Notes on Ingredients and Methods
Quickbreads and Muffins
by Prof. Steve Holzinger
All cup, teaspoon and tablespoon measures are level. In these recipes, 1 egg means 1 large egg. To measure shortening, fill a quart measure half full of cold water, and drop the shortening into it, and then watch the water line. Remove from water when done measuring. For one cup of milk you can use one cup of water and add 3 to 4 tablespoons of nonfat dry milk solids. There is enough fat in muffins so the fat in the milk won't be missed. You can add the milk solids to the dry mix. An ice-cream scoop is the best way to portion muffins evenly. Only fill the tins 2/3 full. You can substitute Sweet and Low for up to half the sugar in a recipe. Beyond that you can detect an aftertaste. Three packets or 1 teaspoon of bulk Sweet and Low equal 1/4 cup of granulated sugar.
The flour for quickbreads should be of a soft wheat, such as New York State Pastry Flour, or all purpose flour. In muffins, the development of gluten for structure is important, but overmixing can cause peaked tops and vertical tunnels, which are defects. When this condition exists, the products are often tough as well. If this defect persists, blend up to 50% cake flour with your all purpose flour to increase tenderness. The flour should be sifted before measuring, or there is up to a 25% error in measurement possible. The baking powder or soda should be sifted with the flour, or there will be white dots on the top of the muffins
If a recipe calls for melted shortening, like Crisco, melted margarine or oil can be substituted. Some recipes call for melted margarine, which is different from melted butter. Butter is only 80% fat, the rest being water and milk solids. Margarines are most often 100% fat, so if you use butter in a recipe that calls for margarine, there will be too much water and too little fat. Avoid margerines that advertise they taste just like butter, or those that are soft or whipped. They don't measure well due to liquid added in manufacture. The least expensive supermarket brand will do best.
You can use muffin papers to keep the muffins from sticking to the pans, or spray with PAM, but I don't like either method. I make pan grease, which consists of equal volumes of shortening (Crisco) and flour, which you mix together and add enough oil to make a smooth paste that you can paint with. In thirty years of teaching basic baking, I never had anything stick using this grease. Wipe out your muffin tins instead of washing them and they will never stick. Oiled brown paper bags do quite nicely to line pans.
Preheat your oven for at least 10 minutes, and get the pans in quickly. A toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin will come out clean. Choose the muffin in the front of the pan, it will be the least baked, the one in the back will be the most baked. The center of your oven is the best place. If your oven is uneven, you can turn the pans after more than half the baking time is done. Be quick and gentle, and don't slam the oven door, but there is no need to tiptoe.
If you need baking supplies of any kind, the King Arthur Flour Baker's Catalogue is a good source of trusted ingredients, and tested equipment and information. Use your browser to find them.
The following recipes were given to me by Prof. Myrtle Ericson, Cornell School of Hotel and Restaurant Management in 1957, and are as good today as they were then. I am deeply indebted to her for my understanding of cooking.
Muffins and Quickbreads
© 1997, Steve K. Holzinger. All rights reserved.
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.
Modified August 2007