Tag : breads-2
Tag : breads-2
previous warm-season muffins
The first time I ever baked with rhubarb (the first time I ever used rhubarb, period), was when I worked at the restaurant a few years ago. Even though I wasn’t necessarily a fan of the desserts on that menu, I was oddly enamored with the idea of baking with rhubarb. I think because rhubarb desserts aren’t common, the rhubarb season isn’t long, and rhubarb itself isn’t Southern (and thus it’s difficult to come by here). We want what we can’t have and rhubarb in its rarity had some kind of allure to me.
The only other memory I have of rhubarb, and in fact the only other exposure I had ever had to rhubarb, was when I was much younger: I remember my grandma making rhubarb pie when we visited her in Boston. I have a faint memory of the taste: kind of orange-y, ginger-y, tart, a little bit sweet. But it’s just a wisp. Until recently, I had forgotten that I had ever had rhubarb before the restaurant experience.
Last year and this year, wanting so desperately to master this warm weather produce, I would stock up on a pound of rhubarb each week, chop it into bite-sized pieces, and store it in the freezer until I had time to make something of it. Last spring, the rhubarb found its way into the occasional pie or crumble, but nothing notable (aside from a super delicious jam that will be coming up in a few weeks.)
This year, I finally have a rhubarb recipe: whole wheat ginger rhubarb muffins. Ginger and rhubarb are a natural pair, in my mind, but because their flavors are so aggressive, I used some whole wheat flour to round out the flavor of the muffins.
whole wheat ginger rhubarb muffins
makes 12 muffins
6.5 oz whole wheat flour
3.5 oz all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
5 oz granulated sugar
7 oz milk
3.5 oz vegetable oil
2 oz fresh ginger, grated
2 large eggs (4 oz total)
6 oz fresh rhubarb (1 cup), plus extra pieces for topping, if desired
1 oz crystallized ginger
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners.
In a small bowl, combine flours, salt, and baking powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, milk, oil, ginger, and eggs until uniform.
Quickly mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, then fold in the fresh rhubarb and crystallized ginger.
Using a spoon or large cookie scoop, scoop the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 – 3/4 of the way. If desired, top each muffin with one piece of rhubarb and extra pieces of crystallized ginger.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the muffins spring back when pressed lightly in the center with your finger, or a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let muffins cool for a few minutes in the pan, then remove them from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack.
Wrap leftover muffins individually in plastic and store in the refrigerator overnight. Microwave muffins if they start to feel firm or dry, about 10 – 15 seconds. The muffins will last up to 48 hours, but are best the day they are made (within a few hours of coming out of the oven.)
Happy Easter and Passover, y’all,
other yeasted yummies
Someone very near and dear to my heart turned 2 years old two weeks ago:
Herbert! My sourdough starter, who’s been with me since March 13, 2016, lifting up my doughs and flavoring all of my favorite breads for the past two years.
One of my favorite breads is baguette. My parents and I used to have a bread and cheese dinner a couple times a month: we would buy a nice, long baguette, some cheeses, and some olives, and that would be our dinner. It was a lazy person’s dinner, and when one of my friends from school would come home for the holidays or summer vacation, we would do the same. We would go to the market where they sell local, organic food, buy a loaf of fancy bread each, a hunk of cheese, and some other bits and pieces, and sit out on the market’s lawn in downtown Carrboro having a bread and cheese lunch. For those meals, we normally chose something a little rounder than a baguette so that we wouldn’t need a knife to cut it up, and instead we’d rip into the bread with our hands and cut off chunks of fancy local cheese.
Now that I’m all grown up (meaning now that I’m over 21), every once in a while I like to treat myself to a little charcuterie dinner: a long, crusty baguette, a dried salami, some soft cheese, maybe a pate, and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.
I started trying to make my own baguette soon after I conceived Herbert. Two years later, I decided I was ready to debut my baguette recipe, and I was all set to go for March 13 of this year: I had made some baguette to take along with me for housesitting, I had the salami and prosciutto ready to go and the wine was waiting in my car…but the bread was a failure and a disaster. For the past two years, no matter how diligently I take notes on my attempts at baguette, it’s been a series of forward steps and backwards leaps: I want the end result to be airy but I need to be able to handle the dough. I don’t want my bread to be too dense, but it needs to have shape. Sometimes the dough is too wet, sometimes it’s too dry. Some batches proof too long and some don’t produce enough dough.
It finally occurred to me last week (yes, 2 years after starting this project), that there might be some kind of Golden Ratio for a recipe like baguette. Anything French probably has a revered-and-protected ratio for ingredients. I searched and searched and searched and didn’t find any specific ratio or any really credible source…but I did learn about hydration. There’s no perfect ratio of water to flour for baguette, but there is a range of hydration ratios. The range for baguette is somewhere between 60-70% hydration*. 75% or more hydration means you can’t handle the dough (great for focaccia and ciabatta), and anything under 60% is dense with small air bubbles (sandwich loaves.) I did some calculations, factored in my sourdough starter, and decided on 63% hydration: not too dry and dense, but substantial enough to handle.
*In this case, the hydration ratio is the ratio (by weight) of water to flour, not water to total weight of the dough. That is, 50% hydration would mean the water:flour ratio is 1:2 (the water is 50% of the flour.) 63% hydration means that the weight of the water is equal to 63% of the weight of the flour, not 63% of the dough.
