There is simply nothing like the delicious aroma of freshly baked muffins, especially first thing in the morning. These tasty treats are sure to start your family’s day off the right way or make a delectable snack.
But disappointment soon follows when you go to take a bite of your muffin only to discover that the tops have turned sticky and yucky.
There are several reasons why this might have happened. Let’s look at a few easy fixes to prevent sticky, soggy muffin tops from happening next time.
Make Sure You Follow Your Recipe Exactly
Baking is an exact science, which means that you have to follow all directions carefully. Otherwise, the chemical reactions that occur in the mixing and baking processes may not work properly, yielding poor results.
This begins with your mise-en-place, or your preparation. Measure all ingredients very carefully, either with a food scale or accurate measuring cups.
Before you start cooking, read the entire recipe to make sure you have everything you need, both ingredients and equipment. Look up any terms that you find confusing or that you aren’t sure you understand.
Make sure you do not overmix your muffins! Overmixing can cause improper baking and a sticky top, as it releases too much gluten when combining dry and wet ingredients; your batter should have some lumps in it.
Calibrate or Adjust Your Oven
Many people do not realize that home ovens are frequently not accurate, meaning that the internal temperature does not match the temperature that the oven is reading. Low oven temperature in particular can be responsible for overly moist, sticky muffin tops.
The best way to deal with this is to buy a simple oven thermometer. Check it before you put anything in the oven and adjust the temperature up or down accordingly.
Alternatively, there are ways to recalibrate your oven’s internal thermometer, which is especially useful if it is off by more than a few degrees. Read through your owner’s manual or look up your oven make and model online to learn more.
Of course, there are ways to make muffins without an oven.
Storing Your Muffins
Improper storage is one of the most common causes of sticky, soggy muffin tops. They may come out of the oven perfect, but quickly turn.
This is because as baked goods age, the moisture inside of them migrates and eventually evaporates. If the muffins are in an airtight container, that moisture has nowhere to go, and settles on the top of the muffin itself, making it sticky and soggy.
At the same time, storing them in an airtight container is a must to preserve freshness in other ways. But don’t fret—you do not have to trade fresh muffins for a sticky top.
First things first—while you can enjoy a muffin hot from the oven, you cannot store it that way. You need to cool your muffins completely before storing them, otherwise, the heat gets trapped inside the container, creating even more moisture.
Use a wire rack to cool your muffins. This way, the cool air can circulate all around them, preventing the bottoms from getting soggy and trapping excess moisture.
Before you put the muffins in your airtight container, line it with paper towels. Now, the really neat trick! Place a few saltine crackers in the container with the muffins; they will absorb the excess moisture and save your muffins from becoming sticky.
Put a layer of paper towels on top of the muffins, too, to absorb any excess moisture, and close the container. Avoid opening and reclosing it more than necessary.
Try a Technique to Make Them Crispy
Particularly if you live in a humid climate, even the best baking and storage techniques might not be enough to keep your muffin tops crispy. There are a few other things you can do to create a crunchy muffin top yourself.
You can make a crunchy topping specifically for the top of the muffins. Typically, this topping will include some brown sugar.
Simply add the topping on top of the muffin dough in the muffin tins; it will set while baking.
You can also make just the muffin tops, and not the rest of the muffin, which gives you greater control over how the tops come out. You just need a muffin top tin.
Try a New Recipe
If all else fails, you can absolutely try a new recipe. There are many, many muffin recipes in cookbooks and on the Internet.
Here is a good rule of thumb to follow when choosing a recipe: especially if you live in a humid climate, a recipe that contains more sugar than flour will inevitably get sticky, if not at first, then eventually. Look for a low-sugar recipe.
Also, look for a recipe that uses butter instead of other fat sources (like oils). This Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe uses butter and has more than twice the amount of flour than sugar.
Embrace the Stickiness!
We already said that if all else fails, you can try a new recipe, but you actually still have one more option: embrace the stickiness!
Even if it isn’t your taste preference, some people really enjoy a sticky muffin. Sometimes, the moist exterior makes them taste more like a sweet pastry than a breakfast grain.
Alternatively, you can use the stickiness to your advantage to adhere decorations to make them even more lovely. Look for sprinkles or other similar items at the grocery or craft store; they won’t change the flavor of the muffins, just add an enticing aesthetic.
Don’t Be Discouraged!
Baking is so unlike cooking, in that it is an exact art, and it takes a long time to develop real skills.
Even if your baked treats don’t turn out exactly right, don’t be discouraged, just keep baking! Chances are, everything you have made will still taste great and put smiles on your family members’ faces, and isn’t that the real goal, after all?
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.