How to Make Muffins from Scratch (Best Muffins Hacks )

Frozen Cherry Muffins (Dairy Free)

This article will tell you everything you need to know about muffins and the basics of gluten free muffin baking. Here you will also find some great muffin recipes to try today!

So, what are Muffins?

A muffin is by definition a quick bread made of batter containing egg and baked in a pan having cup-like molds.

Gluten Free Lemon muffins with Mascarpone Frosting

Muffins can be savoury and sweet. If you like the convenience of muffin baking, yet, would rather stay away from extra sugar, then savoury muffins are a great choice for you! Sweet muffins, on the other hand, have all kinds of variations from plain to fruity to loaded with vanilla or chocolate and everything in between. The limit is your imagination!

Are Muffins and Cupcakes the Same?

Muffins and cupcakes are not the same. Cupcakes are made with cake batter and are baked in muffin tins. Muffins, on the other hand, are more dense and bready. Cupcakes are known for their mind-blowing tops that oftentimes are the star of the dish. Cupcakes without a fabulous frosting are just not cupcakes. Cupcakes are convenient at big parties – everyone can get a plate with dessert without having to slice up a big cake and serve it to everyone on a plate. Cupcakes are a grab-and-go dessert that is also easily transportable.

Cupcakes with decorations

When it comes to muffins, however, they are not always served with frosting and when they are, the frosting is generally more humble than that of cupcakes. Muffins are often served with crumb topping or simple frosting that generally doesn’t require much design and artistic skill. Since muffin texture is a bit heavier than that of a cupcake it also can be made savoury and enjoyed at a breakfast table hot and fresh with a piece of melting butter. Muffins are also less in calories due to their simpler top.

Are Muffins Really Just Cake?

Muffins are different from cake in their texture, flavor, and topping. On one hand, muffins could be compared to a cake as their crumb is not as hard as bread’s, and muffins are sweeter than bread. On the other hand, though, cake is lighter and sweeter than muffins. Cakes are made for special occasions, artistically decorated, and generally have more calories than you would eat on a daily basis. Muffins, however, could be eaten for breakfast and not give you a sugar coma.

Are Muffins a Breakfast Food?

Muffins can be eaten for breakfast. It is so easy to make and so pleasant to taste that we naturally want to grab a muffin or two for a quick breakfast before rushing on to our daily tasks. However, beware that the more sugar you put into your morning treat the more caution you need to exercise with the frequency of consuming them.

If you are watching your sugar intake then you need to make muffins that are less sweet (use sugar substitutes and/or decrease the amount of frosting). I know, that delicious frosting is the reason you reached for a muffin in the first place! Well, maybe sometimes you may indulge yourself with a sugar blast for breakfast, but be careful not to make that a habit. The best option for breakfast would probably be savoury muffins as it has less sugar and can be packed with vegetables of your choice (which translates into vitamins and nutrition).

savoury breakfast muffins on a plate

Having said that, you may serve 1-2 sweet muffins per person for a breakfast coffee or tea, but overdosing on sweet foods will eventually damage your overall health and reduce your energy levels. How much sugar is too much? I thought you might ask! Recommended safe level of sugar intake is 6 tsp for most adult women and 9 tsp for most adult men.

What Do You Eat with Muffins?

You’ve got your fresh hot muffin on a plate in front of you, yet, something is missing. What do you eat muffins with? I had the same question and here are the best options I discovered for myself!

The quickest and simplest addition to a muffin is butter. If your muffins are still warm (if they are not, just pop them into a microwave for 30 seconds!) the butter will melt adding richness to every bite.

Another simple idea that doesn’t add calories to muffins is toasting them. You can toast your muffins on a nonstick pan in some melted butter! If you want to take it to another level, then spread some jam or peanut butter onto the crusty sides.

If your muffins are salty then you can use them as a base for a custom sandwich. Slice the muffin into small flat pieces and top with meat and cheese. You can toast your sandwiches on a frying pan to melt the cheese and add extra crunch to the bread.

