6.01.2010

The origins of the muffin


The other day I decided to bake some muffins. As I was reaching for the flour in the pantry I found myself wondering where muffins come from. They are not cakes or biscuits, and even the name sounds interesting. So how exactly is it different from other baked goods like cupcakes?
After some research I found out a few interesting facts about muffins. Muffins date back to the early 18th century. The Merriam-Webster dictionary suggests that the word derives from Low German: muffen (muffe) and it is defined as “a quick bread made of batter containing egg and baked in a pan having cuplike molds”. The Joy of Baking adds that the muffin originates from the French moufflet, meaning a type ofsoft bread. While European in origins the world has done what it wants with muffins and for most it’s a cross between cake and a bread. I do appreciate the way we have taken this simple traditional item and made it into something else entirely.


At my house, muffins are a staple, not only because they provide the perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of tea or a frothy cappuccino, but because they are little carriers of goodness. A muffin, whether sweet or savoury, holds all the delicious ingredients of your choosing. For example, carrots, cinnamon, chocolate, walnuts, poppyseeds… and the list goes on. I like muffins because when I’m hungry and don’t want to eat something processed and greasy from cafes or stands, I can reach into my bag and pull out my homemade treat. They can be rich andsatisfying and so simple to make. Now after all my rambling on muffins, aren’t you hungry? If so, try out my spiced carrot muffins with lemon cream cheese.

spiced carrot muffins (with lemon cream cheese)
makes a dozen

Muffins
1-1 ½ cups milk – soy or regular milk
1/3 cup oil – I use vegetable but you can use any other non-flavoured oil
1 organic egg
2 large carrots grated
1 tsp vanilla bean extract
200g wholemeal flour (about 1 ½ cups)
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of baking soda
2 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp sucanat (short for sugar cane natural – you can get it at health foods stores, use something sweet if you can’t find it)
pinch cardamom
pinch cinnamon
pinch salt (helps the baking process and brings out flavour)  


Lemon cream cheese
½ cup cream cheese
1 tsp lemon zest
1-2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp maple syrup/honey


For muffins
Preheat oven to 190 degrees. Start by mixing all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl whisk egg and milk together with oil. Add in wet ingredients (keep grated carrots aside) to dry ingredients to form batter. Batter should be wet like a cake and still lumpy (don’t overmix as you will lose air). If it’s not wet enough, add more milk, a little at a time. Incorporate carrots at this point and spoon into muffin tin. Bake for around 20 mins (check to make sure baked throughout).

For icing
Mix all ingredients together, adjust with less or more lemon juice if you want it thicker/thinner. Pipe or spread over muffins. Enjoy.

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