6 Reasons Beginner Bakers Should Start With Muffins

There's a reason one of the simplest baking techniques is called the "muffin method."

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So you think you’re not a baker. You hate rules. You fear measuring. But you love muffins, right? Don't you want one right now? They're great at breakfast or dessert, when they're savory or sweet, healthy or indulgent, giant or mini, warm from the tin or pulled from the freezer.

Lucky for you, reluctant baker, muffins are the perfect starter pastry. Here are some tips and a bunch of recipes to get you going.

They rely on the easiest mixing method.

The mixing method for muffins iis actually called the "muffin method." It's the simplest, least-finicky batter technique in baking, and is quick by design. You whisk all the dry ingredients in 1 bowl, and all the wet in another, then stir the wet into the dry just to combine. Leave the batter a bit lumpy, even. Overmixing = tough muffins, don't go overboard. Pancakes, waffles and most quick breads use the muffin method, so bake a few batches and you’ll have mastered an essential technique.

There are no fancy tools required.

Most muffin recipes require only those two bowls, measuring utensils, a whisk (no sifting required!) a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, and a muffin tin.

Bonus: If you have a large enough liquid measuring cup, you might even be able to use that as your "wet bowl." Just remember to measure the liquids first and then add the agg. And if you really want to be economical, you can likely make the batter in just one bowl: Whisk the dry ingredients together, make a well in the center, drop in the wet ingredients, and then combine everythibng,

We also prefer to use the paper liners, even if using nonstick muffin tins; in a pinch you can grease and flour the tin, but muffins can be sticky. An ice cream scoop for even distribution of the batter into the muffin tin is icing on the muffin (haha), but not essential.

They bake fast (so you're enjoying your treat sooner!)

Most of the muffins bake for less than 30 minutes. And you can reduce the baking time even more if you are turning standard muffins into minis (which won’t get as brown on top with a shorter baking time). Test for doneness with a toothpick; it should come out dry, or with a few moist crumbs for banana, pumpkin or other fruit-puree based muffins.

Muffins are a great way to use up "bottom of the container" bits.

Muffins love a mix-in. Mix and match dried fruits, nuts, seed and citrus zests. Or if you like a recipe, but want to omit nuts, increase the dried fruit or add some chocolate chips, millet, flax seed or chunky granola, it won’t wreak havoc. Spruce up muffin tops with pumpkin, sunflower or other seeds, cinnamon-sugar or crunchy crystals like turbinado. Muffins are the tiny superheroes of versatility (and are great for using up nearly empty pantry containers.

The batter is forgiving and flexible too.

Don't have all-purpose flour? You can self-rising flour and just adjust the leavening. Most self-rising flour contains 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon fine salt per cup. If your recipe calls for more baking powder per cup, add more to make up the difference. You can also safely sub whole wheat flour for about 25% of all-purpose, particularly in heartier muffins. Start with a small amount and if you like the results, work your way up-until you don’t.

You can play with the sugar, too. Modern muffins tend to call for more sugar than older ones, making them sweeter and more tender — like little cakes. You can generally reduce the sugar by a few tablespoons without altering the texture of the muffin. If you're makng banana muffins with super-ripe, sweet bananas, you can reduce the sugar with a little more abandon.

Plus, muffin batter is easily doubled, so you can make a large batch and save some for snacks throughout the week or month. Which bring us to our next point:

Most muffins keep well.

You can generally store muffins for 2 to 3 days at room temperature, a week or so in the fridge, and 2 to 3 months in the freezer (though streusel-topped or iced muffins aren’t the best choices for freezing). Always cool muffins to room temperature before storing, and wrap each muffin individually in plastic wrap or foil and tuck them into an airtight container before tossing in the fridge or freezer. Banana, pumpkin, applesauce, zucchini and carrot muffins stay moist longer, but can get sticky, as can muffins with high amounts of brown sugar or molasses, which absorb moisture from the air.

Ready to get baking? Try one of these recipes.

Photo by: Rob Pryce

Rob Pryce

Photo by: Armando Rafael

Armando Rafael

Ree Drummond's Healthy Breakfast Muffins, as seen on Food Network's The Pioneer Woman, Season 6

Photo by: KATE MATHIS

KATE MATHIS

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