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Old 07-03-2006, 11:21 AM   #1
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If you made less of something in a muffin tin, would you cook it for less time?

I ask because last night I decided to make molten flourless chocolate cakes in my muffin tin that were supposed to be gooey on the inside. I followed the recipe, but I only used half of each ingredient (just chocolate, butter, and eggs) because I realized I only had 1/4 lb chocolate instead of 1/2 lb. I simply made three cakes instead of six, because I only really needed two anyways. I cooked it for ten minutes, and the recipe calls for "10-12 depending on how gooey you'd like the centers". Unfourtunatly the centers weren't gooey at all and all I got were really rich chocolate cakes. They were good and all, but would have been a lot better if they were filled with that delicous batter. It had been my understanding that with baked goods in seperate containers or that are spread apart (like cookies and muffins and souffles) use the same cooking time/temp no matter how many you make. Is this not true?

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Old 07-03-2006, 12:26 PM   #2
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If you had individual muffin pans for each muffin, I would say that it would be true. However, as you used a muffin tin that could produce up to 12 muffins, it isn't, and here's why.

When you bake muffins, pies, and cakes, the food absorbs heat primarily through conduction. That is, the hot pan surface absorbs heat from the hot oven air, and by radiation. It transfers that energy to the food by touching the food. This energy excites molecules where the cooking surface meats the batter, which in turn excite the molecules next to them, which excite, excite the molecules next to them, etc. until everything is the same temperature.

The pan abosrbs heat energy at a given rate and transfers that energy at a given rate. The batter acts as a heat sink, that is, it pulls heat from the metal into itself. The more batter in the pan, the faster this heat transfer occurs, but the less energy is available to each individual muffin or cake. As you decrease the amount of heat sinks, more heat energy is available to be transfered to the individual cakes, and therefore, the faster they cook.

Think of heat as preasurised water pool. Think of each muffin as a sink connected by a hose to the pool, the hose representing the cooking surface that transfers heat. If you open only one hose valve, maximum water volume will flow into that sink. As you open other valves, the pressure drops and the volume of water released by the pool remains the same, but is divided by the number of valves opened. Each sink therefore fills more slowly, though the total volume of water taken from the pool is the same.

So, the simple answer is, if the heat transfer is through conduction, the smaller the amount of food cooked in the conducting vessel, the faster it will cook.

This is usually true for convective heat transfer as well. It is not true of radiant heat transfer, such as when broiling meats.

Seeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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Old 07-03-2006, 12:38 PM   #3
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Oh I get it. Thanks for the info. I might make a different batch on the fourth, but this time I'll use milk chocoalte instead of semi-sweet and do the baking properly for more runny batter. The cake that I did have was still great and tasted like a half-baked brownie. It was wonderful with creamy egg nog ice cream. I made it because of this great dessert I had a gourmet resturant last week (Roy's) and it actually tasted similar to it.
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Old 07-03-2006, 01:16 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Goodweed of the North
...Think of heat as preasurised water pool. Think of each muffin as a sink connected by a hose to the pool, the hose representing the cooking surface that transfers heat. If you open only one hose valve, maximum water volume will flow into that sink. As you open other valves, the pressure drops and the volume of water released by the pool remains the same, but is divided by the number of valves opened. Each sink therefore fills more slowly, though the total volume of water taken from the pool is the same...
Goodweed, while your hoses are emptying the pool, someone keeps refilling it so the pressure doesn't keep dropping. The oven automatically maintains cooking temperature.

When you use a muffin tin and do not fill all the cups with batter, you are usually instructed to fill the empties with water. This provides for the more even distribution of the available heat.

BB, try that next time. If you're going to do half a muffin tin, fill the other half with water to even out the heat distribution.
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Old 07-05-2006, 12:59 PM   #5
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Andy, you are correct in that the water pressure from the pool remains constant. And you are also correct in filling the empty cups with water. I knew that but was so busy trying to explain the heat properties that I forgot to turn on the cooking knowledge portion of my brain. Thanks for adding that bit of info.

