All My Secret Muffin Tricks

I am not a great cook. Cooking is quite a chore for me (yes, I’m a lazy mom), but I enjoy baking. One of my favorite foods to make are muffins! I love how versatile muffins are, and I love that you can throw just about anything in them and they’ll taste good. Growing up, my mom’s muffins ranked as my favorite thing she made for us (even above cookies!).

I have made tons of muffins in my life, and I usually improvise heavily. However, I have learned a few important tricks for making sure your muffins turn out yummy every time.

My Secret Muffin Tricks:

  1. Use enough sugar/sweetener. If you want people to love your muffins, don’t skimp on the sweetener. This is an important point if you’re making muffins to share with others (at work, or as a housewarming gift). If you’re eating them at home when they’re hot, you will still love your muffins even if they only use 1/4 cup sugar. The best muffins are always sweeter, though! And people are used to “muffins” at Starbucks or a bakery, and those things are basically cake.
  2. Always add sugar sprinkles on top. Use either turbinado sugar (“Sugar in the Raw”) or clear sprinkles from the cake decorating aisle. These up your muffin game exponentially.
  3. Make sure there’s a WOW ingredient. Don’t just make muffins with no additions. Plain flour muffins are completely missing the whole point of the muffin. Muffins with shredded veggies will be moist and delicious, and people won’t know why. You can use ugly fruit up and make it delicious in a muffin. You can use up leftovers, even weird ones. If you make juice with a juicer, don’t overlook the leftover pulp as a great addition to muffins. It adds fiber and flavor.
  4. But don’t add too many WOW ingredients. For an improvisational cook, it’s tempting to throw craisins, coconut, AND chocolate chips in a muffin (they’re alliterative!), but trust me when I say you really don’t want to add them all. Choose one, or maybe two. Save your other great ingredients for your next batch.
  5. Use cupcake liners, but grease them with nonstick cooking spray. Pop them into the muffin tins, spray them down, add muffin batter. Nobody wants to lose half their muffin on an unforgiving paper liner.
  6. Don’t overmix. They get tough if you stir them too much.
  7. If you want them to keep a few days longer: add more sugar, more oil. These help to keep them moist longer. Or, pop them in the freezer and they’ll keep for quite awhile.

My favorite base recipe is the Tightwad Gazette Universal Muffin Recipe. I use it as a rough guideline and generally use the following ingredients in a batch of muffins:

A note about sour milk: I like to use multiple leavening tricks because muffins can be notoriously heavy. Therefore, I always use sour milk (milk + vinegar) and baking soda, and it doesn’t hurt to add an extra egg. Blending the egg in the blender also helps!

Mix in a large bowl (dry ingredients):

  • 2.5 cups of flour (white, whole wheat, or any other kind of flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (only if you use vinegar or buttermilk, otherwise, omit – the soda & the vinegar make a reaction that adds lightness)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sweetening ingredient (sugar, honey, etc.)
  • Spices, possibly, as desired

Mix in blender (wet ingredients):

  • 1 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon vinegar (sour milk makes tender, delicious muffins! Or, omit the vinegar and don’t forget to skip the baking soda too.)
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1-3 eggs (3 eggs make a really nice fluffy muffin; 1 egg is more economical)
  • Flavor extract (I like vanilla and/or almond)

Stir dry ingredients together. Blend wet ingredients. Combine in bowl until just mixed. Spoon into paper liners (sprayed with nonstick spray) in muffin tins. Bake at 400 F for 17-20 minutes.

Additions:

Additions can be pretty much anything, from raw or cooked veggies (carrots and zucchini are favorites) to leftover popcorn (yes, you can use it in muffins – it’s pretty good, too!), berries or other fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, healthy stuff (wheat germ, bran), and so on. If you have a leftover that you need to get rid of, you might do well to use it up in a muffin.

You’ll have to decide whether these additions go with the wet ingredients in the blender, or the dry ingredients, or whether you’ll fold them in after the principle ingredients are combined.

To blend or not to blend:

  1. Figure out if you want the addition to be a prominent flavor (if you don’t, then blend it)
  2. Figure out if the item is wet or dry (duh, right?)
  3. Figure out if the item will be mashed beyond recognition unless you fold it in at the very end (I’m looking at you, blueberries!)

If you blend it:

  • The item will be turned into pulp, with nearly no discernible pieces in the muffin. It will also reduce the strength of the flavor of the item. For example: you can blend a ripe banana in the blender and the banana flavor will be harder to detect (it won’t taste like banana bread at all). If you blend blueberries, the delicious berryness will be undetectable. Don’t blend your star ingredient.
  • Instead of chopping them, just blend raw veggies like carrots or zucchini to shred them. Just put them in the blender first with about 2 Tablespoons of liquid. Blend until they’re cut up into small pieces.
  • If you want to add color, shred a bit of the colorful ingredient with the wet ingredients (half a cup of berries will give your muffin a fun tint).
  • If you use a lot of pureed cooked veggies or fruit, your muffins will have a tough outer crust, but added inner moisture. For lower fat muffins, you can omit oil if you use pureed fruit.

If you don’t blend it:

  • You might want to mash it (as in bananas)
  • You might want to fold it in gently after all the ingredients are combined (again, berries)

This info is all by Heather Mann. Please do not reprint in any form without permission!

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