There’s nothing better than a bakery-style muffin—a moist, light interior domed with a crunchy, glistening top. Sometimes, achieving that distinct textural difference between a muffin’s interior and its exterior seems impossible, no matter how hard you try. Luckily, by following a few simple tips and tricks, you’ll be able to recreate a bakery-style muffin at home in no time.
Here are six tips on how to make muffins crispy on top:
- Always use butter.
- Brush the tops with a mixture of sugar and butter.
- Add milk solids to the batter.
- Don’t overmix the batter.
- Use cake flour.
- Closely monitor the oven’s temperature.
Keep reading to learn more about each of these techniques that are guaranteed to help you achieve that crispy muffin top while keeping the center delightfully airy and moist. If you want to refine your baking skills, consider this as the complete guide on how to make muffins crispy on top.
1. Always Use Butter
Making sure your muffins come out crispy on top is a process that starts the second you begin preparing the batter. Even though different types of fats are often seen as interchangeable in a recipe, this usually isn’t the case when it comes to baking.
Baking is more of a science than an art in that it requires specific reactions to occur for the end result to turn out how you want it to. Therefore, when baking muffins, try to steer clear of oils, margarine, or other types of fats that aren’t butter; these can negatively affect the taste and texture of the final product.
If a crispy exterior is what you’re after, butter is your best bet. Its viscosity and overall chemical qualities help the batter become crunchy on top while still retaining plenty of moisture on the inside.
Another consideration you’ll want to keep in mind when adding butter to your mixing bowl is to melt it down beforehand. Chunks of solid butter in the mixture will only end up ruining the texture and consistency of the muffins while doing very little to help them brown on top.
2. Brush the Tops With a Mixture of Sugar and Butter
Okay, I know that many baking purists might consider this cheating. Still, in my book, as long as you achieve the result you’re looking for, the technique doesn’t really matter. Moreover, brushing the tops of your muffins with a mixture of sugar and butter can add a unique layer of flavor and texture complexity to the finished product, and I highly recommend giving it a try.
Let Preference Guide Recipe Adjustments
The usability of this technique also depends on your personal preferences. For example, if you prefer the muffin tops to be crispier but not really crunchy, you might want to stick to the traditional approach. If you want them to be decently crisp, you’ll want to add the mixture of sugar and butter I’ll be discussing in the following paragraphs.
However, if you prefer the muffin tops to make an audible crunch as you bite into them, you’re better off topping them with a layer of straight-up sugar.
As you can see, there’s a lot of room for adjustments and experimentation when it comes to this technique, which is why I often recommend it to home bakers complaining that their muffins aren’t turning out the way they want them to.
For example, you can first try topping your muffins with just sugar to see how you like the texture. You can use granulated, powdered, or brown sugar (for that extra caramelly flavor). However, be careful not to overdo it, as you don’t want to affect the taste of your muffins—only the texture. Simply sprinkle a bit of the sugar of your choice on top of the batter before it goes into the oven; you’d be surprised how well this technique can work.
If you’re looking for a softer crunch or want to provide a bit of additional buttery richness to your muffins, you can opt for a sugar and butter mixture instead.
How To Brush Muffin Tops With Sugar and Butter
Brushing muffin tops with a mixture of sugar and butter to get them crispy is a straightforward process that won’t take more than a few minutes of your time. Here’s how you can go about it:
- Melt the butter.
- Mix the melted butter with your sugar of choice (the consistency of the drizzle should still be runny).
- Put the muffins in the oven and wait until they’re done rising.
- Briefly take the muffins out of the oven and brush them with the sugar and butter mixture.
- Bake until the tops become golden brown.
3. Add Milk Solids to the Batter
This is a technique that many home bakers fail to incorporate, as it’s not often talked about. However, adding milk solids to the muffin batter can make a great deal of difference in the final product’s texture.
The browning process that occurs in baked goods is otherwise known as the Maillard reaction. You can learn more about the science behind this phenomenon in this article; however, the gist of it is that browning occurs when there’s a reaction between sugars and proteins placed under heat. As a result, adding a few teaspoons of milk solids into the batter can help bump up that protein content without negatively affecting the taste or texture.
When you think about it, you’ll realize that muffin ingredients themselves don’t contain a lot of protein. Sure, you have eggs and a bit of milk, but given that they’re usually included in small quantities (especially compared to sugar), you simply aren’t benefiting from the Maillard reaction as much as you can.
Therefore, try adding a few teaspoons of milk solids into the batter next time you make muffins. Not only will you notice that the muffins come out much crispier on top, but their overall taste and texture will significantly improve as well.
4. Don’t Overmix the Batter
Overmixing is yet another common mistake that many home bakers make when trying to get bakery-style muffins. I’ve said this a million times in the past, but it bears repeating: overmixing leads to excessive gluten formation.
Gluten gives structure to your baked goods and is thus essential. However, too much of it can lead to a tough, gummy, or chewy texture that is far from the airy, moist, yet crunchy-on-top consistency you’re looking for.
Moreover, excessive gluten formation can prevent your muffins from rising properly and cause them to sink instead. As a result, they’ll become dense instead of airy.
You’d be surprised just how drastically your mixing technique can affect the quality and texture of the final product. With this in mind, you’ll want to stop messing with the batter as soon as the ingredients seem decently combined and there are no visible flour lumps or chunks.
Furthermore, overmixing also crushes the air bubbles formed during the first stages of the process, further preventing the muffins from rising and achieving that perfectly airy consistency.
5. Use Cake Flour
This is yet another baking concept that many home bakers aren’t aware of: the type of flour you choose can make or break the final product.
Most muffin recipes call for all-purpose flour; however, if you’re struggling to get the tops crispy while keeping the center moist, it might be worth switching things up a bit and giving cake flour a try. It is notably lighter, finer, and softer.
Cake flour is an impressive upgrade from its all-purpose counterpart in many baked goods recipes, and muffins are no exception. The use of high-quality cake flour promotes tenderness while requiring far less mixing, leading to an airier interior and crispier exterior.
If using exclusively cake flour results in a muffin that is too fragile, you can always opt for a combination of all-purpose and cake flour to provide your baked goods with the structural integrity they require without compromising on texture and taste.
However, if you opt for cake flour, beware that the variety contains less protein than its all-purpose counterpart. In this instance, adding those few teaspoons of milk solids to the mix might be even more important.
6. Closely Monitor the Oven’s Temperature
You’ve used all the right ingredients, and you made sure not to overmix the batter. Now it’s time to go through the most crucial process when it comes to getting your muffins crispy on top: baking.
When baking your muffins, it’s essential that you monitor the oven’s temperature as closely as possible. Not only will this assure you that the baked goods are cooking at an ideal heat level, but it also allows you to experiment and adjust as you go.
First, make sure to take the oven’s temperature with a thermometer before even putting the muffin tray in. If the reading matches your expectations, you can start baking the muffins for the recommended time. However, throughout this process, you want to be watching them like a hawk.
Make Temperature Adjustments As Needed
An excellent approach to use is to increase the temperature a bit right as the muffins go into the oven. This allows for the exterior to brown quicker while the interior remains moist and keeps rising. Afterward, turn the temperature down again to prevent the tops from burning while the interiors finish cooking through.
As long as you make these adjustments at the right time, you should end up with perfect bakery-style muffins that are airy and moist on the inside and crisp on top.
Bakery-style muffins feature a beautiful textural contrast between their interior and exterior. By following these six simple tips and tricks, I guarantee you’ll finally be able to make the perfect bakery-style muffins at home—glistening golden brown and crispy on the outside; soft, moist, and airy on the inside.