peanut butter and jelly muffins

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I used to make a recipe similar to this – but without the peanut butter – and I loved it. Something about a dollop of jam baked inside of a muffin tastes so much better than a spoonful of jam spread over it once it’s baked. My old recipe also had a warm overtone of nutmeg I enjoyed.

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The only thing that wasn’t perfect about it was that it seemed too cakey, too dessert-like. These days, I like a heartier muffin. I also like to squeeze protein in wherever I can, and besides, everyone knows that peanut butter is a perfect partner for jelly.

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These peanut butter muffins are mixed a little differently than a standard muffin, in that the peanut butter is cut into the dry ingredients before the remaining liquids are added. Maybe this contributed to how light and soft the muffins were once baked, or maybe it was just the fat content of the peanut butter. Either way, with a good proportion of whole wheat flour and a layer of fruity jam in the middle, these are even better than my old favorite.

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One year ago: Lemon Curd Tart
Two years ago: Puff Pastry Dough
Three years ago: Pain a l’Ancienne

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Peanut Butter Jelly Muffins (adapted from Real Simple and Jeanne Lemlin’s Vegetarian Classics)

I used half whole wheat pastry flour.

Update 5/5/2014 : I made these again and think they needed more sugar, so I’ve doubled it from the original ¼ cup.

1 cup whole milk
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups (9.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Pinch nutmeg
⅓ cup (3 ounces) peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
About ¼ cup jam

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 large measuring cup, whisk together the milk, egg, butter, and vanilla.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer), combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Add the peanut butter; mix until evenly combined. Turn the mixer off, add all of the milk mixture at once, and mix on low speed just until combined (small lumps are fine).

3. Place one heaping tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup. Spoon about a teaspoon of jam over the batter in the cups. Divide the remaining batter evenly between the cups.

4. Bake until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean, 15-20 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool slightly, about 5 minutes, then use a thin-bladed knife to remove the muffins from the pan.

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coconut scones

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The first half of this year was downright lazy for me. Of course I went to work, exercised, did laundry, cooked, and kept my house from turning into a cesspool, but I managed to do all that while spending the majority of the weekend, every weekend, outside in the backyard reading books and drinking margaritas. I love reading books and drinking margaritas, but I admit that I was starting to get the slightest bit bored.

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And just in time, because the pace is picking up. The second half of the year is packed with vacations, from a weekend in Colorado over 4th of July, a week on the beach later in the summer, Italy in the fall, Thanksgiving with Dave’s family, and then finally Christmas. It’s getting busy, and I’m still adjusting.

That’s my excuse for not being on top of things and making these scones for breakfast a few weekends ago, since we spent this weekend in Albuquerque. On the other hand, I knew I wouldn’t be able to find chestnut flour in my little town, but I was pretty convinced I could get it at Whole Foods in the “big” city. I was wrong; they didn’t have it.

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So no chestnut flour and no breakfast opportunities. Then I remembered that scones are really dessert disguised as breakfast, so there was no reason not to eat them after dinner. And while grinding almonds would have been a better substitute for chestnut flour than coconut flour was, I chose the easier option: coconut flour is already ground. I doubt coconut flour and chestnut flour result in a similar scone, but I can assure you that coconut flour, at least, makes a light scone with a texture somewhat reminiscent of a sable. One little scone made a nice dessert.

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Andrea had some chestnut flour in her kitchen that she bought a while ago, so she chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie. I simply substituted coconut flour for the chestnut flour in the original recipe. I also doubled the salt, added ¼ cup of unsweetened flaked coconut, and topped the scones with shredded sweetened coconut right before baking.

One year ago: Lots of Ways Banana Cake
Two years ago: Blancmanger
Three years ago: Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler

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peaches and cream scones

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Scones are just an excuse to eat dessert for breakfast. It’s a better disguised excuse then chocolate muffins, I will grant you, but in the end, equally bad for you. I think I might sound like I’m complaining. I’m not complaining.

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Cream scones are one of my favorite weekend morning accompaniments to coffee. The cream makes them so tender, and when they’re only lightly sweetened, like these, they’re perfect either topped with jam or baked with fresh fruit. A sweet biscuit, peaches, and cream – you can’t tell me that doesn’t sound like one heck of a dessert.

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Lynne chose the cream scones for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. I left out the currants and added one peach, peeled, chopped, and frozen, to the dough after the liquids were partially mixed in.

One year ago: Brrrownies
Two years ago: Brioche Plum Tart
Three years ago: Chocolate Pudding (comparison of 2 recipes)

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chocolate chocolate chunk muffins

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How is a muffin different from a cupcake? Let me count the ways.

1) Frosting: A cupcake without frosting is just wrong. Muffins, while sometimes glazed, are never served with a tall swirl of sugary icing. But cupcakes with a coating of soft glaze are beautiful as well.