It turned out perfectly: I was able to shape the baguettes easily, they held their shapes through proofing and baking, the holes (as you can see) are big and airy, and the crumb is fluffy with the right amount of chew. The crust is crunchy and flavorful, and shatters in the way that French pasty crusts often do, and the bread inside is yeasty and nutty and totally satisfying.
adapted from Bread Illustrated, by America’s Test Kitchen
makes 2 baguettes
In general, when using sourdough starter, you can expect the whole process of making bread to take at least 24+ hours. A good rule of thumb when using your starter in place of dry yeast is that dough made with starter takes about 4 times as long to proof the first time as dough made with dry yeast. If your recipe says to let your dough (made with yeast) rise for 2 hours the first time, allow yourself at least 8 hours of rising time when using sourdough starter. This is because the yeast in your starter works more slowly than dry yeast, but the trade-off is that it works more thoroughly, as well (in terms of digesting the carbs and making them more accessible to you.) Your bread will be healthier, so to speak. If you want your dough to proof (ferment) for a long time to get a really strong flavor, let it rise in the refrigerator: it won’t stretch as much (meaning it won’t overproof), but the flavor will develop a lot. Additionally, if you don’t want to spend a whole day watching your dough, assemble it the afternoon or evening before, let it rise in the refrigerator overnight, then move on to the shaping and second proofing the next morning or afternoon.
2 oz sourdough starter (or, 7 g/0.25 oz dry yeast, 1 oz water, and 1 oz all-purpose flour)
8.5 oz all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
5 oz water
Useful/Important Tools: These are all optional, but if you make bread frequently, you’ll find these all to be really helpful. The only two I think are the lowest priority are the lame (you can use a regular knife), and the baguette pan (if your dough has enough structure, you don’t need it, but it does help brown the bottom of the loaves.)
a lame (n., lahm, a box cutter for slashing the dough before you bake it), or a really sharp paring or slicing knife (a slicing knife gives you a deeper cut with less effort than a paring knife)
a spray bottle filled with water
a baguette pan
a rectangular pizza stone
a large pizza peel
make the dough
In a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the starter and flour with the dough hook(s). Mix until the mixture is crumbly, then mix in the salt. If using dry yeast, combine the yeast, flour, and salt in the bowl/mixer.
While the mixer is running, pour in the water. Keep mixing for 5-10 minutes until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. It can stick to the bottom of the bowl a bit, but it should clean off the sides.
The dough may feel a little tacky/sticky to the touch, but you shouldn’t end up with too much dough coming off on your fingers when you touch it. You’ll want the dough to hold its shape when you handle it, but not to be so dense that it doesn’t rise or produce air bubbles. If you can see it pooling or sliding down off the hook, it needs more flour. If it holds its shape but feels sticky, you can either add more flour in the bowl, or leave it as is and dust it liberally with flour when you get to the shaping stage. At this stage, your dough should be able to hold its shape without feeling too sticky.
Lightly (or liberally) flour a clean work surface and dump out the dough. Without kneading it too much, shape the dough into a smooth ball. It only needs to be smooth on one side: pull and stretch the sides and corners into the middle, so that the opposite side is a smooth ball.
the first proof/rise
Place the dough, seam side down, into a large, lightly greased bowl and brush a little bit of oil onto the surface (using your hands, a paper towel, or a basting brush.) Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and let it rise for at least 8 hours (at least 2 hours if using dry yeast.) If you have time to finish the process in the same day, you can let the dough rise at room temperature. Otherwise, put it in the refrigerator.
The longer you let the dough proof/rise the first time, the more flavor it will gain from the yeast. The trade-off, though, is that dough can only stretch so much: if you let the dough rise too long, it will lose its elasticity. When you handle the dough, it’ll deflate but it won’t shrink back to its original shape: the dough will look saggy. Additionally, the wetter your dough, the more it will rise as it proofs (and consequently, the harder it will be for your dough to hold in the gas produced by the yeast.) If you see a lot of air bubbles on the top surface of the dough, it has probably risen too much.
The best way to test a dough like this is to gently press down in the center with your knuckle*: it feels puffy like foam and returns to its original shape when you remove your knuckle, then it’s good. If you leave an indentation, it still needs to rise. If it deflates, then deflate the whole batch of dough, reshape it into a ball, and let it rise again.
*Similar to how you test cakes and muffins with your finger.
At this point (once the dough has been rising for the first time), if you want more of the flavor, you can either let it rise in the refrigerator, or alternate between deflating the dough (and reshaping it) and letting it re-proof. The dough can proof and ferment for a long time but it can only gain so much volume. If you want a really developed fermented flavor (meaning a really yeasty flavor), make sure you let it rise at a lower temperature (in the refrigerator), or you deflate the dough occasionally.
shaping the dough/the 2nd proof
Once the dough has doubled in volume (the other vital indicator that it has risen and proofed enough), and passes the knuckle test, you’re ready to shape it into logs for the final/2nd proofing:
Dump the dough out onto a lightly/liberally floured, clean work surface. Divide the dough in half, setting one half aside until ready to shape.