If your muffins are old and stale then make some french toast out of them or use them for bread pudding. Now that you are equipped to eat your muffins let me share the secrets to making them scrumptious!

What You Need to Know to Make the Best Muffins

Muffins with strawberries on paper

What is the Perfect Muffin Texture?

The best muffins are the ones you don’t need to chew on too long! You know you made a great muffin if it breaks apart in your mouth without much extra effort. Other than that your muffins need to be light and fluffy, not dense. To achieve these results you need to pay attention to mixing time. Overmix your batter and you got yourself a dense piece of bread nobody wants to chew on!

Should Muffins Batter Be Thick or Runny?

Muffin batter can be either thick or runny depending on a recipe, but generally, the thinner the batter the lighter the muffin. Your batter definitely shouldn’t be as thick as bread dough. The maximum thickness you can get for a muffin is cookie dough. However, if your batter is cookie dough consistency you will be better off baking them on a sheet pan as cookies because this way they will get that delicious crisp that muffin tins won’t allow for.

muffin batter with raspberries

What Makes a Muffin Moist?

Buttermilk is one of the secret ingredients that will make your muffins more moist and soft. Buttermilk is often added to gluten free muffins precisely because of its moisturizing properties. More milk, oil, or butter generally means more moisture. Another important factor is not overmixing the batter and making sure the temperature of the oven is not too high.

Have you ever baked something according to the recipe instructions and completely burned your cake? I’ve been there! It is important to get an oven thermometer that will help you control the baking temperature. You can get an oven thermometer pretty for an excellent price so there is no reason not to order one to your door!

Is Oil or Butter Better for Muffins?

Oil stays liquid at room temperature while butter tends to harden. Thus, the general rule of thumb is that oil will yield fluffier and lighter muffins while butter will render denser results. However, butter does take pretty much any dish to the next level in flavor profile and muffins are no exception. Your muffins will probably taste better with butter, but you can always melt some onto a baked muffin before biting into it!

Raspberry muffin cut in half

What Does an Extra Egg Do to Muffins?

An extra egg generally adds moisture and better structure to a baked product. Egg allows the muffin batter to hold more moisture as well as sugar which allows for sweeter and moist muffins. However, be careful not to add too many eggs as it will make the muffins rubbery.

What Makes Muffins Rise High?

In order to ensure a good rise for the muffins, you need to consider a few factors: the amount and quality of the baking powder, the right oven temperature, and the amount of batter per muffin tin.

First, you need to follow the recipe and add the right amount of baking powder. Some recipes (especially gluten-free ones) call for WAY too much baking powder (I am still confused as to why) and it makes my muffins taste so bitter that they become inedible. You generally don’t need more than 2 tsp of baking powder per batch of muffins. However, if your baking powder doesn’t make your muffins bitter you can add more (maybe different countries have different baking powders!).

Second, make sure your baking powder is active! To check whether your baking powder is active or not just pour ¼ cup of boiling water over ½ tsp of baking powder. If you see bubbles then the baking powder is still good, if not then you need to get a new pack!

Chocolate Chip Muffins in muffin tins

Another factor to consider is oven temperature. If you crank the heat up all the way to 400F (200C) you will most likely get a better rise. The reason for it is that higher temperature will allow the crust to harder faster while the inside of the muffin will still stay moist. However, you will need to make sure that your muffins don’t burn. If the muffins are still underbaked while the tops are ready then just cover the muffin tins with foil and take the temperature down to 350F (175C) after the tops have hardened.

While it is important to monitor your muffins, be careful not to open the oven while the muffins are rising as it will allow the steam to escape and your muffin tops will fall flat.

Finally, fill up your muffin tins ¾ way full. As the muffins rise they will have something to hold onto which will help the rise!

The Secret to Gluten Free Muffins

Can You Replace All Purpose Flour with Gluten Free Flour?

