To me the perfect muffin is the one that looks like looks like it’s wearing a Mexican hat with a rounded top. It’s the kind you draw when your doodling (or is that just what I do?) and it’s the kind that can be hard to achieve until you have some ‘know-how’. Do you know the kind?
I went on the hunt for the secrets behind this look and I have some very good news for you: I found them. ALL of them. So listen in close, because I’m going to reveal them all. Ready?
There’s just a couple of tricks you need to know:
1. The flour you use can affect the look of your muffin considerably.
I’ve noticed that recipes with a higher flour ratio (between 2-4 cups) create a much better ‘Mexican hat look’ then muffin recipes with less flour (1+1/2 cups). However, sometimes this can affect the flavour and texture of your muffin so you may need to make a compromise between the muffin top look and taste.
Also using only wholewheat flour (instead of combining both white and wholemeal flour) can prevent a muffin from rising well. This is because the endosperm and bran (in the flour) weighs the baked product down slightly, making it harder to give lift to the muffin.
Wholewheat flour is definitely better for you than white flour and also creates a delicious nutty flavour and sometimes I want this over the perfect muffin top (that was hard to admit). However if you are out for the perfect muffin top, stick with white flour for best results or a combination of white and wholemeal.
2. Baking Soda and Baking Powder.
Although both are chemical leaveners, baking soda and baking powder work slightly differently, producing slightly different results. Generally, baking powder makes baked goods puff whereas baking soda makes them spread. Without baking soda, it’s hard to achieve the edge of the Mexican hat (so-to-speak). We just have to ensure that the recipe has an acid to balance the baking soda (learn more about baking soda and baking powder here).
Also, muffins with the muffin top are usually over leavened, i.e. they have a lot of baking powder (around 1 1/2- 2 tsp per cup flour compared with a normal 1 tsp per cup of flour). Surprisingly they don’t seem to collapse on top of themselves which can usually happen if baked goods are over-leavened
3. Fill to the brim
Most recipes say to fill the muffin holes to about 3/4 full. For the muffin top look we need to fill them right to the brim.
4. Perhaps most importantly is the temperature of the oven.
Giving your muffins a boost of extra hot heat (220C/420F) when they first go in the oven helps the outside of the muffin to set quickly whilst the inside of the muffin continues to rise, resulting in the muffin top/domed look. Turning the oven down a little after 5-10 minutes or even as soon as the muffins go into the oven (around 180C/350F) prevents the muffin tops from burning whilst the inside of the muffin continues baking.
5. Once the muffins are cooked and have cooled for 5 minutes or so, tip the warm muffins out onto a clean tea towel and leave to finish cooling upside down. Not only does this prevent soggy bottoms (eeek) it also promotes volume and enhances the dome look. Alton Brown is a great believer in this.
6. A new trick I learned recently was that muffins baked in muffin liners/paper cups, tend to create more of a dome look opposed to the Mexican hat look. They still rise beautifully but they rise to the sky resembling more of a mountain peak, which is fine if that’s what you like.
…and there we have it. A few little secrets to help us create the perfect cafe-style muffins with the perfect muffin tops.
Let’s never have a flat muffin top ever again. Try these tips using the recipe below – you can substitute the blueberries for anything you have on hand (see notes in recipe).
What does your perfect muffin top look like?
- 312g (2 & ½ cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 113g (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 200g (1 cup) sugar
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup milk combined with 1 tbsp lemon juice*
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 & ½ cups blueberries, frozen*
- 1. Preheat the oven to 220C (or 425F) and generously grease a 12 cup muffin baking pan with butter or oil.
- 2. In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together and whisk well to combine. Set aside.
- 3. In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter with the sugar and lemon zest and whisk well. Add the eggs, milk and lemon juice mixture and vanilla and mix again.
- 4. Take 1 tablespoon of the dry mixture and place in a smaller bowl and stir through blueberries until the berries are well coated in the flour mixture (this helps evenly distribute the berries throughout the mixture and prevents them from sinking to the bottom of the muffins).
- 5. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add the wet ingredients. Gently fold the mixture until just combined (about 9 folds) and then gently fold the berries in until just incorporated.
- 6. Evenly divide the batter into the 12 muffin cups, making sure that the mixture is topped to the brim (tip: using an ice cream scoop can help ensure even amounts of mixture in each muffin cup).
- 7. Bake for 5 minutes at 220C (425F), then reduce the heat to 190C (375F) and bake for another 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Muffins will keep up to 3-4 days in an airtight container -simply reheat in oven or microwave and top with a knob of butter (for extra buttery deliciousness, of course).
- * Let the milk and lemon juice mixture sit for at least 5 minutes or so before using so that it curdles and thickens.
- * You can substitute the blueberries for any other fruit (chopped), dried fruit or even chocolate chips or nuts (you might want to remove the lemon zest if using chocolate, but leave the lemon juice with the milk). You can also use fresh blueberries however in my experience, frozen berries prevent the berries from 'bleeding' into the mixture better.