Tough times demand tender muffins

Do you have any idea how easy it is to make a tender, tasty muffin? It’s “easy as pie.” A real “piece of cake.” Both of which expressions puzzle me, because neither pie nor cake is anywhere near as simple to bake as a dozen muffins. Popovers can be problematic; brownies might burn. Even cookies are more complicated. But muffins? Give me a bowl and a spoon, and I’ll produce a dozen steaming muffins faster than CNN predicts a winner next Tuesday. Which should be about 6:10 a.m., Eastern time.

Some muffins require beating butter and sugar, adding eggs separately, carefully alternating flour and milk… those are what we here in the test kitchen call cake muffins. Because there’s really no difference at all between that kind of muffin, and a cupcake. Just like scones are really just biscuits with a bit of sugar and a fancy shape.

But stir-together muffins… that’s another story. Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients. Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients. Bake. Enjoy. Now that’s MY kind of breakfast buddy!

If you’re feeling a bit down… well heck, who isn’t? Between you, the thermostat, stock prices, and the world economy, down is definitely a word on everyone’s lips these days. But the current down-side doesn’t have to apply to your mood. After all, there’s not a thing you can do about the stock market.

But how about the stock in your pantry? As long as you’ve got a bag of good King Arthur Flour; some sugar, butter, eggs, milk, and a few other staples, you can bake muffins that’ll turn any frown upside-down.

So down with the blues! (Unless they’re berries). Dig out your mixing bowl and heat up the oven. A warm kitchen, the aroma of cinnamon drifting through the house, and a dozen Simple Muffins… what are you waiting for?

Here at King Arthur, we believe in baking for family, for fun, and for your financial well-being. Hey, forget the 401K; $4.08 for a dozen fresh muffins (and a whole bunch of smiles) is a pretty nice return on investment, wouldn’t you agree?

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First comes the fun part: deciding what you want to add to these basic muffins to make them your own signature specialty. I happen to like chopped dates; I know not many do, but date-nut bread, sticky toffee pudding, date pinwheels… they all speak to me. So I keep a bag of chopped dates close at hand. And what’s my favorite spice (other than vanilla, of course)? Cinnamon. Cinnamon chips and dates—sounds like a plan.

So, whisk together the flour, oats, sugar, salt, and baking powder, plus cinnamon, if it goes with your add-ins. And I can think of very few add-ins cinnamon doesn’t complement. Stir in about 1 1/2 cups chips (cinnamon, chocolate, cappuccino…), nuts, and/or dried fruit.

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Next, combine the milk, vanilla, melted butter (or oil), and eggs. Whisk or beat with a fork till no streaks of egg show.

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Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. This doesn’t mean turn the mixer on high and beat like crazy. It simply means stir till everything that was dry is now wet. Period. Stop. End of story.

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I like to line my muffin tin with papers. Why? Because I don’t mind doing dishes, but I definitely grumble over having to scrub out all those hard-to-reach little creases in a dozen muffin cups. Spare me—which is exactly what muffin cups do. I grease them with our trusty Everbake spray, to make sure they slip off the baked muffins without any crumbling, and there you have it—slicker ’n a smelt, as they say in Maine.

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Use a 1/4 cup measure (or muffin scoop, or big ice cream scoop) to portion batter into the muffin tin.

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The batter will fill the papers just short of their rims.

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Another trusty muffin ingredient: sparkling white (coarse) sugar. It takes muffins to the next level; the culinary version of adding a strand of pearls to your little black dress.

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And tasty. This lovely crystalline sugar glitters, then crunches when you bite into the warm muffin.

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So, what more can I say? These muffins go from inspiration to delectation in just about 25 minutes. Fast, cheap, and easy—hey, sometimes that’s a GOOD thing.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for The Simplest Muffins.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Supermarket bakery Cinnamon Chip Muffin, $1.00 ea.

Montana Muffins Cinnamon-Apple Muffin, $2.45 ea.

Bake at home: The Simplest Muffin, made with cinnamon chips and dates, 34¢ ea.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. chocolatechic

    These look good.

    I struggle to make a muffin that isn’t dry the next day.

    Do you have any secrets or tips for that? My rule of thumb for moist muffins is not to overmix or overbake and to put them in an airtight container as soon as they are cool. Do you have a problem with a particular muffin type? Tara @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  2. Lorraine Stevenski

    Nice looking muffins! Nice basic recipe too. I use turbinado sugar on top with a bit of oatmeal for an easy topping. You can’t beat home made muffins. You know what’s in them is good stuff; not a lot of chemicals and fat like you get with store bought muffins.

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  3. Sheri

    Do you think 1C of fresh diced apple would work (instead of dried fruit or nuts) or will that make the batter too moist? Using fresh diced apples would be delicious in this recipe and should not affect the batter adversely. Tara @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  4. lisa

    These muffins are beautiful. Homemade muffins are such an easy, inexpensive treat. I like the sparkling white sugar topping – it makes them look like they’re straight from a bakery.

