Baking muffins with creative substitutions

Hey y’all! I haven’t posted in ages. If you’re interested in how I’m doing and what I’ve been up to I’ll just refer you to my pinned tweet on Twitter. I’ll just say here that I’m happy and healthy, just not really feeling the romance blogging thing much right now.

Anyway, I have been posting my occasional baking projects and other recipes to Twitter over the past week or so and I finally did something yesterday that requires a bit more explanation that I can do on Twitter. So behold! Cranberry blueberry buttermilk muffins!

This recipe comes from the 1997 edition of the Joy of Cooking (link to current edition ebook). It’s a cookbook I’ve had a long time and that I still use, mainly because the recipes are generally pretty basic and also thoroughly tested so it’s a handy starting point for departing from the norm, which is what I’m going to do here.

See, we have a really small freezer. It’s just a fact of living in a two-bedroom condo. In the interest of doing as little shopping as possible, I decided yesterday to try to clear out some of the random ingredients I have laying around to make more room for the staple foods we’ll need to acquire in a week or two. Plus muffins for breakfast instead of toast is cheerful.

In my rummaging, I found about a cup of blueberries, a bag of cranberries and about a teaspoon of lemon zest in a plastic container. I’d previous cleared out a six-inch funfetti cake layer and a six-inch chocolate cake layer. My freezer, y’all. I might have stopped blogging, but I didn’t stop baking. I also have a quart of buttermilk to use up before it goes bad so I knew whatever I did needed to feature that.

So I turned to my favorite muffin recipe. This recipe is a favorite mostly because of its flexibility.

  • You can use any butter or neutral flavored oil as the fat. I used vegetable oil yesterday because I have more of that than butter. I used the higher amount because they stay fresher-tasting longer and it will take our family of two a few days to get through 12 muffins. If you have a larger family and can eat them faster, you might choose the lower fat amount.
  • I’m running low on vanilla extract so I used the lemon zest in its place. Almond extract, lemon extract or orange extract would have been good too (use half a teaspoon).
  • You can add a topping, but it isn’t necessary. The recommended optional topping is cinnamon and sugar, but I’ve also done sliced almonds.
  • You can add a cup of chopped nuts to the batter in addition to fruit and it doesn’t change anything.
  • You can use a wide range of fresh or frozen fruit. I’ve used peaches, nectarines, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, apples and pears. I’d be leery of citrus fruits because of the increased acid and bananas because of the increased moisture, but if you’re not a novice, you might be able to figure it out.
  • Use no fruit or nuts at all. Make spice muffins by adding two teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice, apple pie spice or some combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and/or cloves.
  • You can use 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 cup whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour in place instead of 2 cups all-purpose flour.
  • Now for the biggest and best modification. The recipe uses a tablespoon of baking powder as its leavener when you use milk or cream as your liquid. If you want to use buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream, you add half a teaspoon of baking soda to the dry ingredients too. If I hadn’t had the buttermilk to use up, I would have used some vanilla yogurt that I keep in the freezer for smoothies. That would even let you omit the vanilla extract and the recipe wouldn’t suffer at all.

I’m not sure this edition of the Joy of Cooking is readily available, but any edition of this cookbook is a classic for a reason. Not only are a lot of the recipes like this, it contains a big section on emergency substitutions, detailed instructions for less-experienced cooks and at least one recipe for basically every ingredient ever, which is great if you picked up some new-to-you stuff at the store when it was out of things you normally buy. Oh, and there’s an ebook. Not my preferred format for cookbooks, but since this one is more like a reference book and doesn’t contain pretty pictures, it’s not as bad as it could be.

Hope you all are doing well and happy baking!


Muffins with creative substitutions

  • Author: admin
  • Yield: 12 muffins


See above for ideas for substitutions and additions to this basic recipe.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk or cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar or packed light brown sugar
  • 4 to 8 tablespoons (1/2 to 1 stick) warm melted unsalted butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin pan or line with baking cups.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, baking powder and salt (plus baking soda and spices if using).
  3. Whisk together wet ingredients in another bowl: eggs, milk or cream (or yogurt, sour cream or buttermilk), butter or oil, vanilla or other extract.
  4. Add to the flour mixture and mix together with a few light strokes just until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix; the batter should not be smooth.
  5. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in 1 or 2 of the muffins comes out clean, 12 to 15 minutes with no fruit, 20-25 minutes for variations with fruit.
  6. Let col for 2 to 3 minutes before removing from the pan. If not serving hot, let cool on a rack. Serve as soon as possible or store in a container when fully cool.

One comment

  1. Christine Maria Rose

    Nice to hear from you Elisabeth! I’m glad you are doing well, we’ve missed you.

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