Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins//Joy the Baker Cookbook

Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins
Do you know Joy the Baker? She has a superb blog filled with casual musings, tempting sweets, healthy smoothies, and luscious sandwiches. Let me stop here a minute and say, seriously, Joy is a stone cold sandwich genius--Coffee Bacon Sandwiches; Grilled Ham, Cheese, Pickle, and Potato Chip Sandwich; Spinach and Artichoke Grilled Cheese--and those are just the ones I have tried!

It is completely inexcusable that it took me so long to dive into her first cookbook.

Um, we should all look this sexy when we bake.
This book has beautiful photography, a picture for each recipe (always appreciated), a helpful chapter on baking tips: What's cake flour? What if I don't have ____?,  Joy's signature humor, a healthy mix of decadent recipes (Smores Brownies, Baked Chili Cheese Fries, Peanut Butter Birthday Cake) and healthy ones too (Toasted Oat Smoothie; Flaxseed and Black Pepper Crackers). Joy's book challenges a novice baker to learn a few new things and offers experienced bakers many tempting new spins on traditional recipes. I couldn't narrow it down to one recipe to try so I sampled:

Untitled Cocoa Almond Granola which I should have taken out 5 minutes sooner as mine got a little too toasty. Completely delicious on coconut greek yogurt with strawberries on top.
Bacon Peanut Butter Cookies
Bacon Peanut Butter Cookies that I didn't trust because they sounded so over the top and didn't call for flour--they were and I shouldn't have worried about it. Bonus: These are gluten free. Amazing doesn't even begin to cover it.

Untitled And the one I'm going to share today: Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins. Warm from the oven with tiny flecks of browned butter and a crunchy streusel topping? More of my mornings should start like this.
I misread the ingredient list when I was at the store and bought only half the amount of fresh blueberries called for but I didn't feel that the muffins were lacking anything even with my oversight.
Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins
7 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen; if frozen, thaw first and pat dry before adding to batter)
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold
1/2 cup flour
3 Tbsp sugar
Preheat your oven to 375 and line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners.
Melt the butter in a small skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Watch the butter during this time. First it will melt, then crackle as the water evaporates out, foam, and then start to get little brown flecks as it toasts. Stir a couple of times during this process to distribute the browning. When the butter is a nice hazelnut color, pour it into a heatproof dish (don't leave it in the pan as you run the risk of further browning and possibly burning the butter) and let it cool a bit while you assemble your other ingredients.
Browning Butter
Measure your milk into a 1-cup liquid measuring cup, then add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix lightly until combined. After the brown butter has cooled slightly, add it to the milk mixture.
In another bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once and mix just until the dry ingredients have been incorporated. Gently fold in the blueberries and divide between muffin liners.
Streusel Streuseled
In a small bowl, mix butter, flour, and sugar together with a fork or your impeccably clean hands until no large lumps of butter remain and your mixture is coarse and crumbly. Divide evenly over the muffin tops. it will seem like you are overloading them, but trust me, you're not.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. Muffins should be golden and crisp on the top, and a cake-tester will come out clean.

Let the muffins cool 15 minutes in the pan before removing.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Beautiful Burger Buns

A lot of people are intimidated by using yeast to make bread. I used to be one of those people. Then I had a recipe breakthrough last Thanksgiving that resulted in my making 5 dozen Parker House Rolls for dinner. Then I went on to make dozens of delicious, ooey, gooey, maple icing-drenched cinnamon rolls for gifts last Christmas (that's a story and a recipe in the works, my friends!).

So what happened to turn me from yeast-a-phobe to baking queen? Forgetfulness.

As a person ages, and increases the number of her brood, she may become stone cold crazy with lack of sleep and free time and often wander into a room only to forget the point of being there or call her child by the other child's name (ooohooo, how I used to make fun of my mom for this--payback is a biotch)  slightly less able to keep track of details. So, I forgot about the dough rising in the kitchen and let it go for at least an extra 30-45 minutes before I remembered it. And you know what I realized? The rising time is just a GUIDELINE! All these years that I had been turning out barely risen, tough, dense bread was mostly because I didn't leave the yeast to do its thang. I also think it helped to gain confidence by making little rolls. For whatever reason, they seem less daunting than forming and shaping one big loaf.

Now let's talk about the three things that I (and maybe you) had been ignoring when it comes to successful yeast bread baking:

1.  Unless you have baked many, many times with yeast, use a thermometer to check the temperature of your liquid ingredients. So many recipes instruct you to use hot or warm-to-the-touch water. That means nothing if you are not an experienced baker. You want your liquid ingredients to be between 95°F and 110°F. If you are using ingredients in addition to milk or water, like eggs or butter, remember to let them warm to room temperature so they don't bring down the temperature of the liquid you heated. That said, it's always better to err on the side of caution and have your ingredients too cold as too hot ingredients will kill the yeast and there's no coming back from that.
2. You are not kneading long enough. This always seemed the trickiest part of bread making to me. Recipes often say, "Knead until a soft, smooth dough forms." Huh? How will I know that? The only thing I can tell you here, is that whether you are using a luxury item like a stand mixer or doing this by hand (which I should so that I wouldn't have jiggly old lady arms) you need to knead for at least 5 minutes. Proper kneading is important because it elongates the gluten strands in the flour and gives lots of lovely arches for the gas created by the yeast to get trapped. When you bake bread, you are freezing those arches in place, so no long, lovely strands of gluten equals no airy, light bread structure. I use my Kitchenaid with the dough hook attached and let it mix for about 7-10 minutes on Speed 2. Then, because I have some kind of tactile issues but no work ethic, I flop it out onto the counter and knead it for another minute (be careful how much additional flour you add here, slightly sticky dough is better that dry, tough dough).

