Why do these muffins have sunken tops? https://food52.com/recipes/34401-gluten-free-orange-spice-poppyseed-muffins Is it due to the almond flour, etc.

If I baked muffins that looked like that, I'd consider it a failed bake - and certainly wouldn't take a photo of them and post it. Are sunken tops characteristic of gluten-free muffins? (I've been baking muffins on a regular basis since long before most of the editors were born, and have found that, with a well-drafted and well-tested recipe, and the usual precautions, my muffins always dome beautifully.) Thank you. ;o)

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21 Comments

Debbie G. February 22, 2018
Mine did that too. I used by normal carrot cake/muffin recipe and substituted the wheat flour in equal amounts for the wheat flour, and coconut sugar for the sugars. They baked out at normal height around the perimeter with a crater in the top. I was disappointed at first but the muffins/cupcakes are incredibly delicious. I decided I wanted to share them, so I will make them again for my office meeting and put a Keto filling in the crater. I am thinking something like a lightly sweetened whipped cream cheese. They should look and taste great ! I typically have good luck substituting almond flour in a lot of recipes. I am getting to be very fond of the taste and texture of the outcome and the health benefits over wheat flour at a big plus for me.
 
mrslarkin May 11, 2015
This forum is a place for discussions of everything...criticisms, praise, observations, and most of all, questions. Many people make the mistake of reading a tone into a comment when it’s not what was intended. That said, I don't think for a second AJ was being mean. She was not judging the recipe, she was just wondering why the muffins had sunken tops. The editors tested the recipe before posting, and whether you like the indentation or not, it’s still a tasty recipe. Several commenters on the recipe have tried it and liked it.

Similarly, I've made Sarah Jampel's Chocolate Chunk Muffins a bunch of times because they are delicious (but I personally wouldn't call it a muffin with that indentation. Sorry, Sarah.)

My favorite cookbook about the science-y side of baking is, hands down, Shirley Corriher's BakeWise. I've learned so much from this one book. Definitely a good addition to the baker's bookshelf. Shirley talks at length about leaveners and their relationship with other ingredients. Baking soda, for example, is strong stuff. It has 4x the leavening power of baking powder, and works well with an acidic ingredient, like citrus juice, buttermilk, cocoa, and molasses, to name a few. Shirley’s “guidelines for ideal quantities of leavening are: for each cup of AP flour in a recipe use not more than: 1 to 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder OR ¼ teaspoon baking soda.” Regardless of it being almond flour, I suspect this recipe uses a little too much leavening, and I’d be curious to see what the tops would look like with less leavening.

Shirley also talks about muffin shape – she says for muffins, you want a peak. (See? Us domed muffin lovers aren’t crazy after all!) She also mentions that a higher heat, say 400 degrees F, will typically create that peak in a muffin. Get the book – she explains it so well.
 
caninechef May 12, 2015
I finally went and looked at the recipe and pictures. The one think I noted is that the comments seemed favorable. I am not interested in gluten free but the recipe seemed well received by those who are. it is casually written but it is clear enough. It might be argued that the photo is honest. Making it clear that while gluten free and tasty they maybe do not fullfill a bakers dream of what the perfect muffin looks like.
 
Sarah J. May 28, 2015
Those aren't my muffins! They're from the Huckleberry book :) But glad you liked them! I also wrote a whole post about muffin tops: https://food52.com/blog/11899-how-to-make-domed-muffins
 
creamtea May 11, 2015
I don't think Antonia intended to be rude at all; she is a skilled baker who has questioned the outcome of a recipe--not unreasonable. This recipe appeared as part of the site's professional content, rather than as a contest submission. Critiques of recipes of users, too, have been encouraged as long as I've been here--I've had a few myself, and I survived. I thought AntoniaJames posed a question that stimulated an interesting discussion that was educational--a positive thing.
 
PieceOfLayerCake May 11, 2015
Antonia, you were not, in any way, offensive or rude. I, however, was. I am too often brash and unrefined in my criticism (something i struggle with professionally), and its a character defect that I am constantly working to improve. I apologize to anyone I may have offended. I am fully comfortable owning up to those matters I handle inappropriately. I stand by the advice that I did give, which I still consider constructive despite the personal comments I made toward the recipe author. I don't, at all, think the baking advice I conveyed was "bad". Now, as for the "mean girl" label (whether it was directed at me or not), let's not counter a rude comment with more rudeness. We can handle these situations like grown adults.
 
Stephanie G. May 11, 2015
I was also bothered by this thread. It was such a departure from the usually supportive vein this forum has been. It was especially surprising to see those kind of comments from those I thought were leaders of this community against a member who contributes such delightful content. I personally enjoy Kendra's articles and recipes.
 

