A love for baking muffins using her own original recipes led to a bright new career for a Charlotte woman.
For 23 years, Claire Putterman was a French teacher, a profession she found rewarding. She often guided students on international trips to explore France. But baking was her other passion in her spare time.
“In the back of my mind, I’d always dreamt of having a muffin business, and I’d made muffins for 25-plus years. And I just knew at some point – I even used to tell my students: ‘You wait, one day I’m going to have a big muffin business. You just wait,’” Putterman says.
She didn’t know if she wanted to leave teaching, but finally her family convinced her to follow her dream, she says. In 2011, she launched Modern Muffin from her home kitchen.
Putterman describes her muffins as a modern interpretation of old favorites, not just standard blueberry or banana muffins: “There’s just a little twist on every one of them.”
The business is a family effort, with input from Putterman’s husband, Paul, a physician, as well as their three grown children and son-in-law. Friends also pitch in each week assembling boxes. A helper assists with baking a few hours a day.
Growth has been “quite staggering,” Putterman says. Modern Muffin baked almost 30,000 muffins in 2013, many of them after select Harris Teeter stores began carrying the muffins around September.
Muffins from Modern Muffin are currently available at two Harris Teeter locations: Morrocroft Village in the SouthPark area and Ballantyne Commons in the Ballantyne area of Charlotte.
Putterman also sells muffins to customers directly through her company’s website. She has shipped her product to every state except Alaska and Hawaii.
An increase in business prompted upgrades in equipment. A decades-old KitchenAid stand mixer – Putterman’s first Mother’s Day gift ever – was replaced by a larger mixer. A commercial oven replaced her personal ovens. She anticipates moving into a commercial space in the future.
“I am such a perfectionist when it comes to these muffins,” Putterman says. She makes sure the muffins have the right size and shape, and a proper crown on top. Ingredients such as chocolate chips must be evenly distributed. It required some trial-and-error to develop muffins that were just right.
Flavors include banana chocolate chip, lemon blueberry, pumpkin raisin, orange pineapple poppy seed, apple applesauce, carrot pineapple, and double chocolate. Special seasonal muffins – like strawberry mango in the summer – occasionally make an appearance. Banana chocolate chip and lemon blueberry are her top sellers.
Putterman’s personal favorite, only available through Harris Teeter, is a pumpkin cranberry muffin, dense and full of lots of pumpkin.
She likes to serve bread puddings made with pumpkin cranberry or lemon blueberry muffins. Muffins can be used, too, in making trifles, ice cream cakes, or other desserts.
So, does this “muffin lady” ever tire of muffins herself? “No,” she assures me.
Modern Muffin Ice Cream Cake
- 5-6 muffins, such as banana chocolate chip
- Jam or crushed pineapple (optional)
- Chopped bananas, strawberries, chocolate syrup, chocolate chips, nuts
- Ice cream, any flavor
Crumble 5-6 muffins into a glass dish (freezer-safe). Any flavor will work, but Putterman used banana chocolate chip. If you’re in the mood for something juicy and tart, you can add a layer of jam or crushed pineapple. Add layer of chopped bananas, strawberries, chocolate syrup, chocolate chips, and nuts. Add generous layer of ice cream. Any flavor will work. Cover and put in freezer for 1-2 hours and wait for dessert to set. Serve and enjoy.
(Recipe from Claire Putterman)
Hope Yancey is a freelance writer in Charlotte. She is a regular contributor to the community news editions of The Charlotte Observer.