Muffins: Buy It vs. Make It
It’s a sad fact, but when booking a weekend hotel room, I will always be seduced by the “free continental breakfast,” even though I know that translates to one thing: Muffins, piled in a wicker basket next to a coffee machine.
But can you blame me? Muffins are a perfect treat. They’re basically naked cupcakes, they come in an endless variety of festive flavors, and they already come in individual serving-sizes so you aren’t tempted by endless slivers of cake.
Never mind that the individual serving size is often “jumbo.” Just never mind that at all, friend.
But is it better to make muffins, or to buy them? I have to admit that while I’m snobby about my baked goods, I’m also impressed by the Costco bakery. They’re bodacious, they’re baked daily, and they’re probably the very ones I line up to stuff in my purse at the breakfast bar. It’s very hard to argue that they’re really that inferior to my own contribution to baking society.
So I set out to see: Is there an advantage to MYO muffins? With a terrific basic recipe that can be adapted for whatever crazy preference you can come up with, my end is as easy as it can be. (If you’re a muffins newbie, check out this video, “How to Make Muffins.”)
Cost: As usual, I figure out two costs: one using premium ingredients, like organic or whole-wheat flour, and one using the same stuff a grocery store would use—your basic all-purpose flour, regular ol’ oil, and so on. In this case, using the fancy stuff for the very basic muffin recipe—before you add blueberries, lemon zest, cheddar cheese, or streusel topping (that coffee cake stuff—mmmm!)—comes to about 11 cents a muffin. The no-frills version comes in at just 6 cents a muffin. Compared to 71 cents per muffin at Costco (and a lot more at the café), that’s quite a savings. In fact, I would venture to say you can make a dozen muffins for what one store-bought one will cost you!
Effort: Muffins are low effort. Supremely low effort. You don’t even have to dirty the food processor because the batter is supposed to be lumpy—you’ll actually ruin it if you exert yourself even a teeny bit while mixing. Enforced laziness, who can beat it? The cleanup is as simple as a baking project can be—one bowl (I make a well for the wet ingredients in the middle of the dry ingredients rather than dirtying a separate bowl), one pan “tin” (mine is silicone) lined with paper cups. Easy, peasy.
Taste: I have a very high opinion of my muffins. That being said, I have a very high opinion of all muffins. If it isn’t a bran-filled hockey puck, I’m on board. So, to me, the taste is pretty much a wash.
The Verdict: Even though the savings are superior, I’m hard-pressed to insist that you make your own muffins if you’re really resistant. Me, I’m going to make mine for health reasons. I like to cut the sugar, mix in some pulverized oats, maybe add some brewer’s yeast or even some almond meal to add protein for a playground snack. But if you’re hosting a brunch and you’re feeling stressed out, don’t beat yourself up about sending someone to the supermarket. Your secret is safe with me.