The Easy Method Alton Brown Uses To Get Larger Muffin Tops

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In a perfect world, there would be no muffin bottoms. Every single bite of a muffin would bring a nirvana-inducing moment of crunchy-top goodness and the cakey stubs would be an almost-forgotten sidebar — throwaway pedestals for the glorious muffin tops.

Elaine Benes had it right. The character Julia Louis-Drefus brought to life for nine seasons on the iconic sitcom, "Seinfeld," wasn't a fan of muffin bottoms, a predilection she shared during season 8. Let's set the scene. Elaine is standing by the snack table during a book signing. She's nibbling on a muffin as she chats with her former boss, Mr. Lippman. A woman approaches and notices a discarded muffin bottom. She is not impressed. Elaine 'fesses up, ultimately explaining the superiority of muffin tops, "Oh yeah. It's the best part. It's crunchy. It's explosive. It's where the muffin breaks free of the pan and sort of does its own thing. I'll tell you. That's a million dollar idea right there. Just sell the tops" (via YouTube).

By speaking her truth in that 1997 episode, Jerry Seinfeld's fictional sidekick revealed a secret notion many of us harbor: Muffin bottoms are useless hunks of cake. The real treat is the muffin top and it seems Alton Brown agrees. The award-winning chef, TV host, and author developed a recipe for muffins designed specifically to yield oversized tops.

There's a method to his madness

After experimenting with various muffin recipes over the years, Alton Brown decided to combine two of his favorites: a rustic, almost coarse blueberry muffin showcased in his 2002 cookbook, "I'm Just Here for the Food," and a more refined cupcake-like version from an episode of "Good Eats." And the combo muffin hit all the right notes. 

"A hybrid blueberry muffin is just right," Brown wrote on his website. "Oh, and I upped the portion, not because we need bigger muffins, but because everybody likes a muffin top."

Yep. That's right. Even Brown agrees the just-right muffin is more about the top than the bottom. The recipe includes all the expected ingredients and instructions, with a few caveats.  For example, you'll need to prepare a standard 12-cup muffin pan, plus a standard-size ramekin. And instead of filling each cup halfway, as is often the case, Brown advises pouring one cup of batter into each of the tin's well, adding "The cups should be quite full," before dropping leftovers into the ramekin. Then there's Brown's final bit of advice, which has nothing to do with muffin tops, but may change a few minds about muffin bottoms. 

"Remove from [the] oven and turn out, upside down, onto a clean tea towel to cool completely. This step is key in preventing mushy muffin bottoms, which nobody, and I do mean nobody, likes," he states.