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How do I make better muffins?

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Hi everyone!

I've just been looking thru old posts on muffins, and have enjoyed reading about Mrs. Smith's muffin challenge. I'm looking to improve my muffin skills--I've always made the recipe from BH&G, and while they are fine, I know I can do better. They tend to be a little dense and floury, without much flavor. I would like to shoot for something closer to Au bon Pain's Cranberry walnut muffin--crispy on the outside, cakey on the inside, and very flavorful. I will try some of Mrs. Smith's recipes (such as Smokey's Cranberry muffins), but can anyone tell me in general what makes a better muffin? Is it using butter instead of oil, different sweeteners, oven temperature, leavening?

-ennyl

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  1. Mine are usually rubbery/soggy. Yes, they're low-fat, but I've had low-fat muffins (even fat-free ones) that had perfect flavour and texture, so there must be another reason.

    1 Reply
    1. re: piccola

      You are probably already aware of this, but I find that they key is in the mixing. The fewer strokes, the lighter the muffin and it makes a world of differene for me. I have found no difference between butter and oil, I just prefer the butter flavor.

    2. A dark muffin tin, no liners, and sifting the flour might make a difference.

      1. I have one recipe from King Arthur Flour that suggests putting them in a high oven (450F) and then after a few minutes, dropping the temp down to 350. That initial burst of heat activates the leavening and they puff up a lot more. I do find that this works to give the muffins a bit more of an airy texture.

        Also, ditto on the mixing. Less is better. And dark tins do help with browning. I have a lighter colored aluminum pan and I just can't get the bottoms to brown evenly.

        1. here's my recipe - 2 cups of flour mixed with a pinch of salt and two tablespoons of baking powder - you can stir this with a whisk to skip sifting. Separately-mix 1 cup sugar, two eggs (beat until light in color) add 1/2 cup of softened butter (not melted)... beat again and then add 1 cup of milk or buttermilk... mix dry and wet (don't stir too much). Add whatever mix in you like, makes six large muffins - sprinkle top with sugar, bake 20-25 min at 350. Enjoy -

          1. Use recipes that call for yogurt - makes the muffins have a nice moist, fluffy texture. And I agree with harryharry - add dry to wet and just stir enough to mix in - better to have a few dollops of unstirred dry ingredients (small ones) than over-mixed muffins.

            1. Thanks for all your tips. I just put a trial batch in the oven of a yogurt muffin recipe from an old thread:

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/35278...

              i used your tips of using a dark pan without liners, and minimal mixing. i'll update in an hour with the results!

              1. here's the verdict...

                these muffins are quite tasty and flavorful, and very moist, as you attributed to the yogurt. it's a success! however, still like to improve 2 things:

                1. texture is still fairly dense. i will try dukegirl's temperature suggestion next time. any other thoughts?

                2. lots of sugar. i wonder if half splenda would be OK to try? anyone experimented with splenda in their muffins?

                thanks!

                -ennyl

                2 Replies
                1. re: ennyl

                  Could you be adding too much flour? You didn't mention whether you had this problem with other baked goods -- if you're using the dip-and-scoop method of measuring, you could be ending up with about 2 Tbsp of flour more than you need. You could try just removing a little of the flour before adding it to the dry ingredients.

                  You could also try beating the egg whites and gently folding them in to make the muffins a little fluffier, but this is more work and you don't want to end up having them fall like souffles.

                  Or, it could just be the recipe.

                  Using some splenda should work, although it doesn't brown as well. You'll have to experiment with that -- I've also seen other threads here about substituting Splenda in various baked goods, so you could search for those.

                  1. re: Pia

                    When I bake, I hear my mother's voice saying "make sure it's EXACT," which goes against my usual style (i am a much better cook than baker). Other baked goods tend to be OK if I stick to exact measurements.

                    I'm pretty sure I was diligent about the measuring this time, but the batter was indeed very thick, and I ended up adding an extra tablespoon of milk to get the dry ingredients to mix in. So your hypothesis may be correct--I will try to err on the side of less flour for my next batch! Thanks for your input.

                2. Splenda works chemically but when all is baked and done, it tastes like um, Splenda.

                  1. Not over mixing has been mentioned but that is really key. You should see some flour and lumps in the batter. Try allowing yourself only 5 strokes when adding the flour. Just like with good biscuits the less handling the better.

                    1. The key to a crisper exterior on a muffin is to butter the muffin pan. Spray oil and muffin papers are easier and lower fat, but you can't beat butter for a lovely exterior texture.