My family has made the same blueberry muffins for Father’s Day since before I was old enough to be responsible for anything more than writing my name in crayon at the bottom of a joint kid card. It’s one of just two family traditions we abide by.
Every Saturday morning dating back to when my parents lived in an apartment near Philadelphia’s South Street, my dad has gone to the Reading Terminal Market for breakfast and grocery shopping. Usually my mom goes too, but the real consistency is in his singular devotion, even through 30 years in the suburbs. Since I ended up at college in Philly, I spent most Saturdays of my first 22 years at the Terminal. So there’s that—memories and meaningful conversation, a sort of initiation ceremony for others of increasing significance—and then there are the muffins.
Otherwise, my family has no time for traditions. We don’t even put the Christmas tree in the same spot every year. I like this. To me it feels like the perfect blend of pragmatism and capriciousness. You’d think a pair of lawyers would put a lot of stock in precedent, but (to their credit) my parents are more concerned about a well-argued case for change.
All of this is just to say: If these muffins were anything less than spectacular, we would have stopped making them a long time ago.
(When I called my parents to ask them for the recipe, they admitted the cookbook in question—which by now surely would have naturally sprung open to the blueberry muffin page if not for the decades of sticky splatters forming a crusty mortar—had gone missing. Attempts to replace it had been thwarted by the book’s Spartan and nonspecific title: Muffins. I say this not to mock them but because it took maybe five minutes to track it down and order a new one. The moral of this story is that if you’ve yet to acquire a Father’s Day gift, you can maybe capitalize on a generational gap in Google savvy to replace a missing beloved book.)
If feasible, you should go to his home this weekend and make these muffins for a dad or dad-like figure in your life before he even awakens. (I mean, don’t startle him. Tell him you’re coming, and then surprise him with the muffins.) Doing so will allow you to turn what is certainly less than $15 worth of groceries into a token that approaches the appropriate annual appreciation for all that a good dad does for you. And, look, you don’t even have to wake up that early. Prep time here is like, 20 minutes, tops, and if Dad happens to wake up to the smell of muffins baking, well, all the better for him.
Unfortunately, baking, as opposed to cooking, does not forgive ambiguous instructions. So, as much as I’d like to be able to tell you to throw a handful of tasty ingredients in a bowl and just allow them to become greater than the sum of their parts, we’re going to need some measurements:
1 stick of butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (mash 1/2 cup with fork)
2 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
some brown sugar
You are advised to have both the butter and the eggs at room temperature, which will require more forethought than can reasonably be applied to a weekend breakfast. Getting the butter to be not-cold is more important than getting the eggs to be not-cold, so just take out the butter first, chop it into little pieces with more surface area than the stick had, and let it ruminate while you gather the other ingredients. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and put those cute little foil liners in 12 muffin cups. You can also mash the half a cup of extra blueberries at this time. This is a super crucial step that distinguishes these blueberry muffins from other blueberry muffins. The mush, while sort of grey and putrid-looking, infuses all of the batter with blueberry goodness and ensures that inevitably sunken full berries are not the only fruity flavor in the muffin.
As you slice the butter, you’ll want to put the pieces right into the bowl of a stand mixer (and you’ll definitely want a stand mixer, because a stand mixer is a wonderful thing, but if you’re using a hand mixer, put the butter into a bowl large enough to eventually house all the ingredients). Beat the butter on high until whatever point you usually stop if you’ve been advised to beat butter until creamy. Beat in the sugar, and then the eggs, then vanilla, baking power, and salt. Adjust the speed as necessary, but don’t get bogged down in trying to finesse this too much—you’re just mixing everything together.
Use a little more care with the flour, milk, and blueberries. With a big spoon or spatula, stir in the mashed berries. Then fold in half the flour, then half the milk, then the other half of the flour, then the rest of the milk. In addition to making this whole process seem more precise, the extra steps ensure that the flour and milk are evenly distributed without over mixing. Add the whole berries to mixture, and you’re ready to distribute into the muffin tins.
Here’s the second crucial step: Once all the batter is in the muffin tin, make a mixture of brown sugar and nutmeg—about a tablespoon of sugar and a very healthy half a teaspoon of nutmeg—and sprinkle it on the top of each uncooked muffin. The original recipe calls for white sugar and less nutmeg—and you can probably use cinnamon if you’re a monster who doesn’t like the flavor of nutmeg—but regardless of particular adaptations, this sweet and spicy concoction creates the crust that transforms these muffins into extra delicious, basically-dessert piles of sweetened carbs.
After that you just have to bake them, in your preheated-to-375 oven, for 25-30 minutes. The recipe says that they should cool for another half an hour, and they should, if you want to be able to remove the liner and be left with a clean, fully-intact muffin. But they taste just as good warm too, if you can’t wait. And your dad will probably appreciate the effort either way.