Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Orange Berry Muffins with Crumb Topping

In my continuing quest to bake every recipe from Baking From My Home to Yours, this week I'm catching up with the orange berry muffins. Practically every time I pick up this cookbook looking for something quick and spontaneous to bake, I look at these muffins, see the blueberries and turn the page. I've written before about the reason for my blueberry aversion here, but the time was here to put on my big girl apron and do it.

To get around my lack of true love for the blueberry, I also added some raspberries I froze last year when they were plentiful at the farmers markets, I included walnuts AND I topped them with a crumb topping. They were spectacular, and I didn't even care that they had blueberries in them.

This is not what I'd call a fast recipe, and you will dirty a few bowls, measuring cups, etc., but it will be totally worth it. It's much easier if you have the crumb topping pre-made in your freezer.

Orange Berry Muffins with Crumb Topping - adapted from Dorie Greenspan
Printer-friendly recipe

Crumb topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
About 3/4 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 Tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia extract (from King Arthur Flour, optional)
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup raspberries – fresh or frozen (not thawed)
1 cup blueberries – fresh or frozen (not thawed)
2/3 cup chopped walnuts

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Make the crumb topping:
Combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and the butter crumb topping ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Rub the mixture with your fingertips until it's in big crumbles, then set aside in the refrigerator, tightly covered, until ready to use.

Make the muffins:
Pour the orange juice into a large glass measuring cup or a bowl and pour in enough buttermilk to make 1 cup. Whisk in the eggs, honey, melted butter and Fiori di Sicilia (if using).

In a large bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with a spatula until the sugar is moist. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough – the batter will be lumpy and bubbly, and that’s just the way it should be. Stir in the blueberries. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Sprinkle on the crumb mixture (you may have some leftover - just freeze if for another time).

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes (mine were done at 21 minutes). When fully baked, the crumb topping will be golden, the muffins springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins will come out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Programming note: Check back tomorrow because I'm posting a cake that will amaze you and is a lot of fun to make. In a very tortured way that leads to a lot of dishes. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Spicy Roasted Romanesco Cauliflower

Beautiful and brightly colored, Romanesco cauliflower showed up in my CSA basket for the first time several weeks ago. Confused, I looked at the list of what they were sending us and figured out what it was, then turned to the internet for recipe inspiration.

I'm not a fan of cooked cauliflower, but after trying this method of preparing Romanesco cauliflower, I am in love. The tips get browned and caramelized and the chili oil and salt transform the flavor. I was alone for dinner that first night and ate the whole head myself. Truly. It was a small head, but still.

Roasted Romanesco Cauiflower - adapted from Brooklyn Farmhouse
Printer-friendly recipe
One head Romanesco cauliflower, core removed and cauliflower broken up into florets
2-4 tablespoons chili oil
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt (smoked sea salt is especially delicious here)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lemon

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

On a baking sheet, toss the cauliflower florets, chili oil and salt together. Add several grinds of black pepper.

Roast in the oven for 20 - 30 minutes, or until the cauliflower is softened and is brown in places.

Remove from oven and squeeze the lemon over the cauliflower. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Perfection Pound Cake and Lemon Curd

Whenever I hear a claim of perfection in a recipe, I get concerned. That means it's been tested and loved by many, and the off chance that someone can screw it up looms over me. My kitchen takes on a dingy hue, no, wait, the kitchen lights are on the dimmer. Scratch that. But it makes me leery of A. failure and B. disappointment.

I wouldn't say this pound cake was a failure, but I was a teensy bit disappointed. I've been to the oven with a pound cake or two, tried probably a dozen recipes, and the one I return to is Rose Levy Beranbaum's from The Cake Bible. That pound cake is moist with the finest crumb. Maybe this was operator error.

In fairness, Dorie says for best texture, wrap the cake up and put it away for a day. I didn't do that, and it may have made a difference. I also didn't add the eggs one at a time and beat well before adding the next egg. I had broken two of the yolks when cracking the eggs and three eggs fell into the bowl at the same time. See what I mean about operator error?

