20 August 2009

The Muffin Formula

Lemon-Mint-Thyme teacakes
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

I discovered recently that I have mastered the Muffin Formula and now don't need a recipe to make muffins and quickbreads. The idea of throwing together baking is still so exciting to me that I thought I'd share my method.

It all started with the Best Ever Banana Muffin recipe. Now that isn't even the original version of the recipe. The original version had 1/4 cup of butter and no mention of chocolate chips, yogourt, or apple sauce. The name "Best Ever Banana Muffins" comes from a Robin Hood flour recipe that has made its way into many community cookbooks. And it is indeed a great recipe because it's so forgiving of substitutions and experiments. The chocolate chips were an obvious muffin add-in, but getting rid of the butter was the first great discovery. With the banana for moist-ness, the butter really was only adding unnecessary fats. And then there was the time I had no eggs, so I used some apple sauce instead. The muffins were still delicious ... a bit different, but still totally edible.

So how did I make the leap from banana muffins to The Muffin Formula? Well, one day, I decided that I really wanted to make some apple-spice bread. I found some recipe on the internet that sounded okay, but I started modifying it right away for what I wanted to put in, and realised in the end that all I'd retained was the 1/2 c butter and from there I'd actually just followed the proportions of my trusty muffin recipe. (I already knew that muffins and quickbreads are just the same batter, but cooked in different pans). Then, some time later, I had no bananas, but lots of plain yogourt, so I made some muffins with the yogourt as the sole liquid and flavoured it with ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon (sort of gingerbread spices).

The final realisation came yesterday when I decided I wanted some lemony tea cakes. And I just MADE them. I'm sure many a frequent muffin baker has made the same discovery, but in case you haven't, here's my muffin/quickbread method. All amounts are approximate... this is just the basic formula.

Lemon-Mint-Thyme tea cake
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

The Muffin Formula

Mix wet ingredients in a large bowl:
  • 1/4 to 1/2 c butter (optional, makes it more cake-like)
  • 1/2 c to 3/4 c sugar or honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 to 1-1/2 c liquidy ingredient(s) (apple sauce, yogourt, sour cream, juice, mashed banana, milk, etc. Aim for less liquid if it's a thin liquid like milk and aim for more if it's more viscous like banana)
Add the dry ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 to 2 c flour (amount depends on how soupy the wet ingredients are)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Add some special flavourings:
For best mixing, I suggest you add dry things like spices or zest with the dry ingredients, wet things like essences with the wet ingredients, and things in pieces (like most fruit, nuts, and so forth) at the end.
  • spices and herbs (ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, thyme, mint, etc)
  • liquid essences (vanilla, rose water, orange blossom water, almond extract, etc)
  • fruit (apple, berries, raisins, currants, citrus zest, dates, candied ginger, etc),
  • nuts, seeds, chocolate chips
Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes for muffins or at 350°F for 1 hour for a loaf.

Some examples of my experiments using the Muffin Formula:
  • apple-spice bread (small chunks of apple and cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg for the flavouring, used 1/2 c butter and 3/4 c brown sugar, yogourt and milk for the liquid, topped with more chunks of apple and sprinkled with brown sugar)
  • gingerbread muffins (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cloves for the flavouring, 1/2 c sugar, no butter, yogourt for the liquid)
  • lemon-herb tea cakes (lemon zest, juice of half a lemon, chopped fresh lemon-thyme and mint from the garden for the flavouring, used 1/4 c butter and 1/2 c sugar, 1 c milk for the liquid)
Go forth and discover the joy of experimental baking! Happy eating!


Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

This is very similar to my muffin formula - the main differences being that I use 2 tablespoons of (corn or canola or sunflower) oil as the butter substitute, and I use 2 eggs. Taras is particularly fond of the zucchini-chocolate-chip version.

I've never tried simply pouring the muffin batter into a bread tin to make quickbread - I shall try that with my lemon-cranberry version!


Howard said... Best Blogger Tips


Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Love this! I have been looking for a formula to break free from recipes. This is great, love the idea of experimenting! Thanks!