Today, we’re talking about how to do the muffin method: what it is, the steps, examples, and more. There’s even a video for you to watch to learn the steps in the muffin mixing method.
Settle in, friends, because I’m not only going to teach you how to make muffins (and quick breads and pancakes) but also help you understand why we make them using this method. Let’s go!
You can find all my mixing method posts in one place.
And don’t miss all my muffin and quick bread recipes. Thanks for stopping by!
Watch my muffin method web story here.
The Muffin Method Mixing Method
Here’s another one of those basic mixing methods that can really mess us up. Sure, the muffin method sounds like a day at the beach:
- Dry in one bowl.
- Wet in another.
- Wet in dry.
- Stir, stir, stir.
But like with many things that seem easy and straightforward, there are ways you can trip up.
And I don’t want that to happen to you.
What Is the Difference Between a Muffin and a Cupcake?
The main differences are that muffins:
- use liquid rather than solid fat (oil or melted butter)
- less fat than cupcakes
- less sugar than cupcakes
- can have lots of mix-ins
- are not necessarily frosted
If you try to use The Creaming Method (which is how most American-style cakes and cupcakes are made) to make a muffin recipe–to be clear, a muffin recipe written as a muffin, with relatively little fat and low-sugar, etc–you won’t be able to build up a viable batter because there is too little sugar and fat to cream together to have it hold onto the eggs and dry ingredients without breaking.
So muffin recipes that are written to be made using the creaming method will generally have more fat and sugar in them than traditional muffins.
This makes them cupcakes and not muffins. If you’re going to make a muffin, just make a muffin.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a good cupcake, but when I want a muffin, I want that tender, almost fall-apart consistency, and I want it lean enough (low enough in fat) that I can slather it with butter and jam without feeling too guilty.
For example, these chocolate cherry buttermilk muffins. A great example of the power of the Muffin Method!
So, let’s forget the creaming method for muffins and focus on making lean, tender muffins the “right” way!
What Else Can I Use The Muffin Method For?
This is the right mixing method to use if:
- The fat content is relatively low and is in liquid form (oil or melted butter)
- The sugar content is relatively low
- The amount of liquid is relatively high
How to Do the Muffin Method
Here are the steps for performing the muffin mixing method. This is a method you do not want to use the mixer for.
Trust me, as much as you love your stand mixer, your muffins will be better if you mix them gently by hand. More on this in a bit.
[bctt tweet=”As much as you love your stand mixer, your muffins will be better if you mix them gently by hand.”]
The before step: If you’re using mix-ins, toast any nuts, measure everything out, chop any mix-ins that seem too big, and have them ready to go.
1. Whisk the dry ingredients–low-protein flour (White Lily is a nice one if you’re in the southern US, or use cake flour) together with salt, sugar, leavenings and any spices–together in a large bowl.
Whisk your dry ingredients together very well. You are looking for even dispersal of the salt and leaveners. Sifting doesn’t necessarily do a great job of this, so whisk all the dry together thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds. More would be good.
To be extra sure, sift and then whisk.
2. In another bowl or a large liquid measure, combine all the wet ingredients–dairy (milk, cream, 1/2 and 1/2, sour cream, creme fraiche), eggs, liquid fat, liquid flavorings.
Notice I said “liquid fat.” This is one of the points where the muffin method differs from the creaming method which relies on creaming solid fat and butter together to help with leavening.
When you add the fat to the liquid, you want to make sure that all of the liquid ingredients are at room temperature.
You want the fat to be evenly dispersed throughout the batter. For this to happen, you’re going to have to have the rest of the wet ingredients warm enough that the butter won’t turn hard on you the moment you pour it in the measuring cup.
3. Pour the wet on top of the dry and fold them gently together.
Let’s take a moment to really look at what’s going on here.
You’re trying to mix a lot of water-type ingredients together with flour that hasn’t been coated with fat. Remember, in the two-stage mixing method, we coated our flour with a good amount of fat to inhibit gluten formation. Here, we don’t have that luxury.
In the muffin method, we are pouring a ton of wet ingredients on poor, defenseless flour. How do we keep from having dense, chewy muffins, then?
- we’re using a low protein flour, so that’s a good thing–low protein equals less gluten formation.
- When mixing wet into naked flour with the intention of producing a tender muffin, easy does it. You really just want to fold the ingredients together, making sure that you limit agitation as much as possible.
Alton Brown says to stir for a count of ten, but your ten and my ten might be different. I say:
Fold the ingredients together until all the flour is off the bottom of the bowl and you don’t have any big pockets of flour floating around in your batter.
NOTE: Stir in your mix-ins before you get your batter completely mixed. This will help make sure you don’t overmix.
The batter will be somewhat lumpy, and it will be much thinner than a batter made with the creaming method, but you’ll just have to trust that it’ll be okay.
At this point, if you are leavening with baking powder, you can let the batter sit for 15-20 minutes. This gives the flour time to properly hydrate.
