A few weeks ago USA Weekend (where I’ve been food columnist for the last eight years) ran my recipe for sweet tender muffins. Other than my weight loss feature a couple years ago I don’t think I’ve ever gotten as many questions and comments on a story. And because one reader’s question generally represents a thousand cooks, I’m re-offering the recipe here with more info.
I developed this recipe in the mid-nineties when I worked at Cook’s Illustrated. Tired of baking up inconsistent muffins, I wanted a formula that gave me consistently big, beautiful ones. After systematically testing my way down the ingredient list, the following recipe emerged.
3 cups all-purpose flour (the right amount to produce 12 big ones)
1 tablespoon baking powder (for impressive rise)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (to neutralize some of the yogurt’s acidity)
1/2 teaspoon salt (to enhance flavor)
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon sugar (for a not overly sweet muffin)
10 tablespoons butter (for tenderness and flavor)
2 large eggs (for structure and lift)
1 1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt (for an extra-thick batter that bakes into beautiful mushroom-capped breads without overflowing the cups)
Baked at 375, this batter made a dozen muffins with 1/2-cup capacity.
Like good wine, however, my recipe has become more interesting over time. Here’s what I’ve learned since it was first published.
• 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon of sugar is a silly measurement—1 cup is perfectly fine.
• A mid-nineties food lover, I was less concerned with calories, so when someone questioned the generous lump of butter in the recipe, I retested with an even stick. I’m all about cutting fat, but here’s not the place to do it.
• As I come up with new flavor combinations, I generally figure 1 1/2 cups for single add-in (e.g. dried blueberries) but 1 cup each for 2 add-ins (chocolate chips and dried cherries)
• There’s enough batter to make 4 dozen mini muffins (baked at 450 for 12 minutes).
• Although I think quick breads are more cake-like, there’s enough batter to make 4 mini loaves (baked at 350 degrees for 45 minutes).
• Since many muffin cups are actually 1/3-cup capacity, there’s enough batter to make 18 of that size.
• A half recipe makes a pretty mean coffee cake too.
So below is a great all-purpose recipe I hope you’ll enjoy over the holidays and beyond. Over the years I’ve pretty much found it to be the only muffin I really need.