One night, just around midnight, I was very suddenly craving muffins. Delicious, moist, chocolaty muffins with butter melting over their still-hot-from-the-oven fluffy interiors.
But I had no muffin mix. Now, I am generally a proponent of making things from scratch, because it's generally more fun and often has better results. One of a few exceptions to this 'rule' is muffins. I had never actually made muffins from scratch, unless you count my banana ones, which I don't, since they're actually only my banana bread baked in muffin-size which doesn't really count.
So anyway. I was struck by the urge to make muffins.
So I pulled out Great Grandma's ancient, crumbling, may-have-been-Betty-Crocker-but-who-knows-we-lost-the-cover cookbook and looked up muffins. There were two options: Popular Muffins or Sweet Muffins, and a list of add-ins and varieties. Fun!
I thought Popular Muffins sounded good, and dove right into making them.
Mixed up my wet ingredients - egg, oil, milk.
Piled on the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and chocolate chips.
Oh-so-carefully folded everything together until it just, just was combined because if there's one thing that's been drilled into my head about muffins, it's that you'd better not ever over-mix them.
I dished the dough out into a greased 12-muffin pan, and baked according to the directions.
They puffed up tall and pretty and delicious-looking! They tasted... like biscuits. The suggestions in the book made it sound like these would make great berry or fruit muffins, but honestly? They'd work much better with flavors like cheese, or corn.
They aren't inherently bad, really, but they were definitely not what I was looking for. I mean, they were edible. Hubby and I certainly ate them, no use letting decent food go to waste, but they weren't what I wanted a muffin to be.
I guess what constitutes 'popular muffins' has changed somewhat in the last 40-50 years. Huh.
So when I got another muffin craving a few weeks later, this time with guests over for breakfast, I knew the sweet muffins were the way to go.
They started off much the same, with slightly different amounts of oil and milk added to the egg.
And slightly different amounts of flour, baking powder, sugar and salt tossed on top. I still kept the same amount of chocolate chips though.
Folded it all together extra carefully...
Greased my pans and filled them up, and followed the baking directions exactly. Certainly, this time I would have delicious, perfect muffins to serve my guests.
As the timer went off, I gleefully donned my oven mitts, pranced to the oven and threw open the door to reveal -
... Dry, slightly burnt, crunchy, vaguely muffin-like bulgy disc things.
Let me reiterate that I followed the baking directions exactly. Heck, I even timed them for the lowest suggested time just to be on the safe side. Burnt crunchy muffin discs.
I think on that particular day back in the Betty Crocker test kitchens, someone forgot to record how this muffin variation should actually be baked. Just to be clear, the directions they printed were not the correct way.
These poor little muffins tried so hard to be tasty, and you know, with a little butter on there, they almost made it. I only hurt my teeth a bit on the outside. Luckily, I did have a pack of bran muffin mix on hand, so breakfast for my guests was not a complete loss. Phew.
At this point, I was well and truly ready to just swear off muffins from scratch. Far too much trouble, really. Too finicky an item, surely I'd never have it right.
But then the other night, it happened. My tummy had the grumblies, and as I glanced around my humble abode, there were scarce snacks to be found. I knew I had all the makings for muffins, but dare I be so bold as to attempt them again, after such crushing defeat?
Suddenly, I was filled with a steely resolve. This would be the night. This would be the one. The batch of muffins that worked. There were gonna be some changes around here.
I kept the mix the same but changed everything about the directions. 12 muffins? Pfft. This is making 8, tops. Forget carefully-measured dollops filling the cups 2/3 of the way. We're piling all the batter in there we've got.
Next, the original directions called for baking 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees. I should have known from the start that this was insane but, filled with muffin-baking enthusiasm as I was, I had failed to see the signs. Now, older, wiser and more jaded, I knew better.
Just about 19-20 minutes, and only at 350.
I peeked into the oven with some slight trepidation. Despite my initial confidence and bravado (as I baked muffins at 2 AM in my pyjamas) I feared that this, too, would fail, and I would be forever condemned to muffin-less misery.
But what's this? Beautifully rounded little muffins with perfectly golden sides and bottoms? Could it be?
And... the insides are moist and fluffy? The whole thing is sweet and tasty and overall pleasing to the palette?
By Jove, I think we've got it!
(Adapted from an old Betty Crocker Cookbook)
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, but whatever's in your fridge should be fine)
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips (or blueberries, or add-in of your choice)
Whisk together egg, milk and oil. Pile on remaining ingredients, and fold/stir gently until very nearly combined. A slightly chunky batter with a touch of visible flour is much better than a tough muffin.
Divide evenly among 8 greased muffin cups. Bake in 350 degree oven for 19-20 minutes. Remove from pan ASAP to prevent over-browning and allow to cool for a few minutes.
These muffins were so, so good, and part of why I'm so excited about them is now that I've got a basic, simple muffin recipe under my belt, I can start playing and tinkering with it and maybe come up with something new and exciting! I'm thinking apple streusel muffins, lemon cranberry muffins, berry blast muffins - but I better save those for another post.
Definitely give these a go, friends. I know I'll be making them again.
A side note (because I haven't blabbered on nearly enough yet) I went on a small shopping spree at Home Outfitter's today, because a very thoughtful someone gave me a gift card! Well, they gave it to me and my husband, so I could only spend half of it on new baking pans and accessories... But the point is I am super full of ideas for new treats to make and I can't wait to share it all with you guys! You can expect about 1 post per week for the coming month. Next time: probably a birthday cake for a very special lady.