Browsing articles in "Muffins & Quickbreads"
Mar 12, 2014

Baked Clementine Vanilla Bean Doughnuts

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At the risk of sounding like a citrus-loving Joan Rivers, can we talk about clementines? I feel like they’re everywhere right now–great, big cardboard flats of them for, like, five dollars a box or something crazy, calling from across the produce section with the promise of sweetness and light and sunshine, even though as I understand it, most of the country has been in a never-ending winter.

(I say “as I understand it”, because here in California, an occasional rainstorm is as close to we get to anything resembling winter weather, and we mostly just, you know, ride our bikes around in t-shirts to go eat kale salad outside and “LOL” and “OMG” over all the banaaanaaazzz weather we’ve been hearing about online.)

(As it happened, I was actually stranded in New York for a week because of a snowstorm last month, so I guess Mother Nature sensed my meterological la-la-la-ness and decided to show me how soft I’ve become during my 10 years on the West Coast. Touché, fair lady.)

clementines

But even in a mild-weathered place like California, we really do appreciate citrus during our “winter”. It’s a burst of happy food no matter where you live, all these clementines in bulk. Every year I succumb to buying at least one flat, intent on being all virtuous and snacking on them instead of spoonfuls of peanut butter or cookies, tucking them into lunchboxes and all that jazz. But even after countless little orbs eaten out of hand and a dozen packed lunches, the pile of clementines never seems to shrink. Not one bit. How many clementines does a person have to eat to make a dent in one of those boxes, for real? My fingertips are permanently stained from all the e-z peeling. Forget this noise. Let’s make doughnuts. (And share a little news with you, while we’re at it.)

baked clementine doughnuts

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Sep 5, 2013

Pumpkin, Chocolate Chip, and Pistachio Crumb Muffins

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I know we’re barely into September, but I am READY for fall, friends.  Although I’m generally a fan of the fall season (having been a November bride once a upon a time, my husband still claims that I love him more September through December. Probably?), this year I’m particularly pumped about the passage of time. Could it be that it’s because I’m very type A and relieved to finally be falling into a new routine now that Little C is in Real School? Or maybe it’s that I’m desperate for San Francisco Summer, which is to say September and October, when we finally get temperatures above 65 degrees and the skies become sunny and clear (true story, if you’ve never visited)? Or it could just be that I”m counting the hours because my baby is teething like a mad man, sweaty and sobbing and only happy when he’s being held and gnawing on all my slobbery body parts and I really know I shouldn’t be wishing this time away with my baby, but hey, at least he’s six months old now so LET’S BRING ON THE IBUPROFEN, SUCKAHS.

Ahem. What I mean to say is I’m excited for fall because pumpkin. Yes, that’s what I mean. Autumnal pumpkin treats for all!

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Mar 25, 2013

Apple, Walnut & Raisin Quickbread

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Just to give you an idea of what my personal fitness regimen is like these days:

Today I took one of my first post-pregnancy walks (beyond wandering aimlessly around the grocery store, trying to remember what I’m there for besides milk and coffee beans). Rounding a corner, I saw a woman running at a good clip, looking confident and fit. I flashed her the thumbs up. Not for her form, or fly Lululemon ensemble, mind you. No, the first thought I had when I saw that chick running was, “Dang, I wish I had a pelvic floor like that.”

True story.

So at three weeks after birth, we’re dealing in small moves to get back into shape over here, inside and out, in both the exercise and nutrition departments. While I didn’t go all J.Simps on my pregnancy weight gain, nothing can really prepare you for, um, the state of things after you give birth. Let’s just say I won’t be doing a post-baby HOW I GOT THIN! photo session for US Weekly at six weeks post-partum. Getting back into a routine takes time in the real world. I’m trying to be patient with myself about that bit, even though I’m dying to get back into my non-stretchy clothes. And getting a few easy baking recipes into the arsenal that also happen to be what I call Halfsies Healthy really helps things along.

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Nov 21, 2012

Shirley Corriher’s Touch of Grace Biscuits

Okay, so there are biscuits, and then there are BISCUITS. Namely, these biscuits. Let’s call it a biscuit recipe that changed my mind about a few things. That major, these biscuits. And I’m managing to tell you all about them just in time for Thanksgiving side dishing. Glorious!

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Nov 11, 2011

Apple, Cheddar, and Whole Wheat Scones

What do you MEAN it’s nearly mid-November?! This absolutely cannot be. No, no, no; I simply won’t allow it.

