Muffins are not difficult to make once you understand a couple of basic principles:
1. Always mix the wet and dry ingredients separately until the very end.
2. Do not beat the batter to death. Mix as quickly and gently as you can or the muffins will come out tough.
Behind every excellent muffin baker there is a master batter recipe to be found. Mrs. C, the other headmistress of the Farmhouse Finishing School, is a superb baker and she has a sense for it that goes beyond precise measurements. It was therefore a challenge to translate her master recipe- but I managed to do it and practiced using it and I confidently present it here for you.
I have made these muffins with little substitutions and alterations and had great success with them. I have also made them exactly as written here. I will share with you the master recipe and then I will tell you what alterations you can make without being disappointed in the results.
2 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
2/3 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (or regular milk)
1/3 cup oil
1 1/2 cup blueberries (or other small fruits or berries)
Preheat the oven to 425°. Mix all the dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. In a slightly smaller bowl mix all the wet ingredients together. If you are using berries or chocolate chips, stir them into the dry ingredients so that they are well covered in flour. This is important. Do not mix in after you've combined the wet and dry ingredients. Coating them with the dry flour first will help keep them separate from each other in the batter.
Coat the inside of the muffin tins with butter or oil (I recommend using the butter).
Make a little well in the middle of your dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Quickly and gently stir the wet and dry together just until they are mixed- do not over stir. Do not whip them together violently or you will end up with tough muffins.
Cook for about 17 minutes, until the tops are lightly golden.
Here I have added the blueberries to the dry ingredients and stirred them in well.
In this picture I didn't make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. It isn't necessary, but it's recommended because it makes the incorporation of the wet and dry ingredients faster to bring together.
Every muffin recipe I've ever made says to only fill the muffin tins 2/3 full. This irritates me. My muffins never seem satisfyingly top lofty. I fill them mostly full. To me they are perfect this way. The yield may vary depending on what you add to the batter- you may get only 12 muffins or you may get 15.
Recipe Notes: I almost never have buttermilk on hand. When I do buy it I always have left overs that proceed to go bad. Mrs. C doesn't have this problem. She nearly always has buttermilk on hand. Instead I use 2% milk and I can say that this substitution does not make an inferior muffin. There is that pleasant tang when you use the buttermilk but other than a slight flavor difference, the quality of the batter can handle the substitution. I like a lot of berries in my muffins. So I used 2 cups of berries. You can do this too if you like. I think 1 1/2 might be the most ideal ratio of berries to batter but I always like going over the top. Using frozen blueberries works exceptionally well, just be sure not to let them defrost before adding them to the batter. You can also use blackberries, diced peaches, raspberries, or even chocolate chips. If you use chocolate chips I recommend you only use 1 cup of them. One last note- you may need to add a little bit more milk/buttermilk to your batter if it's too stiff when mixed. Things that can affect your batter are the humidity in the air and the size of your eggs. If your batter seems too stiff, add 1/4 cup of buttermilk or milk and as gently and quickly as you can, mix it in.