My dad passed away recently in Alaska.  He had lived a long life.  With diminished health and in pain, his passing was not a tragedy.  I knew that, but still, the void he left was more painful than I expected.

He was a kind and gentle man who was always ready to help anyone.  Growing up, his kids had a proclivity to wander off the beaten path in the woods and often got stuck or stranded.  It was usually okay since Dad would come bail us out.  So it was only fitting that we got stuck in a snowdrift on the way to the funeral.  Dad must have gotten a chuckle from that one. 

The church is as vibrant and true in Alaska as in other parts of the world.  It was deeply gratifying to recognize the Christian service given my parents in their declining years.  Both the current and previous home teachers spoke at the funeral.  Between the two of them, they had served my parents for nearly 25 years including bringing the sacrament to them each week once they were home bound.

I had forgotten how brutal Alaskan winters can feel.  When my brother and I got to the Fairbanks airport, we dug down coats from our bags.  When we stepped outside, the wind cut through the coat seams and the cold burnt our lungs.  The reader board across the parking lots read 12 below.  A week earlier, it was 40 below.

The day before the funereal it snowed 18 inches—which is lot for Fairbanks because it is dryer than most of the West.  We couldn’t get up the hill to my folks’ home and so I burrowed in and started baking.  (I always find baking therapeutic.  A few swings of the oven door and I’m okay.)  The situation called for something hearty and wholesome and whole grain muffins seemed perfect.  I tinkered with a recipe changing this and that to make muffins with raisins, oats, and nuts.  I made them again with dried apricots and a bit of ginger.  The recipes for both follow.

Methods for Mixing Muffins

Reading about mixing methods seems about as exciting as broccoli.  But you’ll often find me chanting about mixing methods.  That’s because it’s so helpful to recognize and understand mixing methods when tackling new recipes.  Once you understand mixing methods, you’ll quickly pick out the method in a new recipe like an old friend in a crowd.  You can even switch from one method to another with slightly different results.

There are two methods for mixing muffins (and many other baked goods like cookies).  In the muffin method, the liquids and the dry ingredients are mixed separately and then stirred together until just combined.  In the creaming method, the butter or other fat is creamed with the sugar.

To use the muffin method, whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl to make sure that the baking powder and other ingredients are well combined. Set aside.

Whisk the egg in a separate bowl with a whisk or fork. Add the other liquids and whisk again. (Some recipes will instruct you to stir the sugar and salt into the liquids, rather than add them to the dry ingredients, to make sure that they dissolve completely and are evenly dispersed. We prefer to do this with most of our muffin recipes.)

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the liquid all at once. Stir with a spatula until mixed well and moistened—some lumps will remain. Do not over stir—stirring too much will develop the gluten in the flour and the muffin will not be tender and crumbly. To avoid over stirring, we prefer a spatula or a large spoon to an electric mixer.

If you are using fruit in your muffins, fold them in gently at the end of your mixing with a minimum number of folds. Fruit crushes easily in the thick batter and the juice will stain the batter.

For the creaming method, cream the butter or shortening and sugars together. The sugar crystals cut through the fat creating tiny pockets of air. In the heat of the oven, the pockets will expand and help lift the muffins.  After creaming, add the eggs and beat until the mixture turns a lighter color and is soft. Then add the flour followed by the liquids in three or four additions mixing after each. You always start with the flour. Oil and water don’t mix and adding the liquid to the creamed mixture will often create an unattractive, curdled mess. The flour will act as a buffer between the oils and water in the liquids. 

For either method, grease the muffin tins well. We like spray oil from an aerosol can or the spray genie we sell on our site to reach the corners of the tins. Be sure to cover the top edges where the muffins will flow when baking. (You can use paper liners but since the batter adheres slightly to the paper, you will have slightly less volume to the muffins.)

Temperature is one of the secrets to those nicely domed muffins that you find in the better bake shops. Make sure that the oven is completely heated before baking. We like to let the oven sit at full temperature for at least ten minutes before baking so that the heat is well-absorbed into the structure of the oven.  The temperature should be set to 400 or 425 degrees though you can turn the heat down to 350 degrees after five minutes.  The higher heat creates a burst of steam that lifts the batter. (We have experimented with turning the heat down immediately and waiting as long as six or eight minutes before turning it down. It doesn’t seem to matter. Just test your muffins to make sure they are done.)  Place the muffins in the upper third of the oven where it tends to be hotter and the heat more constant. Bake until done.  

Muffins or Muffin Tops?

Everyone likes muffin tops better than muffin bottoms.  The tops are more crunchy and tender.  You can bake only the tops.  Muffin top pans have shallow cavities—usually less that 1/4 inch deep–so that you essentially bake only the tops.  When done, you simply lift the tops off the pan.  A batch of muffins typically can be baked in one muffin top pan. 

Learn more about muffin top pans

WDFull-MuffinTopPan

Tips for Better Muffins

  • Always measure flour precisely using a scale if you have one. Muffin recipes are sensitive to the ratio of flour to liquid. Too much flour and the muffin will not rise properly and will be dry. Too little flour and the muffin will flow over the edges of the muffin cup rather than dome nicely. If you need to fine tune your favorite recipe, change the flour by a tablespoon or two.
  • To make cake-like muffins, use a lower protein flour—all-purpose or pastry flour. Higher protein bread flours will make a muffin that is chewier and more bread-like.
  • Fill the muffin tins with a large spoon or ice cream scoop. Make sure that the muffin tins are evenly filled so that they bake evenly.

