Blueberry Banana Muffins

blueberry-banana-muffinsI’ve been into breakfast baking these days, and with the holidays coming up, isn’t it nice to have freshly baked muffins for your guests? With all the heavy meals this time of year, it’s also nice that these Blueberry Banana Muffins are lighter than their coffee shop counterparts and packed with fresh fruit. These muffins have about a third of the fat than the blueberry muffins found at Dunkin and about half of those at Starbucks, so you can feel pretty good about making them. They are also pretty delicious.

 

blueberry-banana-muffins-2Ingredients (makes 6 large muffins or 12 cupcake sized muffins):
3 over-ripe bananas
3 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
⅓ cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten or 3 tbsp. egg whites
200 grams all-purpose flour (approximately 1½ cups)
1 cup frozen blueberries
2 tbsp. decorating or sanding sugar (optional)

blueberry-banana-muffins-3Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tin with wrappers. In a large bowl, mash over-ripe bananas with a fork until smooth. Stir in melted butter, baking soda, salt, sugar, vanilla and beaten egg (or egg whites) until well combined. Fold in flour and blueberries with a stiff spatula and spoon into muffin tin. Sprinkle tops with decorating sugar, if using. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Enjoy!

Cheesy Garlic Breadsticks

cheesy-garlic-breadsticksThere is something about freshly baked bread that makes every meal better. It makes a light salad more substantial, and every soup, stew and gravy needs a fresh piece of bread for sweeping off the plate. Add garlic + cheese and we’ve covered all my favorite groups. Who doesn’t love cheesy breadsticks?

 

 

cheesy-garlic-breadsticks-2

 

Ingredients (makes 8 breadsticks):
8 oz. pizza dough (see recipe)
1 tbsp. butter, melted
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
¼ tsp. Italian seasoning
Pinch crushed red pepper (optional)
2 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

cheesy-garlic-breadsticks-3Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll pizza dough into an approx. 8×8 inch square. Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl for 15 second increments until fully melted. Stir in garlic, Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper. Brush melted butter mixture on dough and top with shredded cheese. Bake on a pizza stone or cookie sheet for 12 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly. Brush with any remaining butter, sprinkle with sea salt and cut into 8 breadsticks. Enjoy!

Apple Cinnamon Swirl Muffins

apple-cinnamon-swirl-muffinsApples and cinnamon are such a perfect combination, sometimes it’s a shame they are reserved only for fall baking. On the other hand, maybe their seasonality is what makes us all look forward to them so much. I’ve been on a major breakfast baking kick lately, but I guess being 9 months pregnant can do that to a gal. These Apple Cinnamon Swirl Muffins hit just the spot, with lots of apple in each bite and a cinnamon and brown sugar ribbon.

 

 

apple-cinnamon-swirl-muffins-2This recipe calls for 2 cups of diced apples, which was 1 (very!) large gala apple. If your apples are smaller, it may take 2. Make sure to dice up those apples pretty small to make sure they all get cooked properly and there are lots of apple bits in every bite!   I also added a bit of decorating sugar to the top of each muffin…well, because I love decorating sugar, but if there isn’t any on hand, I wouldn’t run out to buy any. These beauties have plenty of sweet, cinnamon-y topping, the decorating sugar is just a little bonus.

(Oh hey there good looking…)

apple-cinnamon-swirl-muffins-3Ingredients (makes 12 cupcake sized muffins):
⅔ cup firmly packed brown sugar, divided
2 tsp. cinnamon, divided
¼ cup white sugar
½ cup butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
⅓ cup milk
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 cups apples, peeled and diced into small pieces (1 large or 2 small apples)
1 tbsp. sanding or decorating sugar (optional)

apple-cinnamon-swirl-muffins-4Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake tin with wrappers. Combine ⅓ cup of the brown sugar with 1 tsp. of cinnamon and set aside. Cream butter, white sugar and remaining brown sugar together using a handheld mixer until fluffy. Add beaten eggs, vanilla and milk and continue to mix on medium for one minute more. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and remaining cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in diced apples and spoon half of the batter mixture into cupcake wrappers, each about ⅓ full. Using half of the cinnamon sugar mixture, add a small spoonful to each muffin. Top each muffin with remaining batter and sprinkle top with remaining sugar mixture (think of 4 layers – batter, cinnamon sugar, batter, cinnamon sugar). Sprinkle tops with decorating sugar and bake for approximately 25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and transfer to cooling rack. Enjoy!

