Berry Bran Buttermilk Muffins

These are also known as Alliteration Muffins around my house - for obvious reasons!

This week I've been having fun with my Fannie Farmer cook book. It all started when a friend asked me for a great banana bread recipe and, like a reflex, I grabbed my trusty old paperback FF and sent it right off.
Then, I took a tour through the recipes in the quick bread and muffins sections and found a solid recipe for bran muffins that I could toil with. Listen, I know not everyone is a bran muffin fan. But, when you bake as much as I do, it has to at least have a pretense of being healthy every once in a while. My favorite bran muffin is Il Fornaio's delicious and huge beauty filled with walnuts and dried fruits. Working from the fruit angle and not wanting to add additional fats, I added some fresh berries we had cut up in the fridge and used half buttermilk rather than all milk to add a twang. These came out beautifully which attests to a fabulous and foolproof Fannie Farmer (more alliteration!) recipe - one you can mess with and still turn out a delicious morsel.

If you like bran muffins, you'll love these. If you're not usually a fan, you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised. And, if you, like me, are a mom looking for some healthy treats for the fam, you, and they, will gobble these up.

Happy eating!

xox,

A.

Berry Bran Buttermilk Muffins
1 egg, beaten
1/2 C milk
1/2 C buttermilk
2 T melted butter
1 C bran
1 C whole wheat pastry flour
3 t baking powder
1/3 C sugar
1/2 t salt
1-1/2 C berries of any kind

Makes 10-12
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 18-22 minutes
Soak the bran in the egg, milks and melted butter 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 and line your muffin pan with butter or pop in muffins cups.

Add the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt to the bran mixture and stir gently until incorporated. Fold in berries. Spoon into muffin pans, distributing the batter evenly. Muffins cups will be almost full.

Bake 18-22 minutes until nicely browned. Spread with butter and jam and gobble away.

These will keep about 2 days covered on the counter or freeze them and eat up to 3 months later.

Cinnamon Rolls

Having kids brings so much into a life. Where there once was solid sleep, now there are maybe 4 uninterrupted hours a week night. Where there once was the freedom to, say, run out with my dude for tacos & beer, or perhaps to use whatever language I pleased (however unbecoming), there are now a host of restrictions. BUT, as any parent knows, there is an even greater bounty of blessings. Some of the greatest blessings my daughter has brought me - and still does - are friendships, some of which I've talked about on this blog. When you're a full time parent, you tend to meet people through your kids' activities and schools and that's so great because not only do I find connections, but Lulu finds playmates and everyone is happy!

One of the sweetest gifts Lulu has given me is my friendship with Stacy. Yes, I have mentioned her before (hint, she loves date bars) and, yes, I will most likely mention her again (and again and again!), but my friendship with Stacy is worth talking about. As my first real mommy friend, she and I have been through all our parenting (and life) highs and lows together. So, when she tells me she's coming all the way to Solana Beach from Los Angeles to see me, I pull out all the stops. After a full day of sun and fun Saturday, we were all relaxed and renewed for Sunday morning breakfast at our house. We decided to keep it fuss-free which meant, of course, that I would  take a special after-dinner trip to Whole Foods for fresh OJ, stay up late Saturday night making granola and wake up Sunday morning around 6am to start a yeast dough for cinnamon rolls. Simple, schmimple, this is my friend we're talking about!

With the menfolk and the 2 babes, we numbered 6, so, I opted to make one batch rather than overdo it. Referencing my Tassajara Bread Book (which my good friend Wendy Mazursky introduced me to half a lifetime ago), I made the Yeasted Breakfast Bread dough (adding a little more sugar, as noted below) and spreading a very simple butter/brown sugar/cinnamon filling before rolling up and baking. Naturally, we had to have a cream cheese icing: I referenced a family recipe there and spread the goodness atop. Oh, my. These are soft, chewy, cinnamony-sweet and taste of home. Plus, as Stacy commented walking through my door Sunday morning, "it smells incredible!"

