Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins - a.k.a. Homemade Costco Chocolate Muffins

I'll admit that I used to love getting Costco muffins. They really are just an excuse to eat two ample servings of what is essentially a giant cupcake in muffin's clothing.  But it has been some years since I was able to live with the ingredients with which they are made.  I've tried a few recipe knock offs and not been happy.  So here is my version of a Costco muffin knock off., with a little Mexican hot cocoa twist.  My daughter's friend commented that these were the best chocolate muffins in the world when I pulled out my first batch a few weeks ago.  That made me quite happy because you know you can count on pre-teens to be brutally honest when it comes to reviewing recipe results!  The recipe makes about 2½ dozen and they freeze fabulously.  R likes them warm and S loves them straight up frozen.  They have been the breakfast of choice for two weeks and were sorely missed when gone.  So I am using this opportunity to make more and take my pictures.  Oh and while we're being honest, let's get down to brass tacks and just admit that these are much closer to un-frosted cupcakes than to a healthful multi-grain muffin.  It's a chocolate muffin and that's the way it should be!  ☺  Enjoy!  (You'll love the way the house smells.)

Chocolate Muffins
makes 2-2½ dozen

2¼ cups light spelt flour (or 2 cups all purpose)
¼ cup food starch (I use 1 tbsp arrowroot, 1 tbsp potato and 2 tbsp tapioca starch)
1½ cup + 2 tbsp evaporated cane sugar
½ cup + 2 tbsp baking cocoa
½ cup milk powder
1½ tsp baking powder
1¼ tsp sea salt
¾-1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

½ cup coconut oil, melted
½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup water
¾ cup sour cream
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1½ cups chocolate chips tossed with 1 tsp flour (I prefer mini chips since they don't sink, but R loves the extra gooey, melty goodness from larger chips.)

Preheat the oven to 350º F.

In a food processor or stand mixer, combine the flour, starch, sugar, cocoa, dry milk powder, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and baking soda until fully mixed.  Cut the butter into cubes and pulse into the mixture, or run the stand mixer on low, until the butter is fully incorporated and the mixture is a fine, sandy texture.

In a two cup measure, combine the buttermilk, water, eggs, vanilla, and sour cream and beat or whisk until smooth. 

Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl or stand mixer.  Add the sour cream mixture and the oil and beat for 30 seconds until smooth.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Line a muffin tin with paper liners.  Fill the cups ¾ full - use a muffin scoop to make the task easy.  Bake for 18-20 minutes until just done.  The top will spring back when touched lightly and a toothpick will come out clean.  Cool a few minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.  Store in an airtight container for a couple days or freeze and store in a food bag in the freezer for a month.

Excellent warm, room temperature or cold!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Frozen Yogurt Berry Sorbet

Enjoying this beautiful end of summer weather with a frosty creamy treat!  One with only three ingredients and probiotics to boot.  I saw this recipe on Pinterest a couple years ago and tried it out.  The girls loved it!  I would guess you can use any berry.  The original recipe used blackberries and I used marionberries.  The sorbet will be more creamy or frosty depending on the ratio of berry to dairy and the amount of moisture in the yogurt.  I found that even with a high powered blender, the seeds leave a gritty texture in the finished treat and while the kids didn't mind, I think I would gently puree the berries and then sieve the seeds out for an ultra creamy finish.  Regardless, this is a quick, easy and very tasty frozen dessert.  The ratios are approximate and forgiving.  And the consistency is almost like marshmallow fluff when you take it out of the machine.  Give it a few hours in the deep freeze to firm up.  I just made a strawberry pineapple batch and it is fabulous!

Frozen Yogurt Berry Sorbet
makes about 3 pints

3 cups fresh Marionberries, raspberries or blackberries or fruit blend of choice
3 cups yogurt cheese* or plain Greek yogurt (Greek yogurt will make a slightly more frosty dessert)
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

Puree the berries and strain out the seeds if desired.  
Blend in the sweetened condensed milk
Mix together with the yogurt cheese or yogurt.
Freeze mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

* Note - to make yogurt cheese, simply place the yogurt in a cheesecloth or coffee filter lined strainer and allow to drain for 4-6 hours or overnight.  The longer it drains, the creamier your frozen dessert will turn out.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon

 One of my biggest challenges when I got married 15 years ago, was not to overcook the salmon.  It was difficult for me!  I either dried it out or undercooked it and then dried it out trying to fix it.  The first recipe I found that really worked great for me was a Maple glazed salmon.  This is another great recipe and even easier to put together.  I've made it half a dozen times now and the family devours it.  (Costco had wild sockeye for 7.99/lb today!)  Tonight I managed to come away with half a pound out of the original three to save for salmon chowder.  If you've never grilled on a cedar plank, I highly recommend giving it a try!  The flavor is wonderful.  There is some planning ahead involved as the planks need to be soaked for an hour or so prior to grilling.  I have heard that you can pre-soak the planks and store them in the freezer, ready to go.  Depending on how hot your grill runs, you may be able to get two uses out of a plank as well. This salmon has always turned out deliciously moist and flavorful for us.

