blueberry muffins

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It’s almost July 4th, and your RSS feeds are probably glutted with cakes decorated as American flags and recipes for red, white, and blue Jell-O.  As fun as the strawberry stripes and blueberry stars are on a bed of white buttercream, though, I’ve seen the patriotic desserts enough to be over it.  I’m all for providing content that’s timely and useful – which, admittedly, flag-themed desserts sometimes are – but if I were a really good blogger, I would have offered up something boozy and refreshing here instead of the arguably hypocritical blueberry muffins I’m about to show you.

It’s my birthday weekend, though, and this year, that means more drinking of alcohol than cooking with it.  So instead, I’m bringing you these blueberry muffins.  It happens, of course, that these are half patriotic already, meaning I’ve already broken my own rule – and which also means that you now have free reign to make them additionally so with the addition of some chopped-up strawberries.  I’ll be busy drinking the alcohol I wasn’t cooking with – and thus will be far too busy to judge.

Blueberry Muffins

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours

1 1/3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, separated

1 stick butter, room temperature

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup yogurt

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen and un-thawed

Line 2 muffins pans with paper liners.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Whisk together dry ingredients; set aside.

With the whisk attachment, in the (very clean) bowl of a stand mixer, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt to glossy peaks.  Gently scrape whites into a separate (also clean) bowl.

In the same mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy.  Add egg yolks; beat about 2 minutes.  With mixer on low speed, gradually add half of the dry ingredients, then yogurt, then other half of dry ingredients.  Stir until just combined (there should still be some visible traces of flour).  Gently fold in egg whites, then blueberries.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.  Bake 30 minutes, or until edges are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool completely.

strawberry buttercream macarons

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this is what triumph looks like.

I did it.

Oh yes, my friends.  That lofty peak, that holy grail of baking, those finicky little bites of meringue and almond and delectable filling – after a number of sticky, flat, and frustrating attempts, the elusive French macaron is MINE.

piped

You may notice that some of my shells have cracked tops.  You may notice that a few are lacking noticeable “feet,” that bubbly little region on the bottom of each cookie.  You may also notice that I don’t care, because I’ve finally figured out how to make these little suckers, and it’s all going to get better from here.

look how pretty.

I really wish I could offer some profound macaron wisdom for any who, like me, have spent more time than they care to admit dropping almond meal onto a food scale, grain by grain, for fear of upsetting the delicate balance of French patisserie.  Unfortunately, I don’t tend to be that useful, and this is no exception.  Instead, I’ve tried to emphasize the important steps in the recipe below – the things that I messed up and gradually and by process of elimination learned to do correctly.

Afraid of macarons?  I don’t blame you.  I’m still learning their secrets, but I can promise that they’re attainable – in addition to delicious, gluten-free, and lowish-calorie (they’re made with egg whites; that counts, right?) – and really, I’d like to see anyone come up with a reason compelling enough to refute that argument.

finished - and so, so cute.

Strawberry Buttercream Macarons

This is a very basic shell recipe.  Since the filling I chose was strawberry buttercream, I chose to make the shells pink, but you can easily omit the food coloring (or use a different color) and fill with anything you choose.  Nutella?  Dulce de leche?  A ganache of some sort?  Go to town.

3 oz. egg whites (about 3 whites), aged at room temperature at least a day [This is important.  Don’t be lazy.]

3 oz. granulated sugar

6 oz. powdered sugar, divided

3 oz. almond meal

Generous 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Food coloring (optional)

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment (or by hand, if you want a workout), whisk egg whites to foamy.  Add granulated sugar and whip to soft peaks.  Do not overbeat!  You’ll end up with flat, oozy shells.

With a spatula, gently fold in 3 oz. powdered sugar.  This is important.  Don’t use the mixer.  Add food coloring, if using.  Gently fold in almond meal and remaining 3 oz. of powdered sugar, then vanilla.  Again, if you’re folding, you should not be using your mixer.  Spatula is the way to go.

Pipe batter into small rounds on parchment paper.  Let sit 1-2 hours, or until rounds have developed a hard shell.  If you’re planning on making your own filling, this is a great time to do so.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit; bake 8-10 minutes.  Cool completely on racks before filling.

Just a note:  Every time I’ve made macarons, I’ve ended up baking them for at least 10 and sometimes 12 minutes.  Check at 8, but if your shells don’t come off of the parchment fairly easily, they probably need another minute or two.

 

Strawberry Buttercream

3 large strawberries

1 stick butter, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3-4 cups powdered sugar, divided

1 tablespoon heavy cream

In a food processor, pulse strawberries until pureed.  Add butter and vanilla, then 2 cups powdered sugar.  Pulse until combined.  Add cream, then remaining sugar, pulsing after each addition.

When buttercream has reached the desired consistency, pipe onto the flat side of one cookie and sandwich with a second.