If you’re using a couche for the second proofing, spread the couche out somewhere so you can place the loaves on it as you shape them and flour it liberally. You can also place the shaped loaves in a sheet of parchment paper, which you’ll transfer directly to the oven when ready to bake, if you’re using a pizza stone and pizza peel. If you want to go really simple and avoid the couche, the stone, and the peel, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the shaped loaves directly on the baking sheet.
To shape the loaf, gently pat out the first half of the dough into a rough rectangle. Fold the top of the rectangle over, leaving a bit of the bottom exposed, and seal the edge with your finger tips. Continue this folding and sealing process a few times (3-6 times). This folding will help create the spiral-y shape of the air bubbles in the finished bread, and it will help ensure that the width of the baguette is mostly consistent (ie., that it doesn’t look like a dumbbell.)
After you’ve folded and sealed the dough a few times, place the dough seam side down and roll it out into a log, rolling from the center outwards. The log can be as long as you want, but be sure that it isn’t longer than the pizza stone or baking sheet (or else the edges of the dough will droop over the edges of the stone/sheet.) You should be able to pick it up with a pizza peel and fit it into the baking sheet or onto your pizza stone. Around 14 inches long and a few inches wide is good.
If you want the pointed ends, pick up one end of the log (about 2-4 inches of the end), and roll it between your hands, gradually tapering to a point. Do the same with the other end. Beware that this will add length to the log, so make sure your logs aren’t too long. If you want rounded ends, skip this step.
After the loaf/log is shaped, transfer it to the parchment paper, the paper-lined baking sheet, or the liberally-floured couche to proof while you shape the other loaf/log.
Repeat each of the previous steps with the other half of the dough, leaving a few inches between each log wherever you’re proofing them. If you’re using the couche, bunch it up between the logs so it forms a little ridge or wall to keep them separate.
baking the baguettes
Preheat your oven to 400 F/200 C. If using a pizza stone, place the stone on one of the oven racks before you turn the oven on (same if you’re using a pizza steel.)
Lightly grease one side of a sheet of plastic wrap and cover the logs while they proof. By the time the oven is heated, the bread should be ready to bake. The greased plastic wrap helps prevent the surface of the dough from drying out and cracking.
The second proof should only take about 30 – 45 minutes, regardless of whether you’re using dry yeast or sourdough starter. If you let the dough rise too much the second time, it will be difficult to transfer it to the oven, because dough gets wetter as it rises (when you’re proofing it, not when you’re baking it.)
The logs won’t have doubled in size after the second proof, so use the knuckle test to see if they’re done: using a knuckle, lightly press down in the center of the log. If it springs back like foam, it’s ready. If you leave an indentation, it needs to rise longer. If it shrinks and deflates, ball up all the dough and go through the shaping steps again.
When the logs are proofed and ready for baking, transfer them to the sheet of parchment or the parchment-lined baking sheet (if they aren’t already on a sheet of parchment paper.) Spray or brush them with water, and slash them diagonally a few times along their lengths using the lame or a sharp knife. These cuts will turn into the almond shapes in the surface of the finished.
If you’re using a pizza stone or steel, slide the pizza peel under the sheet of parchment, open the oven door, and slide the parchment and dough off onto the stone/steel. If you’re using a baking sheet, put the baking sheet with the dough in the oven.
Let the baguettes bake for at least 40 – 45 minutes, until dark brown but not charred. The pointed ends might char and burn, and the parchment paper may burn, but the bread should be the color of bronze or amber, maybe even a little bit lighter*.
When they’re done baking, you can either turn off the oven and let them cool/dry inside the oven as it cools down, or you can transfer them to a wire rack to cool. Make sure you let them cool so the bottoms are exposed, or else the bottoms will get soggy and not crispy.
*If you want a softer bread with a thinner, softer crust, rather than the really crispy, flaky crust of a baguette, lower the oven temperature to 350 F/175 C and bake until golden. Lower oven temperatures mean the insides will bake through faster than the surface can brown, so you end up with a lighter surface color, and a thinner, softer crust.
previous butter + milk monthly muffins
Cheese is in the air this week. Or is it love?
They’re basically the same thing.
When I think of February, I think of Valentine’s Day: chocolate, roses, champagne, fake aphrodisiacs, raspberries, tomatoes, cheese. I’m not the only one who thinks of tomatoes and cheese, am I?
If aphrodisiacs were a real thing (and we’ve proven time and again that they are not), cheese would be at the top of the aphrodisiacs list. Ignore the fact that it makes some people (me) fart like an angry motorboat.
Ever since I started this Monthly Muffin series, I’ve been thinking I should do something savory. Jalapeño english muffins are still on the docket for some time in the future, but I’ve actually had the idea of cheddar tomato muffins in mind for at least a year. I attempted them once maybe a year ago and then never got back around to them. I had so little faith in the results of that first attempt, I decided I wasn’t sure if I was ready to date again.
I mean, if I was ready to attempt to make cheddar tomato muffins again.
And now here we are, back in the game. And the game is bright, cheesy, herb-y, and delicious.
The muffins are made with just the rind of the tomato and without all the excess water from inside, shredded cheddar cheese, fresh oregano, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top, plus a splash of ground white pepper for a little kick.
