Copycat “Baker’s Muffins” from City Bakery

published Jul 18, 2021
Kitchn Love Letters
Copycat "Baker's Muffins" from City Bakery

These pull-apart muffins are a bit like monkey bread and full of cinnamon-sugar goodness.

Serves6

Makes6 to 12 muffins

Prep30 minutes

Cook25 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Muffin served on dessert plate.
Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani / Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Several years ago, one of my all-time favorite bakeries in New York City abruptly shuttered, and I, like practically every other New Yorker, was devastated. City Bakery was a truly special spot, with exceptional sweets and the most fantastic baked goods. It occupied the most gorgeous space with huge floor-to-ceiling windows, right off of lower Fifth Avenue.

In the early 2000s, my husband and I lived near the bakery and often stopped in on weekends, treating ourselves to brunch or lunch after a long week of work. But when my first son was born and I abandoned my job as a lawyer, sleep deprivation drove me to the bakery each and every morning. In I’d go, infant strapped to my chest in a Baby Bjorn, for a dry, double cappuccino with nonfat milk and the bakery’s signature breakfast item (and my forever favorite): the Baker’s Muffin.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani / Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

The baker’s muffin was like a single-serve monkey bread, topped with a gigantic crispy crown of additional pull-apart bits and generously finished in powdered sugar (much of which ended up showering the top of my son’s head). It was jumbo in size, not super sweet, and somehow managed to incorporate two completely different textures: a soft, bready, yeasty middle (less cakey than your average muffin) and a sharp, craggily edged lid that shattered just the tiniest bit with every bite.

The inside was studded with walnuts and raisins, but not in an aggressive way, and featured — if memory serves — thin ribbons of cinnamon throughout. Because its pull-apart nature required you to eat it piece by piece, doing so took some time, and if you were smart (which I am) you ate the bottom pieces first and saved the sugar-dusted crown for last.

Despite the fact we moved to Brooklyn a few months after my son was born, we continued to visit the bakery regularly for the next decade and change, always working in a stop whenever we were in Manhattan. Not surprisingly, I ordered the Baker’s Muffin each and every time, as did my husband and my (now) two small boys (although they referred to it as the “bubble” muffin). Truth be told, the fact that I raised children who adored my beloved Baker’s Muffin as much as I did remains one of my proudest achievements as a mother.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani / Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Re-Creating the Baker’s Muffin at Home

When we heard the bakery had closed, we all mourned the loss of the muffin, and for awhile I didn’t dare try to re-create it. When I did finally give it a whirl, I struggled to achieve the textural difference between the top and bottom parts of my muffin. Did City Bakery perhaps use two different doughs?

At one point, I attempted to make a straight-up monkey-bread muffin by cutting yeasted dough into small pieces and rolling each one into a ball, but my muffin looked nothing like the City Bakery version. I then wondered if the muffin was made from baker’s scraps of dough (hence its name), so I remade my muffins by tossing the dough pieces in the melted butter and cinnamon-sugar and constructing them in a more rustic manner. Happily, they looked more like those from the bakery — and tasted great, too.

The muffins I’m sharing here are yeasty, pillowy and soft; full of buttery, cinnamon-sugar-coated bits that are begging to be pulled apart, leaving the top, powdered sugar-dusted ones for last. They’re a bit sweeter and more buttery than the muffins of my memory, but that’s hardly a bad thing, right? Trying my hand at them has honestly made me love them all the more; as I now realize the utter genius of the original baker’s muffin recipe.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.

Copycat "Baker's Muffins" from City Bakery

These pull-apart muffins are a bit like monkey bread and full of cinnamon-sugar goodness.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes

Makes 6 to 12 muffins

Serves 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1/2 cup

    whole milk

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1

    large egg

  • Cooking spray or butter, for coating the muffin tin and bowl

  • 1 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

  • 1 tablespoon

    granulated sugar

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    instant yeast

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the filling (optional):

  • 1/4 cup

    toasted walnuts

  • 1/4 cup

    raisins

For the coating:

  • 1 1/4 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

Instructions

Make the dough:

  1. Let 1/2 cup whole milk, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, and 1 large egg sit at room temperature until the butter is softened, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, generously coat the wells of a 6-well jumbo muffin tin with cooking spray or softened butter, or line a standard 12-well muffin tin with paper liners.

  2. Place 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until combined.

  3. Turn the mixer to medium-low speed. Add the milk, butter, and egg, and mix until combined. Stop the mixer. Remove the paddle attachment, scrape off any dough back into the bowl, and replace it with the dough hook.

  4. Mix on medium-high speed until a smooth mass forms that comes off the sides of the bowl and sticks only to the bottom, about 5 minutes. If the dough seems too sticky and is not coming off the sides of the bowl after a few minutes, mix in more flour about a tablespoon at a time.

  5. Lift the dough out of the bowl and coat the bowl with cooking spray or butter. Return the dough to the bowl and turn to coat in the oil or butter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare the filling and coating.

Make the filling (optional):

  1. Coarsely chop 1/4 cup toasted walnuts and 1/4 cup raisins. Place both in a small bowl and stir to combine.

Make the coating:

  1. Place 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon in a medium bowl and stir to combine.

Assemble and bake the muffins:

  1. Melt 1 stick unsalted butter in the microwave or on the stovetop.

  2. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour. Transfer the dough to the floured surface and roll it out into a rough 12x12-inch square.

  3. Cut the square into 64 pieces (8 parallel cuts across, 8 cuts down). Quickly dip a piece into the melted butter with one hand — no need to drench them — and then drop into the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Use your other hand to toss until just lightly coated. Place the coated piece in a muffin well. Repeat and place into each muffin well, stacking them as you go along, until half the pieces are added. Sprinkle half the walnut/raisin mixture into the wells, if using.

  4. Repeat coating and stacking the remaining dough pieces. Top with the remaining walnut/raisin mixture if using.

  5. Loosely cover the muffin tin with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place until about 1 1/2 times its original size, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

  6. Bake until the muffins are golden-brown, puffy, and a thermometer inserted in the center of a muffin registers about 190°F, about 25 minutes for jumbo muffins and 15 to 20 minutes for a standard muffin tin.

  7. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edges of each well to loosen the muffins, then remove from the tin to a wire rack. If a piece of sticky muffin sticks to the tin when you remove it, press it lightly back into the muffin and it will adhere again while it cools.

  8. Dust the muffins with powdered sugar for the complete City Bakery Baker’s Muffin experience, if desired. Serve warm.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The muffins can be assembled, covered in plastic wrap, and refrigerated overnight to rise. Remove the tin from the refrigerator 1 hour before you want to bake the muffins so they have time to warm up slightly and rise a bit.

Storage: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. They are lovely reheated in a 300°F oven for about 10 minutes.