In a former life I really thought I was headed for a career in science.
I wanted to be a psychologist; I learned that psychologists are crazy.
I wanted to be a doctor; I learned that I wanted to be home by 3pm every day.
I wanted to be the next Jane Goodall; I learned that carrying all your food into the wilderness makes for some light meals.
So instead I became a high school English teacher and a sometimes fanatic food blogger.
(I also learned that wearing My little pony tails in my hair was not actually very fancy.)
But I do love the science of food. Not necessarily weird food invention (although it is something I am interested in looking at, tasting, but not making), just plain ol' "How the heck does flour work anyway?" kind of science.
Enter Harold McGee. I've read quite a bit on food technique and basic food science in cookbooks and cooking handbooks and food encyclopedias, but Harold McGee tops it all (even, dare I say, Cook's Illustrated, which I consider to be the authority on recipe development-- and hopefully Christopher Kimball never reads these words because I hope to one day become one of his minions). He's easy to read, throws in history when you want it, and is the most reliable I've found regarding the science of the kitchen.
Da was nice enough to get me an autographed copy (I am insanely jealous that she met him) of his newest book, Keys to Good Cooking, and I have been reading this book like a thrilling mystery novel. It is his words on muffins that have led me to this recipe, and although I want to tweak this recipe a little more, the fact that I could make up a muffin recipe and come out with such beautiful domed tops and good textures, I owe this success to Harold McGee.
I'm putting away all this kitchen knowledge so that when I pass it on to Amaya, she'll think I'm the kitchen goddess and owe all future muffin perfection, to me.
(Isn't that why we have kids, anyway?)
Savory Pumpkin Muffins
I'll hand you a little McGee knowledge. You don't want to overmix the flour in the batter, because otherwise, you get a tougher gluten. Sugar and fat can go together first. Also you don't want the leavening ingredient (baking powder/soda) to hit the wet stuff too early because it will die quickly. So wet ingredients/sugar first, then dry stuff together, then combine quickly without overmixing. Also, cook muffins at a high temp. They'll rise up more quickly and make a nice top.
I'm thinking that these principles probably work pretty well with cupcakes, too.
One thing I'm still trying to figure out, though, is why sometimes my muffins or cupcakes stick to the cupcake liners, despite all my tricks with cooling, enough fat, etc. I'm not sure what it is exactly.
These didn't stick at all, but I was using these ultra cool silicone baking cups.
These have a subtle flavor and remind me of biscuits. I want to eat these with pumpkin chili. Double the cheese for more savory stand-alone flavor. Or cube the cheese so you can taste it in chunks.
- 1/2 C shredded hard cheese like Sheep's milk cheese or gruyere
- optional: black pepper