2) Add-ins: Many muffins have some textural contrast, whether it’s chunks of fruit or bran or poppy seeds. Most cupcakes are smooth-textured; fruit is pureed, chocolate is melted. But what about pumpkin muffins? Or carrot cake?

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3) Mixing method and texture: The classic cake mixing method starts with sugar beaten into softened butter, which is smoothed with egg, then thickened with flour and leaveners. It results in an even-textured, fluffy cake. Muffins, by contrast, are usually made by whisking together the dry ingredients, separately whisking together the wet ingredients, and then folding the two together. The resultant texture is coarse with large air pockets. But not all cakes are mixed with the cake method, and not all muffins are mixed with the muffin method.

4) Course: Cupcakes are dessert. Muffins are breakfast.

So while, by this set of guidelines, these chocolate chocolate chunk muffins do seem to be muffins, they could certainly pass for dessert. Or, if you can’t get enough of their sweet, tender, moist crumb and rich bites of solid chocolate, enjoy them for both breakfast and dessert. I know I did.

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One year ago: Tarte Noire
Two years ago: Tribute to Katherine Hepburn Brownies
Three years ago: Blueberry Pie

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Chocolate-Chocolate Chunk Muffins (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours, for Tuesdays with Dorie)

Makes 12 muffins

Two ounces of chocolate chunks mixed into the dough is a restrained amount that reflects the breakfast intentions of these muffins. For more richness, feel free to increase that up to as much as 6 ounces. I mixed in some white chocolate as well.

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups (9.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
⅔ cup (4.67 ounces) sugar
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups buttermilk
1 large egg
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Melt the butter and half the chopped chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; or do this in a microwave. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients and the melted butter and chocolate over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough — a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin molds.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

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baked eggs in mushrooms with zucchini ragout

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When Cara asked me to guest post and offered the suggestion of focusing on a vacation that I’m excited about, I jumped at the chance to chatter to a new audience about my upcoming trip to Italy. Italy! Venice! The Cinque Terre! Tuscany! Rome! And then there’s the stuff that I’m really excited about – wine and espresso and cheese and pesto and bread and seafood. Also wine. Check out Cara’s blog to read about the Baked Eggs in Mushrooms with Zucchini Ragout I made, which involves no wine or espresso or pesto or bread or seafood. At least there’s cheese.

whole wheat almond bread

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I’m not always as practical as I should be. Once I get an idea in my  head, I stubbornly cling to it regardless of whether it makes good sense. For example, yesterday I gathered up my laptop, its mouse, a glass of water, and a bowl of farro and lentils and carried it about twenty feet. The mouse kept falling, the water was sloshing over the rim of the glass, and the bowl was sliding around, precariously balanced on top of the laptop. Why didn’t I just make two trips, which probably would have taken less time in the end?  It is a mystery.

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Why didn’t I bake at least one of the loaves of almond bread in a regular bread pan that I’m familiar with? Why did I insist on baking both loaves in closed pans even though I have no experience baking in covered pans and didn’t know how it would affect the baking time or how I would test for doneness?

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My mom found these pans during a mass cleaning of my grandmother’s kitchen, and although they were in their original packaging, there were no baking instructions with them. And the toothpick test doesn’t work when the center of your bread is five inches from the edge of the pan. The outside few inches of each loaf were perfectly baked, slightly sweet, and intensely nutty. The middle portions were doughy, slightly sweet, and intensely nutty. And that was the case for both loaves, because I just had to take a chance with the whole batch instead of taking the safe route with at least one of them. Typical.

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One year ago: Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Two years ago: Aligot (French Mashed Potatoes)
Three years ago: Poached Eggs with Arugula and Polenta Fingers

Printer Friendly Recipe
Whole Wheat Almond Bread (adapted from Joy the Baker)

Makes 2 small loaves

This is the baking time for a regular, uncovered bread pan. In a covered pan like I used, increase the baking time to 50-60 minutes and use a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the loaf to test for doneness.

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups (9.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sliced, toasted almonds, divided
4 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup honey
2 large eggs
1½ cups almond milk
¼ teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 8.5 by 4.5-inch bread pans with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and almonds. In a medium bowl, whisk together honey, eggs, milk and melted butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Fold until the batter is evenly mixed; small lumps of flour are okay.

3. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf comes out dry. Set the pans on a wire rack and cool 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge of the pans; invert onto the wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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chocolate hazelnut biscotti

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I went through a phase a couple years ago, when I was unemployed and had plenty of free time to bake, where I made a lot of biscotti for Dave. He doesn’t usually like to bring treats to work to share with coworkers, but he got in the habit of bringing a couple extra biscotti every day to give to his boss.

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His boss was impressed with the almond biscotti. Then a week later, I made the same recipe, substituting hazelnuts and dried cherries for the almonds. But I was experimenting with different methods for the second bake, and they didn’t get as crunchy.

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Dave’s boss said: “Too much egg, I think. Last week’s was better, almost perfect; this week’s needs work.”