Apple Cinnamon Scones

apple-cinnamon-sconesI made Blueberry Scones a few weeks ago that were so popular in my house, they got a cool weather inspired make over, just in time for autumn. Fresh blueberries were traded for apples and cinnamon, and it got me thinking about all the fun ingredients that could be folded into these breakfast treats. I added a little extra cream to the batter to adjust for apples being a little drier than blueberries, and kept an eye on the cooking time during the last few minutes, otherwise it was the same easy-breezy recipe, ready to enjoy with a cup of coffee in under 30 minutes. How fun would it be to make Apple Cinnamon Scones after a day of apple picking? Count me in!

apple-cinnamon-scones-2Ingredients (makes 4 scones):
1 ¼ cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
Pinch salt
3 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg
½ cup heavy cream, plus more for adding decorating sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
1 cup apple, peeled and diced
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. decorating or sanding sugar

apple-cinnamon-scones-3Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix dry ingredients with cold butter, and work mixture with fingers until the texture of wet sand. Whisk together egg, cream and vanilla and add to dry ingredients. Mixed diced apple with cinnamon, fold into dough and transfer dough to a floured surface. These were made with a sweet apple, so if using a more sour apple, like a Granny Smith, I might add a little sugar to the apples before folding into the dough. Work into 4 inch circle, cut into 4ths and transfer scones to a baking stone or cookie sheet lined with parchment, spaced about 1 inch apart. Brush top with remaining cream and sprinkle with decorating sugar. Bake 20-22 minutes until golden. Enjoy!

Herbed Butter

herbed-butterSummer is the season for fresh herbs and nothing kicks up dinner a notch like having some fresh herbed butter to slather on homemade baked goodies. Get ready to impress your guests with a loaf of homemade bread and herbed butter fresh from the garden – they are both so easy to make!

 

 

herbed-butter-2Ingredients:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
Your favorite herbs – my favorite combos are basil and garlic, chive and garlic, and dill and parsley
Whatever your favorite combinations are, my rule of thumb is 1 clove of garlic and 1 tbsp. minced herbs per stick of butter
Sea salt

 

herbed-butter-3Pulse herbs and garlic in food processor, add softened butter, and mix thoroughly (do no whip). Scoop herbed butter in wax paper, and roll into a log. Put in refrigerator for 1 hour to set, remove and slice into rounds. Spread onto freshly baked bread, sprinkle with sea salt, and enjoy!

Blueberry Scones

Blueberry Scones 3Saturday mornings are pretty relaxed in my house. Waking up without an alarm, and taking a nice long walk before coming home for a casual breakfast and cappuccinos from our new espresso maker. I haven’t learned how to use the new espresso maker yet, so I even have a cute barista (darling husband) to make my cup of Joe. These Blueberry Scones are perfect for our weekend breakfast. They take less than 5 minutes to whisk together and taste best fresh out of the oven. Paired with a hot cup of coffee or tea, and you have a breakfast that’s better than any coffee shop and a small fraction of the price too.

Side note – I love decorating sugar. Those big delicious sugar crystals give any mildly sweet pastry a little extra oomph. Many years ago, I worked in a coffee shop. One of the bakers would set aside a blueberry or chocolate chip muffin for me, always with extra sugar on top! I guess somethings never change, because I added just-a-pinch of extra sugar to one of the scones for me.

Blueberry Scones 2Ingredients (makes 4 scones):
1 ¼ cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
Pinch salt
3 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg
⅓ cup heavy cream, plus 1 tbsp. for adding decorating sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
¾ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
2 tbsp. decorating or sanding sugar

Blueberry SconesPreheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix dry ingredients with cold butter, and work mixture with fingers until the texture of wet sand. Whisk together egg, cream and vanilla and add to dry ingredients. Fold in blueberries and transfer dough to a floured surface. Work into 4 inch circle, cut into 4ths and transfer scones to a baking stone or cookie sheet lined with parchment, spaced about 1 inch apart. Brush top with remaining cream and sprinkle with decorating sugar. Bake 20-22 minutes until golden; if using frozen blueberries they will take a few minutes more. Enjoy!

Chocolate Swirl Banana Walnut Bread

Chocolate Swirl Banana Walnut BreadBanana bread is one of those foods that can be eaten any time of the day. Dessert… sure! Breakfast… why not?  This classic recipe gets a sweet upgrade with the addition of a rich, velvety, chocolate swirl.  A good banana bread recipe really lets the bananas shine; there is only ¼ cup of sugar added, so most of the sweetness comes from the over-ripe bananas.  The key to making banana bread is to use bananas that are more brown on the outside than not, they are much sweeter and more mash-able than less ripe bananas. I like walnuts in my banana bread, but that can be easily substituted for any kind of chopped nuts, raisins, chocolate or even peanut butter chips.

