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Baking v Cooking; Savory morning muffins

As Emeril says on his shows, You can put your own personality into cooking, but it’s very difficult to do this in baking. In baking you gotta follow the formula. That’s because cooking is an art while baking is a science.

I actually did well in science in high school. Me and my late friend Melanie jockeyed for position at the top of the class in theoretical chemistry with a friendly competition over who could get the higher test scores. I could really nail those theorems and apply all the right formulas to solve the calculations. You’d think I’d be able to get baking.

But I don’t.

See, the way I cook is with inspiration (based on a recipe I might have seen, or a restaurant meal I’ve eaten, or simply what I have in the fridge) and desire (what do I feel like eating/cooking?) along with a dose of time constraints (is it 5 o’clock already? I’d better start thinking about what to make for dinner!) and a skew towards healthier foods and cooking methods.

When I apply the same qualities I use when I cook (inspiration, desire, time, healthy) to a baking project, I’m often disappointed with the results.

Duh: baking is a formula, not a creative endeavor! I should know better.

For me, cooking is often an artistic expression, a creative outlet. The problems come when I try to be creative with my baking, too… sometimes successfully, sometimes not. I can’t seem to get it through my head that I must follow the formula/recipe exactly as written to get good baked goods. My stubborn nature gets in the way. I just can’t help myself. Tell me I can’t do something and my first question is usually, “Why not?”

Yet, I still try to bake sometimes. Usually because I see a recipe for a baked good and I get inspired. This should probably be my first clue to set it down and step away from the recipe. But no. I blunder on heedlessly, blithely thinking that I can mold the recipe to my liking and end up with something delicious. As I did last month when I saw a recipe for savory breakfast muffins in the newspaper.

Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins, in fact.

Savory Breakfast Muffins
Savory Breakfast Muffins

These would be great, I thought, to make as mini-muffins and keep in the freezer. Just pop one in the toaster oven for a quick and substantial breakfast. Like a one-pot meal for breakfast. What a great idea! They’re sugar-free, so maybe they’d even be acceptable to my sugar-phobic husband.

Except, well, the ham part kinda disgusts me, so no ham.

And I don’t have buttermilk, so I’m just going to use the same amount of whole milk.

The recipe calls for finely diced red pepper, but I’m going to use finely diced zucchini as well. I’m sure it won’t make a difference.

Oh yes, and to make it a little healthier, I’m going to substitute 1 cup of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour. Just because I’ll feel better about serving them if they have whole grains in them.

Let’s not forget that I’m at altitude, but I have no idea what to do to adjust for this, so I don’t. I like to use it as an excuse, though.

So, instead of following the formula for Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins like Emeril says you must when baking, I used the recipe more like it was a guide with suggestions. I’m the kind of person that chafes when told I have to follow the rules. Baking has rules. This should have been clue #2.

The biggest bummer with trying to make baked goods healthier by changing the recipes is that things often go directly to the trash, and I hate wasting food. These were truly inedible. My Ham-Free Ham and Cheese No-Buttermilk Breakfast Mini-Muffins were like little chunks of sandstone. Super dry and crumbly, tasteless except for an overwhelming sensation of cayenne in the back of your mouth.

Next time maybe I’ll try to follow a recipe for baked goods as it is actually written. There’s always hope.

Here’s the original recipe, if you want to give it a try yourself:

Serves 12

3 c all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking solda
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 large eggs
1 1/3 c buttermilk
2 Tbsp. canola oil
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 c thinly sliced scallions (about 1 bunch)
1 cup diced ham (6 oz)
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 c finely diced red bell pepper (1 small)

Heat oven to 400 degress. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray or line it with muffin cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pepper, salt, and cayenne pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk togethe the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and butter. Sir in the scallions, ham, cheese and bell pepper.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and use a rubber spatula to mix until just moistened. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan (the cups will be very full).

Bake the muffins until the tops are browned, about 20-25 min. Let the muffins coolin the pan for 15 min, then loosen the edges with a knife and transer the muffins to a cooling rack. Serve warm.

To store, individually wrap the muffins in plastic and refrigerate for as many as 3 days or freeze for as long as a month.

