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October 6, 2007

Where did the word "Muffin" come from???

Cup cakes, Fairy cakes, Muffins almost all the same, but why the word "Muffin", is it because it is SUCH a cute name???, or because it rhymes with Magnificent, but then they most definitely are magnificent, I decided to delve a little deeper into history.

Researching the history of bread-related products is difficult because bread is THE universal food. Muffins, cakes, crackers, biscuits, cookies, sticky buns & Twinkies are not inventions. They are evolutions. All of these are variations on the theme of what happens when flour & water mix with human ingenuity.

What the food historians have to say about the origin of muffins...

"Muffin...a term connected with moufflet, an old French word applied to bread, meaning soft....The word muffin first appeared in print in the early 18th century, and recipes began to be published in the middle of the 18th century. There has always been some confusion between muffins, crumpets, and pikelets, both in recipes and in name. Muffin' usually meant a breadlike product (sometimes simply made from whatever bread dough was available), as opposed to the more pancake-like crumpets...Muffins were most popular during the 19th century, when muffin men traversed the town streets at teatime, ringing their bells. In the 1840s the muffin-man's bell was prohibited by Act of Parliament because many people objected to it, but the prohibition was ineffective..."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999(p. 517)

"Muffin...In Great Britain, a muffin is a traditional light-textured roll, round and flat, which is made with yeast dough. Muffins are usually enjoyed in the winter - split, toasted, buttered, and served hot for tea, and sometimes with jam. In the Victorian era muffins were bought in the street from sellers who carried trays of them on their heads, ringing a handbell to call their wares. In North America muffins are entirely different. The raising (leavening) agent is baking powder and the muffins are cooked in deep patty (muffin) tins. Cornmeal and bran are sometimes substituted for some of the flour."
---Larousse Gastronomique, Jenifer Harvey Lang editor [Crown:New York] 1988 (p. 703)

"Muffin...a small yeast cake usually sweetened with a bit of sugar. In England muffins were once called "tea cakes," while in America muffins are served primarily for breakfast or as an accompaniment to dinner...The origins of the word are obscure, but possible it is from Low German muffe [meaning] cake. The term was first printed in English in 1703, and Hannah Glasse in her 1747 cookbook fives a recipe for making muffins. Mush muffins (called slipperdowns in New England) were a Colonial muffin made with hominy on a hanging griddle."
---Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Freidman Books:New York] 1999 (p. 211)

"Sometimes misnamed gems, muffins were baked in deeper pans and were not quite as breadlike as gems. Muffins graduated from being cooked in a utensil called muffin rings to a special baking pans. Muffin rings were hooplike accessories placed directly on a hot stove or the bottom of a skillet. Batter was then poured into them. The rings did not prove to be as popular with muffin consumers as molds of the same period. However, their demise as holders of raw muffin batter was not in vain, for they remain a valuable kitchen accessory to make popular English muffins or fried eggs. The muffin molds of the nineteenth century turned out to be an extremely deficient product. The baked their contents thoroughly and very evenly..."
---The Old West Baking Book, Lon Walters (p. 34)

About English muffins
"English muffins" as American know them today are most closely connected with the ancient Welsh tradition of cooking small round yeast cakes known as "bara" [bread] "maen" [stone] on bakestones. "English muffins" were later cooked on griddles, as opposed to muffin tin.

Guess that falling in love with Muffins is good for learning History! hahaha !

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Suganya October 6, 2007 at 2:12 PM  

ok ok.. You don't have to convince us with yr love for muffins. I don't mind yr muffin indulgence :). Just keep posting the recipes and photos...

sra October 6, 2007 at 6:06 PM  

Hey, nice post, must have been hard work! I used to wonder what the difference between muffins (American) and cupcakes was, till I read somewhere that cupcakes are iced and muffins are not. I have seen the English muffins you're talking about.

Apple October 7, 2007 at 1:36 AM  

Good Post Bindiya..The English muffins you were talking about, I think they are known as Welsh cakes here...I too love Muffins a lot

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