I used cake flour, hoping for a nice crumb but I'm not sure it made any difference. The outside was crisp, and the inside soft, but it was just a plain cake. That's why I made lemon curd to go with it. And brown sugar caramel, but I'll make that for you another time.

I was thrilled to win the latest Cook's Illustrated cookbook in a giveaway on Tracey's Culinary Adventures (thanks, Tracey!). It's a huge book, and it's been sitting on my counter asking to be used since it arrived. I cracked it open and found the lemon curd, perfect because I had a bag of Meyer lemons from my friend's huge tree. If you'd like the recipe for it, you can find it here on the Cook's Illustrated website (you'll have to sign up for a 15 day free trial, but the lemon curd is worth the trouble!)

If you're still test driving pound cake recipes, this is a good one to try (you can find the recipe here). I have a limited attention span with things that are plain, perfect or not, so it's a tough sell for me. Nonetheless, I did mark off another recipe in my quest to bake all the recipes in Baking From My Home to Yours. Score!

Programming note: If you check back around February 1st, I'm going to have a cake that will amaze you and is a lot of fun to make. In a very tortured way that leads to a lot of dishes.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits

I love a good biscuit, and I love cheese, so a cheesy biscuit already has my attention. I found this Ina Garten recipe while I was looking for something else and it is yummy. I added smoked Spanish paprika, though you could certainly leave that out, or replace it with cayenne, or a bit of garlic powder.

I also love Ina's method for making scones and biscuits. She has you put the dry ingredients in the bowl of the stand mixer, toss in the cold butter, and let the machine do the work. I added aged white cheddar and the aforementioned smoked paprika. Although the color is a little muddy, the flavor was great. 

These biscuits are great as a do-ahead recipe. Simply make the dough, cut out the biscuits and put them on a sheet pan and stick in the freezer. Once frozen through, toss them (carefully) in a ziploc bag and freeze. You can pull a few out and bake them to go with soup or chili or eggs. Just add a minute or two to the baking time.

I skipped the egg wash the recipe called for and sprinkled them with a little shredded cheddar and they were great. Did I mention they were delicious? And yummy? Good. Just wanted to make sure I mentioned we loved them.

Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits (adapted from Ina Garten, found on Food Network)
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring the board
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika, optional
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup cold buttermilk, shaken
1 egg, cold
1 1/2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar, plus extra for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Place 2 cups of flour, the baking powder, salt and paprika in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add the butter and mix until the butter is the size of peas.

Combine the buttermilk and egg in a small measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork. With the mixer still on low, quickly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and mix only until almost moistened. Turn off the mixer. In a small bowl, mix the Cheddar with the 2 tablespoons of flour and, with the mixer on low, add the cheese to the dough. Mix only until roughly combined (I find it's better to do this part with a spatula so I don't over mix the dough).

Dump out onto a well-floured board and knead lightly about 6 times. Roll the dough out to a rectangle 10 by 5 inches. With a 2" biscuit cutter, dip the cutter into some flour then cut out biscuits, keeping cuts close together. Don't twist the cutter in the dough, which can keep your biscuits from rising. Transfer biscuits to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle the tops with the extra cheddar and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the biscuits are cooked through. Serve hot or warm.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Quintuple Chocolate Brownies

I have news for you.

There is such a thing as too much chocolate.

I know, I never would have believed it could be true but it is. I'm not sure if it was the milk or white chocolate (or maybe the combination) that sent these over the top, but I could only take a tiny corner. Two bites. People who I relayed this to looked at me like I was an alien life form, and told me I was crazy. Just another day at the office.

These brownies, from Baking From My Home to Yours, contain cocoa powder, unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate chips and a white chocolate glaze.

