It's been the summer of muffins here at the Monitor! A few weeks ago we announced the winner of our muffin mix-off contest. A delicious apple cinnamon muffin took home first prize, but these strawberry sweetheart streusel muffins submitted by food blogger Sue Lau from Washington Township, Ohio, were such a close second, we thought we should share them.
Baked goods with strawberries can sometimes turn out too wet. But in these muffins the strawberries held up well and the muffins were moist, but not mushy in the least. The streusel-nut topping was a great addition, adding a nice crunch to every bite. Ms. Lau's recipe for strawberry butter puts these muffins in the "special weekend breakfast" category. But without the butter and baked the night before, these could easily work as an early morning, grab-and-go breakfast.
With summer winding down, strawberries will only be at markets for a few more weeks. So try these muffins out soon!
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh strawberries (or 1 cup blueberries, rinsed and drained)
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup quick oats
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Strawberry butter (optional)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries
1/4 cup finely chopped toasted pecans
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of 18 cup muffin tin/s.
2. Mix together ingredients for streusel and set aside.
3. Mix together for the muffins the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Separately, mix together the milk, melted butter, beaten eggs and vanilla.
4. Gently mix the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Fold in lightly floured chopped strawberries. Pour mixture into prepared muffin tins and top with streusel mixture.
5. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool for 10 minutes before trying to remove them from the pan (or they will stick). Finish cooling muffins on a wire rack.
6. To make strawberry butter, mix together thoroughly the soft butter and powdered sugar. Fold in the strawberries and toasted pecans. Chill until needed and soften before serving on split muffins.
Related post from Sue Lau's blog, A Palatable Pastime: Strawberry Shortcake
Today was a day to mix comfort, warming foods with the fresh and bright flavors of summer. Sure I could have made pie.
Shoot. I should have made pie!
Oh well, there’s always tomorrow.
No matter, this is better than pie. Chocolate for lunch? Oh yeah baby!
Enter tostadas – which I love.
Essentially, tostadas are the perfect platform for just about any tasty topping. If you make your own tostadas, you can avoid the deep frying oil, too. Bonus. I bake tortillas in the oven for 10 minutes or so and they are perfectly crisp tostadas and there’s no nasty rancid vegetable oil to deal with.
These chocolate beans are warm, spicy, and almost creamy. There’s a kind of earthiness to them. Top the whole thing off with the bright, juicy flavors of peach and refreshing mint. I can guarantee you won’t be thinking about pie.
I often have a stash of frozen beans in baggies in the freezer for a quick grab and go. Next time you’re making beans from scratch, I recommend making extras and freezing them in 1-1/2 cup portions. This is way cheaper than buying canned beans and tastier too. However canned beans are always an option. Using cooked beans makes this lunch or dinner come together from start to finish in 15 minutes.
But really, let’s be honest. It’s about the chocolate and peaches. It’s not really about a meal in 15 minutes, it just happens to be the bonus.
Cocoa Spiced Bean Tostadas with Peach Salsa
4- x 6-inch corn tortillas
Cocoa Pinto Beans (recipe below)
Peach Mint Salsa (recipe below)
1 avocado, steamed chard, or 2 cups grated zucchini
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Place tortillas on a cookie sheet. Place a pie plate or flat object on top of the tortillas to keep them from curling up.
3. Bake for 10 minutes or until firm and crispy. Meanwhile make beans and salsa. Top each tostada with a scant 1/2 cup of bean mixture. Top with sliced avocado, steamed chard, or grated zucchini. Top with Peach Mint Salsa. Devour!
