Friday, September 30, 2011

blueberry and cinnamon muffins


Again, this is from Alton Brown's "Old School" Muffins. It's such a lovely recipe; the muffins are soft, sweet, moist, and have a thick crumb suitable for a big breakfast muffin. Largely I think it's the yogurt's fault.


These were filled with blueberries donated by my apartment-mate the Barefoot Zombie. The extra cinnamon was then added in her honor, because she is a cinnamon fiend.

Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from Alton Brown's "Old-School Muffins"
Makes twelve (260 calorie/30 carb) muffins
2 1/2 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of salt

1/2 C sugar
1/2 C butter
1 egg plus one egg yolk
1 C plain yogurt
2 Tb buttermilk

1/4 C brown sugar
1/3 C flour
1 Tb cinnamon
3 Tb butter


Preheat your oven to 375. Line your favorite muffin tin with paper cups or grease them. (I'm a lazy cleaner; I use my paper cups).

Good bakers weigh their dry ingredients and sift them (or run them through a food processor; you achieve the same effect as sifting). I'm a lazy baker. But, hey, if you aren't? Take those dry goods (that would be the flour, the baking powder and soda, and the salt) and sift them into a separate bowl. Good job. I applaud you and your soul, which is a better one than mine.


Next, beat the sugar, shortening, eggs, yogurt, sour cream, and half n' half together for a few minutes. When you get bored of watching it spin around (or, if you've a hand mixer, when your arm gets tired) and everything seems incorportated, turn off the mixer. Dump the dry good (sifted and mixed... or not) straight on top. Mix on a low speed for a few seconds, or until everything is just barely incorporated. It's OK to have some dry flour hanging about. Overmixing muffins is a serious sin, folks. It kills the tenderness. Just stir until everything barely hangs together.

This is very stiff, thick batter; it's almost more like a sticky dough. Don't worry about it.


Fold the blueberries into the batter. Don't mix too much; just fold it a few times and let it be.

Now, spoon your stiff dough into 12 muffin cups. The cups should be full. I know this goes against all "fill-it-2/3-of-the-way-up" muffin logic we've been taught, but it works with this batter.

In a separate bowl, now, mix the struesel ingredients. I like smooshing them with a fork or a sturdy whisk. When it's crumbly enough to sprinkle, you're down. If it feels very moist and forms balls bigger than a pea, toss in a Tb or two of flour. Sprinkle on top of the muffins.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry.

Remove from the muffin pan immediately to keep the bottoms from going soggy.

Let cool for as long as you can stand the gently wafting aroma of baked brown sugar and cinnamon. Then, yeah, you can eat them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

spicy vegetarian enchiladas with summer and winter squash


This was spicier than I expected it to be, except that's a bit silly, as I doubled the chiles in it. It was a delicious sort of spice, though; I recommend it. Just keep a lot of guacamole and sour cream handy.


If you don't like things very spicy, I would add only one can of chipoltes. If you don't like spice at all, I'd add none.


Squash Enchiladas
adapted from

enchilada sauce:
2 cans of chipotle chile (oz?)
2 teaspoons of oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 6-oz. tomato paste
1 1/2 C water
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste

Brown the onions in butter for ten minutes and then the garlic for one, then blend everything in a food processor. Set aside.


For the filling:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 small yellow onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow squash, diced
1 small winter squash (I used delicatto)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper


For the enchiladas:
7 flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (Jack, cheddar, or one of the "four blend Mexican" bags)

Microwave the winter squash for 3 minutes. When it is soft, let it cool for a little bit, then unwrap the plastic wrap. Spoon out the flesh of the squash and discard the skin.


Meanwhile, slice the onion thinly and brown in 1 Tb butter. After about fifteen minutes (when the onions are tastily brown), add the garlic and the summer squash. Cook down, then add the microwaved squash.

Add the cilantro and remove from heat.

Pour some sauce into the bottom of a 9x9 pan. Get out your tortillas. Place a tortilla in the pan and smear a spoonful of sauce on its upper surface.


Drop a few big spoonfuls of the filling along the center of the tortilla, roll it up, and place it to the edge of the pan.



Repeat this with three more tortillas, then ladle a few spoonfuls of sauce on top of each enchilada. Toss 1/2 C of cheese over the top.



Make three more enchiladas (sauce the tortillas, shake off the excess sauce, fill, and roll) and place them on top. Pour another 1 C or so of sauce on top (I had extra and greedily saved it for future use) and then top with the remaining cheese.


