Join us for this episode of…Adventures in Muffin Making!
The kids want to do more real cooking, so we have been in the kitchen learning a few times this week. On Saturday morning I thought we would dive into one of their favorite foods – the muffin. Since Cecily likes all kinds and flavors of muffins, and Max only likes chocolate chip, I cut my normal muffin recipe in half, and gave each kid two small bowls, one for making their batch of 6 muffins, and one for mixing the dry ingredients for a batch of muffins which could be easily made at a later date. A homemade muffin mix. This allows each of them to do more measuring, which they really enjoy. But in the chaos of four bowls, two whisks, two kinds of flour, two sets of measuring spoons, not being able to find my certain measuring cup I needed, etc, etc, somehow this happened.
In the photo above, on the right side is the chocolate chip muffin with no leavening agent. On the left is the correctly mixed chocolate chip muffin. All other ingredients and cooking times are identical. Big difference! Big lesson in what baking powder does! Intentionally leaving out the baking powder for a whole pan of muffins is too much trouble to teach this lesson, but lucky us, it happened accidentally. I’ll bet they will never forget these muffins.
Ok, at this point in the story I will admit that we ate three of Max’s original unleavened muffins before we got suspicious that something was amiss. Hey, any hot bread with chocolate chips and crunchy sugar topping tastes good. It wasn’t until they started to cool down and take on the texture of a hockey puck that I started to wonder, but I kept quiet. “Mom, on second thought, I don’t really like these muffins.” Busted. Better get on with this teachable moment and make a second batch of muffins.
That was when I realized that we had made another mistake. I had cleverly, too cleverly as it turns out, had the kids mix up the muffin mixes for quick muffins in the future. And I had conscientiously packed the mixes up right away into identically labeled plastic zipper bags. One of which had no baking powder in it. Another teachable moment!!! What luck.
So I put the question to them: How can we tell which bag has the baking powder? I coaxed them toward the technique I thought would work, adding a bit of vinegar to a sample of the mix to see if it fizzed. We discovered a few days ago that baking powder does not fizz nearly as much as baking soda when introduced to vinegar, but it fizzed a little. The kids had another suggestion. They have always been skeptical of my claim that the leavening agent doesn’t affect the taste, and Max brought that up again. So we tasted the two mixes, and sure enough, one of them had a bit of a tangy bite. The other was blandly sweet and floury. We decided the tangy one was the complete mix, and we did the vinegar test to confirm our guess. Knowing what to look for, we did see some bubbles come up on our good sample.
So we mixed it up and baked it and voila! We were right. They rose beautifully and had a tender crumb. We added the baking powder to the remaining mix, and put it away for later. Whew. The chickens enjoyed the three remaining puck-like muffins, and all that was left was the washing up.
The Recipe -
Mixing the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately is a good idea for kids. It will allow them to have a consistently well mixed product without over beating the dry and wet ingredients in the end, which is a no-no for tender muffins. The final product should be mixed only until the wet and dry are just combined for best results. Then fold in whatever flavoring you are using – chocolate chip or blueberry in this recipe, and put the batter right into the muffin tins. A 1/4 cup measure worked perfectly to fill the 6 muffin papers exactly with no leftover batter! I love it when that happens.
If you want to make some dry mixes for later, set the kids (or yourself) up with a couple more small bowls and simply measure out the dry ingredients into them, assembly line style. Then tip the ready mixes into individual plastic zipper bags that have been labeled with a sharpie marker – I usually write the contents plus some notes about what needs to be added to complete the recipe. Store in a cool dry place until needed.
- ½ c all purpose flour
- ½ c whole wheat pastry flour
- 2 tbsp flax meal
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- ½ c milk
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 egg
- up to ¾ c mix-in for flavoring – fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, whatever you like
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp softened butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- First, preheat your oven to 500F and put 6 paper liners in your muffin tin.
- Get the topping ready first and set aside. Soften the butter and add sugar and flour. Mix with a spoon until all is combined and very crumbly.
- Add the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl. Mix the dry ingredients with a whisk until well combined.You can use whatever kind of wheat flour you like. You can increase the sugar up to ½ cup if you want a sweeter, more dessert-like muffin.
- Put all the wet ingredients into a bowl and whisk until egg is well combined. You can add up to 2 tbsp more oil for a richer muffin or substitute melted butter if you like.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix quickly with a few strokes, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl so that no dry spots are hidden down there. Add your mix-ins and stir to distribute them evenly.
- Use a ¼ cup measuring cup to divide the batter between the six muffin papers in the tin. They should be at least ⅔ full. Add the topping by sprinkling it evenly among the muffins.
- The oven should be preheated to 500F. Reduce temperature to 400F when you put in the muffins, and bake 15-20 mins. Check for doneness after 15 mins – if you are adding frozen fruit like blueberries, you may need a couple of extra minutes.