Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Muffin Rings, Muffin Pans and Recipes

Initially muffins were what we call "English Muffins" - a yeast dough prepared on a griddle in muffin rings.  Later American recipes for a cake-like muffin used pans or cups.  Recipes for both types of muffins, below.

The muffins were to be baked on a griddle or "... an iron plate... about eighteen inches square and three quarters of an inch thick. The surface should be perfectly level and very smooth, though not polished." [Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine, May 1861] To "... prepare the griddle as for buckwheat cakes... "heat the griddle, and rub it hard with a coarse cloth; have a piece of pork about four inches square on a fork; rub the griddle with it..."   [Dollar Monthly Magazine. Boston: July 1864]

The dough, made with yeast, was formed "...into round ball-like shape…for two hours to prove." [Godey] "...butter the muffin-rings;Set the rings on to the griddle, filling them half full of the batter; bake them about five minutes; then turn them with the rings, or bake them in the oven about fifteen or twenty minutes. [Dollar]  The muffins and rings were to be turned "...by means of a knife somewhat resembling a painter's palette knife, only broader and longer, sufficiently thin to bend easily, and about sixteen Inches in length." [Godey]

“Muffin-rings were formerly about four inches in diameter, but now, with better taste, they are used much smaller.” [Peltz, George A.  The Housewife's Library. Phila: 1883]

Muffin Man with bell and toasting forks
After the early muffins were baked, they were toasted.  “When you eat them, toast them crisp on both sides, then with your hand pull them open, and they will be like a honeycomb; lay in as much butter as you intend to use, then clap them together again, and set it by the fire. When you think the butter is melted turn them, that both sides may be buttered alike, but do no touch them with a knife, either to spread or cut them open, if you do they will be as heavy as lead, only when they are buttered and done, you may cut them across with a knife.” [Glasse, Hannah.  The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy.  London: 1784]

An American author, Parloa, described the English Muffin, with toasting the inside.  "With little doubt the most delicious of all breakfast muffins is the old-time English muffin, which is never eaten in perfection except fresh from the toasting fork, the English cook never thinking it possible to serve this favorite breakfast dish unless it is first split and toasted by the fire. They are really a bread dough, well floured, baked in a ring on a slow griddle, then turned and baked on the other side. This leaves the centre hardly done, and the muffin is split and toasted on the inside. Served with coffee they are peculiarly sweet." 

Mrs. Beeton felt “Muffins are not easily made, and are more generally purchased than manufactured at home.” …cover the dough and let it rise, then divided into pieces, round them with your hands and “let them rise again.”  Place on hot-plate or stove.  After toasted, pull them open with fingers, and butter, put together “and cut them into halves”.   [Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management.

By 1880, Parloa differentiated the American muffin from the "bread dough" English muffin.  "In this country a muffin usually means a cake baked in moulds in the oven.

Although a couple early recipes mentioned cups rather than rings – such as The Pennsylvania Farm Journal, July, 1854: "butter your muffin cups," muffin pans appeared in the latter part of the 19th century. Muffin rings continued to be mentioned in recipes into the 20th century.   In an 1872, Parloa presented a recipe for muffins which used saleratus rather than yeast, but still cooked them on a griddle.  A few years later she used soda and muffin pans. [recipes below]  Marion Tyree's Housekeeping in Old Virginia, 1879, had a muffin recipe like pound cake baked in snow-ball cups.

Parloa suggested using muffin pans, muffin cups, and muffin tins since muffin rings were passe. [New Cook Book and Marketing Guide] Next to a sketch of a muffin pan she wrote: "There are muffin pans of tin, Russian iron and granite ware. Those of iron should be chosen last, on account of their weight. It is a good thing to have pans of a number of different shapes, as a variety for the eye is a matter of importance. The muffin rings of former years have done their duty, and should be allowed to rest, the convenient cups, which come in sheets, more than filling their place."

Glasse recipe

In 18th cen cookbooks, Glasse, Collingwood and Briggs all had a similar long directions, but Mason had a short version.

1767  Glasse, Hannah. The Art of CookeryHERE
1788  Briggs, Richard. The English Art of Cookery.   HERE
1792  Collingwood, Francis. The Universal Cook.   HERE

1777  "English Muffins"  muffin rings
To make Muffins. TAKE two quarts of warm water, two spoonsuls of yeast, three pounds of flower ; beat it well half an hour, and let it stand an hour or two; bake them on an iron bake-stove, (rub it well over with mrttcn-suet, as often as they are to be laid on) as soon as they begin to colour, turn them; when coloured on both sides they are baked enough. [Mason, Charlotte.  The Lady's Assistant. London: 1777]

1872  Saleratus and muffin rings
Muffins, No. 2.
One pint of milk, one cup of sugar, five cups of flour, one teaspoonful of saleratus, two of cream of tartar, two eggs, and butter the size of an egg. Beat the butter and sugar together, and then add the eggs well beaten; with this mix the milk, and then beat in the flour in which the saleratus and cream of tartar have been mixed. Bake in buttered muffin rings in a quick oven. 
[Parloa, Maria.  Appledore Cook Book.  Boston: 1872]

1880  Muffins with soda, muffin pans
Muffins, No. 1. One quart of flour, two cupfuls of milk, half a cupful of sugar, two eggs, two teaspoonfuls of cream of tartar, one of soda, half a teaspoonful of salt, butter the size of an egg. Mix the other dry ingredients with the flour, and rub through a sieve. Melt the butter with four table-spoonfuls of boiling water. Beat the eggs light, and add the milk. Stir into the flour, and add the butter. Beat thoroughly. Bake in buttered muffin pans from twenty-five to thirty minutes, in a quick oven.  [Parloa, Maria.  New Cook Book and Marketing Guide. Boston: 1880]  

A picture of cakes baked in cups [1906] can be seen in my blog posting for "cup cakes" HERE and more info on cups, patty pans, saucers are posted in "Queen Cakes" HERE

Beeton, Isabella.  Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management. London: 1863
Briggs, Richard.  The English Art of Cookery.  1788
Collingwood, Francis.The Universal Cook.  1792
Dollar Monthly Magazine. Boston: July1864
Glasse, Hannah.  The Art of Cookery.  1767
Glasse, Hannah.  The Art of Cookery.  London: 1784
Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine. Phila: May 1861
London Town.  1883   image of Muffin Man
Mason, Charlotte.  The Lady's Assistant. London: 1777
Parloa, Maria.  Appledore Cook Book.  Boston: 1872
Parloa, Maria.  New Cook Book and Marketing Guide. Boston: 1880
The Pennsylvania Farm Journal, July 1854 
Tyree, Marion. Housekeeping in Old Virginia, 1879
©2011 Patricia Bixler Reber


  1. I love this blog! I am so glad that you researched this. Do you know when muffin tins started to be manufactured or where I could look it up?

    1. Thanks! According to Linda Franklin's hugh book - Kitchen Collectibles - on April 5, 1859 Nathaniel Waterman patented an "egg pan" of separate cups with cutouts in the cast iron... what would be called gem or muffin pans. The year before he patented roll pans.