You’ve been there. Standing in line at your favorite coffee shop waiting for the sweet relief of caffeine to get you through the rest of the day, you see a strategically placed display of in house made muffins. Seemingly the perfect combination of sweetness with your regular latte, drip, or specialty coffee, you can’t help but lose the battle of your inner dialogue talking yourself out of the purchase. You can’t help yourself. You want it. And you should! As you brush the remaining crumbs of a very wise purchase off of your trousers, you might find yourself wondering whose idea it was to put so much goodness in such a small, conveniently personalized package, and where do they come from?
Muffins, Crumpets, Cakes, OH MY!
Stemming from the German word muffe (translating to “small cake”), it is almost impossible to know exactly how far back it was when the first muffin was made, but the first official recipe for one was printed in the 18th century. Originally, muffins were made from a small amount of bread dough left over, and over time, the muffin has been adapted and evolved into so many different forms. Both popularized in Britain, muffins and crumpets are made differently and are used for different occasions. Crumpets are flat and typically cooked on one side on a griddle, similar to a dense pancake, and it is meant to have butter or jams spread across its cratered top.
English Muffin: Made in America
While the name “English Muffin” suggests that the flat, denser bread form is the European version of the muffin, this simply is not the case. The first English muffin was actually made in New York in the 19th Century. After coming to America, a baker named Samuel Bath Thomas opened up a bakery in modern day Chelsea where he created an item he called the “toaster crumpet” and sold in his store. This toaster crumpet was soon referred to as the English muffin, and the trend continued until modern day. Interestingly enough, the English muffin, though originally thought to be like Britain’s popular crumpets, are not made similarly and serve very different purposes.
Do You Know the Muffin Man?
Thanks to the Portuguese influence to British culture that was brought by Catherine of Braganza, also known as the first British tea drinking queen, tea drinking became widely popularized throughout Britain. Tea houses became more and more popular, and the taking part of “afternoon tea” became a staple in British culture. Because of this, men would walk the streets at tea time with pans of various muffins on their heads, ring bells, and people would purchase the treats to enjoy with their tea. This practice, of course, inspired the childhood favorite nursery rhyme about the muffin man (who lives on drury lane!).
Modern Day Muffins
Since the beginning of these little pastry treats, different kinds have been created and served throughout the world. We now have savory muffins, which are less like dessert treats as they might be made with spinach, cheese, eggs, or even meats. Then, of course, we can enjoy our sweet muffin classics like blueberry, chocolate, banana nut, and more. And while you probably don’t have a man walking your neighborhood with fresh baked muffins ready for purchase, you can certainly treat yourself to one at your favorite coffee shop. With a lot of history behind it and made with love, come pick up your favorite muffin today!