It’s no secret that I love Alton Brown. Good Eats was one of the cornerstones of the nascent Food Network and he successfully changed the “stand and stir” formula of cooking shows into something that blended pop culture, science, and instruction. It not only pinged my sense of humor, but fanned the spark of my cooking interest until it became the California-endangering wildfire it is today. (The first episode I saw was Chips and Fish and we went out and got a dutch oven the next day to make fried fish and chips.) He’s got a new book coming out tomorrow and in honor of that, I decided to make his Over the Top Blueberry Muffin recipe. At midnight, because that’s how I roll (muffin).
But, I noticed something fundamentally, horribly wrong in his blog entry. Alton, I love ya, but I’ve got to call you to the carpet for this one. An “Over the Top” recipe that doesn’t once reference big-rigs, arm wrestling, or Sylvester Stallone? Clearly some kind of oversight.
For those who are unfamiliar with the film Over the Top it features Sly as a truck driver who has to win an arm-wrestling championship to earn the love of his estranged child and free him from the clutches of evil grandpa. Montages of southwestern landscapes, arm wrestling training, and cheesy music take the place of any scenes of bonding to save the writers from themselves. One of the key plot points is Sly reversing his hat when merde’s about to get real. It’s gloriously awful. Glorious.
Another thing that is actually real is championship arm wrestling.
Here’s where I just try to take my hat and turn it around, and it’s like a switch that goes on. And when that switch goes on, I feel like another person, I feel, I don’t know, I feel like a . . . . like a baker.
These muffins are, in my opinion, the perfect texture and level of sweetness. They’re soft and slightly sweet. But they aren’t so soft and sweet that they’re basically unfrosted cupcakes. The demerera sugar on top give them a nice crunch and just a tiny touch of extra-sweetness. The orange zest rounds out the flavor of the batter, giving it some dimension. (Lemon zest would also be good. Lemon and blueberry is one of my favorite flavor combinations.)
When I started out for some insomniac baking, I began with my mise en place (French for “get yo’ merde together”). It was at this point I realized that I was short one egg yolk. And of course, it was too late to run to the store (because baking projects should probably not be started at midnight unless you really need muffins). Fortunately, it’s a substitution that is easy to make in this recipe with a little bit of know how. And if it impacted the cupcakes negatively, I didn’t really notice.
I used fresh berries in this recipe, but next time I would use frozen blueberries. Frozen berries are frozen shortly after harvesting while “fresh” this time of year in Texas have been trucked in from Oregon. The taste of my “fresh” blueberries was underwhelming and I want a semi-truck’s worth of blueberry flavor. If you’ve got access to some good fresh berries though, then that’s the best.
But enough talking about food, let’s make some food.
Over the Top Blueberry Muffins (Insomniac Oopsie style)
Procs: One dozen muffin-sized muffins with one or two extras that should be checked for doping
Time: About five minutes of assembly if you’ve got your merde together. Plus 25 minutes of baking time.
Difficulty: About as much effort as the writer’s put into portraying the father-son bond in Over the Top.
- Kitchen Scale (you need one of these. Oxo makes a really good one)
- Two bowls
- Muffin Tin
- Oven Safe Ramekin or two
- Dry Goods
- 22 oz of flour
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 2 and 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Wet Goods
- 8 oz of sugar
- 16 oz of whole fat yogurt
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp melted butter
- 1 tbsp orange zest (about 1 orange)
- Finishing Touch
- 12 oz of blueberries (thawed if they were frozen).
- 2 tbsp demerera/ turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw)
- Set oven to 375. Grease the muffin tin well, the top as well as the cups. Grease the ramekin as well.
- Put all the dry goods into a large bowl. Whisk briefly to combine well.
- Put all the wet goods in a second large bowl. Whisk to combine well.
- Make a crater in the dry goods and pour in the wet goods. Combine with a spatula until blended but lumpy. Embrace the lumps. Don’t overwork the dough.
- Fold in the blueberries.
- Fill the cups to the top. Use the extra to fill the ramekin(s) for ultra-mecha-muffins.
- Sprinkle the demerera sugar over the tops of the muffins.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. The ultra-mecha-muffins will require more time than the regular sized ones.
- Turn the still-hot muffins out onto a clean kitchen towel. Otherwise they’ll get soggy bottoms. Enjoy as soon as they aren’t going to scald the roof of your mouth. They will allegedly keep about a week if stored in airtight conditions, but I’ve never had them around long enough to tell.
ProTip: I mentioned earlier that I was short an egg yolk, but I was able to make substitutions. One of the great thing about Good Eats was Alton informing the viewers about what various ingredients do in a recipe – which is why I know these things about butter and egg yolks.
- Egg yolks are fat and water. Egg yolks also have lecithin, which is an emulsifier. Butter contains all these things too.
- Egg yolks are also used to provide rise. A half teaspoon extra of baking soda can replace some of the rising power.
Now you know. And knowing is half the battle!