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

oatmeal breakfast bread

I finally admitted defeat this weekend. For the first time this year, I bought bread. I also bought pre-chopped vegetables, hummus, and pre-washed lettuce. Why do I force myself to do all these things from scratch? Preparing my snacks and lunches for the work week has been seriously cutting into my favorite Sunday activity (sitting outside with a margarita and a book, of course). The only things I’m still making from scratch are hard-boiled eggs and muffins for Dave.

I’m lucky that so far the quick bread chapter in the Tuesdays with Dorie cookbook has been seriously overlooked, so I can double task lunch prep and TWD. (The celebration cake chapter is DONE, which, for me, is cause for celebration.) It also helps that muffins are so easy and bake quickly.

These are a perfect example of why I can’t bring myself to buy muffins. These aren’t perfectly healthy, but they’re certainly better for you than anything storebought – not to mention how sweet and tender and soft they are as well. I’m definitely willing to sacrifice a bit of Sunday margarita time to make muffins like this.

Natalie chose this recipe, and she has it posted on her site. I used raisins for the dried fruit, but these were so perfectly spiced for fall that I wish I’d used dried apples instead.

One year ago: Applesauce Spice Bars
Two years ago: Granola Grabbers

banana peanut butter muffins

Conversely, I think I’d like bananas more if they weren’t so cheap, convenient, and healthy. It’s just that I eat so many bananas. For years, every weekday, a banana. I had to start mixing the bananas with other things to make them palatable. In the spring, strawberries make a wonderful accompaniment. And if I want something more filling, peanut butter works perfectly. Now I eat peanut butter with my banana everyday, and I’m hoping that it’s a tasty enough combination that I don’t get sick of it anytime soon.

If bananas are better with peanut butter, it stands to reason that banana bread is better with peanut butter too, right? Or banana muffins, as the case may be. And it turns out, yes, peanut butter is a wonderful addition, and so is oatmeal, to make banana muffins more fun and interesting. It’s just too bad that muffins don’t work as a healthy replacement to my normal daily banana.

One year ago: Farmer’s Market Salad with Spiced Goat Cheese Rounds
Two years ago: Tuscan-Style Couscous Salad

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Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Muffins (from Baking Bites via Annie’s Eats)

I used oil instead of applesauce, because I always have oil around and never have applesauce around.

1½ cups (7.2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons applesauce
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed banana (about 3 bananas)
6 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 cup low-fat buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the applesauce, brown sugar, eggs, banana, peanut butter and buttermilk until smooth. Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix just until incorporated and fully blended.

3. Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

basic pancakes

Every time I want to make pancakes, I have to look up my pumpkin pancake recipe and mentally subtract out the pumpkin and fall spices. It’s about time I made my basic pancake recipe more accessible.

The thing about pancakes is that there are a lot of less-than-perfect recipes. Trust me, I’ve tried a lot of them. I suppose what’s less-than-perfect for me might be perfect for someone else. Maybe. Because if a pancake is not too thin and not too thick, not too sweet and not too bland, plus not too hard to make and not too bad for you, what else could you want?

Did you want adaptability? You can have that too. Add fruit or nuts. Replace the sugar with honey. Replace half (maybe more!) of the flour with whole wheat pastry flour.

Did you want to use something other than buttermilk? I’m becoming a fan of actual buttermilk (or what passes for it in the grocery store today, which is not actually the “milk” leftover after churning cream into butter, but something more similar to yogurt – whatever, I like it). I love having it around. It lasts a while in the fridge and gives me an excuse to make pancakes, waffles, biscuits, coleslaw, cake. If you instead want to do the milk+lemon juice trick, only use ¾ cup of milk along with a tablespoon of lemon juice. If you’re using powdered buttermilk, only use 7 (liquid) ounces of water instead of the cup it recommends. If you have both plain yogurt and milk around, mixing the two together is my favorite buttermilk substitute.

You can top your pancakes with whatever you want too, which probably means syrup. But, consider something different – maybe jam and plain yogurt? It’s healthier, but more important, it tastes great, with a nice balance of sweet and tart, hot (if you heat the jam first) and cool. Or just use syrup. However you prefer your perfect pancakes is fine by me.

