You really can't go wrong with a raisin muffin flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg. A little bit of nutmeg is really all you need, but it will add a nice, spicy fragrance to the muffins. You could also substitute ground cloves.
By the way, the key to making great muffins is not overmixing the batter. Once the liquid ingredients are added to the dry, mix the batter by hand just until the flour is moistened, for no more than about ten seconds. Too much mixing can cause the muffins to be dry, tough or misshapen.
Also, make sure your baking powder is fresh. If it's older than six months (or if you can't remember how old it is), buy a new container.
Finally, if you want to spruce your muffins up a little bit, here's a recipe for a simple streusel topping you can mix up in just a few seconds.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 1/4 cups pastry flour, sifted)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg (or 2 medium eggs)
- 4 tablespoon butter (1/2 stick or shortening)
- 1 cup raisins
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- Unwrap the butter and heat it in the microwave, in a microwave-safe bowl, for about a minute, until it's thoroughly melted. Set it aside at room temperature to cool, but don't let it solidify again.
- Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and then add the sugar, milk, raisins and vanilla to the eggs.
- Thoroughly grease and flour a muffin pan (or use paper muffin liners).
- Pour a tiny bit of the melted butter into the egg-vanilla-milk mixture and stir it in. Repeat 3-4 more times, adding a slightly larger amount of the liquid butter each time until it is all incorporated.
Note: Don't add hot melted butter to the egg mixture as the heat from the butter would cook the egg, and that's not what you want to do!
- Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ones and mix no more than ten seconds. The batter should be visibly lumpy, and you may see pockets of dry flour. That's OK! It's extremely important not to overmix the batter, or the resulting muffins will be too hard.
- Quickly spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans and bake immediately.
TIP: The dry and wet ingredients, respectively, can be mixed in advance, but as soon as the wet and dry ingredients have been combined with each other, the liquid will activate the baking powder and the batter must be baked right away.
- Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.