Day 29. Muffins

In September 2012 on September 10, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I made muffins just now, and I’m not entirely happy with their level of rising (see picture).

The recipe is in my head, and has been for (gulp) around 20 years, since the time I was a part-time muffin-maker and waitress at The Organic Market in the Adelaide Hills.

Now a woman ‘d’une certaine age’, I admit I can’t quite recall whether the rising agent is supposed to be bicarbonate of soda, or baking powder. I put in 1 teaspoon of the latter, and hoped for the best. Now I feel the need to analyse my results.

Luckily, I have my Dad’s copy of On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore The Kitchen, by Harold McGee.

Of bicarbonate of soda – which is alkaline, or the opposite of acidic – Harold says,

Baking soda can be the sole added leavening if the dough or batter contains acids to react with it. Common acids ingredients include soughdough cultures, fermented milks (buttermilk, yogurt), brown sugar and molasses, chocolate, and cocoa (if not dutched) as well as fruit juices and vinegar.

Baking powders, on the other hand,

…contain both alkaline bicarbonate of soda and an acid in the form of solid cystals. When added to liquid ingredients, the bicarbonate disappears almost immediately. If the acid is very soluble, it will dissolve quickly during the mixing and react with the soda to inflate an initial set of gas bubbles. If the acid is not very soluble then it will remain in crystal form….until cooking raises the temperature high enough to dissolve it.

The acid in my baking powder is sodium acid pyrophosphate, which apparently is characteristically released slowly during cooking. Being honest then, I can’t blame my baking powder, since all the conditions were right for it to work. The one small variable which still remains to explore is whether I added enough. Always on the trail to improve the glycaemic index of food I bake for my kids, I added rather a lot of rolled oats and a handful of shredded coconut into the muffin mixture at the last minute.

Perhaps there’s only so much fibre one teaspoon of baking powder can realistically be expected to lift up.


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