Blood Orange Muffins

This weekend’s blood orange extravaganza continues with these tasty blood orange muffins. And I learned today that mixing beautiful crimson blood orange juice with powdered sugar will yield something that looks more like raspberry icing. It tastes good though, and that’s all that matters.

Muffins can be a great way to use up fruit curd, especially the homemade kind that isn’t meant to keep for weeks at a time. I’m glad I added some zest to the batter as well, as it really lightens up the muffins and gives them a nice delicate citrus flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup blood orange curd
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 blood orange
  • 4 teaspoons blood orange juice
  • About 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two muffin tins with paper liners; this recipe makes 16 muffins.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, combine beaten eggs, milk, curd, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and zest and stir to completely combine. Add all at once to dry ingredients and stir just until no dry streaks remain.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into muffin tins. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until tops are just golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven, then remove from tins and place on wire racks to cool.

To make icing, combine juice and powdered sugar in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Place in a zip-top bag and snip off the end to pipe, or just drizzle with a spoon. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

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Maple Oat Whole Wheat Bread

Bread baking requires a different set of skills and instincts than I currently possess. Need a cookie? I’m your gal. But bring things like yeast, kneading, and resting into the mix and I feel a bit like I’m back in kindergarten.

Anyone trying to call herself a baker really needs to know how to make a decent loaf of bread, and so I’ve entered a new era of experimentation: yeast breads. Fortunately the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion offers a host of tips and tricks for novices like me, and I’m reading as much as I can; this recipe is their Vermont whole wheat oatmeal maple-honey bread, which I made with maple sugar and regular whole wheat flour, as opposed to white whole wheat as the recipe stated. These loaves smelled amazing while they baked, but I wasn’t as happy with how they turned out texture-wise. Perhaps it was the regular whole wheat flour? Mike loved them, so I guess that doesn’t matter.

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup traditional rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup maple sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple extract
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour

Preparation

In your mixing bowl, combine water, oats, maple sugar, honey, butter, maple extract, and salt. Let cool to lukewarm.

Add the yeast and flours, stirring with a wooden spoon to form a dough. Fit the dough hook onto your mixer and mix for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth.

Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 1 hour; I set my bowl of dough on a towel-wrapped heating pad, set on its lowest setting.

Gently deflate your dough and divide it in half, then shape each half into a loaf. Place loaves in two lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pans.

Cover loaves with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow loaves to rise until they’ve risen about 1 inch above the rim of the pan – about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaves for 35-40 minutes; check them around 25 minutes and place a tent of foil over their tops if they’re browning already to avoid burning. Remove from oven when they’re golden brown; you can also use a thermometer to test internal temperature, which should be 190 degrees.

Remove from loaf pans and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Store well-wrapped at room temperature for several days, or freeze for future use.

Makes two loaves.

Lemon Curd Muffins with Poppy Seeds

Yesterday I made my first batch of macarons, for which I only needed egg whites. More on the macarons later – despite having feet, they didn’t turn out as they should have. Such is life in baking: sometimes your recipe works exactly as you want it to, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Anyway, the macarons left me with three egg yolks. I refuse to waste ingredients, so I made them into lemon curd. And then of course, I had to figure out what to do with my lemon curd. So I baked it into muffins using a make-it-mine recipe from my awesome Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. While they have a lovely texture, I should have included lemon zest in my batter to ramp up the lemon flavor. Again, such is life in baking. The good news is that you always have the chance to try again, to take what you’ve learned an apply it in future recipes.

Ingredients

For the muffins

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup lemon curd*
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds

*You can easily cut this full recipe in half if you only have 3 yolks, as I did. 

For the icing

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • zest of 1 medium lemon

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large 4-cup measuring cup, combine eggs, lemon curd, milk, and vegetable oil; beat with a fork until smooth, then add all at once to the flour mixture. Stir until just combined, then fold in poppy seeds. Batter will be lumpy; this is what you want, so don’t be tempted to over-mix.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into prepared muffin tins, filling about 2/3 full.

Bake for 13-15 minutes, until tops are light golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediate remove muffins from tins; place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, combine powdered sugar and lemon zest. Add lemon juice 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring well, to reach a consistency that’s easy to drizzle, like honey. Drizzle over muffins and allow to set; store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Makes 24 muffins.

Irish Soda Bread

My mom’s maiden name is O’Donnell, and she’s quite proud of her Irish heritage. I, however, identify much more with the Eastern European cultural traditions I learned from my Hungarian grandma and Slovak grandpap, who lived just five doors down from my childhood home. So while I’ve got fair skin and freckles, my Irishness has always been much more in theory than it has ever been in practice.

Until today, I’d never made Irish soda bread, and I have to admit that I felt like a total amateur. This recipe comes from my friend Ciara, a woman whose knowledge of Irish culture could certainly put mine to shame. She was Miss Smiling Irish Eyes Pittsburgh a few years back, and this recipe is one she and her mom make each year. You could add raisins if you like, but I chose to leave mine plain.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour*
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 eggs plus buttermilk, enough to equal 2 total cups of liquid**
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces and softened

*You could use regular or gluten-free flour for this recipe as well. 

**Place your eggs in a measuring cup, then pour in enough buttermilk to yield 2 total cups of liquid. I lightly beat my egg/buttermilk mixture before pouring it into the dry mixture. 

Preparation 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 9-inch round cake pan or cast iron skillet.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.

