Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
Okay, I put the delectable in quotes because that is the word my 6 year old used to describe the muffins when she tasted them. This is a girl who does like her sugar as well. She even requested one of the muffins for her evening treat, albeit with frosting on top. Maybe next time I'll make a streusel topping... At any rate, I am doing a sugar detox for a little while as I have let the sugar and refined carb use creep up in the past couple months and I don't want to upset my "gains" in the weight loss department. (Forty pounds off in about nine months.) Still, it's nice to be able to whip up something that satisfies that sweet baked good craving. Now you'll find one ingredient in these muffins that I don't normally like to use in baked goods and that is olive oil. In this case, it works and works well. The fruity complexity of the oil plays well off the lemon and fruit in the muffins. A tip I learned from Lauren at Healthy Indulgences. Thanks Lauren! Now if you are really serious about doing regular baking with almond flour, I highly recommend getting blanched almond flour. You don't have to get it from Honeyville, but I find theirs to be excellent quality and the perfect fine mill to get good results in baking. It's also certified gluten free. They have low cost flat rate shipping and almond flour lasts practically forever in the freezer. Just thaw before trying to measure, I keep some in the fridge. Now Bob's Red Mill is readily available in stores but it just won't cut it for baking. It's too mealy and the results will fall flat. One note about the erythritol, I use Organic Zero because it is derived from sugar cane and not corn, but it is also about the most expensive brand out there. You could certainly get a cheaper brand if corn is not a consideration. Oh, I ran short on blueberries today, so there is by no means a full cup of berries in the muffins pictured! ☺
Lemon Blueberry Muffins
Makes 12-14 muffins
2 cups blanched almond flour
½ tsp coconut flour, optional (it helps refine the crumb but is not essential)
scant ¼ tsp sea salt
1 1/8 tsp starch free baking powder
½ cup olive oil, extra virgin
Splenda (I no longer recommend Splenda as it kills your gut flora which is SO bad for you. Use another ¼ cup erythritol or xylitol, honey or real sugar.)
¼ cup erythritol
1 dropperful liquid stevia (that's about 1/8 tsp) I use Sweetleaf brand
½ tsp dried lemon peel (or 1 tsp fresh zest if you have it)
½ tsp lemon extract
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp whipping cream
1 cup blueberries (small wild blueberries work great in muffins)
Combine flours, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Whisk together the eggs and oil, then add the sweeteners, extracts, lemon peel, juice and cream. Whisk to combine. It will thicken a little. Stir in the dry ingredients until well incorporated. Dust the blueberries with a little coconut flour if desired to keep them from sinking to the bottom. Then fold them into the batter. You may wish to reserve some to sprinkle on top for effect. Grease or line your muffin tin and fill the cups ¾ of the way full. I recommend greasing the papers as well for almond flour baking. Sprinkle reserved blueberries on top if desired, and bake at 350º for 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown. Wonderful served warm with fresh butter, and just as good cool for a treat.
Just a couple hours after making them and the girls have already eaten half the batch. A great treat and I don't have to worry about them getting too much sugar and starch. Still, I think I'll make the rest disappear. These were supposed to be for me!
Recipe adapted from Healthy Indulgences
Thursday, July 15, 2010
These cookies are beyond fabulous. They are super crispy and yet still manage to melt in your mouth. I had a memory of sugar cookies my mom used to make when I was little. Super sugar cookies they were called and super tender and crispy crumbly they were. Yet when I dug up the old recipe and tried it out, I ended up with an oily mess. Such a disappointment. I still don't know what went wrong with those, but this new recipe is everything that my memory said those others should have been. They have a delightfully porous interior and unbelievable storage life. Seriously, a few got hidden in a ziploc bag on top of the fridge and forgotten for a month or two. They were still crispy and delicious when finally discovered! I don't know, maybe that's not a good thing, but they usually don't last that long. My Dad has taken to calling them "pneumonia" cookies in jest of the secret ingredient; when I ask him what he wants for Christmas or his birthday, a batch of these cookies is now his answer. Just mentioning that I might happen to have some hidden away in the freezer makes his eyes brighten up. The secret ingredient is a very old one and some people may be thinking, well gee, I've known about that for a long time. "Grandma used to make those..." Well the ingredient is baker's ammonia. (Ammonium bicarbonate, baking ammonia, hartshorn, etc...) It was a leavening agent before baking powder and soda came into use in the 1850s. You can get it in cakes in drugstores and pharmacies and even craft shops, but I got mine in pre-powdered form from King Arthur. Easier to deal with and you don't really want to be dealing with it too long at one time. I think it's the equivalent of smelling salts. So if you go out and get some, don't go opening it up and sticking your nose in to try out your new cool ingredient. You'll get knocked on your tuckus. You also will want to keep the container sealed very well or your special ingredient will simply evaporate over time.
