blueberry muffin comparison

blueberry muffin comparison 9
left to right: CI Best, CI Classic, Jordan Marsh

I set out all three sets of muffins at work with a note that said that if my coworkers ate more than one type, I’d love to know their favorite. Someone said he was sure they were all good, but I told him I wanted to know which one I should choose if I could only make one blueberry muffin recipe for the rest of my life. He asked whether I ever repeated recipes anyway. Well…it isn’t common, to be honest. But for something as classic as blueberry muffins, it’s possible that I could. And if I do, I obviously want to make the best recipe.

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I chose three recipes that seemed as different as blueberry muffin recipes get:

Cook’s Illustrated’s Classic – I wanted to make sure I included a somewhat traditional recipe with no tricks up its sleeve. This one is mixed using the standard quick bread method, in which the dry ingredients are mixed separately from the wet ingredients, and then they’re folded together. The source of dairy is sour cream, and there’s quite a bit of it, and therefore less butter (or oil) than in the other recipes. It also specifies frozen blueberries; Cook’s Illustrated recommends frozen wild blueberries, but those aren’t available at my store.

Cook’s Illustrated’s Best – Often with “best” recipes, I wonder if the extra effort is really worth it. In this case, that extra effort involves cooking and mashing half of the blueberries and simmering them until they’re reduced. This mixture is then swirled into each muffin. Other than that step, which was quite easy, the recipe is fairly traditional, with oil standing for half of the fat (in addition to butter).

Jordan Marsh-inspired – These are mixed like most cookies and cakes, with sugar beaten into the butter, then the milk and dry ingredients alternately added at the end. A small portion of the blueberries are mashed and evenly mixed into the dough. This recipe had more blueberries than either of the others.

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Out of the twenty or so people who work in my building, only a handful gave me their opinion on the muffins. I can’t blame the rest though, because not everyone wants to eat three half-muffins, and that’s okay. Even with a small response, some trends were clear.

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left to right: CI Classic, Jordan Marsh, CI Best

Cook’s Illustrated’s Classic (orange sprinkles) – These baked up pale. This was no one’s favorite, but it was one coworker’s second favorite. I thought they tasted the least blueberry-y, which is not a surprise since they did have slightly less blueberries than the other recipes.

Cook’s Illustrated’s Best (yellow sprinkles) – These browned quite a bit, maybe more than I would have preferred. However, these were the favorite of three people, and one did say that he liked that they tasted darker. One friend liked that it was the least sweet. Despite the blueberry swirl on the top, I didn’t think they had much blueberry flavor, although I have to admit the swirl was pretty. It’s interesting to me that CI’s goal with this recipe was to maximize the amount of blueberries in the muffins without reducing their structural integrity; however, normalized per weight of flour, this recipe has only a tiny bit more blueberries than CI’s Classic recipe.

Jordan Marsh-inspired (green sprinkles) – These were my favorite, as well as the favorite of two other coworkers. However, straight out of the oven, I almost discounted them entirely, as they collapsed when removed from the pan. You can see in the pictures that they have so many blueberries, by far the most of the three recipes, that the fruit sunk to the bottom. That hot juicy fruit couldn’t hold up the dough above it, hence the collapsing. However, they did, unsurprisingly, have the strongest blueberry flavor, as well as a nice tanginess. That tanginess is surprising considering that this recipe uses regular milk, not sour cream or buttermilk as in the other two recipes.

blueberry muffin comparison 7
left to right: CI Classic, Jordan Marsh, CI Best

So which will I make in the future? I’m thinking the Jordan Marsh will be my preferred recipe, with slightly less blueberries. Yes, it won’t taste as much of blueberries then, but it will be worth it to have muffins that can stand under their own weight. Even if the the blueberries are reduced from 2½ cups to 2 cups, this recipe has more blueberries than the other two. If I was really ambitious, I could use the method in Cook’s Illustrated Best recipe to simmer a portion of the blueberries and make pretty swirls on the top. As I found, the extra effort of simmering down the blueberries wasn’t much work at all. Was it worth the effort though? Well, maybe not, since I thought a simpler recipe was even better.

blueberry muffin comparison 10
left to right: CI Best, CI Classic, Jordan Marsh

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Classic Blueberry Muffins (from Cook’s Illustrated)

Makes 12 muffins

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1¼ cups (10 ounces) sour cream
1½ cups frozen blueberries, preferably wild

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick vegetable cooking spray.

