The Best Muffins Ever

I have been in a weird frame of mind where I just want it to be fall. I don’t know why! I think I just miss leggings and boots. And because fall in North Carolina is just the best! My friend and I were watching Farmhouse Rules this past weekend, as us old people do on a Saturday morning, and watching Nancy in her faaabulous historic home make mulled wine compelled me to bake something fall related. So I turned to a trusted recipe, http://www.cookingclassy.com/2013/10/gingerbread-doughnut-muffins/, that I knew would satisfy my unseasonable desire, at least for the day. PS – still want fall.

The Gingerbread Donut Muffins
Ingredients
Batter

– 3 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 1/4 tsp baking soda
– 3/4 tsp salt
– 1 tbsp ground ginger
– 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
– 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
– 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
– 1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided
– 1 tsp orange zest
– 2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
– 2 large eggs
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp molasses
– 1 1/4 cups milk
Glaze
– 2 cups powdered sugar
– 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 Tbsp fresh orange juice or milk KB Note: I recommend milk. With the orange zest it gets to be too orange-y.
– 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and butter a 12-hole muffin tin.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg for 30 seconds, set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip brown sugar with butter, 1 Tbsp vegetable oil and the orange zest on medium-high speed until mixture becomes pale and fluffy.
4. Blend in remaining 3 tbsp vegetable oil and the applesauce. Add in eggs one at a time and mix just until combined after each addition while adding in 1 tsp vanilla with second egg. Stir in molasses.
5. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and fold into batter with a rubber spatula, while scraping sides and bottom of bowl (don’t over-mix, batter should be lumpy and a few streaks of flour are fine before going on to next addition) then add 1/2 of the milk and fold just until nearly combined, then repeat process and end mixing in last 1/3 of the flour mixture and fold just until until combined (batter should be lumpy).
6. Divide batter among greased muffin cups, filling each well nearly full.
7. Bake in preheated oven 8 minutes then reduce oven temperture to 375 and continue to bake 8 – 11 minutes longer until toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
8. Remove from oven and run a knife around muffins (if you greased properly they should just slide out) to remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.
9.When muffins are slightly warm, dip into glaze or spread over tops (I have tried both and I prefer spreading with a spoon by pouring the glaze on top. If you dip you run the risk of pieces breaking off), then return to cooling rack and allow glaze to set at room temperature.
10. Store in an airtight container.
For the glaze:
1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, vanilla and enough orange juice/milk to make a smooth glaze.

I apologize for only one picture, I was too involved in the baking to think about my phone! They also look better once removed from the dripping plate.

I apologize for only one picture, I was too involved in the baking to think about my phone! They also look better once removed from the dripping plate.

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The Stress-Bake Cookies

Work has been kind of stressful, so I decided to do some stress relief by pouring a glass of wine, putting on silly reality TV, and try another more healthful recipe I found. http://www.averiecooks.com/2013/02/soft-batch-dark-brown-sugar-coconut-oil-cookies.html This was really easy to put together but didn’t do three things I expected: 1. Look like the cookies in the picture. 2. Flatten out pretty much at all. 3. Cook all the way through. They looked like micro dinner rolls when they came out of the oven and were basically raw on the inside. This could be because I didn’t actually chill the dough like the recipe says. I don’t know how I missed this part, I only just realized now, oops! But I rectified the last two by flattening them on the counter with my hand and baking them for a little longer. I think if you want to make them prettier do use the ice cream scoop like in the directions from Averie Cookies.

Chewy Molasses Cookies
Ingredients:
– 1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
– 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
– 1 large egg
– 2 tablespoons vanilla extract (yes tablespoons, not teaspoons), or to taste
1 tablespoon unsulphered mild to medium molasses (use very dark or Blackstrap at your own risk because its very pungent and bitter for baking)
– 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
– 2 teaspoons corn starch
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste

Directions:
1. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine coconut oil, egg, sugar and beat on medium-high speed to cream until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Note – Coconut oil should be the consistency of soft butter like you’d use to cream with sugar and eggs in traditional cookies. If coconut oil is rock hard, microwave it in a small bowl for 5 to 10 seconds or just until it begins to soften. If coconut oil is runny or melted, place it in the freezer momentarily until it firms up. A tiny amount of runniness is fine; it’s an oil and that happens. But do not use melted or purely liquid coconut oil because you can’t effectively cream a liquid; it would be like trying to cream liquid butter.

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2. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla, molasses, and beat to incorporate, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the flour, corn starch, baking soda, optional salt, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.

