“A bad muffin is as memorable as a good muffin is unforgettable.” Br. Peter Reinhart
The true sign of a good muffin is that it elicits a reaction.
It can be a sigh, a pause, or maybe a closer inspection followed by a question or comment–usually made with a full mouth. Every time I serve these Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Muffins, still warm from the oven, I watch out of the corner of my eye for the reaction.
No matter how chatty a group of girlfriends get over their coffees, one bite into these muffins and the conversation slows to a crawl; for the moment, attention is diverted from boy talk and baby names to a perfectly moist, flavorful muffin.
Occasionally, I’ll get a “I usually hate muffins, but…”
And oh, I have been there. I don’t think I ate a decent muffin for the first twenty years of my life, and I had resigned myself to a reality where muffins were dry, tasteless (or overly sweet), and no match for a good scone or sticky bun.
The summer I was twenty, I worked a job in a kitchen where muffin-making was mandatory, and I faced a challenge: the dry muffin. Many hockey pucks, exploding volcanoes, and moon craters later, I had a few recipes worked out that actually brightened up my mornings.
Here are a few things I learned along the way…
10 Tips to Making the Best Muffins Ever
- Start with ingredients at room temperature, eggs, milk, etc.
- Take care not to over mix the batter; use a flexible spatula to gently fold ingredients together.
- 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. If you must, freeze them, although I prefer to freeze the batter (without add-ins), then thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake the muffins fresh in the morning.
Recipe: One-Bowl Oatmeal Muffins
Now the art of making muffins will never garner the solemn respect that bread baking and yeast-work deserves, still every one should have a solid muffin recipe in their repertoire.
The beauty of this recipe is its versatility. It is a base muffin recipe that can happily accommodate almost any add-in you like, and believe me, with the picky eaters around my table, I’ve tried quite a few variations.
One-Bowl Oatmeal Muffins: Flavor Combinations
- 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
One-Bowl Oatmeal Muffins: Basic Recipe
Oatmeal is one of the constants in the recipe and provides, in my opinion, necessary texture.
Be sure to read the recipe all the way through before getting started. You will note that the oats soak in the milk 1 hour prior to assembling the rest of the ingredients, so take that into consideration before starting out.
Makes 12 medium muffins
- 1 cup milk*
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 cup rolled oats (not quick oats)
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground
- add-ins of your choosing (see above suggestions)
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. Enjoy!
*You may also substitute 1 cup buttermilk, and then omit the vinegar from the recipe.