You should not replace all-purpose flour with gluten free flour when baking. Gluten-free flour behaves differently and requires ingredients adjustment in order for baked goods to turn out moist and well structured. There are some gluten free flour blends that promise cup-for-cup replacement, however, those flour blends will not yield the best results you could potentially get if you used a specifically gluten free designed recipe.

What Flour is the Best for Gluten Free Baking?

Rice flour is used as the foundation for most gluten free flour blends. Some gluten free recipes will only use rice flour (like these rice flour muffins), but most recipes consist of a mix of different gluten free flours. Depending on what you are baking you will need a different flour blend for best results, however, there are all-purpose gluten free flour blends that will work well with most recipes.

On my site, you will find the exact measurements of different flours I use for each recipe as I rarely use premade blends. Check out my custom gluten free bread blend, gluten free muffin blend with lentil flour, lemon muffin blend, and rice and cornflour blend.

Gluten Free Lemon Muffin

Can You Over Mix Gluten Free Flour?

Yes, you can overmix gluten free flour. On one hand, you don’t need to worry about gluten development, however, if you are working with xanthan or guargum you do need to be careful not to mix it too much. If you over-mix the dough or batter made with gums as binding agents you will get a chewy, elastic, tough end product which is not going to taste good.

While wheat bread benefits from extra kneading you will need to be careful with gluten free bread because they will become rubbery if you work them too much!

Is There a Trick to Baking with Gluten Free Flour?

Generally, the problem people have with baking gluten free is structure and taste. To help your gluten free baked goods stay together instead of crumbling at the first bite you need to use a binding agent. Binding agents frequently used in gluten free baking are xanthan gum, guar gum, and psyllium husk. My personal preference when it comes to gluten free bread is psyllium husk. I do use xanthan gum sometimes just because I am more familiar with how it works and when I am in a hurry it is easier to add a tsp or two to a recipe than trying to figure out the right amount of psyllium and let the dough sit in order for psyllium to absorb the liquids.

The taste of gluten free baked products is a whole other issue. It is truly difficult to mimic wheat bread with grain flours, so if you judge the quality of a gluten free loaf by comparing it to regular bread you will probably get disappointed. However, I think sometimes the flavors of gluten free bread are superior to wheat bread just because it has so much packed into one little loaf. There could be rice, corn, lentils, tapioca, potatoes, and many other possible grains that add to the flavor profile. If you compare a mediocre wheat bread with a good gluten free loaf you will most likely prefer gluten free to your own surprise!

Gluten Free Banana Bread with cherries in a pan

Do I Need Xanthan Gum for Gluten Free Baking?

The simple answer is yes, the longer answer is you can use xanthan gum but there are other options for you. Guar gum or psyllium husk is also good binding agents for your gluten free baked goods. However, if your question is whether or not you need to use a binding agent then the answer is simply yes. Without a binding agent, your gluten free products will fall apart and crumble onto the table and floor before you get a chance to enjoy a mouthful.

What Helps Gluten Free Muffins Rise?

You need to use baking powder in order to ensure a good rise but don’t overdo it. Some recipes call for up to 4 tsp of baking powder per batch of muffins and when I tried that the muffins turned out so bitter that it was impossible to eat them without some jam or excessive amount of frosting.

My rule of thumb is don’t add more than 2 tsp baking powder per batch of muffins. Instead of overdosing on leavening agents try helping your gluten free muffins rise by preheating the oven to 400F/200C and letting them bake at that temperature for the first 10 minutes. Once the rise has happened you can turn the temperature down to 350F/175C. If your muffin tops are starting to brown and you still have 10 minutes to go you can cover them with foil but be careful not to open the oven too soon or the tops will fall flat. Let the crust harden first, then cover with foil.

Raspberry muffins in a tin

Why are My Gluten Free Muffins Dry?

