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. rockyrd

    enjoyed this and its basically the way we make them here in downeast ME when we have frozen wild blueberries. it works for cakes and cobblers too.
    would love to see what you have to say about making pies with frozen berries.
    we live in Wyman country and get 30 lb boxes of frozen wild ME blueberries.
    pies with runny juices are not well received, although tasty makes the bottom crust really gummy.
    i am a judge at the wild ME blueberry festival and we are always looking for the “Goldilocks” pie- not too runny, not too solid but just right.

    Reply
  2. christine

    My problem is pancakes, whether or not i rinse the frozen berries, they always make the pancakes too wet, any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Christine, I’d say thaw (by rinsing), dry gently to get as much liquid as possible off of the berries, and then, instead of stirring them into the batter, scatter some atop each round of batter as you pour it into the frying pan. This will keep the berries’ impact on the batter as minimal as possible; and will also help keep the surrounding pancake a nice golden color – rather than turning it purple! Good luck – PJH

    2. Constanze

      I’d dust the frozen berries with a little flour and fold them into the pancake batter still frozen. That’s what I do and they turn out always wonderfully delicious. :O)

  3. Jason

    frozen or dried blueberries for scones?
    i used dried before the came out great but they are a little pricy so now i wanna try with frozen.

    any tips? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Jason, most of our blueberry scone recipes do call for fresh blueberries (http://bit.ly/17rfqTE and also this one here: http://bit.ly/STAxw), however, frozen berries can work well in these recipes too. Just follow the tips in the blog, including rising the berries before hand and patting them dry. The fresh berries will give the scones burst of juicy, sweet flavor. Freeze dried berries can be a nice addition if you can get your hands on them, making a lighter textured-scone, which does not tint the batter blue. Either way, you’ll have a blueberry success! Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  4. Nasiba

    Thanks so much for the tip. I found this article when searching as to why my blueberry cheese Danish braid came out sort of runny in the middle. Are the frozen bluebeeries to blame? The recipe that I found though does call for any bluebeeries frozen or fresh. Could you kindly let me know. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Frozen blueberries often exude more liquid than fresh, so yes, frozen blueberries could be the problem. You might also want to bake the braid a bit longer, tenting it with aluminum foil if it appears to be browning too quickly. Hope this helps – PJH

  5. kai

    I have just made a batch of blueberry muffins using frozen berries but it turns out to be great only when warm. The berries gives off a sour smell that is not very pleasant though taste wise still good. any idea on that sour smell?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Another Kai, how fun! You can try rolling your berries in a mixture of super-fine sugar and corn starch (50/50) before adding them to the batter. This will create a thin layer of sweetness that may prevent that sour smell. Still not what you are looking for? Try using dehydrated (or freeze-dried) blueberries instead, which have a great flavor and will tint the batter a beautiful blue! Good luck and happy baking! –Kye@ KAF

  6. Jude

    I’ve been using your blueberry tip for blueberry muffins and it works wonderfully, even in very large batches. For scones, I’m finding that since the rinsed blueberries are soft, they squish and bleed when I incorporate them into the dough (even when I add them to the dries or coat with flour). Do you have any additional tips for using rinsed frozen blueberries in scones?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Jude, that’s a tougher one, as you have to handle the berries/dough more (and more forcefully) to incorporate the berries. One thing you can try is dividing the dough in half, patting it out to about 1/2″ thick, gently placing half the berries on top, pat the remaining dough 1/2″ thick in the same general shape as the first half, laying it on top, and gently pressing the rest of the berries on top. Then gently shape into rounds and cut into wedges. This minimizes the handling of the berries. Worth a try? PJH

  7. sarah

    I am wondering if I can use a mixed berry pouch I bought at Wal-Mart. It has strawberry, raspberry, blueberries. I even have mangos and peaches that are frozen could those go into a muffin recipe?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Sure, any kind of frozen fruit can go into a muffin; just make sure those mango and peach pieces are chopped finely enough, OK? Good luck – PJH

  8. Meredith

    Thank you for this! Any chance you’ve ever come across a recipe that uses pureed blueberries instead of actual blueberries? My son is very picky and doesn’t like to “see” the berries, but I’ve had great luck with green (pureed spinach) muffins and was hoping to make blue ones now! And with any luck, maybe pink after that (strawberries, raspberries)?! Oh the things I will do to sneak fruit and veg in when I can…

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We don’t have any muffin recipes that call for pureed fruit, but maybe someone in our baking community might have some ideas to share. Sounds like a great way to sneak some fruits and veggies in! Barb@KAF

  9. George Chapman

    Fresh out of college in 1956 I worked for Jordan’s for a few months before Uncle Sam called—dang I missed the muffins.

    I like to infuse the sugar on top with a little lemon zest.

    Reply

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