Thursday, October 14, 2010

Zucchini, Carrot, and Cranberry "Bridge" Muffins from SoNo Bakery

I call these muffins "bridge" muffins because they very perfectly moved me from that last end-of-summer zucchini that had been sitting in my refrigerator to autumnal cranberries and carrots.  The sweet, golden-hued orbs are studded with tart cranberries, and the zucchini and carrot add additional texture and moisture.  

This recipe comes from The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook.  S and I went last winter to the SoNo Bakery at lunchtime on a freezing cold day.  Just the walk from our car two minutes away to the bakery had me shivering, and the steaming mugs of savory root vegetable soup that we had were a warm welcome.  The bakery is informal--you order at the counter and they bring your food to you at a table (or the bar chairs facing into the bakery if that's what you choose to do).  The day we went, S and I watched the bakers roll and fill chocolate croissants on big marble slabs while we sipped our soup and daintily bit into our array of baked goods.  The large glass windows for viewing are worth the trip there by themselves, but you will be satisfied with the cozy interior and clearly-baked-from scratch goodies.  I would recommend the little chocolate and caramel tarts, so tiny they urge you (and you are willing, of course!) to try several other desserts.

Zucchini, Carrot, and Cranberry Bridge Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour (you can also use some whole wheat--see notes below)
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
3/4 c finely grated carrot (about 2 medium)
3/4 cup finely grated zucchini (about 1 medium)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup whole fresh or frozen cranberries (no need to thaw the cranberries)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease a muffin tin and set aside.  Note: If you plan to make large muffins that puff up over the top of the cups, gently grease the top of the muffin pan.    
2.  Whisk together the flour through baking soda and set aside.
3.  In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar through vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula until incorporated.  Fold in cranberries.
4.  Divide the batter evenly among 12 muffin cups (about a 1/4 cup each--use more for larger muffins).
5.  Bake, rotating the pan, until muffins are golden brown, the tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.
6.  Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Gently lift muffins and turn on sides; allow to cool in pan.  
7.  Eat!

My notes:  I doubled the recipe, used 1 1/2 cups of sugar instead of 2, and used 2 cups of white flour and two cups of whole wheat pastry flour.  I also used extra large muffin pans, and the recipe made 11 of these (I filled each cup nearly full so that the muffin tops puffed up).   Extra large muffin cups will take about 35 minutes to bake.  Be gentle when removing the muffins from the pan--the muffins are dense with goodies and will break if not turned on their sides slowly.  Muffins can be frozen and taken out of the freezer the night before you wish to eat them for breakfast.  If you wish, you can reheat them in a warm oven right before serving.

Monday, October 4, 2010

New Website Launches: Connecticut Eats Local

Check out the new CT Eats Local site that just launched and take the CT Eats Local pledge!
You can even take this pledge if you are not a CT resident--see the FAQs page for details.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Aunt Cheri's Banana Muffins

My aunt Cheri emailed me this recipe to let me know these are the "BEST" banana muffins ever.  I took her word for it and gave them a try.  When my husband came home from work and popped one in his mouth, this is EXACTLY what he said.  "These are the BEST banana muffins you've ever made!"  

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
A scant 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large or 3 small)
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
Optional:  about a 1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips and/or finely chopped walnuts (my addition--see the "My Notes" section below)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line twelve 1/3-cup muffin cups with muffin liners or grease and flour. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Mix together the mashed bananas, egg, melted butter and milk in a bowl. Stir banana mixture into dry ingredients just until blended, making sure not to overmix.
If you wish, add chocolate chips and/or walnuts to the batter (see the "My Notes" section below).  
Divide batter among prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake muffins until tops are pale golden and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, about 30 minutes.  Transfer muffins to a rack to cool.

My Notes:  I used a heaping cup of mashed banana because 2 bananas were not enough and 3 were a heaping cup.  I also replaced ½ cup of the white flour with a ½ cup of whole wheat flour.  I think it would be good to do this with whole wheat pastry flour as well.  Finally, I left the chocolate chips out of half of the batter and scooped the non-chocolate chip batter into 6 muffin cups.  I sprinkled these muffins with finely chopped walnuts.  I then added about a ¼ cup of mini chocolate chips to the second half of batter, mixed it in, and scooped this batter into the remaining 6 muffin cups.  I sprinkled this batter with mini chips on top. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Warm Apple Galette with Homemade Cinnamon Ice-Cream

The first time I had cinnamon ice-cream was with warm apple something or other at the Fashion Cafe in New York City when I was fourteen.  I thought the idea of cinnamon-infused ice-cream was so unique and so cool, and getting to stride down the cafe's runway and strut my stuff after consuming this fresh concept made the flavors and textures of hot apple and cool cinnamon stand out in my mind ever since.  This is a perfect fall pairing to serve to guests or to simply enjoy by yourself.
Warm Apple Galette 
from Claire Ptak of In the Green Kitchen
This is, hands down, the best crust recipe I know of.  It makes such a fabulous apple or peach galette that I've had five in the last month.  In one week alone, I made and helped consume three.  It helps, of course, that this is also one of the easiest desserts to make, especially because the recipe makes enough for 2 doughs and you can freeze one and pull it out later for an impromptu finish to dinner.  

Dough (makes enough for 2 12-inch tarts)
I love Claire's technique here of blending in half of the butter and leaving the rest in larger pieces--it makes for a very flaky dough.
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
12 T unsalted butter, cold
1/3 to 1/2 cup ice-cold water (before you begin mixing your dough, measure 1/2 cup very cold water in a liquid measuring cup and stick it in the freezer for a few minutes)
4 or 5 medium apples (for one galette)--you can also use peaches instead
1 egg

Measure the flour and salt into a bowl.  Cut the butter into 1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes and put about half of it into the bowl.  Work it into the flour with your fingertips, lightly rubbing and breaking the flour-coated pieces of butter into small bits, until the mixture is roughly the texture of oatmeal or cornmeal.  Add the rest of the butter and work it quickly into the ough until the pieces of butter are about half their original size.  Dribble the water into the dough while tossing the mixture with a fork.  Keep adding water only until the dough begins to clump and hold together when you squeeze a handful.  You may not need the full 1/2 cup.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces and gather each part into a ball.  Wrap each ball in plastic or wax paper and flatten into a disk.  Let the rest, refrigerated, for about an hour.  If you plan to make only 1 galette, freeze the second disk for later use.  

When ready to make the tart, let the dough warm up at room temperature for 15 minutes or so and preheat the oven to 4oo degrees.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface  in to a rough circle about 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick.  Transfer the pastry to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate while preparing the apples.