I considered using sundried tomatoes, but to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of them compared to fresh tomatoes. On the other hand, fresh tomatoes are insanely watery and I knew even before attempting these that it would be frustrating trying to get the recipe right. I remembered a technique I learned in a knife skills class at work for prepping tomatoes so that you avoid both the seeds and the water.
Voilà! C’est une tomate sans les organes!
Making the muffins without the tomato meat means you won’t have to worry about too much moisture in the batter, the muffins getting damp after baking, or adding excess flour to compensate. Whenever you bake with fruit, you’ll always end up with excess water.
cheddar tomato muffins
makes 1 dozen
8.5 oz (2 c) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground white pepper (can substitute black pepper if you want)
8 oz (1 c) milk
2 oz (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
6-7 oz diced tomato rinds (~3 regular tomatoes, 5~6 Roma tomatoes)*
2 Tbsp fresh oregano, minced
~1/4 c finely grated Parmesan cheese, for finishing
*The cutting and dicing technique is nearly impossible with cherry tomatoes, because they’re too small to hold while cutting. A larger tomato is easier, and a firmer tomato is easier to peel and dice than a soft one, as well.
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, white pepper, and baking powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, and eggs, until uniform.
Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture and quickly combine.
Add the cheese, tomatoes, and oregano, and fold the batter together just until no dry patches remain.
Scoop the batter into the muffin pan, filling each cup about 2/3 of the way, and sprinkle a large pinch of shredded Parmesan cheese on top of each muffin.
Bake 25 – 30 minutes until springy to the touch and the tops are turning a bit golden.
Let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Muffins keep for up to 48 hours wrapped individually in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator.
previous monthly muffins:
11/17, pumpkin cranberry white chocolate muffins | | 10/17, vegan apple cider muffins | | 6/17, balsamic roasted strawberry muffins | | 4/17, cinnamon raisin english muffins | | 2/17, glazed lemon poppyseed muffins
This time of year makes me wish I lived in Canada…or Vermont.
I bought my first ever flannel last autumn…and lost it this autumn when we moved houses. So I bought my second ever flannel this autumn and it’s not as good as the first, but I guess that’s always the case, isn’t it?
I’ve gotten really into using maple syrup in vegan and gluten-free pastries. I can’t remember at this point why, because granulated sugar has neither gluten nor any animal products, but for some reason maple syrup has been my saving grace in such recipes as my vegan snickerdoodles and gluten-free sweet potato muffins.
Like using coconut oil or milk, when you use maple syrup but don’t want to end product to taste like maple, it doesn’t. It’s magical. Maybe there’s a science to the madness, but this is like my Santa Claus so let me believe in the magic of coconuts and maple trees, please.
When starting on this recipe, though, I admit I was worried about whether the maple syrup alone would be enough. I looked up how to make maple sugar (no time or energy for that, and also I don’t trust myself to successfully manipulate any type of sugar after my two months making crappy honeycomb candy in a professional restaurant), where to buy it (which I did and immediately regretted because it is way too expensive), and what else to use to enhance maple flavor (not much useful information there and I can’t be bothered to reduce the maple syrup before adding it to the muffin batter.)
Fortunately, I didn’t need anything else, though I did end up adding maple extract to the recipe for an extra boost. You could do without the extract and the maple will still come through, especially if you use it in the streusel crumb topping in addition to the muffin batter.
Warning: these will taste and smell like pancakes for the obvious reason (hint: maple syrup.)
maple pecan muffins with maple streusel
makes 1 dozen
loosely based on my blackberry almond muffins recipe
Note: You can (should) make the streusel in advance in a larger batch and keep it frozen unbaked until ready to use. You can even keep it frozen, unbaked, for months (six is probably enough), and then just pull out whatever you need whenever you need it. Or, if you have zero willpower like I do, you could just fill up a baking sheet with streusel and bake it without the muffins, then snack on that (see: gorge yourself on that.)
7 oz (200 g) all-purpose flour
2.8 oz (80 g) whole-wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6.3 oz (180 g) milk or buttermilk
2 large eggs
3.5 oz (100 g) granulated sugar (or maple sugar for a more intense flavor)
2.8 oz (80 g) maple syrup
1 tsp almond or maple extract
4 oz (1/2 c, 8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
4 oz (1 c) pecans, coarsely chopped
1.5 oz unsalted butter, softened
4 oz all-purpose flour
1.5 oz maple syrup
dash of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Make the streusel
Beat together the butter and flour until crumbs form, then beat in the maple syrup, salt, and cinnamon. Don’t let it become pasty or too dough-y, because you want dry crumbs so you can sprinkle them easily on top of the muffins. If the mixture starts really clumping together, don’t worry: chill or freeze it for a few minutes, then break up the big clumps with a fork or pastry blender.
Chill/freeze the streusel until the muffin batter has been scooped into the muffin pan.
Make the muffins
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C, and line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, and salt. Into another smaller bowl, break the pecans into pieces (break them in half or into quarters, roughly.)
In a large bowl, whisk together milk/buttermilk, eggs, sugar, maple syrup, and extract until smooth. Pour the melted and cooled butter into the mixture while whisking, and using a rubber spatula, scrape out any melted butter still clinging to the bowl/cup into the wet mixture. Whisk until smooth.
Dump the dry mixture into the wet and quickly mix together until almost fully combined. Fold in the pecans.
