Post updated with new photographs, June 25, 2017. Since I wrote this post, all three of these dear people have left us, but we keep their memory alive in so many ways. Thank you for visiting, and enjoy the Ritz Carlton Blueberry Muffins.
You guys know my Auntie Ev and Uncle Ray and Ev’s sister, Eileen. 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 Alzheimers. 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 Ritz Carlton blueberry 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.
Ev, Ray, and Eileen with us at our “pageant wedding” in October of 2002 in Winter Park, FL
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 of how we made the Ritz Carlton Blueberry Muffins, except for Italicized Parentheticals–those are my notes:
Ritz Carlton Blueberry Muffins
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.
Ritz Carlton Blueberry Muffins--Uncle Ray's favorite! Use one or the other optional ingredients, and honestly, they really need one or the other--the muffin batter, as written, is very neutral.
- 3 and 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 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
- zest of 1-2 lemons
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
Heat oven to 425F.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, leavening, sugar, and sea salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, melted and cooled butter and either of the optional ingredients (the vanilla or the lemon zest).
Pour the wet ingredients into the center of the dry ingredients and then plop in all but a handful of the blueberries.
Fold all together as evenly as you can. Work quickly and be thorough, but also be gentle. No stirring--just folding. It's a tall order, but you can do it. The batter will be very thick and scoopable, not pourable.
Scoop batter by 1/2 cups into 12 jumbo muffin cups lined with parchment muffin tin liners
Press a few blueberries into the top of each muffin and then sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of coarse sugar.
Turn oven down to 400F, and bake until golden brown with an internal temperature of about 195F-200F, about 25 minutes. If the muffins get too brown before the insides are done, cover with foil.
Cool in tins for 5 minutes and then remove to racks. Serve warm with a pat of butter.
Uncle Ray's Notes:
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
Muffins are always best eaten the day they are made. If you can't plow your way through a dozen or don't have folks to share with, freeze them airtight (I put them in zipper freezer bags and suck out all the air before sealing). They'll be fine for a couple of weeks. Only take out the muffin/s you're going to eat, thaw in the microwave for a few seconds and then split and heat in the toaster oven for 3-4 minutes.
The Sign of a Perfect Muffin
You will know you have performed the muffin method correctly if, when you slice a muffin in half from top to bottom and look at the crumb, you don’t see any “tunnels” or large holes. These are the tell-tale signs of gluten development–the tunnels form when air bubbles work their way up through the batter and the gluten “records their passage” by leaving tunnels. Ditto for large holes. Muffin crumb should be loose, fairly coarse, and even.
If your muffin recipe starts with “cream together butter and sugar,” you have made a muffin with the creaming method. And that, my friends, is a cupcake and will have a completely different crumb structure.
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 Ritz Carlton Blueberry Muffins (or any muffins). We added some lemon zest and a pinch or two of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg this time. The next time we can get Auntie Ev in on the action, putting the liners in the muffin cups and scooping the batter into them. (Sadly, we never did get Auntie Ev in on the action. Winter Leaves)
Auntie “‘Leenie” passed away on April 17. 2013. Uncle Ray left us to rejoin Auntie Ev on June 18, 2013. We miss all three of them very much.