citrus sunshine currant muffins

There’s something about spring, and I don’t know what it is. I didn’t even think we’d get it here in the desert. Is it a smell? Is it the mourning doves? I do love their call. Maybe it’s the angle of the light, as our northern hemisphere leans more and more toward the sun.

Whatever it is, spring is in the air. Spring in southern New Mexico means eighty degree days and crossing your fingers it isn’t too windy out to enjoy the sun. Early spring where you are might mean you’re seeing some patches of ground through the snow. Either way, these bright citrusy muffins are the perfect complement to that spring feeling.

Lauryn chose these muffins for Tuesdays with Dorie and has the recipe posted. I increased the salt to ½ teaspoon and substituted the quarter cup of orange juice that I was short with a mixture of lemon juice and water.

One year ago: Soft Chocolate and Berry Tart
Two years ago: French Yogurt Cake

 

toasted almond scones

My parents are visiting this weekend (Hi Mom!), so of course I want to figure out the perfect menu that will taste amazing, fit everyone’s food preferences, reflect how I like to cook, and magically prepare itself while we’re out doing touristy things. Wish me luck!

My dinner plans are coming together, but I’ve been stumped at breakfast. Until I remembered that I have almond scones the freezer. Perfect! My mom loves scones and has been eating a lot of almonds lately. I’m sure my dad would rather have bacon (or sausage or ham or really any form of meat) and eggs, but when is it ever about the dad when your parents visit?

I believe my mom started really enjoying scones while she was visiting New Zealand several years ago. Unlike my retired world-traveling parents, I have never been to New Zealand, but I’m guessing the scones there are less sweet than we usually make them here in the US. If that’s the case, my mom will especially love these lightly sweetened biscuits. For eating plain, I might add a bit more sugar next time, but with a generous smear of jam, these were perfect.

Mike chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and he has the recipe posted (as a link to the pdf; don’t miss it!). I doubled the salt.

One year ago: Honey Wheat Cookies
Two years ago: Caramel Crunch Bars

great grains muffins

These muffins tasted wonderfully buttery, which was not what I was expecting based on the recipe’s title. There is some whole wheat flour, oatmeal, and cornmeal in there, and based on the nutritious aspects of those whole grains, I considered reducing the butter to make a muffin that was actually on the healthful side.

I’m glad I didn’t. Healthy is good too, but sometimes, you just want a muffin that’s light, fluffy, slightly crisp at the edges, studded with tart dried currants, and best of all – buttery.

Christine chose these for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. I doubled the salt and added currants instead of prunes.

One year ago: The Infamous Lobster Cake
Two years ago: World Peace Cookies

lemon poppy seed muffins

In winter, when berries and melons aren’t even on the horizon and you’ve had all you can take of apples and pears, it’s all about citrus. What’s more, the bright flavors and colors of citrus mimic the sunshine we’re missing.

Well, the sunshine you’re missing. Here in southern New Mexico, it was 80 degrees yesterday, and I used some of that winter citrus for something quintessentially summery – a margarita.

But the occasional warm day in January doesn’t mean we have fresh-picked strawberries and peaches for sale, so lemons are still a good bet for muffins, not to mention that it’s one of my favorite flavors. Combined with the crunch of poppy seeds, these little treats will be perfect any time of the year – but maybe not as an accompaniment to that margarita.

Betsy chose this for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. I doubled the salt (as usual).  I also skipped the glaze (because frosting on muffins = cupcakes).  Instead, I brought a mixture of lemon juice and granulated sugar to a simmer, then brushed that on the warm muffins.

One year ago: Chocolate Oatmeal Almost Candy Bars
Two years ago: Berry Surprise Cake

pumpkin cinnamon rolls

The problem with the internet is that you don’t get to believe, even for a minute, that you were the first to come up with an idea. First there was sushi bowls, most recently it was eggnog martinis, and last month there were pumpkin cinnamon rolls. I thought I was a genius. Pumpkin and cinnamon! A classic combination! I could just take pumpkin bread dough, roll it out, spike the cinnamon filling mixture with cloves and nutmeg, and top it with a cream cheese glaze. It’s the perfect combination of pumpkin and accents! I deserve accolades! Awards! At the very least, lots of blog hits!