Cocoa Pinto Beans
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large tomato, diced
1-1/2 cups cooked pinto beans (or black beans)
4 teaspoon raw cacao (or unsweetened cocoa)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried red chilies
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice (juice 1 lime and use remaining for peach salsa)
1 teaspoon honey (Optional, depending on cacao used. It can be bitter at times, add if necessary)
Scant 1/2 tsp salt (or adjust to taste)
Fresh ground pepper
1. In a large frying pan, sautée onions and garlic with olive oil for 2 minutes or until onion begins to soften.
2. Add tomatoes, beans, cacao, cumin, and chilies. Cook until tomatoes soften and flavors blend. About 5 minutes.
3. Add cilantro stir to combine and taste. Add honey if necessary. Season with the salt and pepper to taste.
Peach Mint Salsa
2 peaches, pits removed and diced
1/4 cup chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (or green onion)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
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This salad is a new summer favorite. It's delicious and easy to make, especially if you've got some leftover grilled corn lying around. It also goes well with lots of things and tastes great the next day – my husband and I devoured the leftovers and I wish I'd made a bigger batch. I plan to make it again very soon!
The inspiration for this salad came from Bev, a dear family friend who was like my second mother when I was growing up. Her daughter, Dawn, was my companion until about 9th grade and the three of us spent many happy hours together, swimming at Big Deep, walking around town, and, of course, eating. Bev is a wonderful cook – I still sigh just thinking of her divine fried chicken and potato salad.
But back to this delightful salad! I recommend cooking the quinoa in vegetable broth to give it a little more flavor – it makes a big difference. And don't forget to rinse it first to get rid of the bitter saponins.
RECOMMENDED: 22 summer salads
A word to the wise, leave yourself time to let the quinoa cool down after you make it. I was in a rush when I made this so I did not have time to let my quinoa cool down and the feta kind of melted into it as you can probably see in the photos. It's just as delicious that way but not quite as pretty as when the feta is in distinct pieces. And, while we're on the topic of appearances, I didn't have any red quinoa on hand when I made this, but if you do, I think that would give the salad a little more visual pop.
Chop the herbs and prepare the corn if you don't already have it on hand. I like to cook an ear or two more than I need in order to have some handy to throw into salads, salsas, corn bread, or fritters. As I've mentioned, I'm really enjoying my new corn stripper but a sharp knife will also work perfectly well.
Mix it all together with a little olive oil and lemon juice, then season with sea salt and black pepper to taste and stir in the chunks of feta cheese. That's it!
I hope you enjoy these last few weeks of golden summer.
Quinoa, corn & feta salad with fresh herbs
Serves 4 as a side
1-1/2 cups quinoa
2-1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
1/4 to 1/2 cup (the more the better, I think) coarsely chopped fresh herbs – you can use oregano, basil, cilantro, thyme, parsley, marjoram, mint, etc.,
Juice of half a lemon
1-2 cups cooked corn kernels (grilled is the tastiest)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese – I would choose a harder/drier variety over one of the softer ones
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Cook the quinoa: bring a medium-large pot of water to a boil; while it's heating up, rinse the quinoa in several changes of water and drain thoroughly. Once the water reaches a boil, add the quinoa, stir, and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes on low heat or until you see the little curly white tail of the quinoa grains emerge. If there is too much liquid, leave the lid off for the last few minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in a few tablespoons of olive oil and set it aside to cool with the lid off.
2. If you don't have cooked corn kernels on hand, use the time that the quinoa is cooking to grill your corn – get the simple directions here – two ears should be plenty. Once it's cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off the cobs and set aside.
3. Wash, dry and chop the herbs. Combine the quinoa, corn, herbs, and lemon juice with a little more olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the crumbled feta cheese and toss to combine.
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I was having a bake-fest one Saturday, partly because it was a rare day that I wasn't running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off (did you ever wonder exactly how headless chickens are able to run?) or having to meet people somewhere or having to be in two places at once.
Also, it was partly because I had an audio book I borrowed from the digital library, and I can't just sit still and listen to a book. Usually, I'm on the treadmill while I'm listening to an audio book, but I'd already worked out 6 days in a row so Saturday was my rest day. But I had to do something. Baking it was.
The great thing about this cake is that it was delicious. The not so great thing is it didn't come cleanly out of my Bundt pan, so it looked like something Frankenstein put together as a self-portrait. I patched it together as best as I could, covered it with leftover frosting from the White Texas Sheet Cake and sprinkled it with toasted coconut in the hopes that no one would notice Frankenstein isn't a very good artist.
