Friday, November 30, 2012

foodie pen pals

it is reveal day for the foodie pen pals!  my box came to me from geneva, a california participant.  she sent me a wonderful mix of treats, homemade goodies and fresh fruit!  along with the box came a beautiful handmade card and a recipe from geneva's grandmother.

look at all of those goodies!  kiwis and pomegranates too!

cookies, sweets and chocolates galore!

homemade kahlua and almond bark

chili-lemon flavored dried mango slices and a rub for grilling. 

the flower details were hand tatted by an elderly woman 

the recipe was for an upside down cake.  it called for pineapples but i had an abundance of pears and apples and used them instead.

all ready to go for my garden meeting-my lucky co-workers at the demo garden were treated to quite the spread!

the cake was wonderful and it got it's lovely yellow color from the cornflour that geneva also sent to me!  thank you geneva for such a thoughtful box of goodies.

to see what i sent my partner, check out my partner, janna's blog.  to see what the other participants sent or to join in the fun, be sure to check out lindsay's blog, the lean green bean

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

best ever brownies; tuesdays with dorie

once again, it's tuesday so that means it is time to bake with julia.  this week's adventure is brought to you by monica of a beautiful mess.   if you read the title of this post, then you know we made the "best ever brownies."  that is one opinion, just not mine.

first off, i did not care for the way the instructions were written.  it is always a challenge when a recipe is split onto more than one page but if those to pages do not face each other, it is even harder to prevent confusion or mishaps.  the instructions called for splitting the eggs and sugar, whipping some and incorporating the others and then finally, incorporating the whipped eggs into the batter.  that paragraph was written in such a way that i had to read it multiple times.  it would have flowed better if the exact  amounts of eggs and sugar  for each addition in that step were listed as they were to be added rather than just instructing you to add "half" of them.

while the baking times seemed to present more issues for many of the other bakers, i did not have any problems and they baked within the suggested time frame.  the results were more like a flourless chocolate cake and i really didn't enjoy them.  honestly, i like brownies but i like mine to have more than just a fudge like texture; i like them a little cakey and these were no where near that.

be sure to visit monica's page for the recipe but an even better idea would be to buy the book.  be sure to visit the tuesdays with dorie page to find the links of all the participants.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

buttermilk crumb muffins

what a week it has been!  hopefully, everyone is recovering from the monster storm that ate the jersey shore.  for those of you affected by the flooding-i feel your pain.  it has been 2 years since the big nashville flood of may 2010 but the memory is still with us.  the power of water is like none other.

since i live in nashville and was not affected by the storm, i was not only able to bake the muffins but also serve as hostess with the mostest this week's tuesdays with dorie/baking with julia challenge.  how about a big happy birthday to me?  yup, it's my birthday, but there will be no crying at this party, just muffins!

as hostess, it is my job to post the complete recipe.  for those of you with the book, it can be found on page 207.  for those of you without the book, let me suggest that you buy a copy; it is worthy of the space on your bookshelf!

special note to vegan bakers; the recipe can easily be converted to yield vegan muffins.  scroll through the recipe to the bottom of the post to see a photo and the conversion notes.

buttermilk crumb muffins
from the book, baking with julia, by dorie greenspan
published by william morrow
makes 14-16 muffins

a few notes before we begin.  first of all, i do not like to use hydrogenated shortening, it adds no flavor and isn't a good idea for someone with high cholesterol, like me.  that said, i used virgin coconut oil in place of the shortening.  not only is it non-hydrogenated, it adds wonderful flavor to the muffins.  second, i do this sort of thing for a living and have a hard time adapting to typical home kitchen methods.  what that means is that i use portion scoops whenever i make muffins or cookies.  for this recipe, i used a #16 (blue handled) scoop.  in my fancy ikea muffin pan, this made them mushroom out a bit.  since the yield is more than 12, i baked the rest in a little heart muffin pan.  if you do this, do not put more than a flat #16 scoop in each heart or you will lose the heart shape like mine did.  the last note, my muffins baked up quickly-25 minutes and they were done.

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup solid vegetable shortening
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, well beaten

position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.  Spray or grease two 12-cup muffin tins, or if you have them, use a 12-cup and a 6-cup tin.

mixing the batter and topping

put the flour and brown sugar into a large bowl and stir with your fingers or a fork to mix well.  break the shortening into a few pieces, drop them into the flour mixture, and, using your fingertips, lightly rip the shortening and flour together.  when the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs, you've mixed enough-don't worry about any little lumps.  measure out 1/2 cup of the mixture and set it aside to use later as the crumb topping.

add the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt to the flour mixture and stir with a fork to mix well.  add the buttermilk and beaten eggs and, using a large spoon, mix until the ingredients are well blended and the batter is thick and shiny.

spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling each cup at least two-thirds full.  sprinkle the top of each muffin with a rounded teaspoon of the reserved crumb mixture and pat it gently onto the batter.  half-fill any empty muffin molds with water-this will help the muffins bake evenly.

baking the muffins
bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  serve warm.

the muffins are best the day they are made, but will keep in a plastic bag or closed container for a day; reheat for 5 to 8 minutes in a 350F oven.
contributing baker, marion cunningham

vegan muffins with cocoa nibs
to make a vegan version of the muffins, use the following substitutions:
1.  for the 2/3 cup shortening, use virgin coconut oil not only for the fact that it is a much healthier plant fat that is not hydrogenated but also because it is full of flavor and will give the muffins a nice coconut aroma.
2.  for the 2 eggs i used ener-g brand egg replacer according to the recipe on the box which is 2 ounces warm water and 1 tablespoon of the mix.
3.  for the 1 cup buttermilk, i used 1 cup of unsweetened, plain soy milk.  this is an acceptable substitution but it would be a good idea to reduce the amount by a tablespoon or two since it is thinner than buttermilk; the higher moisture content makes a thinner batter and moister muffins that sink slightly in the center.
4.  i added 3 tablespoons cocoa nibs but you can add nuts or other crunchy items, but i would avoid fresh fruit unless you reduce the milk as suggested.
5.  using the blue handled #16 scoop and paper muffin cups yielded 18 muffins that baked off in 20-23 minutes.

be sure to check the tuesdays with dorie page to view the links to all of the participants.  thanks for the party!  now to have cake and watch the election results!!!