    Reply
  5. Sue

    I have a problem. I never use quick cooking oats and I do not have hi-maze fiber either. Can I use regular oats and just give them a quick spin in the food processor?That’s a great idea – and should work just fine. Tara @The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  6. Abigail

    Muffins are the perfect beginning baker’s item. For any beginners out there, muffins, including this perfect recipe, come out great mixed by hand. That is, if you haven’t bought an expensive mixer yet, these come out perfectly with hand mixing. Cost saving is good and the flavor is way better.

    Reply
  7. Allie

    Can I use chocolate chips, do you think? I want to try these today. :) I made the doughnuts yesterday and they were perfect…Give it a try, have fun. Frank from KAF.

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  8. Zeke

    I’m going to have to try this recipe out. I’ve made a few batches of Apple Muffins that have turned out great, but this may top that one! To “chocolatechic” above, stay-wet ingredients like Apples also leave the muffin moist for at least a few days left “out.”

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  9. Sadie

    So, when the melted butter hits the cold ingredients and starts to congeal, that then leads to lumps. Is that ok? (Wondering for this and other recipes.) I have a fear of over-mixing…

    Sadie, I don’t know why, but I haven’t had that problem with this recipe. Warm the milk to lukewarm (barely), then add the butter – that should help. Or use oil in place of butter. Or whisk vigorously. Any of those should help dispense with most of the lumps- PJH

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  10. Marliss

    A recipe that makes twelve muffins and uses three eggs is not particularly healthy. I will stick with the oatmeal muffin recipe that KA came up with this summer. It used blueberries, but other fruits could be substituted.

    Marliss, depends on your diet. Eggs are recommended for many of us with low or moderate cholesterol – they’re a good source of protein and vitamin D, and considering you get 1/4 of a yolk in each muffin, pretty low-fat. I’m glad you have a recipe you like – enjoy! PJH

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  11. deb

    These sound great , all your muffin recipes in your Bakers Companion cookbook are excellent also. I find most muffins dry out on day 2 or 3 so I split and butter any uneaten muffins on day 1 and freeze in sandwich bags for my husband’s lunches. If they’re still frozen when he wants to eat them it just takes a few seconds in the microwave for them to be perfect again.

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  12. Julia Peyton

    This is a great recipe for a young baker. My 5 year old grandson loves cooking and we’ll give this recipe a shot after school. I like the idea of a little chopped fresh apple and perhaps some butterscotch chips, too. Better than anything from the uptown bakery, for a fraction of the price and a lot more fun!

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  13. claire

    If I want to prepare the batter ahead of time, will it keep well overnight? If so, are there any different steps to take in preparation, or suggestions for the best way to store it? Thanks for your help!

    Yes, should be just fine overnight. You’ll probably have to bake them a few minutes longer due to the chill, that’s all – PJH

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  14. MICHELE MCNEILL

    CAN WE REALLY USE THESE MUFFINS MIXES AS A QUICK BREAD, IN OR OUT OF THE BREAD MACHINE??
    WHAT IS THE REAL DIFFERENCE??
    I REALLY HERE ABOUT MUFFINS SO MUCH, I AM TIRED OF THE SAME OLD MUFFINS WHEN I RATHER HAVE A LOAF, WHICH KEEPS FRESHER LONGER!!
    THANKS MICHELE

    Michele, should be fine as a quick bread- try in a 9×5 pan first, 350°F about 50-60minutes? As for the bread machine – give it a try and let us know. PJH

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  15. Catherine

    I was fascinated by your answer to Claire’s query — I thought that once the wet ingredients hit the baking powder it would start to fizz, and the batter would deflate overnight. What actually happens? And does that mean I can make all my cake/cupcake batters the night before baking, too?

    If you use baking powder, things hold well – that’s what the “double acting” is about, when you read the label and it says double-acting baking powder. When wet hits dry one reaction occurs; but an even greater reaction happens when heat is added. Each batter is different, depending on the balance of acid/base; so I wouldn’t blithely expect every single thing made with baking powder (NOT baking soda) to hold perfectly over night. But give it a try; if you’re nervous, bake a cake and leave out enough batter for 1 cupcake, then bake that the next day, see what happens. Next time, you’ll know if that particular recipe can take an overnight rest. – PJH

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  16. Dee Doheny

    With regard to making chocolate chip muffins, would cinnamon still be used or is the vanilla flavoring all I need?

