March 27th, 2011
If you’re reading this page, chances are you got here by googling “mini muffin.” How do I know that? Three years ago I wrote a blog post about mini muffins, and ever since then, my trusty site analytics have told me that “mini muffin” remains within the top keyword searches leading to my cooking blog. Curious, I googled the phrase myself and found out that indeed, my page is consistently one of the top five search results. I honestly scratch my head at this because Cara’s Cravings is primarily a healthy cooking blog, where I share (mostly) original recipes. My goal is to maintain a healthy lifestyle while always enjoying delicious and interesting food. You, upon seeing that this is not the gorgeous baking blog you expected, probably hit the back button after a quick skim of the recipe and so-so pictures.
I want to change that. I want this post on “mastering the mini muffin” to draw you in and keep you browsing around. With that goal in mind, I’m updating this post with a series of photos that will hopefully tell you a little bit more about me, and a slightly tweaked version of the recipe. You can still read the old post and see my old pictures – just scroll down, it’s all there. But if you have a minute, I’d love to introduce to the new(er) Cara’s Cravings.
Well, hello there! I’m Cara, and I have a huge sweet tooth. So huge that I hardly ever bake because that’s just really dangerous for me. However, I really like baking, especially when I have an occasion to do so. My mother asking me to make some mini muffins for a shower she’s hosting is a perfect reason to bake.
What’s unique about me? I have a slight obsession with the scale. Notably, the bathroom scale, and if you want to know why, see my “About me” page. I also love my kitchen scale, it’s my best buddy and I use it all the time. If a recipe calls for a half cup or one stick of butter, you better believe I’m using four ounces. Having a kitchen scale makes it that much easier when you buy your butter at Sam’s club, where it comes in one pound blocks rather than the usual sticks.
I also really like the metric system. I am an engineer, after all. And I know that volumetric measurements of dry ingredients are mere estimates, while weights are absolute. One cup of flour is supposed to weigh 120 grams, but I will guarantee you that if you filled a measuring cup multiple times and weighed the amount, your results would vary a lot. Weighing out ingredients is my personal key to consistency and accurate measures. This recipe for mini muffins calls for one and three quarter cups of flour, or 210 grams. By weighing out the flour, I know my muffins will turn out the same, time after time.
When a recipe calls for sifting dry ingredients, I weigh them all into a bowl and whisk them together. I don’t own an actual sifter, and this works just as well. Also, I’m a shorty. I stand on a little step stool to get decent photos of food on the counter. See me?
I’m on camera number three or four since I started blogging. Now that I have a dSLR, I like to do silly things like see how fast I can get the shutter speed while the mixer is running at its highest.
I love crumbs. I mentioned this in my original post about mini muffins, but I love them so much that I decided to tweak the recipe. Looking at my old photos, those muffins were seriously lacking in crumb topping. I also like treating myself to pretty dishtowels (and spoonfuls of crumbs, which is why I make an otherwise unnecessarily big batch whenever there is crumb topping involved.)
I love gadgets. Fortunately I have a pretty big kitchen in which to store them. I own those scoops in three sizes, because I couldn’t pick just one. Evidently, I also have a terrible time making decisions. And I like to be prepared. I’m ready to roll pasta, churn ice cream, and grill two beer can chickens at a moment’s notice.
I like crumbs. Oh, wait, I told you that already. Well how about this: I own two 24-cup mini muffin pans, and this is the partially filled second pan for this recipe. Why would someone who doesn’t bake need to have two big mini muffin pans? Easy. I love to entertain, and these babies come in handy for making all kinds of mini tarts, both sweet and savory. I love serving mini versions of quiches and frittatas, kugels, mac n cheese, and caramelized onion tarts, just to name a few of the endless possibilities. I also make big batches of these things to help out family and friends when they throw parties.
If there were an award for being able to dirty the most dishes in the shortest time span, I’d be a top contender. Fortunately I have a very reliable dish washer. His name is Ben. I signed a no-return policy in October of 2007.
In short, this is not a baking blog. My baked goods might not be the prettiest compared to other bloggers’ who specialize in that sort of thing, but I think they taste pretty good. I’m also somewhat relieved that I don’t write a baking blog, because this whole process of baking became about three times as long once the camera got involved. It was worth it, though, to make these muffins again for people I know will appreciate them, to be able to share a bit of myself in a different sort of way, and to eat a few spoonfuls of crumbs. Now, let’s go find something healthy, shall we?
Mini Ricotta Coffee Cakes with Crumb Topping
1 3/4 cups (210gm) all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (4 oz, or one stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200gm) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (220gm) ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cups (150gm) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100gm) brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (4 oz, or one stick) butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
To make the crumb topping, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Pour the melted butter over the dry ingredients. Mix everything together with a fork, until crumbs form. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease mini muffin tins with cooking spray.
To make the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
Using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed for several minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in the vanilla extract.
Add dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the ricotta cheese, while mixing on low speed and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. The batter will be thick. Scoop into the prepared muffin tins and cover with the crumb topping, pressing down lightly.
Bake for 23-25 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks before removing from tins.
I got 32 muffins, which is more than I stated in the earlier blog post. I’ve acquired different muffin tins since then, which I think must be a bit bigger than my old ones.
So, I bet you are still dying to here my fail-proof tips for making mini muffins. Really, they’re rather simple. The first is, just to have a little self-restraint. Actually, I guess that’s not always so easy. Personally, I have a tendency to overfill my mini muffins. I look at the little spoonful of batter in there and think, “there’s no way that can be enough” and add more. This is always a mistake. I swear, you don’t need that much! Otherwise you will certainly end up with ugly, spilled over muffin tops. (And if you are like me and eat up all the scraps of muffins too ugly to serve to guests, you’ll end up with that other kind of muffin top. Not pretty.) Just put less than you think you’ll need, and you’ll be fine. The second tip is to reduce your oven temperature to 325F. Your mini muffins will bake much more evenly the bottoms and sides will not darken. I wish you happy mini muffin baking! Trust me, your friends and coworkers will appreciate your attention to detail
There are just a couple minor changes to the recipe; I added cinnamon to the batter, more vanilla, and changed the streusel a bit. I made 48 mini muffins, because I own 4 pans that make 12 each. I had a bit of extra batter and could have made maybe 4-6 more, but I didn’t feel like making a second batch, and I didn’t want to mess up my muffins by dividing it among the muffins. So, this could really yield 52-54 muffins, if you are so inclined to make them.
Bite-Size Ricotta Coffee Cakes
Adapted from Kevin Weeks’ Apple Ricotta Coffee Cake
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c butter — at room temperature
1 c granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 ea eggs
1 c ricotta cheese
1 tsp cinnamon
2/3 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c quick cooking oats
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter — cut into small pieces
Jam or preserves, optional
Preheat oven to 325F. Grease 48 mini muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray.
Place streusel ingredients, except for oats, in a food processor. Add butter. Pulse about 10 times then process for 5 to 10 seconds until there are no visible lumps of fat. Stir in oats by hand. (This is my preference so that the food processor does not break up the oats.)
Mix together 1 3/4 cups flour, baking powder, soda and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric hand mixer or the paddle attachment on a stand mixer beat 1/2 cup butter for about 30 seconds, then beat in granulated sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Alternately add flour mixture and ricotta cheese to batter. Mix on low speed after each addition until combined. Note: this batter will be rather thick and stiff.
Divide batter among mini muffin tins, being careful to fill them just about halfway. If desired swirl in a little bit of fruit jam into each muffin. Divide struesel evenly among muffins. Bake for 20-23 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set pans on a wire rack until cool enough to handle, then carefully remove mini muffins.