Browsing articles in "Muffins & Quickbreads"
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.)


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.
Aug 5, 2010

Ice Cream Muffins

There are several life lessons I hold dear that I’d like to pass on to Little C:

1. You should memorize all the songs from Free to Be You and Me, preferably by watching it over and over on an old VHS tape checked out from the library.

2. It is never okay for a professor to offer to give you a massage. Even if it’s your Theater professor.

3. Sometimes you need to embrace the crazy and just go for it–it could turn out to be really great. Like combining ice cream and flour and making cake out of it. Seriously!

Important, Oprah-esque Life Lessons aside, I am excited to share this totally kitschy recipe for Ice Cream Muffins with you guys. It’s another winner from my recipe scavenging at Gramma’s house back in June, and definitely one of the wackier ones I came across. Since finding it, I’ve discovered that there are several versions out there, some which literally are just ice cream mixed with flour and then baked. This recipe I’m sharing with you has the extra help of a bit of oil and an egg, which I imagine makes for a better flavor, texture and mouthfeel in the finished product than just ice cream and flour alone.

Another thing that will really make these crazy little muffin-cupcake hybrids the best they can possibly be is to use a really great ice cream, the more high-end, the better. I’d look for something that doesn’t have more ingredients than it needs to, not much beyond cream, milk, sugar and eggs. The cheaper the ice cream, the more air it will have incorporated into it (not to mention creepy stabilizers, gums and preservatives) and since we’re measuring by volume and not weight here, you want to make sure you have enough dairy and sugar in the mix with the flour for the best texture and taste. You’re already rocking the boat here with the amount of crazy in the recipe–set yourself up for success with the best ingredients you can get your hands on.

The finished product is a delight–lightly sweetened, great vanilla flavor, totally versatile. I understand that we’re sort of teetering on the edge of Sandra Lee territory with this one, but I was so pleasantly surprised and basically humored by the entire experience of this recipe that I think I’ll take a tablescape for the team and share it with you anyway. Enjoy!

Ice Cream Muffins
Adapted from an old strip of newsprint from an unknown Midwestern publication

The better quality ice cream you choose, the better your results here. Note that this recipe calls for self-rising flour–it will not work with any other flour. I imagine other flavors of ice cream can be substituted. These can have a crazy rise, so keep the muffin cups only about 1/2 full of batter.

Makes 12

2 cups premium vanilla ice cream, very soft
2 cups self-rising flour
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the ice cream and flour until smooth. Beat in the egg, oil and vanilla until well-blended. Divide the batter equally among the muffin tins, each about 1/2 full. Bake until the muffins are risen, lightly golden and a toothpick comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Jul 13, 2010

ATK’s Banana Bread

Do the internets need another banana bread recipe? Probably not. But are we the sort of friends where I can’t help but tell you about a new one I tried and had to smack the counter, because hot damn, it’s some seriously good banana bread? Definitely.

Before I get into the whats and wheres of the banana bread of which I speak, I think we should talk about a few things. First, what’s your very favorite banana bread recipe, and from where and who did it come? What’s in it–nuts, no nuts, chocolate chips or various whimsy? Is it so moist it’s almost cake-like, or a bit drier, the kind that begs to be toasted and spread with butter? Do share, my friends.

Because for me, my so-quintessential-I-need-to-capitalize-it Banana Bread is a super moist, dense loaf, free of nuts and other frippery, and a recipe of Mrs. Patsy LaMonica, a dear old family friend who laughs loud, loves big and calls you “girlfriend” within ten minutes of meeting you. She, and her amazing Banana Bread, are really something. I should tell you about that specific recipe some time. But for now, I’m telling you about a banana bread recipe that is seriously a close second, tastes freakishly close to my favorite Banana Bread (although, psst, it’s even simpler to throw together), and the only reason that it’s not in first place is because it doesn’t involve Patsy.

But it does involve the America’s Test Kitchen geniuses, who I’ve dreamily droned on about again and again on this site. These people are always so right on, it kind of makes me tear up a little. And their wacky ways of arriving at perfection never cease to amaze, or at the very least amuse. Even with the simplest, most classic recipes, the ATKers find a way to have you using a technique or ingredient that makes you look over you shoulder to see if anyone’s watching you because it all just seems so crazy. But in this case, their usual bending-over-backwards feats of fancy give way to a pretty straightforward, easy recipe, the only commandments being to mash the bananas by hand to avoid a puree, and using very speckled (nearly black) bananas. There’s also a good dose of plain yogurt to add tang and moisture.

And to me, the lack of fussiness here is a good thing, because the beauty of banana bread, whatever the recipe, is that it’s such a perfectly homey, familiar thing. Anytime is the right time for banana bread, but I tend to think that God invented it on the same day he created soup and rainy Sundays, because it’s seriously the best at those sort of moments. That’s deep, people.

