Today in Food we introduce The Process, David Hagedorn’s new monthly column, which takes the place of his Sourced column. It’s a look into the mind of a chef as he works with ingredients to develop a recipe — the same process the rest of us can use when cooking at home.
Also this week, Jane Black tells us about programs in New York and elsewhere that place fruit and vegetable vendors in low-income neighborhoods to give residents better access to fresh, healthful foods. And staff writer Tim Carman cooks his way through Alain Ducasse’s latest book, “Nature,” and delivers his verdict.
And you don’t want to miss today’s Free Range chat, your chance to join the Food staff (and invited guests) and ask us questions or just chew the fat. Today we’ll be joined by David Hagedorn, who’ll be happy to talk more about his new column.
You’ll join us, right? It all starts at noon. Until then, here’s a leftover question from last week’s chat to tide you over:
I stink at cupcakes. They always turn out too dense. For Easter, I made adorable coconut ones with jellybean “eggs” on top. The recipe was from Martha Stewart and included two additional egg whites, which I thought would help lighten the batter. However, they turned out heavier than I would have liked. I am considering whipping egg whites next time and folding them in to get more of an angel food cake consistency. Is that my only resort, or is there another way to get a light, fluffy cupcake?
Possibly the most critical step in cakemaking is the creaming of the fat and sugar. If you do it right, your cupcakes should have the fluffy texture you’re after. If you do it wrong, they can turn out leaden.
Try that Martha Stewart recipe again, and this time:
Have your butter a little colder than room temperature. Start by beating the butter by itself for a minute or so, until it’s soft, then add the sugar and beat at medium speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, at least four minutes (longer if you are using a hand mixer instead of a stand mixer). Don’t cut this step short; you’re creating the air bubbles that will define the cake’s crumb. Stop the beaters occasionally so you can scrape down the sides of the bowl if you need to. If you think the butter might be getting too warm — melting will be bad for your cake’s texture — stop beating, stash the bowl in the fridge for a while and start again.
Have your eggs at room temperature. When you add them, beat just enough to incorporate them, then stop. Same with the dry ingredients: Once the flour is added, overmixing will develop tough gluten, and that will produce a chewy cupcake.
Will you give it a shot, and then report back? No promises, but it does seem like a better creaming technique might be the answer to your problem.