Muffins are the rage! Top billing in the bakery program belongs to the glorified, show-stopping muffin.

From an innocuous beginning as a home economics lesson, muffins have taken the giant leap to superstar status.Today's muffins are sweeter; they've graduated to near-dessert bread. Costumed with extra ingredients like fruit, nuts, chocolate chips or streusel topping, generic muffins have disappeared.

Directions for muffin making, however, follow the original script. Blend the dry ingredients, making a well in the center. Mix liquid ingredients together, then barely moisten the dry ingredients. Too much stirring overdevelops the gluten in the flour, which causes muffins to be tough, coarse-grained and full of holes.

The normal-size muffin has lost it lead role, replaced by double-size muffins. Many bakeries sell the large muffins exclusively. Oversize muffin tins and papers are available at kithchen specialaty shops.

Packaged muffin mixes were introduced nationwide only three years ago, and sale of these mixes have increased dramatically, according to a spokesman from General Mills.

Like well-rounded actors, muffins are adept at a starring role or playing a supporting part in the morning menu. Alone or as a complement to other breakfast items, muffins steal the show.

Poneer Muffins

3 eggs

1/3 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup molasses

2 cups natural bran

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup applesauce, mashed bananas or pureed fruit

11/2 cup liquid (water, milk or apple juice)

11/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup wheat germ

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon powdered milk

1/2 cup raisins, optional

In a large bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar, oil, molasses, bran, carrot, applesauce and liquid; stir well. Mix dry ingredients with raisins, then add all at once to egg mixture, stirring only until moistened. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Makes 2 dozen muffins.

Note: If using applesauce, add 2 teaspoons cinnamon to dry ingredients and 1 cup chopped walnuts.

-From Muffin Maina

Oat Bran Muffins

1 1/3 cups oat bran

1/2-1 cup chopped dates or raisins

1 1/3 cups water

1 cake mix (spice works best)

1/4 cup flour

4 egg whites (2 eggs may substitute with higher cholesterol content)

Combine oat bran, dates or raisins and water; soak for 5 minutes. Add cake mix, flour and egg whites. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer for 2 minutes. Spoon into greased or paper-lined muffin tins. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Makes 24-30 muffins.

-From Maurine Hegsted

Jalapeno Corn Muffins

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1 8 1/4-ounce can cream corn

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 1/2 cups Cheddar cheese, grated

3-4 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped or 1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies)

Stir together cornmeal, baking powder, sugar and salt. Mix in milk, eggs, corn and butter. Add cheese and chilies. Stir just to combine. Heat 18 greased muffin tins at 425 degrees for 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven and fill each muffin cup 2/3 full. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Tops will be golden brown and muffins will be slightly moist inside. Makes 18 muffins.

-From Purple Sage

Raspberry Corn Muffins

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup corn meal

1 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen

Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs and beat two minutes. Next add vanilla and cinnamon and blend thoroughly. Add corn meal, flour and baking powder. Beat one minute. Add sour cream and beat another minute. Gently fold in raspberries. Divide batter into muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Makes 9 muffins.

-From Delicious Quick Breads and Muffins

Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

1 cup sifted flour

3 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons shortening

1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats

1 egg

1 cup milk

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Sift dry ingredients. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in rolled oats. Combine egg, milk and brown sugar, beating well. Stir into dry ingredients and add raisins. Spoon batter into greased or paper-lined muffin tins. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over batter. Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

-From 4-Star Community Cookbook

Pineapple Muffins

1 8-ounce crushed pineapple, drained

3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

2/3 cup toasted wheat germ

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup coconut

1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup plain yogurt

2 eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Combine flours, wheat germ, sugar, coconut, nuts, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl combine drained pineapple yogurt, eggs and oil; mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry mixture; stir only until moistened. Spoon into greased or paper-lined muffin pans, filling 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes. Make 15-18 muffins.

From Pinch of Salt Lake