Monday, April 21, 2008

Muffins and Cupcakes

Is there a difference between the two? The N.Y. Times' Melissa Clark recently posed that question to a friend who is a pastry chef. His take on the difference?

“Nothing,” he said, explaining that when it comes to breakfast, Americans have a Puritanical inhibition. “Muffins are just an excuse to eat cake for breakfast,” he said.

Setting aside his broader cultural analysis, he did have a point about the nature of muffins, at least as far as my sweet tooth is concerned. In my view the best muffins are sweet little cakes, not too decadent (no buttercream frosting) yet not too heavy with whole-grain righteousness. My ideal muffin would fall somewhere on the healthfulness scale between a brownie and a bowl of spelt flakes.

Ever since hearing my friend’s explanation, my muffin modus operandi has shifted slightly to the sweeter side.

I began using recipes for full-size cakes as a starting point. One 9-inch cake recipe makes a dozen muffins. This formula gives me the freedom to make a nice batch of muffins out of any cake recipe I want but can’t find an excuse to bake.

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