There’s a series of books called Tightwad Gazette that have had a place of honor on my bookshelves for years. Based on a newsletter written throughout the 90s, these books offer thousands of ideas on how to save money. One of her ideas that I loved was her master muffin recipe. Using this recipe, formula really, you can make any variety of muffins you want. I’ve adapted my recipe over the years from the original.

I don’t know about you but I often spend a good amount of time searching for a recipe online and making it only to never be able to find it again. This is a frustrating endeavor. Over the last couple of years I’ve been trying to use recipes in my cookbook collection instead of online in hopes that I can find the recipe again. The Master Muffin recipe fits the bill. In fact we make it so often that a handwritten copy is taped inside my spice cabinet door. My spice cabinet is one of my favorite spaces in my kitchen, I’ll show it to you soon.

How the Master Muffin Recipe Works

More of a formula than recipe, you have a range of dry ingredients and wet ingredients to choose from. After you decide which flavor you want to bake, pick the flour and liquid that will suit it best. A spice muffin with raisins and pecans would be perfect with some whole wheat flour. If you are making a delicate lemon muffin, you would want to use an all-purpose flour that won’t overwhelm the lemon flavor. To make a savory cheese variety that would go with a hearty soup, you could use some cornmeal and buttermilk. You can do this confidently with a Master Muffin Recipe.

Master Muffin Recipe

  • 2 – 2 1/2 cups flour (Use all or part: all-purpose, whole wheat, gluten free, cornmeal, whole grain, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons – 1/2 cups granulated sugar (Depending on if it’s a savory or sweet muffin.)
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons baking powder (Whole wheat/grain needs more baking powder to rise well.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk (Any kind of milk, buttermilk, or combination of milk and yogurt or sour cream.)
  • 1/4 cup oil/fat (You could use any mild oil or melted butter.)
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 – 1 cup of add-ins (This could be fresh, dried, or frozen fruit, nuts, cheese, coconut, granola, etc.)

Muffin Prep

First you need to preheat your oven to 400 degrees. The next step is to prep your muffin tin, either butter it or use paper liners. I usually use paper liners even though muffins often stick to the paper because I’m allergic to scrubbing muffin tins. For these muffins I bit the bullet and buttered the tin.

Measuring Plus a Few Baking Tips

When that’s all ready, you can start on the batter. A good practice for baking is to set all your ingredients out on the counter before you start and put them away as you finish using them. This helps you be sure that you did indeed add the baking powder. Not only that but you’ll be tidying up as you go which is always helpful. I also go through the recipe like a checklist before putting the dough or batter into the baking pan to make sure I didn’t forget anything.

Now measure your dry ingredients into a good size mixing bowl and give them a stir. For this batch of muffins I used 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and the larger amount of total flour. Next measure your liquid ingredients into a measuring cup or mixing bowl and combine them. I blitz them with an immersion blender to avoid any chunks of unmixed egg. I advise you to do the same. My daughter labeled our thrifted measuring cup since the writing has been worn off and I love it!

Dry ingredients for Blueberry Muffins.
Wet ingredients for Blueberry Muffins.

Time to Mix

Here I’m making blueberry muffins with frozen blueberries. I like to mix fruit in with the dry ingredients before adding the liquid mixture. One key to making fluffy soft muffins is to avoid over mixing the batter. There’s a bit more detail about this in my Maple Sweet Potato Muffins post. I’ve found that trying to mix fruit or anything into a batter makes it really hard to keep from overworking it. The simplest solution is to mix it right in with the dry ingredients.

Now pour in the liquid ingredients. Here I used regular whole milk and light olive oil. A lot of my baking uses light olive oil and it turns out great. Also you avoid having to melt butter. Quickly and gently stir together your batter, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. You need all the dry ingredients incorporated. It’s ok to have some lumps in the batter, they will dissolve in the oven. Big pockets of flour aren’t great but you don’t need a perfectly smooth batter. Again, you don’t want to over mix!

Blueberry Muffins ready to mix.
Ingredients for Blueberry Muffins.

Scoop and Bake

After the batter is mixed, scoop it into your buttered or lined tin. I like to sprinkle a bit of sugar over each muffin before baking. You can sprinkle them with some of the add-ins, sugar, or cinnamon sugar if you like or leave them plain. Another thing I do is fill the muffin cups nearly to the top. I’m not interested in baking little scrimpy muffins. Make them a nice generous size!

Batter for Blueberry Muffins.
Blueberry Muffins ready to bake.

Slide the filled tin into the hot oven and set a timer for 20 minutes. When the timer goes off, check to see if they are firm in the middle and lightly browned. You can test with a toothpick if you’d like. Poke a toothpick into the center of a muffin and if it comes out clean then they are done. This can be tricky when baking with fruit so try to avoid hitting a piece of fruit. Usually I just lightly press on the top of a muffin and if it springs back then it’s done. If not then I let them bake 3 to 5 minutes longer and check again.

When you decide they are finally done, set them to cool on a wire rack. If you made a fruit muffin, the fruit will be very hot so it’s best to let it cool slightly. Move them to a platter or nice big bowl to serve. Obviously butter is required for almost all muffins so have some soft butter ready.

This recipe makes 10 to 12 depending on how full you fill the muffin cups. As you can see above my batch made 11 muffins.

Blueberry Muffins.