Oops, never mind. Many many people have done this before. Still. I’m convinced that my pumpkin cinnamon rolls are better than theirs. It’s all about balance – cinnamon rolls should be decadent treat worth the splurge, but you might as well save the calorie-dense ingredients for where they’re going to make the most impact.

I’m convinced that a super rich dough for cinnamon rolls isn’t worth the calories. Once the dough is filled with a sugary spiced filling and topped with a creamy glaze, extra fat in the dough just gets lost. If you don’t notice it, why bother with it? On that same note, I used oil in the dough instead of butter. You can use butter if you prefer, but again – the taste of butter will be overpowered by the filling and glaze, but the added tenderness of oil compared to butter will not go unnoticed.

Pumpkin, cinnamon, cream cheese, and sugar – for breakfast! The dough part is light, soft, and orange; the filling is sweet and spice and everything nice; and the glaze, well, it has cream cheese. I told you I was a genius.

One year ago: Twice-Baked Potatoes
Two years ago: White Chocolate Lemon Truffles, Pumpkin Seed Brittle, Vanilla Bean Caramels

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

You can chill the rolls after they’re shaped, rolled, and cut, but before rising. They’ll still need several hours in the morning to finish rising, bake, and cool, although you can speed the rising along by giving them a very warm place to get started.

A riskier method to get cinnamon rolls at a reasonable breakfast hour is to adjust the amount of yeast. I used ½ teaspoon yeast instead of 2 teaspoons. Your first rise will take several hours. Then you can roll, cut, and chill the dough (or freeze it and defrost in the refrigerator). Take the prepared, chilled rolls out of the fridge before you go to bed and they should be perfectly risen and ready to bake when you wake up.

Dough:
4-4 ½ cups (20 to 21¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
⅓ cup (2.33 ounces) sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

Filling:
¾ cup packed (5¼ ounces) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (or a mixture of mostly cinnamon with some cloves, nutmeg, and ginger)
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter

Glaze:
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners sugar, sifted to remove lumps
1 ounce cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk

1. Stand mixer: Mix the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. In a large measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs; whisk in the pumpkin and oil. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the liquid ingredients. Continue mixing on medium-low until the dough is elastic and supple, about 8 minutes. You may need to add a little more flour or water to get the correct consistency – soft but not sticky.

By hand: Mix the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. In a large measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs; whisk in the pumpkin and oil. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid ingredients. Stir the mixture until the dough comes together. Transfer it to a floured board or countertop and knead, incorporating as little flour as possible, for about 10 minutes, until the dough is elastic and supple. You may need to add a little more flour or water to get the correct consistency – soft but not sticky.

2. Mix together the filling ingredients in a small bowl. Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.

3. After the dough has doubled in bulk, press it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, shape the dough into a 16 by 12-inch rectangle, with a long side facing you. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border at the far edges. Roll the dough, beginning with the long edge closest to you and using both hands to pinch the dough with your fingertips as you roll. Using unflavored dental floss or a serrated knife, cut the roll into 12 equal pieces and place the rolls cut-side up in the prepared baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, 1½ to 2 hours.

4. When the rolls are almost fully risen, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of one reads 185 to 188 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the glaze ingredients together until smooth. Glaze the rolls and serve.

cardamom crumb cake

If you top cake with buttery sugary crumbs instead of buttery sugary frosting, suddenly it’s breakfast! Not that I’m complaining, mind you. And not that crumbs on top will stop me from eating it for dessert as well as breakfast.

It’s called cardamom cake, but cardamom isn’t the only important flavor. Orange zest in both the crumb and cake compete with coffee, and the orange wins but isn’t too strong. I suppose I wouldn’t have been opposed to more spice or even more bitter coffee, but the cake seemed pretty perfect just how it was. And really, what could be better than cake for breakfast?