Incidentally, these are really good as 50% white whole wheat cookies as well, and that is how I normally make them. For a real indulgence though, I will make them with just all purpose flour. I will have to try the ammonia out in some cracker recipes. We have a local company called Beecher's that makes the absolute most fabulous crackers. I could sit down with a package of their plain crackers and a container of Boursin and be happy all day. I'd love to recreate those. Mmmmm. Very addictive. Nuts, I'm out. Booo. Ah well, back to the cookies. I've tried this recipe with directions that have you dissolve the ammonia in liquid and directions that just put it in straight. I would recommend dissolving in the vanilla. It greatly lessens the ammonia smell in the dough and there is no discernable difference in the finished product. Which, by the way, will have no ammonia smell whatsoever. As a matter of fact you can tell when it has baked off and the cookies are ready to come out as the kitchen smells wonderful then. ☺
Old fashioned super sugar cookies
2½ tsp good vanilla
½ - ¾ tsp baker's ammonia (you can use ½ tsp for the first try just to get a feel for it, recipes differ and you may be happy with the crispiness of the smaller amount. I use the larger amount and some traditional recipes use even more.)
½ tsp sea salt
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups flour
sugar for coating
Preheat the oven to 300° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Combine the vanilla, baker's ammonia, and salt in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve the ammonia. Combine the vanilla mixture with the butter and sugar, and beat till smooth. Add the flour gradually. It will be dry and crumbly at first but it will come together after a while. Use a small spoon or cookie scoop to portion the dough into small balls. (I use a #70 cookie scoop which is probably around 2½ tsp of dough.) Roll the balls in your hand until smooth and then in a bowl of granulated sugar until coated. Place on the prepared baking sheets. Flatten slightly with a glass dipped in sugar. The cookies will spread a little but not too much. Bake until the cookies are a very light golden brown around the edges, about 20-25 minutes depending on your oven. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.
You can skip rolling in the sugar if you prefer a slighly less sweet cookie, but I think it gives them a nice crunch and sparkle. I use evaporated cane sugar which is more coarse than granulated white sugar. It's hard to show just how crisp these get, but you can see somewhat the amazing effect on texture the ammonia has in this picture:
It reminds me of seafoam candy now that I think of it. And that is one of my very favorite candies. Man, I need to get to Cannon Beach this summer...
Recipe adapted from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion
Monday, July 5, 2010
Whether you have carpal tunnel, arthritis, no bread machine, no mixer, a fear of kneading, or just want to try something new; the stretch and fold method is a great way to make bread. All you need is a few hours where you can periodically attend the dough between other tasks. One nice thing I have found is that in comparing bread made by machine kneading and using stretch and fold, the s&f method yields dough with beautifully developed gluten and bread that tastes fabulous. That extra time seems to promote more complex flavor development and I have found that even sliced, it keeps fabulously in the freezer. I found some lost slices of cinnamon bread in the refrigerator freezer (notoriously prone to freezer burning things), that were at least six months old; they toasted up just like fresh. As a matter of fact, my father in law mentioned after eating those particular slices, that I could bring a spare loaf to visit anytime. (This from a man who never makes comments or requests on food!) This method also seems very forgiving on time. I did forget about it for an extra 45 minutes this time because I got distracted after the third fold. Even so, it still was very willing to rise perfectly after loafing it. (After swearing, and then loafing it.) I do appreciate that I can do a full two loaf batch of dough this way. You cannot really knead that much dough in my little bread machine. Saves me a few electrical pennies. When I have regular milk on hand I will make this bread using that, scalded. It really does make a subtle yet wonderful difference in flavor. Otherwise I use baker's dry milk. I think the non instant dry milk that Organic Valley offers would be a good substitute for King Arthur's special dry milk, also non instant. The timing necessary between folding may vary depending on the dough. I've found that this loaf doesn't particularly require the standard 45 minutes for each rest but it won't hurt it. Like I said, it's forgiving.
