Chilling Your Batter Is The Secret To Towering, Moist Muffins

Muffin-making is an art form, but the potentially perfectly fluffy and moist muffin makes it all worth it. There are so many tips you need to bake better muffins, but it turns out that ensuring that homemade muffins are up to par with those you'd find in a bakery is a lot simpler than you may think. The key to muffins that rise just like the professionally made ones do is refrigeration.

Most muffin recipes have you craft the batter, pour it into a tin, and pop it in the oven. But the vital step they're missing is that the batter should be chilled before baking. If you can bear to wait overnight, placing your batter in the fridge to chill is the way you'll get a final product that is moist and tall like those incredible bakery-crafted muffins.

The chilling process is simple: Just cover your batter and put it right into your fridge. Unlike when you're dealing with a chilled batter in other situations, there's no need to let it come to room temperature before baking. For muffins, you can just scoop and bake away.

Why chilling the batter works

Like most baking, the secret to getting taller muffins lies in science. Allowing the batter to rest overnight gives the gluten in the mixture the time to more fully marinate, so to speak. Flour contains starches that absorb moisture from the liquid components of the batter. As the starches within the batter chill overnight and increase in size, so do the resulting muffins.

If you're making blueberry corn muffins or another fruit-based variety, add any fruit post-chilling the batter overnight, right before you bake. This will prevent the fruit from leaking extra liquid into your batter and potentially causing issues when it comes time to bake. 

Pre-chilling will work its magic on any muffin recipe that includes baking powder, but it needs to be double-acting. Aluminum-free baking powders will not work, so check your labels. Double-acting powders react with both liquid and heat, while aluminum-free powders only react with liquid — and do so a lot faster than double-acting powders. Leavening agents like baking soda alone won't be enough for chilling to do the trick.

Don't want to wait overnight for bakery-quality muffins?

Waiting can be hard for those of us who are impatient to get our muffin fix. Understandably, you might not want to wait overnight for your batter to chill to see results. So what are some other ways to up the quality of your muffins without having to wait?

To get a good rise on your muffins, the temperatures you use — and when you use them — could also make a big difference. Starting your muffins off at a high temperature for a short period of time, and then lowering the temperature for the rest of the baking process is one option. The high temperature activates the baking powder, which leads to fluffy muffins, and lowering the temperature avoids burning for the rest of their baking time. The only potential snag in this plan is that you need to have a pretty reliable oven to make this work. If your oven likes to forge its own path in terms of temperature regardless of where you set it, you might want to steer clear of this kind of hack.