Mission Impossible

Five grocery stores, many grocery store employees, multiple phone calls, 1 face-time call, and one major mistake on my part later, I pulled these muffins from the oven.  It is a wonder they actually came to fruition this morning.

It all started yesterday when we were grocery shopping.  Trader Joes was out of chocolate chips, to which I say, “really?!”  But no problem.  I told Paul he’d have to make his regular Sunday grocery store run to get something I forgot, but of course need.  He happily agreed because he very kindly enjoys making these trips.

So around 8:42 Paul made his way to pick up his Sunday morning coffee and chocolate chips, returning home happily.  All was well in the kitchen.

That is until I realized I needed espresso powder.  I know it was “optional” but espresso powder enhances the chocolate flavor to a rich loveliness, which was enough to make me want to add it into these muffins.  So off Paul accepts the mission to find espresso powder.  1st stop: Gelsons, 2nd stop: Whole Foods, 3rd stop: Vons, 4th stop: Albertsons, 5th stop: Ralphs.  Ralphs was the winner with the prefect espresso powder product.  While there, Paul and I (via face-time technology ~ what did people do before the magic of iPhone land?) looked for white sparkle sugar or pearl sugar but to no avail.  Paul’s comment, “You need to start planning this on Wednesday so we can order ingredients on Amazon.”  Sur la Table, here we come!

Finally… one of us, namely me, may have gotten distracted by my virtual stroll down Ralphs’ isles searching for not so obscure items and may have forgotten to add the brown sugar that was so obviously called for in the recipe.

After spooning the batter into each muffin cup and coincidentally taking a small taste of the batter, I realized it tasted like crap.  I immediately dumped (not gently) the dough back into the bowl and beat in the sugar.  The funny thing is, the batter was much lighter after using my hand mixer.  Originally I stirred the mixture with a spatula but it was dense and heavy.  The after-thought- sugar-added batter was light and airy.

This is a very easy recipe with amazing results.  Just don’t follow my mission impossible lead.

By the way, I don’t use any of the special ingredients called for by King Arthur.  But with that said, they have amazing recipes.

Chocolate Breakfast Muffins (recipe care of kingaurthurflour.com)

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INGREDIENTS:  2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa, 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon espresso powder (optional), 1 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 cup chocolate chips, 2 large eggs, 3/4 cup milk, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons vinegar, 1/2 cup butter (melted) or 1/3 cup vegetable oil sparkling white sugar or pearl sugar for topping (optional)

DIRECTIONS:  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a standard muffin pan with paper or silicone muffin cups, and grease the cups. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking powder, espresso powder, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips. Set aside. In a large measuring cup or medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and vinegar. Add the wet ingredients, along with the melted butter, to the dry ingredients, stirring to blend; there’s no need to beat these muffins, just make sure everything is well-combined. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan; the cups will be heaped with batter, and the muffin will bake into a “mushroom” shape. Sprinkle with pearl sugar, if desired. Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the oven, and after 5 minutes remove them from the pan, allowing them to cool for about 15 minutes on a rack before peeling off the muffin papers or silicone cups.

Sweet or Savory?

You know that Christmas carol, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year?”  I was singing that this morning as I was prepping all of my ingredients for this morning’s baking fun.  Why are you singing a Christmas song in September, you may ask.  Um, it’s football season!  Woo hoo!!!

After this summer’s travel adventures I experienced some of the most creative, unique, traditional, aesthetically pleasing, and delicious dishes I’d ever come upon.  I say “experienced” because really good food is an experience.  You woulda thought that our trip to Greece inspired these scones, but nope.  Instead, I saw these gorgeous baked goods in a lovely Italian/Greek inspired restaurant in Missoula, MT.  Who knew?

Now spanakopita has some of my favorite things… spinach, feta, onions, oh my!  When I stumbled upon the scones in Missoula I was fired up.  Unfortunately I had already eaten lunch and was too full to try them when I was there (normally I would force myself to have a nibble, but I stuffed myself silly with their yummy quinoa salad).  So I don’t have any frame of reference of what these should taste like.