Using a large cookie scoop, measuring cup, or spoon, fill the muffin cups about 2/3 – 3/4 full and sprinkle liberally with unbaked streusel crumbs.
Bake the muffins 20 – 25 minutes until springy to the touch like a foam ball, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
They look delicious, eh?
previous autumn monthly muffins
I will shamelessly admit that I looooove pumpkin spice. I love spices, I love the holidays, and I love squash, so it’s like a triple whammy. I know that pumpkin spice things are really more spice than pumpkin and that most people don’t actually want a candle that smells like squash or a latte that tastes like it, but I couldn’t care less, because I love all of the spices (especially cardamom.)
My new favorite is cloves. Cloves are in…and cardamom is still in, always.
I was chatting with a customer once about the PSL craze and he mentioned (whether he was right or not, I don’t really care) that when PSL first became a thing, people were so obsessed that they resorted to petty theft and misdemeanors to get their pumpkin-flavored things. I kind of doubt it, but I also kind of don’t doubt it.
Don’t get me wrong, anything super hyped up is too hyped up, and I feel bad for the other autumn and winter flavors: maple, pecan, praline, peppermint, chocolate, gingerbread, etc. I love them all (though I am most looking forward to gingerbread lattes next month.)
I did a pumpkin muffin during the early days of the Monthly Muffin, and now I’ve added on a new one. This one is more sweet than spicy, and combines two different holiday favorites in one muffin: pumpkin spice with cranberries and white chocolate.
For those of you who love everything pumpkin, or even for those of you who are soooooo over pumpkin spice everything, but like autumn, sweets, and hearty things, these muffins are perfect.
Although, if you really don’t like pumpkin at all, then I can’t guarantee that you’ll enjoy them (but I also can’t promise that you won’t enjoy them.)
pumpkin cranberry white chocolate muffins
based on my pumpkin streusel muffins recipe
makes 1 dozen muffins
4.25 oz (120 g, 1 c) whole wheat flour
4.25 oz (120, 1 c) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cardamom
1.75 oz (50 g, 1/4 c) canola oil
3.5 oz (100 g, ~1/2 c) milk or buttermilk
12 oz (340 g, 1.5 c) pumpkin puree
9 oz (260 g, 1 1/4 c) granulated sugar
4 oz (110 g, 1 c) cranberries, fresh or frozen, whole or coarsely chopped
4 oz (110 g, 2/3 c) white chocolate, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C, and line muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and spices.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oil, milk or buttermilk, pumpkin puree, and sugar until consistent.
Quickly mix in dried mixture and fold in the chopped berries and chocolate.
Scoop the batter into the muffin pan, filling each cup about 2/3-3/4 of the way full, and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until springy when pressed lightly in the middle.
Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
Squash ya later, applegator!
previous monthly muffins:
6/17, balsamic roasted strawberry muffins with balsamic glaze || 4/17, cinnamon raisin english muffins || 2/17, glazed lemon poppyseed muffins || 1/17, earl grey walnut muffins || 12/16, chocolate peppermint muffins
Two years ago, I went to a pie workshop at a bakery in my city known for pies and tarts. Of course, it being the beginning of fall, we had to make apple pie, for which the pastry chef demonstrated this super nifty tool that I went out and bought immediately: a hand-crank apple corer, peeler, and slicer. You spike the apple onto the end of a screw, position the peeling blade, and crank. The apple spins, strips, spirals, and its guts pull right out. It’s wonderful.
When I first bought it, I hated it. The one I bought didn’t seem to work as well as the machine the pastry chef showed us. The peeling blade would either not cut through the skin or it would get stuck in the apple, the core never lined up with the corer blade, and for the life of me I could not figure out how to get an asymmetrical apple to peel and core consistently.
So I put the machine away for about two years, and when I started working on this muffin recipe, I thought I would give it a second chance.
It worked like a charm. Perhaps the little hand crank doohickey grew and matured and learned to be a better version of itself…or maybe I realized it’s easier to use if you flip the apple around and peel tail-to-top instead.
Now I don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on an electric apple machine. Phew.
This recipe was inspired by a pastry we sell and sample at work during the week: apple cider donuts. The donuts are made with butter, buttermilk, and eggs (and they taste like heaven and make the whole store and street smell like apples and cinnamon), but following my obsession with consistency and matching up flavors, I wanted to go full-apple. Eggs became unsweetened apple sauce (the best vegan egg substitute I have ever used), and buttermilk became first-press apple cider. While I was already 2/3 of the way to a vegan recipe, I decided to take that last step: butter became canola oil.
Yes, butter and buttermilk are luscious and make things taste rich, but apple cider has enough acid for that back-of-the-tongue tang and there’s plenty of sweet and spice to make up for the decrease in fat.
The muffins are spiced, filled with chunks of Red Delicious apples, and then rolled in a cinnamon-sugar topping.
vegan apple cider muffins with cinnamon sugar
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes 1 dozen
5 oz (140 g) all-purpose flour
5 oz (140 g) whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
3 oz (85 g) canola oil
3 oz (85 g) unsweetened apple sauce
7 oz (200 g) apple cider
3 oz (85 g) granulated sugar
2 oz (56 g) dark brown sugar
1 large red apple, cored, peeled, and coarsely chopped (5~7 oz of apple bits)
cinnamon sugar coating
1 oz (28 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp canola oil
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together flours, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together apple sauce, canola oil, apple cider, and sugars.
