Blueberry and Cream Cheese Muffin Top Bread
I love muffin tops. Those sweet, super moist crowns that adorn muffins, but are gone in about three bites.
So I decided to bake a whole loaf of bread that tastes like one big muffin top.
The ‘bread’, however, tastes more like dense cake-meets-muffin-top than bread. Bread implies a drier and coarser crumb, but this is super springy and bouncy, soft, tender and muffin top-esque. The cream cheese filling adds even more softness and moisture, along with a pop of tangy flavor. Plus, something termed bread implies it’s healthier than cake or even muffins, so you can have seconds, but of course.
The recipe makes two loaves, one 9-by-5-inch, and one 8-by-4-inch, just like the Carrot Cake Loaf recipe. I almost made it in a Bundt pan, but have noticed people seem to prefer things made in loaf pans compared to big cakes. You could use two 9×5 pans, but don’t use two 8×4’s. I regrettably did, and at the last minute had to transfer and redistribute batter from one of the 8×4’s into a 9×5, which messed up the visual appeal of the neat middle layer of cream cheese I had so carefully added and it turned out more swirled than layered.
It’s fast to make and you don’t need a mixer. Begin by whisking eight ounces of cream cheese with sugar and although you could use a mixer, 13 seconds of vigorous whisking will get you to the same place, minus dirty mixer dishes. Set that bowl aside.
In another bowl, toss the blueberries with one tablespoon flour. Coating the berries helps to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the pans while baking. It’s a peeve of mine when bread or muffins are fairly blueberry-less on top, and they all sink to the bottom, creating a thick, murky-blue wall on the bottom. I do love to eat that kind of sweet, juicy wall though.
In a large mixing bowl, melt the butter and to it add the oil, buttermilk, eggs, sugars, vanilla, and whisk. Buttermilk tenderizes the bread and things made with buttermilk tend to rise so nicely while baking. This batter is weighed down with cream cheese and an abundance of blueberries and needs all the help it can get.
Melted butter, as opposed to creamed, usually produces denser cakes rather than light and airy, which is my preference. I used both oil and butter because butter adds flavor and although it does add moisture, oil adds a dense sort of moisture that you cannot get from butter alone.
I made this bread with one-half cup oil and although the bread is a little on the oily side on the first day, by days two and three, it soaks in creating the most gloriously moist muffin top taste and texture. In adding one-half cup of oil, you’re going to have oily bread on the first day. I wouldn’t call it greasy, but some people are very particular about this, so I wrote the recipe to reflect one-quarter cup oil, increasing from there as desired. I’d rather have slightly oily bread on day one, but two absolutely stunning loaves on days two through seven or longer, if you freeze the second loaf.
Stir in the dry ingredients and don’t overmix because it will make the bread tough. Fold in the coated blueberries, and pour batter into prepared pans. The approach is batter-cream cheese-batter. Don’t fill either of the pans more than two-thirds of the way full total, and when pouring in the first layer of batter, aim for it come up about one-third of the way up the side. Because you’re working with two pans that are different sizes, the 9×5 should get slightly more batter than the 8×4, and just eyeball it.
Pour the cream cheese mixture over the blueberry layer, giving the 9×5 pan slightly more, and smooth it lightly with a spatula. Top the pans with the remaining blueberry batter, distributed roughly evenly between the two. Smooth the batter lightly with a spatula, and bake.
Baking times will vary greatly by pan sizes used, but 45 to 65 minutes is recommended, with the smaller pan being on the lower end of the range. I baked the 8×4 for 48 minutes and the 9×5 for 60 minutes. If you’re making mini loaves or muffins, I’d start checking them by 20 minutes, and go from there. One big Bundt cake will probably take 60 to 65 minutes, but because of oven variances, various pans used, moisture content in the blueberries, amount of oil used, and personal preference, baking times are variable.
If your bread is browning a bit too fast on top before center is cooking through, tent with foil in the last 15 minutes of baking. Because these loaves are stuffed to the max with blueberries, and are heavy and dense from the butter, buttermilk, oil, and cream cheese, they do take their sweet time to fully cook through. And all the while, the scent that’s wafting through the house will put you in a baked blueberry trace.
The bread is so unbelievably moist and soft. Even with an extremely sharp knife, it was hard to slice without squishing and compacting it. The whole time I was slicing it I was thinking Don’t Squeeze the Charmin.
It’s buttery and sweet, and the cream cheese that runs through the interior is a winding, white river of creamy tanginess in the 9×5 loaf (shown). The 8×4 loaf had a perfect floating layer of cream cheese sandwiched between bread layers, like cream cheese filling in a layer cake. It was so pretty that I almost took my camera back out, but I wanted to eat my slice of muffin top more than I wanted to take more pictures.