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3. Using a medium cookie scoop, form mounds that are 2 heaping tablespoons in size; or divide dough into approximately 15 to 16 equal-sized pieces. Place dough mounds on a large plate, and slightly flatten each mound. Very important to get the dough mounds in the exact shape you want to bake them in because after chilling, flattening or re-shaping them is very difficult. Cover with plasticwrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours; up to 5 days. Do not bake these cookies with dough that has not been properly chilled because they will spread.

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4. Preheat oven to 350°F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat, parchment, or spray with cooking spray. Place dough on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart; I bake a maximum of 8 per sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until tops have just set, even if slightly undercooked, pale, and glossy in the center. They firm up as they cool and I recommend the lower end of the baking range because they taste best when softer. The cookies in the photos were baked for 8 minutes, with trays rotated once midway through baking.
5. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes before moving. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Alternatively, unbaked dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.

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But everyone still really really enjoyed them at the office!

The Jam for Grandma

It’s a tradition of sorts for me and one of my grandmothers that one of her gifts each Christmas is my spiced apricot jam. This stuff is pretty delicious and it makes the house smell sooo good! This recipe makes approximately 6 cups (So good for making six 1/2 pint jars). Mine only made 4 this time around because I reduced it so much.

Ingredients
– Roughly 1 lb dried apricots
– 1 1/2 quarts water
– 2 cinnamon sticks
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– Approx. 1 lb, or 2 1/2 cups sugar. I use castor sugar, but brown sugar is fine too.
– 2 tbsp lemon juice
Optional extra: 2 cloves and 4 cardamom pods, to be added along with the cinnamon. – KB Note: I haven’t included this before but I bet it would be delicious.

Directions
1. Soak the apricots in water overnight.
2. Put the apricots and soaking water into a large heavy-based saucepan, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, stir in the ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks, and simmer gently for 15 minutes until the apricots are nice and softened. Stir occasionally.
3. Meanwhile, put a small plate in the freezer to chill, as you will need this later to check the setting point of your jam.
4. Add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir frequently until mixture comes to the boil. Leave to simmer gently, stirring occasionally for 40 minutes. KB Note: I generally let it reduce into a thick syrup for much, much longer than 40 minutes – more like 2 hours!!

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5. Check if the jam has reached set. To do this, put a tsp of jam onto the cooled plate. Allow jam to cool, and then draw a line through the jam with your finger. If the jam stays separated, it is ready. If not, continue to simmer the jam for another 10 minutes and then re-check. Continue this method until you are happy with the consistency of your jam.
6. Once I like the consistency of the jam I pour it all into a large food processor. I personally don’t like jam with massive chunks of fruit in it because it’s too hard to spread, so I chop up the apricots. Not necessary for the recipe, though!
7. Meanwhile, prepare your jars. The best way is a nice hot wash in the dishwasher. Or you can wash out some jars with hot soapy water and allow to dry upside-down on a rack. Before use, pour some boiling water inside the jars to sterilize them.
8. Ladle the jam from the food processor (if you chose to do this step) into your jars, up to 1/2 inch from the top. I like to keep the cinnamon sticks – I think they look pretty in the jar. Remove the cloves and cardamom pods though, if you added them. Put on the lid, and turn jars upside-down for 5 minutes to seal and sterilize the lids. Then turn upright and allow to cool.

All set to be packaged!

All set to be packaged!

The Southern Coterie Sweet Tea

I never liked sweet tea until I moved down South, and that’s probably because it tastes totally different up North. I still won’t drink “Yankee” sweet tea. And I’ll be honest, Bojangles sweet tea is a huge weakness of mine. I was perusing one of my favorite sites, Southern Living’s blog “The Daily South” (which if you don’t read you should definitely get on that), and they had a post about sweet tea. I was getting antsy about figuring how to make real Southern sweet tea, and here was my perfect starting point! They even gave the recipe for Southern Coterie’s sweet tea recipe.

Ingredients

– 16 cups of water

– 4 family sized tea bags (Luzianne or Lipton)

– 1 1/2 to 2 cups of sugar

Directions

Boil water in a pot. (My pot didn’t fit all 16 cups, just 12, so I added the extra water post steeping straight into the jug.) Steep tea bags  in water for EXACTLY 6 minutes. Pour sugar into a separate container and then pour in the tea and stir.