Upon the first bite, you definitely get a sweetness from both the sugar and lemon zest.  Then the savoriness of the feta, onions, pepper, and salt settle in.  The thing is, I don’t know how I feel about that.  I almost feel like these scones are a bit confused.  Are they sweet or are they savory?  No judgement, I’m often confused in life, but I’m not sure that these work.

Regardless they are show-stopping pretty.  As I was brushing the egg wash over them, you could literally see the pockets of butter and cheese layered in between the spinach.  Seriously, you’ll get lots of, “oohs and ahhs” as you serve these for breakfast or brunch.  Give them a go and see what you think.

Spanakopita Scones (recipe care of food52.com)

Spanakopita Scones

INGREDIENTS:  cups all-purpose flour (384 grams), 1/4 cup sugar (50 grams), 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 garlic clove (minced or Microplaned), teaspoon lemon zest (about 1 small lemon), 3/4 cup unsalted butter (170 grams) cubed and cold, 2 1/2 cups baby spinach (90 grams), cup crumbled feta (156 grams), scallions, finely chopped (heaping 1/2 cup, 50 grams), 1/2 cup chopped dill (9 grams), pinch freshly ground black pepper plus more for topping, pinch red pepper flakes, 3/4 cup buttermilk plus more as needed, large egg beaten with a fork, pinches flaky salt

DIRECTIONS:  Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, garlic, and lemon zest in a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Sprinkle the butter evenly on top, then pulse until the butter is the size of big blueberries. Err on the side of under- versus over-processing—if there are any stray, oversized butter pieces, just break up with your fingers. (You could also do this step with a pastry cutter, fork, or by hand! Just be wary of the butter getting too warm.) Dump this mixture into a big bowl and stick in the freezer or fridge while you prep and assemble the rest of your ingredients. When they’re at the ready, add the spinach, feta, scallions, dill, pepper, and pepper flakes to the flour-butter mixture. Fold with a rubber spatula until combined. Add 3/4 cup buttermilk and fold again until a dough starts to form (I like to switch from spatula to hand after a couple folds). Stick back in the fridge or freezer and let rest for a few minutes—the flour will start to drink up the liquid—while you preheat the oven to 400° F and line a baking sheet with parchment, foil, or a silicone baking mat. Give the dough another couple folds by hand and see if it wants more buttermilk. Add tablespoon by tablespoon—I added 2 more—until the dough just holds together. Dump onto a clean work surface or cutting board. Use your hands to bring it together and pat into a circle—9-inch diameter, 1-inch height. (The dough being perfectly cohesive or the circle being perfectly sized is less important than the dough being overworked!) Cut into 8 triangles. Place the scones on the prepared baking sheet. Brush each with the egg—covering the tops and sides—then plenty of black pepper and a bit of flaky salt. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the tray and lower the oven to 350° F. Bake for another 16 or so minutes until the scones are very colorful. Cool before eating—at least until warm to the touch. I like them best at room temperature.

Pink Martini

One of my favorite parts of bake day is picking the soundtrack for the morning.  Ya gotta have the right tunes to groove to while you’re skating around the kitchen.  Paul picked it this morning… Pandora’s Pink Martini station.  Perfection!

There’s nothing like a little Dean Martin’s “Everybody Loves Somebody” mixed in with Louis Armstrong’s “La Vie En Rose” along with Pink Martini’s “Let’s Never Stop Falling in Love” and dotted with Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.”  It’s just a cool cat way to start your day.

Anyway, back to baking (apparently I think I’m a music commentator today).  The reason that the Pink Martini station was perfect for this morning is because I made these very elegant brownies.  An elegant brownie needs some classy music to help them come to fruition.   They’re just pretty, simple as that.

