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Submitted by on Jul 14, 2021

A muffin is a baked food that comes in individual serving sizes. It can refer to two different things: a part-raised flatbread that is baked and then fried on a griddle (usually unsweetened) and a cupcakelike quickbread that is chemically leavened and then baked in a mold (frequently sweetened). While sweet quickbread muffins are popular, savory versions with components like maize and cheese are also available. The flatbread is of British or European origin and dates back to at least the early 18th century, but the quickbread is a 19th-century North American innovation. Both are widely used in today’s society.

According to one 19th-century source, “muffin” is linked to the Greek bread “maphula,” which is a “cake cooked on a fire or griddle,” or to the Old French “mou-pain,” which may have been transformed into “mouffin.” The term first appeared in print in 1703, spelt moofin; its origin is unknown, although it might be derived from the Low German Muffen, the plural of Muffe, which means little cake, or it could be related to the Old French moufflet, which means soft, as in bread. “Hark! The shrill Muffin-Man his Carol plies” is a passage from 1754 poetry that uses the term “muffin-man” to refer to a street vendor selling muffins.

Quickbread muffins (also known as “American muffins” in the United Kingdom) are baked, individual-sized cupcakes with a “wet, coarse-grained” texture. Muffins come in savory flavors like cornmeal and cheese muffins, as well as sweet flavors like blueberrychocolate chip, lemon, and banana muffins. Sweetened muffins range from mildly sweetened to goods “richer in fat and sugar than many cakes.” They’re comparable in size and cooking procedure to cupcakes, with the exception that cupcakes are usually sweet sweets made with cake batter and covered with sugar icing (American frosting). Solid ingredients like berries, chocolate chips, or nuts can be added to the batter of muffins. Bakeries, doughnut shops, and certain fast-food restaurants and coffeehouses sell freshly baked muffins. Factory baked muffins are available at supermarkets and convenience stores, as well as in some coffee shops and cafeterias.

The name “cupcakes” or “buns” did not become widely used in the United Kingdom until the final decades of the twentieth century, owing to the proliferation of coffee shops such as Starbucks. Quickbread muffin recipes abound in 19th-century American cookbooks. Much older publications have recipes for yeast-based muffins, which were frequently referred to as “common muffins” or “wheat muffins” in 19th-century American cookbooks. Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking-School Cook Book included recipes for both sorts of muffins, including those that utilized yeast to raise the dough and those that used a fast bread process to shape the English muffins using muffin rings. When baking in an oven was not possible, Farmer suggested that “baking” on the stovetop, as done with yeast bread, was a good alternative. The size and calorie content of muffins have evolved through time: “Grandmother’s 3-inch muffins were just 120 to 160 calories each. Today’s enormous bakery muffins, on the other hand, have between 340 and 630 calories per muffin.”

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