2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl until combined. Whisk egg in second medium bowl until well-combined and light-colored, about 20 seconds. Add sugar and whisk vigorously until thick and homogenous, about 30 seconds; add melted butter in 2 or 3 steps, whisking to combine after each addition. Add sour cream in 2 steps, whisking just to combine.

3. Add frozen berries to dry ingredients and gently toss to combine. Add sour cream mixture and fold with rubber spatula until batter comes together and berries are evenly distributed, 25 to 30 seconds (small spots of flour may remain and batter will be thick). Do not overmix.

4. Use ice cream scoop or large spoon to drop batter into greased muffin tin. Bake until light golden brown and toothpick or skewer inserted into center of muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating pan from front to back halfway through baking time. Invert muffins onto wire rack, stand muffins upright, and cool 5 minutes.

blueberry muffin comparison 4
dough for CI Classic

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Best Blueberry Muffins (from Cook’s Illustrated)

Makes 12 muffins

2 cups (about 10 ounces) fresh blueberries, picked over
1⅛ cups (8 ounces) sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
2½ cups (12½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk remaining 1⅛ cups sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be very lumpy with few spots of dry flour; do not overmix.)

3. Use ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion.

4. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

blueberry muffin comparison 6
dough for CI Best

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Jordan Marsh-Inspired Blueberry Muffins (barely adapted from King Arthur Flour via epicurious)

Makes 12 muffins

In the future, I’ll either reduce the blueberries to 2 cups (mashing ½ cup and leaving 1½ cups whole), or I’ll follow the simmering step in Cook’s Illustrated’s Best Blueberry Muffin recipe with 1 cup of the blueberries, still mashing the same amount (½ cup) and mixing the remaining 1 cup in whole.

2 cups (9.6 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2½ cups blueberries (about 12½ ounces), fresh preferred
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup milk

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray the bottoms of a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Mash ½ cup of the blueberries, leaving the remainder whole.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl if using a hand-held mixer), beat the butter, sugar, and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then mix in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low; add half of the dry ingredients, then all of the milk, and then the remaining dry ingredients, beating just until evenly combined. Stir in the mashed and whole blueberries.

3. Divide the dough evenly between the prepared muffin cups. Bake the muffins until their tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into one comes out with no raw batter attached, 20-25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan, transferring them to a wire rack.

blueberry muffin comparison 5
dough for Jordan Marsh

lox and goat cheese omelets

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I stopped at the grocery store today and bought salmon, green beans, scallions, cream cheese, chocolate chips, and oreos. This pretty much sums up my overall diet – very healthy, except for when it isn’t.

lox goat cheese omelets 1

Weekend breakfasts used to sit more in the “isn’t” category, but I’ve been moving them more often than not over into the healthy side (especially, I have to admit, in the month or two before our annual trip to the beach). Of course healthy means different things to different people, but one thing I try to do when I step it up a notch is increase my protein and reduce my starches. This means less scones and more omelets.

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This recipe takes my favorite bagel toppings and mixes them with eggs instead of bread. I replace the traditional cream cheese with goat cheese not just because goat cheese isn’t quite as rich as cream cheese, but because the stronger flavor of goat cheese holds its own better with the salty salmon and capers and sharp bites of onion. Eggs instead of bread might sound like a sad substitution, especially for a bagel lover like me, but I never feel like I’m missing out when I’m eating these omelets.

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Lox and Goat Cheese Omelets

4 servings

I like a little raw onion on my lox bagels, but if you don’t, you probably won’t like it here either.

10 large eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
5 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
¼ red onion, minced (optional)
2 tablespoons capers
6 ounces lox, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, salt, and 2 ounces of goat cheese. In a second bowl, combine the remaining goat cheese, tomatoes, onion, capers, and lox.

2. Heat 1½ teaspoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add one-quarter of the egg mixture. Use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to gently stir the eggs in a circular motion for about fifteen seconds. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the eggs cook, without moving, for about a minute. Use the spatula to lift up a small section of cooked egg along the edge of the pan; tilt the pan so raw egg can flow underneath the lifted portion. Repeat this motion around the edge of the skillet. Add one-quarter of the lox mixture, spreading evenly over half of the eggs in the pan. Cover the pan and let cook for 2-4 minutes, until the eggs are just set. Fold the bare half of the eggs over the filling, then slide the omelet onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining eggs and filling.