Jill chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has it posted. I doubled the salt.  (As well as baked it in heart-shaped muffin cups, obviously. The whole recipe makes 12 muffins. Bake at 400 degrees for about 18 minutes.)

One year ago: Cafe Volcano Cookies
Two years ago: Butterscotch Pudding

bacon egg toast cups

I came face to face with my pickiness last weekend. I’ve been buying eggs from a coworker of Dave’s, which is great because I can finally feel confident that the chickens that hatched my eggs weren’t grossly mistreated, for far cheaper than the supposedly cage-free eggs at the grocery store. When he had duck eggs to sell, I figured it would be a fun new thing to try. Plus, I knew I was making these bacon-egg-toast cups soon, and I mistakingly believed that duck eggs were smaller than chicken eggs, so they would fit perfectly into the muffin cups with all the other goodies.

Not only are duck eggs usually larger, not smaller, than chicken eggs, but they’re different in other ways. For one, the shells are thicker, so it takes a bit of hammering the egg on the counter to break through it. The whites are whiter. Have you ever noticed that the white of a chicken egg is actually kind of yellow? Not so a duck egg.

Also, the white is extremely stretchy; it really never breaks. That means that if you crack an egg into a small bowl and then move it to your muffin cup, bits of white will stick to the bowl and stretch across the counter, and basically your whole kitchen will be coated in egg white by the time you’re done.

But once you’re eating – who cares? Who cares what color the white was when you broke the egg? Who cares if it was extra super freakily stretchy? Once the eggs were cooked, I wouldn’t have known I was eating duck eggs if I hadn’t cracked them open myself. Because I did know, I noticed that the white was firmer. But who cares?

I tried not to, but I have two more duck eggs left, and yet I hard-boiled chicken eggs to bring to work this week. It’s so stupid, because there’s nothing worse about duck eggs compared to chicken eggs; they’re just different. If I was used to duck eggs and someone gave me chicken eggs, I’d think the white was too watery and yellow. The lesson here is one I think we all need reminded of occasionally: Pickiness is all in your head. Still, I’m not sure I’ll be buying duck eggs again anytime soon.

One year ago: Croissants, Pumpkin Biscotti, African Pineapple Peanut Stew, Apple Tart, Vegatarian LasagnaCarne Adovada
Two years ago: Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake, Pumpkin Ravioli, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffed Sandwich Rolls, Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms

Bacon-Egg-Toast Cups (adapted from The Noshery via Annie’s Eats)

I was making these for kids because I thought they’d have a good time with it, but instead they were all, “um, there’s egg on my toast; that’s where I put my jelly.” And then they ate nearly as much as the adults did.

I skipped the cheese and added green chile. Because I live in New Mexico, and that is what we do.

I realized after the fact that I arranged my toast a little differently than the original recipe, by lining just the bottom of the muffin cup with toast instead of the sides as well. I liked my way, so I’ll provide that in the recipe.

Serves 6

6 slices of bread
12 slices of bacon (about 1 pound)
12 eggs
½ cup of shredded cheese (or other flavoring)
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray.

2. Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange the bacon in the skillet in a single layer and cooked until its fat is mostly rendered but it’s still pliable, 4-5 minutes.

3. Using a cookie cutter, cut two 2-inch circles out of each slice of bread. Place a bread circle in the bottom of each muffin cup. Wrap a slice of bacon around the edge of each muffin cup; sprinkle cheese or other flavorings onto the bread in the space lined by the bacon. One by one, crack the eggs into a small bowl and transfer the yolk and some of the white on top of the cheese. (Unless you’re using small eggs, using all of the white will cause the eggs to overflow the muffin cups.) Season with salt and pepper.