Cinnamon rolls are simple, really. It's just about putting in the time to let the dough rise a few times, but the rest of the work is pretty easy. And they do dazzle. In fact, there was not a crumb left over. Next time, to hell with not overdoing it. I'm doubling this recipe so we can eat them at tea time, dessert and breakfast the next day, too. If I'm hoping the promise of afternoon seconds will make my friends stay longer, you can't blame a girl for trying.

After breakfast, we had to say goodbye, bellies and hearts full. But Monday morning, Stacy and I were already planning our next weekend together because, with true friends, it's never enough!

xox,

A.

Tassajara Bread Book Cinnamon Rolls
Yeasted Breakfast Dough
1 C lukewarm water
3-1/2 t yeast (about 1-1/2 packages)
5 T sugar
1/3 C dry buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-1/2 C flour (I used regular unbleached white)
3 T melted butter
1 t sea salt
Additional 1-1/2 C flour plus more for kneading

Cinnamon Filling
1/4 C softened butter
3/4 C brown sugar
1 T cinnamon

Cream Cheese Icing
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 C butter
1 C powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract or 1 T vanilla bean paste

Yield 6 large cinnamon rolls
Prep time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes
Eating time: 3 minutes

Dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in sugar and dried buttermilk. Stir in the egg. Stir in 1-1/2 C flour until a thick batter forms and then beat with a wooden spoon 100 strokes. Cover with a damp (not wet) kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes. 

While that's rising, make the cinnamon filling. Stir the butter, sugar and cinnamon together until they make a paste. Cover and set aside.

Fold in the melted butter and salt (be gentle with the batter at this point. Fold, don't stir or beat). Then, fold in 1 C additional flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. If you need more in order for the dough to pull away from the sides of the bowl, add in the other 1/2 C. 

Knead the dough on a floured board 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and does not tear easily. Oil the bowl by drizzling about 1 T oil and spreading it with your fingers to coat the sides. Place the kneaded dough back into the oiled bowl and let rise another 40 minutes. 

Meanwhile, make the icing. Blend the cream cheese and butter together to combine. Add the sugar and beat until soft and all the sugar bumps are gone, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat until blended. Cover and set aside.

Once the dough has finished it's second rising, preheat the oven to 375. 

Roll the dough into a long, flat rectangle.
Spread on the cinnamon sugar mixture, covering everything except 1/2" along the long edge. Tightly roll the dough beginning at the cinnamon-sugared edge and ending at the 1/2" you left un-sugared. Cut the roll into 6 even rolls, about 2-1/2" wide each and place into a pie or round baking dish. 

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until the tops are browned and the cinnamon sugar is bubbly inside the rolls. 
Remove from the oven and let cool about 20-30 minutes (not all the way, but if you spread the icing too soon, it just melts). Spread on the cream cheese icing and serve.
Pretty freaking awesome.

Ice Cream Sandwiches with Molasses Cookies & Brown Sugar Cinnamon Frozen Custard

Summ, summ, summertime is here!

Summertime always evokes memories of long, salty, Beatles-records-filled days at Rincon Point for me. A legendary surf spot just south of Santa Barbara, we have family friends who own a home there and were lucky enough to go every summer. Usually, several families would pile in at once, all of us kids sleeping in a bunkroom and our parents enjoying a little privacy in the few remaining bedrooms. For my brothers and me, it was pure bliss.

It seemed like rather than being just our nuclear family, we instead became 2 tribes: the kids and the grown ups. We kids felt free to roam the beach, take out surfboards or jet-skis, and catch lizards. Our parents hung out, chatting as they sunbathed or napping in the hammock, nursing their margaritas and Mexican beer. We ate meals en masse, plopping down at several tables around the house and on the deck. All of us left behind whatever existed in LA and just blended into this carefree summer life. Rather than being the kid who struggled at school, my focus was instead that sensation of being part of something greater than myself and I cherished the love and acceptance I found from these families who collected in this house.

