There are two basic types of muffins you can make: English muffins or ever-popular breakfast or dessert. Here's a bit about each:
The dough for muffins is made similarly to yeast bread dough. First activate the yeast with a little warm water and sweetener, and then add in the flour and other ingredients. Then knead the dough and leave it to prove, or rise, covered in oiled plastic wrap.
The other ingredients — in the case of muffins — are milk, eggs and melted butter. You can either use white flour or, if you want whole wheat muffins, multi-grain muffins, bran muffins or any other kind, replace about half the white flour with the flour or grain of your choice.
After the muffin dough proves, roll it out on a floured surface into a long tubular shape about 1/2" thick. Cover with oiled plastic wrap again for about 5 minutes, then take a knife and cut the tube of dough into rounds with about a 3" thickness. Place these on a sheet dusted with semolina, wheat germ, cornmeal or rolled oats, and dust the tops with the same. After covering and proving a second time, stick them in the oven for about 10 minutes, flipping each one over about halfway into the cooking time.
English muffins are typically toasted before serving. For best results, pull each one apart around the edges, toasting each half with their exposed interior facing upward, toward the heating mechanism (broiler or toaster oven). If you put a square or two of butter on top before toasting in this way, it will melt into the muffin and make the inside crispy. English muffins are best served hot.
Spread butter or margarine on top of a toasted English muffin — or try something else like cream cheese, honey or jam.
Breakfast and Dessert Muffins
The recipes for breakfast and dessert muffins usually include the same basic ingredients as English muffins, except they use baking soda instead of yeast and don't need all the various proving times. And breakfast or dessert muffins tend to have more sugar or other sweetener in them than English muffins.
I like to think of it like this: if making English muffins is like a variation on making bread, then making breakfast or dessert muffins is like a variation on making cupcakes. Or put even more simply, English muffins are made with dough, breakfast and dessert muffins with batter.
As with English muffins, you don't have to use just white flour. You can replace any portion of that white stuff with whole wheat flour, whole oats, bran or any other flour replacement just the same. A basic muffin recipe without anything in it makes for a pretty bland and boring meal.
That's why most such muffins are spruced up a bit with other flavorful ingredients, such as fruit -- like apples or blueberries mixed into the dough. Other options include a mix of fresh or dried herbs for herb muffins, chocolate chips and/or cocoa powder and sugar for chocolate muffins, sour cream, shredded carrot, cheese, pumpkin -- you name it. And let's not forget one of my personal favorites: lemon poppy seed muffins. But even just a little brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins will do.
Whatever you put into your breakfast and dessert muffins, once the batter is prepared, spoon it into greased muffin tins for baking. For best results with muffin batter, only stir the ingredients together until combined. You don't want to be able to pour it like a blended liquid, but rather scoop it into the cups in a lumpy glob. Just mix your ingredients enough to wet all the dry stuff, and that's it. That's the secret to perfect muffins.
Muffin recipes are as varied as the people who make them! Try a few different recipes to see what your fave flave is:
So, what's your favorite muffin flavor?