Even with constant pressure, the amount of pressure to each hose is divided every time another hose is turned on. So the idea is still sound. Filling the other cups just takes care of the heat transfer problem, with the water in each cup absorbing the excess heat from the pan. Thanks again for adding that part.

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Old 07-05-2006, 07:12 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Goodweed of the North
Andy, you are correct in that the water pressure from the pool remains constant. And you are also correct in filling the empty cups with water. I knew that but was so busy trying to explain the heat properties that I forgot to turn on the cooking knowledge portion of my brain. Thanks for adding that bit of info.

Even with constant pressure, the amount of pressure to each hose is divided every time another hose is turned on. So the idea is still sound. Filling the other cups just takes care of the heat transfer problem, with the water in each cup absorbing the excess heat from the pan. Thanks again for adding that part.

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
Oh, I see. Karma to you both for good advice (Godweed to the North +Andy M.)
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Old 07-06-2006, 01:13 AM   #7
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If you have some small (4.5 oz) porcelain ramekins (about 3.5 inch diameter) ... and use a water-bath (aka: bain marie) you will probably get better results than the muffin-tin. Plus, you'll have the "single serving" presentation factor allowing the "cake" to be a little more delicate than what is needed to "knock them out" of the muffin pan.

Of course - you could also use the water bath technique using a muffin tin, also.
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Old 07-07-2006, 07:56 PM   #8
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follow-up question:
i LOVE panera bread's muffies. (which are really just muffin tops)
i tried it in a muffin pan by cooking on slightly lower heat for less time. they were awful. tips?
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Old 07-09-2006, 08:56 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rlc912
follow-up question:
i LOVE panera bread's muffies. (which are really just muffin tops)
i tried it in a muffin pan by cooking on slightly lower heat for less time. they were awful. tips?
I'm confused. What are panera bread's muffies. And I would suspect that as you cooked with less heat for a shorter time, you would have come out with gooey muffins. To know what went wrong, we need more information as to what you did besides what you've already given us.

Muffin batters are members of the quickbread family of baked goods. They rely on baking powder or and acidic ingredient such as buttermilk, along with baking soda to create the leavening (rising of the batter). The batter is usually semi-liquid, or plastic in nature and relies on heat to set the protiens, evaporate the extra moisture, and creat the final crumbly texture we so love in out muffins.

The secret to any quickbread is to use the correct ratios of egg, water (or milk, buttermilk, juice, etc.) leavening agent, and fat. The fat provides a moist texture. But if too much is used, the final product will be oily in texture, litteraly. If too little is used, the final result will be something that will require great quantities of liquid to wash, or choke down.

Generally, the ratios are:
1 cup flour
2 to 3 tbs. cooking oil
2/3 to 3/4 cup liquid
1/2 tsp. salt
Sugar or Splenda, Stevia, etc. (amount depends on what you are making)
1 large egg
Spices (cinamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, etc.) has no bearing on texture

If you include ingredients such as applesauce, apple pieces, peach chunks, etc., use a little less water and a tsp. less oil. You can substitute 1/4 cup applesauce for the oil in many recipes.

As for heat, if you decrease the temperature, you will need to increase the cooking time. This is handy when you want to increase the size of a recipe. The heat takes longer to reach the batter center and can overcook the product's outer layers if cooked at the regular temperature called for in the recipe. Lowering the cooking teperature and cooking longer will prevent that occurance. The downside is that it takes longer to get the job done.

Another great thing about quickbreads (and this family includes cakes) is that to increase a recipe, you mearly multiply all ingredients by the same number. If you double the flour, you double everything else along with it.

Seeeeeeya' Goodweed of the North
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Old 07-09-2006, 10:04 PM   #10
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Panera Bread is a cafe/bakery/coffee shop chain. I've found them in most southeast states and there is one a couple blocks from me here is Atlanta. Muffies are basically the top of the muffin, without the stump.

I used regular muffin mix but only filled the cups a little bit and cooked what time/temp I thought might work. I was wrong. The inside was gooey and the edges were tough.

Good news though--I found a muffie pan over the weekend and am going to try what you've suggested in it. The pan is a very shallow cupcake pan, with cups only about 1 inch deep.
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