From the above sentence, you might gather one of the following:

1. Little C has just gotten into movies with Julie Andrews, which means I am now into movies with Julie Andrews.

2. The recent time change has rendered me totally incapable of knowing what hour or what day it is. Like, more than usual.

3. I am now officially at work on book number two (whee!) and have a calendar full of deadlines (gah!), not to mention that I think I’m gaining weight by absorbing butter and sugar through my skin from all the recipe testing for this one. That’s a thing, right?

Well, whichever of the above options you chose, you would be correct. Mary Poppins is indeed in the regular rotation. I’m getting less sleep than usual and Little C is enjoying way more Julie Andrews than she should be because I’m trying to pull a manuscript out of the madness. We are busy, but we are happy, and we’re all desperately in need of a big pot of soup and some Apple, Cheddar, and Whole Wheat Scones this weekend. I’ll make extra for you, because I’ll wager to bet we’re all in the same boat, zooming towards the New Year, trying to tie up all sorts of loose ends. I-yi-yi. Sweet cracker sandwich, let’s all have wine with said scones while we’re at it, yes?

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Jun 7, 2011

Chocolate-Swirled Peanut Butter Banana Bread

This recipe began as so many wonderful things do. Which is to say the sort of partial sentences that the husband dreads hearing when I’m in the kitchen. It usually goes like this:

WIFE (from the kitchen): Hmmm!!
HUSBAND (from the living room): What’s that?
(A brief pause.)
WIFE (introspectively): “Oh, I just I wonder what would happen if I…”
HUSBAND (mumbles): Oh, geez.
WIFE (curt, determined): Shush.
(A long period of pan and utensil clanging as WIFE throws together God knows what. HUSBAND pokes fun from the other room.)

Annnd….scene.

Now, in all fairness to the husband, sometimes these mad scientist moments don’t turn out so well for any of us. Such as when the recipe itself is a failure in the technical sense, not rising or baking properly and generally just causing a whole lot of dirty dishes and frustration for no payoff. And of course I get all mopey and difficult to live with after said failures. Like, even more difficult to live with than usual. Big time difficult. Pretend you are shocked at this news.

Other times, things start out promising, and then the result is less than palatable, which of course needs to be confirmed by the husband. Like, oh, say, Guinness Marshmallows. I know, I know. Just. Listen. There was dark cocoa and gingersnaps involved too so I thought it might end up all complex and edgy and interesting. Which it was, for a few hours. But as the marshmallow cured, however, the whole thing strangely began to taste a lot like the smell of certain Maltese taxicabs I’d ridden in during my summer semester abroad. In short, wholly undelicious. That’s what I get for trying to be edgy and interesting, I suppose.

But this time, I was destined to get it right. Bananas, peanut butter and chocolate. There’s no way this could not go well. Right? So basically I married some techniques from a few favorite recipes to arrive at this unbeatably moist, tender, flavorful banana bread-chocolate cake combo. And of course, chocolate chips. Because, duh. Obvi.



A chocolate syrup comes together quickly on the stovetop (with agave nectar in place of corn syrup, though you could use either). The syrup is then blended into a portion of a pretty tradition banana bread batter that already has those aforementioned chocolate chips tucked in. Both batters are sort of layered and swirled together and when baked, marry quite happliy. Not unlike devoted husbands who sample all their wives recipes and nod approvingly (except for pretending to like stinky, funky, oddly bitter beer marshmallows, no one should expect that of one’s spouse, really).

Chocolate-Swirled Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Use the darkest, richest cocoa powder you can get your hands on–I like Valrhona. And as always for banana bread, the more ripe the bananas, the better the flavor and moisture of the finished product. 

This recipe is one of those genius things that only gets better as it sits. Store it in a cake dome or covered container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Makes 1 loaf

For the chocolate syrup:

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup agave nectar (or light corn syrup)
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the batter:

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 large)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Position a rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat it 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and line it with a strip of parchment paper or aluminum foil about 8 inches wide to create a sort of “sleeve” that will make removing the loaf easier later. 

To make the chocolate syrup, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, hot water, agave nectar and salt. Set the pot over high heat and bring the syrup just to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the syrup is smooth. Remove the pot from the heat and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the peanut butter and butter on medium speed until creamy. Add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Scrape down the bowl.

Whisk together the mashed bananas, sour cream and vanilla in a small bowl. Beat into the butter mixture. 

Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the dry ingredients. When just a few streaks of flour remain, stop the mixer, add the chocolate chips and gently fold the batter until everything is incorporated.  

