Thursday, January 29, 2009

Coffee Cake Muffins

I make very few things from my Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. I use the cornbread recipe, and occasionally I'll look for something else. I use it for good, basic recipes. Not too many ingredients, simple to find, easy to execute. I use the Weights and Measures in the front cover all the time. Tomorrow is Abbie's turn to bring snack for school. When asked what she wanted to bring she replied, "Broccoli, carrots, and Coffee Cake Muffins". I feel a little guilty when I send Coffee Cake Muffins. Like most muffins, they aren't really anything far from cake, or a cupcake without frosting. Coffee Cake Muffins make up for the fact that they don't have frosting with little crumbly brown sugar topping. It's like giving each of Abbie's classmates a teaspoon of sugar, then sending them into the classroom. But, that's what she wanted. So this afternoon, I pulled out my Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, and turned to the Coffee Cake Muffins page. They are really very good. I make little mini-muffins, so I don't feel too badly about them. Let's put it this way- I never get any leftovers back at the end of the day.
A few notes-
I only make half the crumbly topping. You really don't need the whole recipe. Below is the recipe as it is written.
I never add the nuts. My kids don't like them in baked goods, and the school has a "no nut" policy.
I never have buttermilk at home. Here's what you do- Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of white vinegar to a measuring cup. Fill the measuring cup with whole milk to the 1/2 cup line. You'll have buttermilk for this recipe.
Please don't use margarine. Ever.

Coffee Cake Muffins
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine
3 Tbsp. walnuts or pecans, chopped
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter or margarine
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Grease twelve 2 1/2-inch muffin cups (or 30 mini-muffin cups) or line with paper bake cups; set aside.
For topping, in a small bowl, stir together the 3 tablespoons flour, brown sugar, and the 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
Cut in the 2 tablespoons butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; stir in nuts; set topping aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together the 1 1/2 cups flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, the 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt; cut in the 1/4 cup butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
In another bowl, combine egg and buttermilk; Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture; stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy).
Spoon half of the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each one-third full.
Top with half of the topping, the remaining batter, and the remaining topping.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
Remove from muffin cups.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Another favorite from the archives...Birthday Cake

I made this cake for my sister-in-law's birthday a year ago. It is one of my favorite projects, and one I'd like to try again. The cake is frosted with a strawberry buttercream, then I made a white chocolate ribbon for the sides. I filled the top with fresh strawberries. Because it was a birthday cake, I needed to have some writing. So I piped the "Happy Birthday" in white chocolate onto parchment and let it harden in the fridge.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Strangest Cookie Recipe Ever-Rosquillos de Vino - Wine Ring Cookies

I found this to be the strangest cookie recipe I've ever tried. It was given to me by my ex-boyfriend's mother, (we're talking high school here). She made them for a Spanish theme dinner. The cookies are good, although they don't taste as strong as you would expect considering they have 2 tablespoons of anise extract in them. The addition of the wine is interesting. It burns off in the oven- leaving the cookies light and crumbly. I was tempted to use powdered sugar or a larger grained sanding sugar to coat them, but regular sugar works best. The yield is supposed to be 2-3 dozen. But if you make your rope 1/3" thick as suggested, you're going to end up with more.

1 cup white wine
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup vegetable shortening
3 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp anise extract
6 cups flour
granulated sugar for topping

This recipe yields 2-3 dozen small rings.

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

Using a hand mixer, combine sugar, vegetable oil, vegetable shortening and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl. Add white wine and anise extract and mix well. Add flour a cup at a time. Mixture will seem dry or crumbly. You may want to use your hand to mix together the dough as you add the last 2 cups of flour.

Take out a small amount of dough and roll into a rope about 1/3” thick on an un-floured cutting board. Cut into pieces about 4 inches long and join the two ends to form a doughnut shape or ring.

Carefully place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 15-18 minutes or until they become a golden color. Be careful not to burn the bottoms!

Let cool about 10 minutes, so the cookies do not fall apart as you lift them off with a spatula. While still warm, place in sugar to coat the tops.

Monday, January 26, 2009

My Favorite Cake

I made this cake for Abbie's 4th Birthday Party. The theme was "bees". I'm very proud of this creation, although, of course, I learned quite a bit from this experience.

Tomato Sauce

This recipe comes from "On Top of Spaghetti", by Johanne Killeen and George Germon, with a few of my own changes. I remember Ina mentioning their restaurant, Al Forno, in Providence, RI, once on her show. Husband made this sauce when he was making dinner one night. It was a hit with the both us and the kids. Although it's not hard to make, you can easily freeze this sauce and have it for later. I haven't tried making great batches of it, but I'd like to try. It's fantastic over any pasta. And I like how the kids are eating the vegetables hidden in the sauce.

Tomato Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped onion (about 1/2 a large onion)
2 sprigs flat-leafed parsley, leaves only. finely chopped
1/2 cup peeled and finely chopped carrot (1 carrot)
1/2 cup finely chopped celery (2 stalks)
1 large garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I only put in 1/8 tsp. because I don't want it too spicy for the 4 year old.)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup dry white wine (I've used red also when I didn't have white)
3 1/2 cups chopped canned tomato pulp and juice (1 28 ounce can)

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the onions, parsley, carrots, celery, garlic, red pepper flakes and 1/2 tsp salt. Saute' over medium heat until the vegetables are very soft without allowing them to brown, 20-25 minutes.

Add the wine, raise the heat, and allow the wine to all but evaporate, stirring often. Add the tomatoes and 1 cup of water. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes.

Puree' the sauce with an immersion blender. You may use the sauce right away, or cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dried Pears

I got a food dehydrator for Christmas. This opens up a whole dried food world to me. I've been experimenting with canning, and trying to preserve local produce when it's in season. My mother in law has several fruit trees on her property, and has made dried pears for my daughters. They taste like candy, and the kids eat them up.
I bought 4 pounds of pears today at Berkeley Bowl. They were .79 cents a pound- not great, but certainly good for January. I prepped them by peeling, coring, and pulling out the woody stem. I use a melon-baller to core the pears, works really well. I sliced them length-wise into 3/8 in slices, then tossed them with the juice from 1 lemon. Then I laid them on the racks of my machine. Here they are all ready to go.

I set them at a temp. of 135 degrees, then ran the machine for 5 1/2 hours. After about 2 hours, we decided to set up the machine in the laundry room, because it's kind of loud. Here they are all done.

I let them cool a little, then put them into little ziplock bags, then into the freezer. This will help them keep longer. It wasn't until they were done that I thought I should consult my preserved food bible, "Putting Food By", by Greene, Hertzberg, and Vaughn. They advised changing the temperature during the drying process. I'll have to try that next time. I went by the manufacturer's instruction this time. The recommended drying time was "6-16 hours". I think I can do a little better than that.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Christmas 2008

Merry Christmas! Here are the decorated sugar cookies from this year.

My mother in law's Beef Wellington.

The Buche de Noel. This one was much better than last time. I made the traditional chocolate cake with the hazelnut mousse from Ian's birthday cake. It was great.