Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tips for Better Muffins

Tips for Better Muffins
    I’m not a big cupcake fan. They are too sweet and I don’t like gobs of frosting. I love muffins, though. Did you know that the most popular muffins at bake sales are Chocolate Chip, Blueberry, Banana-Nut,Lemon, Bran, Cranberry and Poppyseed? 

    What is the difference between a cupcake and a muffin? Muffins are to quickbreads what cupcakes are to cake. It’s in the mixing. Muffin batter is gently stirred and stays lumpy, and cupcake batter is creamed for a long time (muffins and quickbreads have dry ingredients and wet ingredients, which are gently stirred together at the last minute creating a lumpy batter just before baking. Cupcakes and cake ingredients are creamed together to make a smooth, creamy batter (plus there’s frosting).

    Some people joke that when you throw both a cupcake and a muffin against the wall, the cupcake makes a poof sound, and the muffin sounds like a thud. Or, that when your wife is younger your call her cupcake. When she’s older with a double chin, you call her muffin. Muffins simply overflow the intended shape . . . sort of like a double chin.

*Add-in flavor combination guidlines:

  1. Spice: Add 2 tsp cinnamon or 1 tsp grated nutmeg. Or, ½ tsp cardamom, 1/8 tsp ground cloves and 1 tsp powdered ginger.
  2. Fruit & Citrus or Chocolate: Toss 1 C fruit w 1 TBL flour and add to batter: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, apples or pears (finely diced) + 1 tsp lemon or orange zest (for a stronger lemony flavor add zest to liquid ingredients and let rest for 10 minutes); OR cranberries or finely diced rhubarb plus 1 tsp orange zest. Be sure to stir up from the bottom to lift fruit from settling in the bottom of the batter. Tossing the dry fruit with 1TBL flour helps prevent the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the muffin. If using chocolate chips or chunks add ½ cup.
  3. Dried Fruit & Nuts:  To the wet ingredients add 1 C of either: raisins, currants, dried cherries, dried cranberries, chopped dates, or chopped prunes. If dried fruit is too hard, soften first in hot water for 10 to 15 min, then drain. Chopped nuts go well with dried fruit. Use up to 1 C per batch.
  4. Cheesy & Savory:  Add 1 C grated cheddar cheese and 1 tsp of you favorite herbs to the dry ingredients.


10 Tips to Making the Best Muffins and Quickbreads Ever

  1. Room temperature ingredients (like eggs and milk) make better muffins.
  2. Be gentle. Use a flexible spatula to gently fold ingredients together. Don’t overmix.
  3. Fresh ground spices. Use the freshest spices possible.
  4. Batter should be stiff enough to hold a spoon upright; if it is too runny, gently fold in a few extra tablespoons of flour.
  5. Grease the entire muffin tin, not just the indentations. Often, the muffins expand over the sides.
  6. Fill muffin tins three-quarters full; the tops are the best part.
  7. Slide a baking sheet under the muffin tin to help prevent the bottoms from getting too dark in the oven. This also helps with cleanup in case there is overflow.
  8. Take care not to over-bake.
  9. Allow muffins to cool in the pan at least 10 minutes before removing them, especially if they contain soft fresh fruit.
  10. Batter can be frozen. Best fresh, but you can freeze the batter (without add-ins), then thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake the muffins fresh in the morning.

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