A New Semester, Pumpkin Candles, and Procrastination

After ringing in a new year, classes resumed last week. My Culinary I students began working on a new unit about mother sauces and derivatives. We started this unit by producing a tomato mother sauce which we then turned into a Marinara derivative sauce.

spaghetti produced by my Culinary I students

My Culinary II and III students kicked off the new semester with a seasoning lesson that involved the production of chili with beans. After following a basic recipe to make this product, the students learned how to adjust the seasoning so as to better adjust the flavor profile in keeping with their personal tastes.

diner style chili produced by my Culinary II and III students

Although I had planned to build a pond over the Christmas break and to work at finishing my novel, I was sidetracked by the sale of candles through my virtual store at Made in Nevada. It didn’t help when I ran out of the bricks and mortar that I was using to build a planter to hold the excavated dirt from the pond.

The planter is only 1/3rd done and to my chagrin, I didn’t work on my novel at all. The Etsy store that I had planned to open was never launched because I have been procrastinating with the production of new candle lines. Although I will eventually open an Etsy store, I’m not in any rush to do so. It helps that my candle making business is a sideline and that I’m not dependent upon this income to support myself.

Having created some stuffed pumpkin loaf candles back in early November, I found myself wondering what to do with nearly two pounds of leftover pumpkin scented wax. While I could have continued making more of these candles, I decided to use this wax to produce some muffin and cake candles.

pumpkin loaf candle

What is a muffin and how is a muffin different from a cupcake?

While muffins resemble cupcakes, from a culinary perspective their main difference is that while the latter is made by first creaming butter with sugar prior to adding the other ingredients to create a smooth batter, muffins are made by only lightly mixing this batter. This results in a slightly coarser and more crumbly product.

The term “muffin” is related to the German word muffe which is literally translated as small cake. It is also related to the French word, moufflet which means “soft bread.”

While no one knows who created the first muffin, the first known recipe for this product was published in Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery. This cookbook was published in the United Kingdom in 1758.

An English muffin man, circa 1905, United Kingdom

Muffins were a popular snack food and were sold door to door by vendors from the mid-18th through the early 20th century. The English nursery rhyme, “The Muffin Man,” was written in 1820 and highlights the practice of food delivery to affluent Victorian households where muffins were eagerly sought after to serve with the afternoon’s tea.

“Do you know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man.
Do you know the muffin man,
Who lives on Drury Lane?

Yes, I know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Yes, I know the muffin man,
Who lives on Drury Lane

Both muffins and cupcakes are a type of cake. Cakes have an older culinary tradition and were made by many ancient cultures that included the Egyptians, Indians, Persians, Romans, and Greeks. Since sugar was not commonly used in Europe until the 16th century, early cakes were more bread-like and were sweetened with honey and fruit.

The first cakes with icing were produced in Europe during the mid-17th century. Cake production only became possible after several conditions were met. Bakers needed access to more dependable stoves. To make the cakes that we’re familiar with today, they also needed cake molds, sugar, and chemical leaveners.

Early ovens were made of clay or clay and brick. They burned wood for heat. There was no way to measure the heat and the only way to regulate the temperature was to monitor the amount of wood that was being used.

Castrol stove

In 1735, François Cuvilliés invented the Castrol stove. This was a coal burning iron stove that allowed cooks to cook on a stovetop instead of having to hang pots over a fireplace. It included an oven below the flat top. The stovetop temperature was regulated by the amount of coal that was used along with where one placed a pot on the stovetop. The area above the coal was always the warmest while the part that was the furthest away would have been the coolest.

In 1802 Zachaus Winzler adapted an iron stove to use gas instead of wood. This prototype was later refined by James Sharp who opened a factory in England in 1836 to produce and sell gas stoves. These early stoves did not have thermostats or temperature controls. It would not be until 1915 that such devices would be added.

Roper Gas Stove circa 1930 – Notice the thermostat to the left of the top oven

Although an electric stove was on display at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, it would not be until the 1930’s when electricity became more commonly available that electric stoves became popular. By this time electric and gas stoves were both outselling coal burning stoves.

The fact that these temperatures could now be controlled was a huge boon to cooks and bakers. Coal burning stoves were less convenient because they required households to keep a supply of coal as well as matches and kindling to get the fire started. They also generated ash which had to periodically be emptied from the ash drawer.

Amazingly enough coal burning stoves are still produced and sold in the United States. Although some people may still use them for cooking, there are many people who use them as an affordable way to heat their living rooms.

Anthracite coal also known as “hard coal” burns hotter than other fossil fuels. Automatic hoppers can feed coal into a stove for as long as 36 hours of continued use. Coal is also more affordable than electricity or gas. Since anthracite coal has a low sulfur content, it produces less particulate emissions than other fossil fuels, wood pellets, or cord wood.

Pumpkin Scented Muffin Candles

These pumpkin muffin candles were incredibly easy to make. I used a silicone mold and poured the wax in two stages. After pouring the melted wax for what would become the muffin top, I inserted a bamboo skewer so that I would have a hole for the wick. As soon as the wax had set, I poured melted green dyed pumpkin scented wax to form the muffin’s liner.

Once the wax had cooled, I removed the completed muffin from the mold. I then inserted a wick and trimmed it. To further simulate the appearance of a freshly baked muffin, I painted the top of each candle with some orange-brown wax to provide “baked” highlights.

Mini Pumpkin Cake Drizzled with Caramel Sauce and Topped with Whipped Cream, Cranberries, and Raisins

These candles were inspired by mini cakes of the sort that might be served at a tea, a wedding, or some other event that requires the use of single portion cakes. These cakes are typically baked in either a ramekin or a cupcake pan. They are sometimes double layered and are often topped with whipped cream, butter cream frosting, fruit, or nuts.

pumpkin cake candle

These particular candles smell of pumpkin and vanilla crunch.

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