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I regularly bake bread but have just started baking muffins once a week. While I am enjoying following recipes, I enjoy experimenting and was wondering if there are basic baker's percentages or a standard formula for muffins that I could begin to improvise upon. It seems like hydration, additions, etc. is pretty well trod for bread, but I am not finding anything particularly specific with muffins.

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  • Ratios are a bit tricky as there are often fruit or vegetable ingredients that can add a lot of moisture and sometimes even replace some of the oil. (Applesauce, shredded zucchini, carrot pulp, etc.). They also vary in sweetness from cupcake-without-frosting to intended-as-high-fiber-diet-food
    – Joe
    Dec 2, 2021 at 23:57

2 Answers 2

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Michael Ruhlman, author of the book Ratio, suggests 2 parts flour, 2 parts liquid, 1 part fat, and 1 part egg (by weight). In the section on batters, provides a recipe which includes an additional 1 part sugar (for a basic sweet muffin), but he also suggests several variations on the basic recipe.

In general, Ruhlman's book is a solid reference whenever one is tempted to ask "are their basic percentages or standard formulae for ___?" The cover of the book gives a lot of basic ratios for cooking:

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    Thanks for that info. That makes a lot of sense but oddly does not seem to bear out in the recipes that I have been baking. Is it that muffins just have more ingredients with more variation than bread?
    – rougon
    Dec 2, 2021 at 4:34
  • @rougon of course there is a huge variety in muffins, but there is also a huge variety in breads, so I don't think it's possible to decide which has more variants.
    – rumtscho
    Dec 2, 2021 at 16:22
  • @rumtscho good point. What I am after is that percentages in bread can easily be adjusted to specific effects, ie salt, hydration, flour changes create a predicted effect and I have never seen anyone plain how changing muffin elements work in a similar fashion. Like, how much liquid make them fall apart? How will decreasing/increasing sugar effect the consistency? Etc
    – rougon
    Dec 2, 2021 at 17:06
  • @rougon if you are talking about a minimalistic 3-ingredient bread, then you can make such statements about it. But if you include different kinds of bread, you can't. There aren't muffins which have so few ingredients (they would be bread!) so it is impossible to predict the effect of one change, since you would have to consider the effect of the whole recipe at the same time.
    – rumtscho
    Dec 2, 2021 at 18:00
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The most prototypical muffins I know are made from a pound cake batter, using the muffin method (mix all at once). That would be a ratio of 1:1:1:1 (flour, sugar, butter, eggs).

If you subscribe to the theory that the muffin is a form of not-so-fancy cake, then it is worth to take a look at the ratio range suggested for such cakes. Shirley Corriher calls them "regular shortened cakes" and offers the following formulas for successful experimenting:

1. The weight of the sugar should be equal to or less than the weight of the flour 
2. The weight of the eggs should be equal to or greater than the weight of the fat 
3. The weight of the liquids (eggs and milk) should equal the weight of the flour. 

She also recommends "1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder for each cup of flour, or 1/4 baking soda for each cup of flour".

Of course, "muffin" is not a well-defined category, and has quite some overlap with "cup cake". For some people, the above will be too cakey to count as a muffin, while others will bake cupcakes that are richer than it and still call them muffins.

Also, muffins often include mixins, such as nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate chips. These are obviously not part of the basic cake formula above, but in my personal experience, the total amount of mixins should be no more than 20% of the total weight of the batter (=the sum of ingredients other than mixins).

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  • I’m used to the ‘muffin method’ being when you mix the dry ingredients together in one container, all of the wet ingredients together in another, pour the wet into the dry, and then stir just until barely combined. I wouldn’t describe it at ‘mix all at once’.
    – Joe
    Dec 2, 2021 at 23:53
  • @Joe You are right, I know both methods and don't have separate words for them, I guess I've always called them "muffin method" without paying attention to the difference. I guess that in my terminology, there is just a more risky and more fancy variation of the muffin method. If you know more precise terms, I'd be happy to learn them.
    – rumtscho
    Dec 4, 2021 at 10:22

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