What Causes Dry Muffins?
Muffins are a breakfast staple in many households and they are fairly simple to make but sometimes instead of turning out soft and moist, they’re dry or hard or crumbly and we don’t quite know why.
In this post we’re going to talk about some of the most common and uncommon reasons why muffins turn out dry and tips on how to prevent this from happening.
Common Causes of Dry Muffins
The following causes happen to almost all of us but with time and experience we get better at preventing them from happening.
1. Packing the flour into the measuring cup
When measuring flour it’s important to do so correctly by stirring it first to loosen, spooning it into the measuring cup, then leveling off the excess.
With this method the flour sits lightly in the measuring cup instead of being packed, and therefore the correct amount gets added into the batter.
When the flour is packed, too much of it is added which naturally results in muffins that are dry and hard and dense.
Tip: Do not scoop the flour out of the bag or container! Instead you should fluff, spoon, and level.
2. Over mixing the batter
What happens when you overmix muffin batter?
When flour is mixed with liquid, the gluten (wheat proteins) that gives baked goods their structure are activated and begin to develop. These proteins are responsible for holding baked goods together and keeping their shape.
The more you mix, the more the gluten develops, and if there is too much of it in the batter the muffins will inevitably be tough and most likely rubbery and dry because the batter is dense and therefore doesn’t expand as it should.
When there is just enough gluten, it results in muffins that are tender and moist.
Also, some recipes instruct you to mix in wet ingredients after the flour has already been incorporated and from my experience with this technique, it yields muffins that are tougher and denser than they should be because it inevitably causes you to overmix.
- When mixing in the flour it’s best to use a spoon or a spatula, doing so with gentle strokes and scraping the sides and the bottom of the bowl as you go. Using a whisk or an electric mixer can easily lead to over-mixing.
- Do the minimum amount of mixing necessary until the flour (and other dry ingredients) are fully incorporated into the batter. The best way to know when to stop mixing is when there are no more streaks of flour. The batter may be slightly lumpy but when it comes to muffins, that’s completely okay!
- When adding more ingredients to the batter after the flour has already been mixed in, like chocolate chips for example, gently and slowly fold them in until evenly distributed, about 3 – 4 strokes.
One way to guarantee that your muffins turn out dry and hard is to over bake them, which is very easy to do. The longer they bake, the more moisture they lose.
Muffins are done baking when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs and the tops are domed and slowly spring back when lightly pressed. Sometimes, depending on the type of muffin, you can also tell they’re done when their sweet aroma begins traveling through the air.
Tip: When in doubt, pull them out! If you think the muffins are done, even if the timer says otherwise, check them right away! It’s much easier to salvage underbaked muffins than overbaked ones.
4. Cooling the Muffins in the pan for too long
After muffins are taken out of the oven the residual heat from the hot muffin pan continues to “bake” them until you remove them to cool.
Most muffins usually need to be removed after 5 minutes to prevent the outside from becoming hard or drying out.
5. The wrong substitutions
Sometimes we don’t always have all of the ingredients that a recipe calls for or we want to make it somewhat healthier so we replace it with something else. There are times when substituting an ingredient can work out perfectly and times when it won’t work at all.
That’s because when it comes to baking, even the slightest change can make a big difference.
Unless you are an experienced baker and have done thorough research on the alternatives of the specific ingredient that you want to replace and or have asked the recipe author for suggestions, I strongly advise sticking to the recipe.
I often notice that people will substitute many of the ingredients in a recipe then leave a negative review when the end product doesn’t turn out like it should. Don’t be one of those people!
Uncommon causes of Dry Muffins
The following causes sometimes happen because of honest mistakes and sometimes it’s not our fault at all!
1. Baking temperature too high
You could have mistakenly set the oven to preheat at a higher temperature than what was stated in the recipe.
The thing about this is that if you’re like most people, you’ll never know or think that you did this because once the muffins are out of the oven and are done, instinctively, you turn the oven off right away.
2. Forgetting an ingredient
This hardly ever happens but it does still happen.
Most of the time you don’t even realize until after the muffins are done baking and that’s only if you check the recipe to see if you missed anything.
Something as simple as adding 1 egg when the recipe calls for 2 can greatly affect the texture of the muffins and how moist they’ll be.
3. Using the wrong measurement
You may have used the wrong measuring cup or added the incorrect amount of an ingredient to the batter.
When it comes to baking, even just adding or omitting 2 tablespoons of an ingredient can alter the end results.
4. Oven not heating to the correct temperature
There could be something wrong with the temperature sensor inside your oven or the heating element (located at the bottom of the oven) could be damaged.
This is almost never the case but it’s worth checking if you notice that all of your baked goods keep coming out dry or hard or baked unevenly.
5. The recipe itself
Last but not least, the problem could just be the recipe itself.
Not all recipes are great, some are better than others, and we all have our own tastes and personal preferences. I’ve tried muffin recipes that I thought were just subpar while others raved.
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