When Life Hands You Tornadoes, Make Blueberry Muffins

Tornado

On a sultry summer afternoon, just before the clouds rolled in and the sirens wailed and that maple tree in our backyard suddenly became our neighbor’s, a storm of an entirely different sort was brewing in my kitchen. My wife, who is a significantly better mother than meteorologist, began to bake muffins from scratch as an after-school snack for our kids, entirely unaware that the storm of the decade was advancing like a giant rolling pin from the west. What she was aware of as the wind began to pick up was that some of the ingredients she needed for her most cherished recipe were not on the shelf, while a couple others were irrefutably over the hill.

Apparently, when life hands you tornadoes, you make slightly different muffins. As near as my wife can recall, the muffins that resulted from the “recipe” that follows were awaiting my sopping wet babes when they stumbled through the front door shortly after our house was surrounded by twisters. It’s a muffin that is, in equal parts, a mother’s tenacious love and a good cook’s high-wire resourcefulness. It’s not a recipe for the faint of heart. However, not only is it not necessary to follow this recipe to the letter, it would probably be truer to the spirit of the recipe if you didn’t. Whether you eat them in brooding darkness by candlelight is entirely up to you.

Step 1. Notice the sideways trees and preheat the oven to 400°F.

Step 2. Process the news that your kids’ school is closing early and whisk together 3 cups of flour, which is not quite enough, plus 1/2 cup of wheat flour to make it so. Add 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 1/2 cups of finely ground almonds in place of the pecans you don’t have that the original recipe is imagining you do.

Step 3. While a 300-year-old oak is crashing into your friend’s sunroom, casually crack 3 large eggs into a large bowl and whisk. Slowly add 3/4 cup of sugar and keep whisking until it’s a pale yellow color. Like the sky.

Step 4. As something wicked this way comes, whisk in 1 cup of cold milk (or 1/2 cup of milk plus 1/2 cup of yogurt, if that’s all you happen to have), and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Stir in 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Feel the pull of maple syrup and add 2 tablespoons now.

Step 5. Admire how the air-raid sirens can be clearly heard over the wind that’s playing your house like a harmonica. Blithely add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir. When nearly mixed, fold in 2 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries.

Step 6. To a vision of groundwater rising in your sump pump, carefully spoon the batter into the well-buttered cups of a muffin tin.

Step 7. By the light of snapping power lines, calmly slide the muffins into the oven.

Step 8. Abruptly notice the time and the raging tempest outside. Put two and two together. Leap into your car to rescue your kids and four of their soaked, screaming friends, all of whom appear as though they’ve gone through a carwash. If you can arrange it, completely lose power in your house at about this time.

Step 9. Arrive home. Wrap your kids in big bath towels. Light some candles and suddenly remember those muffins that you put in the oven awhile ago.

Step 10. To your utter astonishment, remove 6 inexplicably perfect muffins from the oven. Serve them warm, by candlelight. As the storm passes and you pass around the cold milk or hot tea with honey, by all means, count your blessings.
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Blueberry-Pecan Muffins

The above muffin recipe that fought off impending doom—or at least my wife’s awareness of impending doom–while also making a tasty snack for our kids was adapted in more ways than one. The original recipe upon which it is based appears in Once Upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau. It makes dense yet delicate blueberry muffins with a crunchy pecan and oat topping, Note that this was the one and only time that Amy actually didn’t make the topping. Weather permitting, you should.–Jimmy Schwartz

LC Some Blueberries With Your Muffin? Note

In case you’re one of those types who just can’t seem to get enough blueberries, this recipe makes a ginormous muffin bursting with sweet, nutty berries. If, on the other hand, you’re the type who prefers a more modest-size muffin–one that’s still bursting with berries, mind you–go ahead and make this muffin recipe in a regular-size muffin tin. Still can’t get enough blueberries? Add an extra handful to the batter. And don’t call us in the morning.

Blueberry-Pecan Muffins Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • 50 M
  • Makes 8 ginormous or 24 standard muffins

Ingredients

  • For the pecan topping
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pecans, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats, whole or pulsed in a blender
  • For the batter
  • 11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature; plus more for smearing the muffin tins
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely ground pecans (they should be finely chopped, like a coarse nut flour; they need to be so small that when you bite into the muffin, you shouldn’t know there are nuts in it)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups (1 pint plus a handful) fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried

Directions

  • 1. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Smear 8 big (we mean oversize in a big way) or 24 standard-size muffin pans with butter.
  • Make the pecan topping
  • 2. Stir all of the topping ingredients together in a small bowl.
  • Make the batter
  • 3. Whisk the flour, ground pecans, baking powder, and salt together in a medium-size bowl. In a separate, big bowl, whisk the eggs to break up the yolks. Still whisking with one hand, pour in the sugar with the other. Continue to whisk for a few minutes, until the eggs begin to pale in color. Whisk in the milk, vanilla, and melted butter.
  • 4. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring gently with a wooden spoon. When there is still a little flour visible, gently stir in the blueberries, taking care not to break them up any more than is inevitable.
  • 5. Scoop the batter up with a wooden or metal spoon and, using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter off the spoon into the cups of the muffin tin, filling each almost to the top. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the muffins. You may want to wipe any excess topping off the pan so you won’t have to scrub burnt sugar from the tin after baking.
  • 6. Bake the muffins for 35 to 40 minutes if making ginormous muffins or about 20 minutes if making standard-size muffins, until a toothpick or a small knife inserted deep into the center of a muffin comes out clean. No matter what size your muffins, they ought to have risen over the edges of the muffin tin and the topping should be golden.
  • 7. Remove the tin from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Let the muffins sit in the tin for a few minutes until they’re cool enough to touch. Then flip the tin upside down and let the muffins fall out onto the wire rack. Turn them right side up and try to stop at just one.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Jimmy Schwartz

