Friday, December 26, 2014

Blueberry Yogurt Muffins

I know it's not a good idea to count your chickens before they hatch but I can't stop counting my zucchini and tomatoes.  I'm also pretty proud of my container herb garden.  There's nothing better than growing your own, not just because they taste better but watching them grow is a tonic for the soul as well.  Now, I'll be totally up front with you and tell you my radish crop was a complete bust.  Luckily radish tops make a great addition to a garden salad.  Have a look at what's doing good...

One thing I keep meaning to grow is blueberries.  I know it's not as easy as tomatoes or zucchini, I know you need at least two bushes to get started, but I'm thinking that soon I'll be picking my own for recipes like these yummy muffins.
blueberry yogurt muffins

1/2 cup butter
1 cup raw cane sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 & 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 & 2 tablespoons yogurt
1 & 1/2 cups blueberries (organic if you got 'um)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla extract; beat well.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.

Add dry ingredients alternately with yogurt in a couple of additions.  Mix well.  Fold in blueberries.  Line cupcake pan with cupcake papers (or butter and flour) and evenly divide batter.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tester comes out clean.  Makes about 10 muffins.


Walnut Honey Pie

Out for lunch one day with my sis we indulged in a dessert of Salted Honey Pie.  While the creamy filling was quite delicious, with a strong honey flavor and a mouth-watering salty note, I kept thinking something was missing- like walnuts.  The crust, however was perfect, if you like those buttery, flaky, puff-pastry kind of crusts, and I do!

So this recipe is all about recreating that experience, with nuts, for our Holiday dessert.  I looked at a bunch of recipes for the filling and this one came closest to what I thought should be in the pie (plus lemon juice, which is brilliant).  I cut back on the salt because I was bringing another salty-sweet snack to the party and I didn't want salt to be the leitmotif for the evening.  I also cut back on the browned butter since I thought it might compete with the honey flavor, which can be all too easily over powered. 

For the dough I made this recipe and am I ever glad I found it!  It was super easy to make, rolled out like a dream and was flaky, tasty and the perfect compliment to the honey filling.  Also, I rolled out all the scraps after the pie crust was made, filled them with jam, rolled them up and baked them.  Best baker's treat ever!! Like mini croissant in a fraction of the time!  This dough isn't just for pies, I can envision a whole dessert table of goodies to make with it. 

The pie was a big hit with the party goers and I was happy.  It was creamy and crunchy and not too sweet or too salty.  It was kind of like the little blond sister to a pecan pie.  The perfect end to a perfect Holiday!

walnut honey pie (adapted from Kinfolk)

6 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup toasted walnuts
1 pie crust, blind baked (made with your new favorite pie dough)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium heavy-bottom pot melt butter.  Once butter has melted continue to heat on medium high until it starts to brown every so slightly. (If you want a strong browned butter taste, take it a bit longer.)

Remove pot from heat, whisk in honey until completely incorporated.  Cool mixture for a minute or two then add sugar, flour, salt and lemon juice; whisk to combine.  Whisk in eggs one at a time then add vanilla and heavy cream.

Put your blind baked pie crust on a baking sheet and fill with toasted walnuts.  Pour honey filling over nuts.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until filling is set.  Cool on  a wire rack and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.  Serve with vanilla ice cream or a heaping of freshly whipped heavy cream.  Serves 8 to 10.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sourdough Stollen

As soon as I read that this month's Sourdough Surprise was going to be Stollen I knew I wanted make use of candied orange peel and homemade "marzipan", as the post suggested.  I'd made candied orange peel a couple of years ago but never got a chance to use it in any baked goods, now I had an excuse to make it again.  

