Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins... a sweet surprise

Spicy pumpkin and sweet cream cheese frosting; one of the best combinations out there, but one I've done plenty of times before. Rather than baking a pumpkin loaf and smearing generous globs of cream cheese frosting on top (and all over the sides so it falls off and I get to scoop it into my mouth using every last one of my fingers), I wanted to take a new approach, and settled on what seems to be a recent craze- pumpkin muffins with a cream cheese filling. I know they're the same flavors as your regular old frosted pumpkin loaf, and not that big of a change, but something about the unexpected bite of sweet, creamy, slightly tangy cream cheese mixed with spicy, moist pumpkin-y goodness makes these Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins taste above and beyond what any loaf ever could.

Judging by photos of the original recipe, the cream cheese was supposed to be more of a solid hunk of filling in the center rather than melty, unevenly dispersed pockets of sweetness like mine were. This is probably, no definitely, due to my lack of freezing time before placing the filling in the muffin tins to be baked. Either way, it tasted great and I'm sure no different than the originals, except maybe in those you get bigger hunks of filling, which honestly, I don't think I'd like as much as little tastes here and there.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
makes 24 muffins

for the filling:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 c confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

for the muffins:
3 c all-purpose flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 large eggs
2 c sugar
2 c pumpkin puree
1 1/4 c vegetable oil
*original recipe called for a wider variety of spices, but I didn't have them. I don't think they're necessary and am happy with my cinnamon-nutmeg combo but feel free to add more as you please

for the topping:
1/2 c sugar
5 tbsp flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

To prepare filling, combine cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl and mix until well blended. Transfer mixture to a piece of plastic wrap, and shape into a log 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Smooth plastic wrap around filling, reinforce with a piece of aluminum foil, and transfer to freezer to chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.
*as previously mentioned, this is the part I skipped, freezing my filling for maybe 40 minutes. Instead of cutting it into slices and placing it in the muffin tins as the recipe later calls for, I just spooned in equal amounts of frosting per muffin. Totally up to you, freezing makes it an easier, less messy process, but I like the uneven distribution mine turned out to have.

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line or grease muffin pans. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda. In a separate, larger bowl, combine eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Slowly add in dry ingredients until just incorporated.

To make topping, combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add in butter and mix until coarse and crumbly.

Fill each muffin well with just enough batter to cover the bottom (1-2 tbsp). Slice (or spoon) log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces, placing in each individual muffin tin. Divide remaining batter among muffin cups, covering cream cheese filling completely. Sprinkle with topping.

Bake 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before serving. Be careful when removing your muffins from their tins! They are very delicate with the cream cheese centers, and a couple of mine split due to my removing them too roughly/not allowing them enough time to cool.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Berry Burst Muffins... berry berry good

Coffee connoisseurs and my fellow coffee shop employees who may possibly be reading this, look away!

.........I like Starbucks

Yes I know, Starbucks is the McDonalds of coffee shops, the tyrant of the kingdom of cafes, the demise of all things pure, honest, and desirable about coffee, yadayada... However, while in no way am I opposed to everyone having their own opinions, and yes, I do agree Starbucks has taken over the land-of-beans (coffee that is), I continue to, and will continue to, support this business because well, it's convenient and honestly, I don't think it tastes all that bad either.

I will admit to frequent visits to the coffee giant in between classes, when, on those days I'm on campus for nearly 12 hours straight, I need a mid-day/early evening pick me up. It just so happens that Starbucks is a block away from my classes, so why not take advantage? I will also confess that at times, along with my coffee concoction or cup of tea, I can't resist a taste of something sweet from their bakery case. My go-to pick for those days I just can't pass a treat up? Reduced-Fat Very Berry Coffee Cake. Partly because it makes me feel less guilty, partly because I like berries and coffee cake, and partly because I'm a person of routine and am too scared to try something new. I doubt it is freshly made, or from scratch, and they probably mass produce their baked treats and defrost them to sell, but what I don't know can't hurt me/tarnish my image as "true" baker and baked good eater (whatever that means), right?