Voted the Best Reply!

Shuna L. May 10, 2015
Whoa, there are a lot of questions here.

I've written a little bit about why cakes sink here, http://eggbeater.typepad.com/shuna/2009/02/why-do-cakes-sink.html

About this query~
1. Not all quick breads rise in the middle, or dome. Nor should they.
2. "Doming" has less to do with a recipe, than it has to do with a method, and temperature.
3. Some of the most delicious cakes I have known have been flat.
4. On first glance at that recipe, it's a lot of liquid, but almost no structure, except for the eggs, so it seems to me that that batter basically baked in place.
5. Not all almond meal is equal. Some are ground coarse, fine, chunky, etc., so this makes a big difference in GF baking - especially when it's the sole "flour."
6. This recipe is basically a custard.
7. Some of the most profound failures in pastry kitchens throughout history, have become classic preparations, revered the world over.
8. My own pastry failures have taught me the best lessons of all - how to correct; how to stay the course; how to try again; how to take notes and try it differently next time.

To judge a recipe by one photograph, is unfair, in my opinion. Taste it, then decide.

Gluten-free baking is very very challenging. I have been baking professionally for 25 years, and GF baking makes me feel like a novice. It is not for the meek!
 
sexyLAMBCHOPx May 11, 2015
I agree Shuna. I think the poster and the respondents are rude & judgmental to the recipe author and food52 without trying the recipe and offering constructive advice. Sad.
 
Susan W. May 11, 2015
I'm so happy to see this response. This thread really bothered me. It was rude from the start and the added responses just added to the "mean girl" affect.

This is a site for home cooks (with a few self proclaimed "chefs" whose title I often question when I see them give bad advice) and the photo was not for Sunset Magazine. Done judge a book by its cover. Have you seen Marcella Hazan's Pork Cooked in Milk?

I am a big fan of Kendra's recipes and would not hesitate to make these.
 
AntoniaJames May 11, 2015
It wasn't my intention to be rude, judgmental or offensive.
Goodbye, everyone.
 
creamtea May 10, 2015
I agree, AJ; sunken muffins or any baked good are not very pretty or appealing.
 
mrslarkin May 10, 2015
I would fill that crater with frosting and call it a cupcake! In my mind, muffins should ALWAYS have a somewhat domed top. Let us know if you do make this, AJ. I am curious!
 
boulangere May 9, 2015
Okay, bakers, I promise that I will post the recipe tomorrow, aka Sunday, aka Mothers Day.
 
Patricia May 9, 2015
I agree too Antonia James. But perhaps I'd they were called Almond poppyseed Budini? A rose by any other name ...
 
boulangere May 8, 2015
I make a gluten-free almond & pistachio coffee cake predicated upon almond flour, AntoniaJames, and it rises beautifully. I suspect would do so as well if scooped as muffins. Almond flour is heavy, so it requires additional leavening. Too, given its density, be it a coffee cake or a muffin, it must be adequately baked to a doneness that supports its ingredients. I'll post a link to the recipe within the next week or so. I agree with the general observation that the given muffins should not have a sunken center.
 
AntoniaJames May 8, 2015
Thank you, Cynthia. I look forward to seeing and trying it! Have a great weekend! ;o)
 
ChefJune May 9, 2015
Please hurry and post that coffee cake, Cynthia. I can already taste it! :D
 
ChefJune May 8, 2015
I agree, AntoniaJames. I would never post a photo like that. Yes, almond flour, even with baking soda and baking powder, does not have what it takes to rise. There also are no eggs, which would have helped. The recipe seems haphazard. I'd probably go with another recipe, or adapt the idea for a traditional wheat flour muffin.
Actually, I'm a newbie as experimenting with gluten free baking. I now make my brownies with chick pea flour, and love the silky texture. Fran Costigan, the famous vegan baker recommended Bob's Red Mill's 1-to-1 Baking Mix, which I'm planning to add to my pantry.
 
PieceOfLayerCake May 8, 2015
In my experience, almond flour alone is not enough to create structure in a batter. The only recipes I have with almond flour as the only "flour", there is a creaming process and egg whites are whipped. The muffins looks sunken in the photo, as well. And, if I may be judgmental...the recipe reads like one that is quite clearly not written by someone who has much experience writing them. I would just find another recipe.
 
Claire S. May 8, 2015
Almond flour does behave very differently from wheat flour and it is much harder (but not impossible) to make it rise. Having said that, that isn't a mark of a failure, just a difference of appearance and texture. I like the way almond flour tends to result in a denser, moister cake. If you're expecting this recipe to turn out the way you normally bake muffins then you will be disappointed but that doesn't mean they won't taste delicious.
 
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