Muffins go into a very small category of things I love without reservation: Pasta. My mother. Raspberries. Dogs. I was for years content to make muffins in a standard muffin tin, which appeared once in my apartment, courtesy of either an elderly relative or a rummage sale. And regular-sized muffins are good. You know what is better, though? A mini muffin. This sounds twee, I know, or diet-crazed, but it is neither: it is practical. Mini muffins drastically improve the crust-to-mush ratio of their full-sized cousins. There is muffin crust in every bite of a mini muffin, because there are two bites total, or four, if you are dainty. You are never sentenced to endure the uncomplicated fluff of muffin innards, which—though perfectly pleasant—lack the sophistication of the exterior. Everyone knows the best part of a muffin is the craggy terrain at the top, and what, deep down, are mini muffins, but muffin tops with a tail? (You could, theoretically, buy a “muffin top” pan, but have some dignity.)
I bought the tray—this one—because miniatures are inherently delightful, whether they are muffins or doll shoes or motorcycle license plates, and also because I imagined that I might eat less muffin this way, subbing in the mini version for my morning full-size, thereby halving the percentage of my daily caloric intake that comes from muffins. I did not do that. Most days, I eat two mini muffins—exactly the same as one maxi muffin, so technically, nothing has changed. But I appreciate the exquisite sense of control. How much muffin do you want, exactly? In my case, usually a standard muffin-sized amount, but I like having the option to deviate from my routine, depending on my hunger levels, and the numbers of muffins I have left. Once, after baking for a crowd, I had several different types of mini muffins leftover, and could, for several mornings, mix and match my mini muffins accordingly. Eating a blueberry-chocolate chip muffin and a cranberry-walnut bran muffin in the same casual breakfast is a mini muffin-specific pleasure I would highly recommend.
I will be the first to say: mini muffins are not perfect. The very thing that makes them great (mini-ness) is also their downfall. To grease a mini muffin pan is what I’ll call a sensual experience—if there is a way to smear 24 teeny tiny muffin cups with butter without also smearing yourself in butter, I have not found it yet. (Obviously, you could use liners, but won’t somebody think of the trees?) This, though, is a mere quibble. The minor inconvenience is easily outweighed by the fact that minis bake much faster than their full-sized counterparts—two-thirds the time, in my experience—and, if you are the sort of person who freezes baked goods and then reheats them in the oven, that is quicker, too.
It is the aesthetics of mini muffins that truly seal the deal, though: their smallness makes them festive. A muffin is a workaday indulgence, but a mini muffin is enchanting. Every morning you are Alice, and every day, the world is Wonderland. (It is best not to follow this metaphor too far.) The mini muffin doesn’t need to be half so appealing— it’s already a muffin, for gods sake! What more do you want? And yet, there it is, more adorable—more satisfying—than any of us deserve.