Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Million-Way Muffins

We love muffins at our house--savory and sweet, and there’s always a kind or two in the freezer for when someone drops by. So when I read Mark Bittman’s post on modifying a basic recipe to make many kinds of muffins, I knew I had to do a post on this myself.

Bittman’s article is found at http://shine.yahoo.com/shine-food/mark-bittman-muffins-infinite-ways-180900902.html
I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. (I’m kind of a Bittman groupie. I read everything of his I come across.)

His recipe is here with some of his modifications. Then I include some of my own recipes adaptations. (In Mission Impastable (Oak Tree Press), I included a blueberry muffin recipe from a friend’s mother that has great sentimental value for me. I did an earlier post on that recipe.) Muffins and I go way back.

Muffins are an amazingly versatile and forgiving batter. Play with combos that sound interesting to you. Adding ½ to ¾ cup of nuts increases the protein. Adding fresh or dried fruits increases food value, too. I love spices, so I’ll play with cardamon and banana instead of cinnamon. Or go crazy and dump the spices you use for pumpkin pie (sans or with pumpkin) to make spice muffins. Lemon zest and rosemary? Mmm mmm good!

Cut down the sugar to make muffins more savory and add cheese and basil. Use olive oil instead of vegetable oil or butter. Tarragon is an amazing flavor for muffins. Put in onions instead of fruit. Do you like a green chilies and corn combo? Why not put in black beans for fun? Go for it.

Use his basic recipe for proportions not necessarily for ingredients. Think of the ingredients as categories to include.

Mark Bittman’s Muffins, Infinite Ways
Makes: 12 medium or 8 large muffins
Time: About 40 minutes
3 tablespoons melted butter or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, plus more for the muffin tin
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk, plus more if needed 

1. Heat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin and line it with paper or foil muffin cups if you like. 

2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Beat together the egg, milk, and melted butter or oil in another bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Using a large spoon or rubber spatula, combine the ingredients swiftly, stirring and folding rather than beating and stopping as soon as all the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter should be lumpy, not smooth, and thick but quite moist; add a little more milk or other liquid if necessary. 

3. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling them about two-thirds full and handling the batter as little as  possible. (If you prefer bigger muffins, fill 8 cups almost to the top; pour 1/4 cup water into the empty cups.) Bake for about 20 minutes (about 30 minutes for larger muffins) or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before taking them out of the tin. Serve warm.

Sometimes Bittman suggests whole wheat flour or half-whole wheat/half white. You can substitute wheat bran or wheat flour (I food process quick oats). Substitute corn meal or graham cracker crumbs for part of the flour. Look through your shelves for things to toss in. I love chia seeds, for instance. Go for the unexpected in your muffins.

To his basic batter, you can substitute honey, molasses, maple syrup, or brown sugar instead of granulated sugar. I like to add Greek yogurt in place of milk to up the protein. Of course, we all know that ripe mashed banana can replace part of the oil to make muffins less fatty. Add in some cooked quinoa or rice in lieu of some of the flour. You can always adjust the batter stiffness with more milk or yogurt.

DO NOT BE AFRAID TO PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD! Muffin-making can be highly entertaining. But you might not be able to give the recipe to someone who really likes what you baked---at least that’s true if you cook like me. And if the muffins don’t work out, well, you can always become a writer! Culinary mysteries are fun!


  1. I love muffins, but with my kidney diet, I can't use milk. Do you know of any substitutions I can make (and no, I'm not allowed soy or almond milk either).

    1. Sunny, there is a rice milk and an oat milk. Might those be possible? I know they are available on Amazon so probably in healthfood stores, too. I'll keep looking for substitutions and let you know if I find them.