I did make some rookie mistakes with this one (darn music distracted me, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!).  I didn’t soften the cream cheese, bringing it to room temperature (shocker).  I didn’t sift the cocoa powder with the flour.  That woulda been smart.  And finally, I used too much of the blackberry syrup to marbleize it correctly.  I don’t regret this last one though because the blackberry flavor really shines through.

But with those mistakes, the brownies still turned out beautifully.  Even with my clumsiness, they worked.  It’s a good recipe, easy to follow and lovely.

By the way when the bell dinged saying the brownies were done, Sherman (our golden retriever) came bolting in ready to beg for a treat. My dog is pathetically trained to look like he’s starving every Sunday morning.

Blackberry Cheesecake Brownies (recipe care of bromabakery.com)

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INGREDIENTS:

Brownies:  3/4 cup cocoa powder, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2 eggs, 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon salt

Blackberry Puree:  6 oz fresh or frozen blackberries, 1/4 cup granulated white sugar, 1/4 cup water

Cheesecake:  8 ounces cream cheese (softened), 1/4 cup greek yogurt, 1 large eggs (room temperature), 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:  Cook blackberry puree by combining all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes. Use a whisk or spoon to help break down the blackberries. Once cooked, place a fine mesh strainer over a small bowl and, using a spatula, squeeze through all of the liquid and dispose of the solids. Let cool to room temperature. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line an 8″x8″ baking dish with parchment paper and set aside. In a microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt the butter. Stir in sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt. Once combined, fold in cocoa powder and flour. Pour the brownie batter into the baking dish, spreading evenly to the edges. Combine all cheesecake ingredients in a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Cream for 2-3 minutes on medium-high speed. Pour over brownie batter, spreading evenly to the edges. Drizzle the blackberry puree on top of the cheesecake batter and swirl using a fork, knife, or toothpick. Try to swirl only into the cheesecake batter, not the brownie batter. Bake for 1 hour, or until the cheesecake begins to turn golden and a knife inserted in the center of the brownies comes out mostly clean. Place in fridge and allow to cool for at least 2 hours but up to overnight. Cut into 9 large squares. Store brownies in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Bonuts… What?!?!

This year Paul and I have had the true privilege of experiencing wonderful travel and food adventures.  Nashville, Greece, Montana… oh my!  I’ve gotten the chance to try tons of delectable dishes (and some not so delectable) that I’ve never even heard of.  It’s been awesome.

One of these dishes was bonuts from Biscuit Love in Nashville.  I’ve written about Biscuit Love in a prior post, but one treat we saw there were said bonuts (we didn’t partake in them because we stuffed ourselves silly with other plates).  I had never heard of such a thing.  How good would deep fried buttermilk biscuit dough be?!?!

This was one dish I was determined to try.  Hence, this morning’s experiment.  Now, I rarely fry anything.  Not because of calories and fat and all that sensible stuff.  But because I’m terrified of two things… giving myself 3rd degree burns and setting the kitchen on fire.  Luckily neither of these things happened.

Now, I love me an Iron Chef as much as the next person but I think Bobby Flay made a few mistakes in his recipe.  First of all he calls for cream but doesn’t mention when to add it into the batter.  After I added the buttermilk, there seemed to be enough moisture so I just skipped it.  Another conundrum I faced was rolling the dough into balls.  Most bakers know that if you overwork the dough, it will get tough.  I did it anyway but with great hesitation.  I’m not sure how you get around this to make the bonut but it was a touch nerve-racking.  I also rolled my bonuts in regular white sugar rather than powdered sugar.  I just think it’s prettier and tastes better.

Biscuit Love serves their bonuts with lemon mascarpone and blueberry compote.  I didn’t have mascarpone so I subbed in ricotta.  But I think mascarpone would’ve been smoother.  Instead of blueberry compote, I dipped these pillows of loveliness in huckleberry jam.  Huckleberry jam is what is right with and all that is good in the world if you ask me.  We were in Whitefish, Montana a few weeks ago and I bought this amazing concoction at the Huckleberry Days festival with the specific idea of serving it with the bonuts.  I love Montana!