Huh? Too much egg? He might be an expert in contaminant migration, but he doesn’t know squat about biscotti.

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I made these shortly after the batch with “too much egg.” Mindful of recent complaints about biscotti that was too soft in the middle, I erred on the crunchy side and left the biscotti in the oven, with the heat turned off and the door propped open, for half an hour after the recommended baking time.

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There were no complaints this time, although I did think they were a little crumbly and difficult to roll into logs (maybe they needed more egg?). Not only were the biscotti hard enough to dip into coffee, but the rich chocolate flavors were brought out by the dark espresso overtones. Jacque chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has it posted.

One year ago: Dressy Chocolate Cake
Two years ago: Honey Peach Ice Cream
Three years ago: Cappuccino Cream Puff Rings

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grapefruit honey yogurt scones

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Here’s what scones mean for me: Either I wake up on Saturday and immediately get out the butter, flour, and sugar so I can start mixing and making a big mess of the kitchen. Or, I wake up on Saturday and pilfer my time away on the internet, or, if I’m really smart, relaxing reading a book while scones go straight from the freezer to the oven. Either way, scones = Saturday = things that make me happy.

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I wasn’t completely sure that cooked grapefruit would make me happy, but it turns out that grapefruit pieces in the middle of a scone create a nice pocket of juiciness. The honey flavor, which is often overpowered, was distinct. The yogurt keeps the scones tender, along with the butter and careful mixing of course.  I’m generally already happy on Saturday mornings, but good scones certainly don’t hurt.

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One year ago: Eggs in Tomato Sauce
Two years ago: Anadama Bread
Three years ago: Baba Ghanoush, Falafel, and Hummus

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Grapefruit, Honey, and Yogurt Scones (adapted from Joy the Baker)

Makes 6 scones

I used nonfat Greek yogurt, and it worked fine.

This was my first time segmenting citrus. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Branny has detailed instructions in her blog.

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

½ cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
1 grapefruit, zested, then segmented and coarsely chopped
1½ cups (7.2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into ¼-inch cubes

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven; heat to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. In a measuring cup, combine the yogurt, honey, and vanilla. In a small bowl, rub the sugar and the grapefruit zest together until the sugar is moist and fragrant.

2. Place the flour, 2 tablespoons of the sugar mixture, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter; process in 1-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Pour the yogurt mixture over the flour mixture; pulse until the dough is crumbly. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and fold in the grapefruit pieces.

3. Turn the scone dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Form it into an 8 inch circle, about 1 inch thick. Use a knife or a bench scraper to cut the dough into six triangles. Place on the prepared baking sheet; top with the remaining grapefruit sugar.

4. Bake the scones for 15 to 17 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes before serving. These scones are best served the day they’re made.

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oatmeal nutmeg scones

For most of my life, I didn’t think much of nutmeg. It was just one member of the pumpkin pie consortium, of which only cinnamon could stand on its own, as far as I knew. The rest were generically fall-flavored. It wasn’t until I met Dave, professed nutmeg lover, that I started considering nutmeg as its own entity.

Now I think of nutmeg as warm, cozy, complex. (Or maybe the association I have between nutmeg and Dave has caused me to describe my husband instead of the seasoning?) Its spice adds richness to any dish, sweet or savory, and has become one of my favorite flavors.

Oatmeal reminds me of Dave too, as it was his staple breakfast – no sugar, no salt – when he lived alone. (It was bland, mushy, gross, but these aren’t words I associate with my husband.) I may not need complex, cozy scents to make me warm out here the desert, but I certainly won’t turn down a nutmeg oatmeal scone. You can bet Dave wouldn’t either.

Patricia chose these for Tuesdays for Dorie, and she will have the recipe posted. I didn’t make any changes.

One year ago: Strawberry Chocolate Ice Cream Pie
Two years ago: Chipster-Topped Brownies
Three years ago: Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

maple cornmeal biscuits

These are not Italian in any way. Dave and I booked a trip to Italy last week and thought we’d have an Italy day on Saturday, where we’d have espresso, eat Italian food, drink Italian wine, and plan out our adventure. Little of that happened. We ate maple cornmeal biscuits because I needed to make them for Tuesdays with Dorie.  At least we had them alongside frittata with swiss chard. We never got to the espresso, and it wasn’t until Sunday that we sat down to map out our vacation plans. The grilled lamb and asparagus we had for dinner could have been any cuisine, although the Barbera that accompanied dinner was wonderful.

I’m always jumping ahead to the wine. Let’s talk more about breakfast. Even though maple cornmeal biscuits are not Italian and we had them on (what was supposed to be) Italy day, they were very delicious – sweet and gritty. I suspect we’ll have many more Italy planning days between now and when we leave in September, and I just might start them all out with maple cornmeal biscuits, Italian or not.

Lindsay has the full recipe posted. I made no changes.

One year ago: Cherry-Cherry Bread Pudding
Two years ago: Fresh Mango Bread
Three years ago: Traditional Madeleines