Muffins have long been a favorite of mine. I have fond memories of the black bottom muffins from the mall that my mom and I would often share. In my years of attempting to recreate muffins as picturesque as the ones from my childhood, I’ve picked up a handful of tricks to make each batch picture-perfect.
While you should still follow the basic rules of muffin-making—avoid overmixing, use room temperature ingredients where indicated in the recipe, line or don’t line the pan as instructed, etc.—these simple but next-level tricks will have your muffins looking like they’re straight out of a bakery window.
Rest the Muffin Batter
The first, most hands-off way to make your muffins pop (literally) is to let the batter rest. Make the batter, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the batter rest at room temperature for about 1 hour. If you’re short on time, just 30 minutes can make a difference.
When you rest the muffin batter, the flour has time to absorb more of the wet ingredients. The fully hydrated flour starches yields a thicker batter. This thicker batter is ideal because it reduces the spread of the muffin tops, and encourages more lift and evenly rounded tops.
Skip this step if you’re using a frozen mix-in (such as frozen fruit) in a butter-based batter. It will instantly chill the butter and thicken the batter. Plus, allowing it to sit will cause the fruit to defrost, adding unwanted water into the mix.
Spread Out the Liners
Another low-effort way to encourage even baking (and thus more picturesque muffins) is to line every other cavity of the muffin tin. Leaving this space allows the heat from the oven to circulate around each muffin equally, encouraging the muffins to rise, bake, and brown more evenly.
Note that this more even circulation of heat can encourage quicker browning (depending on the recipe), so be extra diligent in checking the muffins towards the end of their baking time.
Start at a Higher Temperature, Then Go Low
Many muffin recipes call for baking the muffins at one temperature (usually 350°F) all the way through. I prefer to bake my muffins at two different temperatures—first at a higher temperature of 400°F for 5 to 10 minutes and then back to a lower 350°F until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
The higher temperature encourages maximum oven spring, which means the muffins will rise quickly, taking on close to their maximum height during their first minutes in the oven. The higher temperature also helps to quickly set the outside structure of the muffin, helping to maintain that lift. Finishing at a lower temperature allows the muffins to cook through without becoming too dark and firm on the outside.
If you’re making a recipe that you haven’t baked at multiple temperatures before, keep an eye on the muffins as they finish off baking to make sure they don’t overbake.