    If you like cinnamon/chocolate combo (Mexican chocolate), go for it. Or a teaspoon of espresso powder dissolved in the milk would be DELICIOUS with chocolate chips… PJH

    Reply
  17. D

    Can I substitute white whole wheat flour for the all-purpose flour:

    Since fresh apples will be OK, what other fresh fruit will be good for this recipe: fresh banana and unsweetened dried coconuts…fresh pears and dried pcans….fresh blueberries and dried walnuts…??? Thanks!
    Hello – Yes, you may use just white whole wheat flour. And, be as creative as you’d like with additions! Thanks for writing. Elisabeth @ King Arthur Flour

    Reply
  18. Tom Mix

    Can K.A. self-rising flour be substituted 1:1 without the other levening agents of course? Hello Tom – Yes, you can substitute 1:1. And remember, self rising flour has baking powder and salt in it. You may want to cut back on the salt in your recipe. Elisabeth @ King Arthur Flour

    Reply
  19. Leigh Ross

    Tried these this morning since I had all ingridents and they were so easy. Turned out very good but feel I should have made them bigger. Am going to look for a Texas size muffin pan.
    Would it be possible for you to do a Scone work up?
    There is a backery here in town that makes HUGE scones, she use’s the ‘drop cookie’ method and make them one at a time as opposed to cutting into wedges.
    Thanks for everything, I enjoy reading all the comments and answeres.

    Leigh, take a look at our scone blogs: all-purpose scones, and bacon and cheddar scones. I’m planning another one soon. Enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  20. Tom Mix

    Re my earlier question regarding the use of K.A. self-rising flour: if I use self-rising, shouldn’t I eliminate the salt and baking powder altogether?

    Yes, that’s right. Self-rising flour has about 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt per cup. PJH

    Reply
  21. Andrea

    Ooooooooooooh….dates. And cinnamon!

    SOLD! :)

    Muffins are by far the easiest quick baked good – I make a batch at least two times a week for my husband’s breakfast. He’ll eat a muffin or two with a banana and his coffee every day. A bit mundane? Sure…but tasty!

    I also love Morning Glory muffins. But don’t tell my hubby those orange bits are really carrot – he thinks it is orange zest! ;)

    Reply
  22. Deanna

    This is a GREAT recipe! They rose spectacularly and are as tender as muffins should be. I used WWW flour. Here’s what I changed:
    Quaker old-fashioned oats instead of quick oats
    frozen Maine blueberries (1 c.) for add-ins
    1/4 t. lime oil
    no cinnamon, vanilla or sugar on top
    no muffin papers
    baked for 20 min.
    I always freeze the leftovers and then warm them up VERY BRIEFLY in the microwave.

    Reply
  23. Allie

    I tried this today and wanted to share my results. They turned out great. I left the cinnamon in, used whole wheat pastry flour (what I had on hand), and I used the non-fat egg stuff that comes in a carton (I use it in almost all my baking that calls for eggs). I also used 3/4 cup of chocolate chips instead of the 1 cup of your-choice ingredient. I love this recipe. I also used the oil instead of melted butter. I also used rice milk instead of regular milk. I’m the substitution queen, I guess. Anyway, they taste fabulous and I will definitely make these again. Next time I will put in some dried fruit as my your-choice ingredient.

    Reply
  24. Katrina

    I live above 7500 ft. and have always had difficulty getting my muffins to rise properly. I’ve tried the usual suggestions for high altitudes, but I end up with a chewy texture that is not very appealing. It’s somewhat spongy….and not in a good way. My kids love muffins….and dates, so these sound great. What can I do?

    Katrina, a chewy/spongy texture shouldn’t have anything to do with high altitude, so I’m kind of stumped.But take a look at our high-altitude baking tips, anyway – hopefully something there will help. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  25. yolo603

    i was delighted to find this ‘basic’ muffin recipe and couldn’t wait to try it. afterall, who doesn’t love fresh warm muffins. i was really disappointed in them. they were quite bland tasting, and the texture was very dense. my ‘add in’ was chopped pecans. however, i’ll give them another chance as it was an easy recipe and i feel i must have done something wrong. did i over beat? did i over bake? also, i used quaker oats instead of quick oats. maybe next time i’ll use a jazzier ‘add in’.

    Yolo, if you used old-fashioned oats, try processing them briefly in a food processor to break them up a bit; that way they’ll resemble quick oats. Quick oats absorb more liquid, which makes for a slightly stiffer batter, and better texture. As for bland – yes, with only pecans, they’d be kind of flat-tasting. These are designed with less sugar in the batter, so you can add up to 1 1/2 cups mostly sweet add-ins – fruit or chips. for all nuts, I’d increase the sugar to 2/3 to 3/4 cups. Hope you try them again- PJH

    Reply
  26. Julie

    You certainly called it on the CNN election timing! Watching tonight – not all the polls are closed – but they’ve got “a winner” and just told the t.v. audience that any votes not yet cast “don’t matter now”. Votes always count – the last equal to the first.

    Thanks for the great instructions. I actually find muffins MUCH harder than cakes or pies – but will give this a try.

