Spiffed-Up Blueberry Muffins

Hi dear readers, it’s my last blueberry post.

Whole-Grain Blueberry Muffins~ Erin's DC Kitchen

Spiffed-up blueberry muffins! So, what’s spiffed up about them?

Spiffed-Up Blueberry Muffins~ Erin's DC Kitchen

Well, the addition of whole grain flour of course. Why that? Read on friends.

My mom would crank out classic blueberry muffins every summer after we went picking. I always got excited about them, but didn’t love them (sorry mom).  I could not put my finger on the exact reason why I didn’t enjoy the muffins as much as I should have until I read a recipe from Nigel Slater. He pointed out that some muffins have a metallic taste which is due to the leavening agent. He recommended spelt flour to get rid of that flavor.

Whole-Grain Blueberry Muffins ~ Erin's DC Kitchen

I didn’t have any spelt on hand, so I improvised, natch. Whole wheat worked just as well, and yielded delicious, moist and chewy muffins. The whole wheat provides a nutty flavor that masks the leavening but compliments the gentle sweetness of the blueberries.

Spiffed-Up Blueberry Muffins ~ Erin's DC Kitchen

Spiffed-Up Blueberry Muffins (adapted from Nigel Slater)

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbl soft butter
  • scant 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • scant 1/2 cup milk 
  • 1 1/2 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 375°.  Line a muffin tin with 12 baking cups. Mix together the flours, baking powder and soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, mix to combine, then the vanilla extract. Alternate adding in the flour mixture and the milk, until the ingredients are gently combined. Fold in blueberries. Divide the batter evenly among the 12 cups. Slater suggests sprinkling with oats and demerara sugar for visual effect, but I skipped it. :-)

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until skewers come out mostly clean when muffins are pricked. Remove from baking tins and let cool on a rack.

Enjoy!

- Erin

French Toast and Strawberry Cream Sauce

Yum, it’s time for Sunday breakfast. For my husband and I, Sunday breakfasts are lazy, drink your tea and eat your breakfast, relax… maybe you’ll be finished by 10:30.

I woke up and randomly felt like making something special, other-than-cereal special which is the usual go to.

I pulled some eggs and buttermilk together to whip up a dredge for the bread.

Buttermilk French Toast

And put some strawberries and sugar in a pot and set it to boiling to make a chunky strawberry syrup. I mixed some of this into Greek yogurt sweetened with powder sugar and  whipped it up into a pretty pink ‘cream’ sauce.

French Toast with Strawberry Cream Sauce

Spoon over french toast and top with some more chunky strawberry syrup. Pretty delicious. :-)

French Toast with Strawberry Cream Sauce

French Toast and Strawberry Cream Sauce

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup or more buttermilk*
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 6 slices bread
  • 1 cup whole strawberries (frozen or fresh)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbl white sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbl powder sugar

For french toast: Mix the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla together in a pie plate. The mixture should be more eggy than milky. Dip both sides of the bread into the mixture and cook over medium heat on a greased skillet. About 2-3 minutes per side.

For the strawberry syrup: In a small pot, put the strawberries, white sugar and water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Cook for another 5 minutes at a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

For the strawberry cream: In a small mixer, add the Greek yogurt and powder sugar. Pulse. Add in 1/4 cup chunky strawberry syrup. Pulse until smooth. Spoon over french toast and then top with additional strawberry syrup if desired.

Enjoy!

Erin

*Note: I eyeballed the buttermilk, I guesstimate it was around 1/4 cup. The mixture will be thick and eggy, not thin and milky, but use your judgement on how much to add.

Whole Wheat Molassas Bread

Whole Wheat Molasses Bread

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today is all about luuurrrvvv. How about not romantic, sexy time love, but let’s say friendship love.

‘Cause I have a lot of love for my friends. I love them because they come through for me when I need them too. Like just knowing I need a hug, even though I would never, ever, ask for one.

Friends like that deserve baked goods.

Whole Wheat Molasses Bread

Baked goods make awesome gifts, but it becomes awesomer if you give the treat in a baking dish your friend can keep.

I chose this red Le Crueset loaf pan to hold this slightly sweet and deliciously nutty dark quick bread.

A perfect homemade gift; screw all that overpriced chocolate crap at the store.

Whole Wheat Molasses Bread

  • 1 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 325°. Spray a 9×4 loaf pan with cooking spray. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and molasses. In a larger bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour and stir to combine, but don’t over-beat it. Bake for 45 minutes. I rotated the pan with 20 minutes left. I also checked the loaf for doneness with a toothpick. If it’s too wet, stick it back in the oven for a few more minutes.

Let cool in the pan (you are giving it away, remember!) on wire rack. Wrap in cellophane and ribbon and give to a loved one. :-)

The original recipe suggests serving with butter, cream cheese or Nutella.

