June 17, 2013

Raspberry Chocolate Muffins

These are incredible muffins.

My husband was willing to give them a shot on Father's Day over his beloved chocolate chip pancakes. I'm so glad he did. Sally's Baking Addiction hits the mark with these large and delicious muffins.

They are worth the investment in fresh raspberries, especially when you can find them for $1.29 like I did.

Raspberry Chocolate Muffins
3 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup milk, room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups fresh raspberries
Vanilla sugar

Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease jumbo muffin pans.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Mix until all dry ingredients are combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and sugars until combined. Mix in milk, oil and vanilla.

Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients together by hand. Fold in the chocolate chips, and then  gently fold in the raspberries.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, filling completely to the top. Sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Bake at 425°F for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and bake another 25 minutes until tops are golden. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool 10 minutes prior to serving. Makes 7 to 8 large muffins.

Baked French Toast Muffins

One of my favorite things about weekends at home (lazier weekends) is the chance to try new breakfast recipes. I do try new ones during the week occasionally, but I want to share them fresh with my husband whose palate is slightly more sophisticated than our son's.

This weekend I made these muffins from Two Peas and Their Pod. Essentially, it's all that's good about baked french toast with the cuteness factor amped up by making them in jumbo cupcake tins. They take less than 5 minutes of preparation in the morning and only require about 10 minutes of work the previous night. They are delicious and would work well for a buffet for more of an individual serving of french toast.

Baked French Toast Muffins
12 cups of french bread, torn into 1/2-inch pieces
2 1/2 cups milk
6 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Cinnamon Streusel Topping
1/4 cup cold butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon.

Grease 10 jumbo muffin tin cups. Divide bread evenly among cups. Carefully pour egg and milk mixture evenly over each muffin tin. Press down on the bread cubes after pouring a little egg mixture, and then pour more to ensure thorough coating without overflow. Cover the muffins with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. To make the cinnamon streusel, in a small bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Mix together with your hands, until you have a crumbly mixture.

Remove the muffins from the refrigerator, and sprinkle the muffins evenly with the streusel topping. Bake for 30 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Let muffins cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pan, and serve with butter and maple syrup, if desired. Makes 10 muffins.

June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day! I am blessed to have a wonderful husband for years who transformed instantly into an amazing father the moment our first child was born. More often than not, his patience exceeds mine. (Granted, I'm sure I use a lot of my patience working on baking projects with the help of our 21-month-old son.)

Since he's definitely a burgers and fries kind of guy, I decided to use Bakerella's idea. (Go there for instructions since she details everything perfectly.) I had seen this last year but was a bit intimidated by the project. I was wrong to be intimidated. These are extremely easy to make. You can cheat as much as you want - - make the brownies, cupcakes and frosting from scratch, use box mixes or buy them from the store. Assembling the cupcakes takes maybe 30 minutes (with the help of a 21-month-old boy) tops, so it's very do-able. You don't need fancy piping tips, either.

So, you really have no excuse as to why you wouldn't whip these up for the amazing person in your life ... unless he's a diabetic. I'll accept that excuse.

June 10, 2013

Skillet Strawberry Shortcake Cobbler

I've become a fan of my cast-iron skillet in the past year or so. I love the versatility of the skillet (and believe it or not, I actually use it for savory dishes, too). This recipe from Recipe Girl caught my eye, especially since I just purchased a large amount of strawberries.

The cobbler of this has a definite cornmeal texture, which works perfectly in this dish. This is easy to make and just as easy to eat. Definitely a simple repeat recipe.

Skillet Strawberry Shortcake Cobbler
32 oz. strawberries, hulled and sliced
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 Tbsp. baking powder
6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Pinch salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
Whipped Topping
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. powdered sugar 

Combine strawberries, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Let sit 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Add butter and salt, and cut into flour mixture with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the butter is incorporated. Whisk egg and milk together in a small bowl. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture.

Scrape strawberries and juices into prepared skillet. Drop batter by the spoonful on top of strawberries.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the shortcake cobbler is golden brown. Remove pan from oven and let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Use a mixer to beat cream and confectioners' sugar until thickened. Spoon cobbler into serving dishes and top with sweetened whipped cream.

Crockpot Cheesesteak Pulled Chicken

I made a version of chicken cheesesteak sandwiches earlier, which we really enjoyed. These (again from How Sweet It Is) aren't quite as delicious in our opinion, but they do come together easily with the use of a crockpot and provide a fairly healthy meal to boot.

Crockpot Cheesesteak Pulled Chicken
2 green peppers, sliced
2 sweet onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
8 oz. beer
8 oz. cheddar cheese
whole grain buns, toasted

Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper and paprika.