All I can say is, it's the taste that matters the most - like when you're not supposed to comment on someone's appearance if it's not aesthetically pleasing, so you say "he (or she) has a great personality." Well, this is a delicious cake, let me tell you. Fluffy texture but not too light or too dense (aka perfect pound cake texture), good buttery vanilla flavor, and the sweetness of the frosting and the crunch from the toasted coconut were fantastic additions.
I misread the directions and thought you were supposed to grease and then sugar the pan. They really say to grease and flour the pan then sprinkle sugar in it. Oops, that was probably my problem with not getting the cake out intact. Live and learn, and make again properly.
Louisiana crunch cake
3 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Sift together cake flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Set aside.
3. In a large separate bowl, beat butter until very fluffy (about 5 minutes) then add 2 cups of sugar. Continue to beat until light and fluffy (about 2 more minutes).
4. Beat in eggs, one at a time, making sure that each egg is thoroughly blended before adding the next egg.
5. Mix sour cream and vanilla extract together.
6. Add flour mixture and sour cream mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat until batter is well blended and uniform but do not over-mix.
7. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan. Add in 1/4 cup of sugar to the bottom of pan and about 3 inches up the sides, tapping the pan to ensure even distribution. Leave excess sugar in pan. Sprinkle coconut flakes to the bottom of the pan. Scrape batter into the bundt pan and spread evenly.
8. Bake for about 50 minutes to an hour or until a wooden skewer or cake tester inserted comes out clean.
9. Let cake cool for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove from pan, making sure that the sugary coconut side is faced upward. Use a knife to scrape the sides if cake becomes stuck. (This step is very important otherwise your cake will continue to bake and will become very dry and completely stuck in the pan).
10. Drizzle glaze over the crunchy top portion of cake. Top with toasted coconut if desired.
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When I think of really old Southern recipes, spoon bread always comes to mind. I really have no particular knowledge of its history, it's just that first time I ever had it was on a school trip to Colonial Williamsburg where it is served at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern by costumed and in-character servers. I assume everything else at Williamsburg is so accurate, that this must be a colonial recipe. I love Williamsburg, and no small part of that is the food, and I have enjoyed the spoon bread on many subsequent visits.
Working on the theory that bacon makes everything better, I added a little bit to my classic spoon bread recipe. The creamy, light cornbread-soufflé hybrid is perfect with the addition of a little crunch. But it occurred to me that spoon bread could be taken out of the realm of simple side with the addition of a little saucy extra. This bacon-onion-tomato mixture is one I have been whipping up with leftover bits and pieces for years, but finally decided was worthy of a recipe.
And no, I do not think this is too much bacon. It is actually very well balanced. But of course, these two dishes stand alone wonderfully well. The spoon bread works as a side with stick ribs, or grilled foods, or as part of a breakfast spread. And the jam, which makes more than you need for the spoon bread, is wonderful on burgers or a grilled cheese sandwich.
RECOMMENDED: Take our fruit and veggie quiz!
Bacon spoon bread
6 strips of bacon
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon baking powder
1. Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet until crispy. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Reserve 1 tablespoon bacon grease.
2. Mix the cornmeal, sugar, and salt together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Bring the water, butter, and 1 tablespoon bacon grease to a boil in a pan. Turn on the mixer and pour the boiling water into the cornmeal. Beat until thick and stiff. Let cool for about 10 minutes.
3. Measure the milk in a 4-cup jug, then crack in the eggs and beat well. Beat the milk and eggs into the cornmeal mush, then fold in the bacon pieces and beat until combined. Beat in the baking powder until well blended, then scrape the spoon bread into the baking dish. Bake for 30–40 minutes, until the center is set. Serve immediately with spoonfuls of tomato bacon jam.
Makes 1 pint
6 strips of bacon
2 pounds tomatoes, chopped
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet until crispy. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.
