Muffin Tips Every Muffin-Baker Should Know!

Muffins are awesome. WHY? Consider just a few reasons:

  • They’re a hot bread that’s quick and easy to make.
  • They require no kneading, rolling or cutting.
  • They can be a savory, last minute dinner muffin or a sweet delicious breakfast muffin.
  • Made with whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, bran, honey, fruits and nuts, they can also be very nutritious.

I LOVE muffins. I love how quickly they can be made, how pretty they are, how good they taste, how healthy they can be—heck, I even love the word—m u f f i n. They tote well, they make beautiful gifts, they’re always a crowd pleaser, and I could go on and on.

Considering my love affair with muffins, you can imagine how jazzed I was when back around 2011, Cook’n and Dan came out with The Complete Muffin Cookbook. In it, author, Gloria Ambrosia shares not just wonderful recipes, but also tips and techniques that she has gathered over the years for blending ingredients and best freezing practices for later muffin-enjoyment.

And those tips are needed—I’ve had some real muffin disasters in my time. If you can relate, and are looking to improve your muffin performance, then take a look at these tips I’ve gathered from a tried-and-true baking source, Diana’s Desserts (

In a large bowl, beat oil (or melted butter) and egg together to form an emulsion; this disperses the fat more uniformly. Then stir in the milk. (And note: This much mixing can be done ahead and held. The two are combined just before baking.)

To create your muffin batter, cut and fold combined liquid ingredients into your separate bowl of dry ingredients. MIX ONLY TO COMBINE. Batter will be lumpy but no pockets of dry ingredients should remain. The general rule is only 12 strokes. [Me: I did not know this!]

Fill cups quickly and bake immediately. When filling cups, do not stir batter between scoops. Excessive mixing causes loss of leavening.

The perfect muffin? It has a thin brown crust, a slightly rounded top with a pebbled appearance, and a moist, even interior. There should be no peaks, no tunnels which are usually caused by excessive mixing and too much liquid (muffin batter should not be fluid).

And here’s a revelatory piece of advice: “Just because a recipe is in print does not mean that it is in balance. A guide for leavening 2 cups of flour in a recipe is either 2 1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder, or 4 teaspoons fast-acting baking powder, or 1/2 teaspoon baking soda plus 1 cup buttermilk (for the acid) and 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder. More isn’t better: excess baking powder and baking soda taste bitter.”

Diana also has some ideas for easy healthifying a muffin recipe:

Substitute 2 egg whites for one egg in the recipe. If these are stiffly beaten and folded in at the end it will produce a lighter muffin with less fat.

Use non-fat milk instead of whole milk.

Minimize fat in the recipe, by using one-fourth of the oil and replacing the other three-fourths with fruit purée such as applesauce or prunes. Jars of baby food fruits provide a quick choice of purées other than apple.

Adding non-gluten grain products (bran, germ, oatmeal, corn meal) for part of the flour makes a more tender muffin. Begin with the basic formula and change 1/2 cup of the flour to corn meal, bran, wheat germ, rye, oatmeal or leftover cooked cereal. Add 1/2 to one cup chopped apple, dates, prunes, raisins, apricots, figs, blueberries, cranberries, cheese, nuts.

Make favorite muffin mixes by measuring the dry ingredients twice into two separate bowls. Use one and package the other with the list of wet ingredients to be added when mixing at a later date.

Keeping a variety of different muffin mixes on hand (perhaps in Mason jars) is a smart time-saving and easy-to-do idea. And they display beautifully in a glass cake container on the kitchen counter. Muffins and other quick breads freeze wonderfully, also. Just tightly wrap them in plastic wrap and then put them in a freezer bag. They should keep for several months.

Now here’s a yummy recipe I found on a lovely blog, Simple Bites, by Aimee Wimbush-Bourque ( And she also has some tips (some Diana didn’t mention) for perfect muffins.

One-Bowl Oatmeal Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

1 cup milk
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 cup rolled oats (NOT quick oats)
1 large egg at room temperature
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter melted and slightly cooled
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
add-ins of your choosing (see suggestions below)

Combine milk, vinegar and oats in a large bowl and let stand one hour. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a twelve-cup muffin tin and line with cupcake papers. Crack the egg into the oat and milk mixture; add brown sugar and mix to combine. Stir in melted butter.

Sift remaining ingredients into the bowl: flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, & spices. Gently fold into batter, taking care not to over mix. Sprinkle add-in and flavorings of your choice and combine muffin batter gently.

Use a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup measuring cup to scoop batter into muffin tins. Bake until light brown and tops spring back when gently touched, about 10-12 minutes. Note: Muffins will take slightly longer to bake if you are adding fresh fruit such as blueberries or rhubarb.

Remove from oven and cool in tins. To remove, run a sharp knife around the edges and pop muffins out. *You may also substitute 1 cup buttermilk, and then omit the vinegar from the recipe. And here are some recommended additions:

1 cup Raspberries, fresh or frozen & ½ cup Dark Chocolate, chunked or chips
¾ cup Diced Apple (Granny Smith or Russet) and ½ cup toasted Walnuts, roughly chopped
¾ cup Dried Cranberries & ½ cup toasted Pecans, roughly chopped
¾ cup White Chocolate, chopped or chips & 1 cup Blueberries, fresh or frozen
½ cup toasted unsweetened Coconut & ¾ cup Peanut-Butter Chips
1 cup diced Rhubarb, fresh or frozen & ½ teaspoon Green Cardamom, freshly ground
¾ cup Dates, pitted and chopped & ½ cup Pistachios
¾ cup Golden Raisins & ¾ cup grated Carrot

Recipe formatted with the Cook'n Recipe Software from DVO Enterprises.

Add Recipe to Cook'n

In conclusion, more muffin-making tips (this time from Aimee of Simple Bites):

  • Start with ALL ingredients at room temperature, eggs, milk, etc.
  • Batter should be stiff enough to hold a spoon upright; if it seems runny, gently fold in a few extra tablespoons of flour.
  • Use the freshest spices as possible when they are required.
  • Grease the entire muffin tin, not just the holes. More often than not, the muffins expand over the sides, and if those sides
  • have not been properly greased, you’re going to run into trouble when you try to remove the muffins.
  • Fill muffin tins three-quarters full; the tops are the best part, so don’t be shy with the batter.

  • 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.
  • Take care not to over-bake the muffins.
  • Allow muffins to cool in the pan at least 10 minutes before removing them, especially if they contain soft fresh fruit.
  • Enjoy them fresh. BUT IF YOU MUST FREEZE THEM, JUST FREEZE THE BATTER (without add-ins), then thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake the muffins fresh in the morning.

    Alice Osborne
    DVO Newsletter Contributor since 2006
    Email the author!

Subscribe to Cook'n Premium and get newsletter articles like this each week!

blog comments powered by Disqus