Easy morning muffins, made to order

Okay, I get it now. People like cakes that masquerade as breakfast. Well, suck it, monkeys — I’m going corporate. And I’m bringing muffins for everyone.

basic muffins

Before writing about basic pancakes last month, I was apparently living under a bowl of Quarry Cereal. (No pesticides, because it’s not grown. It’s mined!) Personally, most mornings I’d take a good cup of coffee, and possibly a bit of foraging through last night’s leftovers, over cooking up a sweet breakfast. So I guess I’d failed to realize just how much that is definitely not the case for just how many readers and Googlers the world over.

After three decades of walking the line between other people’s normal and my own, you’d think I’d have done a little more recalibrating by now. You’d think I’d stop suggesting Saturday and Harry Potter and the Shouts and Murmurs column when people ask where to look for good food writing. You’d think I’d back off of the Puttanesca at 9 a.m. You’d think I’d pretend to understand about tuna salad and egg salad being foods to eat in private, and learn to love Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, and not trade my lucrative corporate job, on the eve of the next great depression, for the opportunity to park it on the couch during baby naptime and daydream out loud about food. Well on all those fronts you’d be wrong, wouldn’t you.

You might also think that I’d embrace a piece of cake for breakfast once in a while to pander to my darling readers. That I’d take one for the team. One fresh from the oven, with bananas and nuts, or blueberries, or other fruity or nutty (or completely nutty) additions of your choice. To that, it turns out, I say:


Suck it, monkeys — I’m going corporate.

(Also, Tina Fey, will you be my TV wife?)

(Also, do you think it’s bad that there’s a rock theme developing in a post about muffins? They’re soft, I promise.)

In other words, on the off chance I’ve lost you here, muffins are served. I can be a little slow on the uptake from time to time, but after a while I will know the way to a reader’s heart when I see it. At that time, I will abandon my personal preferences, rejigger my moral compass, and bake breakfast treats for everyone. And so, in the spirit of sweet, sweet ingratiation, may I present a recipe for basic muffins. Like the basic pancakes, they are easy to make, easy to customize and easy to plug into small, whining mouths when strictly necessary.


Not that it would ever be strictly necessary.

Basic Muffins
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

Makes 12 small muffins

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup milk
¾ tsp. vanilla extract

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt

3-4 cups total of any of the following, or a combination:

  • chopped ripe banana
  • blueberries, raspberries or blackberries (or other small berries)
  • chopped strawberries or other chopped, soft fruit
  • chopped apples, pears or other hard fruits, cooked, covered, in the microwave for 3-4 minutes on high to soften a bit
  • dried fruits, chopped if large, softened by soaking in very hot water for 10 minutes and then drained  (limit to about 1 cup)
  • chopped nuts (limit to about 1 cup)
  • shredded cheese
  • cooked, crumbled bacon or sausage
  • chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit, with a rack positioned in the center.

Spray a standard 12-muffin pan with baking spray OR lightly oil the cups.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, warm the butter in the microwave for 1 ½ to 2 minutes on medium power until just melted. (Seriously, don’t use high power unless you like licking butter off the microwave door.) Alternatively, you can melt the butter over low heat in a small pot on the stove.

Add the egg, yolk, milk and vanilla to the bowl with the melted butter and whisk thoroughly to combine.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix thoroughly.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix gently until just combined. Do not overmix. The batter will be very thick.

Gently fold in the fruit, nuts or other additions.

Divide the batter among the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before removing muffins from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

whole wheat & banana muffin variation

  • Jill

    another recipe I just may try!
    and I LOVE the pic of the girlies!!!! :)ReplyCancel

  • I love muffins, and having a great base recipe is such a good idea. Thanks for sharing–they look delicious! Adorable kiddos, too.

    Elle’s last blog post..Guacamole Ice Cream…sort of!ReplyCancel

  • Cute kids! This made me laugh out loud: “not trade my lucrative corporate job, on the eve of the next great depression, for the opportunity to park it on the couch during baby naptime and daydream out loud about food.” Maybe it’s because I’m abandoning my own not-lucrative-but-steady teaching job!ReplyCancel

  • Thanks, ladies!

    Jill, I definitely see you making this one.

    Elle, that ice cream of yours is fantastic. I can’t wait to haul out the ice cream maker for the summer and will definitely be giving that one a try.

    Kalyn, how you could possibly hold down a teaching job in addition to all of your culinary work is beyond me. I know retirement from teaching is often bittersweet, but congrats! You totally deserve it.ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn

    If one was in the habit of buying bananas with the intent of eating them before they turned completely brown but always seemed to fail to do so, and thus had a freezer full of incredibly ripe (albeit frozen) bananas, would said bananas be appropriate for use in this recipe? And if so, should they be thawed before being folded into the batter or can they just be chopped frozen? I have only ever used frozen bananas in banana bread and am SO ready to try something new…

    Also, any tips on incorporating whole wheat flour into this recipe?

    Thanks as always for the great post and even better advice!ReplyCancel

  • Hi, Kathryn! I think you could easily swap out half the white flour for whole wheat flour. The texture would be a bit denser, but if you’re used to baking with whole wheat flour, you’d probably like them that way. If you decide to try them with more than half whole wheat flour, you should add an additional 1/2 tsp. of baking powder. I haven’t tried these yet with any whole wheat flour, so if you do it, please report back. I may try it this weekend, too, and update the recipe.

    As for the frozen bananas, you know, I’m not sure. When bananas defrost, they get very liquidy, so I don’t think there would be any chance of your getting muffins with chunks of banana. Wouldn’t recommend tossing frozen chunks into the batter since the muffins don’t bake for very long. However, I think you could probably fold defrosted, mashed banana into the batter since the batter is quite thick. (Then, though, you might be disappointed to be eating banana muffins that aren’t spiced like banana muffins. Hmm.) Honestly, I can think of better uses for frozen bananas — namely banana ice cream and smoothies. People rave about this recipe for banana ice cream from Alton Brown, if you’re feeling motivated. Let us know what you decide!ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn! Experiments — albeit highly uncontrolled — have been conducted. Muffins have been eaten. Photos have been taken (see above). You can use the following substitutions:

    For the flour, 3/4 cup white flour + 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour

    For the sugar, 1/2 cup sugar + 2 frozen bananas, defrosted (in microwave on medium power for 2 minutes is fine) and mashed (should be scant 1 cup).

    Bake for the full 22 minutes.

    I added out-of-season blackberries and walnuts to ours and would not recommend the blackberry-banana situation, either in terms of sweetness or in terms of added moisture. Maybe try a combination of walnuts and soaked, drained dried cherries? Something dry and not too sour. No reason.ReplyCancel

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