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If you’re looking for a staple recipe for your repertoire, one that’s quick and easy but gives you a huge range of variations, then this is it: the basic muffin recipe.
Muffins are one of the quickest and easiest baked treat to make – just 5 minutes prep time and around 20 minutes in the oven and morning tea is served. Which is great if you’ve got impromptu guests coming or the if the kids are starving and you’re looking for something to bake.
I’ve been using this recipe for a couple of years now for lunchbox snacks. I’ve taken the standard basic muffin recipe and made it just a little bit healthier for the kids by lowering the amount of sugar and using wholemeal flour.
It’s a very flexible recipe, allowing you to use up what you have on hand – delicious muffins that prevent food waste!
Got some sour cream or yoghurt that needs using? Throw it in the muffins. Overripe bananas or pears? Turn them into muffins.
And you can freeze your muffins for easy lunchbox additions. Simply put in an airtight container or zip lock bag and place in the freezer.
The secret to light muffins is to not over mix. You can mix the dried ingredients together well and the wet ingredients as much as you like, but once you mix the wet with the dry, a light hand is best. It’s ok if it’s a little lumpy.
Notes on the ingredients:
FLOUR: You can use any flour you like (except maybe coconut flour) including gluten-free flour. Whatever flour you use is going to change the taste and texture of the muffin a little bit. When you change ingredients, you change the baked good and flour is no exception! You may need to adjust the amount of liquid you use to compensate for the different flours.
We use plain wholemeal wheat flour, but I’ve also made these with gluten-free flour and I’ve also used half wheat flour half almond flour, although not for school lunchboxes.
BAKING POWDER: If you use self-raising flour, you can skip the baking powder or add a about 1 tsp. extra for extra lift. I like to add the baking powder myself so I don’t have to buy s/r flour and I can control how much ‘raise’ my baked goods have.
SUGAR: please note that most basic muffin recipes include a whole cup of sugar.
When making these muffins I only use 1/3 cup of sugar. This means our muffins don’t taste really sweet, but the kids don’t mind and it keeps their sugar amounts fairly low.
1/3 cup of sugar equals about 16 teaspoons of sugar. That’s about 1.33 teaspoons of sugar per muffin.
According to this article, the American Heart Association recommends preschoolers have no more than 4 teaspoons of ‘added’ sugar per day (‘added’ sugar is sugar not found naturally in foods such as whole fruit), children 4-8 no more than 3 teaspoons per day and pre-teens and teens have no more than 5-8 teaspoons of ‘added’ sugar a day.
If you use a whole cup of sugar the muffins will taste sweeter but you’re coming close to reaching or exceeding the maximum recommended amount of sugar for kids in just a single muffin.
You can substitute with something like brown rice syrup to make these muffins healthier, just keep in mind that it’s still sugar and you’re substituting a dry ingredient with a wet one, so you’ll need to adjust your other ingredients slightly to compensate.
OILS: For a healthy muffin, avoid vegetable oil and instead opt for olive oil, ‘light’ olive oil (light in taste), coconut oil, macadamia nut oil or rice bran oil. Your choice in oil will also affect the taste of the muffin.
MILK: Use any milk you prefer – it doesn’t have to be cow’s milk.
You can also substitute all or part of the milk with yoghurt, whey, sour cream, cream, or buttermilk. Something like yoghurt is heavier and thicker than milk, so it will make a denser muffin. You can add a little extra milk if the mixture is too dry and a little extra baking powder to give your heavier muffins more lift when baking.
- 2 cups plain wholemeal flour
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- 1/3 cup raw or brown sugar (because it tastes nicer - more or less to taste)
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla (optional)
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup of your chosen flavouring or as per variations listed below
- Preheat oven to 200°C or 180°C fan-forced.
- Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir in sugar.
- In a separate jug, mix together egg, oil and milk.
- Add wet ingredients + extra flavours to dry ingredients and fold through gently.
- Line muffin tin and spoon mixture evenly into muffin holes.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
- 20 minutes - standard muffins
- 25 - 30 minutes - jumbo muffins
- 10 - 15 minutes - mini muffins
ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS – ADD THESE TO THE BASIC MIX
I kept things simple and didn’t list all the variations and permutations you could make from this list. Safe to say there’s way more than 52 ideas here, depending on how you mix and match your ingredients.
For example, I’ve suggested blueberry and passionfruit as 1 idea, but you could also make mango and passionfruit, coconut and passionfruit, passionfruit and macadamia nut, passionfruit and almond, passionfruit and yoghurt, blueberry passionfruit and yoghurt…you get the idea. The possibilities are almost endless!
Use what you have on hand, experiment, mix and match flavours and have a whole lot of fun. And if your muffins turn out a little heavy or not quite right, you can make adjustments for next time! It’s all about intuitive baking.
If your batter is looking a little dry after you add the additional ingredients, feel free to add a little extra milk or ‘wet’ ingredient for a better consistency. If you are adding heavy additions like mashed banana, you might want to add a little extra baking powder to give the muffins a little extra lift.
For something special, you can take your muffin to the next level by topping it with icing or a glaze.
