Once upon a time, I baked a beautiful batch of Blueberry-Vanilla Bean Muffins. I used my favorite blue flowery muffin liners, selected the prettiest muffins (not without a touch of mother-like guilt for the rest of the still-beautiful-in-their-own-way rejects), and coerced my favorite photographer into capturing them on camera. My favorite photographer and I happen to share a home, birthday, and set of parents, which makes picture-taking quite convenient. We have a great system, Sam and I: I bake delicious treats, Sam takes pictures of them, and then he is paid in baked goods. Pretty much a win-win situation.
So, these muffins began just like any other recipe for my blog. Bake, cool, photograph. But then trouble happened. A few days after taking the pictures I started a new blog post, typed up the muffin recipe, and asked Sam for the SD card with the blueberry muffin pictures on it.
“What muffins?” That was the first clue that something was not right. “Ohhh, those muffins. That was a while ago, wasn’t it?” Well yes, I supposed it was. He looked. And looked. And looked. To no avail. Finally we admitted defeat….the beautiful blueberry muffin photos were no more. :’(
It turned out that Sam had taken pictures for a wedding the day after photographing the muffins, and somehow his camera card had cleared itself and stored the wedding photos over the muffin ones. Too bad, so sad. But seriously. I went along with a different post (luckily I was ahead of the game and had a different treat ready to go) but I didn’t forget about the muffins.
I knew that I must share them with you. So
unfortunately, I had got to make them again. Guess it wasn’t so bad after all, since I ended up with another batch of fabulous muffins! Plus it gave me a chance to make a few little adjustments. The first time around, I found myself out of vanilla extract halfway through the recipe. Usually whenever this happens I cry a little inside since I’m a firm believer that vanilla is always ALWAYS necessary, but this time I remembered the trillion-dollar Madagascar vanilla beans hidden away in my pantry. I had been planning on using them for an extra-special recipe, but then I thought about it and decided that life is too short to let the vanilla beans hide away in a cupboard waiting for the perfect occasion. Every occasion is perfect; every recipe is special! (Please excuse the cheesiness.) In short, I used those vanilla beans and I used them good!
Back to the muffin adjustments…even though the second time I made them I had plenty of vanilla extract, I kept remembering how wonderful the first batch was with the vanilla bean seeds. There’s something so alluring about those little black flecks mixed into thick batter, and they add such incredible flavor. I still had half a bean left over from the original muffins so I scraped it clean and added those seeds right into the mixture! For the second batch I also reserved 1/2 a cup of blueberries to sprinkle on top right before baking so that they weren’t covered up with batter. I like to really see those dark juicy berries on top of the muffins, you know? Makes them more eye-catching.
All in all, I guess it wasn’t so bad to have all the first pictures erased. These muffins are totally worth making again and again. They’re some of the best darn blueberry muffins I’ve ever had…perfectly soft, sweet, moist, vanilla-y (if that’s even a word), and of course bursting with fresh blueberries. Now that I think of it, Sam’s word is the only evidence I have for the mysterious wipe-out of those first pictures…could it be that he was willing to tell a little white lie if it meant getting to eat more blueberry muffins? Perhaps we’ll never know.
Blueberry-Vanilla Bean Muffins
Makes 15-16 standard-size muffins
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs + 1 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature (place in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes to bring to room temp if you’re short on time)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
Seeds from half of a vanilla bean (or substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1 & 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not thaw)
Extra sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease or line 15-16 cups in a muffin tin and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth. Whisk in the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla beans (or vanilla) into the egg mixture until well-combined.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir gently, just until no flour streaks remain. Be careful not to over-mix! Batter will be thick and slightly lumpy. Fold in the blueberries, reserving 1/2 cup.
Evenly spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling almost to the top (again, you will have 15-16 muffins). Top with remaining blueberries and sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired. Bake for 5 minutes, then decrease the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 13-15 minutes. When the tops bounce back lightly when touched and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, take the muffins out of the oven.
Let the muffins cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then carefully remove to a cooling rack. Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
(Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)