Jammy Bran Muffins

These muffins are a little bit different from your usually brown bran muffins. As you may know, I have a love/hate relationship with bran, so I’m always looking for new ways to ingest fibre without feeling like I’m eating sawdust. It’s a never-ending challenge. The additional challenge of these is that for some reason I have four jars of jam in my fridge and neither the Pie nor I is eating a lot of toast at the moment. So I decided to use it as my sweetener in this shindig.

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Start by setting your oven to preheat at 350°F and spray a muffin tin or rub it with butter. If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, feel free to sour some milk by adding 1 tablespoon lemon juice to every cup of regular milk. Give that a stir and leave it for 5 minutes.

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In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 cup bran, 1/4 cup ground flax (because it’s good for you – make sure it’s partially ground before you add it in), and 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda.

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In a smaller bowl, scramble together 4 tablespoons melted butter3/4 cup of your favourite jam (this one is serviceberry), 1 large egg, and 2 cups buttermilk (or alternative).

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Now pour the liquids into the solids and gently whisk until only just combined.

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Dump in 1 cup raisins (or not, if you’re not a fan of raisins) and whisk until just combined again – never over-mix muffins. If you do they end up flat. And that’s lame.

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Divide the batter in your tin. Bake those puppies for 20-25 minutes, until the centre muffin tests clean when stabbed with a toothpick.

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Leave them in the pan for about 5 minutes to cool a little bit before digging them out and eating them or letting them cool completely.

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We always like our muffins hot, with butter. Because, well, butter.

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Yet Another Spider-Man Cake

The Pie’s crowning achievement in life (in his mind) is having gotten the General addicted to Spider-Man (or “Pydermun” as the General says). So when Atlas asked me to make a cake for the General’s second birthday party, we all knew what the theme would be. I made a cake for the Pie a year back with an arachnid theme so I was pretty confident I could replicate my awesomeness. The resulting decoration, due to some recalcitrant icing, was a little underwhelming but boy the cake was good – it disappeared within about twenty minutes!

Spider-Man Strawberry Cake

The cake itself is pretty easy. I adapted a simple yellow cake out of the Joy of Cooking and decided to tip in a bunch of strawberries, too.

Spider-Man Strawberry Cake 1

So I washed and cut up about a pint of the little red gems, and made sure that they were in decently small pieces.

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Then I buttered and lined a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper. This cake is very moist and fragile so you need some help tipping it out of the pan and the paper helps. You can preheat your oven to 350°F as well while you’re at it.

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If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, then whip up this quick substitute: add 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice to a 1 cup measuring cup and fill the rest with milk. Stir and leave for 5 minutes. Set that aside for now.

In a bowl, sift together 2 1/3 cups flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Set that aside and grab your mixer.

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In the bowl of your mixer, dump 3/4 cup softened butter and whip that into a pale fluffy frenzy for like three minutes.

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Now tip in 1 1/3 cup sugar and beat again until you have a fluffy amazing pile of salty sweet buttery goodness.

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Now add in 3 large eggs, one at a time, as well as 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and beat until fully combined and smooth.

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Grab your flour mixture and your 1 cup buttermilk (or substitute) and alternate adding them to the mix, stirring each time. Start with the flour, so you have three additions of flour and two of buttermilk, and go until it’s all smooth and batter-y.

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Dump in your 1 pint chopped strawberries and stir those in well.

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Smooth the batter into the pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Set that on a rack in the pan to cool completely.

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Make yourself some icing – your choice, but I prefer the standby cream cheese recipe of 1 cup butter:1 package cream cheese:3-4 cups icing sugar. I tipped in some almond extract to boost the strawberry flavour, and then dyed it appropriately with gel paste food colouring.

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I actually ran out of red colour so the background ended up a wee bit pink.

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And the black stuff got super wobby when I was piping it so it didn’t look so hot. However I did manage to get the floppy cake onto the lid of a tupperware container before decorating so it was a simple matter to simply jam the bottom on top for easy transport!

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Banana Oatmeal Bran Muffins

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I’m not a huge fan of bran muffins, to tell the truth. I mean, the older I get the more I appreciate their functionality in my diet, but they’re still not a favourite. The Pie absolutely LOVES them, though. I swear he’s actually seventy. So I thought I’d play around with the mixture a bit and see if I could come up with something that still had all the benefits of bran with a bit more of a flavour, and these not-too-sweet muffins did the trick.

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These can also be frozen in their unbaked form for cooking up later, which is handy for me as I am yet again filling up friends’ freezers in anticipation of future little ones. All you do is scoop the mixed batter into cupcake liners, freeze them, and then add five minutes to the baking time when you bake them from frozen. Easy peasy.

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But of course you want to try some of these puppies right away. So preheat your oven to 350°F and line some muffin tins with liners (or give them a good spraying or buttering, whatever suits). I doubled this recipe (so I could freeze some) so don’t be alarmed at the massive amounts in the pictures. Deep breaths.

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In a bowl, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour, 1 cup oats (rolled, not steel cut), 1 cup bran, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. That’s your dry bowl.

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For your liquids you’ll likely need a bit more preparation. First, I had some bananas in the freezer that needed thawing out, but when they were good and squishy I went ahead and mushed up 3 ripe bananas.

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You’ll also need some buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk you can simply sour regular milk by adding 1 tablespoon lemon/lime juice or vinegar to every cup of milk you use and letting that sit for about 5 minutes. For this recipe you’ll need 2 cups buttermilk/soured milk. I also opted to switch out the traditional molasses used in bran muffins for 1/2 cup honey. In addition to that in your liquid bowl you’ll need 1 large egg and 4 tablespoons melted butter.

