Batter Breads and Muffins

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Batter breads and muffins are moister, usually sweeter versions of quickbreads. They’re leavened with baking powder or soda, and often contain moderate amounts of egg and fat in addition to sugar. They develop a dense, moist texture that accommodates nuts, dried fruits, and even such fresh fruits and vegetables as apples, blueberries, carrots and zucchini, whose moistness readily blends into the moistness of the crumb. Potatoes and bananas can be mashed to become part of the batter itself.

Muffin batters generally contain less sugar, eggs, and fat than quickbreads. The ingredients are mixed together just enough to dampen the solids, and the mix baked in small portions rather than a large loaf. Well-made muffins have an even, open, tender interior. They stale quickly because the small proportion of fat is dispersed unevenly by the minimal mixing and can’t protect much of the starch. Overmixing produces a less tender, finer interior with occasional coarse tunnels, which develop when the overly elastic batter traps the leavening gas in large pockets.