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Archive for Wednesday, January 28, 1998

MUFFINS OFFER TEXTURE TO DIE FOR

January 28, 1998

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Kitchen and Garden By Gwyn Mellinger: Muffins for your special muffin

The latest Williams-Sonoma catalog arrived the other day, bearing a cover photo of delectable-looking heart-shaped muffins -- a whole golden brown pile of them. These particular muffins are striking a fresh-from-the-oven pose, peeking out from behind a red and white cloth napkin.

I pointed this out to my husband, who takes a cynical view toward kitchen gadgetry and gimmickry in general. Although I have never been able to convince this man that he needs an electric can opener in his life, I have succeeded in teaching him the basics of microwave oven operation. He can warm a cold cup of coffee.

Just to see what he'd say, I asked him whether he wouldn't be truly impressed if I sent away for one of those heart-shaped muffin tins and baked a bunch of heart-shaped muffins for Valentine's Day.

The answer was a curt negative.

"Besides," he said, "you never make muffins."

I could only sputter in astonishment, as I have, at various times of my life, baked muffins as a matter of routine. It certainly wouldn't have occurred to me that the muffin was regarded as a stranger in my kitchen. However, when I got to thinking about it, I had to admit that it had been a good long while since I had pulled a muffin out of the oven.

From this realization grew my excuse to try a blueberry muffin

recipe I've looked at a couple of times in the "Baking with Julia" anthology by Dorie Greenspan. The extra effort required by this recipe is worth the result, namely muffins with an exceptionally light, moist texture.

For one thing, the recipe calls for cake flour. Don't give into the temptation to substitute all-purpose flour because you won't get the same result.

Cake flour, which is a necessary ingredient in sponge cakes such as angel food and genoise, is ground from soft wheat, whereas all-purpose flour is a blend of hard and soft. Cake flour, which also is milled more finely and produces less expansive gluten, doesn't really work for general use. Look for it in the grocery store in a box among the cake mixes, not with the bagged flours.

These muffins also derive their light texture from the leavening -- baking soda, cream of tartar and salt, which are the ingredients of baking powder. In this particular mixture, the proportion of soda is heavier.

According to the original "Joy of Cooking," which is still the basic authority on substitutions and food chemistry, the rule-of-thumb recipe for homemade baking powder is: 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar and 1/2 teaspoon salt per cup of flour in a recipe. Sadly, much of this kind of information has been edited out of the cookbook's revised edition.

Blueberry Muffins

1you won't get the same result.

Cake flour, which is a necessary ingredient in sponge cakes such as angel food and genoise, is ground from soft wheat, whunsalted butter, at room temperature

hard and soft. Cake flour, which also is milled more finely and produces less expansive gluten, doesn't really work for general use. Look for it in the grocery store in a box among the cake mixes, not with the bagged flours.

These muffins also derive their light texture from the leavening -- baking soda, cream of tartar and salt, which are the ingredients of baking powder. In this particular mixture, the proportion of soda is heavier.

According to the original "Joy of Cooking," which is still the basic authority on substitutions and food chemistry, the rule-of-thumb recipe for homemade baking powder is: 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar and 1/2 teaspoon salt per cup of flour in a recipe. Sadly, much of this kind of information has been edited out of the cookbook's revised edition.

Blueberry Muffins

1you won't get the same result.

Cake flour, which is a necessary ingredient in sponge cakes such as angel food and genoise, is ground from soft wheat, whe remaining dry and liquid ingredients and fold in only until just mixed. Fold in the blueberries only to the just-mixed stage.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins and bake for 18 to 20

minutes, or until the tops, which will be flat, are golden brown and spring back when lightly pressed. Turn the muffins out onto a cooling rack.

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