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pumpkin oatmeal brulee

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This is a great way to make oatmeal a little more special without making it much more work. It’s cooked the same way as regular steel-cut oats, except pumpkin and sugar are stirred in part way through cooking. The only extra step is a fun one – playing with fire.

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The biggest difference between brûléeing a solid custard like crème brûlée compared to brûléeing oatmeal is that oatmeal is wetter. This means the sugar has a tendency to dissolve into the oatmeal. Fortunately, once you pour the oatmeal into serving dishes, a skin starts to form on top after a few minutes, providing a dryer surface for the sugar to rest before it’s caramelized.

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Because of the crackly sweet layer on top of the oatmeal, only half a tablespoon per serving is necessary stirred in the oatmeal itself. That’s enough to bring out the flavor of the pumpkin and still provide a little constrast with the topping. Warm and soothing, spiced and sweet, this is a perfectly comforting cold weather breakfast.

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Pumpkin Oatmeal Brûlée (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s Perfect Oatmeal)

I’ve had better luck brûléeing sugar with larger crystals, which is why demerara is recommended. Turbinado or sanding sugar should work too. Without any special sugars, an even mixture of granulated and brown sugar has worked well for me in the past. It’s difficult to estimate how much you’ll need, as it will depend on the size and shape of the bowls.

2½ cups water
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup steel-cut oats
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
demerara sugar, or a mix of white sugar and brown sugar, for topping

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the water and milk until simmering.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the oats and cook, stirring constantly, until the oats start to smell like butterscotch, 2-3 minutes. Add the spices and continue to stir constantly until the spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour the oat/spice mixture into the milk and water.

3. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Add the pumpkin, brown sugar, and salt, and continue to simmer lightly, stirring occasionally, until the oatmeal is thick and creamy. Immediately pour the oatmeal into serving bowls. Set aside for 5-10 minutes for a skin to form on top.

4. Working with one bowl at a time, distribute an even layer of the demerara sugar over the oatmeal. With a butane torch, immediately caramelize the sugar. Repeat with the remaining bowls; serve immediately.

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almond lemon cream cheese coffee cake

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I’ve gotten in the habit of eating just crumbs of each treat I bake. This sounds stingier than it is. While the goal really is to limit my indulging, what inevitably happens is that I “accidentally” create crumbs. Maybe one square of a bar cookie is too rectangular compared to the rest; I better shave a sliver off. Or maybe, in the work kitchen, someone only ate half a cookie (always the same person, and she usually comes back for the other half soon enough); that doesn’t look appetizing, so I’d better eat the other half. Oops, while I was cutting slices of cake, a whole chunk fell off this one; there’s no size limit on crumb, so it counts and I get to eat it.

cream cheese coffee cake 1

The result is that I eat more and enjoy it less. Instead, I’ve started cutting myself a serving and setting it aside until I get home from work, so I can sit down and truly savor it. That’s exactly what I did with this cake, and I was so excited to get home at eat my slice. Especially once my coworkers started coming by my office to rave about how good the cake was. This went faster than anything I’ve ever brought in!

Which, unfortunately, means it was gone by the time I found out that Dave had eaten my piece – in addition to the piece he’d already grabbed from the office kitchen. Oh, I know, it sounds terrible, but as much as I wanted to give him the guilt trip to end all guilt trips, the fact is that it wasn’t exactly his fault. I’d cut my slice and then set it on the counter too close to where he was laying out his lunch. He thought I put it there for him. Still, I was very, very sad.

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This did not stop the stream of coworkers telling me how good the cake was. Obviously I needed to make it again, so I did, less than a week later (I would have made it that very night if I’d had time!), and this time I hid my slice so there’d be no confusion. And it was as good as they said – Buttery and sweet, lemon-scented, some crunchy bites with almonds, and of course my favorite was the streak of cheesecake through the middle. It all worked out in the end, but I definitely learned a lesson.

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Lemon Almond Cream Cheese Coffee Cake (from Cook’s Illustrated)

I made almost no changes to the original recipe. I did substitute ¼ cup Greek yogurt for ¼ cup of the sour cream. Also, my tube pan has a detachable bottom, so I removed the sides, and then the cake was kind of stuck on the bottom portion with the center tube. The cake was too delicate to lift off of the bottom. I ended up chilling the cake overnight and removing the cake from the base in the morning, when it was firm. Then I let it warm up before serving.

