Tuesday, 21 July 2009

italians do it better...with italian brownie muffins

i came across this recipe on a blog called italialicious and it just kinda caught my eye in that it had a whole cup of olive oil in it! i mean first of all, i have NEVER used olive oil when baking muffins so i was curious to see what the effect was. the blog itself is a delightful array of italian recipes from pasta to tiramisu. i have thoroughly enjoyed reading through the many recipes.

so anyway, i got everything together and was surprised at the texture of the batter. i mean it was pretty dense and kinda had a gelatinous quality to it...i had a moment of...'oh no' but pushed on because one of the many joys of baking (thank god) is that don't always be fooled by the batter.
i deviated from the original recipe a bit in that i don't trust essences here in indonesia. mostly because, most of them look like substances you might have used in chemistry lab experiments when you were at school...bright orange, yellow...thick, scary, flourescent...you get the idea...(i'll take a picture next time i'm in the supermarket just in case you don't!) so i didn't add any orange essence or zest. but everything else i kept to.

popped them in the oven and they rose really well. still need some fiddling with the oven though, because a couple were a tad too well done on top for my liking - someone mentioned i should go to the beach and get some sand and spread it on a tray and leave it at the bottom of the oven to distribute the heat more evenly, it could be time to do this as the muffins on the sides of the tray are baking faster than the ones in the middle.
anyway out they came (i'd also sprinkled some chocolate chips on top) and cooled off.
then came the taste test...these were very cake-like, as opposed to fudgey (which some more american brownies can be, but often i find fudgey textures to be very heavy) and had a very good strong chocolate flavour (which probably had a lot to do with the one cup of ghirardelli cocoa that went in - carried with love from singapore as not available in indonesia!) i really enjoyed them and found them to be rich, without being heavy and moist without being fudgey. a nice combination both of flavour and texture.

in this case...i might just have to agree that italians definitely do it better :)

Thursday, 16 July 2009

experimenting with jam doughnut muffins...

ok, so experimentations continue...i baked some lemon drizzle muffins two days ago and decided not to bore you with the photos as i believe i baked them before and they are lurking somewhere in the depths of the archives. however, jam doughnut muffins, now there is something that i haven't tried before and completely fell in love with the idea when i found them on Nigella Lawson's website. after a little more web research, i located two different recipes that both said they were nigella's and not being 100% sure about either one i decided to try both...

Jam Doughnut Muffin Recipe #1

125ml milk
85ml vegetable oil
1 large egg
1/2 t. vanilla extract
200g self-raising flour
100g caster sugar
12 t. jam

you know the drill for muffins, right? dry ingredients + wet ingredients = muffin batter. don't over mix or you're gonna be in trouble. bake until it looks done and a sharp implement comes out clean...i can't give baking times right now...if you see my oven post you'll understand why, ok!

well, when i started spooning this batter into the muffin cases...it was really runny. so naturally as i plopped a teaspoon of jam on top...it instantly sank to the bottom...you know this cannot be a good thing because jam is sticky and this means your muffin is probably going to stick to the bottom of the muffin case. so as i was going along i was adding more flour to the mixture to thicken it up. i stopped when the jam wasn't sinking anymore. so when they baked, the ones with more flour in them rose more (not sure why i found this so interesting...but hey!)

the recipe called for to brush with butter and roll in granulated sugar but i'm not so sure about that...i kinda like the idea of dusting them with icing sugar (maybe in some very distant memory i ate a doughnut like that?) it seems more delicate and less sugary.

ok so after the all important taste test, disappointingly, the jam sank to the bottom in all the muffins (no i didn't eat them all myself to check!!!!! - i tasted the first and the last) the first muffin with the runniest batter, the jam had seeped through and was all over the bottom and on the muffin case...for the last muffin, with the thickest batter, the jam hadn't seeped through but had sunk to the bottom of the muffin with just a thin layer of cake separating it from the case.

taste-wise the muffin was good...slightly reminiscent of jam doughnuts but definitely not the best likeness i've ever had...and so on to...