    Julie: Stir, don’t beat. Easy does it. I predict great success – and I didn’t even need any exit polls… PJH

    Reply
  27. Missy

    I am not sure if this is the proper place to ask a question, but I’ll test it out. I recently had the most incredible sweet roll. It had a few walnuts in it, and was topped by the most wonderful meringue icing. The Heritage Cafe in Chester VT serves it and they referred to it as a Wiggins coffee roll. I have searched everywhere for a recipe. I scoured your sight, but no luck. The basic roll tastes alot like your sweet roll recipe…so any idea on the topping, or have you ever heard of these Wiggins rolls? Thank you.

    Missy, never heard of them, but I’ve been to Chester plenty of times. I’ll have to check out the Heritage Café next time I pass through. Is the icing light and crunchy meringue, or more like soft and marshmallow-y meringue? Thanks for the heads-up. PJH

    Reply
  28. Missy

    PJH, The icing is more soft and marshmallow-y. It is very subtle, there is a thin to light medium coating on it. It’s not like one of those high thick icings. Missy

    Reply
  29. Mares

    Muffins are the first thing I ever learned to make, my grandfather taught me.

    The recipe (all of them I’ve read on the site tonight) looks fantastic. I’ve never visited your site, but followed a link to it, and I just love it. So many nice things I want to get. Thank you for this all encompassing site. Truly a baker’s delight. :)

    Reply
  30. Muffie

    Place non-stick parchment liners into muffin tins.
    Add a few slices of almonds and a few fresh blueberries on the bottom of each.
    Whisk together 1/2 C canola oil, 2 eggs, and (oops, no cow’s milk in the house) 1 C soy milk.
    Blend in the box of “DownEast Blueberry Muffin Mix”.
    Add a few more berries if you like.
    Use an ice cream disher to portion out into the muffin tin liners.
    Top with a bit more of almond slices and some crunchy Demerara sugar.
    Bake as per box directions, until golden and toothpick test clean.

    I tend to make muffins after dinner. It’s a quick and easy dessert, and a good to go breakfast for the next day.

    Hey, Muffie, thanks for sharing- PJH

    Reply
  31. Kaycee

    I made these strictly according to the recipe, using dried cranberries. I am sad to say they will not be on my ‘keeper’ list.

    They were 1) too dense, and dry, 2) taste bland. Perhaps orange or lemon zest would liven them up, but still, they rise only slightly and are too heavy for my taste.

    I have seen King Arthur bakers demonstrations and know about ‘fluffling’ the flour prior to measuring, and all the other basics, so I am not sure how I went wrong on these, if I did. I baked them in an almost-new Wilton muffin pan (but without paper liners). Every other recipe I have used from this site has been just wonderful. But, sorry, not these.

    Sorry these didn’t work for you, Kaycee. Sometimes a recipe just doesn’t work out, for whatever reason. But glad you’ve enjoyed our others! – PJH

    Reply
  32. Kara

    Made this for breakfast this morning. I added chopped dates and cinnamon chips, and I thought they were fabulous! Even my boys (who say they hate dates) loved them!

    Reply
  33. rjlesq

    I made these using quaker oats that I ground in the food processor and KAF whole white wheat. While they are a little dense, my son likes them as a fast breakfast. (especially topped with a little chocolate or caramel syrup) How would you store these for a few days? I used an airtight container, but do they need refrigeration?

    Muffins are best stored at room temperature in a tightly closed container. Don’t store in the fridge- they’ll dry out and get stale very quickly. For just-baked freshness, tent muffins lightly with foil, and reheat in a 350°F oven for 8 to 10 minutes. PJH

    Reply
  34. chinchillalover

    YUM!These are delicious looking but i have made the same muffins for as long as i can remember and i will never stray from it but apart from that i wanna try making every recipe you have.I am very happy that there are people who actually know whether or not someone else will like that particular recipe,your website is my best resource for recipes.(is it just me or was most of this comment a run-on?)

    Run-on comments just reflect enthusiasm – works for us! Thanks for connecting here, as always – PJH

    Reply
  35. Sandra

    Absolutely the favorite muffin of all time. Make them (then freeze) so available whenever wanted. Co-workers love them and I’ve given them the recipe. Have sent many packages to the military and they arrive intact and ready to eat. I use old fashioned oats (fluffed in food processor), 1 1/2 cups of dried cranberries (any flavor), canola oil, and sometimes instead of vanilla – almond flavoring. Absolutely delicious.

    Reply
  36. sagvig3

    Can I substitute buttermilk for the milk in this recipe, and if so, would I need to adjust the leaveners? Also, can I use fresh or frozen fruits instead of dried? Thanks!
    You may use buttermilk and instead of two teaspoons of baking powder, you can use one teaspoon of baking powder and one of baking soda. Yes, fresh or frozen fruit would be fine. ~Amy

    Reply

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