Sweeten to taste

“You can please some of the people some of the time but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” This certainly applies to sugar in muffins! Give the same muffin to different people and the responses will range from “too sweet” to “not sweet enough” or “just right”.

This difference in experiencing sweetness is partly due to individual palates but it’s also related to what a person is expecting from the taste experience. When we bite into cake we expect it to be sweet, but not so with scones or breads. Muffins are meant to be in a category of their own—sweeter than scones but not as sweet as cake. Unfortunately, commercial muffins are blurring the line, as their high sugar content (4-5 teaspoons per muffin) makes them much the same as cake.

Sugar One of the great things about home-made muffins is that you can adjust the sugar to suit your taste. They can tolerate a wide range, even as low as 1-2 tablespoons per batch, which is perfect for those on a sugar-restricted diet. Since muffins usually have additional ingredients such as fruit, nuts, or chocolate chips, 85g sugar for a batch of 12 is sweet enough for most people. That’s only 1½ level teaspoons per muffin.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve shifted the sugar up and down through the different editions of Muffins in response to feedback. But now, in light of the World Health Organisation’s recommendations, I’m delighted to say that the new fourth edition of Muffins is committed to being light on sugar.

2020 update

For the initial print run of the 4th edition, I specified 75–85g sugar in most of the recipes with the assumption that bakers would increase the sweetness if they preferred, but it seems this was not the right approach. So in the next print run I will be giving a wider range for sugar, 75-100g (⅓ to ½ cup), to provide better clarity about adjustment. Even at the upper end of the range, the muffins contain only 1¾ level teaspoons of sugar – less than half the sugar content of a commercial muffin. I would recommend starting at 85-90g sugar and adjust further batches according to your preference.