When I first made gluten-free blueberry muffins, I was so happy to see them come out lovely that I photographed them and wrote them up as a recipe on this site immediately. I’m pretty sure the post was live before Danny and I had eaten all the muffins from that batch.
2007 feels like an extraordinarily long time ago now.
When I wrote that first recipe, Danny and I were living in an apartment in Seattle, madly in love and not yet married. I had just finished the first draft of my first book, but it wasn’t in the world yet. I took that photo with a little point and shoot camera, which I perched right above the sparkling crystals of raw sugar on top of that muffin. I edited that photo with the tools that came with Flickr, rudimentary and revolutionary at the time. After Danny and I lolled together that morning, he went to work at a restaurant, not home again until nearly midnight. I had the entire day to myself to write.
How much has changed since then? Everything, everything.
Next month will be our 7th anniversary of living on Vashon, this rural island that sidles to the west side of Seattle. Now, when we go into the city for the day, we’re longing to go back to our little town by the evening. That’s partly due to the exhaustion of spending the day in the city with our two children, who are the whirling dervish center of our lives and provide us with almost no free time to ourselves, either alone or with each other. I still write all day, but more emails and business missives than the stories I love to tell. I’ve written and published 4 books in 8 years. (Holy hell. That’s crazy.) I took these photos with a giant DSLR I never dreamed of owning, then edited them in Lightroom, which I’m only starting to understand after years of fiddling. The most exasperating part of my job — and probably still my favorite — is how much I learn, all the time, every day, every hour on the hour. There are tools that exist now that need my attention — like Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or email marketing services or online subscription services — that either didn’t exist in 2007 or were barely born. Every day, I feel like a beginner. My favorite change is that Danny is no longer in a restaurant. In March, it will be 4 years since he worked on the line, late hours laughing and living off adrenaline and four shots of espresso. He’s only now starting to see himself as something else than a chef. We go to bed too late for our tired minds, since we insist on staying up a little past the kids to watch an hour of our favorite show of the moment. Still, we’re in bed by 10 pm most nights, happy to be talking out the day after nearly 10 years together.
There has been a quiet revolution around here.
Of course, therefore, these gluten-free blueberry muffins are different than the ones I made in 2007. Not that much, but enough to reflect our lives now.
I’ve written about this before, but I’m of two minds when it comes to this site. One part of me wants to leave all the posts alone, as a record of who I have been, recipes and all. Another part of me knows that people come to certain recipes from Google, not knowing who we are or the story that has been evolving here for nearly 11 years. They come here looking for cookies. They make the recipe from 2005 or 2010. Maybe they like it. Maybe they don’t. But one thing is sure — those old recipes don’t have the depth of baking knowledge I have today, after all this time. I would never post a recipe after making it only once these days. So there’s a strong part of me that wants to edit every old recipe.
(Most of me knows that would mean no movement forward. Through inertia, the nostalgic part of me wins, most of the time.)
My compromise? I’m taking old recipes that most people want to make, like the one for gluten-free blueberry muffins from 2007, and making them again now, the way I would with more understanding in my hands. Consider this the first in a series of updated recipes.
What have I done differently this time? For one, I don’t use butter in my muffins anymore. I found, through trial and error, that butter makes gluten-free cakes and muffins more dense than oil does. For the last couple of years, I’ve used coconut oil instead of butter, and I will still use it now for decadent treats. But for everyday baked goods, I like the taste of olive oil now. Since so much of extra-virgin olive oil from Italy isn’t really pure, we’re not fussy anymore. Long ago, we stopped using olive oil for finishing only. If the taste of the olive oil isn’t too assertive, it makes a great baking oil.
Once you start playing with flours, you start playing with fats too. Now, I can’t imagine putting anything in a recipe without consciously knowing why I am doing it.
And sweeteners. We don’t do high-fructose corn syrup here. And I’m not a big fan of bleached white sugar. However, I don’t fool myself into thinking that I’m eating muffins better for my health if I use honey or maple sugar instead of white sugar. After doing a lot of reading and talking with people I trust, I’m come to know this: for its effect on the body, a sweetener is a sweetener. Muffins are still treats around here. Now I choose a sweetener for the taste and how it will play with the other ingredients. I love the caramel dark sweetness of coconut sugar, especially how its softness mingles with the assertiveness of olive oil. These blueberry muffins end up only faintly sweet, which is how we like them.
You, however, might like a much sweeter muffin. Use another sweetener instead. That’s another thing I know now: recipes are really only a guide, a call to action, a chance to make something your own.
Finally, I used a new trick to make these muffins, something that makes them more like little soufflés than grocery-store muffins. The other day, Kristen Miglore, whose genius recipe column for Food52 I adore, wrote about a fluffy pancake recipe that uses egg whites in a new way. Using a recipe from Dana Velden, whose meditative column about being in the kitchen I also adore, Kristen made fluffy pancakes by simply adding room-temperature egg whites to a batter at the end. Not whipped egg whites, folded into the batter. Simply separated egg whites, as the last ingredient. I skipped the pancakes and went right to the muffins.
(I also know so many more people who love to cook and eat, hundreds and hundreds more than I did in 2007. I’m so very grateful for this community of kindreds.)
Thanks to that trick and an oven set to 425° for the first 8 minutes of baking, these blueberry muffins have the highest loft of any muffins I’ve ever made. They have a little cap of crust, slumped and looking craggy, and a custardy inside like a good soufflé. I can go back to the old muffins any time I want. I think these are the ones that will be in our kitchen, for now.
Who knows what next year will bring?
gluten-free blueberry muffins
420 grams (3 cups) gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup coconut sugar
115 grams (8 tablespoons) olive oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole-milk yogurt
1 cup blueberries (frozen is fine)
Prepare to bake. Heat the oven to 425°. Line a standard-size muffin tin with liners. (Or, be sure to grease the tin with plenty of oil or butter.)
Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and nutmeg in a bowl. Set aside.
Combine the liquid ingredients. Put the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the mixer running on low with the paddle attachment, drizzle in the oil. Mix them together until they are one color and fluffy. With the mixer still running, add the eggs, one at a time, making sure that all visible signs of the first egg have disappeared before adding the next. Add the vanilla extract and mix.
Finish the batter. With the mixer running, add 1/3 of the flour mixture. Follow with 1/2 of the yogurt. When all the yogurt has been mixed into the batter, add another 1/3 of the flour. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat until everything is added and the batter is one consistent color. Add the egg whites and mix until they have disappeared into the batter. Turn off the mixer. Add the blueberries and fold them into the batter with a rubber spatula.
Bake the muffins. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filing each liner 3/4 full. Sprinkle the raw sugar evenly over the top of the muffins. Bake the muffins for 8 minutes, then turn down the heat to 375°. Bake until the muffins are lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 10 to 15 minutes.
Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then flip them on their sides in the muffin tin (see photo above) and let them cool for another 15 minutes, then remove them to a cooling rack.
You should have enough batter left over to make a few more muffins. Repeat the same baking process with the remaining batter.
Makes 10 to 15 muffins, depending on the size of your muffin liners.
Feel like playing? You can switch out the coconut sugar for white sugar or brown sugar. The texture and tastes will be different each time but they’ll all be good. You could use melted coconut oil or vegetable oil in place of the olive oil, for a silkier taste. You could even try ghee, if you want. Of course, any fruit would do here in place of the blueberries. Eggs? Well, I haven’t tried making these without eggs, so I wouldn’t know how to make these muffins without them. However, I’d probably try a little whipped aguafaba first….