Step 1: Preparation
Always preheat the oven.
Temperature is crucial for making a perfect muffin. Pastries have very different reactions to a warming oven than a hot oven. A warming oven will have a greater impact on the texture of the muffin, as the temperature will not be hot enough and the muffin may turn out tough or unevenly cooked.
Grease the bottom of the muffin pan or line with baking cups.
It is a known fact that greasing the pan will ensure the muffin not to stick on the pan. But why do we need to oil the pan during preparation? For muffins and most of the cakes, it requires to be put in the oven as soon as the batter is ready (e.g. recipe contains baking soda). Delay the baking may alter the batter therefore affect the texture of the muffin.
Quick tips: Grease the pan, then line with parchment paper will stop the paper from curling up while baking.
Make sure that all the ingredients needed are in room temperature.
People often ignore this step but the fact is room temperature ingredients (between 65˚ and 70˚) really do make a difference. Ingredients will bond better and emulsify that trap air during baking process. It plays a huge part into creating a light, airy, evenly baked muffin. Cold ingredients are more likely to separate rather than mixing nicely.
Quick tips: If you are in a rush, you could cut the butter into small cubes, put them into microwave for 5 seconds at a time, until the butter is soft to touch. To warm up eggs, simply place them into a bowl of warm water for around 15 minutes.
Do NOT over mix the batter.
That is one of the key tips I was given by the baking experts. When combining dry and wet ingredients, mix until just enough to blend. There is no need to worry if batter appears lumpy, as they will disappear while baking. The main purpose is to avoid gluten formation. Gluten is formed when the dough is heavily mixed or remains wet for a long period of time. It will create a tough and chewy structure which is desired in making crusty breads, but not ideal when making muffins.
Pop them into the oven as soon as possible.
Once the batter is mixed, immediately fill into the muffin pan and straight to the oven (unless directed otherwise). Particularly recipes call for leavening ingredients, such as baking powder. Baking power generates small bubbles to help the batter rise, that will soon disappear if the batter is left out for a long period of time.
Quick tips: Try using an ice cream scoop or ladle for consistent sized muffins.
Step 3: Baking
Place muffin pan in the center of the oven.
It helps to cook more evenly. When making large quantity of muffins, you may need to rotate the pan during baking to allow the heat to circulate (it will not be necessary when there is sufficient space between the muffins and the oven wall).
Every oven performs differently and this would avoid over baking (especially when you are trying a new recipe).
Test denseness with a toothpick.
You could test the muffins using a toothpick. Insert a toothpick near the center of the muffins, the toothpick will come out clean when the muffin is done.
Quick tips: To test the “doneness” of muffins with a filling, insert the toothpick into the muffin part, not where the filling is.
Cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before removing them.
Muffins will come out easier when they are slightly cooled. If the muffins are stuck inside the pan, try running a thin knife or spatula around the edges and turn the muffin pan over onto the cooling rack.
Refrigerate or freeze them if required.
After the muffins are cooled you could put them in an airtight container at room temperature (unless they contain perishable ingredients/ fillings). For long term storage, put them in the freezer. Wrapped them tightly with plastic wrap, then place them inside an airtight freezer bag/ container. The muffins can last for 2-3 months and will be as fresh as new when you reheat them. However do NOT refreeze any muffins which have been previously frozen and thawed.
Quick tips: Refresh your frozen muffins in either microwave until they are warm, or cover the muffins loosely with foil and bake them for 10-15 minutes in a preheated oven at 110C.
Once you’re ready to get adventurous with your baking, make sure to check out my blog Muffin Paradise for some yummy inspiration.
Charlotte Wright is the founder and chief baker at the MuffinParadise.com, a baking blog featuring all sorts of muffin recipes – from low carb to full-sugared traditional ones. She is especially passionate about healthy, guilt-free treats and innovative baking solutions.