Enjoy!

- Erin

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

A couple years ago I took a cooking class with a Creole chef in Virginia. He was a big dude, as any true food lover would be, and incredibly warm and funny.

As the small group of us gathered around our cooking stations, he said “All you ever really need to know about bread pudding is this: cream plus eggs plus bread equals bread pudding. Stop getting caught up in the details, once you have the base right, that’s all you need to know.”

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

He was right. Get the base and you can add any flavorings you like- sweet or savory.  For this version of his recipe, I used white chocolate and raisins. Previously I had used dried cranberries or cherries instead, but the raisins were a special request!

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

This bread pudding is my favorite because it is not soggy and it isn’t super sweet like a cinnamon bun gone wrong. The reason for this is using fresh french bread. The eggs and cream still make the pudding rich and puffy, but the heartiness of the french bread’s crust keeps the overall dish from turning into a soggy limp noodle.

The white chocolate morsels melt into the body of the pudding and coupled with the raisins, each bite is punctuated with a simple silky sweetness. Yum.

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

Serve with ice cream, may I recommend cinnamon, and a simple caramel-esque sauce (don’t skip this!!). Eating a warm bowl of pudding next to the fireplace while watching a movie is a must-do this winter!

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

  • two loaves French bread*
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 9 eggs
  • 1 generous tsp vanilla
  • 2  tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 generous cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup white chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup raisins

For the sauce**:

  • heavy cream
  • brown sugar
  • vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9×13 pan on the bottom and up the sides. Slice the bread and then cut each slice into quarters. Toss into the pan. In a really large bowl, combine the cream, eggs, vanilla, spices and sugar, chocolate and raisins and mix well. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes in the pan and press down with your hands so the mixture is soaked through the bread. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. I find it usually takes an hour. The pudding will be puffed up and mostly set, and jiggle slightly in the center when finished. Remove from oven and let stand before serving.

To prepare the sauce, I really just eyeballed it- looking for texture and consistency. Start with 1/2 cup of brown sugar in a pan and add in vanilla and some cream (less cream than sugar). Stir to combine and cook over medium high heat until the sugar is well dissolved and the mixture starts to thicken and bubble.

Caramel Sauce

Thickening and Bubbling

Stir often and don’t walk away. Add more sugar to thicken or cream to thin. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes. Spoon over individual bread pudding servings.

Enjoy!

*Note: You do not need stale bread to make bread pudding. This recipe uses fresh French bread. Oh ya, if you didn’t pick up on it, the base for this recipe is 2 loaves bread, 1 quart cream, 9 eggs. That will get you anywhere!

**Note: The pudding itself is not very sweet, I really recommend using the sauce for some added sweetness and gooeyness. It is the perfect compliment to the bread pudding and I wouldn’t serve without it!

- Erin

Holiday Brunch: Savory Sausage Bake

Thanksgiving is over and it’s time to start thinking about the next round of holiday guests that will be invading visiting your home.

Every Christmas we have this amazingly flavorful, savory bread pudding style casserole. It is perfect because it feeds a crowd, is easy to put together and literally everyone will like it- cheesy, fluffy like a souffle and just down right delicious.

Crispy edges, nom nom nom

We unwrap presents on Christmas morning while this bakes in the background. Generally Santa brings us some chocolates in our stockings that we nosh on during the festivities, so we are just about crashing from a sugar high when this baby is ready to come outta the oven.

Bread pudding is notoriously forgiving, so you can really add whatever you like to the dish as long as you use the same base of eggs, milk and bread.  I’ve toyed with the idea of using old bay or Cajun seasoning instead of  the dry mustard– but I’m such a traditionalist I just can’t bring myself to do it!

I really recommend trying the recipe as outlined below before tinkering… you probably won’t even want to once you’ve had a bite. ;-)

Sausage Bake

  • 8 slices of bread, crust removed and cubed
  • 1 1/2 lbs Bob Evans sausage links, cooked, drained and cut in thirds
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup milk (just before baking)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup

Grease a 9 x 13 pan. Put in bread cubes, cheese and sausage pieces- mix with your hands. In a separate bowl, beat the 2 1/2 cups milk, eggs, cream of mushroom soup and dry mustard. Pour over the bread and press it down gently with a spatula. Cover and let stand in the refrigerator for several hours of overnight.

Preheat oven to 300°. Before baking, remove from the fridge and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup milk over the bread.  Bake for 1 hour and 3o minutes (up to 2 hours), remove when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and casserole puffs up and is fluffy.*

Enjoy!

*Note: I have cooked this for 1 hour 15 minutes in a 325° oven and was successful, but it didn’t retain it’s fluffiness quite the same.

