The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

couple of questions about making a muffin (first time)

breadman's picture

couple of questions about making a muffin (first time)

whet it comes to muffin recipes, you can just easily google it or search it on youtube and you'll get hundreds of results. but since i'm a first timer, i dont know which recipe has too much unnecessary ingredient/ too little ingredient or unnecessarily too complicated with the flavor or too bland...I just want something normal/basic but still tasty and not too bland..

after a couple of searching, here's the recipe that I choose to follow:
Basic Yogurt Muffin

*2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of plain or flavoured yogurt thinned with a little water to make it runny
1/4 cups of Canola Oil
1 large egg
1 cup of (any flavoring you want to add...chopped blueberries/strawberries/chocolate/cheese)
Other ingredient that most people seem to add as well:
baking soda
1 tsp of vanilla extract (optional)
now my questions are:
-what is the role of each of these ingredients? (you dont necessarily explain it in a detailed can be as simple like this: sugar = makes the muffin sweeter. more sugar means sweeter/ less sugar means less sweetness and more on the flavoring fruits)
-some people uses soda AND baking powder, why is that? arent they both the same? (atleast their uses i think)
here's a recipe sample that uses both :
1. Gemma Stafford's Muffin - Written Recipe / Video Tutorial
Basic Muffin Recipe (video)
is it necessary to use both or can I just use baking powder?
-some also uses milk along with yogurt, why?
-should I follow the above recipe or do you recommend adding something else?

now the reason i'm asking these is because:
1. I dont want to buy and waste too much unnecessary ingredient that I barely use (like baking soda...I barely use my baking powder already)
2. I wanna do it correctly
3. I also want to use some of the ingredients that I barely use so they dont go to waste lol ( to be more specific, yogurt and baking powder...I used them previously to create Choc Lava cake)
4. and I wanna know which ingredient should I adjust to achieve a certain flavor or texture.

anyway thats all...sorry if there's too much to read, I just wanna make sure i'm doing things correctly....
thank you


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The recipe looks sound for the average palate.  The ingredients are not expensive, save berries out of season, but even frozen or substitutes can be switched out.  Muffin recipes are rather flexible but you can have the best recipe in the world and still come out with little bricks if you don't follow basic mixing instructions not included above.

Muffins are a "quick bread" and rely on the chemical reaction between the ingredients to raise the mixture quickly.  Soda will react immediately while mixing and baking powder will react with the heat in the oven.  Yogurt is low acid and a milk product for a soft crumb.  

Basics to mixing is to combine or sift the dry ingredients well especially soda or baking powder to avoid lumps of it in the muffin.  Then add the combined wet ingredients and quickly stir just until almost all flour is wet to avoid large pockets of dry flour.  Avoid over mixing. No gluten development desired, it makes for tough muffins.  Use two spoons to roughly fill (3/4 full) greased and floured tins or use paper lined tins as quickly as possible and place in a preheated oven.

My suggestion would be to just make the recipe. Taste the product and report back for suggestions if you want help to tweak it.  After the first muffin or two you will know if you like the recipe or not.  Then adjust for less salt, melted butter instead of oil, etc.  

If you want to get serious about tweaking, a metric recipe and a scale is more precise than volume/cup measurements.  There are many uses for baking soda, it can be used up fast and efficiently if need be.  

Hope some of this info helps.  

breadman's picture

I see....I try it out and see what happens.. :)

sayersbrock's picture

Mini Oven is absolutely correct, you certainly need to try it out and tweak from there.  Constant learning and tweaking is a baker's life.

A note on baking powder and baking soda:

Baking soda is an alkaline salt that reacts with an acid or acids, bubbling up to give lift to our modern baked goods.  Think about the classic volcano experiment in middle school: baking soda and vinegar (acid) = bubbily lava.

However, after baking soda was introduced, we decided to make life even easier and more convenient by inventing baking powder, which has both elements already: the alkaline salt and a powdery acid that will react no matter what the ingredients are.  Most baking powders are also double-acting, meaning they react upon being dissolved in batter first, but also again when heat is applied in the oven.

Modern bakers who swear by the ease of using baking soda and baking powder do like to use both and also play around with their ratios.  For instance, using more or less baking soda when making a recipe with buttermilk will either neutralize the flavor entirely or bring out a little of the tang and sourness in the final result.