4. Bake until the egg white is set, 8 – 10 minutes (longer if you like your yolks firm). Using a thin knife or offset spatula, remove the bacon-toast-egg cups from the pan. Serve warm.

coffee break muffins

I wasn’t in the mood for these the day I made them. What I was in the mood for was the Chocolate Chunk Muffins a couple pages later. If you’ve flipped through Dorie’s book, you must have seen the ones I’m talking about – dark, rich muffins studded with big chunks of bittersweet chocolate. They’re not breakfast, but I bet they’re delicious.

They are, however, not this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. This week’s recipe is espresso muffins. But I got to thinking about how coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate and wondered if the reverse were true. Could I add just a bit of chocolate to give these another flavor dimension?

I replaced a quarter of the flour with cocoa powder, and, to just a few of the muffins, stirred in some chopped semisweet chocolate. And I was surprised that these ended up tasting just how I’d imagined the double chocolate muffins I’d been craving in the first place. The espresso flavor was timid, hiding behind the dominant chocolate. More chocolate flavor isn’t going to get any arguments from me, but now I’m curious about how the non-chocolate, pure espresso version would be. Next time I’ll have to try harder to resist my urge to eat chocolate for breakfast.

Rhiani chose these muffins, and she has the recipe posted. I replaced ½ cup of the flour with cocoa and added a few chocolate chips.

One year ago: Flaky Apple Turnovers
Two years ago: Dimply Plum Cake

rhubarb crumb coffee cake

Did you know rhubarb has a second harvest in the late summer? It was news to me, but very happy news, as I’d missed the early spring crop in the busyness of starting a new job. Every time I saw rhubarb at the store, I thought, Next time. Next week. Next week I’ll have more time, more opportunities for baking, a rhubarb recipe I just can’t resist.

You know how this story ends. Finally, I said, Enough! I’ll make scones! I’ll shape the dough and freeze the scones to eat whenever the mood strikes! And then there was no rhubarb.

Taking pity on me, my friend in Tacoma sent me a jar of homemade strawberry rhubarb jam. And then another, bigger jar of strawberry rhubarb jam when the first didn’t last through a week. And then, finally, the perfect birthday present for someone like me: rhubarb from her garden.

After the freezer was stocked with scones, I still wanted rhubarb for breakfast. And I always want cake. Especially this one, with its fluffy and soft cake studded with sweet-tart rhubarb and topped with a layer of sugary crisp crumbs. I’m so grateful for that second harvest of rhubarb – and to friends who send me produce as gifts!

One year ago: Amaretto Cheesecake
Two years ago: Fruit Bruschetta

Printer Friendly Recipe
Rhubarb Crumb Cake (from Smitten Kitchen via the New York Times)

Serves 6-8

For the rhubarb filling:
8 ounces rhubarb, trimmed
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon ground ginger

For the crumbs:
⅓ cup (2.33 ounces) dark brown sugar
⅓ cup (2.33 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
1¾ cups cake flour

For the cake:
⅓ cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
½ cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. For filling, slice rhubarb ½-inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.

2. To make crumbs in a large bowl, whisk sugars, spices and salt into melted butter until smooth. Stir in flour with a spatula or wooden spoon. It will look and feel like a solid dough. Leave it pressed together in the bottom of the bowl and refrigerate.

3. To prepare the cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and a spoonful of the sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until the flour is moistened. Increase the speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add the remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about ½ cup batter and set aside.

4. Scrape remaining batter into the prepared pan. Spread the rhubarb over batter. Dollop reserved batter over rhubarb; it does not have to be even.

5. Using your fingers, break the topping mixture into big crumbs, about ½-inch to ¾-inch in size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from rhubarb), 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

whole wheat bagels

It’s possible that bagels are my favorite food. Yes, more so than tomato soup, than macaroni and cheese, even more so than chocolate chip cookie dough! And so I eat one almost everyday. It’s basically my lunch break and it’s a happy little time for me with my bagel, my black tea, and my Google Reader.

But here’s the thing – if I’m going to be eating a bagel every single day, I better make sure it’s healthy. For years, I made bagels with half white and half whole wheat flour, and I felt like that was a nice compromise between delicious and nutritious. Bagels with no white flour would be like hockey pucks, right? And they would taste like whole wheat. The horror!

