Thursday, June 10, 2010

Today's Installment of Baking Lessons Learned

1. Always keep paper boxes and cute plastic bags on hand. Homemade baked goods require lots of love and energy, and they deserve a cute presentation. Today I had to make do with ziplocs and a wrapping-paper bag. A semi-fail.
2.There's a reason that Food Network chefs/cooks are on television giving their hints and go-to moves. Listen to them, and if you do feel the need to alter their tactics, be sure you have a confident reason for your plans. You'll see my attempt below.
3. For many recipes there is no need to preheat your oven right at the beginning. by the time you figure the darn thing out, your nicely placed home in southern Texas has been conveniently heated by your oven for an extra 20 minutes or so.
4. To avoid said problem with oven, read the recipe (ingredients and process) ahead of time. You will find out that perhaps you not only need your butter at room temperature, but also your milk and buttermilk. I don't know where you get your milk from, but mine comes cold.
5. (Fine print--this lesson might not apply for all recipes.) While a recipe might call for a state of the art stand mixer with a "paddle" to combine ingredients, many times you can simply get away with your hand-held (yes, but still electric) good ole' my-husband-owned-this-kitchen-mixer-before-we-were-married variety. It worked for this one.

6. When baking, make full preparations for blogging and therefore food photographing before you begin.  View the nugget of visual pleasure below, and you will see that my photos, well, they will just look silly.

After feasting your eyes from the given food porn, (Come on, do you see that cinnamon-sugar dust bouncing off the tops of those muffins?), time to answer what prompted such lessons.  Ladies and gentlemen, make sure you are sitting down for this one. Well, why wouldn't you be? Who reads blogs standing up? Allow me to welcome you to the marriage of doughnuts and muffins! When I first saw CHOW's Doughnut Muffins, I knew they were worth giving a shot to add to my breakfast repertoire.

Here's how I threw these gems down.

Donut Muffins (Yes, that's how we spell them in LA) (Adapted from CHOW Doughnut Muffins)
For the coating:
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
**Cajun Cowgirl's Note: Although I was short about 15 muffins, I had tons of this heavenly powder left over. After tasting, I also realized I could have been more liberal with my coating as well.

For the muffins:

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for coating the tin
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (This stuff is like Christmas morning to the old olfactory system!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks), at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
For the coating:
  1. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.

For the muffins:

1. Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Lightly brush a 24-well mini muffin tin with some of the melted butter, then coat with flour, tapping out any excess; set aside. This was a fun mess to make. CHOW suggests reserving  remaining melted butter for applying the cinnamon-sugar coating. By the time I was ready for that step, my butter has solidified and I had to remelt, so I might not melt the entire stick next time.

2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and baking soda. In a small bowl, whisk together milk and buttermilk. Set both aside. Sorry, no pictures of my milk and buttermilk combo, but that's not hard to imagine right?

3. The directions next read, "In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes." Stand mixer, schmand mixer. See below. I'd have to argue that my lightness of color and fluff-factor are right on point.

Next, beat in eggs one at a time until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.


4. With the mixer set on low speed, beat in a quarter of the  dry ingredients. Then beat in a third of the reserved milk mixture. Continue to alternate until all of the remaining ingredients are incorporated, finishing with the dry ingredients. Avoid over-mixing. 

5. Fill the prepared muffin tin wells just to the rim with batter. Bake until muffins are lightly golden and firm to the touch, about 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the tin and transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Repeat buttering and flouring of the muffin tin and bake the remaining batter. 

Aren't these cute? Reminds of the mushrooms in Super Mario Brothers!
6. For the final step, coat the muffins by brushing each generously with melted butter and sprinkling generously with cinnamon-sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Did I not notice the word "generously" in there twice? I think mine could have used a bit more cinnamon-sugar love.)

    **Note: Here's the picture displaying Lesson #2. 
    After watching Giada make Coffee-Glazed Italian Doughnuts for a bridal lunch she was hosting ( I want her to be my friend so bad!), I picked up on her tip of using the wire rack for coating sweet treats so that the excess just drips/falls off the sides. However, what I failed to notice was her baking pan underneath the wire rack. This made for quite a messy counter, and with a cinnamon-sugar concoction being dusted everywhere, quite a messy floor as well.  I thought I was avoiding washing another dish, but instead found myself faced with a disaster of a counter-top and a grainy floor.

    While CHOW ventures to claim that the fried bites of heaven that we like to call doughnuts would fall far short in a head-to-head against these muffins, I must add that while these are tasty muffins I'd serve to any guest, they are no doughnuts.  Hardly a comparison, BUT they are tasty, and you should give them a shot!

    CHOW's suggested Variation: Jelly Doughnut Muffins
    If jelly doughnuts are more your style, allow the muffins to cool and use a small pastry tip to make a hole in the bottom of each. Fill the pastry bag with your favorite jam, jelly, or citrus curd and squeeze some into the muffins.

    Cowgirl's suggested Variation: Glaze It Up!
    While I'm not sure how I'd make this happen (perhaps take a hint from Giada's Zeppole), these cute treats could use some sort of glaze. You could even vary it up for various seasons. I'm feeling something lemony for spring and perhaps maple-y in the fall.  At the very least, go wild with some vanilla.


    kc said...

    Those look great! Don't be so hard on yourself :)

    Anonymous said...

    I hate the oven thing too... why don't they put it in the middle of the recipe! : )