Friday, January 30, 2009

Delicious Texas Sized Muffins

I have been on a muffin kick lately. Spurred by Dorie Greenspan's savory pepper corn muffins, and being off work, I have made 2 batches of Dorie's muffins, bannana nut muffins, regular corn muffins and blueberry muffins twice! We're not sick of them yet (and they are almost all gone!).


This post features the Texas sized corn and blueberry muffins I made using awesome recipes from the cookbook Baking Illustrated from America's Test Kitchen. (This is a great baking bible). The muffins turned out AMAZING - light and fluffy, great taste. Adding the cinnamon-sugar topping to the blueberry muffins made them out of this world.


Blueberry Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (I used Nucoa margarine)
1 ¼ cups sour cream (I used lowfat plain yogurt)
1 ½ cups frozen or fresh blueberries, preferably wild

Cinnamon-Sugar Topping
½ cup sugar & ½ teaspoon cinnamon combined in bowl
4 tablespoons of butter, melted.

Preheat oven to 350°, grease or line with paper cups a 12-cup or 6-cup jumbo (Texas) muffin tin.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl till combined. Whisk the egg in a second bowl until well-combined and light-colored (about 20 seconds). Add the sugar and whisk vigorously until thick and homogenous (about 30 seconds). Add the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition. Add the sour cream in 2 additions, whisking just to combine.

Add the berries to the dry ingredients and gently toss just to combine. Add the sour cream mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until the batter comes together and the berries are evenly distributed (about 30 seconds). (Small spots of flour may remain and the batter will be thick – do not overmix).

Divide the batter among the muffin cups using a greased spoon or cookie/ice cream scoop. Bake until the muffins are light golden brown and a toothpick or skewer comes out clean (rotating pan halfway through baking time) – 25-30 minutes for 12-cup muffin tin, 40-45 for Texas sized muffins.

After muffins have cooled 5 minutes in tin or on wire rack, dip tops of muffins in melted butter or margarine and then roll in cinnamon sugar mixture.

The blueberry muffin batter - as hard as I tried to stir gently, I ended up with lots of purple batter!

The Jumbo muffin tins filled to the max going into the oven.

The finished product - a GIANT delicious cinnamon-sugar dipped blueberry muffin - YUM!

Corn Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup fine stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
¾ cups sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine
¾ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
½ cup milk or soy milk

Preheat oven to 400°, grease or line with paper cups a 12-cup or 6-cup jumbo (Texas) muffin tin. [The batter made enough for 6 Jumbo muffins and 4 regular sized muffins and I baked them at the same time, leaving the Jumbo muffins in the oven longer.]

Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl till combined. Whisk the egg in a second bowl until well-combined and light-colored (about 20 seconds). Add the sugar and whisk vigorously until thick and homogenous (about 30 seconds). Add the melted butter in 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition. Add half the sour cream and milk and whisk to combine. Whisk in remaining milk and sour cream. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mix gently with a spatula until the batter is just combined and evenly moistened (do not overmix).

Divide the batter among the muffin cups using a greased spoon or cookie/ice cream scoop. Bake until the muffins are light golden brown and a toothpick or skewer comes out clean (rotating pan halfway through baking time) – about 18 minutes for 12-cup muffin tin, and 25 minutes for Texas sized muffins.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

TWD: Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

(dictated by Lorelei, transcribed by Mathias)
I am thrilled to have been well enough to make this week's TWD recipe. I am still not blogging on my own so this post will be short and sweet :) This week's recipe was chosen by Heather of Sherry Trifle. You can find the recipe for the fresh ginger and chocolate gingerbread cake on her blog. Also check out the TWD blog roll for many other posts about this delicious cake.

Like many other TWD'ers I made a few modifications. First, I did not have a 9 inch square pan so I used a 9 inch round pan and this worked out just fine. I did however have to increase the baking time by 7 minutes for a total of 47 minutes at 350 deg. Second, I substituted the stem ginger in syrup for candied ginger from Trader Joe's. And lastly, I used a combination of bitter-sweet and semi-sweet chocolate in the cake and frosting.

The results: moist, rich but at the same time light, must be a relative of carrot cake - in summary, fantastic (Mathias here!).

Chopped candied ginger and semi-sweet and bitter-sweet chocolate chunks.

