Sunday, May 4, 2008

Muffin Tops: Flat or Pointy?

strawberry muffin napkin 2
What makes a muffin top pointy?

Until this year, every batch of muffins I ever made was a flat-topped failure. I consulted cookbooks, called my mom (whose muffins are always perfect) and tried every conceivable combination of baking powder, baking soda, oil, butter, and eggs. I used dark muffins tins, light muffin tins, different oven temperatures, electric mixing, hand mixing -- still flat. My final attempt wasn't pretty -- twenty-four unevenly cooked, pancake-flat muffins (from 2 different attempts) along with my muffins tins, ended up in the trash, as I declared, "That's it! I'm never making muffins again!"

All this changed when I made my honeyed orange ginger muffins this year. After about 7 minutes, I turned on the oven light and peeked inside. I was shocked. They were rising. I started jumping up and down and exclaiming, "Jeff, my muffins are rising! They're actually rising!"

"Don't jump up and down!" he said. "Don't do anything to jinx it this time." He had a point.

We actually stood at the oven watching those muffins rise as gloriously as angels. After years of abject muffin failure, it was a beautiful moment.

strawberry coconut muffins in pan

Each plump muffin had a small hill top. I couldn't have been more pleased. Since then I have made several batches, all successful. So what's my secret? Darned if I know. But here are a few suggestions:
  • Use both baking powder and baking soda which are leavening agents.
  • Stir with a spatula, not an electric hand mixer, for a lighter batter.
  • Use light colored bake ware rather than dark to keep the muffin bottoms from burning.
  • Fill the muffin cups 3/4's of the way to the top.
  • Place the muffins in the center of the oven at 350-375 degrees F. Many muffin recipes call for a hotter oven (400-425 F), but I have found they usually burn on the outside and remain undercooked on the inside.
  • Talk sweetly to the muffins as they're baking. Don't underestimate the power of kindness.
  • If all else fails, buy a GE Monogram oven. I have made muffins in 7 different ovens, and persistence pays off.
Made with creamy coconut milk, these muffins are moist and cakey with tiny pieces of fresh, juicy strawberries baked inside. Each delicious bite is laced with tangy honey and aromatic toasted coconut and almonds. In fact, your entire kitchen will be redolent with the fragrance of rich almond and sweet strawberries. That's why I'm contacting Yankee Candle to suggest it as a new fragrance-- Food Blogga: Strawberry Almond Delight Candle. Whadda ya think?

I'm sending my muffins to Michele of Greedy Gourmet who is hosting the third round of Snack Shots. This time she wants muffins, any and all muffins. But hurry! Tuesday is the deadline.

Fresh Strawberry, Almond, and Coconut Muffins
Makes 12 regular size muffins
Print recipe only here.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup lite coconut milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 tablespoons orange blossom honey
2 teaspoons pure almond extract**
1/4 cup toasted sweetened shredded coconut
2/3 cup diced fresh strawberries**

2 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Spray a 12 mold regular size muffin pan with cooking spray.

Wash strawberries, remove the hull, and pat dry. Dice and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together coconut milk, melted butter, and egg. Add the orange zest, honey, and almond extract, and whisk until just combined. Add to the flour mixture, and stir quickly until well combined. Fold in the strawberries and toasted coconut. Spoon the batter evenly into the 12 molds.

For the topping, mix 2 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut and 2 tablespoons sliced almonds in a small bowl. Sprinkle on top of muffins.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing each muffin and placing on a wire rack to cool.

**Note: Pure almond extract is deliciously, intensely flavorful. If you want a mild almond flavor, then I'd suggest 1-1 1/2 teaspoons; if, like me, you want a bold almond flavor, then I'd add 2 or even 3 teaspoons. You decide.

Strawberries are often considered "too watery" to use in baked goods such as muffins and breakfast breads. Here are some tips for baking successfully with fresh strawberries:
  • Use only really fresh berries that are firm, not mushy.
  • Don't add too many strawberries to the batter which could make it too wet.
  • Avoid using frozen strawberries, which would be too watery.
You might also like:

Honeyed Orange Ginger Muffins (Quat, Optional)

Ricotta Hotcakes with Peaches

Banana Coconut Almond Bread

Strawberry-Rhubarb Sponge Pudding

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