Bottom line, if you like milk chocolate and sweet brownies, you'll love these. If not, I would suggest replacing the milk chocolate chips with semisweet or even bittersweet, and forgoing the white chocolate glaze entirely. They'd be quadruple chocolate if you did that, which is still pretty special.

I was feeling lazy and didn't toast the walnuts and the world didn't end. At least not yet. But I would recommend toasting the nuts, unless you're trying to bang out as many recipes as you can so you can write lots of posts during your non-existent down time at a conference. Like I am.

You can find the recipe all over the blogosphere, or you can find it in the original post when these were picked for TWD here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Nut-Crusted Chocolate-Banana Swirl Cake

My friend Hanna at Hanaa's Kitchen has been encouraging me to join ABC Bakers for a while. I thought the last thing I needed was another group (true), but this time she caught me at a weak moment. I had a week off from work so I was relaxed and, at the time, had finished Tuesdays with Dorie with no intention of continuing on with the group when they moved to Baking with Julia, nor of finishing the recipes I had missed.

Fast forward and a lot has changed. I've decided to continue on to BwJ, and I'm joining Nancy and a few other baking buddies in making up the recipes I missed in Baking From My Home to Yours. We're starting with the recipes picked in the very beginning and working through we get to the point where we had joined and were baking with the group every week.

But when Hanaa asked me again if I'd like to join ABC (Avid Bakers Challenge), I took a look at the book they would be baking from in 2012 (The Weekend Baker by Abby Dodge) and was very impressed with what I found. Virtually all of the reviews on Amazon are 5 star. It has the weights for the ingredients (yippee!) The recipes are interesting and approachable and are organized by how long they take.

The first recipe the group is making is the nut-crusted chocolate-banana swirl cake. During the winter, it can take a week for a banana to ripen in my cool kitchen, and it did. In fact, I didn't make these with fully brown bananas, but they were spotty. I was running out of time before I left for a conference so I hoped for the best.

I made this one morning in one of my pre-coffee stupors, and I completely forgot to mix in the buttermilk in between additions of flour. By the time I remembered, I had already divided the batter (by eye, instead of my usual obsessive weighing to get exact quantities of the two batters) and started spooning the melted chocolate into one bowl of it. I put half of the buttermilk in each batter. Turns out I had way more chocolate batter than plain so the plain was a little runnier than the chocolate, but it all worked out in the oven. A few things to keep in mind:

  • Preheat your oven really well. I used to stick cakes in when it went ding but now I give it an extra 10 minutes, and I believe that gives cakes a little more oven spring.
  • One of the things I liked about the recipe is she gives the weight for the bananas peel and all. Another is you don't have to mash the bananas. I dropped banana chunks into the mixer while it was running. A real time saver! 
  • I used 70% bittersweet chocolate and added it to probably 2/3, not half of the batter. It gave the finished cake a very pronounced chocolate flavor that people loved.
  • After going to the trouble of buttering and nut-and-sugar-coating the pan, I was convinced that it just wasn't worth it and I would skip that step if making the cake again. After tasting - no way. It gives the cake a very special element.
  • I used pecans rather than walnuts because we love them and because my buddy Margaret had sent me some (thanks, Margaret!)

Hanaa had said her cake stuck a little bit (find out the beautiful way she remedied that here), but mine popped right out. It looked a little odd because it was predominantly chocolate batter, but my tasters were ecstatic with praise of the finished cake. People who don't normally indulge in the sweets I bring to work were having some because the word in the office was that this one was fantastic. And I have to agree. I'm not a huge fan of baked bananas or banana-flavored things, preferring to peel and eat my bananas. But even I couldn't believe how good this one was - super moist, crunchy on the outside and totally luscious. I'll definitely be making this one again. And again. And again.

