- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 4, 2006

I’ve always thought of blueberry muffins as somewhat bland, lacking that elusive perkiness needed to awaken the palate. Believing strongly that breakfast food should wake you up and not put you back to sleep, I experimented with adding buttermilk (spunky and tart) and an enthusiastic dose of grated lemon zest to make the blueberries’ flavor pop. It worked.

You must try these, especially now that it’s blueberry season, and you can make them with the real thing, fresh from the market.

Few people would guess that blueberries are in the same family as azaleas and rhododendrons. Even fewer would guess that this seemingly simple little berry is probably more jam-packed (pardon the pun) with nutrients, especially antioxidants, than just about any other component of your fruit salad. But both of these things are true.

Blueberries might be diminutive, but they’re a nutritional giant, containing iron, vitamins A and C, fiber, carotenoids, antioxidants and anthocyanosides. There is a possibility that regular consumption of blueberries (some say cup a day) can reduce various signs of aging.

Blueberries are good for the eyes they have been shown to improve night vision and may also protect against cataracts and glaucoma. In addition to all this, folk medicine has it that blueberries are good for treating stomach ailments. What busy overachievers these little berries are, lucky for us.

Ripe blueberries should be plump, clean, dry, deeply colored and pleasantly tinged with a powdery complexion. Overripe berries will appear dull, soft, watery or moldy.

Don’t buy blueberries if their container is stained or leaking, as this usually indicates crushed or moldy berries within. Refrigerate the berries after buying them, but don’t wash them until just before use. Once chilled, blueberries will stay good for 10 days or a little longer.

They freeze well. Just spread them out on a tray and put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes, so they’ll freeze as separate units. Then transfer them to a sealable plastic bag and return them to the freezer. They’ll keep there for months.

Buttermilk blueberry muffins

Nonstick spray for the pan

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

to 2/3 cup sugar (the range of sugar allows you to make these sweeter or not, per your taste)

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (remember to grate the lemon zest before squeezing the juice)

1 cups buttermilk

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 large egg

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons ( stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen, undefrosted)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray 10 standard-sized (2-inch-diameter) muffin cups with nonstick spray. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and lemon zest in a medium-sized bowl.

Measure 1 cups buttermilk into a 4-cup liquid measure. Add the lemon juice, egg and vanilla, and beat gently with a fork or a small whisk until smooth. Slowly pour this mixture, along with the melted butter, into the dry ingredients.

Using a spoon or a rubber spatula, stir from the bottom of the bowl until the dry ingredients are all moistened. Carefully fold in the blueberries at the very end. Don’t overmix; a few lumps are OK.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. For smaller muffins, fill the cups about 4/5 of the way. For larger muffins, fill them even with the top of the pan. If you have extra batter, spray one or two additional muffin cups with nonstick spray and put in as much batter as you have.

Bake in the middle of the oven for to 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven, then remove the muffins from the pan and place them on a rack to cool. Wait at least 30 minutes before serving.

Makes about 10 medium-sized muffins.

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