One year ago: Brioche
Two years ago: Salad with Herbed Baked Goat Cheese

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Basic Pancakes

Serves 2

There are all kinds of ways to play with this recipe – chunks of fruit or chocolate or nuts, spices, whole wheat pastry flour. The recipe is your oyster. You can even get away with using only 1 tablespoon of butter.

See the blog entry for notes on buttermilk substitutions.

1 cup (5 ounces) flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 cup buttermilk
vegetable oil for the pan

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the egg until thoroughly combined, then add the butter and buttermilk. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk gently until 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.

tender shortcakes

Dave and I ate dessert first this weekend, but not in the fun-loving, live life to its fullest, carefree kind of way. More in the ‘it’s too hot outside to grill dinner until the sun goes down’ kind of way. 110 degrees, people. I told you I live in the desert.

But whatever, I got to eat strawberry shortcake for dinner, so I’m not complaining. With a tender biscuit, sweet berries, and silky whipped cream, what is there to complain about? Especially since we have air conditioning. Otherwise I have a feeling I’d be doing a lot of complaining, shortcakes for dinner or not.

Cathy chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has it posted. I used cake flour for half of the flour and doubled the salt.

One year ago: Parisian Strawberry Tartlets
Two years ago: Strawberry Tart

I see a pattern here…

sweet cream biscuits

I was all set to make the tiniest portion of this recipe and serve little bitty biscuits with salad for dinner. And then Dorie mentioned ham sandwiches in the headnote and I started thinking about adding eggs and cheese to that and suddenly I was making extra dough to freeze. Breakfast sandwiches are on my Favorite Foods Ever List. (Let us not discuss how long that list is.)

There are all sorts of biscuits – flaky from cutting in butter, layered from multiple pastry turns, tender from stirring in cream – and I love them all. And they all make one mean breakfast sandwich.

Melissa, who chose these biscuits for Tuesdays with Dorie, has the recipe posted on her site. You might be able to tell from the photos that my tiny biscuits rose higher than my bigger biscuits. I mixed, cut, and rolled the dough at the same time; the only difference is that the larger ones were baked straight from the freezer instead of right after the dough was made like the smaller ones. Also, I brushed the larger biscuits with an egg wash because I happened to have eggs available. It makes for a pretty biscuit, but they’re great either way.

One year ago: Chocolate Bread Pudding
Two years ago: Carrot Cake

brown soda bread

Epicurious reviewers get a lot of flack for their “I made 8 million changes to the recipe and hated it” habit, but in general, I find them completely awesome. Without their unequivocal positive reviews, I wouldn’t have chosen this recipe at all, or I at least would have modified it.

I started to have doubts about the recipe when I was measuring out the ingredients. It’s a quick bread with just two little tablespoons of fat, plus all sorts of whole grains. I was sorely tempted to add another couple tablespoons of butter, but I put my faith in the reviewers who loved the recipe. Honestly, if I hadn’t already eaten two green velvet cupcakes that day, I’m sure I would have doubled the butter.

But I resisted, and it was the right decision. Why am I always surprised when healthy food tastes good? Not only is half of the flour whole wheat, but the recipe includes some wheat bran, wheat germ, and oats for good measure, not to mention that barely there amount of butter.

Somehow, with only 2 tablespoons of butter and nearly 4 cups of flour, over half of it whole grain, this bread wasn’t dry, dense, bitter, or bland. It was the slightest bit sweet, sturdy but soft, perfect smeared with butter and jam or dipped in the cooking liquid from corned beef and cabbage. Who knew that a low fat, whole grain quick bread could be so great? Fortunately for me, I guess those epicurious reviewers did.

One year ago: Chicken Artichoke Pesto Calzones
Two years ago: Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Brown Soda Bread (adapted slightly from Bon Appetit via epicurious.com)

I toasted the wheat germ, wheat bran, and for good measure, the oats, in a small skillet over medium heat until they smelled nutty, which took just a couple of minutes.

1¾ cups (8.4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1¾ cups whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons toasted wheat bran
3 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (¼ stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups (about) buttermilk

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, bran, wheat germ, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles fine meal. Stir in enough buttermilk to form a soft dough. Knead the dough slightly to form a cohesive mass and transfer it to the prepared pan. Shape into a round, then, using a bread knife, cut two 1-inch-deep slashes into the dough, forming a cross.

