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Test Kitchen tips: Muffins (and 11 recipes)

February 13, 2013|By Noelle Carter

Ever have trouble getting your muffins to bake up right? Here are some quick tips to consider next time you whip up a batch:

  • Follow the ingredients list as it is written, and make sure you measure the ingredients carefully. Substituting ingredients (like using milk instead of water) can change the makeup of the batter, affecting the final product. Likewise, mis-measured ingredients can affect the chemistry of the recipe -- even a minor change can affect the recipe in a major way.
  • Don't overmix the batter. Unless the recipe states otherwise, mix the batter just until the ingredients are incorporated. Overmixing can affect the texture of the muffins, causing them to toughen and/or have large holes.
  • To evenly portion the muffins, fill the muffin cups using an ice cream scoop.
  • While it may be tempting to fill each muffin cup to the rim, be sure to give the batter enough room to expand while it bakes. Fill each muffin cup no more than two-thirds to three-fourths full, or as directed in the recipe. This will keep the muffins from spilling over the sides as they bake.
  • If you've used all your batter but still have empty cups remaining in the tin, fill each empty cup with a few tablespoons of water. This will promote even baking, and can help keep the tin from warping as the muffins bake.
  • Muffin tins come in all sorts of sizes. Generally, there's no problem converting your standard muffin recipe to fit jumbo or miniature muffin cups -- it's usually just a matter of adjusting the total time (bake longer for larger muffins, less for smaller). But keep in mind that results can vary depending on the oven, the size (and thickness and color) of your muffin tin, and the consistency of the batter; do a "test batch" if you can to iron out any kinks before baking the whole recipe.
  • Always place your muffin tins on the center rack of the oven for even heating. Ovens often have hot spots, and heat differently toward the top or bottom and side walls. Baking in the center ensures consistency. Some recipes also recommend rotating the baking tin partially through the baking time; this also ensures even baking.
  • Many muffin tins come with a very dark coating. Because a darker tin will absorb heat more quickly, you will probably need to reduce the baking timeĀ (depending on the recipe, the tin and your oven, you may also want to reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees to compensate).
  • Not all muffin tins are created equal, and no two ovens heat exactly the same way -- all of which can affect your baking time. Regardless of the total time a recipe may give, be sure to give the muffins a quick look halfway through baking just to check on their progress and make sure everything is going OK (muffins aren't browning too quickly, nothing has spilled over, etc.). This way you can adjust the temperature and/or timing as needed to make sure they come out right.
  • If your fruit or nuts sink to the bottom of the muffins, chances are they are too large and heavy, or the batter is too thin to support them. Double-check to make sure you measured the ingredients properly, and if so, use smaller fruit or nuts (or chop them smaller) so the batter can support them as they bake.
  • Freeze any leftovers. Ever whip up a batch of muffins and have too many to share at one time? Muffins freeze well, and will keep, tightly wrapped, up to a few months. Simply set them out for a few hours to thaw.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

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