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Confessions of a Rock Eater August 23, 2009

Filed under: Quick Breads,Uncategorized — amynb2008 @ 2:48 am
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I have a confession to make.  And it doesn’t involve baking.  Okay…Here it goes.

I love Harry Potter.

The books that is…I realize Harry is a work of fiction.rock cakes, baked eggs, and applesauce bars 004

I know that there are people out there that feel that this series is, well, I guess the word would be evil.  I only mention this because a few of my closest friends happen feel this way.  I have to say that I completely respect this opinion.  I just disagree with it.

I think that the Harry Potter series is just a really good story.  In fact, not only is the storyline amazingly detailed and the characters highly developed, but there are actually uplifting themes running throughout — themes like love, friendship, loyalty, determination, courage, and doing what’s right.

Now you might be wondering what all this Harry Potter talk has to do with this blog.  Well, there is one more minor theme that occurs often in these books and that is food.  I’ve always been intrigued by all the different foods mentioned in these books.  Maybe it’s because they are set in Britain and many of the food I haven’t heard of before.  Like treacle fudge.  Which later I learned is molasses fudge.  Not really my cup o’ tea, but there are others.

Take rock cakes for instance.  Hagrid is mentioned on one or two occasion making them for Harry and his friends.  Since Hagrid’s character is not known for his prowess in the kitchen, I’ve always kind of thought that they were just called rock cakes because they were hard…like rocks.

Alas, in one of my $5 baking cookbooks from JoAnn’s I came across a recipe for rock cakes.  I just had to try them.

Let me just say that I am so glad I am a better baker than Hagrid.  If magical is not the word to describe them, it comes close.  Rock cakes are something between a biscuit and a scone.  They are just slightly sweet and very tender but with a nice, golden-brown bite on the outside.  They are filled with raisins (also I used currants) and, strangely, Maraschino cherries.  I sprinkled them with raw sugar for added treat.  Besides tasting good, they’re really quite pretty too.  They just sparkle.  They are really easy to make (just make sure not to over mix) and bake up quickly.  They are just the thing for curling up with a hot cup of tea and a really good book…whatever your choice of books may be.

Rock Drops

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup butter (5 1/3 tablespoons), cold and diced

1/3 cup raw sugar, plus more for sprinkling

1/2 cup raisins (I used currants)

2 tablespoons chopped Maraschino cherries

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons milk (I ended up using about 3 tablespoons)

Whisk together flour and baking powder.  Add butter and rub into the butter the flour with your fingers until the mixture looks like bread crumbs.

Stir in the the raw sugar, raisins, and cherries.  Add in the egg and milk to moisten and bring together in a soft dough.

Spoon 8 mounds of the mixture onto a buttered cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with more raw sugar.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and firm when gently pressed.

Remove rock drops from the cookie sheet.  Serve hot from the oven or transfer to a wire rack to cool before serving.  They are really good either way!

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Late Night Delights (Cherry Pecan Streusal Muffins) July 30, 2009

I think it’s no secret that I love to bake.  To me, baking is magic.  Baking is a lot different than cooking.  In cooking, each ingredient typically remains the same.  Master chefs can blend ingredients seamlessly but carrots are still carrots, meat still meat.  In baking, you blend a bunch of ingredients together and what you get in the end is something entirely different.  What starts out as a lump of dough ends up as soft, sweet bread.  Lumpy, pourable batter transforms into moist, delicious cake.  Baking is all about synergy.  What you end up with is so much more than the sum of its parts.

I’ve been hankering to bake lately.   I mean really bake…and that usually means without my children.

I love my girls.  I adore my girls.  It’s just they tend to suck the joy out of baking for me (and I mean that in the best, most loving of ways).  When they help, there’s always spills and fighting and lots of noise.  When I get in my kitchen, I just want to create.  I want quiet and peace to focus on what I”m doing.  To enjoy the process and the magic.