2. In a large, high-sided saucepan, bring the chopped tomatoes, onion, sugars, vinegar, salt, and pepper to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and breaking down. Use a spatula or the back of the spoon to crush the tomatoes, though I like to give the jam a little whirl with an immersion blender at this point to create a rough puree. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir in the bacon pieces and simmer until the jam is thick and spreadable, about an hour or more. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pan. As the jam thickens, watch it more closely and stir often to prevent burning. The jam will be done when you pull a spatula through to expose the bottom of the pan and the two sides don’t run together.
3. Scoop the jam into jars or a bowl and leave to cool. The jam will keep covered in the fridge for more than a week.
RECOMMENDED: Take our fruit and veggie quiz!
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Tabbouleh is the perfect summer farmers market dish – fresh herbs and vegetables tossed with fine grains for a fresh, cool salad. But has always been underwhelming to me. Too bland, too dry, I don’t know. I’ve always wanted to love it, but never had.
Until a conversation at a party about family recipes. A lovely woman from Mississippi was telling me about some of her family’s traditional Lebanese dishes, filtered through generations in the Missisippi Delta. She mentioned in passing that her family always soak the bulgur in lemon juice. That idea stuck with me as a way to pep up the dish. And it does. This version of tabbouleh is bright with lemon juice, really tart and unique. I love lots of fresh herbs, but have added a few spices for a little flair. So now I like tabbouleh – my way. I make this for parties and cook outs, but also just to keep a bowl in the fridge for quick lunches and snacks.
But here’s the thing about tabbouleh. This is my blueprint, lifted from someone else’s recipe. You can do what you want. More tomatoes or cucumbers, no garlic, a little chopped hot pepper. What you find at your market or in the garden. I do offer some hints. I like to give my knife and board a workout and finely chop all the ingredients, so each bite has a good mix of flavors, rather than a big chunk of tomato or cucumber or a big parsley leaf. With all the lemony tang, I’ve never really thought this needed salt, but do as you will.
Summer Market Tabbouleh
Serves 4 as a side dish, easily doubles
1/2 cup fine bulgur wheat
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 plum tomatoes
1 cucumber, seed scooped out
1 green onions, white and light green parts
1 small garlic clove
1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sumac
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon coriander
1. Place the bulgur in a bowl. Then mix the lemon juice and 3/4 cup water in a pan and bring to a boil. Pour the liquid over the bulgur and give it a good stir. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes.
2. While the bulgur is soaking, finely chop the tomato, cucumber, green onions and place in a large bowl. Pass the garlic clove through a press into the bowl, or chop it to a fine paste on a board and add it. Finely chop the herbs and add to the bowl. Add the olive oil, sumac, cinnamon and coriander to the bowl and stir well to blend everything. Set aside.
3. When the 15 minutes have passed, uncover the bulgur and fluff with a fork. If there is any liquid in the bowl or the bulgur seems wet, place it on a fine sieve and press out any liquid. Return to the bowl and fluff with the fork. Leave the bulgur to cool for about 5 minutes.
4. Scrape the bulgur into the tomato cucumber mix and use a fork to mix everything together, breaking up any clumps in the bulgur and scraping the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Cover the bowl again and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld.
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Oh, sweet watermelon. Juice running down my chin, too much loving to all be contained in one bite and somehow the whole face gets involved.
I think every kid must have a memory somewhere of leaning over a balcony looking over a lawn spitting their watermelon seeds down below. Juice dripping down each arm all the way to the elbows, then down the front of what used to be a clean T-shirt, and spread from ear to ear (and maybe a little in the hair) – or maybe that’s just me. I’m 35 now and still haven’t mastered the art of eating watermelon without getting it all over the place.
Gosh, I had missed watermelon, living here in this remote fire tower. Almost as much as I missed regular hot showers and regular garbage pick up.
Procuring one took until now and involved a 9-hour drive. Not all for a watermelon of course, we can buy one in town and that’s only a round trip of 3 hours. But the bonus was going home with one. Or should I say a 1/4 of one, perfect for our little fridge! What a treat. My sister cut off a chunk of hers for us to take home. Exactly the perfect size we could handle.
