Monday, February 18, 2008

Banana muffins

True confession: I'm not good at making muffins. I can make every other kind of baked good. Crusty yeast breads, tender cakes, chewy cookies, gooey brownies -- no problem. My muffins certainly have been edible, but great muffins -- the kind with the high, rounded tops and fluffy insides -- have eluded me. I have tried recipe after recipe, and I'll keep trying until I've found "the one."

My latest try was banana muffins, the recipe from Pro Bono Baker, a blogger from (sigh...) Chicago. (Since I didn't modify the recipe significantly, you can get it there.) The picture on HER blog looked perfect, and the ingredients are always in my kitchen, so I thought the recipe looked promising.

Right off the bat, I made an inadvertent substitution. The recipe called for four egg whites, and I had exactly four eggs. When I separated the first egg, I broke the yolk. So I ended up using one whole egg and two whites, which should not have been a problem.

I was a bit confused when the recipe said to mix softened butter, sugar and egg whites. Usually recipes with softened butter call for you to mix the butter and sugar, then the egg. And usually the fat in muffins is in liquid form. So after doing this step by hand (I don't use the mixer for making muffins because I don't want to overmix them), my batter had little bits of butter in it. I wasn't sure if this was right but I forged ahead. I did the rest as directed, and really, REALLY tried to be careful not to overmix! I stirred until it was just combined, I think. The only changes I made were to substitute King Arthur white whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour, add walnuts to half of the muffins, and sprinkle the tops with a little Turbinado sugar. The recipe said to bake for 40 minutes but mine were done in a little less than 30.

In the end, they were reasonably good -- my older son pronounced them "awesome." But they still didn't have that high dome top or fluffy insides. My gut feeling is that even though I try not to overmix, I probably am. I think I need Alton Brown looking over my shoulder to tell me, STOP .... RIGHT .... THERE!!! Or maybe the white whole wheat flour is too heavy for this kind of recipe? Anyway, don't let my experience stop you from trying this recipe. The problem probably is with the baker, not the recipe.

Sigh ... I'll keep trying ...

5 comments:

RecipeGirl said...

Sounds like you had a frustrating muffin-making experience! Muffins are among my favorite things to bake. Keep trying :)

gemma said...

Hi there, sorry they didn't work out! Using only three eggs, adding egg yolk, whole wheat flour, and nuts would definitely make them MUCH heavier though. The egg whites help to give them the lift and sheen that I found appealing in my experiment. I too often over-mix, that could also be a culprit. I will try to make these again soon to give you a some more pointers. I'm glad your son liked them though!

A. Grace said...

i've gotta tell ya, i think your muffins look better. not that i would push pro bono baker's muffins away, mind you...i just think i'd prefer yours. :)

Emiline said...

I know you don't want to hear this, but...I think your muffins look good. You're crazy!

The egg thing sounds kind of weird to me too. Hmmm...
I don't think I've ever baked a muffin for 40 minutes.

chou said...

You could also consider beating egg whites to stiff peaks and folding them into the wet batter to add some extra leavening without affecting the flavor. I think if you do that you'd want to use 2-3 additional egg whites beyond what the recipe calls for.

It's worth noting that those gorgeous, fluffy (e.g. cake-like) muffins you're seeking probably have more fat in them than the recipes you've worked with. Just a thought.

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