I went out and bought a nice jug from Walmart because you know what, for the house wine of the South I want it to go into something special. $10 can go a long way at Walmart, anyways! When I poured in the sugar, it cracked me up. Just look at how much is in there! And I went with the 1 1/2 cups too!

sugar

I set a timer to make sure the tea bags steeped for 6 minutes exactly. Then I used a cup to transfer the tea into the jug so it didn’t pour all over.

tea steeping

I tasted it once it wasn’t boiling hot, and it was still a little strong for my liking (also keep in mind I am totally judging this against Bojangles tea). I added 4 more cups of water after I took the picture below, and I like it a lot more now that I cut it down. It wasn’t too sweet, just a little too strong. It could also be due to that fact that I am a black tea snob and hate Lipton in general. Should have gone with Luzianne.

tea done

Cheers, y’all!

The Nice Gesture

My first food post! It’s almost the end of the second financial quarter, and work has been killer for my department. We’re all sorts of slammed, hence why I haven’t been posting. Things have eased up for me a tiny bit, and I wanted to do a little something nice for my colleagues. What better way is there to make everyone happy than by bringing in food? I swear this office is worse than college kids. If there is even a rumor of free food left in the kitchen it’s GONE in seconds. Last summer, the other interns and I would even go into empty conference rooms after morning meetings and scavenge for free food. Friday mornings were always sucessful due to a standing management breakfast meeting.

I went through my Pintrest food boards to find something special I wanted to present to everyone, because I believe the kind of food you make is a representation of you as a person. Not to mention there was a terrible situation this past Christmas where I big time lost the department-wide bake contest, so I also feel like I need to redeem myself. It’s still too painful to recall. Stupid overheated oven!! None of the amazing recipes I have on Pintrest were up to par with what I wanted to make, so I went to my #1 source for recipes – Paula Deen. She’s my girl. I was just browsing her site when I found the “What’s In Season” section featuring raspberries. Now, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like raspberries, so I thought this would be perfect. And it was. I found this recipe for Vanilla Bean Crepes with Marscapone Filling. Easy to make, easy to transport on my 35 minute commute, and delicious to eat. I decided to go ahead and double the recipe since I have just over  a dozen coworkers in my actual department, but we work alongside another dozen or so people who would definitely take advantage of the delectable.

Ingredients

2 (8-ounce) containers mascarpone cheese
6 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar, divided
3 vanilla beans*, split lengthwise and divided
2 eggs
1½ cups milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Garnish: whipped cream, fresh raspberries

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, combine mascarpone cheese and ¼ cup brown sugar. Scrape seeds from 2 vanilla beans into mascarpone mixture; beat at medium speed with a mixer until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
2. In the container of a blender, combine eggs, milk, flour, salt, and remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Scrape seeds from remaining vanilla bean into egg mixture. Process until mixture is very smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Refrigerate batter for 1 hour.
3. Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Spray skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Pour about ¼ cup batter into skillet, and quickly swirl to coat bottom of skillet. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until edges start to crisp and brown. Loosen crêpe with a spatula, and carefully turn over; cook for 30 seconds longer. Repeat procedure with remaining batter, stacking crêpes on a plate. Cover with a damp paper towel until ready to assemble.
4. Spread about 3 tablespoons mascarpone filling over each crêpe. Fold each crêpe in half twice to form a wedge. Serve with whipped cream and raspberries, if desired.
*You can substitute 2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste, divided, for the 3 vanilla beans. Use 1½ tablespoons vanilla bean paste in mascarpone mixture and ½ tablespoon vanilla bean paste in crêpe batter. Recipe courtsey of Paula Deen.

I had never made crepes before and I knew they can be kind of tricky, so I looked up some tips beforehand. One recurring tip I saw was to make the batter in advance, 8 hours or so. I decided to make everything the night before I wanted to bring it in, but I got a little nervous of wasting the time and money by making my crepes so far in advance. What if they got soggy?! I made the batter the night before and woke up early to make the crepes before work. I’m that weird. Whatever, I had to go in early, anyways.

I had to go to a nicer super market to find the actual vanilla bean and marscapone cheese, and they’re both pretty pricey, but oh my is it delicious. I licked the spatula after I was done transferring it. I noticed a lot of bigger chunks of brown sugar in the mixture, so I used a spoon to crush them as I transferred.

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The crepes themselves….they look like tortillas. I think i needed to spread the batter out more and use a little less of it, then they would have been more airy and look like normal crepes. They taste fine, and I cut them up into quarters since it would be easier with many people eating so they don’t look as bad anymore.

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See, they really do look like tortillas lol

But all together, they taste SO delicious.

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