Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Great Muffin Disaster!

I like to try to keep things fresh by experimenting with my recipes every now and then. It's nice to combine new flavors or old favorites to create something new. As the weather is changing in Los Angeles (a little too early if you ask me), I'm starting to crave fall flavors and I'm even beginning to anticipate the arrival of Christmas! So even though Thanksgiving supplies are still hard to find in the grocery store, I decided to take a stab at a pumpkin muffin. What better way to celebrate the coming of fall?

Sounds like a great place to start, right? I thought so. So now that I had my idea, I moved on to the research phase. This is where I look at all kinds of relevant recipes, old and new, to figure out how to begin writing a recipe. I gathered information on pumpkin pies, pecan toppings, and basic muffins. After an hour or so, I had written a recipe that seemed sound, and had a pleasing combination of flavors. 

I was right about that last part, at least. The flavors were great! I made the batter, and it tasted delicious. It smelled and tasted like pumpkin pie, with a little kick at the end from cloves and allspice. I was really proud of it, already, and I hadn't even baked the muffins yet. As you may have guessed from the title of this entry, my pride was somewhat premature. 

So, I scooped the batter into the muffin cups and topped them with several different types of streusel topping. This was an experiment, after all, so I made a few batches with different ratios of Earth Balance to sugar to pecans to flour. I was winging it for the most part, so experimentation was a necessity. They look so innocent, don't they? Those little cups of batter with sprinkled streusel goodness all over them. Very cute. 

Innocent little muffins. Or so they seem...

I popped them in the oven until they were brown on top and done in the middle. After a few minutes of cooling, though, I noticed the first sign of disaster... The tops were starting to cave in in the middle. Not a good sign. At this point, my poor fiancĂ©'s car broke down, and I ventured out to go pick him up from where his car had been towed. I brought the poor chap a muffin to cheer him up, and he really liked it. Apparently, the texture was good and the spice level was perfect. Only lacking point was that the pumpkin flavor was not quite as prominent as it needed to be, but that's a relatively simple adjustment. I tasted a bit and concurred. 

Look at this muffin. So cute, right? No. So NOT cute.

The next morning, upon further inspection of the little devil muffins, I realized that despite last night's false hopes these were indeed a disaster. I brought them in to work, and asked a friend taste them to see what she thought. We cut the muffin in half to reveal... 

Is that bread pudding?
No, it was supposed to be a muffin.

A bizarre custard-like center! What?! I was perplexed. I still am perplexed. The only part that really held out here was the yummy streusel topping. My friend likened the texture to bread pudding, which I tend to agree with. It's certainly not muffin-texture. Also, not pleasing whatsoever. Seriously. What confuses me most is that the night before, all seemed well and there had been no signs of this custardy grossness! Anyone have insight into why I wound up with bread pudding instead of a muffin? Does anyone have a good baking disaster to share? 

All-in-all, the Great Muffin Disaster was an excellent learning experience. I was humbled, to be sure, learning that my knowledge of baking chemistry is not as solid as I had once imagined. But it is only through mistakes that we can learn and grow! Also, I learned how to make a great streusel topping. So there's that. I will revisit these muffins in a week or so, and start fresh. Until then, I'll be freshening up on my baking chemistry! 


  1. hahaha oh Veronica! At least you tried! And its true, its a great learning experience. I love your persistence. I have tried cooking a few times and nothing ever turns out the way I want it to- so I gave up! Its not my skill or talent and I have no passion for it! But you my dear- it is yours and to see that you still make mistakes is a great comfort to someone like me! :) We are always learning and trying new things... that's the joy of life! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. hey v,

    i'm very perplexed also. i'm actually going to consult with some of my bakers about what happened and get back to you. I've had problems like this with surprisingly red velvet cake. where the mixture shows dry and "done" but after taking it out of the oven it basically deflates and is back to a batter type form. hopefully i can find out some more insight for you.

    Colleen Simmons

  3. It's the pumpkin.. I swear. I have this happen all the time with the sweet potato muffins or pancakes I make. Also if you use liquid sweetener & pumpkin/s potato, you need to like double the amount of flour. I'm fairly certain this is the issue you had. If not.. let me know, I have this happen still from time to time.

  4. the bottom actually looks like a pie crust...maybe you could modify the recipe a little to make something like mini sugar pies?