NYT Blueberry Muffins

SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME (…the early 1990s…) blueberry muffins have been a staple in my life. They’re the go-to treat when I’m in an airport and want something sweet in a hurry. They’re my pick-me-up when I have them on-hand and I’ve had a rough day. They’ve been in the Special Sunday Breakfast rotation at my house for two whole decades. They’re just the epitome of classic baked goods in my book.

Before I became a baker and didn’t truly know what a difference home-baking could make in a person’s life, my go-to if I wanted blueberry muffins was the store-bought boxed mix. You know which one I’m talking about, don’t you? The one with a  cellophane  bag full of flour mix and chemicals, and a slim tin can full of tiny, preserved blueberries swimming in syrup. Then you just had to add a few eggs and a cup of milk, and you were on your way. At the time, those muffins, always served still-warm from the oven and a bit crispy (if not a little dry to be honest) on the outsides tasted great, but it hasn’t been until I was the age and stage that I am now that I realized I could’ve been having it so much better all this time.  Don’t get me wrong; those mixes definitely have their place…somewhere, but, my friend, fresh is always best. Sure, it may take a little longer to measure out all the ingredients when you’re making blueberry muffins from scratch, but really, how much time are you actually  saving by using boxed cake mix? Not as much as you think.

Despite the fact that blueberry muffins are such a classic, there are perhaps dozens of ways that you can prepare them. And believe me, as someone who has had her fair share of muffins, I’ve also tried a fair share of those recipes. One particular favorite of mine (and incidentally one of the first recipes I EVER tried) comes from Joy the Baker. She doesn’t stray too far from the standard, but she takes things up a notch in her recipe with the inclusion of melted brown butter instead of regular-old softened and unsalted. It brings a sort of nuttiness and depth of flavor that I just absolutely love.

And while that recipe is definitely wayy up there on “Sydney’s Favorite Baked Goods, Blueberry Muffin Category” list, something inside me was desperately seeking a recipe that stayed within tradition. If I’m going to have that perfect cup of coffee early on a Sunday morning, with the window shades opened and the glow of dawn seeping in, I want to capture that moment just-so. I want that feeling of being in a coffeehouse somewhere where they serve you cafe treats exactly the way they were intended to be served and consumed: no muss, no fuss, just something that tastes phenomenal. Enter: the New York Times Blueberry Muffins.

These muffins are the perfect celebration of summer blueberries (although, frozen and thawed blueberries will work perfectly well when it’s off-season). It calls for two cups, which means that all twelve of these muffins are packed with plump antioxidant-rich blueberries just waiting to burst when you bite into them. And as much as I love a good crispy, crumbly topping made out of flour, sugar, and butter, sometimes a little coarse sugar will also do the trick of adding a bit of texture quite nicely.

Hey, blueberry muffins are a classic for a reason.

 

NYT BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (I’ve been really into Irish butter lately! Have you heard about Kerrygold?)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups blueberries, washed, drained, and picked over
  • 3 teaspoons sugar

(Baker’s Note: Some of the commenters suggested that the blueberries should be rolled in a bit of flour before being added to the batter to prevent them from sinking while baking. I tried it, and it’s definitely something to consider!)

 

Find the recipe HERE from the New York Times!

Hot Cross Buns

Hiiiiiiiiiiiii, how was your Easter??  Mine was epic and uplifting, and full of food. Simply the best.

Have you ever had hot cross buns? This was my first year. Before that, my only knowledge of them began and ended with the song of the same name that I was forced to learn on the recorder in 7th grade. That was it. (Fun fact: I haven’t picked up the recorder since.) But when you’re young, it’s almost a necessity that you start your own traditions and/or jump on holiday-specific bandwagons, so here we are. And I have to tell you: I can’t believe I’ve lived my life up until now without hot cross buns. I mean, it’s crazy. I can honestly say, in the four years that I have been baking, hot cross buns are the best things to ever come out of my oven. BY. FAR. Easter Sunday’s breakfast was just EXCELLENT, you guys.

Best served warm, these buns are yeasty, squishy, icing-topped perfection. Traditionally, hot cross buns are filled with dried fruit like raisins, currants, cherries, or dates, but my grocery store was serisouly lacking in the traditional dried mixed fruit bags. What I found instead was a mix of dried strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and cranberries, and I LOVED that combination when paired with the warmed apricot jam and blend of cardamom and cinnamon spices. And while I enjoyed the little bursts of strawberries I got, next time ’round, I’ll try to make my own fruit mix because the cardamom-cinnamon was practically begging for raisins. Either way, fruit in yeast rolls just WORKS.

