A muffin is a single-serving baked good, but it can refer to one of two things: a part-raised flatbread (like a crumpet) that is baked and then cooked on a griddle (usually unsweetened), or a chemically leavened quickbread (like a cupcake) that is baked in a mould. While sweetened quickbread “American” muffins are common, there are also savoury variations with components like corn and cheese, as well as less sweet varieties like traditional bran muffins. The “English” flatbread variant comes from at least the early 18th century and is of British or other European ancestries, whereas the quickbread developed in North America about the 19th century. Both types are widely used today all over the world.
Types of Muffins
- American Muffin
Quickbread muffins (also known as “American muffins” in the United Kingdom) are baked, individual-sized cupcakes with a “wet, coarse-grained” texture. Muffins come in savoury flavours like cornmeal and cheese muffins, as well as sweet flavours like blueberry, chocolate chip, lemon, and banana muffins. Sweetened muffins range from lightly sweetened to products “richer in fat and sugar than many cakes.” They’re comparable in size and cooking process to cupcakes, with the exception that cupcakes are usually sweet treats made with cake batter and covered with sugar icing (American frosting). Solid ingredients like berries, chocolate chips, or nuts can be incorporated into the batter of muffins.Bakeries, doughnut shops, and certain fast food restaurants and coffeehouses sell freshly baked muffins. Factory-made muffins are available at supermarkets and convenience stores, as well as in some coffee shops and cafeterias.
- Bran Muffin
Bran muffins are made with less flour and more bran, as well as brown sugar and molasses. The batter is baked in an oven, either in a pocketed muffin pan or in individual paper moulds. Milk is frequently used because it aids in the browning process. The finished product is individual quickbreads that have been raised. Toppings like cinnamon sugar, streusel, almonds, or chocolate chips can be sprinkled on top of the muffin.
- Poppyseed Muffin
Poppy seeds are used in poppyseed muffins (or poppy seed muffins). Poppy seeds have long been prized for their flavour and texture, as well as the narcotic properties of the opium poppy plant from which they are gathered. Due to the risk of heroin production, farming poppy seeds has become a difficult business for American farmers in recent years. Other countries have had less trouble allowing the cultivation of poppies only for the seeds, which contain very low (but still detectable) quantities of opium alkaloids like morphine. As other countries began to imitate the American muffin, the use of poppy seeds as a flavouring ingredient became more common. Although poppy seeds do not contain enough opium alkaloids to be used as a narcotic, they do contain enough that drug tests are sometimes tricked and yield false positives when an otherwise drug-free individual consumes a few poppyseed muffins. As a result, anyone who eats poppyseed pastries before a drug test is at high risk of being mistakenly labelled as a drug user.
- Flatbread Muffin
Flatbread muffins (also called “English muffins” in the United States and elsewhere; or simply “muffins” or “bakery muffins”) are flatter disk-shaped yeast-leavened bread that is typically unsweetened. Its origin is either English or European. Rather than being baked in the oven, they are also cooked on the stovetop in a griddle and flipped from side to side, giving them their distinctive flattened shape rather than the rounded top found in baked rolls or cake-type muffins. Cornmeal or bran can be used in place of some of the flour. These muffins are highly popular in Commonwealth countries and the United States. For breakfast, flatbread muffins are frequently toasted. They can be topped with sweet or savoury toppings, such as jam or honey, and eaten with butter or margarine (e.g., round sausages, cooked eggs, cheese, or bacon). Flatbread muffins are commonly served with coffee or tea as a breakfast dish (for example, as a key ingredient in Eggs Benedict and most of its variations).