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~ Make the Batter ahead: Buttermilk & Bran Muffins ~

IMG_5181We all agree that a muffin is at its best as soon as it can be eaten -- as soon as it has cooled enough to pick it up with your fingertips and pull it apart.  For me, a warm muffin with a slather of softened butter or cream cheese is the ideal breakfast.  That's all comfy-cozy sounding, but, even I don't have the time or desire to get up early enough on any given morning to mix a batch of muffin batter. That's why, over the years, I've collected a few muffin recipes that allow me to make the batter ahead and pop it in the refrigerator for 1-3 days.  All I do when I wake up in the morning is scoop about a 1/2 cup of batter into a muffin cup and bake one (or 2-3) in my toaster oven.  By the time I'm out of the shower, my coffee is brewed and my muffin is baked!

IMG_5215Note:  Making muffin batter ahead doesn't work for all recipes. 

It's been my experience that making muffin batter ahead works for muffins that require little or no baking powder, and, works better for recipes that contain baking soda.  Why?  Both leaveners create gas bubbles, which cause the muffins to rise when baked.  In the case of baking powder, bubbles form the moment they are moistened, and, if the batter sits around prior to baking, the bubbles escape and collapse, resulting in dense, flat-topped muffins.  On the other hand, baking soda creates its gas bubbles when it is exposed to heat, making it the better choice for make-ahead batters.  That said, I have had success by adding baking soda to muffin batters that contain baking powder -- not in place of it, in addition to it.  Experiment on a recipe to recipe basis, but a good starting point is:  add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for every 1 teaspoon of baking powder, keeping in mind that too much baking soda can leave anything with an odd aftertaste (which can be neutralized with some creamy acidity -- buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt).

6a0120a8551282970b017c3733bfd9970bA bit about muffins:  American-style muffins fall into the category of a type of slightly-sweet or savory quick-bread that is made with all-purpose or cake flour, and, are leavened with baking powder and/or baking soda.  They're baked in multiple-cupped muffin pans, to produce individual-sized portions. Sometimes, for ease of serving, paper liners are placed in the cups and that option is yours, except:

Paper liners prevent muffins from browning on the outside.  Tip from Mel:  Use the liners for coarser bread-textured, corn and/or cheese muffins.  When making moister muffins, don't use liners.

Fruit, dried fruit, fruit juice, fruit puree, nuts, seeds and grains (usually bran or oats) are all common additions to sweet muffins.  In the recent history of muffins, chocolate, peanut butter, and/or toffee bits have become popular too. The latter list of sweets, while not my favorite, are not going to prompt me to call the food police -- even I like a chocolate chip thrown into the mix occasionally.  That said, when it comes to making muffin batter ahead of time, the rules change a bit:  dried ingredients (like dried papaya) work better than fresh, juicy ones (like fresh papaya), and, purees (like applesauce) are preferable to liquid ingredients (like apple juice).

IMG_5178My Muffin Commandment #1:  Thou shalt not frost muffins.

Muffins are topped with nothing, a sprinkling of coarse sugar, a mixture of sugar and cinnamon, or, a crumbly "streusel" prior to baking. Both sugar and streusel will add a pleasant crunch to a muffin's top. Please refrain from frosting muffins. I am not alone on this -- most pros won't do it. Save that frosting or glaze for cupcakes or cinnamon rolls, which beg for a sweet and creamy enhancement. While muffins are generally considered breakfast or brunch fare with coffee or tea, savory muffins, like corn or cheese muffins, are a great accompaniment to chili or a stew for lunch, or, a rack of ribs for dinner.

Make the Batter ahead:  Buttermilk & Bran Muffins

IMG_5054Even as a teenager I was a fan of bran cereal (to this day, my pantry is never without Raisin Bran).  This unique recipe was given to me by my neighbor Carol, via a forwarded e-mail from her friend Kathy.  It arrived on Sunday, January 11th, 2004.  Up until that afternoon, the thought of making and refrigerating muffin batter ahead had never occurred to me.  It worked perfectly the first time I tried it.  The ingredients list and the baking instructions remain unchanged.  

IMG_5058For the raisins:

1  cup dark raisins

1  tablespoon baking soda

1  cup boiling water

IMG_5068~ Step 1.  In a small bowl stir together the raisins and baking soda.  Add the boiling water, stir, and set aside IMG_5069to cool, about 20-30 minutes.

For the other wet ingredients:

1  cup sugar

1/2  cup salted butter, very soft

2  eggs

2  cups buttermilk

IMG_5074~ Step 2.  In a medium bowl, using a hand-held mixer on medium- IMG_5083 IMG_5080                                      high speed, cream together the sugar, butter and eggs until light in color, about 1-2 minutes.  Lower speed and fold in buttermilk. 

For the dry ingredients:

2  cups flour

1/2  teaspoon salt

IMG_50862  cups Raisin Bran cereal

1  cup All-Bran cereal

1  cup chopped walnuts

For topping:

store-bought Sugar 'n Cinnamon

IMG_5096~ Step 3.  In a large bowl, stir the dry ingredients together. Add the IMG_5112raisin mixture and all of its liquid.

IMG_5103~ Step 4.  At this point, if you're planning on baking all of the muffins immediately, allow the mixture to rest 30-45 minutes, to give the cereal time to absorb excess moisture (which will also thicken the mixture).  Alternatively, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-3 days.

IMG_5121 IMG_5123 IMG_5130~ Step 5.  When you're ready to bake, spray the inside of as many muffin cups with no-stick spray IMG_5158as you need.  Using a 2 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, fill each cup.  Sprinkle the tops with Sugar 'n Cinnamon.  You have batter for 24-26 standard-sized  muffins.

~ Step 6.  Bake on center rack of 360 degree oven 18-20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the IMG_5193center comes out clean.  For me, these muffins are consistently done in 19 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan for about 1 minute before using a thin spatula to transfer them to a cooling rack. Cool for at least 30 minutes prior to serving warm, or, about 1 hour, to serve at room temperature.  

Recover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate unused batter to use on an as-needed basis.

IMG_5176Tomorrow is another freshly-baked muffin day!

IMG_5153Jus bakin' 'em fresh -- one day at a time:

IMG_5234Make the Batter ahead:  Buttermilk & Bran Muffins:  Recipe yields 24-26 standard-sized muffins.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; spoon; 2-cup measuring container; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 2 1/2" ice-cream scoop; standard-sized muffin tin(s); cake tester or toothpick; cooling rack; thin spatula; plastic wrap

IMG_8010Cook's Note:  Just because I told you not to frost muffins does not mean I do not like frosting.  I like it a lot.  Once of my favorite recipes, ~ For the Love of Vanilla:  Double-Vanilla Cupcakes ~ can be found in Categories 6, 10, 11 or 30!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)


Thanks Nancy! I am going to amend the "tip" to unravel any confusion. Thanks for your help -- I really appreciate it!

Lots of good info here. But why do you say not to use liners for cake-like muffins?

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