The basic recipe in your post is very low acid, which is why only baking powder was used as the leavening agent.

Hope this helps!  I also have a standard muffin recipe that I use that incorporates granulated sugar, brown sugar, and honey as sweeteners.  I can post that if you would like.


Michael Brock

P.S. - Do not overmix the batter, and I always, and I mean always, bake my muffins at a high temperature for 5-7 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower to 350 degrees for the rest of baking.  This poofs up the batter quickly, giving you mountainous muffin tops.

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

Funny that I should read this right now, as I'm baking both bread (Hamelman's Hazelnut & Fig with Rosemary and Fennel Seeds) and muffins. I like to make muffins when I have bits of low- or no-gluten flours around, because you don't want gluten development in muffins (as Mini says, makes them tough). So a good basic recipe like the one you have is something to start with, then you can do things like:

  • Change up the flour mix. Today's recipe called for AP flour (2 1/4 cups), so I used 1 cup of AP, about 3/4 cup of a medium extraction organic wheat flour I had left, some sprouted wheat flour and a bit of coarse Kamut flour. You can use buckwheat and other gluten-free flours or whatever you have to hand
  • Change up the fat. Today I used melted butter, but I'm just as likely to use grapeseed oil or coconut oil
  • Change up the sugar. Today's recipe called for 1 cup of granulated sugar - too sweet for me. I reduced it to 3/4 cup and that was 1/2 cup brown sugar (I like the molasses flavour) and 1/4 cup granulated. Note that the sugar not only changes the flavour, but reducing it too much will actually change the texture of your muffins, so play around with that. Same with cookies
  • Change up the dairy - today I used home made kefir because I always have that around and it provides the acid required to activate the baking soda. You can use regular milk with added lemon juice too (mix about a tablespoon of lemon juice into a cup of milk and let it sit until slightly curdled), or milk and yogurt, or buttermilk (not the stuff left over from making butter, but the commercial cultured stuff), or even sourdough starter (for the acid). I've used coconut milk too, for flavour and tenderness (but not acid)
  • You've already heard about the baking soda / baking powder thing. Just make sure you use an acidic ingredient if you are using baking soda
  • Change up the fruit. Today I'm using chopped rhubarb because I have a ton of it in the garden. I'll use all kinds of dried fruits, or fresh / frozen fruits. I personally don't like nuts in baked goods much, so don't add them. I'll also use pureed fruits (bananas, apple or pear sauce, etc.). If you do this you might need to adjust the amount of flour / liquid to get the texture right. Also, some fruits will affect the sweetness (like bananas) or the acid a bit.

In other words, once you have the basic recipe down pat, muffins are a terrific way to use up all kinds of stuff in the pantry / fridge / garden! Have fun... :)

breadman's picture

before I say the results detail I just wanna say that I have a bit of a problem with our oven: unforunately the oven that i'm using is old and the heat (or the fire..its a gas type) inside randomly changes (sometimes if i want it high it goes low randomly and vice versa)....its not a problem if i'm making a bread...but as for cupcakes and muffins where it requires a certain temp, its quite hard...i have to keep an eye out and constantly adjust the fire...buying a new one is out of the question atm cause they're damn expensive lol

so my muffin resulted VERY differently haha....instead of a muffin I accidentally made something similar to what we call in our country "Puto" (no its not a swear word its a type of steamed rice's an image sample of a Puto : Puto)

as for the ingredients, I made a couple of changes
first the Oil: I realised there wasnt any canola/other cooking oil lying around so I used a melted butter instead
Yogurt: apparently, the 'little water" wasnt enough cause when i mixed it in with the flour and the other ingredients, the mixture is dry (its like a dough) so I decided to gradually add more liquid( milk) to it till I achieve this slightly liquidy and clumpy mixture....( I wasnt exactly measuring but i'd say I added about 1/4 cup of milk) similar to the ones I see on the videos
I also added a bit of honey to see what it'll taste like.
I used cheese as a filling.
baked it at 190-200°C

