The Joys and Sorrows of Baking Muffins
At Faculty House, after the lunch hour, when the guests had left, my colleagues, including Lianji, my Chinese friend, and I sat down to lunch. I ate blackened wahoo or chicken piccata with rice or whatever was on the menu that day - I just happen to remember some dishes. And, always Lianji made sure we got our muffins. He would carefully stash away in the warmer a few before our lunch.
I would slather butter - I remember the pats with parsley sprinkled on them - on the muffins and watch the butter melt slowly down the sides. Oh, how we looked forward to that communal lunch after a hard shift!
Several years later, I baked my first muffins in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where I lived for almost a year. I had bought a non-stick muffin pan. The muffins came out perfectly fine.
I replicated the success a year ago back home in Kolkata, India. My interest had been rekindled by "Muffins," a book by Elizabeth Alston, the food editor at Woman's Day magazine.
But, I recently messed up a batch of muffins. I'd started out to make orange marmalade muffins. I followed the recipe precisely except for the size of the egg - I had a small egg, while the recipe called for a large egg.
When I folded the wet ingredients - egg, yogurt, butter and vanilla - into the dry mixture of flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, I ran out of the wet portion. The flour mixture became dough instead of batter. I ran to my mother with the mixing bowl in hand. I was sweating profusely in the hot Kolkata afternoon. I was baking this for my colleagues for my birthday treat.
My mother suggested adding another egg or a little milk. I chose the extra egg, beating it into the dough-like mixture.
When the muffins came out of the oven, I gingerly broke one to eat. The marmalade looked and tasted fine in the core, but the texture of the muffin seemed tough and chewy, and, worse, it smelled of egg!
I took the muffins to office anyway. My colleagues ate one each. They downplayed the flaw, but one was candid enough to say the muffin smelled of egg.
When I analyzed the flaw, I thought the last-minute addition of the extra egg undid the muffins. Or, else why would they be so tough? True, I hadn't sifted the baking powder with the flour for even distribution, but was that fatal?
I have no idea. It's for you to judge without eating the muffins - I wouldn't even offer them to you. What went wrong?
In her book, Alston talks about the two main kinds of muffins based on the procedure of mixing: stirred and creamed. I have baked cakes and brownies before with great results, and all I can say is I am more at ease with the creamed method, in which the dry ingredients go into the wet and not the other way round.
But, the big question is: Will I continue to bake both kinds of muffins? You bet.