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June 29, 2011

The Alternative Blueberry Muffin

by Anne Paddock

Blueberry muffins are one of those all American breakfast foods that should be included in a patriotic cliché similar to the 1970’s jingle “As American as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie.”  But, somehow “As American as sports, meat, and muffins” doesn’t sound that great. We are a nation somewhat obsessed with sports, meat, and muffins but being reminded of that doesn’t always make us feel great about ourselves.

A few years ago, my husband and I were skiing in Switzerland.  We stopped for lunch at a restaurant on the mountain and shared a table with a Swiss couple because the seating was limited and unspoken Swiss efficiency rules dictate that tables are to be shared in restaurants catering to skiers during busy meal times. Within a few minutes we were talking about ski conditions, the roaring fire from the fireplace warming us, and the delicious soup of the day. When the conversation turned to sports, the Swiss gentleman turned to us and said “what is it about you Americans, you are either very fit and sporty or obese...”

We were a bit taken aback by Mr. Forthrightness but chalked up his candor to curiosity and perception.  I wanted to say “what is it about you Swiss, you are either always correct or claiming you are correct…” but I thought better to move on and enjoy the day.  I have thought about that conversation though and realized there may be a little bit of truth in his generalization.  I keep reading that two out of three Americans are overweight.  America is filled with fast food restaurants that sell food high in calories, fat, sodium, and sugar. But the blame shouldn’t be placed solely on the fast food chains as they wouldn’t be in business if we didn’t exercise our freedom of choice and patronize these outlets.  We have to consider the choices we make, the processed foods we buy and eat along with the ingredients we use to make our meals.

It’s easy to go anywhere in America – a coffee store, local bakery, grocery store, diner, or restaurant – and find a blueberry muffin. A distant cousin of the cupcake, blueberry muffins are usually considered a healthier choice than a cupcake but this is not always the case.  The nutritious content all depends on the ingredients. Many blueberry muffins contain too much fat, sugar, and calories.

canstockphoto4117783An informative resource for nutritional information on fresh foods, grocery store products, and food served in restaurants is a website called www.caloriecount.com.  There are thousands of blueberry muffins sold throughout the country but below is a short list of the most popular ones (with the respective portion size if available) along with their calorie and fat content, as reported on www.caloriecount.com.

Starbucks (101 grams): 380 calories 19 grams of fat
Au Bon Pan   (164 grams): 510 calories 19 grams of fat
Dunkin Donuts:   500 calories 16 grams of fat
Costco Kirkland (162 grams): 612 calories 32 grams of fat
Otis Spunkmeyer (64 grams): 230 calories 13 grams of fat
Sara Lee (120 grams) 430 calories 16 grams of fat
Trader Joe’s  (112 grams): 320 calories 10 grams of fat
Fresh Direct (114 grams): 390 calories 20 grams of fat
Hostess (170 grams): 620 calories 29 grams of fat

Wegman’s (130 grams): 410 calories 19 grams of fat

The best way to ensure the nutritiousness of a blueberry muffin is to make it yourself.  I like a blueberry muffin to be moist and tasty but not high in fat or calories. The recipe below is a variation of a Cooks Illustrated (www.cooksillustrated.com) recipe called “Best Blueberry Muffins” to reflect my preference for a low-fat blueberry muffin by substituting yogurt for sour cream.  I also reduced the amount of blueberries to obtain a more cake-like muffin.

canstockphoto0562387The recipe makes about 12 big blueberry muffins using a regular size muffin or cupcake pan. Each muffin has about 175 calories and approximately 5 grams of fat.  Not bad but the best thing about them is the taste. Moist and bursting with blueberries enrobed in a basic muffin batter, they are simple to make and delicious. Don’t use an electric mixer; instead use a spoon and don’t over mix the batter; gentleness will ensure a tender muffin.

Blueberry Muffins
2 cups of King Arthur Unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup of sugar
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter,melted and cooled (and 1/2 teaspoon of butter to grease the pan)
1 and 1/4 cups of Greek plain low-fat 2% yogurt
1 and 1/4 cups of fresh blueberries
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Use 1/2 teaspoon of butter to grease a non-stick regular sized cupcake pan.
  • Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  • Add the blueberries to the flour mixture and gently coat the berries.
  • In a separate medium bowl whisk the egg until blended and add sugar, whisking until blended.
  • Slowly add melted butter to the egg and sugar mixture and blend until combined.
  • Slowly add the yogurt and stir until blended.
  • Pour the liquid ingredients slowly into the flour mixture and gently fold for about 30 seconds, just until combined. The batter will be thick.
  • Spoon the batter into the greased muffin tin and bake for approximately 25 minutes until the muffins are a light golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  • Cool for 5 minutes and transfer to a serving plate.

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