Sunday, January 6, 2013

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins

I am a firm believer that good desserts include chocolate, peanut butter, caramel, or coffee. And really excellent ones include two or three of the aforementioned dessert flavor enhancers.

This is not a dessert. But it is breakfast, and good breakfasts include these delectable traits as well.

The line is thinly drawn 'tween 'ssert and breakfast.

very focused.
I had a blogger date with my good friend Maxine, who writes posts that feel like cocoa and blankets and Christmas. We made these muffins. And then, we proceeded to take pictures for 15 minutes--of the muffins, of each other, instagrams, and random things around the house that struck our fancy to photograph.

She's so cute!
Then we devoured the muffins and talked about our how first semester had gone. It was an awesome time and great to see each other again!

These muffins are a peanut butter base with jam sandwiched between layers of batter. They are like the eponymous sandwich and full of comfort, with less stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth-osity to them. Warmed up in the microwave the next morning for breakfast? Devine.

This is how Maxine styled the muffins! I like it better than the way I did it, so you're seeing my photograph of her setup.
They're pretty healthy as well, with no added butter or oil besides the peanut butter! Which, bonus, also means the peanut butter flavor comes through strongly. Next time, I might want to add chopped peanuts to the top for a bit of crunch and extra peanut flavor.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins
Yield: 12 muffins

• 2 cups (10 oz) flour
• 1/2 cup (3.5 oz) granulated sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 cup (6.75 oz) peanut butter, creamy or chunky (we used creamy)
• 1 egg
• 1 cup buttermilk (I know, I'm being a jerk. Milk works just as well since the leavening is baking powder, not baking soda).
• About 1/2 cup jelly or jam

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a muffin tin (or put in paper liners).
2. Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
3. Add peanut butter, cutting into the dry ingredients with a fork until mixed and crumbly (this is the best part! So fun.).
4. Stir together egg and (butter)milk, add to flour/peanut butter mixture, and fold together until just mixed.
5. Put a spoonful of batter in each muffin cup, then a spoonful of jam, then another spoonful of batter.
6. Bake 20-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Recipe adapted from

Galette des Rois

As I write, I am somewhere in the bright, clear, U.S. air, flying to San Francisco to do a tour with my a capella group. I could not be more excited!

The sun is streaming in from the window. The light reflects off the pebbly clouds below like bloggers and journalers everywhere at the end of the year, who fill with resolutions and intents for the new year ahead.

And I made a Galette des Rois, or King Cake, an epiphany tradition in France. Maybe there's an epiphany hidden in the cake...more likely though, there's a monopoly hotel, because I didn't have a dried bean or baby Jesus figurine to hide inside.
What? That doesn't make any sense, does it. Or does it?

Well, traditionally, a bean or figurine is hidden near the crust inside the cake, and the cake is divided into as many pieces as there are people, plus one (the extra piece was kept in case a beggar came to the door for food.) Whoever gets the piece with the bean is King (or Queen) for the day.

This cake is one of my oldest taste memories, too. I lived in France for a year when I was 3, and very distinctly remember the flavor and texture. It's amazing to me that I could still remember after so long, but as such, Galette des Rois has been on my baking bucket list for a while, and I'm glad I finally got around to making it.

I was always disappointed in French class at school when we would get king cake, and every year I hoped I could taste again what I remember so strongly, and every year we got the traditional New Orleans-style king cake. Which is also good, just not what I remember.

Alas, I blab. This cake is kind of a tart, with an almond "frangipane" filling surrounded by a puff pastry crust and sealed at the edges. Mine wasn't entirely sealed, so some filling seeped out, but you know what? It tastes fantastic scraped off the baking sheet with a spoon. It's brushed with egg yolk, which creates a beautiful leathery lacquered sheen, and decorated with a simple pattern drawn in the top crust with a sharp knife.

