I have been making a lot of quick breads and muffins recently. This has mostly been in an effort to discover the staple pumpkin muffin recipe for our family (and I'm still working on it). It has also had the wonderful advantage of stocking my freezer with four or five loaves of bread to pull out when we have guests for Thanksgiving. I have developed a little system that works very well for us.
First, understand that I consider all quick bread recipes fair game for muffins and vice versa. Just modify your cooking time (and the pan, of course). Muffins will bake for 20-25 minutes and loaves for 45-65 minutes, depending on the recipe, the pans selected and how full you make your muffins. After a while, you'll get a feel for how long it takes to make a favorite recipe in the pans you have and will hardly have to check to see if they're done. (I make a note to myself the first few times I bake something so I have a very good idea when to check in subsequent attempts.)
If I have enough ingredients on hand (and of course I like to keep our baking supplies well-stocked), I double the recipe. It takes almost no extra effort with twice the results!
As a side note, I almost always replace half the oil in muffin and bread recipes with ground flaxseed. Just triple the amount of oil when measuring the flaxseed and add to the dry ingredients. So, if a recipe calls for 1/2 cup oil, I use 1/4 cup oil and 3/4 cup ground flaxseed (1/4 * 3). I love the rich nutty flavor and it's supposedly healthier. My local Kroger affiliate sells a 16 oz bag for $2.99, less on sale, which is a better price than Amazon. We keep meaning to check the local health food store to see if they have it in bulk for less.
Just about every recipe will tell you to add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, but I don't. I can't mix much by hand because of tendonitis, so I depend heavily on my power mixer. (We bought ours on clearance just before our wedding and it was the best use of a gift card in my life. I'm pretty sure we use it at least once a day...but I digress.) I always mix my wet ingredients in the mixer and then add the dry. They always turn out just fine. (I do try to fold in extras like nuts and chocolate chips by hand right at the end.)
Now the batter is ready. I always make 18 muffins (even if the recipe is for 12) and one loaf. I never use liners when I'm making muffins. If I'm making something with lots of fruit (like blueberry sour cream muffins...mmmm), I spray the tins with Pam with flour. Otherwise I just use regular cooking spray. (Since you usually have to spray liners anyway, it's cheaper just to omit them. After a while your pans will be well seasoned and you may find you prefer the liner-less taste as well.)
I use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to fill the muffin tins. I wipe off the excess, so each muffin really is 1/3 cup. Then I pour the rest of the batter into the loaf pan. I can fit my 12 muffin pan, my 6 muffin pan and my loaf pan all on one rack in the oven. I just pull out the muffins around 20 minutes and move the loaf pan to the center to finish baking. Per the good advice of Whole Grain Baking, I let the muffins cool in the pans for about ten minutes, then pull them out to cool completely.
Muffins are more versatile than loaves for us. I like having the portions already decided and the 18 muffins instead of 12 means they're a little smaller portioned (which is less helpful if you decide you can eat two or three since they're "smaller," not that I know from experience or anything). Also, it's nice to be able to taste a muffin before deciding to give the loaf away, especially if it's a new recipe or I was out of something (which of course never happens, or only sometimes, or every other time I bake). I often freeze the muffins so Kansas Dad can pull a few out for lunches and snacks.
Recently, I've been freezing the loaves. I have a banana nut one baking right now to add to the pumpkin chocolate chip loaves in the freezer for our guests. If by any chance we don't eat them, I can send every family home with a loaf!
Anyone else have muffin tips to share?