If you've spent time learning about baking in your day-to-day or just keep a card box of vintage recipes in your kitchen, you've probably heard of Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins. They're touted as the best around, and not just by common blueberry muffin lovers — they've made their mark on American baking and confectionery. That's thanks in part to The New York Times. In 1985, food columnist Marian Burros shared the recipe for Ritz-Carlton blueberry muffins, along with her top muffin spots. But someone wrote in to note the glaring omission of Jordan Marsh muffins, which they said were the best-ever blueberry muffins. Burros later published the Jordan Marsh recipe and thus kicked off a major food rivalry between the two muffin recipes.
Jordan Marsh was a downtown Boston department store chain founded by Eben Dyer Jordan and Benjamin L. Marsh that opened its first location in 1851. Sadly, after a 100-year-plus run, Jordan Marsh declared bankruptcy — but the legacy of the muffins it served at its cafe lived on. And in 2023, Mara Richmond wrote to The Times explaining that her father, Arnold Gitlin, had developed the recipe. She said that her father drew inspiration from an 1847 cookbook called "The New England Economical Housekeeper, and Family Receipt Book." What became the Jordan Marsh muffin is beloved for its super sweet, moist, cake-like consistency, as well as its very pronounced blueberry flavor.
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Where To Get Them
While it's somewhat disputed who has the original, authentic recipe, Gold Belly offers its take on the muffin and claims to have purchased the recipe from a former head baker at Jordan Marsh. For a cheaper alternative, King Arthur Baking Company has published its highly-rated take on the famous baked good.
The ingredients are pretty basic, requiring unsalted butter, milk, granulated sugar, eggs, baking powder, salt, vanilla extract, unbleached all-purpose flour, and of course, blueberries. After mixing the butter and sugar together, incorporate the eggs, add the baking powder, salt, and vanilla extract, then alternate mixing in the flour and the milk. This differs from many classic muffin recipes that keep the dry and wet ingredients separate until combining them in the final stage. The other key to achieving an authentic Jordan Marsh muffin is mashing about half of the berries before folding them into the mixture and adding the remaining whole berries. This is what gives these muffins that deep berry flavor. Once your batter is mixed, put it in a lightly greased muffin tin, and be sure to top the muffins with an extra sprinkle of granulated sugar before baking.
The Three Keys To A True Jordan Marsh Muffin
Folks went wild for the Jordan Marsh recipe and tried to make their own versions of the muffin, which is why it's still one of the most famous blueberry recipes, despite the chain's closure decades ago. Given the number of different versions out there, it's unclear who has the most authentic recipe, even with The Time's claim to a Jordan Marsh baker descendent. While the many recipes may vary slightly, there are a few things that qualify it as a true Jordan Marsh muffin: the ongoing mixture of dry and wet ingredients, the blueberry mash-up, and the topping with white sugar only.
In 2012, Yankee magazine published an essay talking about the wonders of the Jordan Marsh muffins, with the author saying, "We had department stores in Rhode Island, sure — but none that produced muffins the size of those, none the size of Jordan Marsh's, none that dwelled in a city like Boston." So while the Jordan Marsh department store may be gone, the passion for its blueberry muffins carries on.
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