Galette des Rois
Yield: one galette

  • 125g (about 1 cup) almond meal 
  • 125g sugar 
  • 125g (about 1 stick) unsalted butter 
  • 1 teaspoon rum 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 teaspoon corn flour (omit if you don't have...I tried cornmeal and it detracted from the smoothness of the frangipane) 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm) 
  • 1 egg yolk 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Cream almond meal, butter, and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. 
  3. Add rum, vanilla extract, and corn flour and mix to combine. 
  4. Add the eggs and mix again to combine. 
  5. Lay one piece of puff pastry on a baking sheet. Fix cracks with fingers dipped in water. Use a plate (or eyeball) to give and cut form of circle. 
  6. Put frangipane on this circle of dough and smooth towards edges. Leave about an inch on all sides to seal. 
  7. Cut the other piece of puff pastry to make a circle, then lay it gently on top of the frangipane (do not press down). Seal the edges of the top and bottom with a bit of water and by pressing down with your fingers. 
  8. Brush the top of the galette with egg yolk, then cut a pattern in the top. You could do a diamond pattern, like I did, or a flower, or make your own pattern. 
  9. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until deep golden brown and puffy. Cool to room temperature or just slightly warm before serving--cut into as many pieces as you have people plus one, and see who's your king for the day! 
Recipe from Mme. Strock, my parent's friend from France.

P.S. You know those corners you cut off to make the galette round? They are awesome with some cinnamon sugar, folded in half and baked for 20 mins at 400. Little cookie/croissant/turnover babies.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Buttermilk Scones and Soft Boiled Eggs

I'm going to be that person. The one who posts a recipe with "buttermilk" in the title, even though goodness knows most people don't go through enough buttermilk to make it worthwhile to stock in a home kitchen. Substituting in milk with lemon juice works, but it feels a bit like cheating, especially in something like pancakes where buttermilk is in the title.

What am I doing presenting you with a recipe that includes buttermilk, then? Well, I have a strong inclination to use up whatever unusual ingredient we happen to have in the house, and buttermilk is unusual for us to stock. My dad got some for these scones, and you can bet I'll be making pancakes at some point because the buttermilk is there, begging to be used up.

Since buttermilk is not the most important ingredient in these scones, even though it's in the title (for the sake of those people dying to use up the languishing carton in their refrigerator), and since I do not mean to impose upon you the same buttermilk-induced guilt I often find myself struggling with, feel free to use the milk/lemon juice trick or yogurt and milk.

In fact, that's what this recipe is about: substituting and making it your own. We had dried blueberries and cranberries and fresh tangerines, you might have currants and grapefruits or raisins and almonds or some other dreamy combination.

The good thing is that scones make a lovely backdrop for your creativity. They're behind you, 100%.

I mixed up the dry ingredients, cut in the butter, and separately mixed the wet ingredients the day before and stashed it all in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I zested a clementine and added the wet ingredients, formed and baked. It was a super easy, chill thing to make for guests at breakfast.

Look at this parallelism...bookended! But with a different focus.
And let's talk about that egg...maybe you've been admiring it. Maybe you've been thinking, "I make a better egg than that. That girl, she's a bad egg." Well hardy har har, how punny of you!

It's a soft boiled egg, and the culinary genius mad scientists at Cook's Illustrated have figured out how to boil eggs to perfection, every time, no matter how many you want to cook.

They're another easy thing to make if you're entertaining for breakfast. And so delicious.

Buttermilk Scones
Yield: 8 scones

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk plus some for brushing the scones before baking
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)--I used this substitution (and I love Joy's blog in general)
  • 1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1-2 cups add-ins (dried fruit, nuts, chocolate)
  • zest of citrus fruit or extra extract (almond? coffee? make it yours!)
  • coarse sugar for sprinkling
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a bowl whisk together buttermilk, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla until the mixture is combined well. 
  3. In another bowl stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Blend in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal, using a pastry cutter, food processor, fingers, cheese grater on frozen butter (I love this trick), whatever. 
  4. Stir in add-ins, flavorings and buttermilk mixture until the mixture just forms a sticky but manageable dough. Knead the dough gently for 30 seconds, pat into a 3/4-inch-thick round, and cut into 8 wedges. 
  5. On an ungreased (or silpat/parchment/foil-lined) baking sheet brush wedges with buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until the scones are golden.
  6. Serve with whatever scone-condiments you please!
Adapted from Epicurious.

Super Easy Soft Boiled Eggs
Yield: as many as you want!

  • eggs
  • water
  1. Boil half an inch of water.
    Add in as many eggs, straight from the refrigerator, as you want to cook. 
  2. Put the lid back on and set a timer for 6 1/2 minutes, keeping the pot on high heat until it comes back to a boil (which should happen quickly). 
  3. Pull eggs out of the pan (tongs help), peel by cracking the fat end and peeling under cool water, slice in half and serve with salt and pepper.