    Most recipes direct that the muffin tins be filled 2/3 full to allow room for expansion. If you want high-domed muffins, fill them fuller than that.  
  • Bake the muffins until they are a light golden brown. The muffin top should spring back when gently pressed with the finger and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Over-baked muffins will be dry and tough. Under-baked muffins may be moist and heavy with a doughy center.
  • It is easy to tear apart hot muffins trying to lift them from the tins. Instead, let the muffins sit for a few minutes and you should be able to easily lift them out intact. Place them on wire racks to continue cooling.  One of the most used tools in our kitchen is a soft-sided silicone spatula  that will gently remove muffins and other baked goods from their pans without scratching nonstick surfaces.

Alaska Muffins and Other Recipes

Alaskan Muffins #1—Cinnamon Raisin

These are hearty, wholegrain muffins—the kind your mother would approve of—but they are still very good.

2 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup rolled whole oats

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a muffin pan.  This recipe will make eight high-domed muffins or ten smaller ones.

  1. Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl. Add the sour cream. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon together.
  3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid ingredients. Stir only until combined. Add the raisins and the nuts.
  4. Spoon the batter into the greased muffin cups.
  5. Bake for 15 to18 minutes or until done. Baking times will vary. Cool the muffins on a wire rack.

Alaskan Muffin #2—Apricot O

This is the second recipe in the series for hearty, healthy muffins.  It is evident that the series can be extended with other choices of dried fruits.   These are not overly sweet muffins.

2 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup rolled whole oats

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup 1/4-inch chopped dried apricots

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a muffin pan.  This recipe will make eight high-domed muffins or ten smaller ones.

  1. Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl. Add the sour cream. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, and cinnamon together.
  3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid ingredients. Stir only until combined. Add the fruit and the nuts.
  4. Spoon the batter into the greased muffin cups.
  5. Bake for 15 to18 minutes or until done. Baking times will vary. Cool the muffins on a wire rack.

Raggedy Ann Cinnamon Chip Muffins Recipe

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These muffins are made with cinnamon baking chips. In the high heat of the oven (the oven is set to 425 degrees), the cinnamon chips melt leaving swirls of cinnamon through the muffins. With all that melting cinnamon, the tops are often roughhewn and ragged and hence the name, Raggedy Ann cinnamon Chip Muffins. These are very good muffins.

This recipe makes ten large, well-domed muffins or 12 smaller ones.

Ingredients

2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole rolled oats
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup Prepared Pantry or equal cinnamon chips

For the topping:

2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a muffin pan.

  1. Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl. Add the buttermilk and vanilla. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together.
  3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid ingredients. Stir only until combined. Add the cinnamon chips.
  4. Drop the batter into the greased muffin cups. Mix the two tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon together. Spoon the cinnamon sugar over the muffins.
  5. Place the muffin pan in the oven. Immediately turn the temperature down to 375 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes or until done. Baking times will vary depending on how well your oven holds heat. Cool the muffins on a wire rack.

For the topping:

2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a muffin pan.

  1. Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl. Add the buttermilk and vanilla. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together.
  3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid ingredients. Stir only until combined. Add the cinnamon chips.
  4. Drop the batter into the greased muffin cups. Mix the two tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon together. Spoon the cinnamon sugar over the muffins.
  5. Place the muffin pan in the oven. Immediately turn the temperature down to 375 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes or until done. Baking times will vary depending on how well your oven holds heat. Cool the muffins on a wire rack.

  

Sour Cream Rye Muffins

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These are really great muffins–flavorful and moist, yet mild.

These well-domed muffins will rank with your best whole grain muffins. (And if you don’t tell the kids, they won’t know that they are whole grain.) They are moist and soft, not dry. The rye flour makes them tender and without caraway seeds, they are mild and delicious.

This makes a great base recipe. These muffins work wonderfully with dry fruit and nuts. Add three-quarters to one cup of your favorite dried fruit, a 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, or both. Our favorite is golden raisins, but cranberries, and walnuts work very well.

Ingredients

1 cup medium or dark rye flour
1 cup stone ground whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon allspice

2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
zest from one orange
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup sour cream

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
1. In a medium bowl, mix the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and allspice.
2. In another medium bowl, whisk two large eggs. Add the oil, zest, brown sugar, and sour cream. Blend well.
3. With a spatula, mix the dry ingredients into the liquid mixture. Stir until just combined. Spoon the batter into about eight well-greased muffin tins. Eight muffins will give you large, nicely-domed muffins. Fill any unused muffin cups half full of water.
4. Bake for eight minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for another 8 to 10 minutes or until they test done with a toothpick. Let the muffins sit in the tins for about five minutes and then remove them to wire racks to cool.

Recommended Equipment and Ingredient Choices

Muffins can be made in a variety of pans:

We carry <a href="http://www.


<hr class=’system-pagebreak’ ></a><hr class=’system-pagebreak’ ></a><hr class=’system-pagebreak’ ></a><hr class=’system-pagebreak’ ></a>preparedpantry.com/search.aspx?find=paper+liners”>paper liners for standard, mini, and jumbo muffin pans.

Most of the ingredients used in these recipes can be found in your grocery store.

  Cinnamon chips and rye flour along with dry fruit and nuts can be purchased at The Prepared Pantry. 

The Prepared Pantry carries a full line of muffin mixes

Dennis Weaver is the president of The Prepared Pantry, a full line kitchen store in Rigby, Idaho.  The Prepared Pantry sells kitchen tools, gourmet foods, and baking ingredients including hundreds of hard-to-find ingredients.

Dennis Weaver can be reached at dweaver@preparedpantry.com