my expected result:
-golden brown colour
-slightly crusty texture at the top but really soft on the inside
And here's the result : (as seen above)
*As you can see its really visually different than the muffin that I had in mind (which is golden brown)
*the inside seems to be slightly undercook...(not soggy undercooked but more like "visually" undercooked) for this one, I assume its because of the archaic oven that i'm using..
*Since the inside was slightly undercooked, i decided to return it in the oven for 5 more minutes at 160-190 °C. I covered the top part of the muffin pan with an aluminum foil to prevent it from burning(cause the sides were already turning dark brown)..tho it still didnt change...its still "visually" undercooked(chewy texture i guess?quite similar to fudge brownies) but it was edible..
*The taste is also quite different than I expected. its not bad its just different. it has a slight zesty taste in it (most likely coming from the Natural Goat Milk Yogurt that i'm using)
*It wasnt really soft nor hard...its basically similar to the packed cupcake that you'd typically buy in a convenience store/supermarket..its 50% soft 50% chewy....

so what changes you guys think I should do to get the result that I expected?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Ah the memories!  I love puto. Do you have dry or rainy season right now?  Exposing the flour to relative humidity can make the liquids vary from season to season.  Remember to record how you changed the liquids and date it.

 With the next batch of muffins, make sure all the liquid needed goes in right away in the beginning.  Stirring with a fork is often helpful.  If you like pandan flavour, be sure to measure the flavoring as part of the liquids.  You can also burry a lump of palm sugar inside each muffin just before baking if desired.  It will melt just as it does in puto if you want to flavour in that direction, just an idea.  Cut up fruit or colorful jellies, soft or shredded coconut is also possible instead of berries.  Cut up fresh jackfruit, oooh, would love to try that!

First thing, the muffins need to be baked hotter and/or longer.  The outside is too pale and looking like it was steamed and not baked.  I don't see any browning at all and this will drastically affect the flavour.  Get the oven hotter.  Make sure your gas oven is set up for the type of gas you are using.  You may also find the oven gas burner may need maintenance and cleaning for a steady burn especially if the oven has been in use for many years. 

You can also use coconut milk if yogurt is hard to finder tastes too tart.


breadman's picture

as for the season, yeah its rainy/winter here (AU)...(its currently and going to rain straight the whole week)

I see.... so the oven needs to be atleast somewhere around 200-220°C (based on the other's suggestions in the comment)

as for the browning, it was on one of  the other "muffins" (i forgot to take a picture of it lol)...but anyway i'll try it again some time and this time using coconut milk...

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

the pan gently midway through the bake if you see uneven browning.  Gas ovens are known for burning bottoms but you may want your muffins just under the center of the oven.  Reflective pans can go lower than dark non reflective pans.

Eating up all the muffins before pictures is a good sign.  :)

breadman's picture

after my second trial and some recipe changes I got something i'm quite satisfied
following the advices, I change the oven's heat from 190-200°C to 210-220°C and got a decent result.
the top was golden brown and there was no "visually" under-cooked parts on the inside as well :)

I also made some changes to the recipes:

instead of using mainly yogurt, I replaced it with coconut milk (1 cup) and a spoon of yogurt
also added 3 tbsp of canola oil and 1 tbsp of melted butter (though i'm not sure why I did that...I dont even know the role of this two...I just found out about this through searching online lol)
made the sugar 3/4 cup
1/2 tbsp of vanilla extract
and chopped strawberry

it was better than the previous one though it still hasnt ticked one of the things I want, and that is having softness on the inside. the inside wasnt hard it was also wasnt soft it was 50/50 of those two basically (pretty much like before, except without the undercooked parts)...I wanted the inside to be softer, would that be possible? if yes what changes should I do?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

than muffins!   Lol!   Want to use a mixer, eh?  (Maybe you want a cake recipe in muffin format.)

The muffin looks so yummy!

several things you can try:  

  • beating the egg into a foam. Separate the egg beating first the white, then with a tiny pinch of the salt and drop in the yolk and keep beating to blend, then hand mix the other liquids into the eggs (takes about 5 seconds) before combining with dry ingredients
  • Or cream your butter/oil and part of the sugar first until light and smooth, then beat in egg till thick and foamy, stir in liquids and dump into dry ingredients for a fast mix
  • Change to a lower protein flour. (or substitute cornstarch for 1/3 of the flour)
  • totally change gears and use a cake recipe for cupcakes.
breadman's picture

I see..cake flour hu.....thank you for the tips as always :)