Sunday, January 29, 2012

Buttermilk Berry Muffins

Lately I have been dreaming I warmer days.  Days filled with beautiful sunshine hot enough to make us yearn for cool waters to play and swim in. Berry picking is another activity that I identify with warm and sunny days.  Unfortunately right now here in Southern NH warm weather is far far away....well at least another 3 months away I should say.  So in the meantime I have chosen to bake with berries.  If I don't look outside (at the snow and ice) and just stay cozy in my kitchen (with my berries) warm weather is possible in my world.


I love how this recipe provided such yummy muffins.  The texture was soft and almost cake like - many thanks to the buttermilk. The flavor of the berries along with the lemon zest gave off a delicious sweetness with just a touch of tartness from the lemon.  The original recipe only called for blueberries but because I had some lovely raspberries frozen from last summers picking I decided to add those in too.....thus the "berry" muffins. 

I consider buttermilk the magic of all recipes when part of the ingredient list as it adds such a perfect taste and texture to the recipe.  Please don't let buttermilk intimidate you as it is made so easily with milk and a splash of lemon juice.  Let those two characters sit together for a couple of minutes unstirred and viola you have buttermilk!



Buttermilk Berry Muffins
(recipe recipe slightly adapted from Warmth in the North)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter - at room temp
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs - at room temp
2 cups flour - divided
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 heaping cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 heaping cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
2 Tbsp sugar - for dusting

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners.  I used regular size muffin tins but will make jumbo muffins next time I make this recipe.

2. In a large bowl cream together butter, sugar, lemon zest and salt until light and fluffy.  Add in eggs one at at time. 

3. In a medium bowl combine 1 3/4 cup flour and baking powder.  Add to butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk.  Mix all together just until incorporated. 

4. Toss berries with remaining 1/4 cup flour in a medium bowl and then gently fold into batter.  Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins. 

5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool and serve.

Enjoy!


Dreaming of warm weather! :-)

Happy Buttermilk Berry Muffin Baking!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

White Chocolate Cranberry Bars


I often find myself thinking ahead to the next holiday.   Not only to plan an activity or event around it but also to make sure I have plenty of fun things to bake for that particular holiday.  I guess its all part of my passion for baking. 

This past holiday season I did a huge amount of baking - not only for my family and friends but also for a local gift shop that wanted to sale homemade baked goodies for the holiday season.  I was a baking fool!  And I was in "baking HEAVEN" as I had an opportunity to bake to my hearts content many of the recipes that I had been accumulating on my wish list.  One of the recipes that I made was called, White Chocolate Cranberry Bars.  I found the recipe in the Fat Witch Brownies cookbook - originally the recipe was just for White Chocolate Bars but because I was in the mood for some dried cranberries I decided to sprinkle some into the batter.  Success I say! The tart sweetness of the cranberries was perfectly paired with the smooth richness of the white chocolate. I was delighted with the results!



Valentine's Day is just around the corner.   These brownies would be just perfect for Heart Day as it is made with chocolate (how can you not bake something with chocolate in it for Heart Day!) and it has a sprinkling of red from the dried cranberries.  I am thinking that I will make a batch of these brownies and then cut out servings with heart cookie cutters.  A perfect Valentine's Day treat!

 

White Chocolate Cranberry Bars
(slightly adapted from Fat Witch Brownies)

Ingredients:

6 oz. white chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 Tbps unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 9x9 baking pan with butter and dust with flour lightly.  Tap out any excess flour.

2. Melt white chocolate and butter in small saucepan over low heat.  Stir constantly so as to make sure that the chocolate does not burn.  Remove chocolate and butter from heat before completely melted and continue to stirring until mixture is completely smooth.  Set saucepan aside to cool.

3. Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla extract all together in a large bowl until smooth.  Add in white chocolate butter mixture and mix until well combined.

4. Measure flour, baking powder and salt into a sifter or fine sieve - sift together directly into batter.  Mix until well combined and there is no trace of the dry ingredients remains. 

5. Spread batter into prepared baking pan with a spatula. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is light brown and cracked.  Turn off oven and leave pan inside oven for 8 more minutes.
Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting and serving. 

YUM!



Happy White Chocolate Cranberry Bars Baking!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A gift of a soup...Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup

Recently a good friend of mine (Hey, Melissa!) made a big pot of this soup and handed me a lovely container of it for me to enjoy with my family.  What a gift of a soup!  Not only did we enjoy a delicious lunch of hot soup on a damp cold day but I then acquired recipe that I have been able to use over and over again since then to make as gifts for other friends of mine. One of my friends even said that it was the BEST soup she had ever tasted.  Goodness did that make me happy! 

The flavors of pumpkin, curry and cumin all come together to form a delicious party in your mouth.  The texture of the soup is fun too as it has the smoothness of the pumpkin puree but also the perfection of the small black beans along with soft diced tomatoes.  All of the textures and tastes come together to make one delicious soup. 

And the soup is very easy to make!  It would make a lovely week-night dish as it can be made and on the table within 30 minutes.

 
Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup
(recipe from Rachel Ray)

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes in juice, undrained
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed
2 cans (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1 cup heavy cream (I used 1/2 and 1/2)
1 heaping Tbsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt to taste
chives, chopped for garnish
Directions:

1.  Heat a large soup pan over medium high heat with 2 Tbsp of olive oil.  Add in chopped onion and cook until translucent and soft.

2. Add in broth, diced tomatoes, black beans and pumpkin puree.  Stir all together and bring soup to a gentle boil.

3. Reduce heat to medium low and stir in cream (or 1/2 and 1/2), curry powder, ground cumin and salt.  Simmer soup for at least 5 minutes.  Taste soup and adjust seasonings if need be.

Sprinkle soup with chopped chives and serve with a lovely hearty bread.  D'lish!


Happy Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup Making!


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