How do I make better muffins?
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?
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.
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 -
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.