Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

I’ve become so obsessed with collecting apple and pumpkin desserts that I’m getting overwhelmed. I don’t know where to start, so I decided to give up (temporarily) and get something that I already love on the table. This simple and delicious apple coffee cake is one of my favorites for the season (along with this apple-cranberry crisp, and, of course Grandmama’s Pumpkin Pie). It has even made two appearances on these pages (once as an Archive Recipe).

As quick and easy as that cake is, however, I wanted something with even more instant gratification on a weekend morning. I also wanted to make a test of the theory that batters for coffee cakes, quick bread loaves, and muffins are pretty much interchangeable and require only modifications in baking times, temperatures and containers. I made up the batter for the cake and scooped it into muffin cups. I also made the cinnamon-laced topping and distributed it over the individual cups of batter.

As a test of the coffee cake into muffins theory, this was very successful. I baked my muffins at a higher temperature (and for a shorter time), and just waited until they were cool enough to handle to eat them. They were delicious! At least as good as the coffee cake and on the table a little faster.

I used a fairly large apple to make these, which resulted in a really moist muffin, but not a mushy one. The cinnamon topping gets a little crisp. The muffins, therefore, are best shortly after they are baked, but they are really still quite delicious even after the topping softens upon sitting.

And just a word more about that topping: it’s the only thing that gave me even the slightest bit of trouble compared to the coffee cake version of this baked breakfast treat. When I baked it on the muffin tops, some of it oozed over onto the muffin pan and stuck. This made it necessary to use a knife to pry the muffin tops off of the baking pan, but didn’t cause damage to the muffins themselves. I was quite thrilled about that, since I never would have forgiven myself for ruining such moist, delicious, apple-y, cinnamon-y goodness.

Apple Cinnamon Muffins with Cinnamon Sugar Topping

For the Cinnamon Sugar Topping
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons cold butter cut into small pieces
For the Muffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
l large apple, peeled and diced

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.  To make the streusel topping, combine the brown sugar, 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and ½ teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl.  Whisk together to combine.  Add the cold butter pieces and work into the flour mixture with a fork or your hands until the butter is evenly distributed in small, crumbly pieces.  Set aside.
2. Combine 1 cup flour, whole wheat pastry flour, sugar, baking powder, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and salt in a medium-size bowl.  Whisk or sift to combine.  Set aside. 

3.  In another medium-size bowl beat the egg with a whisk.  Whisk in the melted butter.  Whisk in the milk and vanilla extract. 

4.  Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until almost combined, but a few dry spots remain.  Stir in the apple.

5.  Grease the cups of a 12-cup muffin pan or spray them with cooking spray.  Scoop the batter into 9 of the muffin cups.  Evenly distribute the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the batter.

6.  Bake at 400 F for 18-20 minutes or until a wooden pick (or other cake-tester) inserted in the center of a muffin comes out free of wet batter.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack 10 minutes.  Carefully remove the muffins from the pan. (The topping may have oozed over the muffin pan, causing the tops to stick. You can pry it away with a knife. Let stand until cool enough to handle. These are best served warm, but leftovers can be kept in an airtight container for a few days. They’re still delicious.

Makes 9 muffins.

Other recipes like this one: Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake, Apple Quick Bread

Friday, September 25, 2015

Recipe Revisit: Lime Bars

The greatest hazard involved in always wanting to try new recipes is that it’s hard to get back to the really good ones again. Take these fabulous, pucker-tart lime bars for instance. I made them so long ago, and then never made them again. Ever. It’s so embarrassing.

I wanted to re-test this recipe for more than one reason. First of all, I wanted to eat them again. They’re delicious, much like an extra-moist, really good classic lemon bar, but with a key-lime-pie-like graham cracker crust. My husband, who loves sour flavors and limes in particular, is especially excited about them. They’re so good and so easy to make, I should have made them a hundred times by now!

Another reason I desired a re-test is that I wanted to tweak the recipe just a little. The original recipe that I published was in a 9-inch square pan and had a rather large crust-to-filling ratio. I wanted to balance that out a little better, so I made the recipe in a smaller baking dish (8-inches square) and reduced the amount of crust. The result was just right.

I’m sure these could be made with other citrus juices, or perhaps even tart juices from other kinds of fruits. I think we’ll be enjoying it with limes in my house for the foreseeable future, however, and it’s going to be this updated version of the recipe from now on as well.

Lime Bars with Graham Cracker Crust
The filling for these bars is quite moist, so they’re best eaten with a fork, and the crust doesn’t stay crisp for long. (I don’t mind.)

