OPINION COLUMNS

Cheerful and beer-full; Brewski doesn’t make everything better

By David Talley | Published Saturday, July 1, 2017
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Bad Baking

BAD BAKING – Reporters Racey Burden and David Talley tried their hand at baking muffins, only to discover their talents are best used elsewhere. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Back in March, Racey and I planned to hold an office baking contest to celebrate Wise County Youth Fair weekend and all the preparation our local kids put into the annual event.

We ended up participating in the fair’s market hog celebrity showmanship contest, in which Racey won grand champion and I was awarded a participation prize. Since then, I’ve been looking to even the score, and when we discussed joint column ideas for July, we ended up back on baking.

David Talley

David Talley

It’s summer, and most kids are home from school. We’re all looking for activities to do, and baking is a pretty fun indoor activity when the temperature is hot outside.

While the pies, breads and cookies shown at the Youth Fair are probably phenomenal, there’s one baked good I really appreciate in the morning at the Messenger – a good muffin. Cakes by Leisha, our downtown neighbor, has some of the best, so, inspired by those, I set out to make some newsroom-worthy muffins. Leisha makes muffins hearty enough to be their own breakfast, and that was something I had in mind when looking for recipes.

I found an intriguing one relatively quickly. Called the “Spicy Bacon and Brew Muffin,” it promised to pack a unique kick, with bacon, ground red pepper and Guinness stout beer among the ingredients. Our webmaster, Todd, was really excited about the recipe, with most of my other coworkers offering vague interest. I had most of the ingredients at home already, so I figured I might as well try it.

I also wanted a second entry, just in case the weirdness of the beer muffins turned people off, so I picked a pretty generic-sounding applesauce and cinnamon muffin. In total, I spent maybe $15 on additional ingredients.

Once home, things quickly fell apart. The beer muffin recipe called for baking the bacon with a red pepper and brown sugar glaze, which only served to burn on top of the bacon and make the house smell terrible. I trashed half of my package of bacon and tried again, pulling the bacon out halfway through its time in the oven to add the glaze then so it wouldn’t burn. That worked, and from there it was a matter of cooling and chopping the bacon to fit both on top of and inside the finished muffins. I stuck them in the freezer, which worked, but also adhered the strips of bacon to the plate they were cooling on.

In the meantime, I mixed the batter, which takes way more time when you don’t bake that often and have to double check which is baking soda and which is baking powder. In went the beer, which I tasted and wasn’t that impressed. When packaged with the rest of the batter, which included quite a bit of brown sugar, it ended up pretty tasty. I was really proud of the final product, which reminded me of my parents’ beer bread recipe and also offered plenty of protein thanks to the bacon.

After the beer muffins came out of the oven, the applesauce cinnamon muffins went in. They were quite a bit more simple to make and called for more rolled oats than the beer muffins, which I think ultimately made them heartier. I packaged them all up after finishing, about 20 tota,l and headed to work the next day.

We appointed judges by walking through the Messenger office and asking everyone if they wanted to try our muffins. Some did, and we ended up with five judges. I printed a set of 4-H scorecards and set out some pens. Having never been graded on our cooking, Racey and I weren’t clear what to do next, but when Messenger ad sales rep Leisa Gage let loose with, “oh, this one’s awful” we decided it wasn’t proper for contestants to be present when their entries were judged. My entries ended up ranking higher than Racey’s, but tested extremely low with Messenger Sports Editor Richard Greene, who made sad faces and compared the beer muffin to dirty gym socks. As a marathon runner, if anyone truly understands the essence of dirty gym socks, it’s Richard, so this criticism cut deep. I think our friendly contest can be best summed up by Messenger veteran employee Ken Roselle, who complimented Racey’s muffins as “happy” before pondering how to describe mine.

Quick-witted from years of writing snappy headlines, Ken offered, “She’s got the cheerful and you’ve got the beer-full.”

I’ll take it.

David Talley is a Messenger reporter.

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