Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Spectacle of a Muffin

Berry Avalanche
Berry season is upon us! Ahhhhhhh! So much to bake, so little time! I'm completely overwhelmed with forecasts of heavy rain (perfect for baking!) and an abundance of raspberries that I think I'll end up jamming. Hundreds of thousands of strawberries that I-pick. Farmer stands popping up where there used to be dirt shoulders on roads. My neighbors chickens running around our yard, fleeing seconds before I run out in my camo with a rifle conjuring up chicken dinner recipes.
So I decided to take a step back.       
Deep breath. What's the most simple berry recipe?
Blueberry muffins. 

Easy to make, easy to eat, easy to love.

(adapted from Cook's Illustrated)
makes 10-12 muffins

1 cup flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour (if you can't find it, substitute with regular flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda 5 tbls unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp orange extract
1 cup blueberries

Optional Topping Ingredients
1/4 cup butter, room temp
1/2 cup flour
3 tbls brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp sea salt (doubly optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Grease a muffin tin (or line with liners). I like have the nice browned, smooth edges of a greased pan
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
I recently found this awesome Icelandic butter at Whole Foods (Smjor) and decided to give that a whirl today (two thumbs way up). Beat the butter until fluffy and light.

Smjor from Whole Foods!
Beat in the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg, scrape down the sides, and then add the sour cream and orange extract.

Carefully fold the flour mixture in, in two batches. Fold in the blueberries.

Scoop batter into muffin tin in large spoonfuls. Divide up evenly.

Pop the muffins into the oven. While they begin to bake, smoosh together butter, flour, and sugars. After the muffins have been baking for 10 minutes,  open oven and sprinkle the mixture unto the tops of the muffins. Sprinkle on salt if desired.

Bake for another 15 – 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached. Cool for 20 minutes. Best served hot!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Angelic Birthday Cake

This recipe comes with three parts - the sweet, summer strawberry jam, the lightly salty old fashioned frosting, and, of course, the angel food cake. Most at home bakers will shudder at the suggestion of tackling an angel food cake. I, however, was completely in ignorant bliss when I began my journey. 
This weekend was the MassDash - a relay across Massachusetts where competitors raise money for Dana-Farber cancer research. It's a fantastic journey that combines of sleep deprivation, physical maximums and little bit of insanity. It attracts the best sort of people. Like my sister and her four college friends, home on friday night to load up on carbs and salads. It also happened to be a birthday! So my sister contacted us, saying prepare your ovens and house for an invasion. She suggested a light summery cake, and the first thing that came to mind was a light fluffy angel food cake, with vanilla buttercream frosting and a sweet-tart burst of jam in the middle. 
This was truly a recipe of trial and error. My initial vision was a normal looking cake, however I was soon to find at that the whipped egg whites in angel food need the bundt pan shape to climb. I also learned that it's pretty darn important to crack your own whites. It's possible to buy pre-separated whites from a store, but when I tried that, the cake was pretty unhappy with me (as I'm sure the crowd I served it to would have been). So, while it's rumored that those whites may work, I recommend just cracking ten bad boys at home.

Angel Food Cake 
(adapted from Betty Crocker Cookbook) 

Oven Temp: 375 F
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake and Cool Time: 35 minutes and 2 hours
Ready-In: 3 1/2 hours

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup cake flour
10 egg whites (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1 tbls vanilla
pinch of salt

Only 6 ingredients? Not so intimidating so far, right? You're halfway there!

Move your oven rack to the lowest position and preheat that oven to 375 F.
Mix together the powdered sugar and the cake flour. Set aside.

In a large bowl (this is the bowl everything will come together in) beat those egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. This is a great time to pull out that electric mixer and sit back while technology does the work. Slowly beat in granulated sugar - 1/4 cup at a time. On the fourth and final addition, also stir in the vanilla and add a dash of salt. Beat until stiff and glossy.

 If you pull out the beaters, the mixture should stay in that mountain formation without moving. You really want to make sure that you don't underbeat them.
Carefully fold in the flour/sugar mixture 1/4 cup at a time. Push the batter into an ungreased 10x4 inch tube pan. Gentle cut through the batter with a knife to pop and large bubbles.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the cracks on top don't look like the are moist anymore and the top springs back when gently prodded.

 Remove from oven and immediately flip over for cooling. You want the cake to start loosening it's hold on the pan, hence the flipping upside down. Let sit, upside down, for about 2 hours, until it feels pretty darn cool.

Slide a knife around the edge when ready to release. It may take a little poking and prodding to release, but it will come. Drizzle with glaze, or frost, as you see fit.
I sliced mine in half and dabbled on a layer of homemade strawberry jam (super easy to make!).