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Mix both the liquids and the dry stuff well, but SEPARATELY. The whole trick with muffins is not mixing them too much. I think in this case with me trying to incorporate the bananas I ended up overmixing but you should try not to do that.

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Your batter should still be pretty lumpy when you tip in 1 cup raisins or nuts (optional).

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Scoop your batter into your prepared tins and either freeze them or bake them for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre muffin comes out clean.

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Let those cool in the pan about 5 minutes before scooping out to a wire rack to cool completely.

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I like eating them still-hot with a wee bit of butter. So good!

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Sunday Scones

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Yes, yes, I know it’s WEDNESDAY. But I made these on a Sunday and I like my alliteration, okay? These are a great addition to a Sunday brunch (I know this because that’s what I made them for). I used turkey bacon in this recipe but feel free to use any bacon-like product you can think of.

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Start with 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and mix it in a bowl with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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Grab 1/2 cup COLD butter and use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture. You can use a food processor for this if you really want, but we are going for a non-uniform texture here, so irregular chunks of butter are a plus in this situation.

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Normally I use buttermilk when I make scones because it makes them nice and fluffy. But I never have buttermilk on hand because in Canada you can only buy it in 1L cartons and seeing as I don’t drink it for its own sake that’s a lot of buttermilk to have to use up. So generally I just sour my own milk. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of milk, give it a stir, and leave it for five minutes. Good enough. Here I only needed 2/3 cup soured milk so I adjusted accordingly. You can do the math. Anyway, mix the milk with 2 slightly beaten eggs.

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What you also need here is about 5 slices of cooked bacon, any kind.

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Slice and dice that into wee pieces. You need about 1/2 cup chopped bacon at this point. You should probably do this first before all the other stuff with the flour and butter so that the bacon has time to cool down before you cut it up. Otherwise, there might be bad things that happen.

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Harvest some green onions as well. Dice them up until you have about 1/4 cup chopped green onion.

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Then grate some cheese. Any kind you like, but you need about 2/3 cup grated cheese and then add to that about 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese as well.

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Okay so now you’ve got all your bits and pieces. Add the buttermilk/eggs mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

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Add the cheese, onions, and bacon to the bowl as well and continue to stir until it’s all incorporated.

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Turn the mix out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently just until all the bits and pieces are together and it’s a cohesive mass. You just want things all barely sticking together. When in doubt, under-mix.

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Shape it into a disk about 1″ thick. Wrap the dough up tightly and put it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes or in the fridge overnight.

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Scones cook really well from frozen, did you know that? So if you wanted to do that, cut the scones before chilling, wrap them up really well, and then chuck them in the freezer for scone-y goodness any time you want. Frozen scones make great gifts, you know.

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If you’re not freezing them, unwrap your chilled dough and slice it into wedges. I aimed for 10 wedges here. You can also flatten your dough into a rectangle and cut out squares or triangles or whatever you want. Wedges are easiest for me. Preheat your oven to 375°F.

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Plop the wedges on some baking sheets lined with parchment and brush them with about 2 tablespoons half and half or light cream.

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Sprinkle them with a little sea salt and shove them in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they’re puffy and golden.

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Let cool only very slightly before serving warm with a dollop of butter!

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Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Batter

Gluten-Free Cake Batter

Everybody needs a basic cake batter recipe to work from, even those who have a low tolerance for gluten.  Fussellette was coming for Easter and I wanted to serve a cake for dessert.  So I needed to come up with a cake that she could enjoy along with the rest of our guests.

Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Batter

This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Easy Cake Batter.  I replaced the flour in the recipe with a gluten-free mix I came up with myself, with a little bit of help from Ellen’s Kitchen.  If you are curious as to the right proportions when combining gluten-free flours, check out her suggestions — they are very useful.

Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Batter

First we want to bring all our liquid ingredients to room temperature: 1 cup butter, 4 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks, and 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or soured milk). If you want to warm up your ingredients a little faster, try placing them in a warm water bath.

Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Batter

In a bowl, whisk together 2 cups white rice flour, 2/3 cup almond meal (I find that the coarseness of the almond meal gives the cake crumb a springy, solid texture, with no fear of it falling if handled too roughly), 1/3 cup tapioca starch/flour, and1 tablespoon baking powder.  So the final result of this particular combination tastes like a sweet, more tender version of cornbread — it has a finer texture but that’s the best analogy I can come up with.

Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Batter

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together your butter with 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, until it’s light and fluffy and creamy.  Don’t rush this process.  Let your mixer go on high for about 6 minutes, and you will see the difference between butter and sugar that are just well-combined versus butter and sugar that are well and truly creamed together. This is the just-combined stuff.

Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Batter

This is the truly creamed stuff.  It makes all the difference in a cake, especially one where you need all the help you can get to keep the structure light and fluffy.

Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Batter

Mix in your eggs, one at a time, until they are well-combined.  Again, you add the eggs a bit at a time so that the mixer paddle will have a chance to properly emulsify all of it.

Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Batter

Add in at this point 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.

Flip the mixer to its lowest setting and mix in about a third of your flour mixture.  Pour in half the buttermilk and let that get mixed in as well.  Then another third of your flour, mix that in, and the rest of the buttermilk.  When that’s mixed in, add the last of the flour and mix until just combined.  You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl. This picture is blurry because I like to cook in motion.

Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Batter

Now you have a basic batter with which you can do pretty much anything.  You can turn it into a layer cake, or mix it with other flavours like chocolate or fruit.  Or you can make it into cupcakes, like I did here (the frosting is a package of cream cheese mixed with a cup of icing sugar and some coconut).

Gluten-Free Cake Batter

This cake here I wrapped up and froze for a future event.

Gluten-Free Cake Batter

For Easter I poured the batter into two pans and then layered the cake with whipped cream mixed with raspberries.  DIVINE.