Quickly mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and fold in the apple chunks.
Scoop the batter into the muffin cups so each cup is 2/3~3/4 of the way full.
Bake the muffins for 25 – 30 minutes, until springy to the touch. When lightly pressed down in the center with a finger, the muffins should spring back up like foam.
Remove the muffins from the oven and let them cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling before coating.
In a shallow bowl or plate, whisk together sugar and cinnamon for coating the muffins.
Brush each muffin with canola oil and roll the top of the muffin around in the sugar mixture to coat.
Muffins will keep up to 48 hours wrapped in plastic at room temperature. Don’t refrigerate the muffins, or else the coating will melt/dissolve. If they firm up, you can soften them in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.
Help, I’ve fallen in love with apples and I can’t get up!
previous fruit-y monthly muffins:
The first time I ever roasted strawberries was during my short stint working in a restaurant. In fact, the first time I’d ever eaten roasted strawberries was during that job. We filled hotel pans (deep baking pans) with whole hulled strawberries (leaves and dense white core removed), a hefty layer of sugar, and a generous sprinkling of thick balsamic vinegar, and then we popped them in the oven until darkened, softened, and swimming in a thick, sweet strawberry syrup.
I may not have been enamored with that job, but with those strawberries, I was in heaven. To be entirely honest, hulling and prepping strawberries is sort of therapeutic. I prepped pounds (like, humans’-worths of pounds) of strawberries for roasting to serve with French tartlets, for slicing to decorate the tarts, and for plating with cheese, fruit, and local greens for a cheese plate.
I did vow never to make another gelatin-based dessert again, but I held on fast to my strawberry roasting and prepping knowledge.
I’ve recently begun experimenting with jam-making, and though the final product still leaves something to be desired, I can break down a village’s worth of strawberries in a breeze. You should see my freezer. I went to the farmer’s market for the first time in a very, very long time a few weeks ago, searching for 3 pounds of local berries for jam, and went home with 5.5 pounds. Now my pantry is full up with attempts at different flavors of strawberry jam (strawberry margarita jam, strawberry-orange marmalade, strawberry rhubarb jam, etc.) The last weekend of May, because I just can’t help myself when spring berries are involved, I went berry picking with a friend in Raleigh and made the best d**ned strawberry-basil jam I ever did lay my tastebuds on.
Ever since coming up with the two berry-based muffins last summer, I’ve wanted to do something with strawberries. Something a little bit…different. It wasn’t too hard, as I’ve never actually had a strawberry muffin before. I guess strawberries aren’t popular muffin berries. I figured it might be nice to put my balsamic roasting skills to the test and do a roasted strawberry and balsamic-flavored thing. I also figured, cleverly, that if I’m using vinegar, I can easily make these vegan (vinegar + baking soda = eggs.) I then thought, stupidly, that I could just replace all the liquid with balsamic or red wine vinegar for a real powerful vinegar taste.
And then I discovered why people don’t normally make vinegar-flavored things. The first batch quickly found its way into the trash and I’m still trying to convince people that no these are not “vinegar muffins” nor do they taste like vinegar.
I used both roasted and fresh berries to get the balsamic-roastiness and the juicy sweetness of un-roasted strawberries, and then I added a splash of balsamic vinegar to the glaze just to make people aware of the vinegar’s presence in the pastry. The muffins themselves are whole wheat muffins and all of the sugar ends up roasting with the berries to produce a blood-red syrup, so the muffins end up seductively ruddy.
balsamic-roasted strawberry muffins with balsamic vinegar glaze
makes one dozen
vaguely based on previous muffin recipes
Roast the strawberries for half an hour at 375 F/ C, until the sugar syrup is foaming and boiling. Let the roasted berries cool, then strain out the syrup and set it aside. Store syrup and strawberries in refrigerator in sealed plastic containers. You can store them combined or separated, but you’ll end up straining them before you make the muffin batter so you might as well separate them now anyway.
roasted strawberries ingredients
8 oz fresh strawberries, hulled (and halved if you want)
4 oz granulated sugar
1 oz balsamic vinegar
5 oz whole wheat flour
5 oz all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
4 oz butter, melted and cooled, or canola oil
2 large eggs
7 oz whole milk or buttermilk
4 oz powdered sugar
0.4 oz balsamic vinegar
0.6 oz whole milk
roasting the strawberries
Preheat the oven to 375 F/ C.
Hull the roasting strawberries (and halve if you want), and arrange in a single layer in a cake or brownie pan, or a hotel pan at least two inches deep, with the cut end down and the tip pointing up.
Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the strawberries, then sprinkle the vinegar over them as well. You should have one layer of strawberries with a heavy layer of sugar and a splattering of balsamic vinegar.
Roast the berries for about 30 – 45 minutes until the sugar and vinegar have formed a syrup and the syrup is boiling/foaming. The strawberries should be very tender.
Remove and let cool. Strain out the syrup and set it aside. You’ll mix the syrup into the muffin batter before you add the roasted berries.
making the muffins
Preheat (or change the temperature) the oven to 350 F/ C, and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, combine the flours, salt, and baking powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, melted butter/oil, and cooled strawberry-balsamic syrup (without the berries.)
