I’m a big fan of grandma’s recipes, especially for old-fashioned homemade muffins like grandma used to make. They are usually quick, easy and delicious and so much better for you than the kind you buy today, which seem more like big cupcakes than the muffins from my childhood.
Most of the muffins you get today are bigger, richer and sweeter than those that were eaten just a few decades ago. For example, it’s been reported on one of the calorie count websites that a Costco blueberry muffin has 610 calories, 32 g carbs and 71 g of fat which gives it a Weight Watchers PointsPlus value of 16! (The others are even worse.)
It makes me cringe when I realize I used to buy a dozen of these babies, wrap them individually, and place them in the freezer for a quick and easy grab and go breakfast.
Interested in a little American muffin history?
History of Muffins
Muffin recipes have a long history here in the US. (I didn’t realize how far back they went until I was scanning my old facsimile of the 1896 Boston Cooking School cookbook recently and discovered more than 15 recipes for muffins in it. Most of them were plain and varied by the type of flour used – white, rye, corn or graham – and the amount of sugar and eggs used.)
You’ll find lots of muffin recipes that call for nuts, dried fruit, berries, chopped meat, cheese and vegetables in old cookbooks from the first half of the 20th century. It appears that they were a thrifty way to use up bits of leftovers back then.
And they showed up much more often on the breakfast and lunch table than they do these days, unfortunately. As author of one of my old cookbook’s said, “Muffins are very nice as a quick hot bread for most any meal, probably more suited to breakfast or lunch. There are both fancy and plain muffins, quick and not so quick – all of which are fun to make.”
In the last few decades the variety of muffin flavors have expanded, along with their size. Today muffins are often 3 to 4 times bigger than they were just a few years ago. You can verify this by making a batch of muffins from an old cookbook and then comparing them with those served at your favorite coffee shop.
Today there are actually cookbooks available that tout titles like 750 Best Muffin Recipes: Everything from breakfast classics to gluten-free, vegan and coffeehouse favorites. (I did a search for muffin cookbooks on Amazon.com that brought that back over 2,000 results. Talk about America’s love affair with muffins!)
As I continue to explore ways to simplify eating, cooking and living and spend time with old cookbooks, I find myself drawn to the simple old muffin recipes of the past.
I’ve scoured my grandmother’s recipe files and my old cookbooks from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s and come up with this great collection of old muffin recipes.
Most old recipes are written in an annotated style, without a lot of the detail you get in more modern recipes. You can tell they were written by women who knew how to cook for women who knew how to cook, in a kind of cooking shorthand.
Most old muffin recipes also include instructions for sifting the flour and/or sifting together the dry ingredients. This isn’t usually necessary today, since most flour comes pre-sifted. But because the flour does settle, it’s important to fluff it up well with a whisk or fork before lightly spooning it into your measuring cup. If you don’t do this, you run the risk of using too much flour which will cause your baked goods to turn out too dry.
I hope you have fun reading and reminiscing as you peruse this collection of old recipes.
Grandma’s Old-fashioned Muffins
- 1 egg
- ⅓ cup cooking oil
- ½ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract (optional)
- 1-1/2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ cup sugar
- Using a fork, beat egg in mixing bowl. Add oil and milk and extracts if using. Continue beating with fork. Sift flour, measure and sift with sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Add to mixture and stir with fork, very lightly. Turn into 12 greased muffin tins. This will make 12 medium-sized muffins. Sprinkle each muffin with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon and put a dot of butter or margarine on top of each. Bake at 400 degrees about 20 minutes.
- Yield: Makes 12 muffins
Maypo was the original maple flavored oatmeal cereal. We ate it regularly during the winter when I was a kid. This Maypo muffins recipe appeared on the side of the box and became a favorite with Mom and Nana. I was so excited to find this recipe noted in one of my grandmother’s old recipe books because I had been searching for it everywhere.
(The Maypo muffin recipe advertised by the manufacturer must have been updated in the 1980s or 1990s because it calls for egg whites, honey and less oil. Why would anyone put honey in a maple flavored muffin? Maple syrup, maybe. Honey, definitely not! One can only wonder what they were thinking. So glad my grandmother had the good sense to jot down the original recipe in her old cookbook)
- ¾ cup Maypo
- 1-1/4 cups flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons melted shortening or vegetable oil
- Whisk together the dry ingredient in a bowl. Whisk together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix gently just until moistened. Pour into greased muffin pan and bake in preheated 400 degree F oven for 20 minutes.
More Muffin Recipes
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