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.
Lovely. I have a ‘fruit and cream’ muffins recipe that I use interchangeably, but I love this for a more meaty muffin, if that’s a proper description.
And say, is that last year’s Christmas present those muffins are sitting on? Either way, beautiful plate 🙂
Good eye, Amber. Yes, that’s that really cool platter you gave us for Christmas last year. Little did you know when you gave it to us that it’d be featured in a blog that was yet to be conceived.
Thanks for all the explanations in parentheses! Really — it helps me understand a recipe better — and . . . if you keep sending more great recipes I’m gonna be a barrel by Jan 1!!!
Sally K says
I love the master recipes with variations. Then I can come up with even more variations! It’s win-win-win!!
Mary Taylor says
We just returned from Christmas with Peter and your prime rib recipe from The Perfect Recipe took center stage. They swear by those recipes and also the ones in “For Having People Over”
Can[t wait to see the new “One Dish” coming in the fall.!! Happy New Year! Mary
The lemon poppyseed variation is great! How many calories are in each?
These have been a favorite at our house for many, many years. They are simply perfect! We like almond poppyseed, mocha chip, and your banana variation the best. I’m using a blog to record recipes and housekeeping information for my daughter. Is there a way I can put this recipe on that blog without infringing copyright?
In the oven now!!
Thank you for the recipe! Could these be made into double chocolate muffins?
Pam Anderson says
Absolutely, Patricia, and thanks for taking time to write us.
Steve Andrews says
I’ve made this recipe twice. The first time, following verbatim, the crumb was satisfactory but the tops over-browned before the centers were done. The tops also did not open up and were stiff, not allowing the muffins to fully rise to maximum potential. Everyone did like the taste of them. The second time, after mixing the butter, sugar and eggs, I put away the mixer and attempted to fold the ingredients as you would a traditional muffin recipe. The dough was too stiff to work at these ratios so I had to add milk to loosen it up. The crust turned out far better than the first batch and had the texture and fissures that you would expect. The crumb was more airy but even then, the crumb was tight, not dense, but the holes were tiny.
I am not a professional baker but I have baked my share of muffins. This recipe is quite tasty but again, the end result isn’t what one would expect of a muffin.
Jesus in Cali says
Awesome! Thank you so much for sharing!!!!
Ess Kay says
Hello. On your page titled “The Only Muffin Recipe You might Ever Need,” you say “So below is a great all-purpose recipe . . .” Presumably that would be the one that you’ve updated with 1 cup sugar, etc. But there is no recipe “below”; only comments.
Hope this is helpful.