(Note:  All that being said, I think it’s of the utmost importance to get kids in the kitchen.  It’s fun and it’s educational and it’s a time to really enjoy each other’s company.  Passing on time-honored recipes and the joy of baking or cooking is a something that bring parents and kids together and it helps develop important skills they’ll have for a lifetime.)

Last night, I found myself alone.  Howie was working late.  The kids were (mostly) asleep.  I had seen a recipe on Everyday Baking for mini cherry-pecan loaves that I wanted to try.  I’ve been on a mission lately to use up stuff in my pantry and fridge, not only for the space but to save money.  I had both cherries and pecans.  I thought this was a perfect recipe to make while I had a few moments of quiet, even if it was a bit late in the evening.

The online reviews for this recipe often reported that they had too many cherries so I decided to cut back on them.  It’s a good thing because the recipe called for 1 1/2 cups and I only 2/3 of a cup.  In all honesty, I wish I had had more but I do think that the full amount would have been too much.  Next time, I’ll aim for 3/4 to one cup.  Also the original recipe called for 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans (mine were chopped a bit more finely).  I didn’t want the nuts to overpower the cherries, so I cut back on those as well.  I could have used some more of those as well.  I made a few other changes as well.  First, I made them into muffins since I didn’t have enough mini loaf pans.  Second, I added chocolate chips to the streusel.  How could that be wrong?

I really enjoyed these muffins.  Although they were a bit on the heavy side for a muffin, they weren’t too dry or too sweet.  The dried cherries gave them a sweet-tart almost spicy undertone and the pecans added a nice flavor and texture contrast.  I toyed with adding the chocolate to the batter but I’m glad I didn’t.  Putting it in the struesal gave it just a hint of chocolate that was both satisfying and left you wanting more (in a good way!).  I do wish that they hadn’t turned out so heavy.  They probably would have been much better as a loaf, but as muffins they were still delicious.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.  The best part is if you leave out the cherries and pecans, you have a great base recipe to which you can add other flavors.

Cherry-Pecans Streusal Muffins

This recipe is the way I made it so it is slightly different from the original recipe of mini cherry-pecan loaves.  To view the original click on this: http://www.pbs.org/everydayfood/baking/recipes/mini_cherrypecan_streusel_loaves.html)

For the Streusal

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar

4 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

In a bowl, mix together flour, sugar and butter with your fingertips until small, moist clumps form.  Mix in pecans and chocolate chips.  Place in freezer.

For Muffins

Cherry-Pecan Streusel Muffins

Cherry-Pecan Streusel Muffins

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup sour cream

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 stick  butter, melted

2/3 cup dried cherries (I’d add 3/4 -1 cup next time)

2/3 cups chopped pecans (Again, I’d 3/4 – 1 cup next time)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lighlty spray 15 muffin cups with baking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, sour cream, eggs, vanilla, and butter until smooth.  Mix in cherries and pecans.

Fold in dry ingredients until just moistened.

Divide batter among the muffin cups.  Top with streusal.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the largest muffin comes out clean.  Let cool for 5-10 minutes before removing muffins to cooling rack.

 

Simple and Delicious…Blueberry Muffins July 28, 2009

Filed under: Marth Stewart,Muffins,Quick Breads — amynb2008 @ 3:32 pm
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Martha's Blueberry Muffins

Martha's Blueberry Muffins

A few years ago, Martha Stewart came out with her Baking Handbook.  I, of course, bought it as soon as I could and was determined to bake my way through the entire book.  I even kept a journal to document what I had made.

That didn’t last too long.  I managed to make about 42 of the recipes but my dreams of writing my own memoir and getting on the Martha Stewart show was dashed as I found myself with too little time and too many recipes.

Still, all was not lost.  I did manage to find some gems in the recipes I did make.  One of my favorites is the white chocolate-butterscotch cookies.  Totally delicious!

However, the one recipe I keep coming back to, time and time again, is the blueberry muffins.  There are nothing fancy about these.  Simple preparation using simple ingredients.  They are just really, really good muffins.

A friend of mine mentioned to her daughter that she had never made homemade blueberry muffins before.  Her daughter told her that I should show her how.  So I did.  This was the recipe I showed her.  I think everyone was pleased with the results.

These muffins were made with fresh blueberries.  I usually use frozen.  Be warned they do turn the batter purple.  That doesn’t matter to me.  Purple or white or green…these are still my favorite muffins!  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Blueberry Muffins

from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups fresh blueberries

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter and flour a standard 12-cup muffin tin (I just spray it with Pam for Baking); set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.  Working over a bowl, toss the blueberries in a fine sieve with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the flour mixture to lightly coat (this keeps the blueberries from sinking to the bottom of the muffin).  Set flour and blueberries aside

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until combined.  Mix in the vanilla.

With the mixer on low speed, add the reserved flour mixture beating until just combined.  Add milk beating until just combined.  Do not over mix.  Using a rubber scraper, fold in the blueberries.  Divide batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups.

Bake, rotating halfway through, until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in one muffin comes out clean, about 30 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes.  Turn the muffins on their sides in their cups and let cool.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Bargain Bread April 6, 2009

Filed under: Bread,Quick Breads — amynb2008 @ 7:05 pm
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I used to be a consultant for Tastefully Simple.  It was a lot of fun, but I was no good at it.  I’m just not much of a sales

Beer Bread

Beer Bread

 person.   Luckily, some of the products sold themselves and one of my favorite things was one of them.  Beer Bread.  Yum!  If you’ve never had beer bread, you’re really missing out.  If you don’t drink beer (like me) don’t worry.  You can’t taste it.  The beer just gives it a little bit of tang.  

 

You can use other carbonated liquids too.  Mountain Dew mixed in with a little bit of cinnamon chips and drizzled with a simple powdered sugar glaze is a really nice treat.  You can even use a cherry cola and make a cherry flavored glaze.   Use your imagination.  The original beer bread is fabulous with bread.  Leftovers, if you have any, aren’t good by itself, but they make a wonderful grilled cheese sandwich.  

Besides this recipe being pretty versatile, it is also inexpensive.  You don’t need expensive beer here.  Guiness in not required!  Use what you have or what’s on sale.   Besides the beer, all the other ingredients you’ll have on hand.  When I started out with Tastefully Simple, a package to make one loaf of beer bread was $4.99.  Today is is $5.49.  To me, that makes this bread not only versatile…but a bargain!

 

Beer Batter Bread

3 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

3 tablespoons sugar

1 12-ounce bottle of beer

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add the beer all at once and mix as little as possible until just combined.  The batter will be lumpy.

Pour into a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan and pour melted butter over the top.  Bake for 35-40 minutes.  Allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing or it will just fall apart on you.

NOTE:  The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup of butter.  That’s just way to much for me — but go ahead and give it a try if you must.  Long live Paula Deen!

 

An International Affair March 20, 2009

Irish Soda Bread 

 

Irish Soda Bread

 

This was a busy week.  St. Patrick’s Day just screamed at me to make Irish Soda Bread.  Tuesdays with Dorie called and, of course, I had baking class.  Oh…so many things to bake.  So little time.  

 

My daughters and I had a playdate on Monday.  A friend of ours had a little St. Patrick’s Day lunch.  I offered to bring the Irish Soda Bread.  A group in my baknig class had made this last week and I loved its yellow hue and tender crumb.  If you’ve never had soda bread, it’s a bit like scones only bigger.  It’s not very sweet but the raisins offer a nice contrast to this.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, I have a bit of a sweet tooth.  That is precisely why I added a nice dusting of sugar on the top of my loaf.  It added a subtle crunch as well as a little sweetness.  Personally, I could have used even more sugar on top.  I found this recipe to be a little too bland.  A few more raisins would help too.

Normally, I would post all the projects we made in baking class but I forgot my camera.  Our group made bread this week.  We made olive oil bread, a fabulous recipe created by our lab assistant.  It’s a soft, squishy bread flavored lightly with olive oil and molasses.  Fresh out of the oven, it is brushed with an olive oil, salt, and garlic mixture.  Oh…it is a thing of beauty.  We also made foccacia topped with carmalized onions, tomatoes, and olives.  This stuff is amazing.  It’s my new favorite.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it!  Lastly, although not bread, we made biscotti.  Dipped in chocolate.   Again…dee-licious!  I had actually never had biscotti before.  I’m not a fan of hard cookies, but these were really good.  They were studded with pecans, cranberries, and white chocolate.  Very nice.

So…this brings me to Tuesdays with Dorie.  The selection for the week was French Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze.  This sounded good to me.  It wasn’t chocolate, but it seemed like a nice choice.  It was super easy to make.  I would

French Yogurt Cake

French Yogurt Cake

venture to guess even a novice could make it.  It didn’t require any fancy equipment and, all except for the lemon marmalade, the ingredients were pretty common.  I whipped this cake up in the midst of kitchen chaos.  A mini tornado in the form of a 19-month-old girl who decided to empty out my baking cabinet.  Somehow, I managed to bake it up without breaking anything.  

 

When the cake was done baking, it was a deep brown.  I was worried it might be too dry if I overbaked it.  While still warm, I brushed it with orange marmalde (couldn’t find the lemon).  The top turned all glisten-y and inviting.   Sitting on my counter, it still drew a lot of attention.  I could barely control my desire to just break off a piece.  One of my daughters cleaned her plate to make sure she got a piece.  That’s a feat in and of itself.

Dessert time came.  I whipped up some lightly sweetened cream to top off the cake.  I served it up to my three girls first.  All three of them devoured it and not just the whipped cream.  Another feat!  My husband thoroughly enjoyed it as well.  As for me?  Well…let me tell you a little story.

Today after lunch, I wanted something a little sweet.  On my counter was the last remaining peice of French Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze and a 3-pack of Ferrero-Rocher chocolate hazelnut candy (my favorite!).  I reached for the candy.  My intention was to only take one piece…but, alas…I decided on the cake instead.  That is how good this cake is.  No — it’s never going to replace chocolate but it is a nice change.  It’s not too sweet and the marmalade glaze made a sticky goodness that I loved.  The cake was actually moist and even though it was a deeper shade of brown than I expected, that added a nice change in texture from the cake itself.  It’s the kind of desset that doesn’t seem like a dessert at all, but is still satisfying.

I think this one is a keeper!

with Fresh Whipped Cream

with Fresh Whipped Cream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze

from Baking From My Home to Yours

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 ground almonds (or just use 1/2 cup extra flour)

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 cup sugar

Grated zest of 1 lemon (I used an orange)

1/2 cup plain yogurt

3 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 1/2 cup flavorless oil, like canola or safflower

 For the Glaze

 1/2 cup lemon marmalade, strained (I used orange)

1 teaspoon water

Center a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter an 81/2-x-41/2-inch loaf pan and place pan on a baking sheet.

Whisk together flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt.

Put the sugar and zest in a medium bowl and rub the zest in the sugar with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic.  Add the yogurt, eggs, and vanilla.  Whisk vigorously until the mixture is well blended.  Still whisking, add the dry ingredients, then switch to a large rubber spatula adn fold in the oil.  You’ll have a thick, smooth batter with a slight sheen.  Scrape batter into the pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until the cake begins to come away from the sides of the pan.  It should be golden brown and a thin knife inserted into the center will come out clean.  Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes, then run a blunt knife between the cake and the sides of the pan.  Unmold and cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.

Put the marmalade in a small saucepan or a microwave-safe bowl.  STirl i nthe the water adn heat until the jelly is hot and liquefied.  Using a pastry brush, gently brush the cake with the glaze.