Watermelon is one of those things that once you cut it open, it needs to be eaten fairly promptly or refrigerated. With our current refrigerator situation, a watermelon the size of a beach ball was out of the question. It would use up far too much valuable real estate. It’s really about calories. What little space we have is taken up with more calorie dense foods such as cheese, eggs and of course lots of veggies. If fruit can’t survive on the counter, it doesn’t get purchased. I know there are those ever so precious ones the size of a cantaloupe that would be perfect, but somehow by doing that some of the pleasure is lost for me. There’s just something about buying fruit that takes two arms to carry out of the store. That’s half the fun!
The other part of the fun, of course, is eating it!
Whether you enjoy watermelon for desert or for a main, watermelon is one of those fruits that truly screams summer. Like ice cream cones and Popsicles or corn on the cob done on the grill.
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As part of our bounty (which this salad is made up of) we also scored a bunch of wonderful produce and herbs from my sisters garden. We also stopped by the Italian Market to pick up other treats like cheese, olives, cured meats and a whole grain boule. Joshua even drove the the 1-1/2 hour return drive to pick up grass-fed meat from our favorite Edmonton butcher while I was at my appointment. Amazing! So to say the least, we are feasting.
I thought I’d share with you a recipe using said bounty. Now, I know what you might be thinking. Tomatoes and watermelon don’t really constitute a real bounty, but I guess it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. And in this case, the mouth.
I know that it’s simplicity might lead one to think that it’s not anything special but I do hope you’ll give it a try.
Why it works: The subtle acidity of the tomatoes plays nicely against the sweetness of the watermelon, both bursting with bold flavorful juice with every bit. The saltiness is brought in with the feta cheese, which sure helps to balance out all that sugary goodness. The cucumber brings in a fresh astringent quality with a slight bitterness brought in by the peel. There’s spicy kick and crunch from the slivers of radishes. I decided to add some young dill heads (or tops) from my sister’s garden that are all dill in the nose, but slightly peppery in the taste. It might be best described by being similar to arugula in flavor. The dill flavor is much milder, but feel free to use dill weed instead (if you’re like me and young dill heads are hard to source reliably), just use it sparingly.
Watermelon Tomato Salad with Radishes and Feta
1-1/2 cups of grape tomatoes halved (cherry or sliced tomatoes would be beautiful, too)
1-1/2 cups cubed watermelon
3-inch segment of cucumber, seeded and sliced
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1 young dill head, split into individual flowers (or 1 teaspoon chopped dill)
2 ounces crumbled feta (goat or sheep work well here but cow’s milk would work, too)
Drizzle of olive oil
Cracked fresh pepper
Assemble the ingredients into a large bowl or plate. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh pepper. Serve with your favorite crusty bread.
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One of the interesting things about hurricane season in the Caribbean is the variety of fish that we get that cannot be found at any other time of the year. Thanks to fish migration, I welcome the opportunity to try fish that I have never heard of before, much less tasted. I am fortunate to have made friends with an owner of one of the fishing vessels at Oistin's. Wendell has been introducing me to other types of fish and it's quite an education.
For me, fresh seafood begs to be prepared in the simplest of ways so that you can taste the flavor and experience the texture. Each fish has its own texture, though there are similarities in some varieties. Of course the application/method used to cook the fish can determine the final texture of the fish. The seasonings used also contribute to the overall flavor of the fish and the dish as a whole.
I've never had Black Jack fish before. This is one of the fish that Wendell introduced me to. It is a favorite among fisher folk. I bought a couple, had a guy at the market it clean it for me and headed home to make an all-time Caribbean favorite – steamed fish.
There is no particular recipe for this dish. Here's what I did.
Once cleaned, the fish was washed well and pat dry, I seasoned it with lots of freshly ground black pepper, sea salt and a sprinkling of packet-fish seasoning. I cut up some hot peppers, removing the seeds and sliced up some green onions/scallions. Then I got two sprigs of fresh Guyanese/Portuguese thyme which I placed 1 sprig each on both pieces of fish while they were steaming so the flavour would permeate the fish.