Lemon sugar-almond topping:
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
1½ teaspoons finely grated zest from 1 lemon
½ cup sliced almonds

2¼ cups (11¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1⅛ teaspoons baking powder
1⅛ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cup plus 7 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated zest plus 4 teaspoons juice from 1 to 2 lemons
4 large eggs
5 teaspoons vanilla extract
1¼ cups sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1. For the topping: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl until combined and the sugar is moistened. Stir in the almonds; set aside.

2. For the cake: Spray a 10-inch tube pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (7.875 ounces), and the lemon zest at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, about 20 seconds, and scraping down the beater and sides of bowl as necessary. Add 4 teaspoons vanilla and mix to combine. Reduce the speed to low and add one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the sour cream, mixing until incorporated after each addition, 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat, using half of the remaining flour mixture and all of the remaining sour cream. Scrape the bowl and add the remaining flour mixture; mix at low speed until the batter is thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold the batter once or twice with a rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour.

3. Reserve 1¼ cups batter and set aside. Spoon the remaining batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Return the now-empty bowl to the mixer and beat the cream cheese, remaining 5 tablespoons sugar, lemon juice, and remaining teaspoon vanilla on medium speed until smooth and slightly lightened, about 1 minute. Add ¼ cup of the reserved batter and mix until incorporated. Spoon the cheese filling mixture evenly over the batter, keeping the filling about 1 inch from the edges of the pan; smooth the top. Spread the remaining cup of reserved batter over the filling and smooth the top. With a butter knife or offset spatula, gently swirl the filling into the batter using a figure-8 motion, being careful to not drag the filling to the bottom or edges of pan. Firmly tap the pan on the counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any bubbles. Sprinkle the lemon sugar-almond topping evenly over the batter and gently press into batter to adhere.

4. Bake until the top is golden and just firm, and a long skewer inserted into cake comes out clean (skewer will be wet if inserted into cheese filling), 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and firmly tap on counter 2 or 3 times (the top of the cake may sink slightly). Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 1 hour. Gently invert the cake onto a rimmed baking sheet (the cake will be topping-side down); remove the tube pan, place a wire rack on top of the cake, and invert the cake sugar-side up. Cool to room temperature, about 1½ hours. Cut into slices and serve.

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steak and egg green chile hash

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Where was this Hatch green chile mania back when I lived on the opposite side of the country from New Mexico? Back then, I had to have my mom send me boxes of fresh green chiles from Albuquerque. She’d pack newspaper in the boxes to help keep the chiles dry, poke holes in the box, and pay out the wazoo for overnight shipping. (Clearly I owe my mom a drink or two.) When they’d arrive, I’d broil them in batches until the skins turned black, then peel, chop, and bag them up. One time I forgot about wearing gloves, resulting in the worst burn I’ve ever had, not from temperature, but from spice.

green chile 2013

But that was years ago. Now I just head down to the local grocery store, buy 2 huge burlap sacks of fresh chiles, and bring it out to the guy roasting them in the parking lot. (Actually, I never do this; it’s become Dave’s errand.) Back at home, Dave and I put on latex gloves and start peeling, seeding, and stemming the chiles. At some point I’ll transition from peeling to chopping and bagging. The whole process takes about 4 hours, and at the end, we have a shelf in the freezer dedicated to our stash.

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I grew up in Albuquerque, and my family did this when I was a kid, as well. It’s only recently when anyone outside New Mexico could find Hatch green chiles. In fact, the “Hatch” title is a bit of a misnomer – Hatch is a place, not a variety of chile. Green chiles are grown in Hatch, but they’re also grown in the rest of the state. This year, Dave bought our green chiles from a farm in Artesia, so technically they’re not Hatch green chiles at all, but since people seem to recognize Hatch as a type of chile, we’ll stick with that title.

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Most New Mexicans don’t need a recipe for how to use their green chiles. They just add them to their favorite foods – there’s no Hatch chile macaroni and cheese, there’s just your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe with chiles stirred in. The same goes for cheeseburgers, pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches…are you seeing a pattern? Green chile is really good with carbs and cheese.

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In this case, we don’t need cheese, just steak, leftover if you have it. Because green chiles are also really good for breakfast – migas and huevos rancheros are my favorite two breakfasts, and now this is up there too. And fortunately, now that “Hatch” green chiles are making their way to almost all corners of the country, you can actually make this for yourself. That is a very good thing.

