Here's a picture of sort of the way I like my muffins to look.
I can actually get them to expand just about that big on top, but it's still not exactly how I want them to be. Commercial muffins like the ones in Hannaford (a grocery store), and that picture, have that unnatural shine to them and brown so evenly and easily, and not really the hard caramelized brown you get in homemade muffins. Maybe it's the type of ovens bakerys have too, compared to a home oven, but I also think a lot of the properties that I like come from the emulsifiers they use. I have an ingredient list of the muffins at Hannaford, and basically the only thing I don't have are the emulsifiers and propylene glycol which are in every commercial muffin that I like the looks of.
Do you know what I mean by the "commercial" look of that muffin in the picture? The browned parts aren't that "burnt" caramelized brown you get from an oven, where it has a certain taste to it, it's more like a brown that didn't come from really burning the muffin, if that makes sense. For instance, when the muffins in Hannaford have some of the dough on the side of the cup it doesn't burn like it would in a homemade muffin, it just gets that nice brown color, and that's it. Here's a comparison to a homemade muffin (not one of mine, just something I found on the internet):
The homemade muffin has that crystalized/caramelized brown, and you can even see the sugar, but the commercial muffin up top has that smooth appearance.
I've analyzed the muffins in Hannaford way too much, I know, but it's fun to try to duplicate things, and I've seen muffins that were baked wrong and the tops weren't sliced so the inside could flow out, and the top surface of the muffin was flat, and had that nice shine and brown-ness that the top picture has. So somehow they're baked and turn perfectly brown and "fake" looking, and then they're sliced and and the inside bubbles up through, and then they're sold. I think when the dough is heated, it browns nicely (it almost looks like a film, but it seems to do that everywhere the muffin is exposed to heat, which you can even see on the muffin cup in the picture on top, so I doubt it's a glaze them put on top) and it doesn't bend or move. If the muffins do rise without the top cut (I've seen a couple), the flat top is just pushed up really high, but it's still flat, just like how it would have been when they put it in the cup. Their dough just seems really strong, it doesn't flex like "homemade" dough that uses no gums or emulsifiers, homemade muffin tops bend and break when they're pushed up from inside, but Hannaford's don't, the dough is too strong or something. I've actually had a muffin where the inside top wasn't done, so I could see what their dough is like, and it wasn't like homemade dough, it was gooey and seemed gellish (sort of like the dough I make if I put a lot of gums in it).
Also, one more question, does anyone know how the grocery stores make their in store muffins? Do they just use a mix and add water, or do they use a mix and then add the shortening and the eggs? By seeing how much cholesterol the muffin has, you know exactly how much egg yolk it would have, yet their muffins don't have a yellow color, they're very, very white. There aren't any bleaching agents used in the muffins either, so I'm wondering if they just screwed up (they do have some obvious spelling errors in the ingredient listings, and some have errors in where things are placed based on weight in the ingredient list) or maybe they use some type of dried egg yolk that's bleached or something? But then again, if they did use a dried egg yolk/whole egg, that would mean that "eggs" would drop way down on the ingredients list, and wouldn't be right after sugar. Unless they were reconstituted dried eggs or something crazy like that. Well, let me know if any of you pro baker's know any way I can get those commercialized looking muffins!
Just adding: I've tried so many iterations of muffins with all different amounts of baking powder, gums, soy lecithin, water, so none of those factors are what's wrong.
Ingredients and Nutrition Facts:
Just FYI, the "sodium esseinate" in the ingredients is actually sodium caseinate.