Muffins, you see most of them greeting you as you step into coffee houses, cafes or bakeries. There are many flavours of muffins to choose from; chocolate, blueberry, banana-walnut, pumpkin, cranberry, orange peel raisins and many more. You know how fragrant they are when they are in the process of baking. You know how crisp their crusts are when they are piping hot and most of all, you know how moist they can be when they are or I should say in the case of most muffins, when they are freshly baked or heated. Well, if you love to eat muffins, you can either simply grab them off these bakery shelves or buy them from coffee houses and cafes.
But do you know that it is not difficult at all to bake muffins right in the comfort of your own home? Whether you are using premixes or creating the dough from scratch, there are still some things to look out for when you are baking muffins for yourself at home. The baking process is also a crucial factor in deciding the quality of how your muffins are going to be. For this article, we assume that you already have the knowledge of the correct amount of ingredients to be used.
Firstly, never use electric beaters. Using electric beaters will tend to over mix the muffin batters. It is preferred to do this by hand. Over mixing of batters are not desired outcomes when it comes to baking muffins. It leads to the batter being too dense and crumbly (think of it like when you grab a handful of dry earth in the garden) and not light and airy (think like baking sponge cakes). As a gauge, muffin batters that are properly mixed (which means that the mixing is minimum and non-electric) are little lumpy (yes, it may look like you have screwed your mixing up but hey, this is the “correct answer”!!).
Secondly, be creative. Rather than following strictly to the recipe you have, why not try something new by introducing some forms of creativity into them? Be bold and let you imagination and creative juice flow. Who knows you may create something out from it.
Thirdly, the muffin tins. Always remember to grease your muffin tins thoroughly and this means the sides and bottom of the tins. If this step is forgotten, well, after your muffins are baked, you will have a hard time getting perfectly shaped muffins as their “skin” sticks to the sides and bottoms of the tins when you take them out. Paper liners help to retain the freshness of your muffins longer. Filling the muffin tins requires being two-third full as the batter will overflow when it expands during the baking process and equally to ensure all muffins are equally baked finish.
Fourthly, the oven needs to be preheated. This is so because preheating the oven makes the muffin batter less dense and allows the batter to puff up easier than when it has been sitting for long time before baking. Think of it probably as like “too much water building up within the muffin and thus it becomes to heavy for the oven to make it puffed up”. The preheating temperature has to be correctly set, being not too high or too low temperature, so as to ensure that the muffins are baked evenly from top to bottom to centre.
Fifthly, watch how you bake your muffins in terms of timings. Do a rough estimate of how long your muffin, depending on the size big or small, needs to be baked. Of course, smaller muffins takes shorter time and larger ones take longer time. Never use the trial-and-error method, opening the oven door now and then to see the progress of your muffins baking, when you bake them. The muffins will lose heat and hence they will sink. The analogy is just like making ice from water; if you keep opening the fridge to see the progress of freezing, the time taken for the water to become ice will become not just longer but it wouldn’t become exactly the ice you want. Look through the oven door if you must observe and right appearances of done muffins are golden brown or looks hardened-crisp for double chocolate muffins at the edges. Use the toothpick method to tell whether or not the centre is cooked; poked it in and it will come out clean with not much “mess” from the batter sticking on it.
Lastly, let your muffins cool in the muffin tins for about 5-6 minutes. This time is just nice for removal as it will not be difficult to remove nor will it affect the muffins’ texture. It’s a just-nice scenario here. Oh, different sizes of muffins that you baked will also have different cooling times. It is the law of heat radiation; the smaller the faster it cools and vice versa. After removal, further cooling is then to be done of the cooling rack before finally storing or serving them for consumption.
Okay, that is all the points need to know in order to bake good muffins. It all boils down to good preparation, observation as well as proper handling of equipments used for the baking process…and yes, as the old saying goes: “Practice makes perfect.”