To make things even worse for those of you already questioning my qualifications as a reliable source of baking/cooking/eating adventures, this Starbucks coffee cake is where I got the inspiration for my latest coffee shop baking experiment-Berry Burst Muffins. I will, however note that I have no idea what the recipe for Starbucks' coffee cake is, so in no way did I recreate their dessert, it just gave me the idea.

I adapted a recipe I've used in the past for blueberry streusel muffins, adding in blackberries and lemon zest for an extra pop of flavor. They came out moist, sweet, tangy, and perfectly crunchy on top. Thank you Starbucks.

Ignore the, yet again, subpar pictures. I forgot to bring my camera to work so had to use my horrible quality cellphone camera.

Berry Burst Muffins
makes 14 good-sized muffins

3 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp+ 1 tsp baking powder
2/3 c vegetable oil
2 eggs
2/3 c milk
2 c mixed berries (blueberry, blackberry, raspberry...)
zest of 1 lemon

for topping:
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/6 c all purpose flour
1/8 c unsalted butter, cubed

Preheat oven 400 deg F. Grease/line 14 standard sized muffin cups. These muffins spill over the edge slightly, especially with the streusel topping, so I advise greasing around the muffins cups along with lining/greasing inside muffin cups.

Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest in large bowl. Place vegetable oil in a measuring cup, add eggs and enough milk to fill to the 2 cup mark. Mix into flour mixture. Fold in berries. Fill muffin cups to the top.

For streusel topping- mix sugar, flour and butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over muffins before baking.

Bake 20-25 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

Yummy muffins make chemistry more enjoyable

Sunday, October 16, 2011

This College Girl Cooks: Salmon Salad (Salad?)

Being a pescatarian, canned tuna has been a staple protein in my diet for quite some time. However, once I find a food I like, I stick with it for a very long time, and as a result have eaten a rotation of just a handful of meals every day for the past who knows how many years. Finally, after tireless requests from my mother to eat a wider variety of food, I introduced canned salmon to my diet (big change right?). Luckily, we were all happy! I changed up my food routine (and cut down on my chance of getting mercury poisoning...) like my mom wanted, and I happen to love salmon, but for some reason hadn't paid much attention to it in canned form. One of my favorite methods of preparation, besides slapping it down on a piece of toast, is placing a large scoop of it over a beautiful, healthy salad. I'm unsure of what to call this dish, seeing that usually tuna salad describes canned tuna mixed with a variety of condiments, so I'm guessing salmon is the same. But when you lay this salmon salad on top of an actual salad (lettuce, tomatoes, etc... you know what I mean), does it become a salmon salad salad? Either way, it's easier and sounds better to just call it Salmon Salad, so I'll stick with that.

Salmon Salad
1 can salmon
pickle relish
black pepper
finely diced red onion
your favorite salad fixings

In a small bowl, mix together canned salmon, 2-3 tablespoons mayo, 1 tablespoon ketchup, a heaping spoonful of relish, generous sprinkle of black pepper (freshly ground if you have it), and a teaspoon or two of diced red onion until homogeneous. *

*Note: These measurements are approximate. Depending on your tastes, you may want to add more or less of each ingredient (more mayo for added moistness, ketchup for sweetness etc.)

Prepare your favorite salad. Mine had mini heirloom tomatoes, cubed avocado, and edamame on a bed of romaine lettuce. 

Place a generous scoop of salmon on top of your salad. You may want to add a drizzle of your favorite salad dressing for extra flavor. Enjoy for lunch or dinner!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Apple Crumb Cake. A new (more exciting) way to get your apple a day

I'm definitely an apple lover, so that saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" regardless of the fact that it may not actually be true, is something I happily live by. I make what may be the best apple crumble in existence, if I do say so myself (trying to hold off on baking it until further into fall or if possible, winter, when I can guiltlessly curl up with a big bowl of it al-a-mode because it's freezing and depressing outside), and have even gotten in a fight with my boyfriend over apple vs. cherry pie (no offense to cherry enthusiasts, but I'm not a fan), so yea, basically I love apples.