Bake at 350 or so for 10 minutes or until warm through and the cheese is bubbling.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

dark chocolate truffles: plain, orange, and raspberry


Truffles are one of those things that are a mix between hard and easy. On one hand, they're terribly messy and involve lots of fridge time, and you'll probably have to deal with some siezed chocolate and that's rarely fun. However, at it's core, a truffle recipe is this: melt chocolate and cream together. Chill. Roll into balls. Chill. Roll in cocoa powder/melted chocolate/nuts/etc. Chill.

Then you eat them, of course.


These were Mum's birthday present. Her birthday cake was a selection of excellent cupcakes (mud pie, PB, red velvet, carrot, and lemon pistachio) from a Berkeley bakery.


12 oz chocolate
6 oz heavy cream

(The chocolate:cream ratio is 2:1, if you want to change the size of the recipe. I just poured a bunch of chocolate chips into a bowl on a scale and then poured on half that of cream).

3 oz extra chocolate

orange Vitamin C tablets, crushed (~6, but taste to find out what you like)
1/4 tsp vanilla
a few drops lemon extract
1 Tb extra chocolate

Heat the cream up in the microwave or on the stove. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat and pour in your chocolate chips. Let them sit for a moment (to get soft; you can stir immediately if you want, it just won't do you much good) and then stir until the mixture is smooth.

This is your basic truffle ganache. From here, you can just slip it into the fridge for at least an hour and get on with the rest of the recipe. However, if you want flavored truffles, here is where you get them.

I separated my truffles into three bowls. One I left plain. One had crushed red raspberries mixed into it (and extra chocolate, because the raspberries diluted the ganache). The last was made into an orange truffle, with Vit C tablets, lemon extract, vanilla, and chocolate.


Everything now goes in the fridge for at least an hour. Doing this the day beforehand works as well.

Later: Remove one bowl from the fridge at a time. Using a spoon, scoop out a small portion of the chilled ganache and roll it quickly between your hands into a ball. It will begin to melt all over your hands, so do it quickly. Place the ball on a plate (hint: cover the plate with wax paper, to keep things from sticking). Roll all of the ganache into balls then move the plate to the fridge. Repeat with the other mixtures.


Let them cool for another hour.

After they've chilled, you can roll them in whatever you like: melted chocolate, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, ground nuts... Chill them again and then devour happily.


A note about melting chocolate: if you get a drop of water in your chocolate when you are melting it, then it will sieze. It will get stiff and sort of almost fluffy, which is sort of cool, except when you want it to get smooth and sort of liquidy so you can roll truffles in it. If it siezes, just wrap it in plastic and stick it in the fridge. You can use it in something later. Get a new bowl, a new spoon, and new chocolate. Repeat the melting process.

The two best ways of melting chocolate that I know are in the double boiler on the stove top or very slowly in a microwave.

Double boiler: Fill a small pot an inch deep with water. Bring it to a simmer. Put a metal bowl on top of the pot. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does NOT touch the water. Pour chocolate into the bowl and stir until melted.

Microwave: With a clean, dry spoon and a clean, dry bowl, place a bowl of chocolate in the microwave. Microwave in ten second increments, stirring between each. Resist the urge to taste the chocolate on the spoon, because you might get water on it. Remove from the microwave a little before it's completely melted; the heat of the chocolate will finish off any remaining little chunks of solid chocolate.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

vietnamese summer rolls with red pork and shrimp


"Spring roll" is a blanket Western term used to describe rolled, filled Asian appetizers. There are many and extremely dissimilar varieties of these spring rolls, from the Chinese chūn juǎn the term was derived from, to sweet rolls filled with red bean paste (eastern and northern China), to the Filipino lumpiang prito, a deep fried roll that can be filled with bean sprouts and grated vegatables. This recipe is for goi cuon, or Vietnamese spring, summer, or salad rolls.


Vietnamese salad rolls are rice paper filled with shrimp, boiled pork (I cheated and added a bit of extra flavor by roasting the pork in a sweet glaze), various herbs, and rice noodles. They are also delicious, and easy and fun to make. Throw a party; have friends wrap their own; eat them in the backyard with Vietnamese iced tea and spicy peanut dipping sauce.


Goi Cuon
adapted from Wandering Chopsticks
rice paper (It looks almost like thin, hard sheets of plastic. Do not be fooled! This is what you want and it is delicious)
rice vermicelli noodles (also labelled as rice sticks)
two carrots, grated
Vietnamese basil, mint, cilantro, rau ram (or any other collection of tasty green herbs)
1 lb shrimp
red pork (see recipe below)

set up
Boil the rice sticks for about one minutes, or until soft. Drain and set aside. Make the red pork (see recipe below). When cooled, slice the red pork thinly.


