Fun Muffin music for you.
You guys know my Auntie Ev and Uncle Ray. You met them in the Chicken Noodle Soup Episode, and some of you may have read my tribute to them in my post Anniversaries and Alzheimer's. The Beloved and I go and visit together about once a month or so, and I generally get down there during the week to see them when my folks drive over from the Charlotte area. A couple of Wednesdays ago, I went down to see them and my parents, and Uncle Ray was in the end stages of making muffins. A delightful friend of theirs had come over to Supervise, but alas, she was either not Proficient in The Muffin Method or not up to the task of making Uncle Ray do it correctly. More likely the latter. The man needs a Strong Hand, I'm telling you. At any rate, they ended up with some impressively chewy muffins that kind of rose like bread. I told him not to worry, that The Beloved and I would be back down soon, and I would take him In Hand and help him make some Truly Excellent Muffins.
We were, and I did and they were, so I asked him if he'd like to write a Guest Post. And here we are. The rest is his story, except for Italicized Items--those are my notes:
Blueberry muffins have been a favorite of ours since our son's college days. (He is now 61 and I am 93, moldering away though not yet senile).
Our son went to Emerson college where he majored in theatre and communications. Will say with some pride that he today is quite a communicator and a very good actor, but not in the theatre world. When his Mom and I visited him in Boston we would stay at the Ritz Carlton Hotel which in that day was famous for its dining facilities. It was there that we were served with the most good looking and delicious blueberry muffins known to mankind, but when we asked for the recipe, we were told that it was almost a state secret and if they gave it to me, they would then have to assassinate me. Not yet having a death wish, we thanked them for their courtesy, left a minor tip, and gently stole into the night.
Lo and behold as they say in our hymnals, not more than one month later, the recipe appeared in the NYTimes which by virtue of some legerdemain, had procured said recipe and printed it in large bold type.
It now must be stated that I am neither cook nor chef and I have the kitchen dexterity of a rag doll, but suddenly I had the urge to create this delicacy as my dear wife Evelyn had done for many years. ( Not to be maudlin, but Evelyn now has Alzheimer's, and can no longer create kitchen works of art, so in memory of her better days I decided to step in the act.) My first attempt was fair (too much mixing, mainly), but certainly not great (I'm still chewing), so when Jenni heard that story, she asked if I would like her to step in and she would guide me through the shoals of proper Blueberry Muffin baking. I would have to be the class idiot to turn down such an offer, so just this past Saturday she and her Beloved graced our home with one of their visits, and I got all the fixin's to make the muffins (I brought the lemon and a Microplane). They turned out superbly and due solely to her (Very Stern) guiding and Julia Child's touches (and encouragement and in general good teacherliness) that they were Muffins of great style, appearance and most importantly TASTE. For those of you, proficient as I hear you are, I am outlining below the base recipe to which you should not substitute one smidgen of your own imagination, because you will break the spell and I might add, the Muffins. (Don't listen to him--we made some of our own additions as we went). Lots of good fortune and great tasting to you all.
The Ritz Carlton's Blueberry Muffins
3 and 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar plus two pinches of salt (a scant teaspoon)
5 eggs slightly beaten (Use large eggs) (Uncle Ray had purchased Jumbo Eggs, so we used 4 plus one of the yolks)
1/2 cup homogenized milk
5 ounces unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 or 5 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
Additional sugar for topping
Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Mix all dry ingredients together. Stir in eggs, milk and butter: Don't overmix. Jenni urges us (sternly) to fold not to mix. Carefully stir in berries.
Grease the tops of the muffin tins. Insert paper cups and spoon batter to the top of the paper cups. Sprinkle generously with sugar.
Reduce heat to 400 degrees F. Place muffin tins on middle shelf of oven. Bake about 25 minutes until muffins are golden brown. Remove from muffin tins and cool.
Should yield 15 large muffins. (We ended up with 21 regular-sized muffins).
Remember these muffins have been in flux for 35 years, ever since Charles Bonino, the executive chef who retired in 1971 decided he wanted to make a better muffin. The Ritz Carlton has been serving some version of this muffin since it opened in 1927.
Good fortune to you all, and may your muffins rise to the occasion.
Uncle Ray the Muffin Man
Need a refresher yourself? Here you go: The Muffin Method
So, there you have it, Uncle Ray's first hand account of the Importance of Using the Muffin Method when making Muffins. We added some lemon zest and a pinch or two of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg this time. The next time we go visit, we'll probably make some more, and I will quiz him on Proper Procedure. When he gets comfortable, maybe we can get Auntie Ev in on the action, putting the liners in the muffin cups and scooping the batter into them.
For those of you who can Handle It, here's some hard core muffin music courtesy of Frank Zappa.