Friday, January 29, 2010

Edible Winter Blues: Blueberry Muffin-tops

Edible Winter Blues.

How depressing is it to live in the UK during the winter? Pretty damn depressing. I won't mince words. I have a real issue with any place that has more doom-and-gloom than light-and-love during the winter months. Before we left for Christmas holidays in the US, it was getting dark at about, oh, 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Can you blame me if I started considering buying one of those "SAD lights?"

Lately I've been looking for ways to cheer myself and Roman up and kick ourselves out of the somewhat inevitable and yet awful to go through
"winter blues." We're off the holiday-high: no more trips home, no more relatives or excuses to cook giant feasts and pig-out at will (not for a while anyway...mardi gras is right around the corner :)). We needed something warm, cuddly and wonderful (and I'm not allowed to watch the most recent episodes of Community aka Joel McHale TV HOTNESS without Matt, so that doesn't count). The answer was simpler than I imagined.

Blueberries in a Tagine, highly aesthetically pleasing.

Roman is a blueberry-eating-monster. I, myself, had never really been much of a fan until Roman and I ate an entire punnet of the little blueish ones in Texas over Christmas one early, early breakfast. Now, I'm hooked. And while I admit that I do prefer them cold, raw and under-ripe, I will say that the recipe I broke out for Matt and his American pastry-loving heart's sake, is a sure-fire way to cure even the worst case of the winter-time blues.

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Top 5 Things About Winter That Don't Make Me BLUE
just as much a psychological exercise for myself as a list for the blog

5. The Cold Brisk Air
I usually complain about cold wind, especially if I haven't had a chance to warm up. But I LOVE brisk, cold air when I'm walking outside in the winter. If I walk fast, I warm up and almost need the cold to feel comfortable, and that is really pleasant.

4. Fires, Unless Matt is Building Them.
Matt is obsessed with building fires in fireplaces. Maybe because ours doesn't work / is too small to accommodate the monstrosities Matt loves to build. Maybe because it's a manly thing (even though I bet I'd give him a run for his money with my mad Girl Scout skills!). Either way, I love fires in the winter and how snuggly they make the room feel.

3. Throw Blankets and Old Sweaters.
Being a dweller of cold places, I have amassed quite a collection of comfy old sweaters and lovely throw blankets. As for the sweaters, they never get old. Worn in and perfectly warm, they are the kind of thing you never throw out or give to Goodwill, even when they get holes. As for the blankets, it seems like we are never in shortage, and now that my brother-in-law gave us a Snuggie, we can also conveniently do things with our hands while getting warm.

2. Roman's Midgety One-piece Outfits
In Mexico we call them "Mamelucos" (I'm not sure why as that phrase has some seriously questionable historical implications), and I think they are the cutest little outfits kids can wear. they are perfect for the winter, as Ralphie's Aunt Clara knew well, because they cover their feet completely and usually just have one zipper that goes the entire length of the body making changing diapers very simple. Roman has many of these, some with funny animal-like feet, or spaceships on them. No matter the design, I love them all.

1. Warm, Freshly-Baked, Baked Goods.
It feels kind of wrong to come home to a hot oven and warm cookies on the counter top in the middle of summer. The grey winter sky and cold-tingly fingers and toes make the experience one that is no longer just pleasant, but requisite for survival. I LOVE to bake in the winter, and I love people who bake for me in the winter (as long as their food doesn't suck!). And that very conveniently leads us to today's recipe...

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Blueberry "Top-of-the-Muffin-To-Ya" Muffin Tops
based on this recipe

Makes 12

Nothing depressing about this.

For those of you who don't know about "muffin-tops," first off: I'm truly sorry. Go get yourself the 8th season of Seinfeld and /or get to your nearest New York deli or diner and eat JUST the top of a muffin. It only takes a few seconds to realize that really is the best part of the whole muffin, and therefore worth replicating in its selective entirety. Thanks to my friend Laura and the muffin-top tray I inherited from her when she moved back to Dallas, I can make Matt's dreams come true in the form of crumbly, delicious, blueberriness.

I got this recipe from, my go-to recipe site, but tweaked a little, adding lemon zest into the batter and cinnamon into the topping. Be GENEROUS with the topping. It may seem like a lot when the dough is unbaked, but once the tops puff-up, it will seem like just enough. Seriously, PILE IT ON. And top of the muffin to ya!

For batter
6 tbsps (~100g) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup whole milk
1 whole large egg + 1 large yolk
3/4 tsp vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh blueberries (12 oz)

For topping

3 1/2 tbsps cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
a little less than 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tbsps sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Special equipment: Enough muffin-top pans for 12 Muffin-tops, or regular muffin pans.


1. Preheat to 375°F. Generously butter muffin pans.

2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

3. In a separate small bowl whisk melted butter and milk together, then whisk in the whole egg, yolk, lemon zest and vanilla until combined well.

4. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

5. Fold in blueberries gently but thoroughly.

6. Divide batter among the muffin sheets, spreading evenly.

7. Rub together all topping ingredients in a bowl with your fingertips until crumbly (this may take a minute or two but make sure there are no giant lumps of butter left!) then sprinkle evenly over batter on sheets. The whole muffin should be copiously covered in topping!

8. Bake until golden and crisp and a wooden pick or skewer inserted diagonally into center of a muffin comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.

Before and After.

9. Cool in pans on a rack 15 minutes, then run a knife around edge of each muffin top and carefully remove from cups.

Perfect for a cheerful breakfast or afternoon tea!
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  1. I actually use one of those SAD lights! (I was born in a tropical country, for goodness sake! I'm not designed for Minnesota winters.) But I'd much rather chase away the blues with these 'blues' - more calories but a whole lot more satisfying, too!

    As for the snuggie, is it the leopard print one? 8-)

  2. No, the snuggie is bright blue. I would have preferred the leopard print (obviously) but since it was a Christmas present i couldn't get my request in ;)

  3. I got a Snuggie for Christmas too, and I have to say I use it a lot! Its damn cold here sometimes, and even with my own collection of sweaters and blankets, the snuggie thing has a certain, and for me unexpected appeal.

    I love blueberry muffins and frankly if they do not chase away the blues, I am not sure what will.

    BTW, when I lived i n London, I was shocked at how short the days were in the winter, so I am totally with you there. It was a struggle to adapt, you went to work in the dark and left in the dark, felt like an underground dweller