That’s No Cupcake, Sugar, It’s a Muffin!

How hard can it be to find a basic recipe for the perfect muffin?
I was determined to experiment and find out…

Oat and Orange Peel Muffins

Muffins come in all kinds of flavors and are surprisingly quick and easy to make

What started out as a healthy alternative to doughnuts and cake, has transformed into a bewilderingly diverse range of recipes designed for every taste. A search online for your ultimate muffin recipe is best tackled by using the names of the flavors you wish to create. Whether you are thinking of adding fruit, nuts, ham, cheese, grains, herbs and spices—whatever!—there are all kinds of recipes offering different ratios of flour, sweeteners, oils and flavorings. It is hard to compare.

Everyone has a tried and tested muffin recipe handed down from generation to generation that they swear by. What I wanted was a basic recipe that I could add various (sweet) ingredientsto, so that each batch would have a different flavor. What doesn’t help is that some people make mini muffins, some people make giant muffins, and everyone wants to make them in batches of 6, 12, 24, or more.

Whichever recipe you end up using, there are two basic concepts: dry and wet. The idea is you need to mix your dry and wet ingredients separately, then fold them together as the final step before baking.

The Ultimate Muffin Recipe?

After deciding to look for banana muffins, I discovered a formula for an easy-to-make base that could be used as a starting point for any sweet muffin recipe. As I experimented with other muffin recipes I decided that the one below is a pretty good all-rounder.

Check out this highly ranked article about making awesome banana muffins by Catherine Robertson on her Cat Can Cook blog.

Here is Catherine’s basic dry recipe:

DRY INGREDIENTS

    • 1.5 cups of flour (any type and any combination)
    • 0.5 cup of white (fine) sugar (more if you like sweet cakes)
    • 1 teaspoon of bicarb (baking soda)
    • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
    • 0.5 teaspoon salt

 

Ingredients and equipment to make muffins are easy to come by

Some basic equipment and a few key ingredients are all it takes to make your own tasty muffins, whatever the flavor.

To create your particular flavor you need to add certain extras. For example, for fruit muffins, you’d need to add mashed bananas, or blueberries, or dried orange peel, etc. Or you could add crushed nuts or chocolate chips. For a slightly healthier texture you can add oats or bran.

Wet ingredients are usually the butter or oil and egg, sometimes a liquid like milk or fruit juice. Whether to include milk or juice depends on how moist the other ingredients you have added are. In the case of bananas, they are fairly moist already, so you only need the egg and butter/oil to easily combine with the dry mix. But in the case of dried fruit or chocolate, adding extra moisture in the form of milk or juice might be required.

Here is a basic set of volumes designed to work with the basic dry ingredients listed above.

WET INGREDIENTS

    • 4 large (very) ripe bananas, mashed
    • 0.33 cup of melted butter or margarine
    • 1 egg
Orange and Saltana Muffins

Adding milk or fruit juice not only adds moisture to your recipe, it can help to complement the flavor of your other ingredients

          The combined wet and dry ingredients should give you enough mixture for about 12 medium-sized muffins. Sometimes the volume will be affected by the amount of extras you add and the ratio you prefer to the cake-like parts of each muffin.

For example: in a batch of orange peel and sultana muffins (see photo left), this essentially dry base needed an extra cup of flour (to create 12 muffins) and needed 1 cup of orange juice to give it that extra moisture.

Where Did Muffins Come From?

Ever since the 90s, the word muffin has taken on a whole new meaning for me. Before then, I always knew muffins to be flat, fairly plain, doughy kind of round bread, best eaten toasted with whipped cream and jam (jelly). Enjoyed much like a scone, most often as not they were eaten for afternoon tea. Sounds stereotypically English, and in fact Wikipedia lists them as “English Muffins”.

Modern muffins, or American Muffins, as Wikipedia describes them, are a kind of eat-anytime snack. In fact, with all sorts of things added to them and more oily than the English Muffin variety, they seem naturally suited to have with coffee. But you can always mix and match.

Muffin tins usually come sizes of six or twelve

Some of the biggest decisions in making your muffins will involve "how healthy?" and "how many?" but don't let that hold you back.

In their easy-to-carry-and-store sizes, yes, muffins are convenient, and because they are typically filled with sweet ingredients, are an indulgent alternative to bread. These days, commercially produced muffins seem to be just as bad for you as the cake or doughnuts they were intended to replace.

However, it is possible to make healthier muffins that go easy on the sugar and salt, and that contain fresh quality ingredients. There is a huge range of recipes for savory muffins also. Muffins are very easy to make, with most of the hassle up-front in buying the ingredients you want to add.

Here is a recipe I adapted from a friend’s favorite recipe, for a very healthy and filling meal of a muffin:

Oats & Orange Peel Muffins

DRY INGREDIENTS

    • 2.5 cups of flour (plain or wholemeal)
    • 0.5 teaspoon of salt
    • 0.5 tablespoon of baking powder
    • 0.5 tablespoon of bicarb (baking soda)
    • 0.5 teaspoon of cinnamon
    • 0.5 cup brown sugar
    • 1 cup of oats
    • 1 cup of orange peel

WET INGREDIENTS

    • 1 egg
    • 0.25 cups of sunflower oil
    • 1.25 cups of milk

Mix dry and wet ingredients separately, then slowly mix both together. Grease your tins with butter or oil. Add the mixture to just below the brim of each cup. Sprinkle a few oats on top of each muffin for effect. Cook on 180 degrees Celsius (or 350 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 20 minutes. Check that your muffins have cooked completely by poking with a toothpick or straw. Stand in the tins to cool. Makes 12 muffins.

Why not give it a go, and let me know how it tastes…

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