And while I didn't make true marzipan to fill my stollen, I think the method I used was easier and just as tasty. Using this recipe as a guide, I changed a few things along the way to suit what I had on hand.  The end result was rich but light and bursting with flavor. It made a feast for breakfast, it was perfect to have on hands when friends came to call, and it was more than one midnight snack while streaming Christmas tunes and watching the lights flicker on the tree.

sourdough stollen

1 & 2/3 to 2 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 more tablespoons sugar
2 cups fed starter (fed with bread flour)
1 teaspoon yeast
pinch of sugar
1/4 cup warm water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup soft butter
3/4 cup raisins (soaked in boiling water and drained)
1/4 cup finely chopped candied orange peel

almond filling
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon egg white (or enough to pliable paste)

for the top
melted butter
confectioners' sugar

Start the night before you bake stollen.  Combine bread flour (reserve 1/3 cup), sugar and salt in a stand mixer fitted with dough hook.  Whisk yeast and sugar into warm water.  Add yeast mixture and starter to flour mixture and mix on low.  Add eggs, vanilla extract and almond extract and blend on medium until everything is well blended.  If dough looks particularly sticky, add a bit more flour.

Mix on medium until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.  Turn dough out on to a lightly floured surface.  It will be sticky, but knead it for several minutes.  Place dough in buttered bowl and let it rest for an hour.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface.  Start to knead in the raisins and candied orange peel a bit at a time until they're all evenly incorporated.  Return dough to bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning take the dough out of the fridge.  Make the almond filling by combining all ingredients in a food processor until it holds together.  On a lightly floured surface pat the dough into a roughly 6 by 10 inch rectangle.  Roll the almond mixture into a 10 inch tube and lay on the long side of the dough.  Roll the dough around the filling and tuck in the ends.  Place dough on parchment lined baking sheet, cover and let rest for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake stollen for 20 minutes.  Spin the tray and continue baking 20 to 25 more minutes.  Once out of the oven, bush with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with confectioners' sugar.  Cool on wire rack until cool enough to cut.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Raisins and Walnuts

Ladies and gentlemen, start your mixers!  

Holiday cookie season is under way.  Butter is being stockpiled in fridges; sacks of flour are clogging pantries; sprinkles are disappearing from store shelves.  What a wonderful time of year!  Not to be left out, I started before Thanksgiving (everyone else is starting Christmas before Thanksgiving so why not?) with these Chocolate Chunk cookies. 

I did, however, do a Google search before writing this post.  I was curious to see how many other recipes there were out there for chocolate chunk cookies with raisins and walnuts.  Would my contribution be worth the time, or would it be redundant?  What Google spit back at me were a lot of recipes for oatmeal cookies with walnuts, raisins (and chocolate chips) in them.  But chocolate chunk cookies with raisins and walnuts, not so much.

Maybe people prefer their walnuts and raisins in oatmeal cookies.  Maybe I'm wrong to leave out the oatmeal and mess up a perfectly good chocolate cookie with stuff people would rather not see in there.  Maybe there isn't a beloved candy out there with raisins and nuts engulfed in chocolate that's a bit on the chunky side.  Or maybe the internet needs to just catch up, because Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Raisins and Walnuts are a thing, and they are a delicious thing!  

As proof I offer a paraphrase from a thank you note written by my neighbor who received a half dozen.  She said she felt she had to eat her cookie in a room by herself because she was making so many nom nom noises!

Maybe it's the crunch of the walnuts or the extra sweetness and chewiness from the raisins.  Maybe it's the novelty or the surprise factor.  Maybe plain old chocolate chip cookies just aren't good enough (no, they are).  Maybe chocolate chunks are better than chocolate chips (yes, they are).  Whatever it is, chocolate chunk cookies with raisins and walnuts are my new favorite cookie.  At least until I start baking more Christmas cookies!

chocolate chunk cookies with raisins and walnuts

1 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup raw cane sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 & 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chunks (not chips)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cups raisins soaked in boiling water and drained
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a stand mixer cream butter and add sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat on medium to combine.  Scrap down beater and bowl as necessary.  In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  Add to butter mixture and beat on medium to combine. 

Add chocolate chunks, walnuts and drained raisins and mix well.  Scoop batter out by tablespoonfuls on to parchment lined baking sheets.  Bake for 6 minutes and then spin trays back to front and bake an additional 5-6 minutes or until cookies are light golden around the edges.  Cool cookies on wire rack.  Makes about 30 cookies.