Cinnamon Swirl Loaf
2 t Instant Yeast2¼ c lukewarm water
½ c sugar
½ c butter, softened
2 t salt
3½ c white whole wheat flour
3½ - 4 c unbleached all purpose flour
½ c baker's special dry milk (high heat treated dry milk - you may omit this if you do not wish to get a special ingredient. Instead, substitute 2 cups scalded milk for that much water.)
2 slightly beaten eggs
¾ c sugar
1½ Tbsp cinnamon
Combine the filling ingredient in a bowl and set aside. Reserve 2 tbsp of the mixture for topping the loaves if desired.
Bring together remaining ingredients in a large bowl or rising bucket just enough to get all the flour evenly moistened. (This is probably even more worked than necessary, you just need to make sure there is no dry flour or lumps.) You can use your fingers, I started mine with a dough whisk which is very efficient and worked it a bit with my fingers. I find it helps to use maybe three quarters of the flour to get it to a batter like consistancy, then mix in the rest. It helps prevent lumps you'd have to fraisage out later. (Sorry if you know french and I have horrendously abused the grammar of it.)
Now set the timer for about 45 minutes and go read a book or do some housework. (Since I worked mine enough to start developing the gluten, I only did a 30 minute rest for the first period.) When time is up, turn out the dough onto a lightly floured counter. Gently tease and stretch it out into a somewhat rectangular shape. Lift from underneath and push from the top. We just want to be gentle with the developing gluten. You will see that the dough is already becoming more developed and cohesive. Now fold over the long sides to the middle,
Now plop it back in the bucket/bowl seam side down for another 30-45 minutes. Rinse and repeat two more times. After only the first fold, it looks more like a proper dough.
Same thing with the next fold: tease it out gently to about one third its original height and fold over side to side and end to end. See that dough developing?
Ready for the final fold. And look how beautiful the dough is now.
Don't expect the dough to rise all that much, since we are degassing it with each fold. This is the final turnout to divide and loaf the dough. It's much more puffy because I turned off the timer and then got side tracked.
Divide the dough into two even pieces and set one aside covered, while you prepare the first one. Roll each half into a 15x7" rectangle, about ½" thick. Or as close as you can get to that. ☺
Now sprinkle with half of the cinnamon sugar mixture on each rectangle.
Sprinkle or spray a teaspoon of water over the filling. Smooth with a spatula. I couldn't find my spray bottle which is what I most prefer to use for this. You want to be careful not to over saturate the sugar mixture or it will ooze out the sides. You'll get a sticky, messy loaf. Tasty still, but messy. Plus you want all that cinnamony goodness on the inside. This time I just had to resort to flicking the water off the tips of my fingers. There is a perfect consistency that will yield a loaf with no separation of the swirls. I have only achieved that when using the spray bottle. But I have no problems practicing, and no shortage of volunteers to eat up the results! The cinnamon filling has not been smoothed out yet in this picture...
Once you are satisfied with the state of your filling, kind of a pasty consistency, roll that puppy up. (From the short side.) I like to give it a tiny bit of stretch as I roll, I think it helps to achieve a tighter roll. Seal the long edge and place the loaf, seam side down, in a greased 9½ x 5" loaf pan.
Let rise until almost doubled. This will take anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 depending on the temperature in your kitchen. If you wish, you may brush the loaves with soft butter and sprinkle the reserved cinnamon sugar on top before baking. Personally I just like to brush the butter on after it's done baking and sprinkle a touch of cinnamon sugar on when I toast it. Bake at 375ºF for 35 to 40 minutes or till done. (If crust browns too fast, cover with aluminum foil last 15 to 20 minutes of baking). Turn out of pans and cool on rack.
Let it cool completely before slicing and preferably overnight. It's hard I know, but it slices better that way. And it freezes wonderfully for months! When you want some, just pop it in the toaster and slather it with butter and a bit of cinnamon sugar if you want. Yummy!