The food on those weekends was awesome. Our parents cooked everything from street tacos to pastas to roasted chicken and root vegetables. Someone was always in the kitchen concocting something we'd all enjoy later. Admittedly, my brother Erik and I were especially thrilled by the endless canned bean dip (our mother fed us "farm-to-table" before that was a thing. I kid you not, we had a full vegetable farm in the back yard of our tiny Los Angeles canyon cottage) and the sodas in the garage fridge. One of the best treats I recall from those weekends, in addition to the incredible feeling of being part of this great, fluctuating, mixed-genetics "family", was opening the freezer to find molasses cookies. Packaged in a long, low topless box, they were dark, sweet discs of tangy chewy-ness covered in sprinkled sugar. I died for them and snuck far more than my fair share from that freezer.
So, while others save flavors like cinnamon and molasses for fall and winter, I always crave them right around the summer solstice. It's a sense-memory thing, I guess. Although, when it gets warm, the laaast thing I want to do is turn on the oven. I tend to bake things in small batches or not at all. But a small batch of perfect molasses cookies is so worth it.

On the other hand, ice cream is a summer staple and last week I made 2 batches of it based on Shelly Kaldunski's recipes in Sweet Scoops. One was vanilla, of course, and the other incorporated brown sugar and cinnamon, flavors I thought would go well with something else I had baked. It turns out, the cinnamon frozen custard has become my new favorite flavor and, although limited by a mid-tier home ice cream making machine, I'm going to work with this recipe until I can make it as well as I assume Ms. Kaldunski can (well, close). The difference between the ice cream and frozen custard is really just that frozen custard lingers on the tongue, somewhat coating the tongue in its creamy goodness. Ice cream tends to dissolve a bit faster by my estimation.

Because I had the molasses cookie craving and because I had the frozen custard in the freezer, naturally I put the two together. Ho! Not only were these ice cream sandwiches delicious, but they reminded me of those blissful childhood days and my friends, all of whom are grown up now and most of whom have kids of their own. Most of our kids are still small, but I can't wait to get them all together at Rincon and let them run wild - or as wild as you can let your kids run in 2014 - with these ice cream sandwiches in their hands (ice cream dripping down chins, cookies covered in sand) while we "grown ups" sip our margaritas and Mexican beer.

Heaven.

xox,

A.

Molasses Cookies
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp
1/3 C sugar (plus more for rolling)
1/3 C dark brown sugar
1 egg, at room temp
1 t vanilla
2-1/4 C flour
1-1/2 t cinnamon
1-1/2 t ginger
1 t baking soda
1/2 t cloves
1/2 t salt
1/4 t allspice
1/4 t finely ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350.

Sift all the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, cream the butter with the sugars. Add the egg and vanilla and blend. Pour the flour & spice mixture into the creamed butter and mix until blended. 

One tablespoon at a time, roll the dough into balls and roll those in more white sugar and place 12 to a baking sheet. Bake 11-12 minutes until the cookies are set but do not overbake. These are better soft and gooey plus they make better ice cream sandwiches that way. Cool completely (you can even freeze them for 10 minutes or so) before making the sandwiches with them.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Frozen Custard
2 C heavy cream
1-1/2 C whole milk
3 cinnamon sticks
1/4 t ground cinnamon
5 large egg yolks
2/3 C packed brown sugar
1/4 t salt

In a heavy saucepan, combine the cream and spices and heat on medium until just before it simmers, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a heat proof bowl, combine the yolks, brown sugar and salt, beating until the mixture lightens in color and doubles in volume, 2-4 minutes.

Whisking constantly, slowly add one cup of the hot cream to the egg mixture and beat well. Again whisking constantly, pour the egg/cream mixture back into the hot cream and place over medium heat. Switch to stirring with a wooden spoon and heat until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Set up an ice bath (a heat proof bowl nested into a larger bowl of ice) and strain the custard into the smaller bowl. Stir periodically until cooled. Then, cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 4 hours but up to 3 days. (I chilled mine overnight.)

