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the shortlist’s Muffins

November 14, 2010

I’m not one to try to improve on perfection. I use only one recipe for chocolate chip cookies, scones, and cream cheese frosting. And the reason is simple: they are perfect.

I thought I’d found the perfect muffins years ago in a recipe my sister gave me from the café where she worked. My sister has been working in cafés since before she could reach the counter, and she told me that these were the best. I trust her veteran café-trained tastebuds and, as I love all good muffins (though I do have a soft spot for this kind) I had to have the recipe. After much begging and cajoling, she finally handed it over on the strictest orders not to share/publish/breach copyright/etc. or risk dismemberment.

Knowing my sister and knowing that she would totally make good on her threat, I never shared the recipe with anyone. Problem was? I never seemed to use the recipe at all. Yes, it produced good muffins, but it was also cumbersome and time consuming, with lots of ingredients and long steps like creaming the butter and sugar (a process which I, sans standing mixer, really hate).

When I arrived in Sydney, I noticed that, despite the truly unbelievable amount of banana bread, the infrequent muffin on offer almost always appeared and tasted industrial. Whenever I tried a legitimate bakery muffin in the odd café that carried them, they were more cake than muffin and, at $4 each, seemed beside the point.

I did what anyone in my position would do and immediately Googled “best muffins in Sydney” only to find that, alas, muffins don’t inspire a great following here. One name did pop up, though, and that was The Little Marionette in Balmain, a place famous for its coffee. When Francesco and I made a trip to Balmain expressly for their possibly decent muffins, they had just sold out. Dejected, I bought a piece of banana bread and sulked all the way home.

But then, a break in the clouds: our favorite café in the neighborhood, country, world, located not two blocks from our house – and namesake of this here blog – recently started selling homemade muffins. And….wait for it…the shortlist’s resident muffin baker happens to also bake muffins at The Little Marionette (Sydney’s a big small town, after all, and the expert coffee scene is even smaller). It was a sign.

When I tasted my first shortlist muffin, I knew I’d found perfection. And – because that’s just the kind of place this is – when I asked politely, I was handed over a slip of paper with the recipe. Just another reason (on top of their sexy baristas – hey Bec and Lauren! – , dog friendly policy, crazy good pastries from Black Star and unbeatable coffee) why the shortlist is my favorite café.

The recipe was deliciously simple, so much so that there were no instructions (in classic restaurant fashion), just advice to let the batter sit for a long time. I’d never used or owned raw sugar or self-raising flour before, but I may be a convert. If you’re unsure whether you should buy a whole bag of self-raising flour just for these muffins, I assure you, the bag will not last long. And neither will these muffins.

My too-big muffins had just-right muffin tops...

Since obtaining the shortlist’s recipe, I’ve made two batches of The World’s Best Muffins, one with sauteed apples and cinnamon, the other with blueberries and lemon zest. Both were flawless, with huge crunchy tops and a lovely, not too sweet, not too dense crumb. The only foreseeable problem, besides my overfilling the cups when making the blueberry batch, is their addictiveness.

So don’t be surprised if you never see another muffin post here again – I’ve found the perfect recipe, and I’m don’t even have to risk dismemberment to share it with you.

Printable Recipe


I wish I could say these were my creation, but alas…these come straight from the source, the epic cafe the shortlist on the corner of Abercrombie and Ivy in Darlington, Sydney. They are perfect & awesome, just like their creators. For the real deal and what we consider the best coffee we’ve ever had, you can’t go past this place, where, by the way, every day they switch up the muffin variety on offer. All the more reason to develop a habit, don’t you think?

MAKES 12 big, beautiful, bakery-style muffins

3 cups self-raising flour

1/2 cup raw sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

2 small (or 1 x-large) eggs

3/4 cup milk

125 grams (9 tablespoons) butter, melted and cooled slightly

1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

Flavorings (see below for ideas)

In a large bowl, mix the flour and sugars. In another bowl, mix all the other ingredients except the flavorings. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the flour/sugar mixture until just combined. Gently fold in the flavorings.

Grease a muffin tin (or better yet use muffin cups; these muffins stick easily). Fill 12 cups 3/4 full (they rise quite a bit), then let them sit for a couple of hours on the counter (or overnight in the fridge). Sprinkle with raw sugar if desired.

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. When oven is hot, bake muffins for 25-35 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool slightly in the tin before carefully removing. (Can be frozen once completely cooled.)



2 apples, stewed in some water with a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and clove until soft + cinnamon

chocolate chunks + chopped pear

blueberries + lemon zest

white chocolate chunks + raspberries

peaches + fresh grated ginger

hazelnuts + milk chocolate chunks

cranberries + orange zest


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Carol permalink
    November 14, 2010 11:26 pm

    Cruel and unusual punishment!! Here I am sitting reading your as always fantastic blog and sipping my morning coffee – but no muffin!! No treats at all! What’s a girl to do? I had better start baking!


  1. A Bun in the Oven « The Shortlists

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