America’s Test Kitchen Banana Bread
Adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

If you’re a walnuts-in-banana-bread sort of person, add about 1 1/4 cups, toasted and chopped, to the batter.

Makes 1 8-inch loaf

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Adjust a rack to the lower middle position of the oven and preheat it to350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan.

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

In a medium bowl, stir together the bananas, yogurt, eggs, melted butter and vanilla, blending well.

Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry, just to blend–do not overmix. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 50-60 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn it out and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Nov 25, 2009

Nubbly Bran Muffins with Golden Raisins and Cranberries

So I suppose I really should be posting about something indisputably festive today, like the jazzy, brandy-spiked pumpkin pie recipe from Tartine that we’ll be devouring tomorrow. But well…I’m not. At least not yet. With so many drool-worthy blog posts out there all decked out in Thanksgiving finery, I feel like a total buzzkill sharing a recipe for bran muffins with you on Thanksgiving Eve. I mean, if you think about it, even the phrase bran muffins sounds a little like that sad little trumpet noise that sounds when something falls flat in a slapstick comedy scene. Wuhn-wuhhhhnnnn. Right?! But I assure you, dear readers, that this particular bran muffin recipe is anything but wan, and in fact it may be just the thing for the mornings surrounding Thanksgiving, when you need a little jolt of nutrition to help you prepare for, or recover from, the feeding frenzy.

These muffins made their way into my repertoire recently because I’d been on the hunt for something delicious and hearty and infinitely portable. Something that would indeed break the fast first thing in the morning with my beloved coffee, but not leave me too stuffed. And the reason I was searching for such a breakfast item is because I have officially gone off the deep end and am in the midst of training for my first half marathon which, if all goes as planned, I will be running the first week of February. This is all true. And in the spirit of giving, I should let you know that you may be getting more information about this in coming weeks than you really want.

Anyway, now that that completely insane proclamation has been made, let’s get back to the muffins, shall we? It’s no secret that bran muffins run the gamut of taste and texture. Which is to say that they can have a very bad taste and texture not unlike that of a corrugated cardboard box, and they can also be found with such a great taste and texture that surely they must contain very little of the healthful ingredient after which they are named, in addition to so much additional fat and sugar that you may as well just go for the cherry cheese Danish, for crying out loud.

This bran muffin recipe strikes a nice balance, more or less a metaphor for how I like to approach my diet in everyday life. Lots of good fiber in the form of bran cereal and whole wheat flour, and a fat gram count made quite moderate by a good amount of plain yogurt in the mix instead of just lots of oil or somesuch. On the other hand, there is a (relatively) small amount of white flour and butter in the batter that ensure good flavor and texture.

Add in a nice studding of cheery bits of golden raisins and dried cranberries that peek out like little jewels among the nubbly tops, and you’ve got yourself some morning fuel that’s fit for preparing for any kind of marathon. Whether that marathon involves running or the sport of eating.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Nubbly Bran Muffins with Golden Raisins and Cranberries
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Swap out the dried fruits for anything that you like–currants, dark raisins, dried cherries and apricots would all be good here. For the cereal, you want to get for Kellogg’s All-Bran, and look for the “Original” variety that looks like twigs, not the bran buds. You can substitute lowfat or nonfat yogurt for the whole milk, though the muffins won’t be quite as flavorful.

Makes 12 muffins

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 teaspoon water
2 1/4 cups All-Bran Original cereal
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large whole egg
1 large egg yolk
2/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsalte butter, melted and cooled
1 3/4 cups plain whole milk yogurt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or lightly grease the tin with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the raisins, cranberries and teaspoon of water in a small microwave-safe dish. Cover with plastic wrap and cut a steam vent in the plastic. Microwave on high for 45 seconds, and then let the bowl stand, covered, until the dried fruit is plump and softened, about 5 minutes. If necessary, blot off any extra water with a paper towel.

Process only half of the cereal in a food processor until very finely ground, about one minute, and set aside.

Whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt in a large bowl, and set these aside as well.

Whisk together the egg, egg yolk, brown sugar, maple syrup and vanilla until well-blended. Whisk in the melted butter to combine. Stir in the processed and unprocessed cereal, and let the mixture sit until the cereal is evenly moistened, about 5 minutes (it will be lumpy).

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold gently to blend–do not overmix. Fold in the raisins and cranberries. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan using a standard ice cream scoop, leaving the batter in rounded mounds (this will make for prettier muffins).

Bake until the muffins are deeply golden and a toothpick inserted into one of the center muffins comes out with just a few moist crumbs, about 16 to 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes more before serving. Store completely cooled muffins at room temperature in an airtight container for up to two days.


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