Pour the cold custard into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. Then, chill in your freezer at least 2 hours before scooping onto the cooled cookies.

Ice Cream Sandwiches
Scoop the chilled frozen custard onto the bottom-side of one cooled cookie. Place another cookie on top, topside up and gently press until the sandwich comes together. Freeze 30 minutes until set. Eat! MMMMM. 

Sunday Morning Creme Scones with Lemon Butter


A few weeks ago, I made the most delicious recipe for lemon butter a.k.a. lemon curd and have been spreading it on anything I can get my hands on ever since. It's delicious on store-bought angel food cake. Or those tea biscuits you get at the British Store. Or toasted potato bread. But, in the back of my mind was a little voice nagging, "Come on! You're a baker. You know you need to get off your ass make actual, real, home-baked scones to go with this." That voice got louder and louder and, although scones are not my favorite treat and I do tend to save my calories for freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, I finally relented. And, man, was it worth it.

Let me just say that these scones should be made on their own merit, not just to couple with condiments you may want to try. Silky crumb, tangy sweet and perfectly soft with a gentle crunch provided by a pre-baking sprinkle of sugar, it'll come as no surprise to you that I based the recipe on one by the formidable chemist-baker Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery in Boston. Ms. Chang would probably have preferred I follow her Classic Currant Scones recipe to the letter, but I didn't have currants, buttermilk nor sanding sugar, so, I made due and called them Creme Scones after the creme fraiche.You can fill them with 1/2 C of any dried fruit, really, or nuts, if you like. For me, the toppings were the thing, so, I opted for a rich backdrop for those the lemon butter, homemade berry jam and more creme fraiche.

The lemon butter is a labor of love that I whole-heartedly recommend, but if you're iffy on cooking egg yolks on the stove top or simply don't know what you'll do with 12 egg whites (lowfat quiche! omelettes!), just buy something in a jar like this one.
Once these come out of the oven, make yourself a cuppa, sit to table and call them skahhhns, dahling.

Hope you love these as much as Jeremy, Lulu and I did.

xox,

A.


Creme Scones
2-3/4 C flour
1-1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/3 C sugar
1/2 C cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 C milk (or buttermilk, if you have it)
1/2 C cold creme fraiche
1 cold egg
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 T sugar, for dusting

Yield: 8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 35-40 minutes

Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine the dry ingredients. Add butter and either blend with your hands or a pastry blender until the butter is broken down into pebble sized pieces.

In another bowl, blend the milk, creme fraiche and egg until thoroughly mixed. Add the wet ingredients to the butter mixture and blend just until the dough comes together. Mix in any remaining flour with your hands (in case you're using the pastry blender).

Place the dough onto your baking sheet and mold it into a circle. Brush with the beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar. Then, cut the round into 8 wedges and pop into the oven. Bake 35-40 minutes (or longer if necessary) until the center is set and cooked through, but soft. Overbaking these dries them out.

Re-cut your slices and serve with your favorite jams, butters and whipped cream, Devon cream or creme fraiche.

Lemon Butter
12 egg yolks, at room temp
3 T grated lemon zest
1 C lemon juice
1-1/2 C sugar
1 C unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Yield: about 24 ounces
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Setting time: 3 hours to overnight

In a medium-sized sauce pan, whisk the yolks, zest, juice and sugar together until thoroughly blended. Turn the heat up to medium-low and cook gently 15 minutes or so, until the mixture is thickened. Do not boil it.

Remove from the heat and add in the butter, one chunk at a time, stirring thoroughly after each.

Refrigerate several hours before serving. This keeps in the fridge about 4 weeks and makes enough to share with friends and/or make a tart out of after eating with your scones.