If you'd like to see what the other bakers thought of the cake, you can find them here. We're not posting recipes from the book, but you can find the recipe on Fine Cooking.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Brown Sugar Pecan Shortbread

I know it was just last week that I was sniffling and bidding farewell to Baking From My Home to Yours, but my friend Nancy came up with a great idea that I'm grabbing hold of, too. Nancy is determined to make every recipe in the book, starting with the very first recipe chosen, and she's doing the recipes in the same order. That means the first recipe is brown sugar pecan shortbread.

Over the years, I looked longingly at these cookies, but I don't think I've ever made them. I've said many times that I love Dorie's method for rolling out shortbread: pile the dough in a gallon size zip top bag and roll it out to the right dimensions. That ends up being the width but not length of the bag. To avoid repeated measuring, I draw a little line on the bag with a Sharpie.

Although the recipe doesn't call for it, I toasted the pecans before grinding them into a flour in my food processor. I find this really enhances the nutty flavor and especially the aroma. I also left out the cloves.

The comments from the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers who made this recipe indicated the cookies spread a lot. I froze half and refrigerated the other half 15 minutes before baking and there wasn't an appreciable difference. I think you'll want to do one or the other since these have so much butter.

They were done (even a touch overdone) two minutes earlier than the recipe indicated, so if you make them definitely check them way before they are supposed to be done. If you'd like to give them a try, you can find the recipe here.

I have 78 recipes to go in order to make every recipe in the book, and I'd like to do it before the end of this year. That takes into account recipes I made, but never posted. On the weeks where I've made the corresponding recipe, I'll substitute another one from my list. This will give me the opportunity to make fruit desserts in season.

I've also reconsidered and will be jumping into Baking with Julia when the group starts that book next month. I probably won't make every recipe. I hope!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Roasted Sweet Potato and Apple Soup

This velvety soup is the best guilt-free pleasure I know. Packed with sweet potatoes (a super food!) and apples (to keep the doctor away), it's a snap to make and is forgiving of whatever holiday excesses you're wanting to undo.

I make it many different ways depending on what I have in the house (sweet potatoes, butternut squash, potatoes, apples past their prime), but it never contains any cream or milk. I usually dose it with cayenne pepper, though you could skip that and top it with some sizzling almonds or toasted pistachios. If you have a lot of apples to use, add a teaspoon of apple cider or balsamic vinegar to balance the sweetness.

This batch had a 1:1 ratio of apples to sweet potatoes by volume because I had quite a few apples past their eating prime, making this soup the ideal hiding place.

I'm fortunate to have a VitaMix to blend it all up in, but you can just as easily use an immersion blender. If you use your blender or food processor, blend it in batches, and add extra liquid if you hear the engine straining.

You can swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth, water or apple juice. If you go with apple juice, add at least one teaspoon of cider or balsamic vinegar to taste. If you don't like things spicy, leave out the cayenne. You can also replace the cayenne with 1 teaspoon curry powder, or use both.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Apple Soup
Printer-friendly recipe

Olive oil
2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (or butternut squash), peeled and cubed
2 large or 4 small apples (or Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes), cubed (peel potatoes if using)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste (optional)
6 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon apple cider or balsamic vinegar (or to taste), optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 F. Lightly oil two sheet pans or baking sheets. Add the cubed sweet potato and drizzle on another tablespoon or so of olive oil. Using your hands, make sure all of the sweet potatoes are coated lightly with the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place pans in oven and roast sweet potatoes for about 15 minutes, or until edges are getting brown and larger cubes are tender when pierced with the end of a sharp knife. Remove from oven and set aside to cool before proceeding.

If using a blender or food processor, add 1/4 of the apple, 1/4 of the sweet potatoes, 1 1/2 cups of broth, 1/4 of the cayenne and 1/4 of the vinegar to the container and process according to manufacturer's instructions. Pour into a 4 quart saucepan or Dutch oven, and add another batch of the ingredients to the container and process. Repeat for remaining ingredients.

If using an immersion blender, place ingredients in a 4 quart saucepan or Dutch oven and using immersion blender, puree ingredients until desired consistency.

Place saucepan over medium heat and heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through.