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Steak and Egg Green Chile Hash

Serves 4

Depending on how hot your chiles are, you might want to use less (or more) than this.

Photos show a half recipe made in a 9-inch skillet.

12 ounces Yukon gold potatoes, diced into ¼- to ½-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 large onion, diced
8 ounces cooked steak, diced
½ cup Hatch green chiles, roasted, peeled, and chopped
8 eggs
ground black pepper

1. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the potatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cover and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir, then return to the microwave for another minute. Stir again, and if the potatoes are not softened to their centers, repeat the microwaving until they are; larger cubes will need more time.

2. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil until it flows like water when the pan is tilted. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the potatoes and steak and cook, without stirring, until the bottom is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes without stirring. Stir in the green chiles. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.

3. Using the back of a spoon, create 8 wells in the hash. Break one egg into each well; season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and cook, without stirring, until the white is set, about 6 minutes. Serve immediately.

cornmeal pancakes with cherry compote

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I haven’t forgotten my New Year’s resolution this year. I haven’t done a very good job following it, but at least I haven’t forgotten.

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I simply wanted to use my cookbooks more often. I love buying cookbooks, and I love looking through them, and I love the cookbook shelf I had built in my kitchen, but when it comes time to choose recipes, I default to my database and the internet all too often. The spreadsheet I made to track cookbook usage this year was neglected.

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Until one night recently when, for no special reason, I sat down with a pile of cookbooks and started flipping. Other favorites got set aside as I put breakfasts, dinners, and snacks on the menu, all from one book, Sara Forte’s Sprouted Kitchen. Something snagged me about her cookbook that night, probably the healthy, quick, interesting meal ideas. Interesting, like adding thyme to cherry compote. Interesting, like making pancakes with cornmeal and honey.

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I should let this be a reminder of why I need to pull out my cookbooks more often. Such undiscovered treasures are hidden on those shelves! I loved the extra cornmeal crunch in these pancakes, along with the honey notes. The cherries make these a summer reminder of a winter promise I made to myself.

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Cornmeal Pancakes with Cherry Compote (slightly adapted from Sara Forte’s Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook)

Cherry compote:
1 pound Bing cherries, seeded and quartered
2 sprigs thyme
¼ cup water
¼ cup honey
pinch salt

1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons honey
¾ cup boiling water
¾ cup (3.6 ounces) all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 tablespoons brown or turbinado sugar
¾ cup buttermilk (or ½ cup plain yogurt and ¼ cup milk)
1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more for cooking the pancakes

1. For the compote: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the cherries, thyme, and water, stirring occasionally, until the cherries start to break down, about 3 minutes. Stir in the honey and salt; set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the cornmeal, honey, and boiling water. Let sit 5 minutes to soften the cornmeal. Meanwhile, in a separate small bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together, the egg, sugar, buttermilk, and oil. Whisk the buttermilk mixture into the cornmeal mixture until thoroughly combined, then gently fold in the flour mixture. Let set 5 minutes.

3. Heat a non-stick skillet or a griddle over medium heat. Add a few drops of oil and spread it over the bottom of the pan. Using a ¼ cup measure, pour the pancake batter onto the hot griddle. When the pancakes are golden brown, after about 2-3 minutes, flip to cook the other side another 2-3 minutes. Keep warm in oven heated to 200 degrees.

4. While the pancakes are cooking, warm the compote; remove the sprigs of thyme. Serve the pancakes topped with compote.

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carrot cake pancakes

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I’ve mentioned before that carrot cake isn’t really my thing. Vegetables, I believe, do not belong in cake. On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed carrot cake-inspired cookies and muffins, so pancakes seemed acceptable.

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The problem with this recipe then, isn’t that it contains carrots, it’s that they have to be finely shredded. The shredding disc on your food processor isn’t fine enough; the shreds are too big to soften in the five minutes or so the pancakes cook. So I diligently shredded the carrots by hand. It was slow and tedious, and if this was required every time I had to make this recipe, it would be a dealbreaker.

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And that would be a shame, because there aren’t many opportunities to have cream cheese frosting for breakfast, and those opportunities should be maximized. Also, my dad loves carrot cake, so I’d love to make these for him – without spending half an hour shredding enough carrots to make pancakes for the whole family.

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The key is back to the food processor. It’s true that the shreds made from the disc will be too big for pancakes, but all those shreds require is a couple pulses with the regular blade attachment to chop them down to size. (I suspect processing the carrots directly with the blade would create an uneven combination of mush and chunks.) And with that, cream cheese frosting for breakfast is back on the menu.