3. You are not letting the dough rise as long as it needs to so that it has doubled in size. I know, I know, I'm a slave to the instructions, too. If it says it will take an hour, then I do it! But I have had dough be completely doubled in an hour and other times it has taken as long as 2 hours. Rising time will depend on the temperature of your ingredients (if they were colder it will take longer), the warmth of your kitchen, and my favorite airy-fairy concept of all: how much wild yeast is in the air in your kitchen. Apparently if you bake with yeast a lot, there is more wild yeast floating around in the air and it contributes to faster rising times. Some bakers like to let their dough rise in giant measuring cups so they can see when it's doubled. I'm ok with eyeballing it and when in doubt, letting it go a little longer.
Dough at 30 minutes, 1 hour, and 1.5+ hours because, uh, rising interfered with nap time

Now that you are bored to tears with the science behind bread making let's get to making a great recipe I found that makes delicious hamburger and hot dog buns but these would also be great dinner rolls or buns for any kind of sandwich.

Beautiful Burger Buns
adapted slightly from King Arthur Flour
3/4 to 1 cup* lukewarm water (about 95 to 100 degrees)
2 tablespoons butter, softened plus 2 Tbls butter, melted, for brushing on top
1 large egg, room temperature
3 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour or 1 cup white whole wheat flour and 2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast (or active dry yeast) (I don't even waste time with the little packets. I buy the jar of yeast and keep it in the fridge but if you are using the packets, know that 1 packet = 1 1/4 tsp. yeast. I was able to find instant yeast in my regular store next to the active dry yeast).

*I used the full amount of water because of the white wheat flour.

Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough.

Coat your bowl with a tiny bit of oil and place the dough in the bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until it's nearly doubled in bulk.

Once it's risen, deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 (giant buns), 12 (regular buns), 16 (lunchbox or slider size), or 24 (dinner roll size) equal pieces depending on what size buns you need. Shape each piece into a round ball; then flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.
Place the buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise for about an hour, until very puffy. Preheat your oven to 375°F about 15 minutes before the second rise is up.
Brush the buns with the melted butter.
Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes for 8 buns, 12-15 minutes for 12 or 16 buns, and about 10-12 minutes for 24 buns until golden.

Remove from oven and cool the buns on a rack. Wait until they are completely cool to slice.
These will keep for a day or two at room temperature. After that, wrap tightly in plastic, then freeze in a plastic bag in the freezer.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lemon Icebox Pie

Lemon Icebox Pie
Some desserts are just retro, evoking another time and place, and a different generation of cooks so enamored of an appliance that they created recipes especially for it—icebox pickles, icebox pie, icebox cookies are just some of the ones that come to my mind. Do we even have an equivalent to that today?
Lemon Squeezing
I have been making this Icebox Lemon Pie all of my married life. It was a recipe in an actual newspaper, that I had to actually cut out, save somewhere, and dig out when I wanted to make it (now who’s retro?).
EggsSeparating Eggs
This pie starts with a crisp and buttery graham cracker shell baked until just golden brown. I have to insist on REAL graham crackers here, ones that actually contain graham flour. They are the best by far, and I think you can really tell the difference.
Graham Cracker CrustPressed
Next comes a smooth, sweet, tart lemon filling topped off with billowy clouds of the lightest meringue. Pop it into the oven until the top is beautifully caramelized, then chill for a good long while. Yum, yum, yum! Definitely one of my favorite spring and summer desserts.
Adding sugarStiff PeaksDollopedSmoothed
I know winter is still hanging on in some places, but here in Texas, we are enjoying our last few weeks days of bug free afternoons, sweat free barbecues, and soft spring breezes.  Lemon Icebox Pie—it’s the perfect end to a spring meal!
Lemon Icebox Pie
Having clipped only the recipe part out of the newspaper, I don’t have any source or date listed for this recipe and online searches of the Statesman archive proved fruitless, so to the original author of this recipe, I'm sorry.
For the pie shell:
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs (about nine full sheets of graham crackers. I use the Nabisco ones in the red box)
6 Tbls. Butter
1/3 cup sugar
For the pie:
3 egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue)
½ cup lemon juice (about 4-6 lemons depending on their size and juiciness)
1  14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
For the meringue:
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/3 cup sugar
Turn your oven to 350', then separate your eggs. It’s easiest to separate eggs when they are cold, but they beat up the best when room temperature. By separating your eggs in the very beginning, your whites have time to warm up while you make the rest of your pie.
Melt the butter in a medium bowl. Add graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Stir with a fork to combine thoroughly, then press into an 8 or 9-inch pie plate and bake at 350' for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. Cool crust for about 15 minutes, keep oven at 350'.
Wipe out the bowl you used to make the crust and add the 3 egg yolks, the can of sweetened condensed milk, and the lemon juice. Beat until smooth and set aside.
In a mixing bowl or stand mixer, beat the egg whites with ¼ tsp. cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar a little bit at a time until stiff glossy peaks form.
Pour the lemon filling into the slightly cooled crust then dollop the meringue on top and smooth it out to seal the top of the crust. Bake at 350' for 12-15 minutes, until the top is lightly golden brown. Cool at room temperature for about an hour, then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Strawberry Corn Muffins