And then coated in the greatest old fashioned buttercream frosting.

As the birthday girl was turning 22 and is a fan of T-Swift, I added on some poignant lyrics and 23 candles to call it a night.

30 Minute Jam

 When you need some jam in a jiff, use this!

Arm Yourself With:
1 lb strawberries
2 cups sugar
1/4 lemon juice

Begin by hulling the strawberries - pull the leaves off close to the base in order to pull the middle section out too. Easy; done.
Squish the strawberries into a nice pulp. For fun I did this with my hands. There's something super satisfying about feeling them squelch in your palm. You can also be normal and use a fork or a potato masher.
Place a plate in the freezer. You'll use this to test the jaminess later on.
Place all the ingredients in a pan. Stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved then turn up that heat to high and make those buggers sweat.

 Bring them to a rolling boil. You'll notice a distinct difference in the way the jam boils. It starts bubbling like crazy, much like boiling water, but as time goes on, you'll see it boils lower and becomes more viscous as much of the water evaporates out.
From time to time, place a teaspoon of the jam fluid on the freezer plate.

 Return to freezer and after about a minute, test to see if you like the consistency. I let me jam bowl for about 5 minutes until it was perfect. Remove from heat. Either store in sterilized jars, or if to be used soon after, store anywhere.
 I used mine as the perfect filling to a light, fluffy angelfood cake.

Old Fashioned Frosting

 This here is perfect frosting. It captures the vanilla flavor perfectly, but has a slight saltiness that cuts the sweet. It's great when you're making a very sweet recipe to add that subtle savoriness we all crave so much.
This recipe is a great amount for about 24 cupcakes or one two-layer cake. You may add food dye to impart a color.
 2-½ sticks butter at room temp
1-½ tsp sea salt
5 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
¼ cups heavy cream

Smoosh together butter and salt until light a fluffy. These hot summer days are great for making the butter that easy spreading consistency. Sift the powdered sugar before slowly adding into the bowl. Mix until well combined. Stir in vanilla and whipping cream, beat until ready. 

To store: lightly press seran wrap over the top of the frosting. If you aren't using it within a couple hours, store in fridge for up to 3 days.

I used my the next day to put the final touches on Ceili's T-Swift Angel Food Cake.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Patriotic (Fruit) Pizza

I can remember eating this up years ago on the 4th of July. A family friend would always bring some up to our lakehouse in the hottest of summer days. Although I usually find non-chocolate desserts to be a waste of my dessert stomach, this has always been one of the few dishes that can permeate the barrier. There was nothing quite like slipping out of the water, dashing up the hill to the picnic table and eating a nice cool slice of fruit pizza. The perfect amount of sweet and sweet to appease the soul. And with trace amounts of fruit, you can imagine you're eating something a tad healthier than brownies.
My sister recently moved out to Boston for a job. In her first couple weeks of work, she attended a party where she made this dish. Her request for the recipe brought back a great many childhood memories, so I too, dusted off the old cookbinder and prepared the dish twice, for two upcoming 4th of July celebrations.
My sister used a homemade sugar cookie as the "crust" of the pizza and her's was quite popular, while my dad and I stuck to the traditional store brand sugar cookie, allowing this recipe to earn the "Quick and Easy" badge for newcomers. 

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 15 minutes
Cool Time: 10 minutes
Ready-In: 40 minutes

1 batch of sugar cookies (I used Pillsbury)
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar

Shmoosh cookies into a rectangle about 1/4-1/6 inch thick on a baking sheet.

 My rectangle was about 12 inches by 18 inches. Bake according to directions. Pillsbury, for instance, advised 350 F and 11-16 minutes. I baked them for 15 minutes.
You want the cookies to have a nice crunchy bottom, so they won't get soggy.
While the cookies are baking, stir together the sugar and cream cheese for a frosting/sauce for the pizza. Place in refrigerator to keep cool.

Wash the berries. Set blueberries aside.

Slices the strawberries. I sliced the top off, then placed the now-flat part on the cutting board, sliced them in half the short way and sliced in desired thickness of strips. I went for the realistic flags, so 13 strips and 50(ish) stars, cutting my strawberries into 1/2-3/4 inch strip(e)s. 
When the crust is done, pull it out and let it cool until you can cut it. I like to cut off the border, making a nice smooth rectangle.

Now, spread the cream cheese mix on, trying real hard to coat evenly and to the edges. Using a knife, plan out the design of the pizza.

 Place strawberry stripes down, carefully. This is always the msot time consuming part as you struggle to make everything look even.

Earning my stripes.

Fill in blueberries. I left spaces to make the white cream cheese look like the stars on the flag.

 Keep in fridge until ready to serve!