinnamon and other spices wafts around the kitchen.

On such a morning as this — when summer and autumn have begun to intermingle a bit and I get that nostalgic longing for autumn in mid-August — I had an interesting thought of intermingling a few tastes of these two seasons. I remembered a blueberry-pumpkin gingerbread recipe I’d tried long ago and loved. Why not make blueberry-pumpkin muffins?

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I borrowed a technique I learned from a Cooking Light muffin recipe in which cinnamon was mixed with flour and butter to form an almost strudel-like mixture that was chilled and then folded into the muffin batter. The spice mixture set off tiny little explosions of cinnamon in every bite of those muffins. Could I do something similar with pumpkin spice?

Let’s Talk Ingredients

Whole Wheat Pastry Flour — If you’re not familiar with it already, whole wheat pastry flour is whole wheat flour that is ground extra finely so it doesn’t weigh down soda-leavened baked goods the way regular whole wheat flour might. If you don’t mind a slightly denser texture, though, and you can’t find whole wheat pastry flour, feel free to substitute regular whole wheat flour.

Sucanat — Sucanat is another of my favorite, unrefined sugars. While brown sugar is merely refined white sugar with a little bit of molasses added back into it (an imposter!), sucanat is the result of cooking down sugar cane juice until all that’s left is the sugar and molasses-y goodness (no bleaches or other chemicals are involved). You can use dark brown sugar in place of the sucanat if you can’t find it in your grocery store. In case you were curious, when a recipe on this blog calls for “granulated sugar” I actually use evaporated cane juice which is made via a process similar to sucanat, so it’s actually off-white and still has a tiny bit of a molasses taste.

Pumpkin Puree IMG_1324Because I am into the “granny arts” and the interesting flavor variations among pumpkins, I enjoy buying or growing a few pumpkins each year, roasting them, then pureeing them to store in the freezer for recipes throughout the year. You can find easy instructions for making your own puree online (maybe I’ll post my own method once autumn actually arrives) or you can use the standard, store-bought canned pumpkin. If you do buy a can, you can pour the remainder of the puree into a freezer bag and freeze it for use during the holidays.

Blueberries — Blueberries are available in so many varieties that they’re pretty much in season from early summer right up until autumn arrives. If you aren’t able to buy fresh blueberries that were harvested locally, though, frozen blueberries are excellent in this recipe — just be sure to keep them frozen until you’re ready to fold them into the batter (otherwise you’ll have very odd-colored, smurf-ish muffins).

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Blueberry Harvest Muffins

A Tales of Thyme & Place Original
Serves 12

    Pumpkin Spice Mixture:
    3 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
    3 tablespoons sucanat (or dark brown sugar)
    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter

    Muffin Batter:
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 large egg
    1 cup granulated sugar
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    3/4 cup pumpkin puree
    1/2 cup low fat sour cream
    1 1/2 cups blueberries – (fresh or frozen)

    In a small bowl, combine the flour, sucanat, and spices. Using a fork, cut in the butter until well-blended and mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Cover and chill the mixture for at least 30 minutes.

    Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray; set aside.

    Sift together the flours, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg until well-beaten and light-colored. Add the sugar and whisk vigorously until thick. Gradually add the cooled melted butter while whisking. Using a spoon or rubber spatula, stir in the pumpkin puree and sour cream just until combined.

    Add the blueberries to the flour mixture; toss gently to combine. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture; fold together until a uniform batter forms. Using a fork, crumble the chilled pumpkin spice mixture into coarse pieces; fold into the batter (Batter will be thick, a few streaks of flour are okay; do not overmix.)

    Divide the batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven until muffins are light golden-brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (about 25-30 minutes). Cool in pan for 10 minutes then invert the muffins onto a wire rack to cool for 5 more minutes. Serve warm.

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The pumpkin puree lends an orange-ish hue to the muffins while also adding a mild sweetness and lots of tenderness (not to mention magnesium, potassium, and lots of other goodies). The pumpkin flavor is amplified by the traditional pumpkin spice “quartet” while the summery blueberries add a burst of bright tartness — a reminder that summer is still here even though some of us may be ready to embrace autumn.

(You can store these muffins in an airtight container for about 2 days, unrefrigerated. If you don’t happen to need 12 muffins at once, however, they can be individually wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to 4 months. To thaw, simply unwrap a muffin, cover it with a paper towel, and microwave 30 seconds at a time until completely warmed — they’ll taste freshly-baked!)

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~ by Jason on August 16, 2011.

5 Responses to “Blueberry Harvest Muffins”

  1. What a great sounding recipe! And I have some canned pumpkin that I bought last month on a craving, and have yet to make something with it! I shall make these pregnancy superfood muffins this weekend 🙂

  2. Sounds Great !!!

  3. Oh very nice! I love pumpkin in the fall. I went through a HUGE pumkin kick and make almost everything I could think of in a pumpkin version! I made some savory pumpkin-cheddar muffins which were quite a turn around from the expected sweet cinnamon pumpkin I’m used to. Your muffins sound delicious and I will have to try them soon! I think I have frozen blueberries from this fall……………..

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