Onto the variations:
- blueberry (add 1 cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen))
- blueberry & passionfruit (add 1 cup of blueberries and the pulp of 4 passionfruit)
- raspberry & white choc chip (add 1 cup of raspberries (fresh or frozen) + 1/2 cup white choc chips)
- berry & yoghurt (add 1 cup of berries of choice (fresh or frozen) + substitute milk with yoghurt)
- strawberry (add 1 cup chopped strawberries (fresh or frozen))
- raspberry & almond (add 1 cup of raspberries + 1/2 cup almond flakes)
- apple & cinnamon (add 1 cup of chopped fresh apple + 1/2 tsp. cinnamon)
- pear & cardamom (add 1 cup of chopped fresh pear + 1/2 tsp. cardamom)
- plum (add 1 cup chopped plums – nice with plum: cinnamon and vanilla)
- chocolate (add 3 Tbsp. sifted cocoa)
- chocolate & sour cream (add 3 Tbsp. sifted cocoa and substitute milk with sour cream + 1 Tbsp. extra)
- choc chip (add 1 cup choc chips)
- choc, choc- chip (add 3 Tbsp. sifted cocoa + 1 cup choc chips of choice)
- banana (add 1 cup mashed banana)
- banana & yogurt (add 1 cup mashed banana and substitute milk with yoghurt)
- banana & nut (1 cup of banana + 1/2 cup of chopped nuts)
- banana & choc chip (add 1 cup of mashed banana + 1/2 cup choc chips)
- peach (add 1 cup of diced fresh or tinned peaches)
- berry cheesecake (add 1 cup of berries and a dollop of sweetened cream cheese to the middle of the muffins (add 1/2 muffin mixture, dot with cream cheese and then add the rest of the muffin mixture))
- cherry chocolate (add 1 cup pitted and chopped cherries + 3 Tbsp. sifted cocoa)
- pineapple & coconut (add 1 cup crushed pineapple + 1/2 cup flaked coconut)
- mango and coconut (add 1 cup dice mango + 1/2 cup flaked or desiccated coconut)
- macadamia & white chocolate (add 1 cup chopped macadamia nuts + 1/2 – 1 cup of which choc chips)
- citrus & poppy seed (substitute 1/4 cup of the milk with 1/4 cup of lemon or orange juice + add 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds – soak these in the milk first)
- lemon & sour cream (substitute 1/2 the milk with lemon juice and the other half with sour cream)
- lemon & ricotta cheese (substitute 3/4 cup of milk with ricotta cheese + add 2 Tbsp. lemon juice and the zest from 1 lemon)
- orange, coconut & carrot (substitute milk with orange juice and add 1 cup grated carrot and 1/2 cup desiccated coconut)
- sultana (add 1 cup of sultanas)
- rum & raisin (add 1 Tbsp. rum + 1 cup raisins – maybe not for the kid’s lunchbox though )
- date (add 1 cup chopped dates)
- date & nut (add 1 cup chopped dates + 1/2 cup chopped nuts)
- carrot, ginger and sultana (add 1/2 cup grated carrots, 1/2 cup sultanas + 1/2 tsp. ground ginger)
- carrot and apple (add 1/2 cup grated carrot + 1/2 cup grated or finely chopped apple and if you like 1/2 tsp. of your favourite spice like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice.)
- orange and coconut (substitute milk with orange juice + add 1/2 cup desiccated coconut)
- coffee and walnut (add 1 tsp. instant coffee + 1 cup chopped walnuts)
- coffee date & pecan (add 1 tsp. instant coffee + 1/2 cup chopped dates + 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts)
- spiced zucchini (add 1 cup of grated zucchini, well squeezed of moisture + 1 tsp. cinnamon + 1/2 tsp. nutmeg)
- zucchini & pumpkin seeds (add 1 cup of grated zucchini, well squeezed of moisture + 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds + 1 tsp. cinnamon)
- Nutella (add a dollop of Nutella and swirl with a toothpick before baking)
- pumpkin (add 1 cup of mashed cooked pumpkin + 1 tsp. pumpkin spice)
- pumpkin & cream cheese (swirl a dollop of sweetened cream cheese through above recipe before baking)
- spinach, ham & sun-dried tomato (add handful of baby spinach leaves + 1 cup of ham + 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes + leave out the sugar and vanilla)
- cheese (add 1 cup grated cheese + leave out the sugar and vanilla)
- ham & cheese (add 1 cup grated cheese + 1/2 cup chopped ham + leave out the sugar and vanilla)
- ham, cheese & olive (add 1 cup grated cheese + 1/4 cup of chopped ham + 1/4 cup chopped olives + leave out the sugar and vanilla)
- zucchini and ham (add 1 cup grated zucchini, well squeezed of moisture + 1 cup of chopped ham + leave out the sugar and vanilla)
- feta & roast capsicum (add 1/2 cup chopped feta + 1 cup chopped roast capsicum +leave out the sugar and vanilla)
- feta & roast pumpkin (add 1/2 cup chopped feta + 1 cup roast pumpkin + leave out the sugar and vanilla)
- cheese, ham & mushroom (add 1 cup grated cheese +1/2 cup chopped ham + 1/2 cup cooked mushroom slices + leave out the sugar and vanilla)
- cheese, spinach and pesto (add 1 cup grated cheese + good handful of baby spinach leaves + 2 Tbsp. of pesto or more to taste + leave out the sugar and vanilla)
- cheese, corn & sun-dried tomato (add 1/2 cup grated cheese + 1 cup corn + 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes + leave out sugar and vanilla)
- cheese vegetable & herb (add 1/2 cup of grated cheese + 1 cup grated vegetables (like zucchini or carrot) + 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs like dill or parsley or basil)
What are your favourite muffin flavour combos? Let us know in the comments below.
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