It will sort of magically finish mixing itself. Double-acting baking powder gives some rise when it gets wet and then some more when it gets hot, so your muffins will still rise in the oven, even after sitting out for a bit.
If the recipe only calls for baking soda, skip the resting step, as the bubbles are all given up when the soda gets wet.
With recipes that only call for baking soda, you want to get those little guys in the oven as quickly as possible before the chemical reaction stops.
4. Scoop your batter into well-greased (or paper-lined) muffin tins. Fill the cavities about 80% full.
5. Bake at a relatively high temperature–425F is a good place to start.
So, why this high temperature?
To me, and to lots of folks, muffins are defined by their crowns–their majestic peaks.
In order to get this to happen, you have to bake at a high enough temperature that the edges of the muffin set pretty quickly.
Picture it as the batter setting in concentric circles, from the outside, in, and as each “band” of batter sets up, the remaining batter will continue to rise.
The last to set is the very peak. If you bake at a lower temperature, you will end up with something that looks more like a cupcake rather than a peaked muffin.
If you like them that way, go for it, and bake at a lower temperature. Just wanted you to know the “why” behind the peak.
6. Remove from oven. Cool in pans for about ten minutes, and then turn out to cool completely–or not. You could just go ahead and eat one.
What About Mix-Ins?
One of the joys of a great muffin is the mix-in possibilities. They are pretty limitless, whether you want to add just one mix-in or a mixture of harmonious flavors and/or contrasting textures.
Here are some ideas for stand alone additions as well as likely combinations of flavors.
- Nuts (peanuts, pecans, walnuts, cashews, etc)
- Dried fruits (raisins, apricots, apple, dates, figs, etc)
- Small whole fruits (blueberries, raspberries, currants, etc)
- Diced fresh fruit (strawberries, large blackberries, apple, mango, pineapple, peach, etc)
- Chocolate chips (dark, milk, white, or chopped chocolate bar of any type)
- Other Chips (toffee, peanut butter, etc)
- Miscellaneous (cocoa nibs, shredded coconut, etc)
Broadly, this can mean:
- Nuts and chocolate (dealer’s choice!)
- fruit and nuts
- fruit and chocolate
- fruit, chocolate, and nuts
More specifically (and these are just off the top of my head):
- chopped mandarin orange, chopped pineapple, and coconut
- chocolate chips and peanut butter chips
- chocolate chips and hazelnuts
- chopped fresh peaches and pecans
- apple (and/or pear) and walnuts
- chocolate and cherry
- a mixture of stone fruits (cherry, apricot, peach) and almonds
- and pretty much the sky is the limit
Three Rules for Muffins Mix-Ins
- The maximum amount of mix-ins per 12 standard sized muffins is about 2 cups. Any more than that, and your muffins may not hold together very well.
- If you’re going to use nuts, please toast them first. They’ll have more flavor and a crunchier texture. I toast mine in the toaster oven for about 4 minutes, but watch them carefully so they don’t burn.
NOTE: You have more leeway if you toast the nuts whole before chopping them rather than trying to toast them once they’re chopped. More surface area means they will burn more easily.
- As much as possible, have all your mix-ins the same size. You don’t necessarily want to bite into a whole Brazil nut or a big old fig. If you are using mix-ins of different sizes, chop the larger mix-ins to roughly match the size of the smaller ones.
For example, in my chocolate chip, cherry, and pecan buttermilk muffins, the pecans are larger than the cherry pieces and chocolate chips, so I chopped the pecans so they were all of similar size.
What To Look for In a Great Muffin
After you’ve baked your muffins, you can test yourself to see if you’ve done an Excellent Job with this mixing method.
- Cut or break a muffin in half, right down the middle, from peak to bottom.
- Look at the crumb. It should be fairly coarse but moist.
- It should also be very uniform. If you have little tunnels running up through the muffins, you know that you were a little too exuberant in your mixing.
- The tunnels show the path of air bubbles as they passed through the batter and were caught by sheets of gluten. The gluten then sets in that bubble-path shape, a silent reminder of your enthusiastic mixing.
- Tunnels are a sure sign of over-mixing your muffin batter.
[bctt tweet=”The tunnels show the path of air bubbles as they passed through the batter…”]
Aside from the crumb, pay attention to the shape of your muffins. They should rise high and be domed on top, like non-craggy mountain peaks.
If your muffins are flatter on top, most likely either:
- your leavening was out of date or
- your didn’t bake in a hot enough oven.
You’ll also want to check that your mix-ins are evenly distributed throughout your batter.
If you are concerned that your mix-ins might all fall to the bottom, only mix them into about 2/3 of the batter.
Then fill the muffin cups about 1/4 of the way with plain batter and top them all off with the batter containing the mix-ins.
That will give you a bit of a buffer to help ensure that your mixins stay suspended. I learned that trick from Stella Parks over at Serious Eats.
The Muffin Method Recap
- Whisk dry ingredients together thoroughly.
- Have all wet ingredients at room temp. Not the creaming method’s magical “cool room temperature,” because you’re not worried about the butter remaining plastic–it’s already melted. By room temperature, I’m talking around 75F.
