Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Know anyone who doesn’t like muffins? Neither do I; I’m betting they’re universally popular. Though quick and easy to make, they add an unexpected flair to a meal, elevating it from the ordinary.
These blueberry-lemon corn muffins are one of my favorites. With a tender texture, made more complex by the crunch of cornmeal, and a bright, lemony taste that contrasts well with the sweet blueberries, they’re hard to resist. We keep some in the freezer and pull them out for breakfast, lunch or a casual dinner. They’re always welcome.
What should you keep in mind when making them? First, use high-quality ingredients ... real butter, fresh zest and blueberries that are at their prime. Second, mix the batter with a soft hand, don’t beat it, just stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones only until they’re just combined. Third, remove them from the oven as soon as they’re done, more time than they need will result in a hard, dry muffin. And last, eat them the day they’re made or freeze them as soon as they’ve cooled.
Blueberry-lemon corn muffins
Adjusted for altitudes of 8,000 feet and above
The capacity of standard muffin cups vary, so the yield will range from 6-8 muffins
Make in a standard muffin pan
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon plus 1⁄8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornmeal
A pinch salt
1/2 cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
1 tablespoon fresh grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup whole milk or buttermilk
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup blueberries (if frozen don’t defrost)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line the muffin pan’s cups with paper liners and spray the liners with a vegetable oil-flour spray.
Use a microwave oven to melt the butter in a mixing bowl. Set it aside.
Place the flour, baking powder, cornmeal, salt, sugar and zest in a large bowl and whisk vigorously until thoroughly blended. To the melted butter, add the lemon juice, milk and egg yolks and whisk until well combined.
Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture along with half of the blueberries and, using a silicone or rubber spatula, stir gently but quickly until just combined (no dry ingredients visible). Over-mixing will toughen the muffins.
Fill the paper-lined muffin cups to 1/2 inch from the top, smoothing the tops gently. Don’t overfill or the muffins will collapse and/or be oddly shaped. Gently press the remaining blueberries into the top of the batter, dividing them evenly among the cups. Bake until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes if using fresh blueberries, about 20-27 minutes for frozen berries.
While the muffins bake, make the glaze: In a small bowl whisk the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the confectioners’ sugar until blended. Add the rest of the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture thickens but is still fluid enough to quickly slide off the whisk when you lift it. Add more juice if the mixture is too thick or more sugar if it’s too thin.
Remove the fully-baked muffins to a rack to cool. After five to eight minutes, remove them from the pan to the rack. While still warm to the touch, brush glaze over the tops and continue cooling them until the glaze is set and the muffins are at room temperature (the bottoms should be cool). At this point, you can wrap them airtight and freeze them for up to three weeks. Defrost and reheat in a 325 degree oven or microwave and serve warm.
This recipe is a variation of one from Gourmet Magazine.
Vera Dawson, author of the new high-altitude cookbook “Cookies in the Clouds,” (available at The Bookworm at Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco), is a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute. She lives in Summit County where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.