Tag: muffins

Quick and Easy Banana Bread

I’ll be honest, with the exception of one recipe  I haven’t had great success with banana bread over the years. It’s always stodgy and damp, not enough lift, and often not banana-y enough in flavor. Recently, there were 3 brown bananas on the counter and I debated tossing them into the freezer to keep browning for a banana bread or smoothie in the future but then I thought, screw it! And I made this recipe up as I went along. The result? The best damn banana bread I’ve ever made! Fast! No mixer! Easy to do with minimal ingredients! Honestly, it’s a winner.

Quick and Easy Banana Bread

3 very ripe bananas
1/3 C vegetable oil
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp hazelnut extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 Cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Mix all the wet ingredients together until well combined. Add the dry ingredients in two parts, mixing just until combined with each addition. Scrape the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees until a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan then cool completely, out of the pan, on a wire rack.

Hollandaise Sauce (and Salmon Eggs Benedict)

We’ve talked before about how poorly I keep journals? How I have great intentions and find fresh stationery thrilling, but never follow through? Yeah, seems that I’m the same way with keeping a calendar too. When I’m at work, I live and die by my calendar – I am almost always early for meetings and I faithfully record everything so I’m on time, well prepared and everything is accounted for. As soon as I leave the office, all that goes out the window. Somehow I have managed to be a busy person with lots of ideas, places to be, people to see, all by essentially winging it. How is it possible that I’m ever in the right place at the right time? And possibly more important: What does this have to do with Hollandaise Sauce (and Salmon Eggs Benedict)? (more…)

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

I can recall many a bygone summer punctuated by berry picking. Just a stone’s throw from the edge of Vancouver proper unfolds seemingly endless opportunities to pick your own fruit. Nearly any berry you could want, you can pick, if the time is right. As the thermometer rises, and the sun does its magic, the region swells with fruit, ripened and ready to be plucked by the adventurous, the frugal and sometimes the unwilling. (The unwilling being myself and my niece Justine, who is only 5 years younger than me.)

As kids, we hated it, dreaded it.

The car ride: too hot with bare legs sticking to the seats, and seat belt buckle burns. The farms themselves: there was always a dodgy looking old guy or a ferocious seeming dog. The blazing sun: high sun, sweltering down on us, shoulders and backs peeling despite the slick of sunscreen and the embarrassingly wide brimmed hats. The bugs: at every turn there were spider webs to get ensnared in, sometimes with spiders. Or grasshoppers whizzing and clicking and zipping up the leg of your shorts. Or snakes. The reach: we were kids so we were short (we still are) so leaning into brambles, bushes and rows upon rows of shrubbery to reach up-high clusters of berries meant falling into them, crushing your plastic ice cream pail, losing your hat, likely swallowing a spider and getting leapt upon by any manner of creature. The work: this was hard labour, man. Minutes dragged by, hours felt like days and had we not been so creeped out by the flying, biting stinging things we would have just laid down under the bushes and waited for it to be done.

However did we make it through?

In reality it was never as bad as we remembered.Those car rides were filled with games of 20 questions, rock paper scissors and singing along to the radio. The farms were a change of pace from our city homes and the dogs, although full of bark, were never filled with bite. And the sun? We lived for midday sun. Justine would turn an impressive deep caramel and I would freckle — peeling sunburns and comparing tan lines was all part of the fun. The bugs were bad, the snakes were thrilling and while the grown ups were rows away from us, chatting, steadily filling their pails, we could be rambunctious, squealing at the sight of a wasp, chasing a snake, or poking spiders’ webs with sticks, only to shriek and recoil if they moved. Was it work? Not at all, it was a day outside with all the berries we could possibly eat.

As an adult, I now appreciate the work of picking berries, whether it’s me who picks them, or whether I just pick them up at the market. Either way, I have a better perspective on what it takes for local farmers to grow, produce, harvest, and sell their fruit. I’m also no longer “unwilling” to stop by a u-pick and fill an old ice cream pail or two on a sunny weekend afternoon. What changed? Well, now I get to do things with the pickings. Jams, tarts, cereal toppers, or muffins. The culinary options abound with fresh, seasonal fruit. It’s a short season, we may as well get all of it that we can – even if that means battling the grasshoppers, sidestepping snakes or even feeling like a kid again.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Since these little gems are not made by the “muffin method” they have a more classically cake-like crumb to them and they transform into loaf very well. Make this recipe as 2 loaves, 24 muffins or 1 loaf and 12 muffins.

preheat oven to 350°

1-3/4 C all purpose flour

2 Tbsp baking powder

a scant 1/8 tsp nutmeg (just a little pinch)

1/4 tsp salt

1 C yoghurt

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp vanilla

zest of 2 lemons, finely grated

1/2 C butter or margarine

1 C sugar

3 eggs, beaten

1 -1/2 C fresh blueberries

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix the yoghurt, lemon juice and vanilla together. Set aside. Cream together the butter, lemon zest and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs one at a time. Once the eggs are incorporated, mix in one third of the flour mixture then one half of the yoghurt. Repeat, alternating until all the flour and yoghurt mixtures are blended. Carefully fold in the blueberries. Scrape the batter into prepared (greased and floured) loaf tins or into muffin pans.