Quickly whisk together the dry and wet ingredients in the large bowl, and fold in both the fresh and roasted berries.
Using a large cookie scoop, fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full and bake the muffins for 20 – 25 minutes.
The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean, or when they spring back like foam when pressed lightly.
Remove the pan from the oven and let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Let the muffins cool completely before glazing.
glazing the muffins
Whisk together powdered sugar, vinegar, and milk until smooth. The glaze should be like a thick syrup: runny but slow. Taste and adjust, adding more of any ingredient as needed.
Using a spoon or whisk, drizzle the glaze over the muffins and let it set up before eating.
You can wrap the muffins, glazed or unglazed, individually in plastic wrap and keep them at room temperature for up to 2 days or frozen for a bit longer. If the muffins start to go stale or firm, then microwave them for 10 – 15 seconds before eating.
previous monthly muffins
Herbert’s first birthday was already three weeks ago, but the celebration never stops with him. He’s a little party starter.
My farmor (paternal grandma) used to send us massive boxes full of english muffins, in about a dozen different flavors. There were so many of them, we have to keep the muffins in the freezer. Regardless, they never lasted long (they were damn good, and also my dad eats a lot of english muffins.)
We would have the traditional unflavored variety, whole wheat muffins, and the popular cinnamon raisin, but there were also jalapeño muffins, herb muffins, and other fruit flavors. When I started making my own english muffins a year ago, I wanted to be able to compete with the ones we used to have (I’m still lagging in second place, I think), and work through all the flavors I could remember.
To be honest, though, I can only remember four, so after I’ve mastered jalapeño english muffins, I’ll just have to start making up my own flavor combinations (anchovy asparagus muffins, perhaps?)
The recipe here is adapted from my other two recipes and it turns out best with plenty of milk and butter in the dough. More fat means a softer muffin, but like any bread, they’re still amazing without the fat and without the dairy. I always err on the side of not enough flour, because too much flour makes the muffins dense like bricks.
cinnamon raisin english muffins
adapted from my whole wheat english muffins
makes 12 medium-sized muffins
*vegan substitutions included
200 g sourdough starter**
150 g buttermilk, yogurt, or water
110 g water
90 g whole wheat flour
350 g all-purpose flour, plus extra for shaping the dough
dash of salt
40 g dark brown sugar
56 g oil or melted butter (2 oz/4 Tbsp)
2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 c raisins
vegetable oil or butter for frying
cornmeal for dusting
**If you’d rather use active baker’s yeast, then substitute 7 g of yeast, 100 g all-purpose flour, and 100 g water.
In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine starter, buttermilk, water, flours, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and oil/melted butter.
Using a dough hook, wooden spoon, or your hands, beat/knead the dough until it forms a slightly sticky, cohesive mass, about 5 minutes.
Lightly grease another large bowl, and transfer the dough, flipping it over once to oil the entire surface.
Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough proof/rise until doubled, at least 6 hours (2 if using baker’s yeast.) You can let the dough rise in a warm oven (100 F/ C), on the counter at room temperature, or in the refrigerator. If using sourdough starter, the proofing will take a lot longer than if you’re using baker’s yeast.
When in doubt, let it double. The size is really the indication that it’s ready.
When the dough is done proofing, turn it out onto a clean, lightly floured surface (the countertop, a pastry board, or a bread cloth, for example.) Divide the dough into 12 equal portions, using a scale for consistency, if desired, and roll each portion into a ball.
Dust a baking sheet liberally with cornmeal and arrange the dough on top, leaving an inch or so between each piece. Gently press down on each muffin with the palm of your hand to flatten it into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let proof/rise another half an hour, until puffy.
While the muffins are proofing again, preheat the oven to 350 F/ C.
When the muffins are ready, heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat, and add about 1-2 Tbsp of oil/butter. Once the pan and oil are hot, sear/brown the muffins on each side, working in batches and leaving space between the muffins on the stove. Let the muffins brown for about 3 – 5 minutes on each side, and rearrange on the cookie sheet.
Dust the muffins one more time with cornmeal, and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until puffed up and plump.
Let the muffins cool on a wire rack, then store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic. Muffins last about a week stored correctly.
Chop, chop, y’all!
other fruit-y muffins
What if I told you it’s taken me almost a year to work up this recipe?
They say the best axiom in baking is, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but I’ve always been a “so I’ll break it and then learn to fix it” kind of person. You all know this. I can’t claim a recipe without trying every possible flavor substitution or adjustment.
I had wanted a lemon poppyseed muffin recipe for the blog last summer, as part of my “oh my god lemons in everything” kick (which became my I’m Stuck in a Restaurant Trying to Escape gig and thus my I Have Nothing Useful to Blog About rut.)
I printed off a few different recipes and started working. I bought lemons (big tracts…I mean bags…of lemons), lemon extract, and lemon oil, and stocked up on milk, lemon juice (for those times when the lemons just ain’t givin’ you enough), buttermilk, greek yogurt, other yogurts, and sour cream. My goal was to take my two favorite recipes and then try every flavor combination I could think of: zest + juice + buttermilk, oil + buttermilk, zest + buttermilk + no juice, extract + buttermilk, and more.