To reheat, remove the plastic wrap, cover the muffin in a paper towl and microwave on high for 30 sec.

cal 248,  fat 11g,   chol 62 mg,  carb 27, pro 10g, fiber 1g, sodium 787 mg

Tell me your results if you try it!

Posted in: Recipes

19 Comments on “Baking v Cooking; Savory morning muffins

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  9. Silly Elizabeth 😉 Rebellion is for kids! Change Your World is for grownups…

    Baking isn’t about rules, it’s about CHEMISTRY. As a good scientist, you know that you just have to know HOW things work, and THEN you can play around with the recipe.

    I grew up with a mom who had decided she couldn’t bake, so our cakes were from a box and biscuits were from a can. She’s 90! now and never would try again to bake.

    Don’t limit yourself! Just figure out the chemistry, which is all about PROPORTIONS of wet/dry/leavening/load to lift and you’ll be set.

    My mom’s decision that she “couldn’t bake” seemed dumb and self-defeating to me, and I wasn’t about to get stuck in that box. So, I started with bundt cakes, and moved on to bread – by myself – when I was 16. I bought a book and pans with my allowance, and I was on a mission! I had my share of bird food… don’t throw those muffins out – feed them to the birds and squirrels! (Maybe not with cayenne…)

    The most important thing I learned about baking was to change just ONE THING at a time in a new recipe. (oh yeah, and always crack the eggs into a separate bowl… that CRUNCHY birthday cake I had begged to make for my aunt when I was 9 will follow me forever!)

    It’s been 39 yrs (wow does time fly) since those first attempts at bread, and now I have more confidence to change things, but I’m still (kind of) conservative with the changes in baking.

    Just recently learned to put BEANS and COTTAGE CHEESE in the same loaf of bread in order to get the protein up – credit to Laurel’s Kitchen (you would love her approach to nurturing family) and This guy is your neighbor – teaching bread classes at 7,700 feet!

    He mentions the Colorado State U Extension Service for general cooking info. I bet they could help you with high altitude quick breads – I’m gonna be NO HELP! I live 60 miles east of the Big Pond at 200’…

    I’d love to try that savory muffin recipe (I’m working hard to stay out of sugar too… and lost 30! pounds for my effort) – but it looks like you’re short on eggs… for that volume of flour and extra weighty stuff the batter has to lift, it’s GOTTA have more than 1 egg to help the baking powder and “solda,” girlfriend! Please tell me “1 large eggs” is a typo…

    So, some ideas for you – and don’t give up your experiments! You follow recipes like I do – like a blueprint for a building… just a place to start changing things 😉 It’s just that with baking, you need to keep your wet/dry and leavening power equivalent.

    If you’ll send me a version of the recipe with the right amount of eggs, I’ll fiddle with it and see what I can come up with that’s got whole grain flour. Do you NOT EAT ham? Most of your One Pot meals have meat… haven’t you ever had a Ham n Cheese Croissant?

    Re your experiments: the zucchini is WAY wetter than the peppers, unless you soaked the water off in paper towels first, and boring to taste anyway. The buttermilk is going to react with the soda to help the mess rise – without it the soda can’t do much. You can make your own “buttermilk” by adding 1T lemon juice or vinegar to 1C milk. If you put in just one egg like you sent out the recipe, that alone would cause flat muffins… And from what I’ve heard, if you don’t adjust for altitude in the Rockies, you may as well throw away your ingredients before you bake, and save on electricity!

    There’s 4 reasons I see that may have doomed your muffins to bird food… If you solve one at a time, and with the help of your extension service and/or the very neat and VERY EXPERIENCED guy at SourdoughHome, I bet you’ll have a GREAT batch of muffins!

    Just one other change I’d make in the 2nd batch, is to skip the cayenne and use pepper jack cheese – cayenne is SOOO strong! And the world’s BEST Pepper Jack is from Tillamook – it’s on the Oregon Coast just about 125 miles NW of me. I bet you can even buy it in your town – they’re nationwide now!!

    Elizabeth – never say die. Keep on, and you’ll figure it out! Baking IS art – Emeril just hasn’t figured it out yet either. Don’t listen to him about baking!!!

    And thanks for the lasagna recipe – I do that with dry noodles in a regular casserole, but it hadn’t occurred to me to try it in a One Pot.

    Love your blog!

    Nanette in Eugene

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