Adventures in Ratio Baking: Time for Muffins

My husband has work meetings that occur right around lunchtime. He told me it was making him lose focus because he hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, so I offered to start baking for his meetings. He thinks it’s nice of me. I think it’s nice of them to eat all the baked goods I don’t really want to. I like getting a chuckle out of using a bunch of scientists as my guinea pigs (they don’t actually use guinea pigs).

Since they have their meetings before lunch, I didn’t think cake would be a good option. At least, it shouldn’t be for a bunch of people who are more versed in the medical field than I am. With winter coming up, bread wasn’t going to be a good option for long. I’d been meaning to try out the muffin ratio, and now was the perfect opportunity.

The muffin ratio is 2:2:1:1 flour to liquid to eggs to fat. After the 5:3 bread ratio, this one is so simple I don’t know why I didn’t try it sooner. The only problem I had was whether to add sugar, salt, and/or baking powder.

For my first attempt, it was kind of a spur of the moment thing. My daughter and I weren’t really doing much, so I asked her if she’d like to bake muffins with mommy. She loves baking time because I usually give her some chocolate chips, so she was all for it. I had no idea what I was doing, but pretended I did, thinking I was experienced enough by now that I could just wing it. I was mostly right.

I got out my scale and some bowls and cups. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, so I only used one egg. I sliced a stick of butter in half since one egg and half a stick of butter weigh approximately the same (but aren’t, so if you’re someone who likes precision, make sure you weigh it). Then I weighed my flour so it was twice the weight of the egg and then weighed the sugar.

Yup, I weighed out sugar even though the ratio does not include it. Fortunately, I thought something was wrong, so I checked the ratio. It was liquid, not sugar. Back into the container went the sugar and out came the milk. Whew! Crisis averted.

I stood for a moment, wondering about how to get my muffins to rise. Baking powder, of course. How much? I don’t know. I guessed a teaspoon because that’s usually my default. Call it a leap of faith.

Okay. Everything was ready and weighed. Now to mix.

I don’t make a lot of muffins. It’s been over a year since the last time I made any, and that was before I started ratio baking. Ratios don’t come with mixing instructions. I had no idea what I was doing, but I remembered reading somewhere that the wet and dry ingredients are mixed separately and then just barely combined.

Okay, where does that leave the butter? I wasn’t sure, so I just mixed it in with the flour. The next day I finally looked it up and it turns out the butter is supposed to be melted and added to the wet ingredients. Oh, well.

So I finally got it all mixed together. It was nice and lumpy. It was also looking scarily pale, so I dumped in some chocolate chips. At least the chocolate would get me to eat it if it looked funny.

I prepared my muffin tin with liners, used an ice cream scoop to fill them, and then popped it into my preheated to 375 degrees oven. I had no idea what temperature or for how long. I think that’s part of the fun of ratio baking. Well, 25 minutes later, they were ready.

I think I got lucky they were actually very decent muffins. My husband wasn’t completely satisfied with the sweetness level. Or, should I say, the almost complete lack of sweetness. This is a very basic ratio, as they all are, so I had to go back and do some more research.

Research involves some specific and non-specific Internet inquiries. I’ll ask how much sugar should be in a muffin. I’ll also ask what temperature to bake muffins at. Then I’ll simply look up muffin mixing methods. I’ll read articles and peruse recipes to get a feel for how it’s done. It takes time. It can take me almost a week before I have enough information to try again. My first attempt is always by the ratio, but it’s far from perfect. Good thing I like research.

For muffins, I quickly learned sugar isn’t strictly necessary, but 2-4 tablespoons was about the right amount. The ideal preheat temperature is 400 degrees, but it should be lowered to 375 as soon as the muffins go in. I would recommend doing that. My muffins have looked perfect since I started doing it that way. As for the muffin mixing method, it’s insanely easy. Mix the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients. Gently combine them and mix until just combined. Gently fold in any extras like chocolate chips and blueberries.

I’m still terrified of touching cookies again, but figuring out muffins was much easier than working out the cakes! It wasn’t quite as easy as the bread, but now I wonder why I didn’t start with bread and then move on to muffins. Well, at least I had a delicious few months working out the cakes.

For more about my adventures in ratio baking, head to the Kitchen, or check out some recipes!

    • kat

      Thank you so much! It’s been a lot of fun to do and share, almost like it’s my own personal pastry school sometimes. I went in knowing how to bake, but now I’m learning so much more and I enjoy passing on what I’ve learned to anyone else interested in baking.

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