Post feed
 Comments feed

Friday, January 9, 2009

Yes, you know it's good news

During the break I managed to do a fair bit of cooking. Never as much as I'd like, of course, but more than I usually have time for. The bach kitchen is fairly well set up - it only lacks a weighing machine - and most of my favourite recipes I carry in my head, so it didn't matter that the "Bach Recipes" folder is a bit on the thin side.

While refining my technique on honey date muffins one morning, I noticed that my baking method has, through experience and experimentation, become quite different from that described in most cookbooks. When making cookies or muffins, the average recipe will tell you to:

  1. Soften the butter
  2. Transfer it to another bowl
  3. Cream the butter and sugar
  4. Add eggs and vanilla to the butter mix
  5. Sift the dry ingredients in yet another bowl
  6. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients
  7. Add fruits, nuts, chocolate etc

There are a few things wrong with this method. First is the transferring of the butter from one container to another. When butter is soft it's almost impossible to move it without leaving some behind, so much better to just soften it in the same container that you're going to use for working with it. A related problem is the use of two different bowls for the liquids and dry ingredients, which creates unnecessary dishes as well as more serious technical issues (see below).

Second is the whole issue of creaming the butter and sugar. While this exhausting and time-consuming process is very necessary for more delicate products like scones and some cakes, it's a total waste of time for muffins and cookies. Cookies are very hardy - the only way you can stuff them up is by burning them. For muffins, the only tricky part is not over-mixing them. Neither relies on having light, fluffy creamed butter and sugar to start off with, so just melt the butter already. If you beat the sugar in pretty vigorously then you end up with something that's fairly fluffy anyway.

Finally, the practice of adding liquids to drys. Whoever came up with this idea, and what made them think it was a good one? If you add liquid to flour, it's very difficult to ensure that the flour is all combined. Inevitably you get halfway through spooning your mixture into pans, or rolling it into balls, and you discover that there's a large pocket of dry, uncombined flour in the bottom of your bowl. Mixing this in to what remains of your batter will result in strange variations in the consistency of your product (that is, some muffins will be dryer than others) and general unsatisfactoriness. If, on the other hand, you add dry to wet - sift the flour directly into your liquids - this issue never arises.

When you combine the solutions to all these problems into one glorious meta-solution, you get...

Fibby's one-pot fail-proof cookie and muffin method

  1. Prepare the fruit or nuts first. You'll need them to be ready at step 8. Get the nearest idle soul to grease your muffin tins with soft butter. (For cookies, don't use grease, use baking paper.)
  2. Melt the butter completely in your largest pot over your lowest heat.
  3. Take it off the heat when only small bits of solid butter remain. Swirl to complete melting.
  4. Add the sugar or honey and beat furiously.
  5. Add the eggs, vanilla, and any other liquids that go at this stage. Beat again.
  6. Sieve the dry ingredients directly into the pot. Do the flour first and baking powder last, to avoid the baking powder being activated too soon by overlong contact with the warm butter.
  7. Don't leave the sifted mixture sitting too long unmixed, or the baking powder will go frothy.
  8. Put the fruits in on top of the flour.
  9. Mix it - hard for cookies, gently for muffins. Muffin batter needs to be quite soft, so be prepared to add milk or water. Cookie dough, on the other hand, can be very hard, especially if there are chocolate chips in it. Be prepared to tip it out and get your hands into it to finish the mixing.
  10. Spoon it, roll it, cook it, eat it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You can use $\LaTeX$ here if you like. Enclose it in "$" or "\[" as if you were using your favourite editor.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.