Well, the triple chocolate muffin with salted caramel custard center that is! “THAT one is the fairest muffin of them all” said the wicked fast food outlet step mother! “Mwahahahaha, mwahahahaha!”
Across the entire Kingdom, the once wholesome homemade treat had gone rogue… Imposters of all flavours had disguised themselves, wearing traditional muffin attire, camouflaging their real dessert identity. The people of the Kingdom were confused as was the King… How could it be that what was once trusted morning fare could be so confusing. The good old faithful muffin started to lose ground to its evil cousin cupcake who was loaded with sugar, bleached grains and yucky fats. It was shamed from the healthy side of things. People viewed it as a cheat… Dieters swore never to eat another mouthful of muffin! The poor muffin who was once so distinctively different from his party cousin fell from grace and was shoved in the corner of the court of evil foods! Not spectacular enough to take center place in celebrations but wicked enough to attracted sinners who would hide behind the name muffin to satisfy the need for a sugary treat while convincing themselves it was healthy. The muffin was no longer wholesome yet not glorious enough to be the center of treat attraction. It had lost itself… This went on for decades… Some even blamed the real muffins of being bland and boring, similar to cardboard in taste and texture! Ohhhhh, what a shame! Until lo and behold, the King who for years had been enjoying the real McCoy baked by his very own Queen, finally declared: “Thou shalt not use the name of muffin in vain! Thou shalt reinstate the muffin status and dignity: the healthy table has plenty room to welcome these wholesome sweet fragrant baked bundles of joy! Thou shalt no longer confuse muffins with cupcakes”! And the people of the Kingdom welcomed the muffins back and they all lived in harmony, happy and healthy ever after…
Is a healthy muffin a fairy tale? Maybe sometimes… I have several recipes in my repertoire that suffer from that cupcake vs muffin identity crisis. And some may stretch the definition of breakfast a smidgen but of all the sweet baked yummy goodness offered out there, muffins can often be the healthiest and fairest of them all! My former Café’s claim to fame was built on two distinct items: muffins and soups. Although I have shared several soup recipes so far on this blog, I have noticed that oddly enough, I have not been as generous with my muffin recipes… Maybe the time has come to reinstate the goodness of the muffin in our kitchens? When done right, they are definitely very yummy and satisfying! Muffins are the easiest and less demanding baked goods to make! Don’t be intimidated by the list of tips below, which are simply meant to ensure muffinmania success in your kitchen too!
Here are a few tricks that make muffins delightful:
Selecting the right grains
Finding the right balance between fat and humidity
Selecting the correct oven temperature
Not over mixing
The rest is really all about the recipes… What separates my muffins apart from any other is my special blend of grains which I use in nearly all my muffin recipes. I usually mix a big batch “muffin flour” (recipe below) in a separate container which is then easily accessible whenever I wish to bake muffins. I substitute in exact same amount my muffin flour for any flour called in a recipe, with the exception of oatmeal. I never replace oatmeal as it often the star grain of a particular recipe.
I used to think that melted butter was the better option for flavour and texture but I much prefer using a neutral oil such as grapeseed or avocado. Any neutral oil of your choice will do for muffins. Without entering the oil debate, I shy away from canola, corn and vegetable oils as I prefer to use organic cold pressed oils as much as I can but they can equally be used in any muffin recipe. But why not butter? Well for one thing, butter is made of about 82% fat, the rest being milk solids and water. I find it affects the overall texture of a muffin: in my experience, muffins made with butter seem tougher and also seem to dry out faster than those baked with oil. The other reason is flavour: you would think that butter would give muffins a deep, richer flavour right? Well not so much in this case. Muffins are made with bold tasting grains paired with fruit and often nuts. Butter’s delicate flavour is no contest to these big and bright notes. I personally enjoy my butter on top of a freshly baked muffin, still warm from the oven!
I also favour buttermilk to milk: when a recipe calls for milk, I simply swap it for buttermilk. Buttermilk is thick and rich even though it is very low fat. I like to use it because the batter has time to bake before the grains absorb too much liquid. This definitely yields a much tender muffin that those baked with low-fat milk.
Over mixing muffins is a common mistake… Contrary to cakes who thrive on air bubbles being incorporated within the batter, muffins fare much better when baking powder and/or baking soda do their thing! As a matter of fact, I never use an electric beater to make muffins. Wet and dry ingredients should meet briefly and only moments before baking.
And lastly, muffins do so much better when baking at a high temperature. This promotes a quick rise while quickly browning the top. I prefer using the convection setting when baking muffins. Oven setting and their purpose are discussed in this post: My Kitchen’s Work Horse aka Oven
I am sharing as well one of my Kingdom’s most cherished muffin recipe: our family favourite Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins. The Princes (my two sons) have been notorious at ignoring freshly bought bananas, forcing me to bake muffins once the bananas have gone too far to be enjoyed as a snack on their own. The King has trained his sons well I think… It’s a conspiracy!
SPECIAL BLEND FLOUR
5 parts all-purpose flour
5 parts whole wheat flour
1 part wheat bran
1 part ground flaxseed
Mix well together and keep in a well sealed jar, refrigeration is recommended for long-term storage.
This flour can be used in most muffin recipes.
I am not experienced in gluten-free flour mixtures and cannot offer substitutes for a gluten-free mix
BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS
Makes 12 standard size or 6 jumbo
2 cups special blend flour
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
½ cup chocolate chips (reserve a few to sprinkle on top of each muffin)
2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4-6 medium size bananas)
½ cup oil or melted butter
¼ cup milk or buttermilk
- Heat oven at 385°F, use convection bake if that is an option
- Line 12 standard or 6 jumbo with parchment paper muffin tin liners
- In a large bowl, using a whisk, combine muffin flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt
- Add chocolate chips and mix well to combine
- Mash the bananas well. Add the oil or melted butter, milk and eggs. Whisk until well combined
- Make a small well in the flour mixture, pour the liquid mixture in and mix using a spatula or wooden spoon until just blended. Do not over mix
- Using a deep spoon or large ice cream scoop, fill the muffin cups equally.
- Top with a few chocolate chips
- Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are golden and spring back when lightly touched