3. Bake until the loaf is dark brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan to a cooling rack and let it cool about 30 minutes before serving.

masa pancakes with chipotle salsa and poached eggs

After buying four and a half pounds of masa harina for a recipe that used, oh, about a cup of it, I completely messed up the recipe I was making. While I learned quite a bit about the chemistry of cooking beans (hint: don’t add tomatoes at the beginning), I have a feeling I won’t be trying that recipe again. Yes, I know it would be much better if I tried that  following-the-directions idea, but the whole thing left me a bad taste in my mouth. Literally.

It also left me with about 4.45 pounds of masa harina. Fortunately, masa is seriously good stuff. It kind of reminds me of Dave’s jokes – intensely corny. Hey, speaking of intensely corny jokes! Anyway, my point is that it’s good, and I was hoping to find something easier than tamales to make with it. (Although I plan on making tamales as well.)

Fortunately, the internet exists, and epicurious had all sorts of fun masa recipes to choose from, like masa pancakes topped with homemade chipotle salsa, poached eggs, and fresh cheese. I thought the recipe had the potential to be complicated, but it’s really just pancakes, sauce, eggs, and some garnish.

The masa pancakes seemed more like pan-fried cornbread than pancakes, and if there’s anything that sounds better than masa pancakes, well, it’s pan-fried cornbread. No, it’s pan-fried cornbread topped with warm chipotle salsa, eggs, and cheese. Only, let’s see, about 4.40 pounds of masa left to use up! I better get to making more pancakes!

One year ago: Orange Berry Muffins
Two years ago: Rice Pudding

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Masa Pancakes Topped with Poached Eggs and Chipotle Ranchera Salsa (adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious.com)

Serves 6

The poached egg directions that I’ve included here are pretty much directly from the original recipe, and they are…shall we say, vague (or I might just call them crap if I wasn’t trying to be diplomatic). I would offer my own set of instructions for poaching eggs, but I have lost my egg-poaching mojo lately. Instead, I will direct you here. Or I would just fry the damn eggs using my foolproof method (add a bit of water to the skillet after the eggs start to set and cover the pan; no flipping and you can get away with using less oil!). I’m also curious to try cooking the salsa in a skillet and then poaching the eggs right in the finished salsa.

¾ cup masa harina (corn tortilla mix)
½ cup (2.4 ounces) all purpose flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons corn oil, plus more for cooking the pancakes
12 large eggs + vinegar + salt
Chipotle Ranchera Salsa (recipe follows)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup crumbled queso fresco or shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350°F. Spread masa harina on a heavy baking sheet and bake until fragrant and golden, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Cool completely. Place a baking sheet lined with a cooling rack in the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 200°F.

2. Whisk masa, flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Whisk the buttermilk, 2 eggs and 3 tablespoons oil in a medium bowl to blend. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk just until blended (the batter will be thick).

3. Lightly coat a griddle or 9-inch nonstick skillet with oil. Heat over medium heat. Working in batches, spoon scant ½ cup batter onto the griddle. Using a spoon, spread the batter to a make 4-inch-diameter pancake. Cook until the bottom is golden, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook until the second side is golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm. Repeat to make 6 pancakes total, brushing the griddle with oil as needed.

4. Meanwhile, bring a large skillet of salted vinegary water to a simmer. Working in batches, crack 12 eggs into the skillet. Simmer until the eggs are softly poached, about 3 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water; drain.

5. Divide the pancakes among plates. Top each pancake with salsa and 2 poached eggs and sprinkle with cilantro and cheese. Serve immediately.

Chipotle Ranchera Salsa (adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious.com)

2 tablespoons corn oil
1 onion, chopped course
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 chipotle chili in adobo, minced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat the oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeno and cook, stirring continuously, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the salt, and the chipotle. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer 15 minutes to blend the flavors, stirring occasionally.

2. Puree 1 cup of the salsa in a blender (or blend with an immersion blender). Return to the saucepan and stir in the cilantro. Adjust the salt if necessary. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm over medium heat.)

oatmeal pancakes

Dave gets a man magazine – not one with naked ladies, but one about fashion and supposedly culture and, I don’t know, other manly stuff. I know he’ll insist that I clarify that he doesn’t pay for it. Anyway, the last issue had an article about getting in shape in which the author claims that whole wheat gives guys man boobs. Instead, men should focus on grains like oats and quinoa.

