No matter what type of muffin I'm eating — pumpkin, banana-nut, corn, blueberry — the very best part is the rounded muffin top. The taller, the better. There's no difference in taste, and the base of the muffin is just fine, but the top is definitely the best part. And there's the sweet sense of satisfaction that comes with plucking off the muffin top before moving on to the bottom of the muffin.
I came across a tip that suggests a higher oven temperature is the key for nice, dome-topped muffins every time. I liked the sound of that, so it was enough for me to whip up a batch of my favorite muffins and put this tip to the test.
The Original Tip
According to Shirley O. Corriher, author of Bakewise, the secret to those impressive domed muffins we love so much is simply cranking up the oven. While most recipes call for muffins to be baked at 350°F, she's in favor of a hotter oven. She suggests baking muffins at 400°F for domed-top success.
The higher oven temperature causes the outside edges of the muffins to set while the middle remains uncooked. The center continues to rise as the muffin bakes inward, resulting in a beautiful domed top.
Read the Original Tip: How To Get A Domed Muffin Top Every Time
The Testing Method
The first step in testing this tip was selecting a muffin recipe. Oh, the choices!
My main criteria for selecting a recipe was one that called for the muffins to be baked at 350°F. I ultimately settled on a seasonal favorite (and one that I had all the ingredients for): pumpkin muffins.
Get the Recipe: How To Make Perfect Pumpkin Muffins
I prepared the muffins according to the recipe, then divided the batter between two standard-sized muffin tins, filling each muffin cup with the same amount of batter. I baked the first tin of muffins at 350°F, then increased the oven temperature, and when it reached 40o°F, I baked the second tin of muffins (reducing the bake time by a few minutes to account for the higher temperature).
While increasing the oven temperature from 350°F to 400°F produced a muffin with more of a domed top, the difference was minimal across the whole batch. It was certainly a smaller, less noticeable difference than I expected to see.
Verdict: This is not a mind-blowing tip.
The muffins baked at 400°F had a more firm exterior with a little bit of crunch around the edges (although still very soft on the inside), which I really loved. Even though the difference in the size of the muffin top was minimal, I'd stick with baking at a higher oven temperature for the texture it added to the tops.
When using this method, and increasing the oven temperature, do keep in mind that you'll need to reduce the bake time by a few minutes. Keep an eye on the muffins, and take them out of the oven to check on them when the tops become golden-brown. When they're fully cooked, a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin should come out clean.