When muffins aren't perfect, the first reaction is to change the ingredients in the recipe. Rather than changing the recipe, try a different mixing method.
There are two major makeup methods for muffins--the muffin method and the creaming method. In the creaming method, we cream the fat (butter or shortening) with the sugar until light and then add the other ingredients. In the muffin method, we mix the liquids and the dry ingredients separately and then stir them together until just combined. While the recipe will specify one method or the other, there is no reason why you can't use the other and see which you like best.
The muffin method is quick and easy. Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix the wet ingredients together including the eggs then add the wet mixture to the dry mixture with a spatula and you're ready to bake. (Don't even break out your electric mixer-in fact, don't use the electric mixer. Stir the two mixtures together with a spatula only until combined-not lump free-so that the gluten in the flour will not be developed.) If the recipe calls for butter or shortening, either substitute vegetable oil or melt the butter and add it to the liquids. (In our opinion, it is better to use oil or melted butter than melted shortening.)
One advantage of the muffin method is that both the dry and the wet ingredients can be mixed the night before. Store the wet ingredients in the refrigerator and then add the wet to the dry ingredients in the morning and you're ready to bake. You'll save time on that busy morning.
In the creaming method, place the butter or shortening in the mixing bowl of your electric mixture. Add the sugar, spices, and salt and cream the mixture together with the paddle attachment for the mixer. (Of course, recipes that call for oil instead of butter or shortening cannot be creamed unless you substitute butter or shortening.) The objective is to drive the sharp sugar crystals through the butter or shortening creating tiny voids of air in the mixture. This entrained air will help the muffins rise.
The creaming method has two advantages: The sugar and fat are well-dispersed in the batter and the entrained air tends to make for a light, fine crumb in the muffins.
In our experience, changing mixing methods can make a marked difference in the outcome of the muffins.
Steps in the Muffin Method
1. Whisk all the wet ingredients together including the eggs and oil or melted butter.
2. Whisk the dry ingredients together.
3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir with a spatula until just moistened.
4. Place in tins and bake immediately as set forth in the recipe.
Steps in the Creaming Method
1. With the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, cream together the butter or shortening and sugars, spices, and salt until light.
2. Add the eggs one at a time, creaming after each.
3. Add the liquid ingredients and stir them in. Do not over-stir or you may reduce the entrained air in the creamed mixture.
4. Mix the flour and leavenings together and then add them to the creamed mixture. Mix until just combined.
5. Place in tins and bake immediately as set forth in the recipe.
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? 2004 The Prepared Pantry