I am the muffin man

Having finished Alton Brown’s two books (I’m Just Here for the Food: Version 2.0 and I’m Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking) I decided to give a recipe a try. Choosing a first item from preparation wasn’t too hard. The decision in a way was made for me out of necessity for breakfast food for tomorrow morning. I’ve chose to make blueberry muffins and thus use the lessons out of his second book while using the “Muffin Method”. Alton breaks up his recipes by the method required to create them rather than grouping seemingly similar items like doughs and cakes. His groupings include: “the Muffin method, the Biscuit Method, the Pie Variation, the Creaming Method, the Straight Dough Method, the Egg Foam Method, and the Custards”.

Overall he takes a very scientific approach to cooking and introduces something that I was not aware of with baking recipes. Baking as I have learned is very precise given the exact ratios of ingredients necessary to produce the chemical reactions necessary to create your final product. While every recipe I have read in my life provided ingredient lists consisting of cups and teaspoons and pinches of this and that, baking recipes are actually given using precise weighted measurements just as they would be given commercially. The precise reason for this being that a cup of flour isn’t always a cup of flour due to the humidity, how tightly packed it is and other variables mentioned in his book. This makes replicating success and avoiding failure much easier…provided that you have a scale which I of course did not. I decided to continue forward and hope for the best. Bakers didn’t always have the luxury of being so precise so I hoped that I would be ok. This is where I encountered my first lesson common to amatuers, that of mise en place. It is a term well known by experienced cooks simply meaning everything should be in it’s place and ready to go before you begin your task.

I got out all of my necessary tools: my bowls, my measuring cups, baking tin, food processor and other utensils. Then I got out my ingredients and realized I didn’t have any baking soda at 10:45PM. The only thing open at this point was 7/11 and with luck they had some, saving me from despair. After much preparation and baking my muffins were done and I took them out of the oven  to set on my cooling racks. They cooled and I was rewarded with a perfect muffin, one unlike any other I had tasted before, and yet one like I always wanted.

The recipe named “Old School Muffins”, were moist, and sweat and yet not too sweet and perfect in size. Not only that, but they had a fluffy texture that made them that much better to eat. The turned out just as described. Interestingly enough as Alton explains, the muffins that I usually eat from big chain coffee shops and the like are actually more akin to cakes than muffins. They always are too sweet and have a texture that couldn’t be further from homemade.

I’m really happy with my result thanks to beginners luck. I can’t wait to make my next batch.

My First Batch Feb 21, 2009
My First Batch Feb 21, 2009

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