Cinnamon-Cardamon Apple Pie

The apples I picked with my sister in law were begging to be made into a pie. Apple pie is really the vanilla ice cream of pies- delicious but boring. I spiced this one up with cardamon in the filling and fresh lemon zest in the crust.

Top with a dollop of whipped cream

We’ve been battering down the hatches to make it through Hurricane Sandy and this pie has been a comfort to have around. When it’s dark, rainy and windy, a slice of hot apple pie is just the ticket. Just the ticket? I’ve been watching too much Downton Abby.

Being off work due to the hurricane has essentially put us in vacation mode. We sometimes eat pie for breakfast when in vacation mode…. :-) This is excellent breakfast pie!

Cinnamon-Cardamon Apple Pie

For filling:

  • 7 cups very thinly sliced, peeled apples (I used Winesap and Granny Smith)
  • 1/2 sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cardamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tbl tapioca
  • Juice of half a small lemon

For crust:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • zest of half a small lemon
  • 6-8 tbl cold water

Prepare the crust:  Mix the flour, salt and lemon zest together. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until small pea-sized crumbs exist. Add in the cold water one tablespoon at a time, fluff with a fork after each addition to help the dough come together. As large pieces of dough come together, remove them from the bowl and set aside to make it easier to work the rest of the small crumbs.  Divide the dough into two even discs and  roll out, one for the top and one for bottom. I made a large basket-weave pattern for the top crust using 3 1/2 inch wide strips.

Prepare the filling: Thinly slice the peeled apples. In a large bowl, combine with the lemon juice. Toss to coat. Then mix in the sugar, spices and tapioca.

Assembly:  Put the bottom crust layer in a pie dish, let the extra hang over the edges. Layer the apples onto the crust, evenly. Roll the top layer of crust onto your rolling pin, then unroll over the top of the pie, letting the extra hand over. Cut the extra top and bottom crust, leaving at least 1 1/2 inches to roll under to make the crust edge.  Flute the edge with a fork.

Bake in a 425° oven for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400° and cook for an additional 20-25 minutes. If the crust gets to brown, loosely tent with aluminum foil.

Enjoy!

- Erin

Question of the Day: What is your favorite type of fruit pie?

Autumn Festivus: Cake and the Airing of Grievances

Last Thursday, my coworkers and I organized a little party in our cubeland, christened the Autumn Festivus. We took over an abandoned cube and turned it into a secret den of deliciousness.

I brought in some Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake. Yum. Dense and moist with a hint of pumpkin spice; it is perfect to serve to holiday guests.

Check out the food spread, someone even brought in a crock-pot for hot apple cider!!

This Festivus for the rest of us was awesome.  It was a serious party- err, as serious as one can get without alcohol.

In true Festivus style, we had an airing of grievances. There was also some talk of turning the nearby coat rack into the Festivus pole, but it fizzled out as we happily munched away on bagels and sipped hot coffee and cider.

I liked #5

I know Festivus is mostly associated with the month of December. But really, I think it can be generalized- it is a holiday for the Every Man.

For the uninitiated, a short history of Festivus:

I know you are all wondering what my grievance is. How can someone seeming so chipper have grievances? HA.  I have a lot of problems with you people!

You people who hate on pumpkin spice. I know there are some Scrooges out there that abhor pumpkin spice anything and are very vocal about it (you know who you are!!).

It has become so ‘in’ to hate on pumpkin spice that the pumpkin-hating crowd is now as lame and bandwagon-esque as the crowd who does like pumpkin spice.

I cook what I like, and I like pumpkin spice.  Judging by the number of people at my office who gobbled up this coffee cake, I’m in the right here.

Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake

  • 2 sticks butter or margarine
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • generous 1/2 cup pumpkin puree*

Topping

  • 2 tbl sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

Do not preheat oven! Spray a bundt pan or angel food cake tin with cooking spray. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and eggs.  Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and mix into the butter and eggs, alternating with the sour cream. Mix in the pumpkin and vanilla last.

Mix together all the ingredients for the topping. Coat the bottom on the baking pan with the mixture. Pour in half the batter. Sprinkle the rest of the topping onto the batter, then pour the second half of the batter on top. Set oven to 350° and bake the coffee cake for 50 minutes to an hour. Check with a toothpick for doneness if you are unsure.

Let cool. Invert the cake onto a serving plate once cooled.

*Note: This is an adaptation of an old family recipe, if you don’t like pumpkin, simply use 1 cup sour cream and skip the pumpkin puree.

Enjoy!

- Erin

A Pinch of Joy Pancakes

Last month was my birthday. My little sister sent me a very adorable set of heart-shaped measuring spoons. I love them; she knows me so well! I finally used them last Sunday to whip up some whole-wheat pancakes for the husband and I- big weekend breakfast yumminess :-).