You may see these most often on Easter, but something tells me these would work extremely well around Christmas time…or just all-year-round in general.

 

It’s never too late for Hot Cross Buns.

 

Find the recipe HERE from Bon Appetit! 

 

 

 

Classic Chocolate Pie

There’s something very special about being a Northerner with deep connections to the South: tradition. Whether you are up North or down South, there is nothing more sacred than tradition. I love that.

These days in the culinary world, it’s about finding the next big innovation. It’s about blowing peoples’ minds with the new and the shocking. It’s about re-inventing the already re-invented. Everything has to be bigger and better and larger than life. But, isn’t it nice to sometimes just take a quick step back to honor the classics? Isn’t it important to acknowledge the things that have lasted the test of time? I think so. I think that, along with apple pie, chocolate pie is about as classic as they come.

 

What I love about this chocolate pie is that it really is a classic in more than one sense of the word. It’s easy, which the best pies always are. And it’s just straight-up what it is: super. super chocolatey.

No fuss, no frills, just supreme fudginess and an utterly buttery, flaky pie crust. And don’t forget a generous slathering of homemade whipped cream on top; that’s a must-have.

 

CLASSIC CHOCOLATE PIE  

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 Flaky Pie Crust 
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • homemade whipped cream, for serving (optional)
  • 1 ounce dark chocolate, for shaving (optional)

 

Find the recipe on Food and Wine.

Vanilla Bean Cake Doughnuts

You know what’s hard to make? Doughnuts. Seriously, I have so much more respect for the contestants on Donut Showdown now that I’ve tried it at home. And they’re under time constraints! Dough is sticky, flour goes everywhere, oil is HOT, and finding the perfect glaze consistency takes practice. It all takes practice. Is it worth it in the end? You bet. My life was filled with homemade fried dough for several days, and that’s all a girl could want.

I’ve been thinking. I really want my life to look like that scene in Marie Antoinette where all the women do is sit around playing cards, drinking champagne out of coupe glasses, gorging themselves on the most beautiful, fresh-fresh-fresh pastries and candies you’ve ever seen. And they’re doing all this while wearing three pounds’ worth of silk, tulle, and ruffles. Oh, and mile-high hair. I’ve always been a fan of big hair. Ask my beautician. And when I would say “Let them eat cake,” no one would be upset with me because I would then immediately follow it up with actual cake. I’d be the most beloved queen in all the land.

Truth be told, it’ll be quite some time before I’m Versailles-level good at making doughnuts and other beautifully complicated pastries. I will say though, that for only my second time frying dough in the kitchen, things didn’t turn out badly at all. There could’ve been a little less rolling and re-rolling involved in the dough-cutting stage.. Oh, and I’m still working on my fear of hot oil, but baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day (and while we’re on the topic of Rome, neither is good pizza).

One of my favorite things to get at my local bakery is a classic cake doughnut. More than anything else, I adore a good cake doughnut. Especially when it’s Fall and tastes like pumpkins and apple cider and cinnamon sugar. In the summer, I prefer my doughnuts covered in rainbow nonpareils and vanilla glaze. Throw in the comforting speckling of fresh vanilla bean seeds, and you’ve got me. To be able to make my favorite treat in the comfort of my own home, curlers in hair, 40s Big Band blaring in the background, is such a splendid concept.

Now, I like you, so I won’t lie to you and say that it’s particularly easy, or that it isn’t time-consuming. But I mean, It’s REALLY worth it. Your reward is DOUGHNUTS at the end! That’s my incentive for everything, but in this scenario, doughnuts is the actual GUARENTEE. Yes, I do have a few new tiny burn marks from absent-mindedly plopping doughnut holes into 350 degree oil, but I just ran one hand under some very cold water, and popped two slightly-cooled doughnut holes in my mouth with the other. I felt exponentially better after that.

Bottom line: make your own doughnuts. Tell me how it goes.

Why don’t you try this Vanilla Bean Cake Doughnut recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Apt.2B Baking Co!

 

Meyer Lemon-Blueberry Hand Pies

 

Finally, FINALLY our local grocer has stepped up their produce game and brought me something I’ve been wanting for months: Meyer lemons. And, while we’re at it, the best blueberries I’ve seen all summer. Without hesitation, I plopped two of each into the cart with no immediate plan, but complete intent to make something spectacular with my purchases. I’ve learned my lesson too many times before; if you see it, get it, because you may never see it again. And that rings pretty true since I stopped by the store again, and those New Zealand Meyer lemons were nowhere to be seen. Maybe I didn’t look around enough. Or maybe they just disappeared as quickly as they’d appeared.

