Friday, April 09, 2010

Playing with Chemistry

I'm a chemistry bug. I got a 105% in chem my senior year actually. I love it. I think that's why baking is so natural for me--it's chemistry. Look at a recipe for a cake--it's a formula. Cooking a steak isn't a formula. When you add heat, you essentially have all of the same things you started with only yummier. But baking is tasty science and, instead of just blowing off your eyebrows, you get to eat your work. Sure, you could use a mix and technically, it's still science. I use mixes sometimes too. (don't gasp, it's no secret; sometimes the babes need me or Mr. Devilin has Gundam downloaded). But, when no such distraction is around and I'm alone with my kitchen, I bake from scratch. It doesn't make me feel smarmy, it makes me feel like I'm feeding my family REAL food...and maybe being a bit of a mad scientist when nobody's looking.
There are some staple baked goods that everyone should have (you know, because I said so)....Vanilla cupcakes are on that list. I know, you're thinking "Um, no, chocolate please." Well, you gotta crawl before you can walk and you can always put chocolate buttercream on top so shut up and take some notes because you want this recipe (again, because I said so).

1/2#(yes, pound) of softened BUTTER (not margarine, throw that crap out!!)
cut the butter into cubes please

4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (this would be a great time to use the good stuff, the REAL stuff you've been holding on to)
3 1/2 fl. oz milk (that's nearly half a cup)

11 1/2 oz cake flour (what??? you bought a cake tester but not a kitchen scale???? Honey, this is SCIENCE, buy the damn scale)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp KOSHER salt
12 oz sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare the muffin tins for about 1 1/2 dozen (give or take)
In a mixing bowl, mix all those dry ingredients (yes, with the sugar). Toss in the butter a few chunks at a time. Turn up the speed and look for the mixture to look like cornmeal or crumbly pie crust.
In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, vanilla and milk together. Pour ONE CUP of this mixture into the dry mix and turn up the speed of the mixer--this is the only time you are going to add air to your batter so whoop it up.
Turn down the speed and slowly stream in the remaining liquid. Scrape down the bowl and beater. Continue to blend the batter at a medium pace until the batter looses it's shine and turns matte and whiter.
Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl, folding from top to bottom, looking for chunks. Use an icecream scoop to fill the papers (that you've kindly sprayed) 3/4 full.
Bake until golden, feel free to rotate these beauties after 10 minutes if your oven sucks (like mine does).

Congratulations! Not only did you just score a highly coveted cupcake recipe from a professional, you just learn what is called "the biscuit method" and you just used science for good and not evil.


Principalk said...

Why does your baking expertise make me feel so damn skill-less? and by the way, when I took chemistry, Mr. McCrillis still taught, and even with copies of the test I got a "C" because some Baptist guilt got the best of me and I JUST COULDN'T CHEAT. What the hell? I love your recipe and am gonna try the cupcakes and biscuits this weekend now that I am home. Love ya, girl.

Principalk said...

The more I read the recipe, the more I am intimidated.

betty crocker said...

No no no no. Take a swig of "courage" and try them

ash said...

oooh! i know how to make cake flour now⁄!! since publix doesn't carry it. but i'm gonna have to use one of john's archery scales to weigh it.....

Courtney said...

Okay, what exactly is cake flour? I have never heard of that. No, I am not a baker, but am totally going to take a swing at this... with a little help... (Ash, I have a small kitchen scale you can use. Yay me!) :-)

betty crocker said...

Hi Courtney! (I will have NO PROBLEM remembering your name!)
Cake flour is highly refined flour. It's lighter and whiter than all purpose (AP) flour. Flour grade goes something like whole wheat flour, bread flour, AP flour, cake flour. The most common brand is Swan's Down Cake flour and it comes in a box instead of a box. Most groceries stores put it up on some top shelf in the baking aisle to show how little faith they have in the baking public. IF you can't find it, substitute 7/8 cups APa and a tablespoon of cornstarch for each cup of cake flour (measure then sift together for an even blend).

betty crocker said...

haha--I meant it comes in a box instead of a bag-can you tell I was listening to a six year tell me about dinosaurs right then?