Saturday, February 26, 2011

Corn Muffins, Beer, and Saturdays

This week I had a special request to make corn muffins.  The cook at my work is adding corn bread to the menu and he was in search of a recipe.  So I woke up nice and early this morning to make fresh corn muffins.  Corn muffins are pretty basic (flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder, butter, egg, and buttermilk).  Even with these basic ingredients, each recipe I found varied the amount of each ingredient.  I chose one to follow but offered a little innovation to the recipe by mixing fresh corn into the batter.  You could also make a Mexican style corn muffin by adding ingredients like jalapenos, bell peppers, and/or chili powder.  I prefer more plain corn muffins so I only added corn kernels.  

Baking Mishaps
I guess I was a little absent-minded while baking today (don't worry it had nothing to do with having a late night yesterday).  My first baking mishap happened when mixing the butter and buttermilk.  I melted the butter, as the recipe called for, and mixed in the buttermilk.  The difference in temperatures caused the mixture to curdle (the butter began to solidify once mixed with cold buttermilk).  This risks the butter being unevenly distributed in the batter.  However, I had used my last stick of butter so I had to stick with the clumpy mixture.  After the muffins had been baking for 20 minutes (and my internal baking clock had not gone off) I realized I had set the oven to 300 degrees instead of 400 degrees.  This required me to bake the muffins longer which risks drying them out and also the muffin tops were not beautifully browned.  
After all of this I did not have high expectations for my muffins however, they did come out good!  The cook liked them and I passed on the recipe to him (so maybe by corn muffins will make the Emmit's menu soon!).  I personally didn't find the muffins too impressive of a creation but I think that corn muffins are just a modest treat.

My Sixth Sense:  The Baking Alarm Clock
If any of you have seen Seinfeld and remember Kramer's "mental alarm clock," I have the baking equivalent of that.  In "The Hot Tub" episode, Kramer explains to Jerry that he doesn't use an alarm clock; before he goes to sleep he tells himself what time to wake up and his body just knows what time it is and he wakes up on time.  Well, I have a similar alarm clock.
When baking, I rarely set a timer.  I do take note of the expected baking time but do not rely on it (every oven is different and everything will bake differently).  I generally put something in the oven and end up reading or doing some chores while things are baking.  I occasionally check up on the oven but usually my mind will be lost in some activity and then my mind literally dings and I remember that I have something in the oven.  I run to the oven and pull a pie out and it is PERFECTLY baked.  I'm sure I couldn't scientifically explain how this happens but it just works out.  I rarely overcook anything and so far this system has been working out relatively well.

(Unofficial) Beer and Baked Goods Saturday
This October I finally found a job (thanks to my sister).  I cocktail waitress at Emmit's Irish Pub (495 N Milwaukee Ave).  One day I decided to make cookies and bring them into work.  Everyone really liked them and the cookies were gone faster than I would have imagined.  After that I decided to start bringing in baked goods for my usual Saturday afternoon shifts and proclaimed it "Beer and Baked Goods Saturday."
So every Saturday (between 11 am and 6 pm) I have some sweet treat prepared and ready to share with my co-workers, regulars, and anyone who asks for dessert or is willing to try some of my baked goods.
This started around November and I didn't think it was really catching on but lately I've noticed how regulars come in and ask what I've made this week.
There's Dale whose son takes guitar lessons down the street from Emmit's so he stops in on Saturdays for a few PBRs while he waits for his son.
Tom Ford who enjoys a Hofbrau (and will not drink anything but Hofbrau) who stops in to try what I make and is NEVER satisfied unless its chocolate chip cookies.
Octavio (the cook) who still doesn't believe that I actually bake everything from scratch.
Charlie, the pilates instructor and Lagunitas IPA drinker, who always converses about what book I'm reading and always loves whatever I bake.
Anyway, baking for Emmit's every Saturday has given my a purpose for baking.  It keeps me on track and ensures that I bake at least once a week.  Now that it's becoming a bit of a tradition I can't give it up now, even after having a late night I still wake up early to bake.  
So, end of story, come visit me at Emmit's on Saturdays and dip your biscotti in the best poured Guinness in Chicago!

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