Tonight, hubby came to the door making om nom noises and proclaimed the salmon "Awesomesauce."  Wow.

Grilled Salmon on a Cedar Plank
Two large fillets

Two 1-1½ lb wild salmon fillets
Soaked cedar planks for grilling
1½ tbsp olive or sunflower oil
2 tbsp coconut sugar
1½ tsp Italian seasoning
¾ tsp paprika
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
pinch of garlic powder
pinch of onion powder

Soak the cedar planks for at least one hour in water.  (You will need something heavy to keep them submerged, like a jar or bottle.)  Preheat a gas grill on medium.  While it is heating, combine the oil, sugar, and seasonings in a small dish.  Place the cedar planks on the grill for a few minutes while you season the salmon.  With clean, damp hands, rub the seasoning mixture evenly over the fillets.

Put the salmon, skin side down, on the cedar planks on the grill.  If there is overhang, keep it toward the cool edges of the grill.

Grill for about 30 minutes until the salmon is light pink and flakes easily.

Carefully slide a spatula between the skin and the meat, and transfer the salmon to a serving dish.

Feel free to nibble on the crackly, deliciously caramelized edge pieces as bonus for being the grill-master.

My kids were so excited about this dinner, they totally cleared the table and set it with fresh linens and a candle centerpiece!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

BBB - Polenta Bread, Corn Free version

Okay, the food allergy hiatus has been difficult, but it's time to start baking again.  Perfect BBBuddy recipe for us this month.  School is starting next week and I really prefer my bread to the spelt bread we can find at the store.  Spelt is okay for our wheat sensitivity and we've been avoiding the baker's yeast for a long enough elimination time.  The nice thing is, this recipe only uses a tiny amount of yeast incorporated into a walnut sized biga and then another tiny bit the next day.  Good way to start.  I used coarsely ground millet for my polenta, yielding a very nice "millenta" that looked just like the real thing.  Millet also has a mild corn flavor and is my go to seed for any corn type bread.  I used instant yeast, it's what I keep on hand, and white spelt for this recipe.  The dough was fairly slack and I did end up adding another half cup of flour as spelt requires less water for equivalent results.  I could have cut back the water even more.  But the loaves turned out delicious, crusty and chewy, which is what my kids love.  The only other thing I changed was using 3 tsp instead of 4 tsp salt.  It was very nicely salty and I'm glad I didn't use the full 18g.  Delicious bread warm, cool, toasted...  Check out the BBB host kitchen's hilarious post about Glow-in-the-Dark Polenta Bread!

Polenta Bread
makes two loaves

The afternoon before:
tiny Biga
9 g water
1/16 tsp active dry yeast
11 g unbleached all-purpose flour (white spelt)

The evening before:
60 g water
1/16 tsp active dry yeast
all of the Biga
100 g unbleached all-purpose flour (white spelt)

The morning of:
Polenta (Millenta)
35 g cornmeal a.k.a. polenta, coarsely ground (millet for corn-free, I used 55g because it needed to be used up and it gave me a nice, thick "millenta".)
175 g cold water

The morning of:
390 g water
1/8 tsp active dry yeast
265 g unbleached all-purpose flour (white spelt)
335 g unbleached bread flour (white spelt) all of the starter
18 g salt (I only used 12g which was a full tbsp and perfect.  Another tsp would have been too salty for us.)
all of the cooled polenta (millenta)
cornmeal, for garnish (millet flour) 

Tiny Biga: In the early afternoon of the day before you are baking the bread, whisk the yeast with warm water in a smallish bowl until it has dissolved. Using a wooden spoon and/or your hands, mix in the small amount of flour until it is smooth. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter, out of drafts, to ferment.

Cute as a button little walnut sized biga.  Of course it happily filled the bottom of the bowl by the next day.