Add egg/buttermilk mixture and stir to combine, then add butter and stir as best you can; while you’re not supposed to knead Irish soda bread very much, I kneaded my dough to distribute the lumps of butter more evenly throughout the mixture. Next time, I might cut my butter into my flour before adding the wet ingredients.

Shape into a ball and place in prepared cake pan; cut a cross shape into the top using a very sharp knife.

Bake for 1 hour; remove from oven and cake pan and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before serving.

Poppy Seed Babka

Earlier today I undertook my first quilted sewing project, a patchwork table runner. I’m a total amateur when it comes to sewing, and both patchwork and quilting are challenges on their own, let alone together. While my project turned out just fine (with a few minor mistakes, but it’s all part of the learning process), I wanted to get into the kitchen to remind myself that there once was a time when I was an amateur baker, and now I can make really awesome stuff like poppy seed babka.

My love for poppy seed treats knows no bounds, and this poppy seed babka is a delicious twist (ha! See what I did there?) on traditional poppy seed roll. While babka definitely takes patience, what with rising and resting time, it’s absolutely worth it.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast* (or 1 package active dry yeast)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 8 tablespoons butter, cut into slices
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 10 ounces poppy seed filling
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk

*I’ve started using SAF Red Instant Yeast, available at King Arthur Flour. 

Preparation

Place 2 cups flour and yeast into the bowl of a mixer and stir together. Fit the dough hook onto your mixer.

In a medium saucepan, combine milk, sugar, salt, and butter, heating to 120 degrees (the butter will almost melt completely). Pour milk mixture into flour/yeast mixture along with egg and mix until combined, scraping the sides of your bowl to combine. Add remaining 1 cup flour and mix on low speed for 3 minutes, until dough becomes smooth – it will gather itself around the dough hook.

Turn dough onto a very lightly floured surface and knead it for 20-30 seconds by hand, then shape it into a ball.

Place dough in a large, greased bowl; turn the dough once to grease it. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Gently deflate your dough by pressing it to release some of the air; turn onto a very lightly floured surface and let rest for 10 minutes.

While the dough is resting, in a small bowl, combine poppy seed filling and lemon juice, stirring to combine.

Lightly grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan.

Roll dough into a 16 x 12 rectangle. Spread filling evenly over dough. From the long side, roll dough into a log and cut in half to make two shorter logs.

Place one log on top of the other to form an X, then twist ends together. Place in the loaf pan, cover, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine egg and milk to make an egg wash; brush over dough. Bake for 50 minutes, then cover with foil and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes, until loaf sounds hollow when tapped or the internal temperature reaches 180 to 190 degrees. Loosen loaf from pan; allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Store at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Hearty Banana Bread

A few weeks ago, I kept seeing this recipe in my Facebook feed, billed as King Arthur Flour’s Recipe of the Year. That same week I had some very ripe bananas in our fruit basket, so I took it as a sign and gave it a try. I’m pleased to say that while I’ve baked many a loaf of banana bread in the past, I liked this recipe much better than my standard one.

The recipe uses both white and whole wheat flour for a heartier treat, and includes a simple yet brilliant sugar/cinnamon topping. The bread  has a tender texture and slices very easily without crumbling, a balance not easy to achieve. Mike and my co-workers proclaimed it delicious, so I’ll stick with this as my go-to banana bread recipe. Next time, I might toast the walnuts before adding them to the batter, or add some chocolate chips as well.

Ingredients

For the batter

  • 2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 5 medium-sized bananas)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour*
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

*I used the spoon-and-sweep method of measuring flour for this recipe. Just spoon your flour into your measuring cup, then sweep off the excess with a knife. 

For the topping

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Combine 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together mashed bananas, vegetable oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract until very well combined.

Mix the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and walnuts to the banana mixture until just moistened and no dry streaks remain; be careful not to over-mix. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and sprinkle with sugar-cinnamon topping.

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. I checked my bread at 45 minutes of baking time and tented foil over it to prevent over-browning.

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then loosen the sides with a spatula and turn onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and foil; store at room temperature for up to 5 days.

 

Gingerbread Muffins

‘Tis the season for gingerbread. While you could certainly bake gingerbread any time, gingerbread-themed treats take over in December the way pumpkin does in October. Suddenly it’s everywhere, from coffee to pastries to, as I saw earlier this week, even cereal.

There are plenty of ideas for gingerbread treats, and I found this recipe for gingerbread muffins at Betty Crocker after an attempt at gingerbread cupcakes went awry. I adapted the recipe slightly to include a spice glaze, which pairs very well with the spicy notes in the muffin. A word of caution about baking time: I should have pulled them about two minutes before  I actually did, so they were drier than I intended. I reheated them in the microwave for about 20 seconds before having them once they’d cooled, and this really helped cut down on the dryness.

Ingredients

For the muffins

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil*
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg

For the glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • About 1 tablespoon water

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, ginger, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.

In another large bowl, stir together brown sugar, molasses, vegetable oil, milk, and egg until well-blended. Add flour mixture and stir until just moistened, with no dry streaks remaining.

Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling about 2/3 to 3/4 full; I used a 2-inch cookie scoop, that that worked well.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven, then remove muffins from tin and place on a wire rack to cool.

Once muffins are cooled, make the glaze: combine powdered sugar and allspice in a small bowl and add water, about 1 teaspoon at a time, stirring to create a thick glaze. Drizzle over tops of muffins; store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Reheat when serving.

Makes 12.