The secret to baking with frozen blueberries: Don't be blue

Ah, a lovely batch of golden blueberry muffins.

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Um, make that greenish-blue blueberry muffins.

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Fresh blueberries are a pleasure to bake with.

But unless you have access to a blueberry patch, fresh berries can be quite expensive; and their season is short.

Enter frozen blueberries, the backbone of many a winter blueberry pie.

But pie is one thing. Muffins, scones, cake, and coffeecake are quite another, frozen berries bleeding juice into batter to turn these golden-hued beauties a sickly shade of purple-green.

This doesn’t have to happen, you know. There’s a simple solution.

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Rinse your frozen blueberries before you use them.

Rinse berries in cold water several times – until the water is noticeably lighter when you drain them. It’ll start out dark blue, but will gradually shade its way up to a watery red/blue.

When that happens, dry the berries well with several layers of paper towels, top and bottom.

Let’s see what happens when we use them in muffins.

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Top two photos: frozen berries being stirred into muffin batter. Bottom left: batter made with fresh berries. Bottom right: fresh berries + crushed berries.

Gently and quickly stir the frozen berries into the batter. You’ll see a few inevitable streaks of blue, but the entire batter shouldn’t turn blue. If that starts to happen – stop stirring, you’re done!

Clearly, it’s easy to get golden muffins when you use fresh berries; they don’t bleed at all (bottom left).

But this recipe called for 2 cups of fresh berries, plus an additional 1/2 cup of crushed fresh berries; let’s see if crushing the berries (bottom right) turns the batter blue.

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So far, so good. The muffins made with frozen berries are in back; with fresh berries in the middle, and with a portion of crushed berries in front.

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Top to bottom: frozen berries, fresh berries, crushed berries. The frozen berries tinted the muffins just a bit…

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…but not nearly as much as they would have had I not rinsed them.

This photo is from an earlier experiment; unrinsed frozen berries on the left; rinsed and dried frozen berries on the right.

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Man, now I REALLY want a blueberry muffin, don’t you? This berry-packed recipe is for Famous Department Store Blueberry Muffins, a clone of the sugar-crusted muffins once served in the top-floor café at Jordan Marsh, a Boston department store (and New England institution). Jordan’s, sadly, is out of business; but their muffins live on.

Remember, rinse and dry those frozen berries before you use them; it DOES make a difference. Enjoy!

Note: To those of you below wondering about losing flavor and nutrients when you rinse the berries, it’s true, you probably lose a little bit of the berries’ nutrition. But most of the juice (and vitamins) remain inside the berries; and I doubt you could notice a difference in flavor. By all means, use berries without rinsing, if that’s your preference. As usual – no baking police here!

 

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Carole N

    New to your site but was wondering how to use up those frozen berries. Thank you. Is there a way to print the info but not the pics?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You may use your frozen blueberries in just about anything. Quick bread, pancakes, crumb cake, coffee cake are just a few suggestions. Follow PJ’s advice by rinsing with cold water, drying on paper towels and folding them into the batter with a gentle hand. If you would just like the recipe without all the blog pictures, below the very first picture you will see the recipe name. It appears like this; recipe – Famous Department Store Blueberry Muffins. The recipe is a link and will take you to our recipe archives from the blog. When you get there, just click on Printable Version so it will be formatted without all the customer reviews! If you have any trouble, please call us at 1-800-827-6836. Elisabeth

    2. Beeje

      Another suggestion: When I want to keep a blog post or cooking website recipe without pictures, ads, nutritional info etc I just copy/paste the whole thing into Word then edit out the non-essentials. Then I change what’s left to my preferred font and font size and save the doc to my hard drive in the relevant “Recipes” subfolder. This is a quick & easy way to access favorite recipes without the clutter of paper, and it’s also very easy to share recipes via email. Just my two cents!