Starter: In the evening of the day before you are baking the bread, whisk the starter yeast with warm water in a medium-sized bowl until it has dissolved. Add the tiny biga that should be bubbling nicely. Using a wooden spoon and/or your hands, mix in the starter amount of flour until you have a smooth lump of dough. 

Polenta: In the morning of the day you are baking the bread, pour cold water into a small pot on the stove at medium high heat. Add the polenta and using a wooden spoon, cook, stirring constantly until the mixture if thick - about 5 minutes. Once the polenta is made, remove it from the pot to a plate or shallow container and put it into the fridge to cool.

Mixing the dough: In a large mixing bowl, whisk the dough yeast with warm water until it has dissolved.
Add the starter (that should have doubled and be quite bubbly). Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flours and salt. It might be pretty sloppy. Or not. It might just be shaggy.

Kneading: Lay the cooled polenta on top of the dough. Plunge in with your hands to turn and fold the dough in the bowl, kneading until it's smooth (5 to 10 minutes). When the dough is smooth, cover the bowl with a plate to rest.

See, that millet cooks up just like polenta!

After about 20 minutes, turn and fold the dough a few times. Notice that it is significantly smoother. Cover the bowl with a plate and set it aside in the oven with only the light turned on to rise until it has doubled. Don't worry if it is quite sloppy. If it rises earlier than you expect, simply deflate the dough and allow it to rise again. This will just strengthen the dough. 

Shaping: When you are ready to shape the bread, turn it out onto a lightly floured board and divide it into 2 pieces. Trying not to disturb the bubbles too much, shape into two rounds. Liberally spray the tops of the shaped loaves with water. Cover them with cornmeal. Put each loaves seam-side up in a banneton, tightly woven basket or colander. Cover each one with a mixing bowl or plastic and allow them to rise on the counter until almost double. (I shaped mine round on parchment and dusted with millet flour, covering with a cloth to rise.) 

Preheat: Put a baking stone on the middle shelf of the oven and preheat to 220-230ºC.  (I baked at 375º F and would go up to 400º next time.) 

Slashing: Turn each loaf out of its container onto a square of parchment paper. Using a very sharp knife (or a razor or lamé if you have one), starting at the center of the loaf and holding the blade almost horizontally, carve a spiral into each loaf. Try not to freak out if the spirals look like vicious circles. 

Baking: Liberally spray the tops of the loaves with water. Using a peel, slide them onto the hot stone and bake for about 30-40 minutes, turning them around once half way through baking, to account for uneven oven heat. The crust should be quite dark and the internal temperature should be around 96ºC. Allow the baked bread to cool completely before cutting into it. It's still baking inside!

(inspiration: Della Fattoria's Polenta Bread on p.118-119 in "Artisan Baking Across America: the Breads, the Bakers, the Best Recipes" by Maggie Glezer)

This tasty bread will go up for Yeastspotting!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Gluten Free Lofthouse Style Sugar Cookies

Turns out, a wheat sensitivity runs in the girls in our family.  All of us.  And since there are quite a few gluten sensitive folks at church and we have a potluck coming up, I've been experimenting with some new gluten free recipes rather than just falling back to spelt.  I have been very happy with all of them so far, which include a chocolate chip from Barefeet in the Kitchen, a Nutella chocolate chip oatmeal cookie, and a frosted Lofthouse style soft sugar cookie.  Those last are the ones I will share today since they are so popular in all the grocery stores but have such a horrendous ingredient list.  I have made gluten full versions of these that are also delicious, but a good gluten free version is harder to turn out.  Even hubby said these were great.  Be sure to chill the dough for a few hours in order to properly hydrate the flours or the cookies will tend to be gritty.  The dough may be a bit soft at first, but it will firm up nicely in the fridge.

Gluten Free Iced Soft Sugar Cookies
makes 2½ dozen

1 cup butter, melted
1 cup evaporated cane sugar
½ cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup sweet sorghum flour
1/3 cup millet flour
1 cup sweet rice flour
1 cup oat flour
1¾ tsp baking powder (gluten free brand)
¼ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp xanthan gum
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp almond extract

2½ cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp + 2 tsp butter, melted
1½ tsp vanilla
3-4 tbsp milk
optional: food color and sprinkles

Combine all the flours, baking powder, salt and xanthan gum in a bowl and set aside.  Melt butter and mix in the sugar.  Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.  Mix in the eggs, one at a time, then add the extracts.  Beat for a minute.  Add the dry ingredients in a few batches and mix well for a minute or so.  The dough should be soft but not incredibly sticky.  Shape the dough into a long log on a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper, and roll up to cover.  Chill in the fridge for 3-4 hours or overnight until quite firm.

