It's the best restaurant in the World. Period.
My mom gave me 'The French Laundry' cookbook as a birthday gift. After all, Thomas Keller is my culinary hero. I respect his humble beginnings, working from a dishwasher to chef through hard work and creative innovation and I revere his philosophy to understand where your food is coming from and to develop relationships with the farmers, carefully selecting purveyors that produce the finest quality ingredients.
I cooked from that book for practically a decade, learning the fundamental techniques, with nothing to compare it to as I'd never actually eaten at the restaurant. In a fate of irony I received a surprise birthday trip to San Francisco and a dinner reservation at The French Laundry. With a childlike giddiness, I skipped through the famous blue door and was seated at a window on the second floor overlooking the vegetable garden, one of those orderly English-styles one would expect Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit to steal from. It was a Jiminy Cricket 'Wish Upon A Star' dream come true and I savored every bite all the way to the chocolate truffle finale. Reaching for the decadence, I farted. Like Farted. Full tuba and then the "please, oh please, don't smell' hope. Reeked. Do you ever recover from this? No.
While I can look back at that night and laugh, metaphorically I wish I had a straw to suck that fart up into and eat my embarrassment. The last time I was in Yountville with Icing Troll I drove by The French Laundry and didn't make eye contact. We ate at Bouchon instead. But the Icing Troll has jokes and as we stood to leave I noticed the wine bottle (he collects them) stuffed down the front of his pants. People noticed. Bemused at his efforts, I chuckled. However, nice try.
I'm not a fan of American bakery style blueberry muffins. I find them too sweet with refined sugar rendering the blueberries more ornamental than the flavor forerunner. I had a lot of blueberries leftover from the summer harvest (they freeze beautifully) and I knew just what to do with them. Keep in mind that the batter in this recipe must rest a minimum of 12 hours, but imagine a muffin with a fluffy, tender crumb that is moist throughout, where the blueberries get to speak for themselves, and crowned in nutty, almond streusel. Leave it to the genius from Sebastien Rouxel and Thomas Keller; the result is incomparable and worth the prep time.
Makes 6 Jumbo or 12 Standard size muffins.
Frozen | Blueberries
180 g blueberries (preferably wild), fresh or frozen
10 g all-purpose flour
Muffin | Batter
86 g all-purpose flour
109 g cake flour
1/2 + 1/8 tsp baking powder
1/2 + 1/8 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
96 g granulated sugar
96 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
40 g blackstrap molasses, unsulfured
54 g clover honey
72 g eggs, yolk and whites, lightly beaten to combine, at room temperature
1/4 tsp vanilla paste
57 g buttermilk, at room temperature
Almond | Streusel
40 g all-purpose flour
40 g almond flour/meal
40 g granulated sugar
1/16 tsp salt
40 g COLD unsalted butter, cut in 1/4 inch cubes
Frozen Blueberry | Preparation
In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with 10 g all-purpose flour. Place in the freezer in an air-tight, covered container.
Muffin Batter | Preparation
Sift the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and baking soda into a medium bowl. Add the salt. Whisk to combine.
Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until the butter is the consistency of mayonnaise.
Add the sugar. Mix on medium-low speed until the mixture is fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixer bowl.
Add the molasses and honey. Mix on low speed to incorporate, approximately 1 minute.
Add the eggs and vanilla paste. Mix on low speed until just combined, approximately 30 seconds.
On medium speed, add half the flour mixture, mixing for approximately 30 seconds until just combined. Add half the buttermilk and mix until just combined, approximately 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients, followed by the remaining buttermilk.
Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients that have settled. Transfer the batter to a covered container and refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours, up to a maximum of 36 hours.
Almond Streusel | Preparation
Combine the all-purpose flour, almond flour/meal, sugar and salt in a bowl. Whisk to break up any lumps.
Add the butter and toss to coat the pieces. Gently work the mixture with your fingertips, breaking the butter into smaller pieces no larger than 1/8 inch and combining it with the flour mixture. Do not overwork the mixture or allow the butter to become soft; if it does, place the bowl in the refrigerator to harden the butter before continuing.
Transfer the streusel to a covered container or resealable plastic bag. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days. Alternatively, the streusel can be frozen for up to 1 month in an air-tight, covered container. Use the streusel while it is cold.
Baking | Final Assembly
Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C).
Line a 6-cup jumbo or a 12-cup standard muffin pan with tulip muffin papers/liners. Spray the papers/liners with non-stick cooking spray.
Remove the batter from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes to begin to soften.
Gently fold the blueberries into the batter and spoon batter evenly into the muffin papers, stopping about 3/8 inch from the top (about 140 g each for jumbo or 70 g each for standard).
Sprinkle the streusel on top of each muffin (approximately 25 g each for jumbo or 15 g each for standard).
Place pan in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 325 F (165 C), and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove pan from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes before turning the muffins out onto a wire rack to fully cool to room temperature.
Serving | Storage
The muffins are best the day they are baked, but they can be wrapped individually in a few layers of plastic wrap and stored in a single layer in a air-tight, covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 week.
To defrost frozen muffins, thaw while the muffins still in the container so any condensation will form on the outside of the container and not on the muffins. Place the muffins on a sheet rack and refresh in a 325 F oven for about 5 minutes, if desired.
Muffin recipe by Sebastien Rouxel and Thomas Keller from Bouchon Bakery | Photography by The Confection Witch & Icing Troll