Uncooked cake in pan in the oven.

Browned cake cooling before frosting.

Frosted cake!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thanks, Gracias, Merci

(dictated by Lorelei, transcribed by Mathias)

It's been almost 2 weeks since my eye surgery and I'm happy to report that the recovery is going well and my doctor is pleased with the results thusfar. I still have a ways to go in order to be 100% and gain full eyesight back in my right eye. But I am feeling much better and look forward to returning to work hopefully next week, at least in a limited capacity. I greatly miss the baking blogging world and can't wait to get back to normal and read all my favorite blogs. But I wanted to do a post with my husband to thank everyone who has been so supportive during this time. Also in that spirit, since I was cleared by my doctor to resume limited baking, I baked some thank you cards, a.k.a decorated sugar cookies, as shown in the picture below. The sugar cookie recipe and the royal icing recipes (and rolling / decorating instructions) come from Cookie Craft by Valerie Peterson & Janice Fryer. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about baking and decorating sugar cookies.

My beloved husband helped me decorate these cookie thank you presents.

Even though this is primarily a baking blog, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of my well wishers who sent me kind words of encouragement, beautiful flowers to brighten my day, and edible treats to warm the soul.

The gorgeous and sweet smelling flowers that got me through the roughest post-surgery days.

Thank you Klein family for the many calls and delicious treats.

Thank you Diane Webb from Morgan Lewis for the amazing pink and purple arrangement.

Thank you Team Morgan (Morgan Lewis).

Thank you Scott and Karen Hamilton.

Thank you Howard Holderness and Kate Greenblat (and MLB Lit. Dept.).

Thank you Holly Furgason from Blue Sparrow Pilates, my favorite pilates instructor.

Thanks to my special college girlfriends Ashley, Ashley, Jaci, and Leah (of Michon Design).
A special shout out to Jen Fearnow (for her daily calls and lots of support); Auburn Daily for her babysitting with yummie Thai food; and Jane Wattenberg for her company and Pho soup lunch.

Last but most importantly, while words cannot adequately give thanks, a heart-felt thank you to my amazing husband Mathias who has lovingly tortured me with eye drops (most diligently), fed my stomach and my soul, and made me feel pretty and loved despite my one-eyes status. He's the greatest -- I am truly lucky in love.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TWD: Savory Pepper Corn Muffins

Despite it all (I am having surgery tomorrow for my recently discovered partially detached retina, and had a lot to do before not being able to read/type, etc. for a while), I made it just in the nick of time with this post. And I am glad I did, these muffins were TERRIFIC. Yum Yum Yum. Thank you Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake for picking this recipe.





I saw that many other TWD'ers didn't like them or skipped them because they are cornbread purists. I respect that, but these were right up my husband and my alley - we love spicy food, the spicier the better. In fact, I have a Costco size bottle of Tabasco on my desk at work, and bring it to lunch meetings - I am serious. So these were perfect.




I also made them dairy free buy substituting soy milk for the milk (and adding 1 tsp of cider vinegar to the soy milk) and Nucoa margarine for the butter. My dairy eating husband loved them dairy free just the same. Thanks Dorie. Check out the other TWD posts here.







Happy Birthday Hilary

This weekend we celebrated the uber talented and sweet Hilary Pfeifer in two ways, first was the opening of her amazing art show Natural Selection (photos below), which is on display at the gallery Velvet da Vinci in San Francisco until the end of this month (I strongly encourage all to check it out), and second was the bunny with a toolbelt (aka Hilary's) birthday. You know what birthday means ... that's right CAKE!




I chose to make a light lemon cake since a little birdie told me Hilary would prefer something fruity over something chocolate (a girl after my own heart). The little birdie, aka Mom Locey Pfeifer, also said to make it dairy free so I could join in on the fun. OK! I like cake too (and hardly ever get to eat my own creations).




I searched my trusty google reader for lemon cake and found the perfect recipe to make over at Good Things Catered. Her Luscious Lemon Party Cake. It turned out marvelous. I followed the recipe almost exactly except I used all purpose flour instead of cake flour, which gave me a much more compact and dense cake (I will try cake flour next time); and I used 9 inch round pans which made the layers too thin in my opinion to just use two, so I doubled the recipe to make 4 layers; and because I was one lemon short for the icing, I replaced the missing lemon juice with dark rum - which was a great substitution. Finally, instead of putting the icing between the layers I used store bought lemon curd, which gave me a lot of leftover icing which I will put to good use. The reviewers said this was a good choice as they preferred the thin layer of curd to frosting.



