Based on “Blackwood Hall Muffins” by Carolyn Keene
When I was a child, one of my favorite book series to read was “The Nancy Drew Mysteries” by Carolyn Keene. I used to dream that my sister and I would one day solve mysteries just like Nancy, Bess and George. I recently learned that Carolyn Keene was actually a pseudonym under which the stories were ghostwritten by multiple authors. One of the books that was published wasn’t a mystery, but a cookbook.
“The Nancy Drew Cookbook: Clues to Good Cooking” by Carolyn Keene was published in 1973. The recipes are supposed to be from Nancy, Bess, George and of course the faithful housekeeper, Hannah Gruen and are all named after various mysteries. Even though my family has had this cookbook for over 40 years, we have actually never made any of the recipes, so when I was trying to figure out what to bake, I decided I would start going through the recipes in this cookbook.
Unlike most cookbooks, “The Nancy Drew Cookbook” isn’t broken into sections for appetizers, entrees and desserts. The chapters are divided into mealtimes; such as, “Brunch for Sleepyheads” and “Nancy Shares Her Holiday Secrets.” Of course, this cookbook is geared towards children. It includes a couple of pages of helpful hints, like following the recipe if you are a novice cook or measuring all your ingredients out before you start cooking, but I had fun flipping through the pages and picking a recipe. I landed on “Blackwood Hall Muffins.”
“Blackwood Hall Muffins” are your basic blueberry muffins. Flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, butter, milk and salt. While there is nothing wrong with a basic blueberry muffin and could have just followed the recipe, I felt it just needed some more flavor. One combination I have always liked is lemon and blueberry. The tartness of the lemon and the sweetness of the blueberries compliment each other.
I always prefer to use fresh ingredients if I can, but if you happen to only have frozen blueberries available, do not thaw them before adding them to the batter. They will thaw as the muffin bakes. Regardless of whether you are using fresh or frozen berries, you want to reserve about a quarter cup of the dry ingredients and toss the berries in it. This will keep the berries from sinking to the bottom of the muffin. The flour coating will absorb the moisture from the fruit and keeps the fruit suspended throughout the batter. This trick will also work for nuts, chocolate chips, or any other whole ingredient you put into your baking.
Another trick is to introduce protein to your muffins, breads or even cookies, by replacing a portion of your all purpose flour with a nut flour or flax seed meal. This isn’t going to give you that much protein per serving, but every little bit helps if you are trying to watch your weight. The original recipe called for 1-1/2 cups flour, so I replaced a 1/2 cup of the flour with 1/4 cup almond flour and 1/4 cup flax seed meal. Sifting it all together is especially important when you do these substitutions, because of the different consistencies of the various ingredients. The flax seed meal especially will leave behind some of the seed husks. If you find a lot of husks left behind after you sift, you may want to measure them and then sift an additional amount of flax seed meal to replace it.
Most store bought blueberry muffins also have a Turbinado or Sanding Sugar topping, but here too I decided to add chopped walnuts to the sugar to increase the protein content. Rather than making a dry streusel topping, I opted to add additional lemon juice to the sugar and walnuts, to amp up the lemon flavor. Adding the juice to the brown sugar and walnuts will end up making kind of a caramel sauce on top of the muffin, which will also help keep your muffin moist. Unfortunately, it also can make the muffins stick to your tin, so I would suggest using a silicon muffin tin if you have it. If you do, grease and flour the silicon tin or you can use a cupcake liner. If you prefer a milder lemon flavor, you can leave out the lemon juice from the topping, which will give you a more traditional topping.
This recipe will make twelve regular size muffins or six giant sized muffins. You can serve these right out of the oven, or you can serve them at room temperature.
Lemon Blueberry Muffins with Lemon Walnut Caramel
Credit: The Nancy Drew Cookbook
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup almond flour
- 1/4 cup flax seed meal
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest and juice from one lemon
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 – 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 400.
- Grease muffin and flour muffin tins.
- Sift together flour, almond flour, flax seed meal, salt and baking powder. Set aside 1/4 cup of this mixture.
- Cream together softened butter and sugar.
- Add egg and vanilla extract to butter and mix completely.
- Add zest of one lemon to the dry ingredients and mix.
- Add the dry ingredients to the egg and butter mixture and mix completely.
- Add the juice of the lemon to the batter and mix completely.
- Toss blueberries in the 1/4 cup of the dry ingredients, then fold into the batter.
- Add batter to muffin tins.
- In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and chopped walnuts. Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, depending on how tart you like your topping.
- Add 1-2 teaspoons of topping to each muffin.
- Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
- Let cool slightly before serving warm or at room temperature.
- Replace blueberries with chopped cherries.
- Replace almond flour and flax seed meal with all purpose flour
- Replace walnuts with pecans.
- Replace lemon juice in topping with cinnamon to make a traditional streusel topping instead.