A friend said to me the other day that ‘Baking is like lab’. I think he is right. In cooking, there is room for the irreverent, the flamboyant. Baking, by contrast is precision. It demands methodology, care and cleaving to a formula. Even the most decadent and over-the-top sweets demand strict fidelity to the recipe.
I am not by nature a rule follower; I prefer the freedom of adding a splodge of this, or glug of that. I love the precarious line between disaster and success. When people ask me for a particular recipe I often have difficulty committing to it and always with the caveat to tweak as necessary. I am firmly a ‘cook’ as opposed to a ‘baker’.
As an insomniac though, baking is my saviour. My only respite from sleeplessness comes from the methodical, plodding act of measuring out flour, softening butter and beating eggs, following the rules, watching the rise of the yeast or baking powder, marvelling as the sticky batter transforms into satisfyingly squishy cakes, bread and buns. I sit at the bench in my kitchen, flicking idly through case law, one eye on the swollen form in the oven. The result of all this baking is far better suited to a carbo-loading clean and jerker than my starch adverse self, fortunately anything left in the kitchen of my office is demolished enthusiastically, so that is where the products of my late night forays into the kitchen end up.
I made these muffins for a bake sale for Haiti organised by the tireless Aoife B from Sweet Oblivion. I love the process of making them. Measured and unhurried, the batter is glutinous and pleasingly dense and the result bulbous and golden. Happy (and drowsy) times.
Inspired by the Joy of Baking
7 cups of bread cubes, cut into bite sized pieces (I used white bread and brioche)
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
⅔ cup (135 grams) granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons (84 grams) unsalted butter, melted
⅓ cup (45 grams) all purpose flour
½ tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground mutmeg
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease or line 12 muffin tins.
Place the cubed bread in a large mixing bowl and add the cream and milk. Let stand for five minutes. Then mix through the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and melted butter.
In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients. Stir this mixture into the bread cube mixture. Do not overbeat or the bread will break up too much.
Evenly divide the mixture among the 12 muffins cups. Place in the centre of the preheated oven. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool.