Category: recipes

Apr 19 2011

Lemon Cranberry Muffins

I love to make muffins. They’re quick, easy, and can take on just about any flavor you want to throw into them. They can be healthy or unhealthy, sweet or savory, and, no matter how complicated you make them, they never take more than 15 minutes to mix up.

Lemon Cranberry Muffins

So, after making the Whoopie Pies with my coworker’s lemons, I decided to use up some more of them in some muffins. This recipe is my standard muffin formula, adjusted for the lemon/cranberry mix.

Ingredients:

* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 tablespoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 1 lemon, zest of
* 1 lemon, juice of
* 1 cup dried cranberries
* 1/4 cup buttermilk powder
* 1 cup water
* 1 egg
* 1/4 cup oil
* for glaze: 1 cup powdered sugar, 2-3 tbl milk, icing coloring as desired

Mix up the wet ingredients, add the dry ingredients. Pour into greased or lined muffin tins, bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown around the edges.

Mix together the sugar and milk for the glaze, add coloring as needed. Remember how I mentioned in my last post you need to be careful with gel colors? Yeah, well, you can see the results here in the muffin glaze. PATIENCE is the important word when coloring anything. Only add a little bit of color at a time. I wasn’t particularly patient, threw in a glob of gel, and this is what I ended up with. Oops.

Wait for the muffins to cool off, then drizzle the glaze over the tops for a little extra sweet shine.

 

Lemon Cranberry Muffins 

These muffins will keep for at least a week in a bag at room temp, or even longer in the freezer (if frozen, nuke ‘em for a minute or so to defrost, they’ll be fine).

Enjoy!!

Apr 14 2011

Lovely Lemon Whoopie Pies

Lemon Whoopie PieOne of my coworkers brought in some fresh picked organic lemons from his backyard, and I couldn’t resist bringing a bunch of lemons home to do some baking. After all, what’s more perfect for spring, sunny weather than lemons?

I’ve been reading whoopie pie recipes left and right in various baking blogs lately, and had been looking for an opportunity to try to make some myself. I started with a basic lemon cake recipe, and adapted it from there.

Ingredients:

2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/4 cup dried buttermilk
1/2 cup flour
2 tsp lemon rind/shredded peel
2 tablespoons lemon juice

For frosting:

6 oz cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 tsp lemon rind/peel
2 tsp lemon juice
4 cups powdered sugar

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325.

Measure out the 2 cups of sugar into a bowl. Grate the lemon rind directly into the sugar. Mix (I use a plastic container with a lid and just shake). Set aside. You can do this in advance of baking – the longer you let the rind and sugar sit, the better. Shake the container every so often to encourage those lemon oils to go into the sugar.

Mix together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and buttermilk powder, set aside.

Cream the now lemony sugar together with the butter until fluffy. Add the lemon juice, then the flour mixture. Slowly add the water until you get a thickish batter, feel free to use less of the water if you want thicker pies.

lemons
Yum, lemons!

To bake:

Drop the batter by the teaspoon onto a cookie sheet. These will spread – a lot – I could only really bake 6 or so at a time on a full size sheet. The larger the batter drop the larger the cookie will be widthwise, you will not get more thickness by using more batter (use less water for that).

Bake for 8-11 minutes, remove to a rack to cool. The “cookies” should be slightly brown around the edges, but still mostly yellow. When the cookies come out of the oven, sprinkle the tops of the cookies with yellow sanding sugar (or other coarse, decorating sugar) if desired for a little crunch and sparkle.

The icing:

Mix together the cream cheese, lemon, and butter until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until the desired stiffness is achieved. If desired, add yellow coloring gel at this point. Be careful with icing, a little goes a very long way! I got the color right on the icing for the whoopie pies, but…as you’ll see…I kind of made neon day-glo glaze for the muffins. Oopsies, you can laugh at me in the next post.

To assemble: Easy as pie. Once the cookies have cooled, take one, spread icing on the flat side with a knife or offset spatula. Top with another cookie, flat side down. You can get fancy with piping if you want, I did for a little while, but the results are barely visible and not really worth the extra effort.

Let the cookies sit for another hour or so for the icing to set and the cake to firm up, then dig in!