Arrange all of the fillings (noodles, grated carrots, rinsed herbs, shrimp (I grilled mine, but cook them however you like), and red pork) and the rice paper in nearby reachable places. Fill a bowl with clean, cool water.

Lay a sheet of rice paper in the water. Hold it under the water for fifteen seconds and then remove it to a clean, flat surface. The rice paper will still feel rather plastic-like and stiff, but it will soften as you go. In the center of the rice paper (a little lower than I have shown), lay three shrimp (or two, if yours are larger). Add carrots, slices of pork, the herbs, and the noodles.


Don't overstuff; experiment with a few rolls to figure out how much stuffing you should put in.


Next, fold three edges slightly in and then roll it up as tightly as you can. The faster you construct these, the less likely they will be to tear because the rice paper will be still stiff.


To make a peanut sauce for dipping, I mixed chunky peanut butter with coconut milk, a dash of fish sauce, and sriracha.

red pork
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
This makes more than you need for the rolls but, well, I really like pork.


2 lb pork butt, sliced into long segments about 1 inch in diameter.
1/3 C sake
1/3 C soy sauce
1/3 C hoisin sauce
1 Tb fish sauce1 tsp sriracha

Marinate the pork for between one hour and six hours.

I ran out of hoisin (I only had about two tablespoons), so I replaced the rest with: 2 Tb barbecue sauce, 1/4 C brown sugar, packed, and an extra dash of fish sauce.

Preheat your oven to 375 when you're about ready to start the pork (about XXX hours before you want the rolls ready). Put water in a shallow dish (a brownie pan, perhaps) at the bottom of the oven. Balance a rack (cookie cooling sheet, for example) on top of the dish. Lay the marinated pork out on the rack and cook in the 375 oven for thirty five minutes.

Bring the marinade to a boil in a pot. Brush the pork with the marinade, flip, and then brush the other side. Do this several times during the baking. I brush it the first time about ten minutes in, and then repeat every five to ten minutes, or whenever I'm bored with whatever else I'm doing in the kitchen.

To finish off, bring the oven to 400 degrees and roast until the outside of the pork is caramelized, about ten minutes. Slice the biggest piece of pork in half to check for doneness (there should be no pink) or use a meat thermometer.


Let the pork rest while you prep everything else.

Friday, September 2, 2011

buttermilk scones


Scones are a morning baked good for me. They're probably one of things I bake most often, and they're one of the things I associate most with half falling asleep with my hands in dough.


For scones, I like to get up rather before I have to and enjoy the morning darkness and the morning light--grey is one of my favorite colors, and morning grey a favorite within the greys. This recipe takes about 45 minutes for me, from my alarm clock going off to having hot scones heaped on a plate.


This is another in the continuing series of stuff-the-protagonist-bakes, inspired by a short story by the writer gyzym. This post traces its roots to the protagonist's "scones with the proper amount of vanilla," and my own undying love of buttermilk.


Cream Scones
adapted from Joy of Baking's Cream Scones recipe , and gyzym's story "I've Got Nothing To Do Today But Smile (The Only Living Boy in New York)."
makes 10-12 scones


2 C flour
1/4 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
a few grates of fresh nutmeg
1/3 C butter, cold and cubed
1/2 C buttermilk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 375. 

Combine the dry goods (flour, sugar, and baking powder) in a large bowl. Grate on a little fresh nutmeg. Add the cold butter, cut into small chunks, and use your fingers, a pastry cutter or a fork cut the butter into the flour until the whole mixture looks like big breadcrumbs.

Next, in a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, egg and vanilla. Pour the liquid into the center of the dry goods. Fold the flour and the liquid together, trying to stir as little as possible.

Spoon the scones onto a baking sheet and shape into round mounds or triangles as you prefer. They will spread while baking so give them some room.


I like mine best hot out of the oven with a little butter and jam and an early morning.

dark chocolate eclairs


I had to make two types of eclairs here, because I wanted some filled with dark chocolate custard, but Mum required some with whipped cream and raspberries. Heartbreaking, isn't it?


The pastry shell used, choux pastry, is the same for both. I just filled one with creme patisserie (the traditional eclair filling) that I added cocoa powder and melted dark chocolate into, and filled the other sort with homemade whipped cream and some fresh raspberries. I topped both with melted dark chocolate. 


This post in another entry in my stuff-the-protagonist-bakes collection; I'm baking every baked good mentioned in a story written by gyzym. This post answers the prompt "dark chocolate eclairs."