The Simplest Garlic Bread


 
Freshly toasted garlic bread is the stuff of gods. The combination of soft, crunchy, cheesy and sharp is a taste of home to me. My mom made everything from scratch (except yellow cake which, she rightly claims, Duncan Hines has perfectly figured out) and garlic toast was no exception. When you see how easy, how simple, how "holy crap! This only takes 5 minutes, start-to-finish!" this recipe is, you'll never go back to the boxed/frozen/pre-fab stuff.

There is no reason to buy something made with with garlic powder, oil, margarine, and dehydrated cheese when you can have fresh ingredients like, say, garlic, sweet cream butter, freshly grated Parmesan and...oh, wait, no, that's IT. I'm telling you - life altering!

Please try this one. And then let me know how you impressed everyone.

Buon appetito!

xox,

A.

Garlic Bread
One baguette soft French bread (but, really, you can use any bread)
One stick butter, at room temp (salted or unsalted, to taste. Salted butter results in saltier bread as the Parmesan adds quite a load of saltiness, too)
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 cloves garlic, mashed or finely chopped
1 t chopped Italian parsley, for garnish (optional)

Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the top rack of your oven and turn your broiler on.

Halve the bread, lengthwise so that you have two long halves of bread. Turn the bread so that the centers face up.

Mix the softened butter, garlic and cheese together in a bowl. Spread onto the bread.

Place the buttered bread under the broiler and watch it closely for 1-3 minutes. It's done when the outside edges look a little burnt and the insides are nicely brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle parsley over (if using). Slice and serve.
Mashing garlic, butter and Parmesan together.

Getting ready to cut and spread.

Buttering my bread, so to speak.

This is when you know it's done.

Double Chocolate Cookies

Most of the time, I bake for my own tastes. Bittersweet chocolate, not-too-sweet vanilla pound cake, and the chocolate chip cookies that I bake every single week are favorites. But, every once in a while, my husband makes a request. In fact, aforementioned (very patient) husband has been requesting double chocolate cookies for about 3 months, and late last week I finally got to them.

I'm not sure what took me so long. Chocolate cookies are as easy to whip up as chocolate chip cookies. Maybe I'm selfish: I do prefer flavor contrast. The endeavor, then, was to bring contrast to these babies and make them not only delicious, but also pop with flavor and texture. As you may recall, I made a recent stop at LA Restaurant Supply store Surfas, where I treated myself to some Valrhona Pistoles, which are thick, oval discs of chocolate heaven.

Call it laziness or call it brilliance, but I chose not to chop the pistoles and put them into the batter whole, causing pools of molten chocolate to form throughout the cookies. Contrast? Fait accompli! The contrast may not have been vanilla to chocolate, but it was clearly textural. The dough on these cookies is consistently soft with a nice layer of crispness on the outside. The chocolate "pools" created a very dessert-like feel to these already decadent treats.

The best part of this recipe, though? It's e-a-s-y. Make it with pistoles, or chocolate chips, or dried cherries. It doesn't matter because, if you like chocolate, it's going to be good. So, thank you, Husband, for the request. We needed this!


Double Chocolate Cookies
1 C unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 C dark brown sugar (I always use dark brown sugar, but light brown will work, too)
3/4 C sugar
1 egg
2 t vanilla
1/2 C best quality cocoa
2 C flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
10 ounces chocolate pieces (white, dark, large, small, whatever!) or dried cherries, or equal parts both

Beat the butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes (more if the butter is still semi-firm). Add the sugars and blend 3 minutes more. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Add the vanilla and do the same.

In a separate bowl, whisk the dry ingredients until well mixed.

Add the dry mixture to the butter mixture and beat until mixed. Stir in the chocolate. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Using a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, roll the dough into balls, 2T at a time and pace onto your cookie sheet. Bake 14 minutes or until the tops of the cookies spring back when touched. (This "springing back" will be very subtle. And don't touch the melted chocolate!)

Let cool 5-10 minutes and serve!
These are GREAT with some ice cold milk.

Enjoy!

xox,

A.