Transfer about a third of the batter (a little less is better than too much) to a medium bowl. Add the chocolate syrup and stir until well-blended. 

Spread half the banana batter into the bottom of the prepared pan. Top with half the chocolate batter. Use a spoon to scoop and swirl the batter. Repeat with the second half of both batters.

Bake until a toothpick comes about clean but not dry (a few moist crumbs is ideal), about 75 to 85 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before removing the loaf from the pan to cool completely. 

Mar 1, 2011

Chocolate Chip-Espresso Scones


Really, what’s better than putting a carb-y, breakfast-y baked good in your face first thing in the morning? I mean, never mind that you might feel like you’re walking in mud for the rest of the day if you start things out with jelly doughnut–I’m talking more about instant gratification here. Because a croissant and coffee for breakfast? Glorious. But one morning pastry I tend to pass over, never even pausing to consider it, is the humble scone. I’ve always sort of thought scones were just a big snore.

Truthfully, most coffee shop specimens do leave a lot to be desired–dry, pale, lifeless, crumbly. Bah. Why bother? Pass the cheese danish, sister.
But let me tell you about the recipe that recently changed my mind about scones. Chocolate Chip Espresso Scones. Look into it.

Oh, hey, you know what? Now that I’m sitting here, pontificating scones like a crazy person, I think I’ve thought of another reason for my heretofore disdain for them.

It must have been about 10 years ago, because I was still living in Chicago. Probably just a year out of college. Definitely wearing something from The Limited. I was meeting with my agent at the time at a coffee shop, drinking a latte and picking at one of those aforementioned substandard cafe scones. I don’t even know why I ordered it–maybe because I was barely in my 20s and could absentmindedly snack on things like horrible scones and not think about my pants size.


Anyway, the topic of my conversation with my agent was moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, and in short order she told me that I might want to “lose some pounds”. As I took in that advice, I continued to snack on the horrible scone. A few beats later the well-meaning agent said, “That’s a huge scone.” And that was the end of my relationship with scones.

Until now. Now I know what to look for in scones. Also, how to interpret advice. So there’s that.

So, hey, back to these really good scones. Scones that won’t leave your mouth dry with regret and overworked flour. Scones of empowerment! Yeah!

It’s no surprise that the recipe that has converted me to Scone Lover is from the amazing Karen DeMasco, she of pastry stardom and a little restaurant you may have heard of. All of the recipes in her book The Craft of Baking have this wonderful feel to them, something I can’t quite put my finger on. Terrifically refined, but with a homespun feel. Every recipe has a bit of an unexpected twist–a flavor boost, a surprising technique–that takes even the most typical of baked goods to the next level. Like a throwing chocolate and espresso into a scone, and making it moist and buttery to boot. Genius.

Like most scone recipes, the dough comes together in a flash. A healthy handful of chocolate chips and a hit of espresso lend a ton of personality here. The scone itself has fabulously crunchy edges that give way to a tender, cakey interior. I really can’t say enough about these scones. Or learning how to filter thinly veiled criticism. Psshh.
Chocolate Chip Espresso Scones
Adapted from Karen DeMasco’s The Craft of Baking

You can cut the scones in whatever size and shape you like–I made mine into rustic squares and on the smaller side and got 16 out of a batch.

Once the scones are rolled and cut, you can wrap them unbaked tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days in the fridge or 2 weeks in the freezer. When baking frozen scones, don’t thaw them, just bake them frozen for about 5 minutes longer.
Makes 12-16, depending on size
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Coarse sugar, such as turbinado or sanding sugar, for sprinkling
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add the butter pieces to the bowl. Place the bowl in the freezer for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the espresso powder with 1 teaspoon hot water, whisking to dissolve the espresso. Whisk in 1 cup of the cream. Set aside.
Take the bowl out of the freezer. Put it back on the mixer on low speed until the butter is broken down into pebble-sized pieces. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour in the espresso-cream mixture and mix on low speed just until the dough comes together.
Lightly dust a work surface and rolling pin with flour. Turn the dough out and gently knead it a few times just to bring it together. Roll the dough into a circle or rectangle (your preference), about 1-inch thick. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into equal wedges or squares (12 to 16 pieces, depending on how big you like your scones). Place the scones on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for 15 minutes, or chill for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
While the scones are chilling, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the chilled scones with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cream and sprinkle generously with coarse sugar. Bake the scones until they are golden brown on the edges and bottoms, and firm to the touch, 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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