I love a recipe, like this one, that can be varied in infinite ways. Here the basic muffin batter can be altered to make a dozen different types of easy-to-prepare muffins. Thanks to my dear friend Cara Tannenbaum for sharing her recipe. The recipe that follows is the basis for making muffins with the flavorings and other enhancements listed in the variations below it; this recipe is not meant to be made plain.
Makes 12 standard size muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 large egg
1 cup milk
Other ingredients as per the variations below
One 12-cavity muffin pan with paper liners
Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375˚F.
In a medium bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
Pour the butter into a mixing bowl (scrape out the pan with a rubber spatula) and thoroughly whisk in the egg; whisk in the milk.
Whisk about one third of the flour mixture into the liquid until the liquid is absorbed. Whisk in another third, again until the liquid is absorbed. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the last of the flour mixture.
Gently fold in any solid enhancements to the batter and distribute the batter into the muffin pan.
Bake the muffins until they are well-risen and golden and the point of a knife inserted in the center of one emerges dry, about 20 minutes.
Cool the muffins in the pan on a rack and lift them out after they have cooled completely.
BLUEBERRY MUFFINS: Add 1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest to the liquids. After mixing the batter, fold in 1 1/2 cups rinsed, dried, and picked-over blueberries. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with 2 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon right before baking.
LEMON POPPY SEED MUFFINS: Add 2 tablespoons poppy seeds to the flour mixture, and add 1 tablespoon of finely grated lemon zest to the liquids.
APPLE RAISIN MUFFINS: Peel 1 large (8-ounce) Golden Delicious apple and grate it on the largest holes of a box grater. Turn the shreds into a strainer and place the strainer over a bowl to drain. Press plastic wrap against the surface of the apple so that it doesn’t darken too much. Add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the dry ingredients. After mixing the batter, fold in the grated apple along with 3/4 cup dark raisins. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins before baking with cinnamon sugar as in Blueberry Muffins, above.
CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS: Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract to the liquids. After mixing the batter, fold in one 6-ounce (1-cup) package of milk, semisweet, or bittersweet chocolate chips. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins before baking with 2 tablespoons unflavored sugar.
OLD-FASHIONED JAM MUFFINS: Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest to the liquids. Half fill the cavities in the muffin pans and drop 1 (measuring) teaspoon of your favorite jam or preserves in the center of the batter. Add the rest of the batter, being careful to cover the jam completely.