Baking 101: Mouthwatering Morning Muffins

From The Lecture Series: The Everyday Gourmet — Making Great Meals in Less Time

By Chef Instructor Bill Briwa, The Culinary Institute of America

Waking up in the morning, getting a cup of coffee, and getting out the door often seem like enough of a challenge in themselves without the added responsibility of cooking breakfast. Muffins are a great way to start the day! Learn how to make your muffins healthier, while still keeping them delicious.


Waking up in the morning, getting a cup of coffee, and getting out the door often seem like enough of a challenge in themselves without the added responsibility of cooking breakfast. But we all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and many people feel shortchanged if they don’t start the day with a good breakfast!

Learn more about how to cook with what’s on hand in your house—and elevate it with a simple fresh ingredient or two

If you like something sweet for breakfast, a muffin is a great option. Make these muffins with a mixture of whole wheat and white flour, or you can try flour made from spelt, an ancient kind of wheat.

This is a transcript from the video series The Everyday Gourmet: Making Great Meals in Less Time. Watch it now, on Wondrium.

Creating a Healthy Muffin

Here are a number of strategies you might consider when trying to create muffins with a healthier nutritional profile:

  • Replace all or part of the white flour with whole-wheat pastry flour (which has a silky rather than a coarse feel). The flavor of your muffins will become nuttier and sweeter, and the texture will be slightly denser. Adding an extra 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder and an extra tablespoon of liquid per cup of whole-grain flour can compensate for these changes in whole-grain baking. You might also try replacing all- purpose flour with whole-grain spelt flour.
  • Use protein powder to replace about 1⁄5 of the flour. In addition to a boost in protein, this substitution results in a slightly sweeter flavor and a firmer muffin.
  • Rather than changing the type of flour you use in your favorite muffin recipe, consider simply adding cooked whole grains in much the same way you might add nuts or dried fruit. This strategy also works well with pancakes and waffles.
  • Such additions as fresh, frozen, or dried fruit; nuts and seeds; and prepared cereals, such as granola, can boost the nutrition and appeal of a simple muffin recipe.
  • For recipes that call for melted butter, you can replace the butter measure for measure with healthy oil, such as canola or olive oil. Healthy and flavorful nut oils can also be used, which add their own distinctive flavor. If replacing all of the butter seems too extreme, start by replacing just half; this alone represents a significant stride forward toward a healthier nutritional profile.
  • The portion size of muffins is another important consideration. As appealing as oversized muffins might be, the calories can quickly mount to what you might expect to eat for an entire meal. Keep an eye out for smaller or “mini” muffin tins.
  • Nonstick cooking sprays—without partially hydrogenated fats— make greasing muffin cups easy and efficient and can cut calories significantly. Even more effective is to use paper muffin liners and avoid the extra fat altogether.

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Breakfast Muffins

Breakfast Muffins


  • 1 12 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbs butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups seasonal fruit, dried fruit, toasted nuts, or frozen corn kernels

Cooking Instructions

Mix together all the dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar. Make sure you break up any lumps of brown sugar.

Whenever you see baking soda in a recipe, you should expect to add some acid, such as buttermilk. The baking soda needs to react with acid to give off carbon dioxide—that’s the leavening that takes place.

For the wet ingredients, combine egg, buttermilk, melted butter, vegetable oil, and vanilla. At this point, think about what you might add to make this recipe more interesting, such as nuts, fruit, or granola. If you like the idea of a savory muffin, leave out a little bit of the sugar and add corn and green chiles. You might also add some cooked whole grains, such as barley, wheat berries, or brown rice. For these muffins, we’ll add blueberries, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Other good combinations include walnuts and cherries, apples and carrots, blackberries and blueberries, or pistachios and apricots.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients, but be careful not to overmix the batter. Use a spatula instead of a whisk. The more you mix, the more gluten or protein will develop and the tougher the muffins will become. When the batter is almost completely mixed, add the blueberries.

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Spoon the batter into a muffin pan lined with paper cups and bake for 10 to 15 minutes in a 400° oven. When you’re making muffins, make a double batch and freeze some. You can take a muffin out of the freezer before you get dressed and eat it before you leave or take one with you on your way out the door to work.

Common Questions About Muffins

Q: Is there a difference between cupcakes and muffins?

The difference between cupcakes and muffins is both technical and aesthetic. Muffins are made with the muffin method which makes a denser, chewier crumb, while cupcakes are made with one of many cake methods, resulting in a light, soft or spongy crumb. As for aesthetics, muffins almost never have a topping unless it is a crumble or a seed, while cupcakes almost always have a frosted or iced topping.

Q: What muffins would be the most popular?

By far the most popular muffin is the blueberry muffin, while bran muffins and banana-nut come in close at 2nd and 3rd place.

Q: Did the muffin or cupcake come first?

Technically the muffin came before the cupcake, as the technique and name have been in print since the 18th century. Although the name has occasionally been called a cupcake, the muffin method of combining the ingredients came first.

Q: How does the muffin method work?

The muffin method begins by creating two ingredient sets, one wet with eggs, fat and liquids, and the other dry with flour and leaveners. When the oven has reached the pre-heating temperature, they are combined quickly and loosely poured into the tin and baked.

This article was updated on 1/22/2020

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