The Ultimate Muffin Book by Bruce Weinstein & Mark Scarbrough

243 pages; Glossy Soft Cover

William Morrow, Morrow Cookbooks, New York,  August 2004

Reviewed for Good Cooking by Michelle Jaeger, November, 2004

More Than 600 Recipes for Sweet and Savory Muffins. Good Cooking liked the shear number of recipes which was all across the board from Coffeecake Muffins, a Dunkin Doughnuts specialty  to Pine Nut Muffins that were very tasty and had Ricotta cheese in the batter. The 600 recipes came from the 5-6-7-8 variations that could be made from each master version.


The Review---

In this age of hype and spin, The Ultimate Muffin Book, by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough actually lives up to its name.

The Ultimate Muffin Book offers over 600 recipe combinations for both sweet and savory quick breads, beginning with almond and ending with zucchini. With the breadth and variety in these pages, the authors make a solid case for the muffin as more than a breakfast treat. Going beyond the traditional fruit and nut combinations which are ubiquitous, options include a red velvet muffin, a spin on the South’s red velvet cake; an olive oil muffin, which can be served as part of an Italian meal, and a margarita muffin, which does include tequila and would turn a few heads at a brunch.

The recipes lend themselves to adaptation, serving as loose guidelines as opposed to rigid templates. At the end of each recipe, the bakers list twists and tweaks to the basic formula. While the core stays the same, with minor ingredient changes you can have a completely different taste. For example, ginger muffins (p. 92) become ginger cashew or ginger banana muffins (p.93). In addition to the muffin recipes, The Ultimate Muffin Book offers numerous topping recipes, including lemon drizzle (p.231) and cinnamon streusel (p.228). These take very little time to prepare and offer another opportunity to add a layer of flavor and texture.

Combined with the recipes, the authors offer very detailed information on the history of the muffin and outside factors that can affect the baking process, along with suggestions for adjusting for those. Additionally, there are tips for what to do when you have too much or too little batter. Also included are descriptions of many of the ingredients used, including suggestions as to where to purchase them, either locally or online.

The recipes are straightforward and easy to follow, and prep time should take approximately 15 minutes, which is the amount of time it should take the oven to preheat. I made the low-fat berry muffins (recipe below) (p.116) using fresh raspberries from the local farmer’s market and topped them with the lemon drizzle. The muffins were moist and delicious, with the raspberry flavor as the centerpiece. The lemon drizzle served as a tart and sweet addition. I also made the peach muffins (p. 156), which actually made double the stated amount. The peach flavor was highlighted and the muffins were very tasty.

Anyone looking for a straightforward, all-encompassing tome of muffin recipes would do well to pick up a copy of The Ultimate Muffin Book.

This versatile berry muffin may be low in calories, but it's definitely worth its weight in taste and texture-especially with two cups of juicy fruit offset by chewy rolled oats. A touch of vinegar adds tenderness and accents the sweet/tart flavor.

Low-Fat Berry Muffins

1 cup nonfat milk
3/4 cup rolled oats (do not use quick-cooking oats) 
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Nonstick spray or paper muffin cups
11/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour 
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pint berries, hulled if necessary (do not use strawberries) 
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten, at room temperature 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Combine the milk, oats, and vinegar in a large bowl; stir until well blended. Let the mixture stand undisturbed at room temperature for 20 minutes.
2. Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°E To prepare the muffin tins, spray the indentations and the rims around them with nonstick spray, or line the indentations with paper muffin cups. If using silicon muffin tins, spray as directed, then place them on a baking sheet.
3. Whisk 11/2 cups all-purpose flour, the baking soda, and salt in a small bowl until well combined. In a second small bowl, mix the berries and the remaining 1 tablespoon flour until the berries are well coated. Set both bowls aside.
4. Using a wooden spoon, stir the brown sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla into the oat mixture until uniform and somewhat smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until moistened. Gently fold in the coated berries, taking care not to break them up.
5. Fill the prepared tins three-quarters full. Use additional greased tins or small, ovensafe, greased ramekins for any leftover batter; or reserve the batter for a second baking. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the muffins are lightly browned with flat, cracked tops.
6. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Gently tip each muffin to one side to make sure it isn't stuck. If one is, gently rock it back and forth to release it. Remove the muffins from the pan, place them upside on the wire rack, and cool for 5 minutes more. Turn them over and serve, or cool them completely before sealing them in an airtight container. Because the berries remain whole, we do not recommend freezing these muffins. They will stay fresh for up to 24 hours at room temperature.

© '2004 by Good Cooking, Inc.