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. Theresa Thorne-Webber

    Am I the only one out there who enjoys the different colors and textures? I’ve made blueberry muffins many times, and it’s kind of fun (to me!) to see how each muffin comes out as an individual, just like a snowflake….

    Reply
  2. Clay Pendleton

    I have always wondered why you don’t see fresh wild blueberries in stores? Unless you live where they grow one can only purchase them frozen or canned. There must be much more hybrid type berries out there growing to fill the fresh market need.

    Reply
  3. Joanne soveroski

    When I worked at a scratch French bakery in Denver, CO in the ’80’s I made loads and loads of muffins. What we did to the frozen berries was to lightly dust flour on them and gently shake excess off the berries. The place was called, Le Petite Catering and Bakery. I loved working there and I still love to bake!

    Reply
  4. Clay Pendleton

    I usually just drop in rinsed, drained Wyman’s frozen wild blueberries into my pancakes when cooking to prevent bleeding throughout the batter. I then take a knife and cover berries with a little batter to prevent from sticking when flipping over. I would amagine that one could do the same for muffins? I would just slowly drop the berries into the batter while poring batter into muffin tin and add a few on top. You could then take a knife and just slowly stir to incorporate blueberries. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Karen R

    My daughter would not eat fruit muffins until I discovered dehydrated berries. Add a little more liquid to the batter, stir in the dehydrated blueberries (or raspberries — raspberry chocolate chip muffins!), scoop, and bake. Blueberry muffins with no mushy spots.

    Reply
  6. Liz

    I just found this post. If this section is still reviewed for questions, I have one. I have tried drying the rinsed frozen berries on paper towels but the berries form ice crystals in the rinsing and stick to the towel. It takes a long time to peel them off. Sometimes the towel shreds and I am left with tiny pieces on the berries that I can’t get off. Any suggestions? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Liz, let them thaw just a bit before putting them onto the paper towel, so that they’re no longer able to form ice crystals. Another thing you can do is dry them on a cotton dish towel – one that would have to be devoted to that particular use from then on it, since it would obviously be stained with juice! Hope this helps – PJH

  7. Beeje

    This info is definitely helpful but I haven’t had any luck in finding info on a similar problem. I have what appears to be a delightful recipe for blueberry bars; they have a base batter, then layer of jam, then a crumb topping, then a layer of fresh blueberries. The “fresh” blueberries in Florida in January are both very expensive and not very impressive, so I was thinking of using frozen blueberries instead. I’m wondering how to adapt the recipe for blueberries that are simply baked on top of the dish and not incorporated into the main batter. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Beeje, I don’t think any adaptation is necessary – just put the frozen berries on top and bake, just as you would fresh. Good luck – PJH

  8. Ara

    Great post. I was checking continuously this weblog and I’m inspired! Extremely helpful info particularly the last part 🙂 I deal with such information a lot. I was looking for this certain information for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

    Reply

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