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I'm trying to make blueberry muffins, and I will be folding the blueberries into the batter as well. How can I turn the batter slightly blue without adding excess blueberries? The recipe i'm using calls for 1 1/2 cup of blueberries.

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3 Answers 3

The story is more complicated than SAJ tells it. Blueberries, like many other purple foods, are colored by a pigment called anthocyanin. It changes its color from red at very low pH to real blue at very high pH. At the blueberry's natural pH, the color is a purple with more red than blue in it.

What you can do is to juice some blueberries separately, then add lots of baking soda to the juice. It will turn a dark blue. You can then mix it into the batter.

The problem is that you will be changing the taste of the muffins, and some of their rising behavior. If you use little enough blue-turned juice to not make a major change, you will get dirty greenish muffins, as the batter itself is yellow-beige, and that will mix with the blue. If you use enough to color them, you will have pretty display muffins (provided they don't stay flat because you turned the batter too alkaline for the baking powder to work) which will taste like soap.

Personally, I will stick to food coloring. "Natural" coloring is an unachievable utopic for most foods, as natural pigments are finicky and almost never concentrated enough to color a food flavor with them. The only time they work is when a food is made predominantly from the coloring food, e.g. blueberry sorbet is indeed red-purple from the blueberries contained in it.

naturally colored dough

This is an example of naturally colored shortbread cookie dough. The lavender dough was colored using elderberry fruit juice with lots of baking soda. It was very noticeable in the taste, I wouldn't do it again. Ironically, the slightly soapy taste fit a bit with the lavender aroma, it was just weird eating the stuff.

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Baking soda also runs the risk of turning the anthocyanins green though, which is a common problem in blueberry muffins. –  sourd'oh Nov 26 '13 at 15:38
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Blueberries, despite the name, are purple, not blue. The appearance of being bluish in color is due to iridescence, not pigment.

While you certainly could color the batter purple by pureeing some of the blueberries into it, it won't be blue. Think about the color or stain near the berries blueberry muffins you have eaten—it is a rich purple, not blue.

True blue is an exceedingly rare color in natural foods. The only even close to common food that is blue is blue cornmeal. You can certainly make blue corn muffins if you can obtain blue cornmeal.

Sadly, if you want blue muffins that are not based on blue cornmeal, you will almost certainly need food coloring.

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Why is a true blue color rare in natural foods? –  Nathan Olson Nov 26 '13 at 5:34
    
Color is an arbitrary cultural construct. Plants didn't consider the palette common in northatlantic human culture while evolving :P On a more serious note, there are some evolutionary biology arguments for growing berries which contrast well with green foliage. but I have always felt suspicious to evo-bio arguments, it is way too easy to make up ones which sound convincing. But this is getting very far away from cooking. –  rumtscho Nov 26 '13 at 12:40
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List of naturally blue foods: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/3410/… –  Yamikuronue Nov 26 '13 at 12:49
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Puree a few of the berries, say 1/4 cup, before adding to the batter. That shouldn't be enough liquid to mess up the recipe badly. Work quickly once you've got the puree in though, blueberries are acid enough (pH about 3.1) to start your leavening agent working immediately. That'll mean flat muffins if you don't pop them in a hot oven fast.

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This could work if you're using a muffin recipe with an acidic base, such as sour cream, yogurt, cider vinegar, etc. If the pH of your batter is too high (from the baking soda), they tend to turn green. –  sourd'oh Nov 26 '13 at 15:37
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