Have you ever wondered where the muffin came from? It seems like they’ve been around forever, in all kinds of sizes and flavors. The modern muffin is actually a pretty recent development, however. Here’s a look at a few fun facts about muffins that’ll give you a little something to chew on with breakfast.
Today’s muffins look a lot like cupcakes, but the first ones were a lot closer to what we now call an English muffin. They were little flat breads or cakes without much sugar. Bakers started making them in the early 1700s, when the word was spelled moofin. Language historians think that the term comes either from Low German “muffe” or small cake, or Old French “moufflet” or soft bread. No matter how they got their names, muffins soon became very popular.
By the 19th century, these little round breads had become much sweeter. Some of them still used yeast, but others relied on baking soda. They were still round and flat; many were actually cooked on a griddle instead of in the oven. Most muffins were plain wheat or corn. They could be eaten with butter or jam, and were usually relatively small.
Flavors and Function
A lot of new flavors developed from the original plain muffin sometime in the 20th century. Vanilla, blueberry and other fruit flavors were extremely common. The bran muffin became popular when people realized the benefits of whole grain in the 1970s, while chocolate muffins developed as a dessert option. By the late 20th century, there were literally hundreds of options when it came to muffin varieties.
The way we eat muffins changed, too. Originally intended as a light snack or a side dish at dinner, these small baked goods became available for breakfast, dessert and all kinds of other uses. Now, it’s not unusual to grab a muffin as a late night snack or even to eat one for lunch.
The Fat and Sugar Explosion
Along with the expanding range of muffin flavors came an increase in the fat and sugar content of these baked goods. Retailers discovered that making a more cake-like muffin allowed their wares to stay fresh longer. These muffins were also more appealing to buyers. Over time, they also grew extensively, expanding from about 2 ounces to as much as half a pound in weight. That makes the modern muffin a potentially disastrous food for dieters.
Of course, these facts about muffins don’t apply to every baked good. It’s still possible to get a healthy muffin that tastes great and won’t harm your health. You just need to do a little bit of research. Look for whole grains, fresh fruit and a low sugar content to find the best muffin for you.