Chocolate Swirl Banana Walnut Bread 2Ingredients:
3 over-ripe bananas
3 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
200 grams all-purpose flour (approximately 1½ cups)
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 4×8 loaf pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mash over-ripe bananas with a fork until smooth. Stir in melted butter, baking soda, salt, sugar, vanilla and beaten egg until well combined. Fold in flour and walnuts with a stiff spatula, until walnuts are evenly distributed.

Chocolate Swirl Banana Walnut Bread 3In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate chips for 20 second increments, stirring in between, until fully melted.  Add 1 cup of banana batter to the bowl of melted chocolate, mixing thoroughly. Add half of the plain batter to the prepared loaf pan, then half of the chocolate batter, running a fork through the pan to lightly swirl the two together. Repeat with the second half of plain and chocolate batter, and bake for 45-55 minutes at 350 degrees, until toothpick tested in center comes out clean. Transfer from pan to cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing.
Enjoy!

Garlic and Herb Croutons

garlic and herb croutonsOnce you make these, you will never go back to pre-packaged croutons again! I usually make these with whatever kind of bread I have sitting around that is going a little stale. My No Knead Bread makes flavorful rustic croutons. These make a great topping for any salad, soup or just to grab a handful to snack on. They are that good!

Ingredients:
12 oz bread, torn into bite sized chunks
¼ cup grated pecorino cheese
⅓ cup olive oil
1 tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Add bread to large bowl and sprinkle with pecorino cheese. In a measuring cup, pour ⅓ cup oil and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine and drizzle over bread mixture, turning with a wooden spoon to coat evenly. Arrange bread in a single layer on a cookie sheet or roasting pan and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn with spatula and cook an additional 10 minutes. Let cool, and store in air tight container for several weeks.

Enjoy!garlic and herb croutons 2

No Knead Bread

You don’t knead this bread, but you do need this bread recipe. Corny, I know.No knead bread 2

This bread has probably impressed more of my friends than the most complicated, intricate dish. And it is so easy. All you need is enough time to let the dough rise.

I found this recipe a few years ago on the NY Times website. I adjusted the recipe slightly to adapt to the size of my Le Creuset 4 1/2 Quart Dutch Oven and the how much bread we wanted. The first few times I made this, I made it pretty much how they instructed: Let rise 12-18 hours, work in a ball on a floured surface, let rest on a plate for 2 hours covered with a towel. But looking at the commentary in the original recipe, you will see statements like “rise time 12-18 hours” and “it might look like a mess, but that’s OK.” I thought to myself, this seems like a pretty forgiving recipe, and I bet I can make this easier.

~No knead breadAnd it still works just fine.

Ingredients:
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus a few big pinches for after dough rises
Almost ½ tsp yeast (just fill it almost to the top of the measuring spoon)
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ¾ cup cool water

Mix ingredients in a large bowl. It will look like you have a shaggy blob. That’s OK. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise about 12 hours.

This dough does take a long time to rise. But if you need to speed it up some, let it rise in the microwave. Take a mug full of water, and heat in the microwave for 3 minutes. Place covered bowl in microwave with the steamy cup of water and close the door. Yeast rises better in warm humid environments, and you’ve just created a nice steam room for your rising bread. I do this with most recipes that require rising.

After rising, the dough will be more than double original size and very sticky, with lots of yeast bubbles on the top.
Now here’s where I deviate from the original recipe. Instead of letting rise in a bowl, working on a floured surface and flipping onto a plate, I just work everything right in the bowl. Only one bowl to wash instead of three. Perfect!  I hate doing dishes.

Take a few big pinches of four and sprinkle on top of dough. Use your fingers to separate sticky dough from sides of bowl, sprinkling some flour on sides and bottom of bowl to prevent dough from sticking back to bowl. Work dough into a ball and put back in floured bowl. Your fingers will have some sticky dough on them, this is normal. Place a towel on top of bowl, and let rise again for another hour or two.

About 20 minutes before cooking, put covered Dutch oven in cold oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Once preheated, take out of oven and carefully flip dough into Dutch oven. Give it a shake to center the dough, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take cover off and cook at additional 15 minutes. Bread will have a beautiful brown crusty finish. Remove from Dutch oven and let cool on wire rack before slicing.

Serve with olive oil or some delicious herbed butter. Enjoy!No knead bread 3