It’s been so long since I’ve done math I can’t even begin to fathom how many combinations I would have had to try. Needless to say, none of them quite worked out. Muffins were too dry, or too small, or not lemon-y enough, and I gave up.
I should add here that it also only took me one attempt at a recipe this time around to find something that worked, and it was far simpler than having to use extracts or oils or other mumbo-jumbo kitchen magic. I took a recipe from my favorite book (linked below) and swapped out the flavors for lemon, and added poppyseed.
Made it once. Loved it.
Made it again, with some small adjustments for muffin size, and wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.
After all this, I’ve discovered that the keys to good lemon poppyseed muffins are freshly and liberally zested and juiced lemons (supplemented with store-bought lemon juice if needed), and plenty of poppyseeds. More zest means more flavor without compromising texture.
Another, more philosophical, lesson to take away is that sometimes you need to examine every single angle to make something your own. Sometimes a simple tweak to suit your own style is enough. Sometimes it’s only a little bit broken and only needs a tiny fix.
glazed lemon poppyseed muffins
adapted from ginger lemon muffins, Mom’s Big Book of Baking
makes 1 dozen muffins
360 g all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
4 tsp poppy seeds
2 large eggs
160 g granulated sugar
grate zest of one large lemon or 2 baby lemons
40 g lemon juice
200 g milk or buttermilk
1/2 c (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
30 g whole milk
100 g powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon zest (from half a small lemon or about 1/4 of a large lemon)
make the muffins
Preheat the oven to 350 F/ C, and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and poppyseeds.
In a large bowl, quickly beat eggs, sugar, milk/buttermilk, lemon zest and juice, and butter.
Mix dry ingredients into the wet batter and scoop into the muffin pan so each cup is just about full.
Bake 20 – 25 minutes until the muffins are springy when pressed lightly in the middle.
Let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Let them cool completely before glazing.
glaze the muffins
Whisk together milk, powdered sugar, and lemon zest until smooth and no lumps remain. For thinner glaze, add more milk, and for thicker glaze, add more sugar. The consistency should be like maple syrup: pourable and drizzle-able but not soup-y or too thick like frosting.
Using a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the muffins and let it set up/dry out before eating.
previous monthly muffins
My first year in college, a friend of mine wanted to show me around Los Angeles, so we drove all over, exploring his favorite places (ie., his favorite date spots…) One of the places we visited, a place in which I would end up spending a significant amount of time over the next three years, was Little Tokyo. At this point I had been to Japan once, on a 2-week guided, structured tour, and was in the honeymoon phase of my infatuation with the Land of the Rising Sun.
We wandered around a Japanese grocery store in the little shopping village of Little Tokyo (Maru-something or other), where I found bags of powdered tea. This wasn’t green tea or matcha, mind you, but powdered Royal Milk Tea, one of my absolute favorite things from Japan (though technically it’s from England…and if we’re really splitting hairs, it’s originally from India.) I loved Royal Milk Tea. I still do, but due to developing lactose…problems…I can’t drink it unless I make my own non-dairy version (which I have done, and is almost as good as the dairy version.)
This excursion was in April, just before final exams and summer vacation, so I grabbed a box of the powdered tea and brought it back to North Carolina. The first thing I did when I got home was make earl grey muffins. It was an inspired act, and a brilliant decision: they were heavenly. Possibly the best muffins I had ever had. I haven’t been able to find powdered milk tea since then, but I’ve experimented a bit with black tea pastries (black tea spiced apple pie, black tea butter cookies, and a failed attempt at an earl grey bundt cake.)
The winter before last, December 2015, I dreamt up a recipe for black tea butter cookies, spicy shortbread discs with whole, loose earl grey tea leaves, perfect for balancing on the saucer of a cappuccino mug. After the November and December 2016 muffins, laden with chocolate and other delicious things, I wanted something light, something bordering on celestial.
Right on cue, in sauntered these muffins: earl grey nut muffins. Inspired by a long-ago memory of Royal Milk Tea and Royal Milk Tea muffins, and based on the black tea butter cookies, these muffins are subtly sweet, with the pleasant flavor and aroma of tea, none of the bitterness of caffeine, and an accompaniment of sweet, crunchy walnuts. As with most of my muffins, these are half all-purpose and half whole wheat flour.
And they’re a perfect breakfast treat.
earl grey nut muffins
makes 1 dozen
150 g all-purpose flour
150 g whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
a hefty pinch of kosher salt
4 bags of black tea (8 grams of tea)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
180 g granulated sugar
180 g milk
1 tsp almond or walnut extract
2 large eggs (~50 grams each)
120 g canola oil
120 g chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 F/190 C, and line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners.
In a small bowl, combine all-purpose and whole wheat flours, baking powder, salt, loose tea (cut open the tea bags with scissors), and cinnamon.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, milk, extract, eggs, and canola oil.
Dump dry ingredients into wet mixture and combine, then whisk in chopped nuts and mix until almost completely combined.
Using a large spoon or cookie scoop, scoop the batter into the muffin pan so each cup is 2/3 – 3/4 of the way full.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until the muffin tops spring back when pressed lightly, or a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.
Remove the muffins from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then remove them from the pan and let them cool on a wire rack.
Cheerio and all that,