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Of Cakes, Muffins, and Scones

There’s a mini-conversation going on down in "Scones? Phooey." By "mini" I mean that there are exactly four (4) comments by two people, Nancy and Roberta. The real nature of scones verses muffins verses cupcakes is being contemplated.

All three are very different even if we use the same ingredients. It all comes down to prep and cooking method.

The bastard scone and its kin are technically biscuits (as, believe it or not, is a pie crust). A biscuit is built by coating flour with solid fat (lard, butter, et al). The end result is something with a texture finer than muffins but coarser than cakes.

Which brings me to muffins: Muffins are under-mixed, under-sweetened cakes. By under-mixing, no air bubbles are built into the structure (leaving only the leavening process to produce haphazard bubbles that are varied in size—the hallmark of a muffin); by under-sweetening (less sugar), muffins aren’t as tender as cakes.

Cakes: Cakes (and cookies) are made by creaming. In order to make a cake one must "cream butter (or shortening) with sugar." It’s this creaming that gives cakes their soft, moist qualities. By creaming we mean to whip the sugar into the butter creating lots and lots of even, fine air pockets. This gives cakes their fine texture.

In the baking world, that leaves us with only breads, meringues and soufflés, and custards left to cover. I guess we could add funnel cakes, but you have to cook those at a carnival … and how many of us have carnivals in our kitchens?

Comments

BWG said:

I like to eat, therefore every day is a carnival in my kitchen.

Posted on Feb 28, 2006 09:13 PM

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