    3. PJ Hamel, post author

      Beeje, thanks so much – lots of people have questions about this exact topic. Cheers! PJH

  2. Carolyn

    Back when I had raspberry canes, I would freeze the berries on a sheet pan and then transfer to plastic bags – usually in 1 cup increments. When I had accumulated enough and had the time, I made raspberry jelly (a token to my late sister who had dentures). I gave away the jelly to family and friends with the proviso that if they returned the empty jar I would give them another full one. When I went on a trip I always left a jar for my cat sitter and there was always an empty on the counter when I returned.
    I bet anyone who receives those jars full are delighted! An old Vermonter taught me to never return an empty dish (or jar!) empty. If you left me one of your jars, I would be sure it was returned full. I cannot guarantee it would be jelly, though! Would you take homemade salsa or hummus or granola? Elisabeth

    Reply
  3. Teresa F.

    Thanks so much for showing photos of the different blueberries! Everyone now knows how each type turns out and pick what they want their muffins to look like. You are indeed making me yearn for a blueberry muffin.

    The most memorable blueberry muffins I’ve had was at the Univ. of Ca. Davis Coffeehouse. Their cookbook listed half-n-half instead of milk. It really makes for a rich and delicious muffin!!

    Reply
  4. Sandie@afoodieaffair.com

    With all the different types of blueberry muffins and cakes I’ve made, I can’t believe I haven’t done this! I’ve tried coating with flour, etc. but this is great! Gray muffins taste wonderful, but don’t look very good at all!

    Reply
  5. Colleen

    What would happen If you made the batter the night before and folded in blues and baked in the am?

    Nothing bad would happen, many bakeries make their muffin batters overnight! This gives the flour time to absorb more of the moisture in the batter so it makes for a better muffin.-Jon

    Reply
  6. Eric

    I agree with a few others on here – I don’t make muffins much, but for scones I always mix up my dry ingredients first, then toss my frozen (or fresh) berries in the the bowl with the dry ingredients before stirring in the wet mixture. I have found that, for scones at least, stirring in berries at the end a) either leads to over mixing (not a problem if you add them to dry mixture) or b) doesn’t distribute the berries evenly or c) makes it too easy to smash the berries, especially delicate berries like brambles.

    Anyway you do it, though, they always taste great despite how they look!

    Reply
  7. Mary McC

    Another way to avoid the problem is not to add frozen blueberries to the batter, but instead layer them in as you fill the muffin pan. Probably takes about the same amount of time as rinsing and patting them dry…

    So, just dollop some berries onto a layer of batter in each cup, then add another layer. I’ll have to try that sometime, Mary, thanks. PJH

    Reply
  8. Dave Aldrich-Thorpe

    As a New Englander that has made many blueberry muffins, pancakes, pies, loaf cakes – I would rather have the blue spots and “green?” spots than lose the flavor by washing them off. My kids only know spotty muffins!

    Actually, Dave, I didn’t notice any reduction in flavor (I tested both ways); but to each his own, right? That’s what I love about food – we’re all free to have it however we prefer. PJH

    Reply
  9. Catherine Gergen

    I’ve had excellent luck with (personally) dried blueberries. They plump in the baking process, still have the wonderful flavor, but don’t treat your baking like water-bomb targets. After about 14 to 16 hrs in a tabletop dehydrator, they go into a zipper freezer bag for ANY possible use. We grow some marvelous berries. WA state

    What a great idea – dried blueberries are really expensive to buy, but when you dry your own… I’ll have to try that, as I actually do have a dehydrator. Thanks, Catherine! PJH

    Reply
  10. Kiran

    Hi,
    The recipe looks beautiful but we don’t get a lot of frozen blueberries in our part of the world :(.
    However, the blueberries tinting the cake did remind me of a similar problem which I hope you can solve. When I bake carrot cakes, I always add walnuts to them and they turn black while baking – they taste great, however, they do look quite ugly. Any help would be appreciated? 🙂
    Thank you! ..

    Kiran, the black walnut issue you mention has to do with walnuts’ reaction to baking soda. Walnuts are very sensitive to alkaline environments, and can change color when exposed to a certain level of baking soda. As can the grated carrots in your cake – which can turn green. You might try reducing the baking soda/powder just a bit, see if you can obtain the same texture and improved color by using a little less. Good luck – PJH

    Reply

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