There have been two culinary opportunities in my life that I have really blown. Wait, now that I’m really thinking about it, there are more than two, but there are two that I just can’t seem to let go of.
The first was in Morocco. It’s hard for me to show you this, because I’m really not proud of it, but I feel that it’s important for you to see.
Although you might not be able to tell, this is a picture of me having something of a panic attack (emotional opening, travel experience, call it what you will) at the Souk in Marrakesh.
Oh the turmeric, the paprika, the mixes especially for tagine! Yes, I’m the one who freaked out and walked out of there with a tiny bag of curry powder that I promptly gave away when I got home. We call those powders that we buy in the store spices, but these are really spices. These are not in my kitchen.
The second failing on my part happened earlier- precisely seven years ago. I was working at this amazing cafe in Santa Fe, doing the baking at the crack of dawn and then working at the counter all day. The food at this place was so good- I always use it as a measure of a good cafe through my wanderings.
So it’s August. To the dismay of my boss (Don’t get pregnant, whatever you do! You’re so young!), I’m six weeks pregnant with Sadie, spending more time in the cafe’s hip concrete bathroom than at the counter. The chef obligingly is making me oatmeal three times a day, which is all I can look at, and Joey and I are leaving Santa Fe in a week. We’re going to Massachusetts to stay with my parents while we decide on the next step. (The next step will turn out to be spending the next few months at my parents eating many boxes of cereal and watching the first several seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer while we miraculously decide to stay put in my home town). This cafe was and still is run by a deeply endearing couple from Connecticut, and the lady of the pair was the one who handled my baking tutorials. So there we are, in the last week, and I’m trying not to retch as I melt butter for the muffins, and she says to me, “You can totally take the recipes with you if you promise not to sell them.”
I don’t know if I can tell you what this means. These are really good recipes. Dense perfect brownies that I’ve never been able to replicate, light and airy coffee cakes, and most importantly, the best muffins on the planet. These muffins had the most unbelievable tops- huge and lofty, spreading all over the pan. The texture was delicate and cakey, but they held together like, well, I don’t know, like I couldn’t in Marrakesh. And I didn’t intend not to take the recipes. It was just that in the flurry of everything, I didn’t write them down. And now I don’t have them.
We’ve been back there a few times and I think about asking for those recipes. But somehow I feel like I was offered something precious, and I missed my chance. And so, I search… I search for the perfect muffin recipe, the one that will be like those muffins.
Every time I find a new and different muffin recipe, I have hope that it might be the one. And when I saw Shirley Corriher’s Blueberries and Cream muffins recipe, I knew that it wasn’t the recipe, but somehow, I felt like I might get something similar. I thought about the recipe for a while, savoring the possibility. And this morning, I made them.
This recipe uses actual whipped cream, and that was pretty exciting. And the muffins? Pretty fantastic. Super delicate and dainty, with a strong presence of citrus zest. So light that you could totally eat three. Even excellent after twelve hours. But did Odysseus find his Penelope? Not today, my dear friends, not today.
Blueberries and Cream Muffins
from Shirley Corriher, Bakewise
2 cups (8.8 oz) spooned and leveled all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar (I reduced this to 3/4 cup and found them perfectly sweet)
1 large egg
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cups fresh large blueberries (don’t go frozen for this one)
coarse sugar, for topping
Arrange a shelf in the lower third of the oven, place a baking stone on it, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar for 30 seconds.
In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg with a few strokes, then beat in the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and zest.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir well. The batter is so tender, you can’t overmix.
In a cold bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Beat a little more. Stir one quarter of the whipped cream into the batter. Then fold the rest of the whipped cream into the batter. Fold the blueberries in as well.
Grease a 12 cup muffin tin or line it with paper liners.
Fill pans almost to the top. Sprinkle the muffins with coarse sugar. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees and leave the oven open for ten seconds. Place pan on the baking stone and close the door. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. (Mine took more like 35 minutes, so just wait till you see them brown a bit, but beware the the timing will vary).
Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, and then continue cooling on a rack.