Buttermilk is a great ingredient for ensuring moisture stays in your muffins after baking. Generally, adding eggs, butter, and buttermilk will moisturize your gluten free muffins but you need to also make sure your flour proportions are good. Avoid using only one type of gluten free flour in a recipe but rather use a blend of gluten free flour. Make sure that you are not adding extra flour to the recipe just because the batter seems too thin. Finally, don’t overbake your muffins. It is normal for gluten free baked goods to be slightly wet on the inside after you take them out of the oven.

How Do You Make Gluten Free Muffins Less Dense?

Proper rise, the right amount of moisture, and a good choice of flours will allow for your muffins to become light and fluffy instead of dense. Gluten free baking requires longer baking times for better results, so after you baked your gluten free muffins for 10 minutes on 400F/200C, drop the temperature to 150C and bake for an extra 15-20 minutes. Make sure you are adding enough fat and liquid ingredients as they provide moisture which also translates into a better rise (as the steam escapes). Finally, follow the recipe instructions as to what flour to use for the specific recipe!

Why are My Gluten Free Muffins Chewy?

The reason could be an overworked batter. If you are working with xanthan or guar gum you will need to be careful not to overmix your batter as it would otherwise create an elastic structure of the muffin and yield rather chewy results. You also want to make sure that the starches and grains are well balanced in your gluten free flour of choice!

Gluten Free Raspberry Muffin inside

Why are My Gluten Free Muffins Gummy?

Adding too much xanthan gum or guar gum can lead to a gummy texture. If you didn’t add too much of gums you still can create gumminess if you mix the batter too much. Over mixing gluten free batter will lead to a gummy texture if xanthan or guar gum is present. Another reason your gluten free muffins are gummy could be the out-of-balance flour blend you are using. For more in-depth information on how to create the perfect flour blend to avoid gumminess check out this guide.

How to Make Gluten Free Muffins Fluffy?

Fluffiness in gluten free muffins is encouraged by proper oven temperature, right flour blend, a good amount of moisturizing agents, and short mixing times. You need to eliminate the gumminess, density, and dryness in your gluten free muffins in order for them to feel light and fluffy as you bite into them. To learn the secrets to making your muffins less gummy, less dense, and less dry read the paragraphs above.

Bonus Tips and Tricks

Should You Fill the Empty Muffin Tins with Water?

If the muffin batter fills only some of the tins you can fill the rest with water. The benefits of having extra water in the oven are more moisture in the muffins, better rise, and prevention of burning for the empty muffin tins. Having said that, I never tried filling up the empty tins with water and they never burned before. However, you might get a better rise plus moisture for your gluten free muffins if you do follow this tip!

Can You Open the Oven While Baking Muffins?

Avoid opening the oven in the first 10 minutes of baking. It is important that all the steam stays in the oven in order to help your muffins rise. If you open the oven before the tops harden they will fall flat later.

Do You Eat Muffins Hot or Cold?

Both options are good! If your muffins have cooled down but you would rather enjoy a hot muffin with some melting butter on top then just pop them into the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute!

The most popular muffins are blueberry muffins, chocolate chip muffins, the morning glory muffins, and muffins with crumb topping. Other than these there are plenty of other muffin types that are widely known and enjoyed all over the world!

How Can I Make Muffin Mix Taste Better?

Add an extra egg to the mix and you will be surprised how much better your muffins will taste!

Is There a Gluten Free Muffin Mix?

There is! If you Google gluten free muffin mix you will find plenty of options and can order them online within a few clicks!

Pumpkin Muffins with Chocolate Chip

What’s Next? Try these Recipes!

Dairy free cherry muffins

Gluten Free Savoury Breakfast Muffins

Gluten Free Rice Flour Muffins

Gluten Free Raspberry Muffins

Gluten Free Lemon Muffins

Sourdough Chocolate Chip Muffins

Gluten Free Sourdough Muffins with Chocolate Chip

Thank you for reading this post, if you have any questions, please reach out in the comment section below!

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