4 ounces graham crackers
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted

4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup lime juice, strained of pulp
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

powdered sugar to garnish if desired

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray (or brush with melted butter). Set aside.

2. Place the graham crackers in a food processor and process to coarse crumbs. Add the 1 tablespoon sugar and melted butter. Process until well mixed.

3. Pour the graham cracker crumb mixture into the prepared baking pan. Press into the pan evenly and firmly. Bake at 375 F for about 15 minutes or until golden brown on the edges. Remove from the oven.

4. While the crust is baking, combine the eggs and sugar in a medium-size bowl. Whisk together until smooth. Whisk in the lime juice and vanilla extract.

5. Pour the egg mixture over the baked and still warm crust. Return to the oven and bake at 375 F about 18-20 minutes, or until the filling is set and only jiggles slightly when shaken. Cool completely or chill if desired. Cut into squares to serve. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Makes 9-16 servings. Cover and refrigerate leftovers for a few days.

Other recipes like this one: Rhubarb Custard Bars, Cranberry Bars

One year ago: Apple Baked Oatmeal with Walnuts and Cranberries

Monday, September 21, 2015

Plum and Grape Galette

This is going to be a post that depends on a little bit of trust. Not because I’m asking you to enjoy weird foods or unusual flavor combinations. Not because I didn’t make or eat this delicious rustic pie made with tiny locally-grown plums and itsy-bitsy locally-grown grapes, myself. Not because I goofed it up but I’m going to confidently tell you how you should do it right. Well, maybe it is a little of that last one.

You see, this Plum and Grape Galette should be pretty much the same as this Berry and Rhubarb Galette, in theory and practice, anyway. I somehow failed to use that berry-rhubarb recipe as a template, however, and baked my plum-grape creation at too low a temperature. The result was delicious, since the fruit itself was the star, but it far too long to bake, and the crust never got as crisp and golden as I wanted.

Unfortunately, those wonderfully dark and sweet little home-grown plums and the lip-smacking, super fruity, candy-like local grapes (the cashier said they’re like kid wine) have a very limited season. I couldn’t get any more to try out the recipe again with a better baking procedure. I didn’t want to let it go until next year, though, since this sweet and tart late season combination was just so good.

I think you could make this simple pie with whatever other plums and grapes you can get. Since my grapes were so small, they went into my galette whole. Larger grapes can be cut in half. Also, you’ll want to add sugar to your fruit to taste. Mine was pretty sweet and we don’t mind our fruit a bit tart, so I put just a little sugar in.

I added sliced almonds to the bottom of the galette in hopes of buying some insurance against a soggy crust. While I can’t say my crust ever got crispy enough to definitively test this concept, I liked the almonds where they were since they added some welcome crunch and a good flavor.

And so, in the recipe below, I’m giving you some theoretically sound but untested baking instructions, not the ones I used. They’re based on the Berry and Rhubarb Galette in temperature and approximate time. You’ll just have to keep a close eye on your pie, making sure it doesn’t burn. It’ll all work out in the end. Trust me.

Plum and Grape Galette with Almonds
Use your favorite pie crust recipe (such as Easy Cream Cheese Pastry, Basic Pie Crust, or Whole Wheat Pastry) or a store-bought crust to save time (like I did).

The baking instructions in this recipe are adjusted to what I think will work better than what I did when I made the pie in the photos above. Keep an eye on the pie in the oven to avoid overbaking it.

Serve this warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream. Alas, I had neither on hand.

2 cups pitted plums, halved if small, quartered or coarsely chopped if larger
1 cup seedless grapes
¼ cup sugar or to taste
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup sliced almonds
Pastry for a single crust pie (See heading above)
Egg wash (egg beaten with a small amount of water or milk)

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment, foil, or a silicone baking mat. Lay the rolled-out crust in the middle of the prepared baking sheet.

2. In a large bowl, combine the plums, grapes, sugar and cornstarch. Toss well to combine.

3. Sprinkle the almonds over the bottom of the crust dough leaving a 2-inch border around the whole circle. Pour the plum mixture over the almonds, leaving the same border. Even out the fruit mixture, then fold up the edges of the crust over the fruit. Brush the crust with the egg wash.

4. Bake at 425 F until the fruit is tender and bubbly and the crust is golden brown, about 35 minutes. Cool on the pan on a wire rack. Carefully transfer the galette to a cutting surface to serve.

Makes 6-8 servings.