Next, the fish was steamed in my Chinese bamboo steamer. First I lined the baskets with foil and then parchment paper before adding the fish. You can use a plate if you like. Let the pot or pan with water come up to a boil first and then place the baskets on top and steam for 12 to 14 minutes or until fish is cooked through and flakes easily. Add the hot peppers and green onions as soon as the fish is done cooking, cover and let rest for an additional 2 minutes.
Remove the fish with the paper and its juices and transfer to a plate or serving dish – fish and juices. Squeeze some fresh lime or lemon juice onto the fish and getting some of the lime/lemon in the fish juices as well. Serve hot.
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Want to hear some crazy news? Eat Run Read celebrated its third birthday this week!!!
Three years, 690 posts, 1,808 comments, and 311,620 pageviews. I started this little project the summer after I graduated college and who knows how long it will continue? (If my blog were a person it would be a toddler by now!) At first my family wondered if I’d run out of things to blog about. I wondered if eventually I would lose interest. But I’m happy to report that has yet to happen – 1,095 days later and Eat Run Read is still going strong!
Major lesson learned? Well, I already knew that I liked baking and running and reading, but turns out I like to write. A lot. Before starting this blog, my writing experience was 100 percent academic. But here I am, three years after my first post I still look forward to writing every day. So thank you for reading. Seriously, anyone who knows me knows that I get excited when people read and like what I write. And thank you for commenting – thank you for your oohs and awws over my prettiest baking creations, thank you for your love and support through my running shenanigans, and thank you for sharing your own tips and feedback and fun links on my posts!
It is fitting that I celebrate this great occasion with a cake of the epic variety. I made this pistachio apricot cake with mascarpone filling and whipped cream frosting for our housewarming party this weekend and not to toot my own horn, but toot! it was pretty freaking delicious.
The cake has five eggs, giving it just the right balance of lightness but also satisfyingly cakey, and was very pistachio tasting. The mascarpone filling is swoonable – think of it as a cross between the flavor of whipped cream and the texture of cream cheese. And the final (tricky but totally worth it) component is the stabilized whipped cream frosting around the outside. The gelatin and cream of tartar stabilizes the cream, so it behaves like a super-light frosting and won’t melt. And it tastes awesome. It’s kind of like I died and went to heaven – in cake form.
Pistachio apricot cake with mascarpone filling and whipped cream frosting
Click here for a printable recipe from Eat.Run.Read.
For the pistachio cake
(From Smitten Kitchen)
3/4 cup skinned pistachio nuts
1-2/3 cups sugar
2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 eggs, lightly beaten
For the mascarpone filling
16 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ripe apricots, sliced
For the stabilized whipped cream frosting
Yield: about 3-4 cups frosting. Enough to generously frost one cake and have leftovers.
1 teaspoon gelatin powder
4 tablespoons cold water
2 cups whipping cream
1 speck of salt
8 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (I don’t know how absolutely necessary this is, but it can’t hurt and I’m paranoid about my whipped cream melting.)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
2. Spread out the pistachios in a baking pan and toast in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes, or until lightly colored. Transfer to a dish and let cool completely. Finely chop the pistachios and set 1/4 cup aside for decoration.
3. Put the remaining 1/2 cup pistachios in a food processor. Add the sugar and pulse just enough to grind them finely.
4. Pour into a large mixing bowl and add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Blend with the mixer on low for 30 seconds. Add the butter, milk, and vanilla and, with the mixer on low, beat until completely incorporated.
5. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beaten eggs in 2 or 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only long enough to blend after each addition. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.
5. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.
Make the mascarpone filling
Beat cheese, cream, sugar, and vanilla with a mixer until smooth.
Make the whipped cream frosting
1. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in small bowl to soften (about 5 minutes)
2. Scald 4 tablespoons cream; pour over gelatin, stirring till dissolved.
3. Refrigerate until consistency of unbeaten egg white (about 30 minutes, but check it so it doesn’t become too firm.)
4. Using a hand-mixer, beat until smooth. (If you accidentally let it get too firm in the fridge, just beat it for longer, it should loosen up).
