Muffins, Bake, Cake, Small Cakes

Muffins are a mainstay around our house. They are as nourishing as they are great to eat. They are quicker and easier to make than cookies and usually contain much less sugar and fat. (For Easter, we served cranberry nut muffins with a ham dinner.) They work well for snacks and desserts as well.

Today we’ll make muffins using the”muffin method”. (Just as there are two major makeup methods for quick breads, there are two methods for muffins-the muffin method and the creaming method.) From the muffin method, the fluids and the dry ingredients are mixed separately and then stirred together until just combined. We will include tips and directions to make the perfect muffin and a few streusel and topping recipes to crown your creations with. Raccoon Poop

To make muffins using the muffin method, choose a favorite muffin recipe that does not call for the creaming of sugars to the fat. (Look for a recipe that calls for oil or melted butter.)

We enjoy the spray oils from an aerosol can to reach the corners of the tins. Make certain to cover the top edges where the cakes will flow when baking. (you may use paper liners but because the batter adheres marginally to the paper, you will have less volume to the muffins.)

Temperature is one of the secrets to those well domed muffins that you find in the better bake stores. Commercial ovens utilize precise heat settings and timers. In the kitchen, we could approximate those results by:

O Making sure the oven is completely heated before baking. We like to let the oven sit at full temperature for at least ten minutes before baking so that the heat is well-absorbed into the construction of the oven.
O Close the door as soon as possible to keep the heat trapped.

O Setting the temperature at a higher initial setting and lowering the temperature afterwards. The higher heat makes a burst of steam that lifts the batter.

O Placing the muffins in the upper third of the oven where it will be hotter and more constant.

Always measure flour precisely using a scale if you have one. Muffin recipes are sensitive to the proportion of flour to liquid. Too much flour and the muffin will not rise properly and will be dry. Too little flour and the muffin will flow over the edges of the muffin cup rather than dome nicely. If you will need to fine tune your favourite recipe, change the flour by a tablespoon or 2.

To make cake-like muffins, use a lower protein flour-cake or pastry flour. Higher protein all purpose or bread flours will make a muffin that is chewier and more bread-like.

Back to the mixing:

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl to be certain that the baking powder and other ingredients are well combined. Set aside.

Whisk the egg in a separate bowl with a French whip or fork. Add the other liquids and whisk again. (Some recipes will instruct you to stir the sugar and salt to the liquids, rather than add them into the dry ingredients, to be certain that they dissolve completely and are equally dispersed. We like to do this with all muffin recipes that aren’t creamed.)

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Add the liquid all at the same time. Stir with a spatula until mixed well and moistened-some lumps will remain. Do not over stir-stirring too much will develop the gluten in the flour and the muffin will not be tender and crumbly. To prevent over stirring, we favor a spatula to an electric mixer.

If you are using fruit in your muffins, fold them in gently at the end of your mixing using a minimal number of folds. Fruit crushes easily in the thick batter and the juice will stain the batter.

Make sure the muffin tins are evenly filled so that they bake evenly. Most recipes direct that the muffin tins be stuffed 2/3’s full to allow room for growth. If your batter is at the right consistency, you can fill the tins for a wonderful dome on the muffins.

Bake the muffins until they are a light golden brown. The muffin top should spring back when lightly pressed with the finger and a toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean. Over-baked muffins will be dry and tough. Under baked muffins may be heavy and moist.

It’s easy to tear apart hot cakes attempting to lift them from the tins. Instead, allow the muffins sit for a couple of minutes and you should be able to easily lift them out intact. Set them on wire racks to keep on cooling.

Muffins are best served hot and do not keep well beyond the first day. Freeze any extras.

Now for those streusel recipes which we promised:

Brown Sugar and Nut Streusel Topping

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon cold butter

  1. Chop the walnuts into small pieces.
  2. Stir the walnuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon together.
  3. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry knife or two table knives.
  4. Spoon the streusel mixture over the muffin batter equally before baking.

Cinnamon-Sugar Topping

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon good quality cinnamon

6 tablespoons butter, melted

Mix the cinnamon and sugar together in a bowl. When you remove the muffins from the tins, dip the still hot muffins in the butter and then roll the tops in the cinnamon sugar mixture.

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