My husband loved this bread and he agreed, it gets better with time, which is normally not the case with muffins or quickbreads. If you can let it linger for a day or two, it gets even better. The oil soaks in completely, the flavors meld together, and each bite is dense, soft, and squishy like a muffin top.
As the blueberries bake, they soften and release their juices and biting into a warm, juicy, baked blueberry is a gift from the berry gods, which is why I wasn’t stingy with how many I called for, two full cups, so I can bite into as many of those gifts as possible.
I immediately froze the 8×4 loaf thinking it would take awhile to get through the 9×5 loaf. Wrong. I baked these on a Saturday morning, and by Monday the 9×5 loaf was gone and we dug into the second loaf.
I just love a juicy muffin top.
Blueberry and Cream Cheese Muffin Top Bread
This bread tastes like one big muffin top and is more like a dense cake-meets-muffin-top than bread because it’s falling-apart soft, tender, and moist. It’s dense yet springy and bouncy, and it oozes with blueberries.There’s a cream cheese filling that’s baked in, adding more softness and moisture to the bread, as well as a nice tangy pop of flavor. The bread comes together by hand with a few bowls and a whisk in just minutes. It’s the perfect way to use up you extra fresh or frozen blueberries. I’d much rather have slice after slice of this bread that tastes like muffin tops, than an actual muffin – the tops on them are gone far too fast. Plus this bread is infinitely moister and softer than any muffin I’ve ever had.
8 ounces cream cheese, well softened (whipped or light are okay, I use Trader Joe’s Whipped Light)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil (see below)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt, optional (buttermilk is already a salted milk and I omitted adding salt)
1 to 2 teaspoons lemon zest, optional for lemon-flavored bread (I omitted)
- Preheat oven to 350F; spray loaf pans with floured cooking spray; set aside. I used one 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and one 8-by-4-inch loaf pan. Or try two 9×5 inch pans, a 10- to 12-cup Bundt or tube cake pan, 9-inch springform pan and bake as a coffee cake, or muffin pans. Do not use two 8×4 pans; batter will not all fit.
- In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and whisk vigorously to combine. The softer the cream cheese is, the easier this will be. If yours isn’t quite soft enough, heat in the microwave for 5 seconds. Set bowl aside.
- In another medium bowl, combine blueberries, 1 tablespoon flour, and toss gently to coat. This helps prevent blueberries from sinking to the bottom of the pan while baking. If using frozen berries, keep them frozen or very cold rather than thawing them in advance because they stay intact better and bleed less when still frozen or very cold.
- In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power. Add the buttermilk, oil (I use 1/2 cup canola oil and the second day and beyond it’s perfect. The first day it’s a bit oily, but I don’t mind it and it dries out on the second day and longterm results are great. If you prefer drier bread, use 1/4 to 1/3 cup noting bread will dry out more as it ages), eggs, 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and whisk vigorously until combined.
- Add 2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, optional salt, and stir to incorporate; don’t overmix. Gently fold in the blueberries. Eyeball it and pour about one-quarter of the batter into each of the two prepared pans, with the 9×5 getting slightly more than the 8×4; batter should come up about one-third of the way up the side of each pan.
- Distribute the cream cheese mixture between the two pans, with the larger pan getting slightly more. Smooth it lightly with a spatula. Distribute remaining blueberry batter roughly evenly between the two pans, with the larger pan getting slightly more. Smooth it lightly with a spatula.
- Bake the two loaves (9×5 and 8×4) for 45 to 65 minutes, or until top is set in the center and golden; a toothpick may or may not come out clean because it could hit a patch of cream cheese. Baking times will vary greatly by pan sizes used. I baked the 8×4 loaf for 48 minutes and the 9×5 for 60 minutes. Muffins or mini loaves could bake in as short as 20 minutes, a big Bundt cake may need 60 to 65 minutes. Allow bread to cool in pans for at least 15 minutes before removing and transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. If bread is browning fast on top before center is cooking through, tent with foil in last 15 minutes of cooking.
- Store bread that’s been wrapped in plasticwrap and placed inside a large ziptop plastic bag for up to 1 week at room temperature, or freeze for up to 3 months. Freezing second loaf after it’s cooled is recommended if you’re not going to eat it within a week.
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Do you like muffin tops?
Do you have a favorite recipe for (blueberry) muffins or bread?
I’ve tried ‘muffin top pans’ that are supposed to yield muffin tops, and although they’re fine, it’s not like eating a muffin top. Part of why muffin tops are just so darn good has to do with air and steam rising, overall surface area and volume of batter, the depth of the muffin pan cavity, and the sacred muffin top never actually touching the base of the pan. All those things change when you pour batter directly into a flat little pan. Not the same.
My suggestion is to either make this bread or to just go around and shamelessly pick off muffin tops.