When I was a child, my family belonged to a swim and tennis club. Behind the tennis courts, if you trekked – usually barefoot and in a wet bathing suit, mind you - through the thistle and sharp-edged weeds, you’d eventually come to a blueberry patch.
Each July, once word was out that the blueberries were ripe, we kids would sneak away from the pool to the patch, eating berries off the shrubs as though we were in a blueberry eating contest. We wouldn’t stop until our hands, and sometimes faces, were stained blue.
This small matter of being covered in blueberry stain rendered us a bit less stealth than we had hoped to be. Fortunately, most parents are happier to see their child gorge him or herself on fruit, rather than penny candy or the like.
The return of local blueberries is a reason to celebrate like a kid in a secret blueberry patch, and, while you might end up with a blue finger or two while eating these muffins, it’s a good, and generally tidy, way to stretch a pint of blueberries into 12 servings.
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
the zest and juice of one lemon (approximately 1/4 cup of juice)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 /2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pint blueberries, rinsed, picked through to remove suspect berries, stemmed as necessary
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the sugar and butter until it is creamed. Add the cream cheese until it is completely blended with the sugar and butter mixture. Add the eggs, one at a time, until they are incorporated into the batter, then add the zest and pour in the lemon juice. Mix until zest and juice are also incorporated.
Meanwhile, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl so that the baking powder and salt are evenly distributed, then add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix until the flour mixture has just been incorporated into the wet, then gently fold in the blueberries.
Folding in is just as it sounds: pour the berries into the mixing bowl, then, using a spoon or a spatula, move batter from the bottom of the mixing bowl to the top to cover the berries, mixing those batter-covered berries into the rest of the batter, and repeat until the berries are evenly distributed throughout the batter.
Using two spoons - one to scoop from the mixing bowl, and one to scrape into the muffin liners (as we have ourselves a very sticky batter) - transfer approximately equal amounts of batter to each of the 12 muffin liners.
Bake until the muffins are golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin emerges batter-free, 32 to 35 minutes. Allow the muffins to cool in the muffin pan for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack until they are completely cooled.
These muffins are good warm, but their true lemony character shines most brightly once they've cooled completely. No harm in trying 'em both ways just to be sure, though.