Definitely give these a go!  They are wonderful!

Bonuts (recipe care of Bobby Flay – slightly altered)

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INGREDIENTS:  6 cups canola oil,  4 cups all-purpose flour (plus for dusting),  4 teaspoons baking powder , 1 teaspoon baking soda , 1 teaspoon salt, 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter (cut into small pieces) , 1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk , 1/2 cup heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar (for rolling)

DIRECTIONS:  Heat the oil in a Dutch oven until it registers 360 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer. Put a rack on a baking sheet. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter using your fingers or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and mix gently until a dough just begins to come together.  Roll the dough into a square about 1/2-inch thick. Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces and roll into balls. Working in batches (so the doughnuts have plenty of space to float in), fry the dough balls until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer the doughnuts to the rack. Let cool slightly. Serve immediately.

Lemon Ricotta Dip:  2 tablespoons-ish sugar, 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, 1 tablespoon-ish lemon zest, 1 tablespoon-ish lemon juice ~ stir it all up.

Huckleberry Jam:  Order from Shelly’s Jellys, LLC.

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

These are some seriously stuffed scones! Paul and I were in Montana recently and while partaking in some delicious delight I saw a tomato, bacon, feta scone and that I had to try to recreate.

Well, I couldn’t find a recipe out there for my mission so I adapted one.  My niece and nephew wanted to bake this morning and I think they were a bit leery of a savory breakfast dish.  Somehow I have the feeling that they wanted chocolate involved in our baking morning.  But I have to give them props, they dove in with both hands (literally, Gwen was covered in a cloud of flour).

This recipe pretty much has every ingredient from my kitchen that could possibly be included.  There were a few adjustments other than just adding bacon… I didn’t have garlic salt so I used regular salt (garlic salt would’ve been better) and  I couldn’t find roasted tomatoes in the olive bar at Whole Foods so I used canned diced tomatoes (roasted tomatoes would’ve been better).  Both of these would’ve added a richness to the scone that was obviously lacking.  In truth, Paul and I thought they were just okay but the kids and my brother loved them.  See what you think.

Oh, I also would’ve brushed an egg wash on them before baking to give them a nice, finished look.

Tomato, Feta, Bacon Scone (recipe adapted from savorysweetlife.com)Savory Scones.jpg

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INGREDIENTS:  2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon garlic salt, 4 Tbsp cold unsalted butter (cut into cubes), ¾ cup heavy cream, 1 egg slightly beaten, 1 – 4 oz package feta cheese, ¼ cup roasted red tomatoes, chopped (can be found in bulk in the olive bar at your grocery store), 2 green onions (finely sliced)

DIRECTIONS:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the flour, baking powder, garlic salt and butter in a food processor. Pulsate everything in 3-second intervals until the mixture resembles coarse meal. If doing this by hand, use 2 knives, a pastry blender or your fingers.  Transfer everything to a large bowl. Stir in heavy cream and egg, mixing the dough by hand until it comes together. Add feta cheese, roasted tomatoes, and green onions. Gently mix the ingredients by hand until the savory ingredients are evenly distributed. On a floured surface, form a big dough ball. Flatten the dough into a 1 inch disk and cut it in 8 equal pieces. Bake for 15 minutes on a baking stone or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Remove scones from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.
While the scones baked away in the oven, the kids had some good old fashioned fun with Uncle Paul.  All they needed was a few boxes, tape, paper, and a little creativity.
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Sunny, Summer Sunday

“Okay Auntie, but I won’t eat it because I don’t like coffee.”  So beautifully stated by my 9 year old nephew, Flynn, upon seeing what we were going to bake this morning.  Kids crack me up, they’re just so literal.

