Not only is Christmas nearly upon us, but my husband and I have also just moved in to a new house. In fact, I just did the final walk-through and turned in the keys on the old apartment this morning. And then I came home and threw myself in to the kitchen. I’ve been baking all afternoon. And my feet are killing me.

The week before we moved, Jim said he wanted to bake (or, wanted me to bake) something to take to our new neighbors’ houses by way of introducing ourselves and making a favorable impression. I said I’d think about what we could do, and we’d do it just before Christmas (giving ourselves a couple of weeks to move in before having to throw ourselves on the neighbors too). Well this past Sunday it snowed bucketsful, and Jim got the chance to meet and introduce himself to the men of the neighborhood (they were all out shoveling together). An hour or so later, the doorbell rang and it was our neighbor-on-the-diagonal on the doorstep, with a basket of holiday desserts (2 of everything: decorated snowmen and Christmas-tree cookies, brownies, and chocolate chip cookies). Now, I’m a firm believer in never returning an empty goody basket, so I immediately started thinking about what to fill the basket with for returning it. I suppose I could have made cookies, or brownies, but clearly my neighbors already had made these things, and probably had some for themselves too. Or, like us, had received plenty of chocolate chip cookies and other sweet snacks from friends, family, and neighbors.

I don’t know how I thought of it at first, but the answer quickly came to me: homemade blueberry muffins. Specifically, the recipe Nigella gives in her book How to Be a Domestic Goddess.
photo by Rachel

I decided we couldn’t make muffins only for the neighbors who’d already sent something over; we should also take muffins to the neighbors on either side of our house, some whom we have met and some of whom we haven’t. So that would be three batches of Nigella’s blueberry muffins, correct?

Well, might as well make four batches. We should have some for ourselves too.

More thoughts about blueberry muffins (and the recipe itself) after the jump.

So while I was mixing and making and baking those four batches of muffins, and chatting via text and BlackBerry Messenger with my mom and my best friend about said muffins, it occurred to me why my baked good of choice for sharing with our neighbors was blueberry muffins; and it was a chance remark from my mom that made me realize it.

“Those look just like the muffins Dad is going to make Friday morning!”

Background info: Ever since I was little, and I’m thinking I can remember this back to when we lived in North Dakota, so loooong time ago, on Saturday mornings and on Christmas, my dad and I have gotten up before Mum and made breakfast (usually boxed muffin mix, sometimes cinnamon rolls from the refrigerated section). A few years ago for Christmas, I sent my dad a dozen silicon muffin cups, and had Mum give him the package on Christmas Eve. My family never opens presents on Christmas Eve, but on that occasion I demanded it because I knew that Christmas morning, he’d be up making muffins and brewing coffee before anyone else was up, and could use the gift. Probably blueberry muffins; we are Mainers at heart after all and very rarely go with any other flavor. So anyway, my mom’s comment this afternoon reminded me that Dad would be making muffins come Christmas morning. Probably blueberry muffins.

A batch of muffins later (OK, so I’m not quick on the uptake today) another thought occurred to me. I am probably making blueberry muffins for our neighbors because in my world, you HAVE to have blueberry muffins on Christmas morning. It’s a rule. And this is my way of keeping up the tradition my dad and I started when I was little. And also, not overloading my neighbors on sweets. I mean, everybody makes cookies and brownies and special sweet holiday treats at Christmastime — who makes blueberry muffins??!??

Four batches later, and I can recite the recipe by memory.

Nigella’s Blueberry Muffins

6 Tbsp butter
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp buttermilk*
1 large egg (room temperature as always)
7 oz blueberries**

*One of the small half-liters of buttermilk is about as much as you need for four batches of muffins. Ask me how I know.

**Because it is the dead of winter, I couldn’t find fresh blueberries to save my life. So I went with frozen. If you use frozen berries as well, you don’t have to thaw them before using them (and in fact you’re better off if you don’t). I also used about a cup, or 8 oz.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over very low heat, then take off the heat and set aside to cool a little while you prepare the dry ingredients.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, like a large measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, the egg, and the melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients in to the dry and, with a wooden spoon, incorporate the wet and dry. Do not overmix because the trick to fluffy muffins is not beating the batter to death. Lumps are just fine and, in fact, welcome. When the batter is incorporated, fold in the blueberries. Be careful not to squish the berries. Once again, don’t overmix. Spoon the finished muffin batter in to a prepared regular-size muffin tin. If you have an ice cream scoop, I find that that is the perfect size for filling muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes. By then, the muffins should have risen and become slightly golden across the top. If a cake tester or a bamboo skewer inserts cleanly, you’re done. Remove from the oven, cool in the tin for a few minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to complete the cooling. Then package however you like and send over to the neighbors!

Note: For easier muffin-making early in the early morning, you can prep the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients separately the night before, the dry in a plastic-covered mixing bowl and the wet (minus the butter) in a covered measuring cup or pitcher, and store both in your refrigerator. In the morning, just melt the butter, combine the wet and dry ingredients, scoop, and go.

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