However, sadly, besides my apple crumble, I'm severely lacking in apple recipes, and felt that I needed to make up for this and bake something apple-y and delicious ASAP. As if it were fate, I stumbled across a very promising yet unexpected recipe for an apple coffee cake with crumb topping by Emeril Lagasse, not someone I've ever really associated with baked goods, but that was my mistake! Moist, sweet, with pockets of soft apple pieces and a thick, crumbly, sugary layer of topping, I'm happy to say I've finally added a new recipe to my apple repertoire.

I know it's not a very good picture, and definitely doesn't do the recipe justice. But it was at work where I have limited photo taking space and I had to rush to class, so there's a good reason for the bad quality. Sorry...

Apple Crumb Cake

1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 c packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 c sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c peeled, cored, chopped apples

for crumble topping:
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Grease a 13 x 9 baking dish and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. 

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add to butter mixture, alternating with sour cream and vanilla. Fold in apples. Pour into pan and spread in an even layer.

To make topping mix sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter in a bowl until crumbly. Sprinkle over cake and bake until golden brown, 35-40 minutes. Serve warm.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Chewy and Sweet Snickerdoodle Blondies with Maple Glaze

As of two weeks ago, I've been working part time as a barista at a coffee shop on campus. While the perk of being able to make cup after cup of my own original coffee creations definitely makes an already enjoyable work shift in-between running from one class to the next even better, the fact that I was given the opportunity to once a week bake whatever I desire that would then be sold in the cafe is that much more amazing.

I immediately created an extensive list of all of the things I wanted to bake after finding out what my job entailed. Because I would be provided with all necessary ingredients, have enough hungry and eager customers to eat my creations instead of trying to restrain myself from gobbling up an entire pan on my own, and not to mention be paid to bake rather than scrounge together the amount of money it would take to bake this frequently from an already dismal college student's budget, I finally had the chance to experiment and make all of the things I otherwise may have had to wait a long time to try.

There are a few criteria I decided my recipes should meet if I was going to be selling them in the cafe. First off, it has to be easy enough to make within a 2 hour time frame and in a kitchen which I don't have any (and still not much) experience in. That meant probably no yeast breads requiring resting time, complicated kneading, rolling out techniques etc... that I haven't had a lot of practice at and/or are time consuming, or extensive cooking, overnight chilling, or cooling times. Secondly, it has to be a large enough size to attract customers. At home I can easily get away with tiny cookies or muffins and bite-sized cinnamon rolls, but for the most part, I associate coffee shop sweets as being bigger than the norm. Finally, it has to be appealing to the majority of my customers, in this case the average college student. I guess that means less low-fat vegan muffins and green tea flavored goodies and more of your traditional coffee cake, cookie, muffin, and bar type desserts, preferably ones that go well with coffee.

My first week I made scrumptious lemon blueberry coffee cake, but unfortunately forgot my camera and therefore was not able to post. However, I will be making this at home in the near future... post coming soon!

Following this set of criteria, for my second week of baking I decided on a recipe for Snickerdoodle Blondies from one of my most loved blogs, Bakergirl. Personally, I've never been a snickerdoodle cookie fan and have never even tasted a blondie in my life (how can one eat blondies when there are brownies in this world??? or so I thought). But based on my list of guidelines, and the fact that the photos of them on the Bakergirl blog looked amazing, I figured that super sweet, cinnamon-y snickerdoodles combined with the moist, chewiness of a blondie would be perfect. To make them even more over-the-top sweet and decadent, I added a generous drizzling of maple glaze, but unfortunately, probably because I used maple syrup instead of extract, it didn't have much maple flavor.

Despite the fact that the glaze didn't turn out as planned and if I were to make them again, which I'm sure I will, I most likely won't even include a glaze topping, these blondies were fantastic. Chewy, moist, sweet, and cinnamony, they're 50 times better than any snickerdoodle cookie I've had and if this is what all blondies taste like, I've been missing out.