Flynn asked for a baking day with Auntie Anne which always makes me feel like a total rock star! He came over this morning and Paul, Flynn, and I all gathered in the kitchen to create this very simple yet delicious coffee cake.

I assigned Paul and Flynn all of the jobs I hate (I am evil that way) such as greasing the pan and cutting butter into small pieces (because of course I didn’t read the recipe ahead of time in order to know that I needed softened butter).  Then Flynn and I measured, mixed, and stirred this loveliness into creation.

Flynn learned a very valuable lesson this morning which is you can’t mess up in baking.  Well, you can (in fact I mess up all of the time), but those mistakes make it interesting and exciting.  Today’s mistakes entailed the following… I used a 10 inch pan instead of 9 inch – oops!  We barely had enough sugar for the batter (seriously, we used every last granule so Paul had to make a grocery store run) – oops!  I didn’t have softened butter – oops!

But with all these mistakes comes a relaxed feeling that settles into the kitchen.  And then ya kinda wanna see if it’s actually gonna turn out correctly.  It’s just fun!

This is a super quick and easy recipe that screams summer.  Enjoy!

Strawberry Coffee Cake (recipe care of allrecipes.com)

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INGREDIENTS:  1/4 cup butter, 3/4 cup white sugar, 1 egg, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup milk, 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced strawberries, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup butter (softened), 1/4 cup flaked coconut

DIRECTIONS:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9-inch baking pan. Beat 1/4 cup butter in a bowl until creamy; add 3/4 cup sugar and egg. Beat until fully incorporated. Mix 1 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, and salt together in a separate bowl. Stir flour mixture, alternating with milk, into butter mixture until combined. Pour batter into prepared baking pan. Arrange strawberries atop the batter. Mix 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and coconut together in a bowl. Sprinkle topping over strawberries. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes.

Summer, Summer, Summertime

Okay, I do realize that this blog has “bake day” in the title and that bar-b-quing burgers has nothing to do with baking.  But hey, I’m crazy like that!

I had planned on making a tex-mex scramble this morning with chorizo and fresh veggies but Paul had to work and wasn’t done until about 1:00 so I scrapped that idea and instead, decided to share one of my favorite, go to burgers.

If you’ve never made these, you will be a rock star at your next shin-dig, camping circle, or regular week day dinner audience.

These burgers are amazing for four key reasons… lots of thyme, lots of garlic, easy-peasy, and the gold star of the show:  Hearst Ranch ground beef.  Hearst Ranch raises their cows    on organic grasses, free range wandering throughout the hillsides of San Simeon, massaged at special cow spas while listening to classical music, etc.  Okay, I may have exaggerated a bit but dear Lord, their beef is tender, juicy, and lovely all around.

When I make these burgers I always make sure I buy the Hearst Ranch beef from Whole Foods (if you don’t have access to that, just go high quality beef – we don’t eat a lot of red meat so we go big then we go home – hee hee hee, I crack myself up).  I also use a lot of garlic, far more than called for.  But as Paul says, “The more the garlic, the more the merrier.”  We embrace bad breath, and have no problem bestowing it upon others.

And for that matter I see the list of ingredients as guidelines rather than rules, hence no mustard for me but a heaping helping of avocado.  As I said earlier, I’m crazy like that.  Now go forth and grill!

Garlic-Thyme Burgers (recipe care of Cooking Light)

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INGREDIENTS:  1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, 3/8 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 2 garlic cloves (minced), 1 pound ground sirloin, 4 (1/2 inch thick) slices beefsteak tomato, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 4 (2 ounce) Kaiser rolls or other sandwich rolls, 4 baby romaine lettuce leaves

DIRECTIONS:  Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.  Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Divide mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty.  Add patties to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.  Remove patties from pan.  Spread about 3/4 teaspoon mustard over bottom half or each roll; top each with 1 lettuce leaf, 1 patty, 1 tomato slice, and top half of roll.