This Brilliant Bakery Tip Will Give You the Muffins of Your Dreams

updated May 7, 2021
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My first job in food was at a bakery in my college town. I spent evenings after class shaping baguettes by hand, swirling cinnamon raisin loaves, and mixing muffin batter for the morning breakfast rush. It was there that I decided that muffins — with their fragrant aroma and almost endless flavor options — were the perfect breakfast. It’s also where I learned that the secret ingredient for beautifully domed bakery-style muffins is something you can’t buy: time.

Give the Muffin Batter a Rest by Mixing It in Advance

At the bakery, we’d mix up muffin batter and refrigerate it overnight for the early shift to bake the next morning. That resting period is what makes muffins from your favorite coffee shop look and taste better than anything that’s come out of your oven. But why is that?

As muffin batter rests, the starches in the flour have more time to absorb the moisture from the eggs and liquid in the batter. As a result, the starches swell, giving the batter a thicker, more robust consistency. You know how gluten develops slowly overnight in no-knead bread recipes? The same goes for muffin batter. The gluten that develops overnight is enough to support the tall, domed structure of the muffins without making the breakfast treats tough.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot

If You’re Planning to Rest Muffin Batter, a Few Tips

  1. Check your leavening. Resting muffin batter only works if the leavening agent includes double-acting baking powder. The baking powder reacts first when the wet and dry ingredients combine and again when the batter goes into a hot oven. If your leavening comes from an acid, like buttermilk, and baking soda alone, the bubbles may burst before the batter bakes.
  2. Refrigerate overnight. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, making sure not to overmix, then stash the bowl, covered, in the fridge overnight.
  3. Bake the rested batter. Scoop the chilled batter into a prepared muffin tin and bake straight from the fridge. Use the recipe bake time as a guide, but I always have the best results when I use my senses to determine when muffins are done. The tops should spring back when lightly pressed, they should be golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick should come out clean or with just a few moist crumbs.

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