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Take out the chilled dough and slice off rounds about ½" thick and set about an inch apart on the baking sheet.  Rotate the log as you cut to maintain the round shape.  My log was about 2½" in diameter.  Bake the cookies for 8-11 minutes until puffed and set but not browned.  (My oven took exactly 11 minutes for my size cookies.)  Remove and let set on the baking sheet for a minute or so to firm up before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the icing by combining the powdered sugar, melted butter and vanilla.  Add milk until the icing is desired frosting consistency.  Add food color if desired and frost the cooled cookies with about 1½ tsp of icing each.  If using sprinkles, frost the cookies individually and sprinkle each one as you go or the icing will crust over and not hold the sprinkles.

Now, these cookies are fine like this, but they are even better if you can let them rest for a few hours or overnight in an airtight container in the fridge.  Then they will be really soft and moist like the store variety.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Corn Free Chocolate Pudding - no cook

I have tried unsuccessfully, so far, to come up with a cooked pudding that does not use corn starch.  Tapioca starch is too gummy and arrowroot does not like dairy.  I know a blend is the way to go, so I am branching out into blends of starches and maybe some wheat free flours.  I'll keep working on it.  But in the mean time, I loved this avocado based chocolate pudding that I first saw on Comfy Belly, years ago.  I used more sweetener to taste but that is up to your personal sweet tooth!  I can tell you that this pudding makes the most amazing chocolate mousse when you fold in some whipped cream.  Oh my goodness, decadence.  Try out this super rich and satisfying treat, it's got lots of healthful fat and vitamins in it.  ☺

Instant Chocolate Pudding
Makes 3 servings

2 medium avocados (about 2 cups worth)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup maple syrup (anywhere from ½ c +2 tbsp to ¾ c + 2 tbsp works)
1 tsp vanilla
Mini chocolate chips for garnish (or fresh berries!)

Optional: sweetened whipped cream to fold in to finished pudding for chocolate mousse.

Add avocado, cocoa, syrup and vanilla to a food processor.  Pulse to combine.  Scrape and mix again until fully combined and creamy.  Scrape pudding into a bowl and chill for an hour.  Or less.  Garnish as desired or fold in whipped cream for an even more decadent treat!

I don't have a pretty picture of the mousse, it didn't last long enough to make it to a bowl or cup!  But here it is in process:

Adapted very closely from Comfy Belly.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Favorite Pancakes

It's the name of the recipe in the cookbook:  Favorite Pancakes.  And that's just what they are to us.  R calls them "hooray fluffy pancakes!"  The cookbook is for one or two person recipes so I almost always double or triple it unless I am making them just for the girls.  At one point, I lost the cookbook, which had been given to me by a family friend as a going off to college present.  Had to order another copy and fortunately used copies were available since it was published in the late 60s.  I still haven't found the first one, though I know it is in the house somewhere.  It's now promised to my Mom and Dad, who are empty nesters.  Though I'm happy to share the recipe, I must admit that I am posting it mostly for my own benefit.  I don't ever want to lose this pancake recipe again!  That lovely yellow color is from the duck eggs I used this time, but regular chicken eggs work just fine and are what I use most often.  I just happened to find out I am allergic to chicken eggs.  And chocolate.  And cane sugar, apples, citrus, potatoes, coconut, wheat, corn, soy, onions and garlic.  I refuse to give up onions and garlic.  My allergy antigens will just have to overcome that sensitivity more slowly than if I eliminated.  At least I can have spelt flour.  I keep reminding myself it's only a short term elimination geared toward resetting tolerances and healing.  One thing I learned about pancake batter only recently is that not only can you over mix, you can also under mix.  Bring the batter together more than you would for say a muffin batter.  A few lumps are okay, but combine it pretty well.  Then you will get those lovely diner edges and finish from the first pancake to the last.

Favorite Pancakes
adapted from Cooking for Two
serves 4

1 1/3 cups light spelt flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tbsp oil or melted butter
1 tbsp maple syrup

 Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Combine milk, eggs, oil and syrup; add to dry ingredients, stirring to fully moisten and leave a few lumps.  Bake on a hot, lightly greased griddle.  Makes 10-12 pancakes.

These pancakes freeze wonderfully and reheat in the toaster for school mornings!
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