Liquid Fat in Muffins

Many muffin and quick bread recipes use oil for a moist, tender crumb. But butter has a superior flavor, and it can melt into an easy substitute for oil. Although both butter and oil are fats, they differ at the molecular level, so a direct substitution won’t create the same exact bake. To learn more about the effects of substituting oil with melted butter, we compared the texture and taste of muffins made with both types of fat.

Pumpkin Spice Custard Buns

These buns are a twist on the classic Chinese egg custard buns (奶黃包, nǎihuángbāo). They still have the creamy custard and the fluffy steamed bun, but I added pumpkin and fall spices to both the filling and the dough to create a pumpkin spice version. Notes on ingredient substitutions and the science behind the custard filling, dough, and steaming process follow the recipe!

Poaching Time for Bagels

One of the defining features of a bagel is its chewy, shiny skin, which forms when the bagel is briefly boiled before it’s baked. In this post, we’re taking a closer look at the poaching step, its effect on the bagel’s crust, and how it gives a bagel its characteristic appearance and texture.

Water Temperature in Dumpling Wrappers

In the recent post about starch in flour, we discussed the effect of water temperature on doughs. In Chinese cooking, different ratios of hot and cold water are combined with flour to make dough for everything from noodles to chive pockets to dumplings, all of which differ in both texture and cooking method. To explore how water temperature adds so much versatility to dough, we made dumpling wrappers using a cold water dough and a hot water dough. We then boiled or steamed both types of dumplings and compared their textures.

Oil Temperature in Castella Chiffon Cake

Castella cake is a light, fluffy cake popular in East Asia, and there are two main methods to make it. Today, we’re taking a closer look at the Taiwanese version (古早味蛋糕, gǔzǎowèi dàngāo). A typical recipe starts with cake flour and cornstarch in hot oil, then adds milk, egg yolks, and an egg white meringue. In this post, we’ll focus on the ingredient that’s less common in cakes: the hot oil. We’ll bake two cakes, one with hot oil and one with oil at room temperature, and we’ll discuss the effects of the hot oil on the flour and cornstarch, the batter, and the final baked cake.

Tangzhong Method for Bread

Tangzhong (from the Chinese 湯種, tāngzhǒng) is a breadmaking method derived from the Japanese breadmaking method yukone or yudane. It’s recently gained popularity largely thanks to the Chinese cookbook 65°C Tangzhong Bread by Yvonne Chen. For the tangzhong method, a small portion of the flour and water are cooked together to 65°C (149°F), then added to the rest of the bread ingredients. Tangzhong is known to keep breads softer and moister for longer due to the gelatinized starch in the cooked flour. To taste the effects of tangzhong for ourselves, we made two sets of bread rolls with the same ingredients. Half the rolls were made with tangzhong, and half the rolls were made without.

Cooking Bread with Steam

Bread dough doesn’t have to be baked. In Chinese cooking, for example, it’s often steamed to make buns. Commercial western-style bakeries also use steam to bake larger loaves with shinier, crisper crusts, an effect home cooks replicate with Dutch ovens. In this post, we’ll compare three methods of cooking bread dough using 花卷 (huājuǎn, literally “flower roll”), a type of Chinese steamed bun speckled with scallions. We’ll compare the traditional steaming method to baking and to baking with steam.

Chemical Leaveners in Muffins

In the last post, we explored the roles of baking powder in muffins by taking it out of a recipe and then by adding in extra. Today, we’re going to continue experimenting with leaveners in muffins, but now we’re going to add baking soda into the mix. We discussed the differences between baking soda and baking powder in a previous post, but now we’ll see how these differences play out in a baked good.

Baking Powder in Muffins

Baking powder is used in such small amounts it’s often overlooked in ingredient lists. But this unassuming powder is crucial for volume and tenderness in baked goods such as muffins, biscuits, cookies, and cakes. In this experiment, we varied the amount of baking powder in muffins to see how the muffins would change in appearance, taste, and texture.

Measuring Flour for Muffins

Recipes often caution us to measure flour correctly. “If you must use a measuring cup, spoon and level! Never scoop!” But how much of a difference do two more utensils make? To find out, I made muffins using flour that was measured with a scale, spooned and leveled into a measuring cup, and scooped from the bag.