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One year ago: Pizza with Lamb Meatballs, Caramelized Onions, and Parsley
Two years ago: Strawberry Cheesecake
Three years ago: Corned Beef Hash
Four years ago: Orange Oatmeal Currant Cookies
Five years ago: Double (or Triple) Chocolate Cookies

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Carrot Cake Pancakes (slightly adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook via Smitten Kitchen)

Makes about 12 to 16 4-inch pancakes

Jokes about cream cheese frosting for breakfast aside, these aren’t much of an indulgence. There is no fat in the pancakes themselves beyond what’s used to cook them, and there’s cream cheese but not butter in the topping. The sugar in the topping is fairly restrained, with plenty of milk to keep it loose and sauce-like. And, of course, each serving contains about one small carrot.

1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
1 large egg
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups finely grated carrots (from about ¾ pound bundle whole carrots)

Cream cheese topping:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup (about 1 ounce) powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the egg until thoroughly combined, then add the sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla. Stir the carrots into the wet ingredients, then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Whisk gently until the batter is mostly mixed but still contains small lumps of flour. Let the batter rest while the pan heats, about 5 minutes.

2. Heat a 12-inch non-stick skillet or a griddle over medium heat. Add about a teaspoon of oil and spread it over the bottom of the pan. Spoon 2 tablespoons of pancake batter onto the hot griddle. When the pancakes are golden brown, after about 2-3 minutes, flip to cook the other side another 2-3 minutes. Keep warm in oven heated to 200 degrees.

3. To make the cream cheese topping: In a small bowl, beat or whisk the cream cheese until fluffy and smooth. Add the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla; mix until smooth.

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lemon ginger scones

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I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while now, years actually, that scones would be a perfect treat to bring in to work. I could do most of the work the night or weekend beforehand and then just bake them in the morning before work. It would be easy for me, and my coworkers would have fresh scones to go with their morning coffee.

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It sounds good in theory. In reality, it was a harried morning of showering, emptying the dishwasher, making smoothies, chugging my morning tea, skipping a couple makeup steps, hoping the blue of my scarf didn’t clash too much with the blue of my shirt, oh and garnishing, baking, cooling, and snapping a few very quick pictures of lemon-ginger scones.

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So I was wrong about the convenience of baking scones in the morning before work. But I was right about my coworkers loving them. It was a nice morning of compliments – not on my outfit with its clashing blues, obviously, but the tender and slightly spicy scones made up for the unavoidable shortcomings that resulted from my rushed morning.

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One year ago: Pasta with Tiny Meatball Sauce
Two years ago: Stromboli
Three years ago: Baked Ziti
Four years ago: Twice-Baked Potatoes with Broccoli, Cheddar, and Scallions
Five years ago: Deviled Eggs with Tuna

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Lemon-Ginger Scones (inspired by Bon Appetit’s Lemon Cream Scones, but when I realized I didn’t have nearly enough cream, I adapted Tartine’s Buttermilk Scones instead)

Serves about 8

As always, you can freeze scones after shaping, before baking. Bake directly from the freezer, adding 2-3 minutes to the baking time.

2½ (12 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
3 teaspoons lemon zest, plus 1 teaspoon
1½ teaspoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes, very cold
2 ounces crystallized ginger, chopped fine
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2.Pulse the flour, ¼ cup sugar, 3 teaspoons lemon zest, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a food processor until evenly mixed.  Scatter the butter cubes over the dry ingredients and pulse until the largest bits of butter are no larger than peas.  Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the ginger, then the buttermilk.  Knead a few times to bring the dough together.

3. On a lightly floured work surface, pat the dough out to ½-inch round.  Cut the round into 8 wedges or use cutters to cut other shapes.

4. Transfer the scones to the prepared baking sheet.  Rub the remaining 1 teaspoon of zest into the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Brush the scones with the melted butter and top with the sugar mixture.  Bake until lightly browned around the edges, about 16-20 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

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egg sandwiches with goat cheese, scallions, and prosciutto

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Egg sandwiches are my favorite breakfast. Yes, I’m making such a bold statement. And it’s generally not something I need much creativity in. A slice of salty ham, some bracingly sharp cheddar, and tender eggs on pretty much any kind of bread is just right for me.

