Technically fall is here, but Mother Nature can’t quite make up her mind. This time of year always makes me want to dig out my old recipes and search for new ones. What’s more comforting on an almost warm but slightly crisp fall day, than a warm muffin? Actually I could think of a few more things, a muffin will do for now. So let’s talk muffins shall we?
One reference describes a muffin as a quick bread. Quick breads are leavened by chemicals (baking powder/salt) as opposed to yeast. Muffins were developed in the latter part of the eighteenth century, when pearlash ( forerunner of baking powder) was discovered. The Dictionary of American Regional English describes a muffin as a small cake: a cupcake. Which makes sense to me as I was never able to really tell the difference between the two. Due to the fact they are made from a batter and not dough they have to be baked in molds, which are known as muffin tins or cupcake pans. The really fun part is that they are easy and quick to bake. However, as with most baking projects, sometimes things go awry. Do you have any idea as to why your muffin may have turned out sticky? What on earth made them hard after your best effort to follow the recipe to a “T”? Look over this list for some troubleshooting tips.
That’s a Tuffy
A tough muffin is generally the result of a batter that has been stirred too long. Muffin batter should be lumpy; with ingredients only being stirred until they are just moist. It’s a good idea to use a wooden spoon or wire whisk rather than an electric mixer. In addition if you are going to add fruit or nuts to the batter, take care to combine wet and dry ingredients until barely moistened. Adding fruits and nuts makes the batter more difficult to stir, which makes you want to stir more to thoroughly incorporate all the ingredients.
Got a heavy muffin on your hands? You may have added to much egg or liquid. If you’ve followed the recipe exactly you may be tempted to add more flour or less egg. That may only make it worse. Could be that you just have a bad recipe.
If you leave muffins in the pan to long they will sweat. Muffins made without a pan liner should be removed from the tin right away, and placed on a wire rack for cooling.
Pale Sticky Tops
Muffins should be baked at 350-400° F (usually) and for approximately 20-30 minutes (recipes will vary). If the color and texture of your muffin tops are not to your liking, leave them in the oven for a few extra minutes. Test one for doneness with a toothpick or tip of a knife inserted into the center. If it is done and you still don’t like the look and feel of the tops, you can always drizzle them lightly with a powdered sugar glaze.
That’s the Way the Tasteless Muffin Crumbles
Did you remember to add the sugar? Muffin batter without sugar turns out more like a biscuit. You can still eat them if you don’t mind having biscuits.
Rising to the Occasion
Baking powder and salt make baked goods rise. Double check the recipe and back track your steps to make sure that those two ingredients got in, and in the proper amounts. You’re sure you added them? Check the expiration date on the baking powder. Expired baking powder will give poor results.
Solid as a Rock (Almost)
Are parts of your muffin hard (Yikes) ? More than likely the egg wasn’t mixed in thoroughly. When a recipe calls for a beaten egg, beat it until it is light and frothy before adding it to the remaining wet ingredients. After you have added it to the wet ingredients, beat the combined mixture again.
More Helpful Hints
Read the recipe first. (Sounds like a no-brainer, but some people just jump right in) Before you start baking, have all of the ingredients measured out and on hand. Make sure you also have all the utensils needed. There is nothing worse than discovering that you don’t have the ingredient or utensil once you are in the middle of the recipe. After you’re done and you have the finished product, jot down some quick notes.
- What could you have done differently if anything?
- Was the yield correct?
- Can you make variations from the recipe?
- What was your family’s reaction?
Baking is science, but not rocket science. Relax, enjoy the process and results. If your muffins don’t turn out the way you want, you can always try again.