Dark Chocolate Eclairs and Whipped Cream Eclairs
adapted from pastry cook by Catherine Atkinson, gyzym's story "I've Got Nothing To Do Today But Smile (The Only Living Boy in New York)," and Joy of Baking's Pastry Cream Recipe.

9 Tb flour
1/4 C butter
2/3 C water
2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter in the water in a small pot on the stove. Bring the butter and water to a boil, then remove from the heat and dump in the 9 Tb of flour. Stir vigorously until combined, then put back on the heat. Continue to stir for about 2 minutes. It will get a little shinier and pull away from the sides of the pot instead of sticking to them. Don't worry too much, just stir for a minute or two and then take it off. I think you're just cooking the flour a little bit so that it doesn't taste too raw. (If anyone else has any other theories about the science behind this brief cooking period, let me know).

Take the pot off the heat and let it cool for a minute or two. Then add the two eggs, which should be lightly beaten before you add them if you're a conscientious cook, or just cracked directly in and stirred quickly if you're lazy like me. Stir the eggs and pastry for a couple minutes, until everything is smooth and a little thicker. At first it will look like it won't combine, but just keep stirring. It will come together.

Spoon the slightly stiff batter onto a cookie sheet and shape however you like. Cream puffs tend to be ball-shaped; eclairs tend to be longer. Bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

While the eclairs bake, you'll want to make the fillings.


chocolate creme patisserie
3/4 C milk
1/2 C heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1/4 C sugar
2 Tb cocoa powder
2 Tb cornstarch
3/4 C chocolate, dark
1/2 Tb brandy
1 tsp vanilla

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together. Next, beat in the cocoa and cornstarch. Meanwhile, bring the milk to just barely simmering on the stove. Don't boil the milk, it doesn't like it.

When the milk is hot spoon a little into the egg mixture, whisking the egg until combined. Spoon a little more in, whisk. Continue until you've got about half of the hot milk in there, then pour the egg-and-milk into the rest of the milk and stir. Return mixture to a boil and boil for a half a minute or a minute. It should thicken. Remove from the heat and add the liquor, vanilla and the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is all melted. Let it cool before you fill the eclairs.


whipped cream
1 C whipping cream
1/8 C sugar

Whip the cream and sugar together until soft peaks form, about eight minutes or so (depending on your mixer).

To fill the eclairs, you can either put the filling into a bag and snip off the tip, then poke that end of the bag into the eclair and squeeze in the filling, or you can slice the eclair along one side and spoon the filling in. I chose the latter,  as I am (as previously stated) lazy and the second way doesn't involve any extra hardware but for the spoon.


Melt chocolate with a dash each of oil and cream and then spoon it over the top of each eclair. (The darker, thicker chocolate shown on the whipped cream eclairs is more chocolate and cream, less oil. The thinner chocolate on the chocolate-filled eclairs had more oil. Your choice).


Thursday, September 1, 2011

blueberry-orange coffeecake, round two


This is less of a coffeecake and more of a cake. This isn't to say it wasn't delicious with hot coffee in the morning. But the streusel sank into the batter when it baked, so the cake is full of tasty brown sugar-cinnamon flavor but there isn't any of that distinctive coffeecake crunch. So, here we are: tasty blueberry-orange cake.

It's sweet (but not too sweet; the marmalade adds some bitterness) and a little chewy (which I think is the fault of the marmalade, and the extra egg in the batter). The blueberries, marmalade, and streusel all fall to the bottom, which seems to leave streaks of bittersweet orange and brown sugar through the cake. The top browns nicely into a sweet crust. 


This is the second version of blueberry-orange bread that I've tried, both being inspired by a short story about a stress baker and a coffeehouse owner who fall in love.

Blueberry-Orange Cake
adapted from Betty Crocker's Cookbook, gyzym's short story "I've Got Nothing To Do Today But Smile (The Only Living Boy in New York)," and Alton Brown's marmalade recipe.
1 C flour
1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/6 C butter, softened
1/2 C buttermilk
1 egg

1/2 C marmalade
1 egg
1 Tb brown sugar
about 6 oz blueberries

1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C flour
2 Tb butter

Preheat your oven to 350.


Like before, beat flour, sugar, baking soda, butter, buttermilk, and egg for two minutes, until mostly smooth. Pour all of the batter into a greased 8x8 pan.

Mix marmalade, second egg, and 1 Tb brown sugar until combined, then pour over the better. Sprinkle blueberries on top of that.

the front

Pound the 1/4 C brown sugar, 1/4 C flour, and 2 Tb butter together with a sturdy whisk or a fork until it looks like big breadcrumbs. Sprinkle evenly over the marmalade and blueberries.

Put the pan into a 350 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes.

the back