Monday, August 27. 2007
So, I had some free time today and wanted to test my modifications in hopes of some success after so many failures. It seemed I was somewhat granted my wish...
I tried my best to minimize all possible sources of extraneous liquid. I drained and baked the mashed sweet potato, mashed the fresh blackberries through a strainer to squeeze out the water, strained the yogurt using paper towels (like a cheese cloth), and eliminated the vegetable oil. I also increased the baking powder. Lastly, I remembered to sprinkle some white sugar to help create a crispy crust.
There was definite improvement as the inside resembled the holey texture of a muffin; however, it still seemed a bit wet. The muffins still did not rise much; and the crust was crunchy, albeit a tad bit overboard.
After another round of investigation, I've gathered that the wholemeal flour may be contributing to the low rise as there's less gluten to help develop a stable puffed structure. I may indeed need baking soda since I have acidic ingredients that could be neutralized and help leaven the muffins some more. I may have actually overbaked the muffins, since I was so afraid of a soggy inside due to underbaking. I don't think I want to further reduce the liquid ratio as the muffin is showing potential for dryness; and frankly, I'm not sure how much more liquid I could eliminate.
One friend likes the muffins as is with the crunchy crust and soft inside. Another feels that the contrast is too drastic. A compromise may be difficult, but the ideal muffin texture in my mind is a thin hardened crust with an airy moist inside. My second attempt has neither a thin crust nor an airy inside. Maybe the third try will be it, but I'm definitely getting there as I'm running out of modification ideas...
Sunday, August 26. 2007
First off was the flour, which I knew I'd replace half with the wholemeal flour. Next was the butter. I'd already been researching various methods for replacing butter (see blog entry Fruit Sponge Cake), and I had seen some recipes for banana bread without butter. Applesauce + oil seemed a popular replacement as well as pureed vegetables or fruits. Unfortunately, the only applesauce that I could find was Bramley apple sauce which previous experience revealed it to be extremely tart and completely different from the American applesauce. I failed to locate any pureed or canned vegetables except tomatoes and potatoes. Lacking a blender, I decided to steam and mash my own sweet potatoes. Last was the fruit-flavored yogurt.
I used the Banana-Raspberry Bread recipe as a foundation; replaced half the flour with wholemeal, 1/4 of the sugar with brown sugar, milk with yogurt, and banana with steamed and mashed sweet potatoes; and used only baking powder (as I had no baking soda on hand).
Having never baked muffins before, this may have been too ambitious an attempt. Needless to say, it was a failed attempt. I'm pretty sure it was not overmixing as I'd been forewarned enough by all the "DO NOT OVERMIX"'s and "DO NOT OVERBAKE"'s I'd encountered. It seemed my batter may have been too wet, since the muffins did not rise and the insides were mushy as if undercooked. I was somewhat worried about the possibility, but I naively thought that quick breads could withstand higher moisture content. Wrong I certainly was! I didn't even realize how high my liquid ratio was; water seeped from the steamed sweet potatoes, yogurt, vegetable oil, fresh washed blackberries, and egg!
So, my next attempt will be to eliminate the vegetable oil, decrease the yogurt and strain it through a paper towel, and bake the steamed sweet potatoes to help reduce the moisture. Let's see where this will take us...
Saturday, August 18. 2007
Friday, August 17. 2007
One person had commented that the cake could be baked, although the texture was a bit too spongy and chewy; so I focused on adding more moisture as well as reducing the 6 eggs. Since I've encountered several cake recipes that used sour cream as a source of moisture and I myself have used fruit-flavored yogurt in my cheesecakes, I ventured to test the effects of fruit-flavored yogurt in the cake. I also thought adding a little oil could help with moisture. Thus, I eliminated 1 egg, replaced the water with yogurt and oil, and split the sugar between white and brown.
Thankfully, the cake didn't collapse; but the texture was not what I desired. It was quite a bit rubbery and the air bubbles weren't even. After searching through baking911.com, I learned a couple things. I think I may have overmixed when incorporating the flour. The sugar was not fully dissolved either, so I may try beating the yolks over heat to help with dissolving the sugar and increasing the volume. I'm beginning to wonder if I should switch to pastry flour to help with the tenderness, although I may try ground almonds to see its effects. Pureed squash seems like another good alternative, although it's usually a replacement for butter. Definitely lots of possibilities. Let's hope I can obtain the texture I have in my mind while keeping it healthy. )
I also learned the difference between a convection oven and the baking oven typically found in American homes where the heat is either from the bottom or top. I knew that the convection oven was the most ideal as the heat source came from both the top and bottom with a fan circulating the heat evenly. I was quite surprised to find it in typical English homes. Apparently, when using a convection oven, one should decrease the temperature and cooking time by about 10%. That would explain why the cakes I've baked so far tended to burn on top while the meats tended to be dry. I've not realized the needed drop in temperature. Eureka!
Friday, August 10. 2007
I also did some harvesting. :-? From chatting with my bedder, I discovered that the houses around here seem to have either the green cooking apples or the ones that look like bramley/cox (greenish yellow and red). I knew the cooking apples were fairly tart, so I wanted to pick some of the bramley/cox ones. Unfortunately, the easier ones had already been picked, so I was left with climbing the tree if I really wanted some. A ladder would have been ideal; but that I did not have. Hence, I climbed my first apple tree today.
It was definitely fun, a little scary, challenging, and even thought-provoking. Now I understand why climbing was the easier part and descending the hard part. Minutes passed where I debated whether to continue--first, plotting a way up, and then, assessing if and how I would come down. It was rough, but I enjoyed it. And I got 10 apples out of it! Not a lot but the exact amount I had asked for.
Meanwhile, I picked a big handful of ripe blackberries. Got pricked by some of them, but the spikes won't stop me from returning for more later! Praise the Lord for blessing a "cityslicker" with such farm-like opportunities!