- Fold gently. Stop before you think you’re finished.
- If you’re adding mix-ins, be sure to add them while there is plenty of loose flour in the batter so you are extra sure not to over-mix.
- Let the batter sit (baking powder only).
- Bake at a relatively high temperature.
What Size Should I Make My Muffins?
The keen thing about making muffins is that you can make them in all sorts of sizes–mini muffins, regular muffins or jumbo muffins. Pans are readily available, too, which makes it easy to get started.
I don’t recommend baking muffins in silicone muffin tins.
While they won’t stick, which is great, they also don’t brown since silicone is such a good insulator.
Muffin Method Q & A
The main challenge of the muffin method is mixing the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients without activating too much gluten. This is especially challenging with traditional muffins which contain relatively little sugar and fat that would help tenderize gluten.
The main leavener in muffins is carbon dioxide bubbles which are produced by chemical leaveners: either baking powder and/or baking soda. Baking powder reacts with liquid and heat to create bubbles. Baking soda reacts with acids to create bubbles.
Making a well in the dry ingredients just means using a spoon or whisk to make sure that your dry ingredients are higher on the sides of your bowl and have a depression in the center. This depression leaves a place for you to pour your wet ingredients. Then when you start folding the two together, the flour around the edges will naturally fall into the center and on top of the wet ingredients. This helps you mix more quickly while still being gentle to inhibit gluten formation.
Muffin batter is generally fairly thick and can be somewhat lumpy. Not just from the mix-ins, but also from little pockets of flour. If your muffin batter is too smooth, it probably means you have overmixed it.
Overmixed muffins will bake up dense and chewy. They may also have lots of little “tunnels” in them. The tunnels form as the bubbles in the batter work their way up and out of the batter during baking. The gluten ends up getting “pushed aside” and then holds the shape of the bubbles as they pass.
If you are leavening your muffins with baking powder or a mixture of baking powder and baking soda, you can let the batter sit out for about 20 minutes. This will help make sure your flour is nice and hydrated before baking. If, however, the only leavener is baking soda, you need to get them in the oven as soon after mixing as possible so you don’t lose all the bubbles.
To fill muffin cups without making a mess, either mix the batter in a batter bowl with a spout or scrape your batter into a pitcher. Alternatively, you may fill your muffin cups with a portion scoop or an ice cream scoop.
You’ll know your muffins are done when they are firm and dry on top and have nice rounded peaks. They should be a lovely golden brown. If you take the internal temperature, you’re looking for about 195F.
Allow muffins to sit about 5-10 minutes before removing from the pan to cool completely on cooling racks.
After allowing your muffins to cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, I like to use a small, tapered spatula or even just a butter knife to lift up one side of the muffins so I can then grab them and remove them to a cooling rack.
No. All the bubbles from the leavener will have long since dissipated, so if you have a doughy center, you’ll just end up with a dense, baked center. To make sure your muffins are baked through, take the internal temperature. If they are browning too much before they’re done in the center, loosely tent the muffins with aluminum foil during the last few minutes of baking.
If you have questions about this post or recipe, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can leave a comment on the post and I will get back to you within about 24 hours.
If your question is more urgent, please shoot me an email, and I will respond within 4 hours, unless I’m asleep.
A Note About Measurements
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
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- 8 oz low protein flour, ( 2 scant cups) such as cake flour, pastry flour or White Lily flour
- 3.5 oz (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 6 oz (3/4 cup) whole milk at room temperature
- 2 1/2 oz (5 Tablespoons or a little over 1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled to barely warm
- Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 425F.
- Line a 12-cavity muffin tin with paper liners or spray lightly with pan spray. Set aside.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl--flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- Whisk together the wet ingredients in a small bowl--egg, milk, and melted butter.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the wet, and stir/fold until mixed but still a little lumpy.
- Allow the batter to sit for about 10 minutes, then portion out using a disher (ice cream scoop).
- Bake until well risen, nicely peaked, and deep golden brown on top, 15-20 minutes.
Baking time and yield are both for standard muffins. If making minis or jumbos, adjust accordingly.
Nutritional Information is calculated for the basic recipe, without any mix-ins.
- Flavor the batter with citrus zest, spices, extracts, and/or herbs.
- Mix in up to 2 cups of inclusions: fresh or frozen fruit (don't thaw frozen fruit), nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, etc. Toss together with the dry ingredients right before adding the wet ingredients. Use a mixture of inclusions to equal 2 cups. For example, 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, 1/2 cup chopped oranges, well drained, and 1/2 cup toasted pecans
- Top muffins with sparkling sugar or a simple streusel.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Nutrition InformationYield 12 Serving Size 1 muffin
Amount Per Serving Calories 166Total Fat 5.9gSaturated Fat 3.5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 30mgSodium 125mgCarbohydrates 25.4gFiber 0.6gSugar 9.2gProtein 3.2g
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Now, go make some tender muffins using the muffin method. No tunnels.
Thank you for spending some time with me today. Take care, and have a lovely day.