My great-grandmother Nandy was an amazing baker. People from all around their small South Carolina town would come over for tea, and others would buy cakes from her. She made cakes with ingredients sourced from the farm and around the area. One of the ingredients she used was sorghum. The origins of sorghum can be traced to Africa. It grew wild and was also cultivated. It’s actually a part of the grass family, but it closer to corn than wheat. In Africa it is used for flour, beer, and a syrup. Sorghum syrup was once equated with molasses, however it’s closer to raw cane syrup.
When Nandy was born in 1889, both her mother and grandmother were former slaves. Access to the soft white flour and to sugar would have been harder for them to procure. At the time, sorghum was used as a part of animal feed. Therefore, it was easier to grow it themselves and they were able to procure it fairly easily through the back of the town store. They made everything from pecan and black walnut pies, to a spice cookie. Their ingenuity was astonishing and beyond delicious. Moreover, it turns out to be a healthy choice. Sorghum has been shown to have a lower glycemic index, which is perfect for everyone, especially if you are watching your A1C levels. So, if you or someone you love has Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, sorghum flour is a great choice, since it’s heavier, it also has more protein.
Another aspect of baking we take for granted is flavorings like vanilla. Today, vanilla and other extracts and flavorings can be found in supermarkets and grocery stores everywhere. It’s even easier to get vanilla beans. Pound cake is one of the oldest types of cakes, and in many of the old recipes, you won’t find any added flavorings we recognize as extracts. To me, the quality and taste of the butter must have been heavenly. There was no such thing as giving livestock antibiotics and steroids to increase production. The butter was rich and creamy in a way we can only imagine. That said, they did have access to liquor. You will find so many recipes that use rum, bourbon, rye whiskey and the like. Liquor imparted flavor to a cake while getting the baker a little sauced. Once again it’s old-fashioned ingenuity and genius at work. Now, for Nandy it’s more likely than not, that she used moonshine too, but for this bourbon or rye did the job with a citrus chaser, a pre-cursor of an Old-Fashioned. Whatever she did, cheers to a great woman and muffin recipe.
Nandy’s Blueberry Bake Shop Muffins
Makes 12 regular and 6 jumbo muffins
3 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free all purpose flour, sorghum, oat”, or brown rice flour)
1 1/4 cups sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, turbinado, or raw cane sugar)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup milk (dairy: whole, 2%, or fat-free) (non-dairy milks: almond, rice, soy. light coconut, and oat milk)
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs ( 1/4 cup Aquafaba, 1/2 cup silken tofu plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 2 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, or egg replacer)
2 cups fresh blueberries (frozen is fine)
4 teaspoons sugar (turbinado, raw cane, or coconut sugar)
2 teaspoons Bourbon or Rye whiskey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
2 teaspoons lemon or orange zest finely grated, divided
Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon or orange zest and salt in a bowl. Set aside. In another bowl stir the milk, eggs, oil, eggs, bourbon, balance of the zest, and vanilla (if using) together. Make a well in the center of the flour and add in the liquid ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, stir together gently, making sure not to get any flour pockets in the bottom without overworking the batter. Fold the blueberries in. It’s a thick batter but don’t be alarmed. Spoon batter into 12 greased or lined muffin cups. Sprinkle batter evenly with 4 teaspoons sugar.
Bake at 400° for regular size muffins bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until tops are golden and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. For jumbo muffins bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Rotate the muffins at the halfway mark. When done, remove from pan immediately, and cool on a wire rack 5 to 10 minutes.
- For gluten sensitivities, when looking for oat flour, make sure it is certified gluten-free. Some oat flours are processed in the same machines as wheat flours, and therefore may have hidden gluten.
- You can make the batter ahead. Fill tins as directed in the recipe, cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Take the muffins out of the fridge and let it sit for at least thirty minutes before baking.