How and Why to Make Muffins – with bonus domestic science lesson.

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blueberry muffin in union jack paper case

Why Muffins are so Brilliant…

  • You only need a spoon, a mixing container and a cup to measure – so no fancy equipment – well, apart from a muffin pan/tin. I like to picture the pioneers going across the US in their wagons with their tin cups and spoons rattling, always ready to rustle up a batch of muffins in a jiffy. Jiffy – now there’s a good name for a muffin mix!
  • You can make 12 muffins with only one egg – so great if you’re running short on supplies.
  • Muffins are more of a batter than a cake so they use less fat and rely more on milk/yoghurt.box of Jiffy brand American Corn muffin mix
  • You can throw just about any fruit/nuts in – whatever is in season, growing in the garden or needing using up. Use the recipe below but just change the fruit. I like to use tinned pineapple or peaches or a jar of cherries when I’m out off fresh stuff. A cup of mincemeat makes yummy Christmas muffins if you’re bored with/too lazy to make mince pies.
  • Muffins take only 5 minutes to measure/mix and 20 mins to bake.
  • They taste so much better than shop bought – don’t all cakes
  • They look impressive and pretty and make you feel like a domestic goddess/god.

So here’s my adaptable RECIPE:

Blueberry/Lemon or any other kinda fruity/nutty/spiced Muffins

This recipe is in “American” and uses cups to measure. For old-money Brits, this is the same capacity as 8 fluid ounces measured in a measuring jug or cup. So, find a cup which takes 8 fluid ounces of liquid and call it your “cup.” I have a lovely bone china coffee cup. For new-money Brits and Europeans (not sure what our friends down-under use) – 8 fluid ounces = 225ml. A china cup is good as you can microwave the butter in it to melt which you can’t do with metal cups.

The trick with muffins is not to over beat the “batter” – lumps are OK – in my lovely book “Granny’s Muffin House” by Susan Ashby, this is described as “mix ’till jest moistened.” Feel free to add a teaspoon or two of your favourite spice/flavouring – cinnamon – mixed spice, vanilla etc. Have fun, experiment.

My blueberry muffins

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • grated rind of one lemon
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup natural yoghurt
  • 1/3 cup melted butter/margarine/oil (I use butter but have used oil and it’s fine I just like the butter flavour).
  • 1 ½ cups blueberries (I used a whole 125g punnet)
  1. Sift dry ingredients into bowl – mix
  2. Add lemon rind – mix
  3. Stir in egg/milk/yoghurt/fat – just ’till moistened
  4. Gently fold in blueberries or other fruit.
  5. Fill paper-lined muffin tins, bake 20 mins at 200C.

OK, having said muffins are easy, there is a wee bit of kitchen science behind it, so for those with the time and the inclination, here’s more of my Muffin Baking Wisdom….possibly more info than you need but some folks like detail!

Baking Powder is the Viagra of the baking world – it’s very IMPORTANT – It makes your cakes rise.

Make sure your baking powder is “in date” or it will have lost it’s raising power. If you are buying new, Lidl sells packets of baking powder in individual paper sachets which means it’s more likely to stay fresh. It’s called Back-Pulver sachet of baking powder from Lidlwhich I assume is German! The tubs you buy in regular supermarkets go out of date before you finish them – even mine and I bake a lot. If I don’t use a whole sachet, I tape it up and use it the next time.

You can use self-raising flour instead of plain – Americans use plain flour (which they call “all-purpose” flour ) for everything and add their own baking powder/salt. We Brits tend to use self-raising flour for cakes as it is actually plain flour with the baking powder and salt pre-mixed in. That’s why it’s important to sift your dry ingredients for muffins so the baking powder/salt gets evenly distributed and it turns your plain flour into SR flour – well, almost but not quite.

In this recipe, if you used only SR flour, your muffins might not rise as much as mine as 1 cup of SR flour has the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of baking powder in it and this recipe calls for 2 cups flour and 1 tablespoon of baking powder which technically is 3 teaspoons. So using 2 cups of SR flour would leave you 1 teaspoon short on raising power. This is why some British recipe’s such as “all-in one” cakes call for SR flour and a small amount of baking powder to give extra lift.

Eggs give raising power too, but one egg in 12 muffins is not much raising power, hence the tablespoon baking powder. So, If you don’t have any “in-date” baking powder” a solution could be – use 2 cups SR flour and 2 eggs. The trade-off will be – your muffins will be more cakey and less classic American muffiny. Make sense? Also, if you do use SR flour don’t add the salt.

The yoghurt is also important as the acidity “activates” the baking powder. You can also use sour cream or sour milk or add a teaspoon of lemon juice or even vinegar to regular milk. I hated chemistry at school but am strangely fascinated by the science of baking – I like to know how things work – well things that are important to me like cakes.

If your fruit is tart – like fresh blackberries or raspberries – add more sugar (up to 1 cup).

The amount of fruit is not critical – use what you have – approx ½ to 1 ½ cups.

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