I know I’m becoming a broken record, but the answer, of course, is in Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads. All it takes is a little overnight soak, and those whole grains act like refined white flour – they taste sweeter, form supple doughs, and bake into tender, light breads.

Not that it was smooth-sailing from the beginning with this bagel recipe. The problem I was having with this is that it’s too simple. Most bagel recipes need an overnight retardation in the refrigerator before they can be boiled and baked. This recipe doesn’t require that, and in fact, doesn’t need much time for a second rise at all. I’ve had the hardest time getting this through my stubborn head, and so over and over, I was making over-risen, sunken, ugly bagels.

A year after I started using this recipe, I think I’ve finally nailed it. You know what I did? I followed the recipe closer. My happy little bagel break just got a little happier.

One year ago: Pasta with No-Cook Tomato Sauce and Fresh Mozzarella
Two years ago: Country Egg Scramble

Printer Friendly Recipe
Whole Wheat Bagels (adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads)

Makes 8 large bagels or 12 small bagels

There are a few shortcuts in this compared to Reinhart’s original recipe. I make it every couple of weeks, so the faster I can get it done, the better!

I’ve played with the timing of this recipe quite a bit. The original results in fresh bagels 5-6 hours after you start (the second day). But I usually want them in the morning. You can refrigerate the dough in two places – either after the bagels are formed (in which case you should decrease the yeast slightly to prevent the bagels from over-rising) or right after kneading. The last time I refrigerated it after kneading, it rose overnight in the fridge, and in the morning, I immediately shaped the bagels and boiled them shortly afterward.

Pre-dough 1:
8 ounces whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
6 ounces (¾ cup) water

Pre-dough 2:
2 tablespoons barley malt syrup
5 ounces water
8 ounces whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt

Final dough:
both pre-doughs
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons yeast
¾ teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons flour, plus more if necessary
1 tablespoon baking soda (for boiling)

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix all of the ingredients in Pre-dough 1 on medium-low speed until combined. Set aside for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a 1-cup measuring cup, stir together the barley malt syrup and the 5 ounces of water in Pre-dough 2. Set aside, stirring occasionally, until the barley malt syrup dissolves into the water. Return to Pre-dough 1 and knead on low speed for 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. Refrigerate overnight. Add the flour and salt for Pre-dough 2 to the empty mixer bowl; with the mixer on low speed, pour in the water-syrup mixture. Mix on medium-low just until combined. Cover the mixer bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set aside at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight.

2. The following day, transfer the refrigerated Pre-dough 1 to room temperature for a couple hours to warm slightly. When you’re ready to make the final dough, stir together the 1 tablespoon water and the yeast. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix both pre-doughs, the water and yeast, and the salt on low speed until combined. While the mixer is running, add in the flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it’s fully absorbed by the dough. Knead on low speed for 5-6 minutes, adding more flour or water if necessary to form a smooth, firm dough. It shouldn’t be sticky.

3. Let the dough rise at room temperature until it increases to about 1½ times its original size, 1-2 hours.

4. Divide the dough into 8-12 pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball, then roll each piece into a rope about ¾-inch thick (slightly thicker for larger bagels). Bring the ends of the rope together and gently roll them on a flat surface to seal. Set aside for about 20 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500 degrees, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat, and bring at least three inches of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon baking soda, reduce the heat to medium-high and gently drop 2-4 bagels (as many as will fit without crowding) into the water. Boil for 1 minute, flipping the bagels halfway through.

6. Place the boiled bagels on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer the sheet to the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees, and bake until the bagels are browned and feel hard, 13 minutes for small bagels and slightly longer for larger bagels. (The bagels will soften as they cool.) Cool completely before serving. (I can only fit one baking sheet, holding half a batch of bagels, in my oven at once, so I refrigerate the remaining unboiled bagels until the first pan is almost done baking, then boil and bake them.)