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But this weekend I was in the mood for something brighter. Remembering the perfection of the combination of goat cheese, chives, and scrambled eggs in this (handy) scrambled egg tutorial, I mixed up goat cheese with the scallions I had in the fridge. The hint of funk in prosciutto would complement the tangy cheese.

whole wheat flour

And for a sandwich I had such high hopes for, only just the right bread would do; the sweet honey-glazed rolls in the freezer were not the right choice. This meant mixing up two quick pre-doughs the night before I wanted my sandwiches, one whole wheat with salt to soften the whole grains, and the other white bread flour with yeast for complexity of flavor. It meant putting the pre-doughs in the mixer with more salt, yeast, and flour first thing in the morning while I waited for my tea to steep.

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It meant waiting well over two hours for breakfast to be ready while the dough rose (in the turned off oven with the light on and a mug of steaming water) and baked. But it was worth it, oh it was. The rolls were perfect, light and tender but sturdy enough to hold up a thick layer of creamy cheese with slivers of ham and a perfectly cooked layer of egg. The scallions added just the right amount of green flavor to the sandwich. They were even better on the second day in a row that we ate these, when the bread was already made, so breakfast took 15 minutes to make and not two hours.

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One year ago: Puffed Poached Pear Tart
Two years ago: Oreo Cheesecake Cookies
Three years ago: Bourbon Pound Cake
Four years ago: Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

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Egg Sandwiches with Goat Cheese, Scallions, and Prosciutto

4 medium (about hamburger bun-sized) sandwiches

4 ounces goat cheese, softened
4 scallions, white and green parts, minced
4 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 medium rustic rolls (like ciabatta), halved crosswise
4 ounces sliced prosciutto

1. In a medium bowl, combined the goat cheese and scallions; set aside. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the eggs, salt, and milk until a few large bubbles form.

2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the egg mixture and lower the heat to medium-low. After about a minute, gently stir the eggs. After about another minute, they should be starting to set; use a large spatula to flip sections of egg so the other side can set as well. Turn off the heat but don’t move the pan. Residual heat from the pan will finish cooking the eggs without drying the out while you build the sandwiches.

3. Spread the cut sides of both halves of each roll with the goat cheese mixture. Top the bottom half with a layer of eggs, then sliced prosciutto. Top with the other half of the roll. Serve immediately.

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cornmeal molasses pancakes

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I’m not sure what made these pancakes so perfect – was it the combination of ingredients, with the crunch of cornmeal and depth of molasses, or was it being cooked in a cast-iron skillet? I’ve had a cast-iron skillet for almost a year, and I would say that I use it occasionally, but not often.

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The main reason I don’t use it more is because, no matter what anyone says, washing a pan by hand, without soap, is not as easy as throwing it in the dishwasher. But the cast-iron undoubtedly forms a better crust on food, from meat to, yes, pancakes, so there are times when it is absolutely worth the extra cleaning step.

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I was a little worried about these pancakes though. There’s no sugar in the batter except for molasses. That couldn’t possibly be sweet enough, right?

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It actually was, with a distinct but not overwhelming bitter molasses flavor. And of course I added more sugar in the form of maple syrup on top anyway. The result was perfect pancakes, with a crisply browned exterior and tender middle, all thanks to just the right combination of ingredients – or just the right skillet choice.

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One year ago: Salted Herbed Roast Turkey
Two years ago: Green Chile Mayonnaise
Three years ago: Wheat Berries with Caramelized Onions, Feta, and Lentils
Four years ago: Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake

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Cornmeal Molasses Pancakes (adapted from recipezaar via Joy the Baker)

Serves 2

If you don’t keep buttermilk around, my favorite substitution is a mixture of plain yogurt and milk; for this recipe, use ¾ cup milk and ½ cup yogurt. You can also use regular milk, adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to the wet ingredients.

1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup yellow or blue cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1¼ cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon dark molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for cooking the pancakes

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the egg until thoroughly combined, then add the buttermilk, molasses, vanilla, and oil. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk gently until the batter is mostly mixed but still contains small lumps. Let the batter rest while the pan heats, at least 5 minutes.

2. Heat a non-stick skillet or a griddle over medium heat. Add a few drops of oil and spread it over the bottom of the pan. Using a ¼ cup measure, pour the pancake batter onto the hot griddle. When the pancakes are golden brown, after about 2-3 minutes, flip to cook the other side another 2-3 minutes. Keep warm in oven heated to 200 degrees.

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