Monday, October 24, 2016

A muffin is not a cupcake. I repeat. A muffin is not a cupcake.

Drunk with success from my first stint at Baking School, I went back for more. This time it was Muffins and Scones. The course was shorter, just 3 days long plus 1/2 a day for assessment.

My teacher for 3 days, Chef Tan was someone new to me. But I have previously seen him before, lurking in the kitchens. Chef Tan is pretty new to the school but has been in the baking industry for many, many years.

Our class was quite big, 11 of us and to be honest, sometimes it just got a bit too rowdy. As usual, we had people who didn't lift a finger to help out in the cleaning of common areas. After 2 courses, I've come to expect this kind of behaviour.

The first thing we baked was muffins. When I say muffins, I don't mean the English muffin. I am referring to the American muffin. We all know muffins, rite? Rite? Wrong. I thought I knew muffins. I've eaten muffins. I've bought muffins. During the course, we were told, muffins and cupcakes have the same "body", as in the batter is the same. The method in which the batter is made is exactly the same.

You're kidding me.
The world has turned upside down.
Pigs are flying.

So what's the difference between a muffin and a cupcake then?
According to the school...

If a muffin has topping such as icing, cream, chocolate, it becomes a cupcake! Muffins usually has ingredient fillings instead.

So, using that explanation, if I were to bake a plain muffin and a plain cupcake, all I have to do is make ONE batch of batter and pour some into a muffin tray labelled "muffins" and they will be plain muffins. Pour some of the same batter into another muffin tray labelled "cupcakes" and they will be plain cupcakes.

Am I wrong or is this total bullshit? Please help me out here. I find it impossible to accept that muffins and cupcakes have the same "body".

So what's my idea of cupcakes and muffins? And this is not something I pull out of the sky but based on my years of eating cupcakes and muffins. A cupcake is a mini light cake. A muffin has a heavier, denser texture. You guys watch Seinfeld before? You must surely know Jerry Seinfeld's "You know a muffin can be very filling." It's true. My son, he eats 5 cupcakes in a row. Nothing. Give him one muffin and he's done. If you try to get him to eat more, he'll tell you, "You know a muffin can be very filling."

Ingredients for my fake-muffin.

The batter was made unsurprisingly as if I was making a cake.

I've seen this exact same batter before in my cake course.

Muffins are baked. Or cupcakes. Whatever.

The fake-muffins cupcakes were surprisingly good. My son ate them. My daughter ate them. My daughter's friends ate them. Hubs' colleagues ate them. I made them 3 times during the course.

When it came to scones, I was a little more open minded since I'm not a scone person and have probably eaten scones once or twice in my entire life. Still I was a little surprised the first batch of scones came out very bread-like. The first time I ate it, I thought it tasted pretty good. Well maybe anything straight out of the oven tastes good. The next day I tried eating another one and I could. Not. Swallow. It. The scones weren't popular with hubs' colleagues either and we ended up throwing them away.

It became clear pretty soon that many of the students in my class were questioning the scones recipe. Like why does it taste like bread. Why?

On Day 3, I decide to be a rebel and not wear my white shirt which is part of our "uniform". I wore my Metellica Uniqlo raglan sleeve and when I opened the classroom, I was shocked to see a total stranger addressing the class. It turned out to be the principal and I was wondering if he had come to talk about our attire. Nope, he had come to explain why the scones tasted like bread. I forgot what the explanation was but what came out of the principal's presence was we got to modify the scones recipe. And no, he didn't say anything about me not wearing my white shirt.

These scones had more fats and tasted slightly better than the previous batch.

These scones were baked on assessment day and the recipe was different again. Firstly, the size of the cutter was changed and the amount of fats was lower than the 2nd batch. The taste was quite good. However on the following day, I put one in the microwave oven and the inside turned hard as a rock. I think I should have microwaved it with a saucer of water. Anyway I ate one without warming it and it didn't taste bad at all.

I found the method of making scones quite new and exciting. First, the dough is mixed for a very short period of time until it pulls away from the mixer. This sticky dough is rested for 20 min. Later it is floured and folded. The ingredients goes into the dough and folded again. (I really struggled with manipulating the dough. After a lot of practice, I think I finally got it.) The dough needs another 20 min rest and the scone cutter is used to cut out the shapes. A final rest of 20 min. Lastly, apply egg wash and the dough goes into the oven. Whew!