In the bottom of your crockpot, layer peppers and onions. Add garlic evenly over top. Place chicken on top, and then pour in beer. Cover, and cook for 6 to 8 hours on low. After 6 hours, shred chicken with two forks or tongs. About 15 minutes before serving, completely shred chicken, and toss thoroughly to coat. Keep mixing and tossing to combine the chicken, peppers and onions, and all of the liquid should become absorbed.

Stir in the grated cheese, and then turn your crockpot to the "warm" setting (or simply turn it off and keep it covered) and cover for 5 minutes. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Strawberry Mint Lemonade

Homemade lemonade takes just a bit of effort, but this comes together in about 20 minutes give or take. And I'll take this lemonade any day. It's refreshing, it's delicious and it's not terribly bad for you (if you ignore the 2/3 cup of sugar). It was a hit for me, my husband and our 21-month-old son. Thanks to How Sweet It Is for sharing this simple recipe.

Strawberry Mint Lemonade
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat to make a simple syrup. Whisk for a minute or two until sugar dissolves, and then once mixture combines to a boil, turn off heat and set in the fridge to cool for about 10 minutes.

Add strawberries and mint to a blender, pureeing until liquified. Add in lemon juice and simple syrup, pureeing until combined. Pour mixture into a pitcher, and chill until cold. Makes about 4 cups, which can be diluted with water to make it slightly healthier and stretch further. Of course, it's more of a treat to drink it straight.

Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies

The other night I was craving brownies. My husband suggested a trip to the grocery store to pick up some bakery brownies. My response, "But my brownies are better than those at the store." Maybe that sounds egotistical, but comon', homemade trumps storebought the majority of the time. I started preheating the oven but then determined it would take way too long to make the brownies to enjoy them yet that night, so we settled for homemade chocolate pudding.

The next day, however, I promptly made these brownies. I took one of the better brownie recipes I've found and combined it with some ideas I found on Cookies and Cups. The result: decadent brownies that are much better than those sold at the grocery store's bakery. My husband might have eaten an entire row of brownie in one evening ... proof positive. (Notice how I don't comment on how much I might have eaten during the course of the day.)

Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 oz. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 package fun-size peanut butter cups, chopped
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups chocolate chips
Bonus Topping
1 cup Reeses' Pieces

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch glass or light-colored baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together. Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large bowl, and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, and then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture, and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs, and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla, and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, and then cover with chopped peanut butter cups.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt together the sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips. (I used a combination of chocolate chips to clean up my chip supply a bit.) Stir often, heating until the mixture is smooth. Pour and spread over the top of the brownies. Top with Reeses' Pieces, and lightly press those into the brownies. Place in the refrigerator for about 2 hours to set the fudge.

Lift the brownies out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve. Store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrap with plastic wrap for up to 3 days.

Hamburger Buns

I've been baking almost all our bread for years now, but I've rarely attempted to make buns. There was one time I made delicious rolls that we used as hamburger buns. I decided to change that this summer when I came across a recipe for Hamburger Buns on Brown Eyed Baker.

I didn't have to modify her recipe at all to get perfectly delicious hamburger buns. I think my favorite aspect of my homemade buns was using my black sesame seeds to give them a unique touch. We'll see if I'm now converted to making all my own hamburger buns ... they definitely are a step up in the flavor and texture department from store bought white mush-in-your-mouth buns.

Hamburger Buns
4 1/4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. instant yeast
1 egg, slightly beaten, at room temperature
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
1 egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water until frothy, for egg wash (optional)
Sesame or poppy seeds for garnish (optional)

Mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). If using active dry yeast, warm 1/2 cup of the milk and let the yeast stand in that for 5 minutes prior to combining the remainder of the ingredients.) Pour in the egg, butter and milk, and mix on low speed until all the flour is absorbed and the dough forms a ball. If the dough seems very stiff and dry, trickle in more milk until the dough is soft and supple.

Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook), adding more flour, if necessary, to create a dough that is soft, supple and tacky, but not sticky. Continue kneading (or mixing) for 6 to 8 minutes. (In the electric mixer, the dough should clear the sides of the bowl, but stick every so slightly to the bottom.) Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Ferment at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Remove the fermented dough from the bowl and divide it into twelve 3-ounce pieces. (I was excited to use my kitchen scale for this since it's fairly new! I actually ended up with 14 buns.) Shape the pieces into tight rounds, and place on 2 baking sheets lined with Silipats or parchment paper. Mist the dough lightly with spray oil and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rest for about 20 minutes.

Gently press down on the tops of the rolls with your fingers to flatten slightly. Mist the tops of the dough with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Proof the dough at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the buns have nearly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Brush the buns with the egg wash and garnish with poppy or sesame seeds, if desired. Bake the buns for approximately 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown. The buns should cool for at least 15 minutes on a rack before serving. Makes 12 to 14 buns.

Store leftovers in an airtight zip-top bag. If you want to freeze them, I would wrap individually in plastic wrap and then store in a zip-top bag. Thaw at room temperature.