I absolutely love the warm and nutty taste you get when baking with whole wheat flour. These pancakes are simple, but shine because of the whole wheat flour and buttermilk. Of course a helping of real maple syrup doesn’t hurt!

You could stir in some applesauce, cinnamon and clove to make apple pie pancakes, or fresh banana slices and chopped walnuts for banana bread pancakes.

A special weekend breakfast is just a whisk and a pour away with this recipe. Your loved ones will appreciate it.  Enjoy!

Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

  • 1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbl sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbl vegetable oil
  • Optional: cinnamon, ground cloves, applesauce; chopped nuts and fresh fruit slices; chocolate chips and Nutella

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and make a well in the center. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, vanilla, egg and vegetable oil. Add the wet mixture to the dry at once and stir gently with a fork, just until moistened. If the batter is too thick, add in a little more buttermilk.

Pre-heat a skilled over medium-high heat and spray with non-stick cooking spray and a little vegetable oil. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the hot griddle and spread outward into a circle shape. Use more if you want really big pancakes. Cook until bubbles come up in the center of the pancake and the edges are browned. Flip. Cook the second side for less time. Makes around 6 regular sized pancakes.

Enjoy!

- Erin

Question of the Day: What is your favorite weekend breakfast item, french toast? pancakes?

Cottage Update and Monkey Bread

Hi friends! Greetings from Pure Michigan :-)

As I write this, I am sitting on the back porch looking out onto the Lake. I’m drinking tea my brother’s girlfriend brought me as a gift (awww) and eating a warm, gooey and cinnamony piece of Monkey Bread. This is making typing difficult…

I promised to provide some of our traditional up north recipes and Monkey Bread is the place to start. It is for breakfast after all!

I made this last night and despite the fact I was working in a rental cottage kitchen I had everything needed to make this amazing bread. Bundt pan- check, measuring cup-check, oven set to 350°- check.

Alright you need a few other ingredients too, the main one being refrigerated biscuit dough. Snip the dough into quarters, the quickest way to do this is with some kitchen shears.

Roll these lil’ dough nuggets in a cinnamon sugar mixture. Then layer over chopped pecans.

Drizzle a brown sugar and melted butter mix over the top- it will seep down and make every morsel gooey and yum- and then bake for 35-40 minutes.

If you make the night ahead, as I did, just reheat the pieces* in the microwave to give it the gooey just-baked taste again!

Grandma’s Monkey Bread

  • 3 10 oz tubes of buttermilk biscuit dough
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Grease a bundt or tube pan.  Put chopped pecans in the bottom. Snip the biscuit dough into quarters. Combine the cinnamon and sugar mixture, then roll the dough pieces in it; layer them into the pan. Melt the butter and brown sugar together over low heat in a saucepan. Stir until the sugar dissolves most of the way.  Drizzle of the dough in the pan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350° for 35-40 minutes. The bread will really puff up and get golden brown on top. Let cool for 10 minutes, then invert on a serving plate. Eat warm, cold, or somewhere in between. It’s awesome either way!

*Note: Why say pieces and not slices? Monkey bread is bread only in the loosest sense. Really, it is many balls of biscuit dough that bake together but are easily pulled apart into pieces as you eat.

Enjoy!

- Erin

Buttermilk Bran Muffins

Hi Friends! The week is coming to an end, yay! Thinking about what to do over the weekend?

How about a special breakfast?  Cold cereal and toast are  breakfasts for the work week- you want a warm, heavenly old-fashioned muffin to start your Saturday morning.

One that will fill your house with that amazing just-baked scent and be the perfect companion to your morning cup of coffee or tea.

You can make this batter ahead of time and store in the fridge for up to two weeks. So you could bake just a few at a time during the week for after-school snacks or when a craving strikes!

These muffins come from a family recipe by a great-grandmother whom I never got to meet. She was obviously a good cook, I think we would have gotten along very well. This is what I just LOVE about food, it connects families.  It can give you a glimpse into another life, another time, another place.

I hope you enjoy :-) Oh ya, I’ve got some announcements to make about what’s going on next week and such, so come back tomorrow for details.

Buttermilk Bran Muffins

  • 3 cup Kellogg’s All Bran
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup shortening (you can make 1/2 this butter)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cup buttermilk (this makes the muffins sinfully moist and delicious!)

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine 1 cup of the bran with the boiling water. Let cool. Cream together the sugar, shortening and eggs until combined, set aside. In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda and remaining bran. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, to the cooled bran. Once incorporated, add in the shortening mixture and mix just until combined.

Fill muffins tins 3/4 of the way full and bake for 15-20 minutes. Store additional batter in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks. When using better from the fridge, let the batter sit a room temperature for 5 minutes before baking.

Enjoy!

- Erin