The assessment wasn't as bad as Cake. We only had to bake muffins and scones. The theory (oral) which I detest wasn't too bad either. I really, really hate studying for it though. Like super hate, hate. It's impossible for me to memorize all the keywords! I struggled with one question, as always. The tester kept saying: more, more. I had nothing more but managed to cough up the answer, somehow. And so I passed Muffins and Scones.


Angela said...

Oh, now I AM confused. I thought a [non english] muffin was one where you made the batter quickly, incorporating all the ingredients but not overbeating. And often using oil not nutter. And a cup cake [aka Fairy Cake - small, or Queen Cake-larger, in the UK] was more like a sponge mix, where you beat the ingredients like mad till they were light and fluffy. A very interesting post! thank you x

Projects By Jane said...

Hi Angela,
I was hoping someone could enlighten me. Muffins and cupcakes should be made differently in order to get two different kinds of batter. I've looked at some recipes for muffins and it sounds pretty much what you said, muffin - batter made quickly, using oil and not butter while cupcakes are made like a very light cake.

The way we made the fake-muffin, we did not do any folding with egg white foam. It's just a straight all-in method batter beating everything until it's light in colour.


Angela said...

It's all cake in the end! and well done for passing this stage. My scones are very hit and miss - wonderful or bricks - it depends which way the wind is blowing!!

Bethany said...

Well. To my mind muffins are heavier and denser, cupcakes are lighter and sweeter. I enjoy both, but there's definitely a difference.

Jane McLellan said...

I also think muffins are denser than cupcakes. Cupcakes should have a cup too and a topping. Good for you for going back for another course!

Projects By Jane said...

Jane, if it weren't for that dreaded theory test, I would attend all the baking courses available.

Linda said...

I agree with you, Jane. Muffins are not the same as cupcakes. Most muffins in the U.S. are not as sweet as cupcakes and are heavier. They are usually mixed in a bowl with a spoon more like a batter bread and cupcakes are mixed using a mixer and creaming the fat ( butter, oil, or shortening) with the sugar until fluffy before incorporating the other ingredients. Muffins don't usually have as much fat in them so they are not as moist. You don't frost muffins, but they often have a strudel type crumb on top.
How fun that you've been taking these classes!

Christel said...

I'm no pastry chef, and I'm better at eating than baking. But I agree with you. Muffins (those that are sold outside by the name of "muffins") seem denser. Cupcakes are more.. cake-like? I do agree though, that generally muffins only come with fillings inside and cupcakes have toppings. But they just aren't the same. They don't taste the same.

Projects By Jane said...

Hi Christel, I used to eat 4 Leaves chocolate muffins (and yes, they taste like muffins) until I got too addicted to them. They also made me fatter. I haven't tried baking anything at home yet mostly because I really don't want to eat another cake-thing for a while but also baking at home, you're more likely to get failures. If I were to follow the recipes of what I had baked in school, I doubt if I will get the same result at home. As the chefs like to say: there are so many factors that can affect the outcome of your baking.

Christel said...

Hi Jane! Yup I guess it's different baking at home and in a school setting. For one, I believe the ovens are different. Takes some trial and error to get it right. Hope you won't have to "experiment" too much to get it right when you start baking at home :)

Tammy said...

This looks like so much fun.
In my real life - I feel like muffins are always heavier and with additions in the batter, and like you said - cupcakes are more like mini-cakes. But -- in my grandfather's notes from his bakery days it is as your teacher said - same batter, just different fillings or icings. Maybe it is a traditional thing? I definitely do not think muffins should be cupcake batter but yours looked amazing.
I have never tasted a scone that I enjoyed, but if you want, I can send you a recipe I have for one that is very rich and good - they are more like sweet biscuits. Those scones do seem like a bread dough.
I am almost tempted to go bake something now. Almost. But then I'd have to eat it and that would be very bad for my diet.
Thanks for sharing your baking experience, I love reading about these.

Min Servicehund said...

for me muffins and cupecakes are FARE from the same... if I got a muffin that was just like a cupecake with berries in and no topping I be very disapointed.... muffins are heavy
the crum of the 2 are very difrent
a cupecake is more... in danish I say sandcake like... but don't know what you say in english...

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