Blueberry Muffins

Blueberries and lemon. The flavor combination that should be up there with the popular kids. The peanut butter-jelly and strawberry-chocolate crowds. Somehow, though, blueberries and lemon don’t get the recognition they deserve and it’s just a shame. The tartness of the lemon and sweet burst of blueberry; oh it makes my heart sing. I hope it has the same effect on you, too.

These muffins are made up of a sour cream/mascarpone cake that is full of plump, delicious blueberries and then sprinkled with a fresh lemon sugar. It’s a perfect treat for a weekend brunch or tasty breakfast on the car ride to work while you daydream you are sitting in a quaint cafe reading the newspaper and discussing last night’s Glee episode with your fictional friend, Franz. You know- that old chestnut.

Whatever you are daydreaming about, add these blueberry muffins to your baking repertoire. You won’t be disappointed. :)

Blueberry Muffins

Yield: 18 muffins (recipe reported 12)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) sour cream (I substituted half mascarpone cheese because I didn’t have enough sour cream)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen or fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest (from 1 lemon)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and adjust a rack to the middle position. Grease 2 12-cup muffin tins and set aside.

2. Combine the lemon zest and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a second medium bowl, whisk the egg until pale yellow, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and whisk until thick and smooth, another 30 seconds. Slowly add in the butter in 2 additions, mixing well each time. Add in the sour cream in 2 additions and mix until just combined.

4. Place the berries in the flour mixture and gently toss until evenly coated. Carefully add the sour cream mixture to the flour mixture and fold until just-combined (don’t overmix- a few smears  of flour in the batter are okay).

5. Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, divide the batter evenly into the muffin tins. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the lemon sugar on top of the batter. Bake until muffins are lightly golden, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool about 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Source: Barely adapted from Baking Illustrated

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

I cherish the solitude of spring mornings. When I can overcome my bad habit of hitting the snooze button, I like to get up and go for a jog around our neighborhood. It gets light out very early this time of year and it’s so peaceful watching the sunrise, hearing the birds wake up, breathing in the smell of freshly-cut bright green grass, and dodging emo middle schoolers who emerge to wait for the bus to pick them up.

Lemon is a quintessential flavor of spring. Whether it’s in a sweet or savory dish, lemon adds a bright punch of flavor. I used up an old bag of lemons and made these lemon poppy seed muffins to bring into share with my coworkers. They were a big success and I came home without any leftovers.

This is a recipe from Dorie Greenspan, one of my newly-found favorite bakers. Everything of hers that I have tried has been great and I am definitely going to add her baking books to my collection.

If you’re looking for a great spring breakfast treat, give these muffins a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Yield: 12 large muffins

Ingredients

2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 12 cup cupcake tin with paper liners. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, use your fingers to mix the sugar and lemon zest together until the zest is evenly distributed and the fragrance of lemon strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently stir until just mixed. Sprinkle in the poppy seeds and fold into the dough. Don’t over mix! Divide the batter evenly among the muffins cups.

4. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before removing each muffin from its mold.

5. To make the glaze, whisk together the lemon juice and powdered sugar in a small bowl until smooth. Place a cookie sheet under the cooling rack to collect excess glaze. Carefully drizzle the glaze over each muffin. Allow the glaze to harden slightly.

6. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.

Source: Kitchen Confit, originally from Dorie Greenspan

Cooking with Jess

It’s been awhile since my friend Jess and I have gotten together to cook. Jess and her husband, Greg, are getting ready to move into a new house and they are currently in the process of emptying out their kitchen. It just so happened that Jess had a frozen turkey in her freezer that she hasn’t had the chance to make, so she invited us over for sort of a spring-focused thanksgiving.

On the menu was turkey (of course), carrot soup, oven-roasted asparagus, sauteed sweet potatoes, rosemary and olive oil bread, chocolate stout cake, and a fresh strawberry tart. It was all very delicious, but my favorite dish was the carrot soup. Jess found it in a spring Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazine and it was surprisingly scrumptious and easy to make. With minimal ingredients, the soup is a perfect meal for spring. And it makes super leftovers. The recipe is below.

Thanks to Jessica for another great meal.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Fresh Cream of Carrot Soup
Yield: 6-8 side servings
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream
  • Salt and ground pepper

Directions

  1. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender (about 8 minutes).
  2. Add flour and cook, stirring for about a minute.
  3. Add broth and 1 cup water and bring to a boil over high, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add carrots and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes or until carrots are very tender.
  5. Using an immersion blender, puree until the soup is a uniform and smooth texture. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can transfer the soup to a blender in smaller batches and blend until smooth.
  6. Add milk or cream and heat over medium until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper.

Source: Barely adapted from Martha Stewart

Yellow Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

Baking makes me so happy. I sometimes daydream of what it would be like if I could throw caution to the wind, travel the world, learn how to bake from the most talented bakers on the planet, and turn baking into a career. But then I drift back to reality and make peace with the fact that I am where I am supposed to be.

Hobbies are hobbies because they are a mental vacation from the everyday stress of life. I heard a segment on NPR a few months ago about people who turned their favorite pastimes into a career. Unfortunately, the theme of the story seemed to be that when a hobby turns into work, it…well… becomes work. The enjoyment of it often lessens. I would be so sad if I could not longer take comfort in the fact that, even after the most draining days, my battle-tested Kitchen Aid is always waiting for me on our kitchen counter, with no consequences or strings attached.

When I bake, things don’t always turn out as I’d hoped or imagined. But the satisfaction from creating something from scratch with my own hands is worth every second of time I spend. I bake for myself, I bake to show my love for family and friends, and I bake because it’s just plain fun. And that’s what a hobby should always be about. :)

Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups milk

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3-3.5 cups powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee

Directions

For the cupcakes:

Preheat the oven to 35o degrees. Line two standard muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add in the eggs, one at a time until well incorporated. Add in the vanilla. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure proper mixing.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. With the mixer on low, alternately add in the flour and milk. Mix just until combined.

Scoop the batter into the cupcake tins evenly (I prefer to use a 2 inch ice cream scoop).

Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a cooling rack.

For the frosting:

Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment. Whip the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add in the vanilla and mix well.

Gradually add in the cocoa powder and powdered sugar until combined. The mixture will be dry. Add in the milk and coffee. Mix well until smooth and shiny.

Pipe the frosting on cooled cupcakes (I used a 1M Wilton tip).

Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days or freeze for 2 weeks.

Source: Cupcakes- Martha Stewart, Frosting- Lolly’s Sweet & Savory Treats