March 20, 2011

baking is an exercise

I have quite some lemons from our lemon tree, and I also saw some delicious looking blueberries the other day and bought them. I thought I'd make some blueberry muffins (which always seem to call for lemon zest). Though the best blueberry muffin recipe have been found (look here, it is from America's Test Kitchen), and we all enjoy it very much, I still had to look for a new recipe to try. It is a very bad habit of mine, this need to try something new. I also wanted to try to make it gluten-free. We do not need to eat gluten-free, but from what I've read, I do feel it'd make good sense to not rely on gluten-laden goods all the time. Plus, I have friends who eat gluten-free and want to be able to offer something from time to time.

I looked and looked and finally settled on this recipe I found at dinner with Julie. I used Bob's Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free mix, and sour cream instead of yogurt. I found it curious that the recipe stated that you should not beat the mixture in an electric mixer or the muffins will not rise, but then almost all muffin recipes I have made were mixed by hand. However, this one calls for butter and not oil. When I had the ingredients in the mixing bowl, I had no idea how I could "cream" them with a spatula. But then I remembered my Home Economics cooking classes from two decades ago! Oh, what memories! Paired by two's, our class of girls learned to bake and cook in a kitchen supervised by a very prim and proper teacher, whose dress is always starched, her hair each and every strand ever in place, and she would maintain a smile on her face even when she was angry at us. While we cooked she would walk around, chiding us for not wiping down the counter-tops right away, and muttering about the sinks being dirty. I was not her star student then, nope. But I remember this creaming method that she talked about. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, we scrapped (or smeared) the butter against the side of the bowl, scrap it up again, and continued with the smear and scrap movement.

This smear-and-scrap movement seemed to be what that creaming is about. It takes arm strength. Every time I have to make a recipe like this (or whip up a small amount of egg whites or heavy cream in a bowl), I think of women in the pre-electricity day and their buffed arms -- that keeps me going as I try to hold back the tears. At least I exercised my arms while baking! Now that arm exercise does not stop with the creaming part. As you add the flour the batter gets really stiff and you will be kicking up your arm exercise a notch (no whining allowed). I was a bit alarmed at how the batter looked by the time it was almost done, as it very much resembled a bread dough and I was afraid the muffins will turn out tough. They turned out fluffy and had a nice chewiness to it. The girls enjoyed it very much and told me they could really taste the lemon in it too.

Other things I will improve upon next time: smooth out the batter after placing them in the muffin cups. I didn't and though I don't mind a tousled look in my baked goods, this caused some of the parts to get overly brown.I will also watch it a bit closer, and check the muffins before 25 minutes. Because of the sugar topping, it can get burned and we had a few burned spots. Other than that, this is a yummy gluten-free recipe.

Gluten-free Lemon Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from dinner with Julie who adapted from Gluten Free Girl

  • 10 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • grated zest of a lemon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups Bob's Red Mill All-purpose gluten-free mix
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ cups sour cream
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (you can use frozen ones too, without thawing)
  • sugar for sprinkling
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest together with a spatula. (smear the butter against the side of the bowl, scrap it up, and smear again, until everything is well-mixed and looks creamy. The sugar should have worked well into the butter.)
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each.
  4. Add a cup of the flour along with the baking powder, soda and salt, and mix well. Add half the sour cream and stir until combined, then another third of the flour, the rest of the sour cream and the rest of the flour.Batter will be rather stiff!
  5. Fold in the blueberries.
  6. Divide the batter among muffin tins that have been lined with paper liners or sprayed with nonstick spray, filling them, and smoothing the tops, somehow. (You’ll get about 16-18 muffins.) Sprinkle the tops with sugar and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch.


  1. They look delicious. Your pictures look great

  2. Thanks! I feel I can do a lot better and hope to improve over time.