5. Whip remaining cream. Add salt, sugar, vanilla, and cream of tartar; beat in gelatin mixture.
1. Once the cake is completely cool, make the mascarpone filling. Spread a little less than 1/3 of the mascarpone filling on your first layer. Arrange apricot slices.
2. Spread a very thin layer of mascarpone filling on the underside of the next layer and place it on top of the apricots (so it goes mascarpone-apricots-mascarpone, and keeps the cake from getting soggy from the fruit). Repeat for the next two layers, and if you have any leftover mascarpone, spread it around the outsides of the cake as a “crumb layer.”
3. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. (At this point, don’t worry about how it looks because it will all be covered in whipped cream soon!)
4. Make the whipped cream frosting and cover the whole cake. Decorate with a few slices of apricot and pistachio pieces.
5. Invite friends over and serve at room temperature.
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The results are in! We're pleased to announce the winner of the muffin mix off contest is Marisa Raponi from Vaughan, Ontario, who submitted a recipe for apple cinnamon muffins. Ms. Raponi, who tells us she bakes muffins regularly and just finished a batch of zucchini muffins, will receive a signed copy of "Flour, Too" by Joanne Chang.
Over the past few weeks the Stir It Up! staff narrowed our contest entries down to four finalists, which in addition to Ms. Raponi's apple muffins included Dorothy Hensey's date muffins, Sue Lau's strawberry sweetheart streusel muffins, and Marguerite Core's whole wheat cranberry muffins with honey roasted almonds. Then we got baking!
This week, the Monitor newsroom participated in a muffin taste test, where each judge received 1/4 of each type of muffin and then voted for their favorite. It was a close vote, but the apple muffins came out on top with rave reviews like, "very rich, complex assortment of apple-sugar related flavors," and "very moist." There were no leftovers and compliments for all the muffins, but we suspect the swirl topping on the apple muffins with toffee bits was hard to beat.
At first glance, we were thrown off by some of the ingredients in this recipe (butterscotch pudding mix, we're looking at you) but the final product ended up having a startling unity of flavor and consistency. The yogurt took longer than expected to set in the oven, but it also kept the muffins moist long after they'd cooled. The orange zest kept many judges guessing, but in the baker's opinion,
"[The zest] puts this recipe over the top. The strong, bitter citrus flavor cut the sweetness of the swirl topping, and gave the muffins a pleasant aroma and after-taste."
The baker also recommended leaving the apple chunks a little larger so the flavor is more apparent.
But were Ms. Raponi's muffins better than Ms. Chang's vegan vanilla-mixed berry muffins? It's hard to say. Here at Stir It Up! we have plenty of room in our hearts for more than one "perfect muffin." But with fall just around the corner we're sure to crave that comforting mix of apples, cinnamon, and toffee again soon.
Thanks to all those who submitted recipes to our muffin mix-off contest!
Apple cinnamon muffins
Submitted by Marisa Raponi
Makes 24 muffins
3-1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 box butterscotch instant pudding mix
Pinch of salt
1 orange, zested
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cup natural vanilla yogurt
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup oil
4 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, diced
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/3 cup toffee bits (Skor)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixer blend flour, baking powder, sugar, pudding, salt, and zest to remove any lumps. Stir baking soda into yogurt, set aside. Add eggs and oil to flour mixture while beaters are mixing on low, then add yogurt/baking soda mixture. Mix on low until almost incorporated. Lift beaters and using a spatula fold in apples gently, do not over mix.
2. In a small bowl blend topping ingredients together.
3. Spray 24 muffin tins with nonstick baking spray or line muffin tins with paper cups (apples may stick to paper). Place a heaping tablespoon of batter 1/2 full into each muffin, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of topping over batter. Top with more batter to almost 3/4 full and sprinkle with more topping.
4. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until golden brown or a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If you pierce an apple it may appear "wet." Make sure no "wet" batter sticks to toothpick. Enjoy with love!