Muffins are absurdly easy to make. There should be no excuse for buying those sad, sad things you see in Starbucks. Not only have they been on the shelf for days, but most muffins you see sold in high street coffee shops have been cooked with huge amounts of vegetable oil and corn syrup to stop them from going off. And somehow they still taste stale.
This requires five minutes of effort, and shouldn’t take more than half an hour from when you get a muffin-shaped gleam in your eye to when the things are on the cooling rack.
The individual moulds in my muffin tin are 100mL in volume, and for twelve muffins, I use:
- 250g white self-raising flour (or plain plus raising agent)
- 45g caster sugar (you really don’t need more than this, unless the fruit is really sharp – feel free to substitute more interesting sugars)
- a pinch of salt
- 1 egg (medium or large, doesn’t matter too much)
- 225ml milk (or buttermilk)
- 50g butter (I used unsalted, adjust salt accordingly)
- 200g fruit (blueberries, raspberries, et cetera)
Instead of self raising flour, you could also use plain flour, and add 3 (level) teaspoons of baking powder. If you don’t have baking powder, use two teaspoons cream of tartar plus one teaspoon sodium bicarbonate. Under no circumstances use strong (bread making) flour.
If you think of it in time, you can replace the milk with buttermilk for a more authentic American taste.
The ideal fruit is fresh blueberries: frozen is also fine, but produces a somehow less exciting result. Fresh cherries – stoned, halved, and steeped in brandy – will yield awesome results. Raspberries are great, too: they need a good shake after rinsing as they hold a lot of water, and go quite well with around 100g of white chocolate pieces stirred into the dry ingredients.
Start by getting the oven going. I set my fan forced to 180°C. Your muffin tray will need to be greased with butter or you’ll need muffin cases. I normally forget and improvise by lining the tin with squares of baking paper. Find a tumbler whose base is the same size as the bottom of the moulds…
…squish each square around this…
…and pop them in; they’ll stay in place if anchored with a dab of butter.
Melt the butter and turn off the heat. Whilst it’s cooling put the dry ingredients into a bowl, and mix well, especially if you’re adding raising agent.
A little care is needed with the wet ingredients which need their own bowl:
- start by lightly whisking the egg, then
- whisk in the warm butter, and finally
- whisk in the milk. (If you do this with hot butter your muffins will taste of scrambled egg.)
Now, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and all the sources are agreed: you must do as little mixing as possible, so the gluten in the flour doesn’t activate and make your muffins stodgy. A dozen good strokes with the spoon should be enough to eliminate any visible dry flour, and you needn’t worry about the lumps, of which there will be plenty.
Using a pair of teaspoons, pop a spoonful of batter in the bottom of each case…
…divide the fruit amongst the cases…
…and then top with the remainder of the batter. No need to smooth it out: it really can be as slapdash as it looks below.
Into the oven for 25 minutes. Retrieve, cool in the tray for a few minutes, and then onto a cooling rack. This is where the squished paper square approach comes into its own, as you can lift them out by the corners.
Eat when cool enough to do so safely, but they’ll be good for half a day, if they last that long.