Muffins are simple and classic, but sometimes simple and classic are best. In the movie Casino (1995), directed by Martin Scorsese, there is a spot-on and hilarious scene about blueberry muffins. Why would there be a scene about blueberry muffins in a movie about a man, Sam Rothstein (Robert De Niro), who oversees the day-to-day operations of a casino in Las Vegas? It demonstrates that Sam pays attention to details “all the time,” and that he appreciates a quality blueberry muffin. During a meeting, he catches an overlooked detail and rants, “Look at how many blueberries your muffin has and how many mine has. Yours is falling apart, I have nothing. Like everything else in this place, if you don’t do it yourself it never gets done.” He then proceeds to go into the kitchen to tell the chef to put equal amounts of blueberries in each muffin. Priorities.
This scene is one to remember because don’t most of us feel this way? It’s a sad moment when you split open a muffin to find nothing but plain baked batter, the juicy purple round berries nowhere to be found. Having just started the pastry module in culinary school, Day One involved recipe testing blueberry muffins. After learning about chemical leaveners, flours, gluten, and the consequences of overmixing, I set out to make a go-to blueberry muffin that could be my weekend staple. I found it with this recipe, and it’s so easy. Using my newly acquired knowledge, I added enough leavener to make a muffin I always crave: fluffy, light, not too sweet, and golden on top with enough rise to create a delectable muffin top. And, most importantly – because the details are very important – I added enough blueberries that would satisfy anyone who feels the way Sam does when he opens a blueberry-less muffin.
'Falling Apart' Blueberry Muffins
1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature, or not. I used cold butter and my KitchenAid whipped it smooth in a few minutes)
1 cup granulated cane sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ milk (I used 2%)
2 cups fresh blueberries
Extra granulated cane sugar for sprinkling over the top of muffins
1. Preheat your oven to 375°F and line a muffin tin with paper liners.
2. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, whip on low speed the butter, sugar, and salt until smooth and combined.
3. Add eggs, one at a time until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla extract. When mixing, scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything gets incorporated. The mixture will look grainy.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Add the flour/baking powder mixture to the butter and sugar mixture, alternating with the milk (add half flour, all of milk, and the rest of flour). Mix on the lowest setting, until just combined. Don’t overmix, as this will overwork the gluten in the flour.
5. Add berries to the mixture and fold in with a spatula.
6. Scoop the mixture into the paper-lined muffin tin until a little more than ¾ full. Sprinkle the tops with cane sugar – the sugar will caramelize when baking and create a delicious layer of sweetness on top of each muffin.
7. Bake for 30 minutes (or until golden brown on top) in the oven. Cool or enjoy warm.
© A Dash of Cinema
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Food Images by Lauren Jessen