At any rate, it occurred to be that the possibilities were pretty endless for my blueberry-lemon pairing, but if I really wanted to get good at making pies then I ought to make one. For once though, I just wasn’t interested in a regular 9-inch pie. Instead, I wanted something with a lot more mobility, and something that could be picnic-ready if/when the occasion arose. So, I went with hand pies. I’m a gal on-the-go, and expect my pies to accommodate that!

If you’re wondering how my pie skills are coming along, the quick answer is: slowly, but surely. As simple as it seems to make a pie, no matter the form, it takes a lot of practice. I still struggle with gathering dough to form the disks, which should be so simple, but it gives me so much trouble. And sometimes I handle the dough wayyyy too much, but I’m working on it. I sense a lot of practice pies in my future, and what on earth could be better than that?

Meyer Lemons are a special fruit indeed. To me they’re sort of like, if a mandarin orange and the brightest lemon ever, had a baby. They’re slightly sweeter than your average lemon, and bring a very unique type of citrus note to any dish you make. And since citrus and blueberries go hand-in-hand. they make these flaky, buttery hand pies a wonderful treat for any time of the day. And the most beautiful part of it all is that you can serve them warm, or pack them up in a basket and serve at room temperature.

It’s always nice to have an any-time dessert literally in the palm of your hand.

You can find the recipe here at BonAppetit.com! <—— This recipe calls for a regular lemon, but a Meyer lemon works so beautifully!

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT’S AUGUST ALREADY??

 

Birthday 2015

birthdaycake1

I’ve been a new age for exactly one week today. The slider is quickly reaching the middle of the twenty- something scale, and it is a fact that both scares me and excites me, depending on the day.

There are two types of people I’ve met in this world: people who absolutely looove birthdays, and people who threaten physical harm if there’s even so much as a whisper of their birthday in the air. Me? I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I like birthdays, I think they’re cool. I think it’s important to celebrate each one because you never know how many you’re going to get in this world. But I don’t really go all out. Honestly, it’s partially because they tend to sneak up on me now that I’m no longer in elementary school and there’s no longer the obligation of a parent to throw a mini party with enough tiny forks and plates and cups, and copious amounts of brightly-colored frosted cupcakes for each member of my class. I also don’t go all about because there’s so much hype around birthdays that once it’s over, I always feel a little bit of loss because I have to wait another whole year to again be the Birthday Princess.

birthday2

I do exactly what I want, and when I want on my birthday; absolutely no exceptions. If I want to binge-watch an entire season of Friends in an afternoon, there is no judgement. If I want to sing at the top of my lungs to the hits off of The Emancipation of Mimi album in a house full of people, I’m going to do it. AND, if I want to bake my own birthday cake from start to finish and entirely from scratch, well, yeah I’m going to do it. And I did. I baked my own birthday cake. Three layers of very tender vanilla cake, slathered in a LOT of delicious buttercream frosting dyed a decidedly peach-ish tone depending on the angle, and topped with cute little sprinkles. It took me approximately four hours to make in total, and I loved every single second of it. For one, this cake is a GIANT step up from my last attempt to make a very small, very sad excuse for a cake. That very simple cake was hard work manifested. And it was delicious.

The older you get, the more time you spend reflecting. To that affect:

Five Very Important Things I’ve Learned in My Twenties So Far

  1. Friends come and go, and friendship is a two-way street. Only make the effort for those who make the effort for you. That’s what makes it special.
  2. Quality over quantity in all aspects of life.
  3. Listen to your elders when they’re trying to tell you something. They’ve got stories that are better than anything you’ll see in theaters, and, apart from the tiny embellishment here and there to keep your attention, they’re totally true.
  4. Work hard and have patience. You’ll get everything you need and even some of the things you want, but it’s probably going to take some time. And you know what? That’s okay.
  5.  Having a plan is great, but don’t forget to deviate sometimes and just enjoy the ride. Nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say.

As far as birthdays go, this one was pretty ace.

Here’s to many more, eh?

Valentine’s Day Leftovers

photo-11

The only thing better than eating all of the sweets on Earth on Valentine’s Day, is discovering that you have extras left over for days and days afterwards. Forget the discounted chocolate (but don’t actually because Lindt chocolate ain’t cheap when it’s just a regular Tuesday), the real edible magic after Valentine’s Day are the baked goods. Cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and all heart-shaped. Is it me, or do things just taste better when they’re heart-shaped? It’s just me? Okay.

My generally sad lunch has an upgrade this week in the form of these sweet sugar cookie hearts.

 

I keep going back to Bon Appetit’s Ultimate Sugar Cookie recipe because it’s JUST THAT GOOD.

And don’t forget the royal icing!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day Leftovers Week!