Strawberry Corn Muffins
Because even though they are cute, I could not bear to look at the penguins any longer. :) These are a great housewarming gift. Recipe here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cheese Ball Igloo and Penguins

Aren't these just the cutest penguins? When I first made these back in 2008, I had plans to make a marching band of all eighteen penguins as called for in the original recipe. on Christmas morning. when I had nothing else to do :P. Silly girl. So, I modified my plan and made an igloo out of my favorite cheese ball recipe and smattered a reasonable amount of penguins around it. If you are equally insane, let's talk details.
Cheese Ball
Start with your favorite cheese ball recipe. Any white-ish recipe will do but this is my favorite. Reserve about 1 oz. of the plain cream cheese before you measure everything out, we're going to use that for our penguins. Mix up your cheese ball and let it get thoroughly chilled, this will make it easier to shape.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Initial Party

Initial Cake
This cake makes me deliriously happy. It turned out even better than I envisioned and that doesn't happen often! I started with this inspiration for an Initial Party. Then I was inspired by a bunch of different cakes that formed into one plan for this cake (more cake details, below).

I cut out a bunch of Ps in different fonts and sizes and attached them to a white tablecloth with double-sided tape.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Wedge Salad

Wedge Salad

Only in Texas could you create a salad so big that it requires a fork and a knife to eat it. Truthfully, I don't think that the wedge salad was created in Texas but we Texans like to claim the origin of many things :).

Wedge salads have been on the trend in the last couple of years, but if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then let me fill you in. A wedge salad consists of a big wedge of crisp lettuce (there is no room for snobbery here, only crunchy iceberg will do), drizzled with chunky blue cheese dressing (ranch dressing will work as well, if you have an aversion to blue cheese), sprinkled with sweet cherry tomatoes, crisp bacon pieces, and finished off with crunchy croutons. Have I sold you on this yet?

I came up with these croutons when I realized I forgot to buy croutons and could not bear to put myself into a hot car to go to the crowded grocery store just for one thing. We’re made of tougher stuff than that, right? We don’t need no stinkin’ store to have croutons.

Wedge Salad with Salt-and-Smoked Pepper Croutons
Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main course salad

For the croutons:
1 ½  cups  large bread cubes from about 2 slices bread (mine were about 1x1x1/2 inch cubes)
2 Tbls. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. smoked black pepper (if you can’t get smoked pepper, coarse ground black pepper will work too)

In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with olive oil, salt, and smoked pepper. Spread the bread cubes out on a cookie sheet and bake at 350', stirring a few times, for 10-15 minutes until lightly golden and crisp. Alternatively, you can cook these over medium-high heat in a cast iron skillet for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until crisp and lightly golden. Let cool completely.

For the dressing:
2 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1/3 cup regular or light sour cream
2 Tbls. regular or light mayonnaise
¾ tsp. Worcestshire sauce
2-3 Tbls. buttermilk or regular milk

Mash blue cheese in a bowl, then mix in mayo, sour cream, and Worcestshire. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in 2 Tbls. buttermilk, adding another tablespoon if it’s still too thick. You want to be able to drizzle this over your lettuce but not have it run all over the plate. It’s best if you make this at least one hour before you assemble the wedges. Cover and store in refrigerator up to one week.

For the salad:
1 large head iceberg lettuce, well chilled
12-15 small cherry or grape tomatoes
1/4 cup. crumbled cooked bacon (about 2 slices)
1-1/2 cups croutons
1/4 to 1/3 cup Blue Cheese or Ranch Dressing

Peel off the first couple of outer leaves of your iceberg lettuce. With the bottom of the iceberg facing the counter, give your iceberg a sharp smack on the counter to release the lettuce core. This should make it easy to flip the lettuce over and remove the core. Cut the iceberg in half lengthwise, then cut one half into 2 wedges for a main dish salad or 4 wedges for a side salad. Place lettuce wedges on a plate and drizzle each wedge with 2-3 Tbls. dressing for a big salad or 1-2 Tbls. for a side salad. Sprinkle with bacon crumbles, cherry tomatoes, and croutons. Sprinkle with additional pepper if desired.