Yield fully depends on how big you make the cookies – I’d guestimate I got about 20-something cookies out of this batch. The icing was the perfect amount.

Lemon Whoopie Pie
Aren’t they pretty?

Sep 21 2008

The World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve been on a quest the past few months to figure out the recipe for “the world’s best” (aka, my best) chocolate chip cookies. Why? Because it’s fun, and just like my bread-making experiments, even the “bad” results are still pretty good.

I also wanted to have a general “go-to” chocolate chip cookie recipe that wasn’t a massive amount of work, and wasn’t from the back of a box. Previously, if I needed to make cookies I’d make toll-house. Which aren’t bad, don’t get me wrong, but I did want to make some improvements.

These cookies are big, chewy in the middle, and crunchy along the edges. They are sweet and kind of butterscotchy, but have a little salty taste that works really really well with dark chocolate.

This recipe is based off of a ton of recipes I’ve read from various
places. Due to that, I can’t claim it’s “original,” every technique was
swiped from somewhere, but the combination is all mine. The recipe is
very specific with just about everything, but given that I’m talking
perfection with these cookies (or as close to perfection as I can
attain), the devil is in the details.

Ingredients:

2 sticks of unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour (King Arthur recommended)
1 tsp sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tsp baking soda (FRESH! Not the stuff that’s been sitting in your fridge for a year.)
1/4 cup white (cane) sugar
1 1/4 cup well-packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 yolk (fresh eggs separate better)
2 tbl whole milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups dark or white chocolate chips (recipe works well with either)

You can also use all white sugar (and kosher salt – don’t use sea salt with all white sugar). The result is a sugar cookie with a slightly crunchy, very chewy texture. It’s a little strange, but they do taste good, and are best served straight from the oven. I prefer the brown/white mixture. The recipe doesn’t really work with all brown sugar.

Sift flour, salt (it is very much worth an extra step to grind fresh sea salt. People may laugh at me for it, but test it yourself – it does make a difference.), and baking soda. Set aside.

Melt the butter. Stove top is always recommended, but I usually just stick it in the microwave.

Add sugar, brown sugar to the butter. Cream. Cream means continue mixing until the texture is smooth and even with air bubbles popping up. It really is important to mix everything well.

Add egg, yolk, milk and vanilla. Be very, very careful not to scramble the egg at this point. I often have to let the whole thing cool down a bit.

Add flour mixture. I generally add half, mix, then add the other half. The idea here is to not overmix the dough, that will make it tough. Stop when it’s all well combined.

Add the chocolate chips, mix. The dough will not be mixable once chilled, so the chips must be fully incorporated.

Chill the dough in the fridge for at least one hour, preferably overnight. 24 hours is always recommended, especially if grocery store vanilla is used. If you’ve never done this before, split a batch. Make half after an hour, save the other half until the next day. The difference is obvious in the way the cookie looks and the flavor, there’s an almost chemical tartness that the cookies lose after the 24 hours. I never noticed the tartness until I tested this, now I can’t ignore it.

When ready to bake, scoop the cookies onto a parchment paper or silpat lined baking sheet in large round balls at least an inch apart. I use a non-stick ice scream scooper. Do not forget to line the sheet, the cookies will stick to a non-stick pan, and this recipe does require multiple batches to be cooked. I can’t fit more than 9 cookies on a single pan. Line the pan = no washing in between batches. Using a hot pan will result in thinner crusts on the cookies, which I don’t mind. Yield is 20-ish, it’s always different for me, since I make the cookies as big as feasible.

I have never tried to make regular toll-house sized (tablespoon) cookies out of this recipe. It would probably work, but they may not be as chewy in the center.

If desired, sprinkle the tops of the cookies with a teeny bit of sea salt. It’ll result in a nice little crunch.

Bake the cookies in a well pre-heated (pre-heat for at least an hour) 375 degree oven for 9-13 minutes. Baking time will depend on how long the dough chilled, the cookies will brown better (and faster) if the dough sat for at least 24 hours. Rotate the baking sheet once.

Do not overbake the cookies, they need to be watched carefully to make sure they don’t get too brown. The taste changes if they’re baked too long. I’ve had them take as few as 8 to as many as 14 minutes.

Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes. Gently separate any cookies stuck together with a knife or spatula, then move to a cooling rack with the spatula. They should cool for at least 10 more minutes. The cookies will break if not properly cooled. Guaranteed.

The cookies have a pretty decent shelf life (up to two and a half weeks or so in a fridge), and get better with time. I really like the way they are straight from the fridge, almost hard but very chewy, but they’ll be softer if warmed to room temperature. They’ll be very soft and almost fall apart if quickly microwaved, which is also yummy. They can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for a week.

If you try these, let me know what you think, and if you think any improvements can be made. These are the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve come up with, but any recipe can almost always be tweaked further, and I’m always ready to play some more.

Dec 21 2007

How can a nation be great if the bread tastes like kleenex?

…quote from Julia Child

This recent article from the NY Times made me laugh.

As any true bread-lover will tell you (and I am a bread geek of the worst kind), whole wheat and whole grain bread is the only kind of bread worth eating. White bread is generally bland, over sweetened and buttered stuff left for dinner rolls, challah, and real traditional sourdough. Other than that?? Whole wheat/grain bread is healthier, ends up with a much better texture, and tastes about a billion times better. White bread’s also boring to play with as a baker. The fun comes in when I play with the other stuff.

King Arthur Flour (the god of all flour companies) has made white whole wheat bread for ages now. It�s not bad, although it still doesn’t act quite the same as real whole wheat. Still better than white bread, though, and marketed as a way to get the wonder bread generation eating whole wheat bread.

I love baking bread. To me, it�s a fun, enjoyable, edible hobby.

I still do buy bread on occasion, the best bread takes time and hours of love, and if I�m not going to do it right, I�d rather not do it. It�ll take me a minimum of 4 hours to bake a basic loaf from start to finish, but can take weeks if I really want to make that fantasy bread of every baker that crackles as it comes out of the oven. The perfect bread is crunchy on the outside, slightly dense, chewy on the inside with the big air bubbles that no storebought yeast will ever produce.

The ingredients in a basic loaf of bread are extremely simple. Some mix of different types of flour, and some mix of additional ingredients, depending on what I’m trying to get out of the bread (light and fluffy vs denser sandwich bread, etc). I�ll use butter or oil, eggs, powdered milk, but I rarely use sugar. If I’m making real, heavy whole wheat, I’ll add splenda, and dinner rolls just have to have a ton of sugar and butter, but other then that? The whole point of making bread at home is that it isn’t that icky sweet sticky storebought fluff balls they call bread.

That said, if someone is going to start baking bread for the first time, the transition is smoother if they use use some sort of sweetener, especially if they’re going to try to get kids to eat the bread. Just makes the transition a little easier, and after a while, you’ll find yourself making up your own recipes. Bread’s one of those great things you can throw half the refrigerator into. Even if you don’t make it part of the actual dough, you can always wrap dough around stuff and suddenly you’ve invented something.

Baking bread is easy, fun, and nowhere near as difficult as people think it is. It’s edible playdough. Beat that.

Below is my recipe for my simple version of whole wheat bread. It�s light, fluffy, has a crunchy crust, and tastes better then anything you�ll find in the store.

Ingredients:

2 tsp yeast
1 � cup white flour
1 � cup regular whole wheat flour
2 tbl honey
4 tbl butter, unsalted
1/4 cup powdered milk
1 egg
� tsp salt
1 � cup water

Mix, let rise (about an hour), pound down, let rise again (about 45 minutes), shape, let rise one last time (until dough has doubled). Bake for 30 � 40 minutes on 425 in a VERY well preheated oven. You’ll know the bread’s done if it sounds hollow when you thump on the bottom.

Once you get the hang of the basic recipe, you can mess with ingredients – the only way to truly “fail” at baking bread is to forget the yeast (or flour, obviously). Play with shaping the dough – any bread loaf can also be made as rolls, or braided, or whatever, and play with the baking temp and time. Ideally, bread should be baked in the hottest possible oven you can get for the shortest period of time.

I’ll write another entry with general tips tomorrow.

Have fun, and happy eating!!

(oh, and thanks for the unanimous recommendation on what host to use, that made my choice easy!)

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