The hierarchy of muffins, with a recipe for sweet potato muffins

Every morning my husband eats two muffins for breakfast.  I make a batch or two of muffins every week, and in the mornings, he microwaves and eats two of them.  I may eat one or two myself, depending on what other food is available.

These are not exciting muffins, full of chocolate chips, or with that fancy, big-crystal sugar on top.  These are boring, healthy muffins, but we like them.  After a great deal of experimentation and research (here is an excellent tutorial on making good muffins), we have developed a little hierarchy of breakfast muffins.  I asked Th. to help me rank them in order of excellence.

1. Lemon Ricotta Blackberry Muffins.  These hardly count because they’re much more like cake than muffins, and because I can’t make them very often because they call for ricotta cheese and blackberries (although I didn’t bother to include the blackberries the one time I made them, and they were still amazing).  Anyway, these aren’t bland and boring at all, but they are definitely the absolute best.  In fact, if I were serving them as cupcakes, I wouldn’t even frost them.  Thanks, Josh and Maria, for the really, really amazing recipe.

2. Big, Beautiful Muffins.  That is their official name, but they aren’t any bigger than other muffins, unless you deliberately make them bigger.  We actually call them poppy seed muffins because I include about a tablespoon of poppy seeds if we have any.  We haven’t had any in months, but we still call them that.  I don’t stir in any fruit or chocolate or anything because Th. doesn’t really like “stuff” in his muffins, except for poppy seeds.  These are excellent if you’re careful not to stir them too much or over bake them.  Try to take them out of the oven a little on the early side.  They are not good if they’re tough or dry, and it’s very easy to do that.

By the way, Lynn has a whole section of her recipe index dedicated to her muffin recipes.  I always check her website first if I’m baking something because her muffins and desserts are always good.

3. We’re not sure which is third and which is fourth because the sweet potato muffins are better than the oatmeal muffins if I make them well, but they’re the absolute worst if I make them badly.  Let’s just say that third place goes to Lynn’s Overnight Oatmeal Whole Wheat Muffins.  These are not very sweet, but again, we’re not looking for sweet for breakfast.  They are incredibly moist, so you should let them cool in the pan for longer than usual, or you won’t be able to get them out.  I omit the raisins.

4. Sweet Potato Muffins.  These are loosely based on Katie’s Soaked Pumpkin Muffins.  I think I’ve only made these with pumpkin once.  Sweet potato puree is easier to come by, I think.  I buy a lot of sweet potatoes in the fall and winter, then bake, mash, and freeze them.  Of course, you could do the same with pumpkins, but pumpkins are messier.  I adjusted the original recipe a bit because the muffins come out sweeter if you use sweet potato.

Sweet Potato Muffins

In a glass bowl, mix together

1 2/3 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup pureed sweet potato (mine is really just mashed)

3/4 cup water

2 Tbsp. buttermilk or plain yogurt

1/2 cup melted butter

Cover the bowl, and let this mixture soak for 12-24 hours at room temperature.  It will look ugly.

Preheat oven to 325.  To the same bowl, add

3/4 cup of sugar (or 1/2 – 2/3 cup honey*)

1 Tbsp. molasses

2 eggs

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Bake at 325 for 45 minutes.

*If you use honey, you should only bake them for about 30 minutes because they’ll brown much more quickly.

The muffins will be more moist and fragile than other muffins.  Let them rest in the pan for at least 5 minutes before attempting to remove them to a cooling rack.  This is especially important if you only baked them for 30 minutes.  They will be a little flat (but not dense — the texture is nice, they’re just flat).

These are probably the most nutritious of the bunch, and they are really wonderful if they come out well, but I’ve had them totally flop, too.  Once it was because I didn’t mash the sweet potato thoroughly enough, and there were big, almost bitter, orange chunks.  Another time they failed because I was trying to bake them at the same time as something else, and I raised the temperature to 350 halfway through baking, and they ended up really hard and disgusting.  In both cases, of course, it was my own fault.

These also make excellent mini muffins, and I bet you could make adorable little mini muffin sandwich cakes if you put cream cheese frosting in between them.

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