Snickerdoodle Blondies with Maple Glaze
original recipe courtesy of Bakergirl

2 2/3 c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 c packed brown sugar
1 c unsalted butter, at room temp
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract

for topping
2 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

for maple glaze**
1 c powder sugar
1/8 tsp maple extract
1/4 c milk

**Honestly, with the cinnamon-sugar coating sprinkled on top, a glaze really isn't necessary. But if you are looking for an extra dose of sweetness (be warned, they are already plenty sweet, so this addition should only be used for extreme sugar-addicts!) then it is definitely a good addition. Using maple extract rather than maple syrup is a much better route to take for true maple flavor.

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Mix in vanilla.

Slowly add flour mixture to butter, beating until just combined. Transfer dough to prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Combine granulated sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over top of batter.

Bake 20-25 minutes, until the surface of the blondies spring back when gently pressed. If using glaze, prepare it by mixing all ingredients together while blondies are baking.

Remove blondie pan and set on wire rack to cool slightly, then drizzle with glaze. Cool completely before cutting.

Cut a piece before they cooled completely due to my impatience. Why it's falling apart a bit. 

These sweet treats sold out in just one afternoon! Might have to bring them back for special guest appearances from time to time.

Friday, October 7, 2011

This College Girl Cooks: The Picturesque Breakfast Sandwich

When it comes to breakfast I'm 100% for fruit and yogurt parfaits. However, there are rare occasions when I'm in the mood for something other than the same breakfast I've eaten almost every morning for the past 4 years. This usually happens when I'm craving a breakfast-for-lunch type meal, and today was one of those days. Rather than make my standard peanut butter and jelly on toast for lunch, I decided to try something new, partly due to the fact that I had an opened carton of egg-whites in my fridge that I didn't want to go bad and be wasted. Hence my healthier, fresher, and tastier twist on a greasy, bland Egg McMuffin-type sandwich was born.

How can someone settle for a soggy english muffin, frozen egg patty and rubbery cheese sandwich when they can have one of these?!

The Picturesque Breakfast Sandwich

1 toasted english muffin of your choice
1 or 2 scrambled egg/ egg-whites
a small handful of chopped cherry or mini-heirloom tomatoes
2 mushrooms, sliced
salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried thyme or your choice of seasonings
cheese and ketchup, if desired

While your muffin is toasting, sauté tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms together in a small fry pan. Add eggs and seasonings and scramble over low heat. If using cheese, either scramble it into your eggs to melt it together with the rest of your ingredients or lay it on top until it begins to melt. Spread ketchup on english muffin (not necessary but I happen to LOVE ketchup and generously smothered my english muffin with it). Place scramble on egg, put top of english muffin on, and dig in!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Melt in your mouth Peanut Butter Cookies

Whether it's eaten on bread with jam (preferably strawberry), in a bowl mixed with honey and banana, nestled inside a chocolate cup, or as spoonfuls straight out of the jar, peanut butter is just plain amazing. While all of the previously mentioned ways of eating peanut butter are great, we can't forget what is possibly the tastiest and most indulgent methods of peanut butter consumption- freshly baked peanut butter cookies.

Crunchy on the outside, unbelievably moist and melt-in-your-mouth on the inside, with crunchy peanuts and soft, sweet chocolate morsels throughout, I think I've found what may be the ultimate recipe for this classic cookie.

Peanut Butter Cookies
makes approx. 3 dozen cookies (or less if you make them gigantic like I do)

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, or 1/2 cup packed light
3/4 cup granulated sugar with dark brown sugar, or 1/2 cup with light
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups chunky peanut butter
1/2 to 1 cup each chocolate chips and whole peanuts (more or less depending on how much chocolate/texture you like)

Mix flour and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl cream butter, sugars, and salt until smooth and creamy, not fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and peanut butter and mix until homogeneous. Add in flour mixture, chocolate chips, and peanuts and mix just until incorporated. Wrap and refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours, preferably 12.

Preheat oven to 325 deg F.

Form dough into 1 1/4 inch balls (or bigger...) and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Flatten each ball to a thickness of slightly less than 1/2 inch with a fork, pressing the back of the tines into the dough in two directions. Bake 14-16 minutes, until slightly colored on top and golden brown underneath. Cool completely before stacking or storing but they're best eaten when warm!