For loaves, bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick or skewer comes out clean. For muffins, bake 20-22 minutes.

Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes before turning out onto wire cooling rack.

Pear and Cardamom Bundt Cake

This recipe came about as the result of a conversation concerning a certain muffin (I actually think they call them ‘baby cakes’) from local Vancouver mini-chain, Terra Breads. The confection in question is something that can only be described as a symphony of apple and cardamom. Baked in charming brown paper sleeves and delicately perfumed with the alluring musk of cardamom, they are a real treat.

If you aren’t familiar with cardamom, here it is:

It’s sort of an ugly little pod, but quite delicious. It’s related to the ginger family and has a somewhat similar pungency to it. Wikipedia has a lot to say about it here. You can easily find both green or black (shown here) varieties. I am less familiar with the black cardamom so I thought I’d try it this time. In hindsight, I’d say that the two are very, very similar, but the black variety is less floral, and more smoky. It’s one of those flavours that once you have it, you won’t forget it, but it’s almost impossible to describe. Either way, it is the perfect match for the soft pears in this cake and of course, the almost magical muffins from Terra Breads.

So why not just go get one? Well, you certainly could. I certainly could have, but I enjoy the challenge of recreating and reinventing recipes. The reinvention here is threefold:  1) It’s a cake, not muffins 2) I used pear not apple 3) I used a trio of spices, one of which was cardamom, so this is less of a punch to the face in terms of cardamom flavour.  All that said, this is a quick and easy cake to make (I didn’t even pull out the mixer! Mixed by hand, imagine that!) and requires no frosting or adornment besides a pretty dusting of powdered sugar  — but you’d be forgiven if you plopped a cloud of whipped cream on it, or even a drizzle of caramel.

I won’t tell. Your secrets are safe with me.

Pear & Cardamom Bundt Cake

Inspired by the Apple and Cardamom Baby-Cake from Terra Breads

preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Core and chop 3 large, ripe pears (about 3 cups of fruit)

Set aside.

Sift together:

2 Cups all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 tsp. ground cardamom

Set aside.

In a second bowl, cream together

2/3 C. butter – softened to room temperature

1 1/2 C. sugar

Once creamed, beat in

2 whole eggs

1 tbsp. vanilla

2 tbsp. milk

Add the dry ingredients to the butter, egg and sugar mix.

Stir in the chopped pear.

Scrape (the batter will be thick) into a greased and floured bundt pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until risen brown and a skewer or toothpick inserted into it comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Invert the pan onto the rack and the cake should drop out. Allow to cool fully before cutting.

Bran Muffins with Oats and Berries

Has anyone noticed that something has happened to muffins over time? In many cases they have turned into cakes. I’m not an absolute purist when it comes to things like this, but to me there should be more of a difference between a muffin and a cupcake than the frosting. Am I wrong?

These muffins deliver on many levels: taste, texture, and nutrition. The fibre in these is off the charts and they have a minimum of sugar and fat, so we can all feel good about that. What they are not, is bland or boring. They have a decidedly homemade texture to them, and the yogurt and fruit keeps them moist while the tops get crunchy. It’s a win-win. Did I mention that they come together in about 15 minutes and only bake for 30? That means you are less than an hour away from a warm-from-the-oven snack or breakfast. Worth using up your last bag of frozen berries from last summer? Absolutely.

Bran Muffins with Oats and Berries

preheat your oven to 375 and grease (or paper) a 12 cup muffin tin

1 cup of oats (the quick oats will do, but the slow cook oats will give better texture)

1 cup of bran cereal (bran buds or all-bran)

1 1/2 cups of plain yogurt

2 cups of whole wheat flour

1/4 cup of sugar

2 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp baking powder

pinch of salt

1/2 cup of milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 egg (lightly beaten)

1 tbsp vanilla

2 cups frozen mixed berries (you can use any fruit – apple and pear is delicious, but if it isn’t frozen, keep an eye on them in the oven and reduce the baking time a bit.)

Combine the oats and bran cereal. Use a very large bowl because in the end all the batter will end up here.

Add the yogurt and stir well. Set this mixture aside for about 10 minutes while you mix the other components of the muffins.

Combine the flour, baking powder and soda, salt and sugar in a bowl. Set aside.

Combine the egg, milk, oil and vanilla in a bowl. Once the cereals and yogurt have had a few minutes together to soften, add the egg and milk mix into the cereals, stirring well.

Now add the dry ingredients. Pour them on top of the wet and stir quickly but only until everything is just barely combined. Don’t over mix.

Add your berries, (or other fruit).

Stir to combine, but again, don’t over mix.

Load up 12 well greased or papered muffin cups. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes (less if the fruit wasn’t frozen). They are done when they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into their middles comes out clean.