03_05_magnoliabook.jpgThe Magnolia Bakery Cookbook: Old-Fashioned Recipes from New York's Sweetest Bakery, by Jennifer Appel and Allysa Torey (Simon & Schuster)

Back during the fat-free craze of the early '90s, Gothamist used to make lots of very-low-fat muffins, where the fat source was replaced with apple sauce, resulting in a not-so-delicious (yet seemingly healthful) treat. But when the anti-carb brigade came along next, we learned of the ills of refined starches and sugars, and that they could not be described as healthy at all. However, after years of trial-and-error from-scratch baking, we've come to learn the most important lesson of all: forget about diets and nutrition--how does the cake/cookie/muffin taste?

We now see the futility in denying the fact that a muffin is essentially a cupcake in disguise. But why not indulge the muffin desire every once in awhile with a real muffin, that uses butter, buttermilk, fresh berries, eggs, etc.? That's where Magnolia Cafe's cookbook comes in. Because while they may be known for their cupcakes, Magnolia actually provides the entire nostalgia-driven, like-grandma-used-to-make baked good experience, including pies, muffins, and the like.

With spring right around the corner, Gothamist decided to make blueberry muffins. Sure, blueberries aren't in season yet (and are therefore rather expensive) but these muffins will tide us over until we can go to the farmers market and find locally grown blueberries. With the hint of vanilla flavor and the creaminess of six tablespoons' worth(!) of butter in them, these muffins turned out to be a fluffy delight. The only thing we might try differently next time is to use a mix of brown and white sugar instead of all white (for a touch of a caramelizing flavor and color) and a bit of lemon zest, which always complements blueberries.

What's your favorite type of muffin?

Blueberry Muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (for sprinkling) sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups blueberries, lightly coated with flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease well a 12-cup muffin tin.

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, making a well in the center. Stir in the liquid ingredients until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Batter may be lumpy. Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.

Fill the muffin cups about three-quarters full. Lightly sprinkle with the reserved tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 20-22 minutes until lightly golden or a cake tester inserted into center of muffin comes out with moist crumbs attached. Do not overbake.

Makes 12 muffins.