I was never the biggest baker or cook, but in past few months I have been baking as if tomorrow’s is dooms day and the only thing that can save me is a huge pile of sweet chocolaty dough! Maybe those are the nesting hormones that make me behave like I was the Muppets’ Swedish chef: I have been beating eggs, mixing butter with flour and baking powder, melting butter with chocolate, poring them into mini muffin racks, all tasted OK, but far from PERFECT. or DELICIOUS. They would either come out a little to dry or a little too wet; a little too dense and never airy enough. I decided then to give the NY Culinary Institute a try. This was actually a mishap as I wasn’t intending to go to any course on my 7th month of pregnancy, I was in the midst of trying to find a gift for a friend of mine who actually have a rare and great talent for baking. I bought her a course as a birthday gift, and decided to give one a go myself.
And so we gathered, 8 people in a small yet spacey kitchen, under the guidance and supervision of Michelle Tampakis, to learn the secrets of baking muffins, scones and biscuits. Michelle gave us the basic guidelines: there are 2 types of baking:
- “Mealy Method” where you mesh cold butter into the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, etc) – this method is aimed at dense baked goods such as scones and biscuits. The principle here is to not over heat the butter – so for example not mesh it for longer than a second – when meshing it into the flour. It’s crucial here to not over mix. Just mix it enough to blend the butter into the dry ingredients until they resemble fine meal.
- “Creamy Method” where you create a creamy blend of sugar and butter, and where you build a lot of air into the mix, to make it airy and light, and where you cannot over mix.
In both it’s really important to create a uniform texture so that the little pack of delight doesn’t crumble.
In the 4 hours we spent in the kitchen divided into teams of 2, we have tried to make at least 3 out of the following 8 recipes:
* Buttermilk Biscuits
* Plain Scones with variations
* Currant Tea Scones
* Oatmeal Raisin Scones
* Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins
* Corn and Golden Raisin Muffins
* Bran Cereal Muffins
Here’s a basic recipe for luscious weekend scones from the course:
1. Mix 3 cups all purpose flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt
2. Mesh 5 tbsp cold butter into the dry mix
3. Add raisins or currants or choc-chip (3/4 cup)
4. Whisk 2 eggs with 3/4 whole milk (or buttermilk) and stir into the mix to form a smooth dough
5. Roughly cut the dough into 3 pieces and make discs out of them. Carve an ‘X’ in them and put in the oven for 10-15 min.
- Remember to rotate sides halfway through the baking time for an even bake
- You can wash the scones top with egg, milk or even honey for a nice shiny finish.
Serve with a healthy portion of butter for some good soul food .