My desire for making blueberry muffins came in the morning, after my run, when the morning hunger starting kicking in and the adrenaline had not quite worn off. I had bought a quart of blueberries the week before at the farmer’s market and had brought a little for lunch a few times during the week. They had been fresh, sweet, and juicy. Fresh baked muffins seemed like a perfect fit for the weekend.
I pulled my Julia Child’ s Baking with Julia and my relatively new Cook’s illustrated The Science of Good Cooking to compare versions. For most of my life, I would use just one recipe when I made anything but lately I found my options seem to be better when I combined ideas. Or at least, I thought it improved the end product. It started when I began canning. I had compared a family pickle method to the Ball’s Blue Book method and added a bit more sugar. Then later, I compared my sister’s peanut butter cookie recipe to Bon Appetite’s , Ina Garten’s turkey meatloaf to my mother-in-law’s traditional meatloaf, potato salads, and – viola!- my own food fusion. Sometimes they worked (better pickles) and sometimes they didn’t (peanut butter cookies that stuck to the roof of the mouth). Either way, the end product wound up as a masterpiece of the moment or more like an experiment of expressionism since I never remembered what I exactly changed because I never thought to write anything down.
So there I was, reading glasses on, staring at one list of ingredients that included cake flour, sour cream, and whole milk and another that needed all-purpose flour, buttermilk, and mashed up blueberries. I didn’t really like either one completely. The fusion creativity began to rush through my veins as I began to take inventory of what I had on hand. Cake flour, no but I had bread flour. A moment of clarity took place as I did a quick check of the page facing Cook’s Illustrated marching orders defining the types of flours and their uses. I soon learned the disastrous effect bread flour would cause. All-purpose flour – check. Sour cream – check. Milk – no, not a drop. In a panic, I needed to catch my husband coming back from the bank and possibly grocery shopping to see if he could save the morning. I called his cell. No answer. I texted, waited, but no immediate response. Proceeding with my mission while I waited, I wrestled around the top shelf of the pantry and found the baking power hiding behind the corn meal. The heart stopping shock came when I check the remaining blueberries. 12 left and looking a little old. Not nearly the 2 cups that both books prescribed. I quickly texted my husband again, telling him to never mind, just as his car pulled into the driveway. He hadn’t checked his phone, thank heaven, and had purchased a pint of fresh local blueberries as a whim. No milk. I was just too close. I couldn’t let the cooking bug pass. Grabbing my keys, I headed to the neighborhood Italian bakery/grocery store for the milk.
Saturday mornings at the bakery isn’t someplace you will be able to come and go quickly something that should have dawned on me 5 minutes earlier. The parking lot was packed and it was three people deep at the long counter. I made my way back to the milk. They had both – buttermilk and regular. Which recipe called for the buttermilk? Was it the one with the cake flour, the sour cream, and the mashed blueberries? Or was that even the one I was making. I nabbed them both and took my place in line next to a man with a 5 week old baby and a woman buying enough bread to feed an elementary school. I scanned the bread and spotted the nice Italian loaf which had been determined would be good for the house since I was going there anyway. While my bread was being sliced, the cashier asked, “What else can I get you?”. Dangerous question to ask me as I glanced at the brownies staring back at me from beneath the glass counter. My stomach rumbled. Two milks, one slicked loaf of Italian bread, and two frosted brownies later, I found myself back in my kitchen staring at the cookbooks. Too late for me to turn back now as my messy countertop would take too long to clean up anyway.
Sighing, I washed the blueberries. As directed, I “whisked” together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Putting my reading glasses back on, I doubled checked the recipe (which one was I using again?) and realized I put an eighth of cup too much of the flour. No biggie. I’ll just add a little more sugar. In another bowl, I was to whisk the sugar and eggs. It would not have been an issue had I actually had sugar. I always, always buy sugar, I mumbled to myself. How could be out? I worked to get less than a cup out of my sugar canister. Fusion, I told myself, fusion. My pitiful bag of brown sugar laid where I had left it the last time I made cookies. It will have to do, I told myself as I added large pinches to my beaten eggs. After waiting for the butter I had hastily melted in the microwave to cool, I mixed and combined the rest of the ingredients including the pint of whole blueberries together and shoved the pan into the oven.
I eyed the brownies while I waited. Somehow the wafting blueberry intoxicating aroma I had imagined was lost to impatience as I eyed the rising batter. I imagined licking the frosting off the side of one of the brownies when the oven’s buzzer finally went off.
An hour and half later the dishes were washed and the blueberry muffins were safe in their Ziplock. Although a little like a rubber ball, they were tasty but, then, I was pretty hungry. It always takes a day or two to truly appreciate the madness of a hungry cook, I justified. I thought about the economies of scale of baked goods. Next time I get a craving in the morning, I told myself, I may have to skip the art of fusion and just go for mass production of my local bakery. I wondered if they had chocolate chip muffins.