Luscious Lemon Party Cake Ingredients:

-2 1/2 c. cake flour
1 3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp meringue powder
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 extra large organic lemons, washed thoroughly then zested and juiced separately
2/3 c. soy milk
1/3 c. vegetable oil
3 egg whites, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Icing:
4 c. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp meringue powder
tiny pinch of salt
1/2 c. Nucoa margarine, softened
1/2 c. shortening
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 extra large lemon, juiced
1 Tbsp dark rum
Additional lemon for decorating





Directions:

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare two cake pans (8 inch for larger rounds- or 9 inch if you are going to double the recipe and make 4 layers like I did).


-In bowl of electric mixer sift and add flour, sugar, baking powder, meringue powder, salt, and zest of one lemon.

-Stir with mixer to combine, about 30 seconds.

-Add soy milk, oil, juice from two lemons, beaten egg whites and extract.

-Beat on medium to combine thoroughly, about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes.

-Remove from mixer and stir with silicone spatula to thoroughly combine (making sure there is no flour mixture left unincorporated at the bottom of the bowl.

-Fill prepared pans 2/3 of the way full and bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean (about 25-28 mins for 8 inch pans; about 20-25 minutes for 9 inch pans)

-Remove from oven, let cool 15 minutes in pan and then turn onto wire racks to cool completely.

-Meanwhile, in the bowl of stand mixer, combine shortening, butter, vanilla extract, lemon juice and rum, stiring on low until relatively combined.


-In a separate bowl, combine sugar, meringue powder and salt, then add to mixer while still on.

-Stir, scraping down sides of bowl, until thoroughly combined, adding more lemon juice as needed. (Add water if needed to reach desired texture.)

-Then frost the cake, using the icing in between the layers, or for a less frosting taste, use lemon curd between the layers and frost the outside.




Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Rosemary Foccacia

Foccacia is my husband's favorite bread, so I have wanted to try making it for him for a while. I figured our New Year's retreat would be the best time to research recipes and give it a try. I ended up settling on a rosemary foccacia recipe from the cookbook Baking Illustrated by the editors of Cooks Illustrated magazine - a baking bible that I highly recommend.

The bread turned out amazing (If I don't say so myself). Great crust on top and bottom and great chewy texture inside. There is a really nice long story about how the folks at Cooks Illustrated arrived at this recipe that includes mashed and strained potato. In short, they say it adds moisture. I was rushing to finish dinner in time for our guests, my brother-in-law and his wonderful girlfriend, so I tried to take a shortcut with the potatoes - I peeled the potato, cut it into cubes and then put in a microwave safe bowl with water and microwaved it for 12 minutes. Then I pushed the potato pieces through my silver mesh strainer. The stovetop boiling method calls for a boil time of 25 minutes, so I didn't save much time, but some.

All in all, it was a lot of work, only made one bread (guess you could double the recipe) and was a little stale the next day. So for the most part, I will continue going to the bakery down the street for their OK foccacia to make foccacia pizzas - but every now and then, I may make my husband's day with the homemade version.

Here is the dough after the first rise, and pressed into a well oiled jelly roll pan.

Here is the dough after the second rise, with the fingerprint wells, olive oil, chopped fresh rosemary and coarse salt.

And here is the final baked bread. Yum!

Recipe from Baking Illustrated:

Dough:

1 Medium baking potato (about 9 oz), peeled and quartered

1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup warm water

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for oiling bowl and pan)

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Topping (I approximated the amounts below)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves

3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt (or 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt)

1. Bring 1 quart water to a boil in a small saucepan; add the potato and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain the potato well; cool until it can be handled comfortably; press it through the fine disk on a ricer or grate through the large holes on a box grater. Reserve 1 1/3 cups lighly packed potato.