About Jimmy Schwartz

Jimmy Schwartz is a freelance commercial writer as well as a food-loving, composting, chicken-raising, organic-gardening, mushroom-foraging, cancer-surviving, sustainably living, dedicated husband and awestruck father of two living in a sturdy brick house in the Midwest. In many ways, the luckiest man alive.

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Elie Nassar

Aug 30, 2012

This made for a perfectly sturdy and not too sweet muffin. That’s exactly how I like muffins, so this recipe worked great for me. (I made Amy’s version of the muffin.) The addition of ground almonds contributes to a nice crumbly texture, but the blueberries ensure that it’s not too dry. The combination of ground almonds and blueberries really works great together, sort of like frangipane and fruit in a nice tart.

Testers Choice
Sita Krishnaswamy

Aug 30, 2012

These muffins are very delicious and moist for such a dense batter. The pecan flour definitely adds another nutty and sweet dimension, and the pecan topping perfectly balances the tartness of the blueberries. I ground the pecans in the food processor and had some extra which I think will freeze well. I used a standard 12-cup cupcake pan. The batter made 2 dozen muffins and I baked them in 2 batches, each at 400F for 20 minutes. I’m going to freeze one batch and see how that works out. I’m also tempted to freeze the batter.

Testers Choice
Cindy Zaiffdeen

Aug 30, 2012

These muffins are quite dense, very moist, and not very sweet—in other words, perfect! I followed the original recipe exactly, using 1 cup of milk. I used my food processor to grind the pecans; just be careful not to let it go too long or you’ll have pecan butter (nothing wrong with that, though!). I wasn’t sure that there was enough batter to fill 8 large muffin cups, but there was. The topping adds an extra bit of sweetness and is very easy to put together, so I recommend doing that. Surprisingly, if you didn’t know there were nuts in the muffins, you wouldn’t be able to tell by the texture. The muffins were excellent fresh and the next day too. I would definitely make this recipe again.

Comments
Comments
  1. Dianne Jacob says:

    Brilliant. Loved the suspense in the lead, the tight writing and timing, and the happy ending. More, please.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Lovely to hear that you found it to be brilliant, Dianne. Thanks for saying so. And as for “More, please.”? Those were exactly my words to the writer, Dianne. Exactly. Stay tuned….

    • David Leite says:

      Wow, quite a compliment coming from you. I think James should be quite content.

    • Jimmy Schwartz says:

      Thanks for your generous appraisal, Dianne. A terrific birthday present. js

  2. Sofia says:

    I must say I reread this a few times and all I could think of was the closest I came to a tornado back in Iowa and how I was immensely scared. I cannot even imagine going through the experience above…yet I loved every second of the writing and cannot wait to make this recipe in a calm setting.

    • Jimmy Schwartz says:

      Two things come to mind thanks to your nice note, Sofia. First, taste memories are powerful. There are any number of delicious choices Amy could have considered baking that afternoon, but this terrific muffin is now indelibly etched in our experience. My other thought is how often adversity brings out the best in people. So many great foods owe their existence to difficult times. Another substantial topic courtesy of a great, humble muffin and your kind response. Definitely make these! –JS

  3. Martha in KS says:

    Being a lifelong resident of the Land of Oz, I found Jimmy’s storytelling familiar and suspenseful. I, too, have done normal things while sirens blared, just because there was no way I was going to the spider-filled cellar unless things got dangerous. Glad all turned out well for his family, as it has so far with mine. To Blueberry Muffins—Long May They Rise! BTW, this week I made my favorite BBM recipe subbing Bing cherries I’d frozen, and they were fabulous.

    • David Leite says:

      Dorothy, I was just waiting for you to chime in! I knew you would. I should have bet Renee $100.

    • Jimmy Schwartz says:

      Hi Martha,

      Thanks for your charming and empathetic note and also for sharing the image I now have of you debating the storm-versus-the-spidery-cellar option. Never easy. May the big winds keep missing your house and–if God could see fit–may they blow one of those cherry muffins my way. They sound amazing! –JS

  4. Jamie says:

    Beautiful, gripping, loving story. One that pulled me in and made me wish for a wild storm to surround my home just so I can make these muffins. Agree with Dianne – more, please.

    • Jimmy Schwartz says:

      On one hand, Jamie, you are supposed to seek shelter when the clouds are trying to kill you. On the other hand, these muffins are so good! Please use your best judgment and thanks for your amazing note. –JS

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