Monday, August 16, 2010

Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins

The story of the demise of Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins is no secret. The company that is now Macy's bought Jordan Marsh, Jordan Marsh became Macy's, and the experience of going to Downtown Crossing in Boston for a shoe sale and a sugar-encrusted blueberry muffin at the flagship store was no more.

Yet that's not the story I want to focus on here. Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins were bigger than Downtown Crossing. Even if you could get the recipe at the department store, many of the muffins were consumed in the suburbs or in distant towns. They were gobbled up not just in Jordan Marsh stores but also at social gatherings where one woman brought other women the muffins fresh out of her own oven.

I always thought of Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins as indicative of how female social networks operated.

But that's over now and the Internet, not Macy's, is to blame.

I cannot help but recognize the irony in posting my Great-Aunt Harriet's prized Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins recipe on the Internet. Before the web you had to really fight for this recipe. You had to gain the confidence of the woman who baked the muffins and brought them to your workplace. You needed to suck up to your friend's muffin-toting future mother-in-law as women gathered round for terribly silly games and a little bridal-shower breakfasting.

To possess the recipe for Jordan Marsh Muffins was once a sign that you had made it in certain social circles. Far more than a piece of paper in a recipe box, it said you had unique charms and a master's degree in flattery.

But who needs to demonstrate social cunning when the internet just gives away your ticket to having the best muffins at so-and-so's baby shower?

I remember being instructed never to share this recipe with anyone. Now I'm posting it among the hundreds of other Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins recipes on the web. Not only is Jordan Marsh gone, so too is any reason to beg your sister or cajole a secretary for the muffin recipe.

At least the muffins I baked this morning tasted as good as I remembered.


  1. Now there's something that'll make a body stop and think. Here I am looking at your Great Aunt Harriet's recipe for Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins, in what I take is her own handwriting, and in my lap is my copy of "The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion" which includes the exact same recipe. All these years I've been making these I thought it was from a recipe that someone in some test kitchen either found in some archive or came up with as a close approximation of the original. It's great to know that this is a real recipe, passed, literally, from hand to hand and made in countless home kitchens long before King Arthur flour published it. (And yours look exactly like the ones that come out of my oven, only the wife and I call them "crack muffins".)

  2. Kate

    My aunt worked in the Jordan Marsh food shop (it was more than just a bakery) for over 20 years. She did a favor, a really big favor for someone at JM. This person asked how he could repay her. My aunt asked him for the blueberry muffin recipe. All JM's recipes were kept in a safe. This guy had access to the safe. The recipe kept in the safe was for 12 dozen muffins. He cut down the recipe to 1 dozen and gave it to my aunt.

    Just for fun every now and then I surf the net looking for the recipe that I now have. I've found it twice. One of those time it was written exactly as I have it written. I imagine that my aunt passed it on to a few people...after JM closed, of course.

    The above recipe is not the JM muffin recipe. A very important ingredient is missing.



  3. Well, Ed, I guess we are not to know the mysterious important missing ingredient.

  4. Is it missing the use of 2c bread flour and 1/2c cake flour, Ed?


    1/2 c. butter
    2 c. bread flour
    1/2 c. cake flour
    1 c. sugar
    2 lg. eggs
    1/2 tsp. vanilla
    1/2 c. milk
    4 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. salt
    2 1/2 c. blueberries

    At low speed cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each one to blend well. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk. Mash 1/2 cup blueberries and stir by hand. Add rest of blueberries whole and fold in.

    Grease tins well (or use paper cupcake liners) and pile high in each. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Test for doneness and tap pan immediately after removing from oven. Remove from tins while hot.

  5. I would like to thank Ed for his response and for revealing the ingredient. You've certainly added one more fascinating layer to the story of Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins.

    I'm going to contend that the recipes are essentially the same though, or that my aunt's Jordan Marsh recipe was in the spirit of the original. She didn't make it up out of whole cloth. If Ed's version is indeed the "real" one, my aunt's recipe is certainly in keeping with it. You'll note that the directions are nearly identical. That's no accident.

    I'm not at all surprised that the bread flour was omitted. Especially in the age of all-purpose flour, not every has (or would have had) bread flour in their kitchens. I assure you my aunt had no idea what bread flour was. Women who passed this recipe on to one another may very well have altered it to suit what they already had in their kitchens.

    What's important is that my aunt and other women believed this to be the Jordan Marsh recipe and that they thought they were sharing a secret. In that respect, it was the recipe for Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins. It's great to know what was in the vault, but that doesn't change the fact that many, many women passed on this recipe and believed it to be the Jordan Marsh recipe.

    Thank you so much, Ed. Now I'll have to see how your recipe compares with the Jordan Marsh muffins I ate at the store.

  6. I can't wait to try this recipe, I will also make Ed's version next time. Thanks!


  7. My Aunt, who hails from Boston, says that the missing ingredient is a half teaspoon of anise extract not vanilla as stated here, They taste jsut like the Jordan Marsh ones from my early childhood. Promise.

  8. Thank you sharing such a great collection of great recipes. I am glad to came across such a impressive website with interesting information. It is pretty cool.
    Merguez Sausage

  9. is i 4 or 2 tsp of baking powder

  10. First of all, the King Arthur recipe is a "clone'...not the original. You will find that on their website. Secondly, I used to work at the JM Skyline Restaurant in Peabody MA and no, there was no anise extract in the muffins. BTW, the original JM blueberry muffin recipe used 1/2 Crisco and 1/2 butter. Butter used to be cheaper than Crisco, so the recipe morphed to all butter. Bread flour and cake flour were not used. In fact, the flour used in the original was bleached flour. There are a lot of recipes for these muffins online, and the reason for the discrepancies is because the recipe actually changed periodically. My advice is to make the ones you love and not worry so much about authenticity, because they are all very good.