2. Using a standing mixer mix the yeast, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/2 cup war water until combined. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside until bubbly, about 20 minutes. Add the remaining dough ingredients, including reserved potato. Attach the paddle attachment to mixer and mix on low speed until the dough comes together. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, continue kneeding until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

3. Transfer doubh to lighly oiled bowl, turn to coat with oil and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area until the dough is puffy and doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

4. With wet hands press the dough flat into a generously oiled 15 1/2 by 10 1/2 inch rimmed baking sheet. Cover the dough with lightly greased or oil-sprayed plastic wrap and let rise in warm, draft free area until the dough is puffy and doubled in volume - 45 minutes to 1 hour.

5. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. With two wet fingers dimple the risen dough at regular intervals. The dimples (about 2 dozen) should be deep enough to hold small pieces of topping, herbs and pools of olive oil. Drizzle the dough with olive oil, herbs and salt.

6. Bake until bottom crust is golden brown and crist, 23 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie: French Pear Tart


My first TWD! I have been dying to join TWD for almost a year, but when I finally mustered up the courage to start a blog so I could join, the club had closed. Thankfully, in the spirit of TWD's One Year Anniversary, Laurie of Quirky Cupcake opened up membership for a limited time and confirmed that I could join!!! So, here it is, my first TWD post, and the recipe was chosen by the guru Dorie Greenspan herself! This is quite a special treat. Check out Dorie's post and the recipe here.

Here is the tart before baking.



And after baking.

I happened to have some French guests at my house, and their opinion: C'etait Tres Bon! [It was very good - but, could be lighter and less sweet]. I'd say that was a good review - for a Frenchman!


It was a busy weekend for me. Since it was our New Years' special retreat weekend where I traditionally do a lot of cooking and baking (and did this year with Paella, foccacia, Coq Au Vin, lamb kebabs, pita, etc.) - I went with canned pears rather than try to poach pears myself. And because both the crust and the cream called for a food processor, and I had been coveting one forever (and tried a cheap Black n' Decker one from Target with terrible results and had to return the piece of junk) we splurged and bought a fabulous KitchenAid Chrome Food Processor that works like a charm! Yay, hercules, hercules. Thanks hubby for carrying it all the way home on foot from Union Square (and braving Macy's on a weekend, with a fire alarm evacuation nonetheless!!).



Check out the TWD blog roll for the other 400+ members' posts. Can't wait until the next TWD recipe. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Year's Eve Sweets

We co-hosted another holiday party at someone else's (nicer/bigger) apartment. This time it was a New Year's Eve Party at our friend Matt's house (the great Matt Flannery from Kiva). It was a pot-luck dinner party followed by a midnight toast and dancing. For the pot-luck I made an easy and delicious chinese chicken salad and my go to Italian pasta salad (which I made up and will write down the recipe for someday). But for dessert, I settled on the most amazing 3-in-1 treats and some filled cupcakes - Chocolate cupcakes with coconut filling and chocolate frosting, and Strawberry cupcakes with strawberry jam filling and vanilla bean frosting.


So, these are the delicious chocolate fudge, peanut butter fudge, rice crispy treat goodies that Joy the Baker created - they received rave reviews. Check out her beautiful pictures and post here.




These are the filled cupcakes. I used my go to strawberry cupcake recipe, filled with basic store bought strawberry jam, and then topped with this vanilla bean frosting from Cupcake Project that tastes like vanilla ice cream. And I tried the chocolate coconut cupcakes from Informal Blathering.


And here are some fun party pictures. A great New Year's Party. Thanks Matt - Happy New Year to all! To steal the words of my amazing husband, Better Luck Next Year!!!!

Me and the lovely Craig Brothers.

Family Holiday Celebration

This holiday season we had several firsts - no traveling for us (apart from Sacramento, but no planes) and we got the Kleins, Craigs and Pfeifers together!! We hosted the family dinner at a Craig family favorite, Hunan and then had everyone back to our one bedroom apartment in North Beach for a dessert and champagne party.

Here are the photos and links to recipes:

These are the S'more Cookie Bars from Baking Bites - a favorite blog of mine. Check out her photos, recipe and post here.

I also made mini Lemon Honey Cupcakes, with Lemon Honey Cream Cheese Frosting. These were also a big hit. The recipe for these came from Couture Cupcakes. Check out her pictures, recipe and blog here.


Also on the dessert table: Colorful Candy Bar Cookies (recipe here), and of course two must have desserts from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook Baking from My Home to Yours - All American Apple Pie and World Peace Cookies (just google it, you can read all about the recipe and the hype).