Jam Doughnut Muffin Recipe #2

2 c. self-raising flour
1/3 c. caster sugar
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 egg
175ml buttermilk
1 t. vanilla
8 t. jam
pinch of salt

dry + wet = muffin batter
don't overmix

i started spooning the batter in and putting in the jam...and lo and behold it sank again (this bloody jam thing is going down faster than the titanic, for goodness sake!) and then i realised that in the recipe it said make an indentation in the batter once you have spooned into cup...oops...i think i added too much milk cos mine definitely wasn't indentation-able!

anyway...onwards onwards...i kept going...not adding more flour...just wanted to get the darn things in the oven.

and of course when they came out...the jam had sunk faster than the titanic all the way to the bottom...and taste-wise...not much different than the first one.

maybe jam doughnuts just aren't for me (honestly i currently am in love with the black forest doughnut from J.Co here...but that's for another day)

Monday, 13 July 2009

bakin' it old skool style...

ok, so today the emphasis REALLY isn't on what i baked it's the fact that i BAKED...this was an experiment in going back to basics and baking old skool and seeing if i could really pull it off...and wow! i did. i mean that crazy contraption i bought actually works...and for nostalgias sake i decided to bake the very first recipe i kick-started my blog with...chocolate chip muffins. and i mean let's face it, muffins are quite hardy...i can just imagine them in there in the contraption, muscling each other out the way, vying for the heat and then doing their utmost to rise (unlike the delicate cupcake which might not be very impressed at being baked in such a contraption and stay stubbornly flat) - what? food doesn't talk to you? really? you've never walked down the aisle in the supermarket and had the chocolate call out to you tempting promises, the chilli whisper spicy secrets...maybe it's just me?

so the long and short of it is, that you don't need fancy contraptions...ok, i hid under the table for most of the cooking time (for fear of explosions), the oven got freaking hot on the outside (well it is made of aluminium) and i narrowly avoided some third degree burns and heat control could be a potential issue...but this is a huge step up from no oven and no baking which let's face it equals up to a big fat NO LIFE for me!

so i reckon a few more experiments with the muscly, hardy muffins before i take the plunge and try some delicate little angelic cupcakes. but seriously, i'm beaming from ear to ear...onward fellow bakers...onward...

Sunday, 12 July 2009

and then there was an oven...or was there?

ok so basically 'mission accomplished'...i mean i set out to buy a traditional oven and buy a traditional oven i did. however, i must admit i was not quite expecting it to be THAT traditional and THAT back to basics...so all you bakers out there, with your fabulous ovens, that you take for granted...think of me fondly every time you open yours as i return to what can only be a time before the caveman...when one was expected to bake in an overgrown coca-cola can with a window cut in it (wait a minute...the cavemen did drink coca-cola, right?) and actually STOP...i'm not being fair here...this contraption called an oven is far more advanced than the meagre coca-cola can...let us take a closer look...

we have the super advanced heat indicator

the up-to-date safety locking system

and let's not forget...the hole in the bottom for us to pop it on the gas stove to blast the heat in
yes that's right my friends...this modern invention needs no plug, socket, cable...you just turn on the gas, pop it on the stove and off you go! and all for the bargain price of Rp. 325,000 that's $32.50 for all you peeps who chose to deal in hard currency!
ok ok, i'm being totally unfair here...it's not like i paid a fortune for it, right. it's not like i haven't been dying to get back to baking. it's not like i can actually afford right now to buy a swanky-wanky top of the range oven...so this is the way i have chosen to go and go i must. the (mis)adventures will begin shortly and are sure to be entertaining...meanwhile i might just need to re-think the name of my blog...i mean how does airy fairy can-cakes or airy fairy tin-cakes sound? any other suggestions gratefully received...

Saturday, 11 July 2009

on a mission...

right...this is it...i'm suffering SERIOUS baking withdrawal symptoms as it has been over how many months since i last baked something (as opposed to cooked!) due to lack of access to an oven...ovens are expensive here in Indonesia...well at least when you are earning a salary comparable to what minimum wagers might earn back home and while i have waited and waited for one to miraculously drop from the sky via a stork or grow on my tree, it appears neither are going to happen anytime soon. so i have heard through the grapevine of a 'traditional' oven that is available here. that looks like a portable microwave and you put it on top of the stove and you can bake in it. ok, so i'm thinking it sounds either completely ingenious or a serious experiment in disaster...either way it is sure to be entertaining and provide the possibility for untold blog posts. so today, i am taking matters into my own hands and i am off on that very mission...to find myself a traditional oven...no idea where to look but will ask some friendly people by the roadside to point me in the right direction (after a correct explanation of what it is i'm actually looking for!) fingers crossed and if it all goes the way of peaches and cream...i'll be happily back in the land of baking all over again...and even prouder for doing it the 'back to basics' method...wish me luck...