Back at the end of June we went out to pick the last of the juneberries– there were masses of them, dark purple and heavy on the tree, so we filled our bucket and decided to freeze them for future use. After washing them and picking out the stems, I spread them in a single layer on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and froze them overnight. Then it was time to decide what to do with them!
We decided on muffins, figuring that we could treat the juneberries much like blueberries, and went with the Cook’s Illustrated “Best Blueberry Muffins” recipe, which involves a combination of fresh berries and berry compote. Since we already had a stash of juneberry jam we used that instead of the compote. You can use blueberries instead!
I’ve been in a popsicle mood lately (no surprise given the summer weather), so I’ve been turning to some old favorites for desserts. They’re perfect on a warm summer evening– but what about the rest of the day? Especially when the weather is this nice, there’s no reason one should have to wait until after dinner for a popsicle, right?
Enter the breakfast popsicle. You heard me– a breakfast popsicle! I often have fruit and yogurt for breakfast, so what could possibly be wrong with eating it in a slightly more fun form? A frozen form. On a stick.
If there’s any cooking scent more delectable and homey than freshly-baked bread, it has to be warm cinnamon– so it’s no surprise that cinnamon rolls are the ultimate when it comes to comforting (and mouth-watering) odors. When I decided to make these I was only thinking about the gooey and delicious breakfast that awaited me, but let me just say, the smell of the baking rolls was almost as good!
The finished rolls were soft and delicious, though be careful about overbaking– I left them in a bit longer than I should have in hopes of getting more browning on top, but that made the bottoms caramelize in the sticky leaked-out sugar filling, leading to chewy caramel that stuck to my teeth. Other than that, though, they were excellent!
If you have any leftover from the initial devouring, be sure to microwave leftovers briefly to soften them up again– they’re so much better warm!
One good thing about this whole lockdown thing is that with all this time at home, I’ve got plenty of time to babysit rising bread dough, which means more home-baked bread! My latest attempt was a batch of orange-flavored buns, which I saw on an online video and decided to try. The buns have a healthy amount of orange zest and a bit of orange juice in the dough, so there’s a hint of orange flavor in the finished buns despite their not being sweet at all. They were quite tasty when toasted and spread with butter, though.
The dough was extremely loose and took 2 hours to rise properly– a fact that filled me with no little trepidation– but despite making half as many buns as the original recipe claimed, they did turn out soft and fluffy, and they stayed soft overnight.
Given that we’re all stuck at home, it’s inevitable that memes, videos, and other modes of entertainment are going to go viral. For me, though (and for many others), it’s recipes that catch my attention.
“Dalgona coffee” (so called because the resulting foam is apparently the same color as a popular candy called Dalgona) is made by whipping sweetened, concentrated instant coffee to a froth, then using it to top milk– kind of like an inverted cappuccino. Since it uses pantry staples and takes minutes to make, it’s become something of a sensation in culinary circles– and, I’m happy to report, with good reason.
It’s citrus season, and while my family usually just eats clementines as snacks (my daughter goes through three a day on a regular basis!), I decided this time to try something a little different for a lunch gathering– a cake! I wanted to keep things simple, with a minimum of equipment and effort, which ruled out a butter-based cake (since that requires creaming and my stand mixer), and also many other recipes that involved 2 hours of boiling the clementines to make them palatable. Instead I went for a recipe that called for just buzzing the clementines in a food processor and working from there.
The cake itself turned out nice and moist, with a sweet tang from the clementines up front, a roundness from the olive oil in the background, and a slightly bitter finish from the rind. A clementine syrup helped give it some extra sweetness, which cemented its suitability as a dessert– without the syrup it was almost breakfast-like.
I was casting about for an idea of what to bring to a Halloween potluck when I came across a video showing someone unrolling some canned cinnamon roll dough, arranging the coils of dough in a pan to look like intestines, and then topping the dough with cherry pie filling to look like blood. It looked delightfully creepy, but since I’m not really a fan of canned cinnamon rolls I decided to go a step further and make the dough myself.
A little searching online turned up this fabulous recipe for a similar dough made with red velvet cake mix– brilliant idea! Unfortunately for me it didn’t turn out quite as planned– the dough was very soft and sticky,* and after I rolled it up with the filling it refused to unroll so I could form the intestine-coils. I ended up just pulling the dough apart and plunking it into the pan– I didn’t expect it to turn out well, but by the time it puffed up in the oven it looked pretty great, particularly with the addition of some edible eyeballs (canned lychees). Nevertheless, I’ve adjusted the flour/water ratio below so you’ll hopefully get dough that’s easier to handle!
In case you couldn’t tell, I kind of have a sweet tooth. But while I’m willing to put in hours of work and sacrifice the cleanliness of my entire kitchen to make something special and fancy (and often French), when it comes to everyday baking I prefer recipes that are quicker, easier, and don’t require quite as much washing up afterwards.
Enter this plum crumbcake. I cobbled it together when I had a surfeit of plums and wanted something tasty for breakfast one morning, and while it still uses a few different bowls, at least it doesn’t require creaming butter or separating eggs.
The finished cake is dense and moist, with a nice crunch on top from the almonds– they really do make the cake extra-delicious, don’t omit them– and of course, nice jammy pockets of plums. If I were to make it again, I might cut my plums in sixths or even quarters rather than eighths, just to amp up the fruit-to-cake ratio, but it’s perfectly fine (and probably more sliceable) this way as well.
I think I’ve determined that the perfect picnic dessert is a bar cookie. Usually quick and easy to prepare, they slice up into conveniently-square-shaped bars that fit nicely into packing containers, plus they are generally sturdy and don’t need refrigeration, plates, or forks. So when I had a picnic to attend recently, I eyed my stash of frozen rhubarb and decided to make strawberry-rhubarb bars to bring along!
I admit that I made a few tweaks (both intentional and unintentional) to the recipe I found online, but I think they worked out just fine.
Like many of the recipe reviewers, I doubled the recipe and par-baked the crust for 10 minutes just to ensure that the bottoms of the bars were firm and sliceable– those were the intentional changes. Unintentionally, however, I put in 2 tablespoons of cornstarch instead of 2 teaspoons, which I worried would make the filling too chewy but which turned out fine. The bars held together well even when not refrigerated, and were really delicious.
So after my adventure with the Great American Baking Show where my loaf of bread was deemed not quite up to par, I decided that I wanted to learn more about bread baking. I really haven’t done all that much of it before, though I have some general knowledge and have made several different kinds of bread with varying levels of success (and of course spent that fabulous week in Paris watching a professional at work), and I think it would be worthwhile to acquire some extra knowledge and perhaps make some tasty things along the way.
I’m going to do a series of posts about my bread-baking experience and make specific note of the things I’ve learned. Hopefully by the end I’ll be a better bread-baker!
My first attempt was a basic loaf– no special shaping, no special ingredients, with the only deviation from standard procedure being the use of a poolish (a mixture of yeast, flour, and water that you start the night before to give it time to develop some flavor). I used a recipe from King Arthur Flour’s website and opted to use the full sixteen hours of fermentation for the poolish to see what would happen.