scenes from a busy fall trimester…

Here are just a few of the things I’ve baked the past few months. There’s so much more than I just didn’t have time or forgot to photograph — sorry.

Practicing Palmiers at home for my Classic Pastry practical back in October. I blame the cheap butter.

Some sort of chocolate chip bar cookie… not for school. I honestly can’t remember what they were or where the recipe came from.

Dutch Apple Galette, from first day of Pies and Tarts class.

Lattice Apple Pie, also from Pies and Tarts class.

Ungarnished but partially eaten Turtle Pie.

Chocolate Cream Pie — a big hit with the kids at Thanksgiving.

Lemon Curd Tartlets (my favorite) and Fruit Tartlets.

This is actually from the first day of Winter Trimester — Linzer Torte from Cookies and Petit Fours class.
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nick of time cranberry-white chocolate (and a whisper of oatmeal) drops

One of the perks of being a habitual baker is that I usually have a fairly well-stocked pantry. And even when it’s not well stocked, there are usually enough odds and ends that I can pull something together in a pinch if necessary. Case in point — this morning I received the call to send in a sweet goodie with L. for tonight’s teen book group. After perusing my pantry, I managed to cull enough oatmeal, dried cranberries and white chocolate for this recipe from the King Arthur Flour site. I didn’t have a ton of any of these particular ingredients so I halved the batch (just as well — we have a lot of other baked stuff in the house already).

blueberry muffins

The best blueberry muffin recipe yet! This one was from the King Arthur Flour website and is simplicity itself — no spices, no lemon peel, no almond extract, just blueberries. I took the King Arthur Flour folks’ suggestion and used Wyman’s Wild Maine Blueberries instead of the whatever-brand frozen blueberries I normally use when it’s not blueberry season. Wyman’s blueberries are consistently sized (small) and this allows each muffin to have a nice, even distribution of berries. The muffins were moist and tender — so good!

trying to get caught up

I made this Whole-Wheat Zucchini Bread last month when we had a bumper crop of zucchini, including one 2 1/2-pound zuke. The recipe is from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Book. It has all good stuff in it — zucchini, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins and grated lemon zest — not to mention it’s good for you. On paper, it’s a wonderful bread; it was moist and flavorful, qualities one doesn’t typically associate with whole grain baked goods. Sadly, for some reason it just didn’t hit the spot for me.

david lebovitz’s roasted banana ice cream

This is another of David Lebovitz‘s recipes from The Perfect Scoop. The Traveler’s Lunchbox posted a terrific interview with David a couple of years ago and included this recipe. It is sooooooo good — I was standing over the sink scraping the dregs out of the ice cream maker bowl with a spatula because I just couldn’t stand any going to waste. It’s so simple to make — you roast cut-up bananas with a smidge of butter and some brown sugar, then puree the resulting gooey goodness with whole milk, a skosh more sugar, vanilla, fresh lemon juice and a little coarse salt. Chill and then freeze in an ice cream maker (The Traveler’s Lunchbox provides an alternate method using an immersion blender for those who don’t own an ice cream maker). The ice cream is rich and creamy, surprising when you remember that there’s no cream in the mix. There are endless possibilities for different variations — looking at other blogs I see that people have added chocolate chunks, nuts, rum, raisins, even peanut butter. I love it as it’s written — it’s summertime comfort food!

birthday blueberry muffins

My eldest turns 15 today. One birthday several years ago, he decided he would like blueberry muffins for breakfast and the tradition stuck. Occasionally his special day would fall during our vacation week and he’d have a blueberry muffin from a Cape Cod Dunkin Donuts instead of a homemade one, and the years we were home, very often the “homemade” muffins were from a boxed mix.

This year’s birthday muffin recipe is the Our Favorite Blueberry Muffin from the King Arthur Flour site. It’s a little different from many that I’ve looked at — a little almond extract, no lemon zest, and the muffins are topped with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar. They are very tender and light, and very fitting for a special birthday breakfast. Happy Birthday, L.!

lemon blueberry muffins

Here are the facts about me and blueberry muffins. I’ve never had a store-bought or bakery-made blueberry muffin that I’ve liked. I generally like my own homemade (from scratch) blueberry muffins (made from a variety of recipes). Lastly, my favorite blueberry muffins are from the packaged mixes that contain the little cans of “wild blueberries.”

My son L. is a great connoisseur of blueberry muffins. He loves them so much that they are his chosen birthday breakfast each July. So who better to critique these muffins from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book? L’s verdict — “They’re really good.” Did I mention L. will be 15 next month? He’s a teen of few words. 🙂

I will elaborate — they are tender and moist, and surprisingly very lemony (there’s only zest in the batter, no juice). In fact, the lemon flavor almost overwhelms the blueberries. This won’t be my go-to blueberry muffin recipe, but it’s wonderful for a change of pace (or for the lemon muffin lovers out there).

david lebovitz’s strawberry frozen yogurt

I bought an ice cream maker last June, and spent much of last summer making ice cream from the recipe booklet that accompanied the machine. I even made up some recipes of my own. And I was pretty content to leave it at that. There was one ice cream cookbook that piqued my interest though — pastry chef David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop. Every time I saw it at my local bookstore, I would look through it longingly but decided I would wait to buy it this summer. Since I am now on a cookbook acquisition moratorium, that purchase will have to wait. Thankfully, David’s recipe for Strawberry Frozen Yogurt is posted on his blog so I don’t have to miss out. The recipe is so simple. First you cut up strawberries, add sugar and let sit for a couple of hours.

Then the strawberries go into the blender with yogurt, a smidge of lemon juice and a dribble of vodka or kirsch (if you wish). Pulse until almost smooth.

Then pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and whirl away until frozen. It takes about 20 to 25 minutes in mine.

Put it in the freezer to freeze until hard. It’s really yummy stuff — so bright and fresh tasting. And I love the simplicity of the ingredients. I just can’t wait for summer weather to come to New England so we can really enjoy it in earnest!

cranberry-white chocolate muffins

My husband often teases me about how I would rather spend untold amounts of money to use up leftover ingredients than simply discard them. Followers of this blog are aware that last November I overbought fresh cranberries whilst in the throes of autumnal mania and have been chiseling away at them ever since, little by ever so little. This morning I finally used up the last of my formerly fresh, now frozen cranberries. (And there was much rejoicing.)

I’ve long been a big fan of the flavor (and color) combination of cranberries and white chocolate and have made cookies and scones on many occasions featuring these two ingredients. While pondering what to do with my remaining cranberries I had a flash of inspiration — why not give them the cranberry and white chocolate treatment?!

I started with the recipe for Big Beautiful Muffins in The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. Like many other recipes from the folks at America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Illustrated, the instructions suggested many different ways to adapt the recipe to suit my fancy, so I felt comfortable playing around a bit. I added 3/4 cup of chopped cranberries (still frozen) and 3/4 cup white chocolate chips to the batter. Those amounts seemed appropriate when compared to the other variations, but in the end, I felt the muffins could’ve used more of both, perhaps a cup of each instead. The recipe makes a dozen and are big as advertised, perhaps a bit too big for a standard muffin pan. The muffin tops fused to each other and required a bit of pulling apart when I removed them from the pan. This resulted in jagged edges — not all that pretty. The good news is the muffins were tender (I didn’t overmix — yay!). An additional note: I substituted 2 ounces of unsweetened applesauce for 2 ounces of the 4 ounces of melted butter, and didn’t miss the fat in the finished product at all.

Next up… getting rid of those chopped dates from last December!