Yes, it’s whole wheat that gives you man boobs, and not, you know, overeating. I suspect that eating too much quinoa without exercising would also result in man boobs.

But hey, if you’re concerned about your man boob potential, these pancakes are perfect for you, because they are almost completely oats, with just a small amount of flour. Of course, they have a stick of butter in them, but hey, the problem is whole wheat, right, not fat.

Plus I cut the amount of butter in half and the pancakes were still perfect. I also substituted whole grain pastry flour for half of the flour in the recipe, my new favorite trick with quick breads. I increased the milk a little to make up for the lost liquid from the butter.

I’m loving the result of soaking oats before mixing them into batter. Once the oats are softened, they blend better with the rest of the ingredients. I’m also really eager to try toasting the oats before mixing them with the liquid, because I love the flavor that toasting gives oats. I’ll have to try that next time, which might be soon, since I don’t want to give Dave man boobs by making him regular pancakes.

One year ago: Tofu Croutons
Two years ago: Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake

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Oatmeal Pancakes (adapted from Orangette, who adapted it from the Inn at Fordhook Farm in Doylestown, PA)

4 servings

I replaced ¼ cup of the flour with the equal amount of whole wheat pastry flour, a trick I’ve found very successful with pancakes and muffins.

2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups + ½ cup buttermilk
½ cup (2.4 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted but not hot
vegetable oil for the pan

1. Combine the oats and 2 cups of the buttermilk in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk the remaining ½ cup buttermilk, the eggs, and then the butter into the oat mixture. Fold the flour mixture into the batter.

3. Brush a large nonstick skillet or griddle with vegetable oil; heat over medium heat. Spoon scant ¼ cups of the batter onto the pan. Cook until the sides of the pancakes start to look dry and the bottom is golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Flip, then continue to cook until the second side is also golden brown, about 2 minutes. Repeat with the remaining pancakes, adjusting the heat if necessary. If you’d like, you can keep the pancakes in a 200 degree oven on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet until the whole batch is cooked.

oatmeal raisin muffins

I must be growing up. Since when do I like raisins? At least I still think green peppers are blech. If that ever changes, I know I’ll be ready to pick up my cane and trade in my real teeth for the kind you take out at night to clean. Oh, and buy one of those plastic bag things to wrap around my head when it rains.

Granted, Dave pointed out that these are particularly good raisins. Even so, these muffins are wonderful – soft and fluffy and tender, and the raisins add some tartness and the pecans a bit of crunch, and all together, kinda sorta perfect actually!

They’re not too bad for you – oats are whole grains, right? I replaced a third of the flour with whole wheat pastry flour, a great trick with muffins. Let’s forget about the butter, okay? You have to pay a small price for muffins this good.

It seems inconceivable, but could oatmeal raisin cookies be my next favorite thing? I did buy yellow peppers for the fajitas we’re making for dinner tonight, instead of the green peppers called for in the recipe, so I feel safe there. Still young! (And picky, apparently.)

Two years ago: Potstickers

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Oatmeal Raisin Muffins (adapted from Morning Food, by Margaret S. Fox and John B. Bear, via recipezaar)

Makes 12

I substituted ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour for an equal amount of white flour, and the muffins were still wonderful.

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup buttermilk
¾ cup (3.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
½ cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
2 eggs, beaten lightly
⅓ cup (2.35 ounces) packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter
½ cup raisins

1. Combine the oats and buttermilk and let stand 30 minutes. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400ºF. Spray the bottoms only of a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with paper liners. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

2. Spread the nuts evenly on a baking sheet. Bake, shaking the pan every couple of minutes, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a small bowl. (If you leave them on the hot pan, they’ll continue to cook and might burn.)

3. Add the eggs to the oatmeal mixture one at a time, whisking thoroughly after each addition. Whisk in the sugar, then the butter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the flour mixture. Once the flour is dispersed, but not completely moistened, gently stir in the raisins and nuts.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean, 13-18 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.