Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

IMG_5208

Somehow summer managed to sneak up on me this year. Our winter was so long here in Michigan, it was only two months ago that we had snow on the ground! Now, summer fruits are making an appearance in the grocery store and the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market is in full swing.

Matt and I reserved a garden plot in our apartment complex this year. We decided to plant butternut squash, tomatoes, basil, and peppers. Matt has taken more of a lead with the garden and I wander over and check it out a couple times each week. We’re looking for a good way to combat the weeds that have been growing abundantly. So if anyone has any great ideas, please advise! (Correction… Matt has informed me that we also have green onions and cilantro in the garden as well. It’s clear who has been devoting more time to this endeavor!)

Our new puppy Maya continues to be both the cutest and most challenging little dog in the world. She gives you love and kisses and then leaves a “present” in another room when we’re not looking. However, her puppy obedience classes have been a success and she now knows how to sit and come… when she wants to that is. One thing I can definitely say is that Maya keeps me more active than I ever was before. I purchased a fitbit a few weeks ago and have found that between morning and afternoon walks, I can usually hit my 10,000 steps a day goal. I’m positive that in my pre-doggy life I probably was averaging around 2,000 steps a day.

With all the excitement of summer and new puppies, I haven’t been baking quite as often. The result is that my cookbook has been piling up with recipes that I want to try out. I was recently sorting through trying to find a fun summer cupcake recipe. Blueberries have been ridiculously cheap lately, so I decided to use that as a theme for this post. These cupcakes have a delicate lemon flavor that is complimented by the blueberry filling and garnish. They are perfect to bring to an outdoor picnic or even a work potluck!

IMG_5210

Lemon Cupcakes with Blueberry Filling
Makes 30 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients
3 cups self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup whole milk, divided
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided

Lemon Cream Icing Ingredients
2 cups chilled heavy cream
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Blueberry Filling Ingredients
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp pectin
1/2 pint of blueberries
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 30 cupcake pan cups with paper liners.

Sift the self-rising flour and salt together in a bowl. In another bowl, beat the unsalted butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating each egg until incorporated before adding the next. Mix in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.

Gently beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture, one third at a time, alternating with half the milk and half the lemon juice after each of the first 2 additions of flour. Beat until just combined; do not over mix.

Fill the prepared cupcake liners with batter 3/4 full, and bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before removing them to finish cooling on a rack.

To make the filling, stir together 3 tablespoons sugar and pectin until combined. Place sugar mixture, blueberries, and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Continue to boil for 5 minutes, or until thickened. Cool filling completely.

To make the icing, beat the cream in a chilled bowl with an electric mixer set on Low until the cream begins to thicken. Add the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice, a little at a time, beating after each addition, until fully incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to High, and beat until the icing forms soft peaks, about 5 minutes.

To assemble cupcakes, cut out a small portion of the centers of cupcakes. Pipe or spoon blueberry filling into the centers. Pipe or spread frosting on top of cupcakes and garnish with blueberries.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
I’m usually not a fan of buying kitchen gadgets for the sake of simplifying something that you could easily do by hand. However, I will say that a cupcake corer is an investment which will make the process of removing a portion of your cupcake much simpler. As a bonus, you can find one for about $5 on Amazon.

IMG_5208

 

 

Raspberry Linzer Cookies

IMG_1613

I’ve discovered that baked goods can make the best gifts for special occasions. Whether it’s a present for a birthday or a housewarming gift, a plate of cookies has just the right mix of thoughtfulness and practicality to be a gift that anyone can enjoy. I  actually made these cookies as a present for Matt’s mom! I opted for cookies because they are portable, but I also wanted to do something with a fun and creative twist. These Linzer cookies fit the bill perfectly.

Linzer cookies are believed to have originated in the City of Linz, Austria. Traditionally they consisted of a crust made with flour, ground nuts (traditionally almonds), sugar, egg yolks, spices and lemon zest that was filled with black currant preserves and then topped with a lattice crust. You don’t have to grate any almonds or run to the store in search of black currant preserves to make the recipe I’m sharing with you today. Instead this recipe is a slight adaptation on the traditional cookie, making it slightly easier to pull together with ingredients you likely have in your kitchen.

Raspberry Linzer Cookies
Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies

IMG_1599

Ingredients
3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup good raspberry preserves
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/4-inch thick and cut 2 3/4-inch rounds with a plain or fluted cutter. With 1/2 of the rounds, cut a hole from the middle of each round with a heart or spade shaped cutter. Place all the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and chill for 15 minutes.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature. Spread raspberry preserves on the flat side of each solid cookie. Dust the top of the cut-out cookies with confectioners’ sugar and press the flat sides together, with the raspberry preserves in the middle and the confectioners’ sugar on the top.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
The baked cookies are quite crisp, but once they are filled with the jam they start to soften. So if you want to keep the cookies crisp, fill them with the jam the day of serving.

IMG_2343

Chocolate Brownie Bites

IMG_4877

I am admittedly a chocoholic. On a perfect day I would have hot chocolate for breakfast, some Lindt chocolates with lunch, a little chocolate pudding as an afternoon snack, and brownies with ice cream for dessert. Thank goodness every day isn’t perfect for me, or else my waist line might be a size or two larger. Last week I read an article saying that a survey found that people should have a daily amount of chocolate equivalent to 1.5 Hershey’s Kisses to reap the benefit of the healthy antioxidants found in chocolate. All of this is well and good, but who really eats 1.5 Hersey’s Kisses? When I sit down to have some chocolate we’re looking at a serving of at least four Hershey’s kisses… at least.

A couple weeks ago I set off on a quest to find the best brownie recipe online. This was no small task being that there were numerous recipes purporting to make the best brownies ever. When thinking about brownies you have one thing to consider. Are you the type of person that enjoys cake-like or fudge-like brownies? One reason I enjoy this recipe is because it meets somewhere in the middle between the two extremes. I also like this recipe because as opposed to the typical brownie bar, you get tiny brownie bites. The little bites are really easy to transport to a party or a picnic in a plastic container.

Chocolate Brownie Bites
Makes approximately 16 brownie bites

IMG_4864

Brownie Ingredients
1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Frosting Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center. Generously grease and flour a mini muffin pan.

In a medium bowl, mix together 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients. Drop batter into muffin tins, filling halfway. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.

To make frosting, melt butter in a glass bowl in the microwave. Combine 3 tablespoons cocoa, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 cup confectioners’ sugar. Frost brownies while they are still warm. Decorate brownies as desired.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
It’s important that you don’t over-mix your batter. To help with this, make sure you beat your eggs before adding them to the mixture. This way they will combine easily with butter and sugar without requiring you to mix more than needed.

IMG_4886

Greek Islands Bread Pudding

fdsa

I’m delighted to report that today’s post features my first guest blogger! This guest post couldn’t have come at a better time with Matt and I fully engrossed with our new puppy. Aside from making dog treats for Maya, I have been neglecting my baking duties this month!

Elizabeth’s post features Egg Beaters, which is an egg substitute made of 100% egg whites. I often like to use substitutes as total or partial replacements for eggs in my baking. The bonus is a lower calorie finished product with no additional fat or cholesterol from the eggs. I even like to scramble them up on the weekend to give myself a break from my typical breakfast of oatmeal and a banana. Well enough of my two cents, I now turn it over to Elizabeth!

Continue reading

Homemade Doggie Treats

photo (7)

Last weekend Matt and I had our world turned upside down.

The culprit behind this upheaval is the cutest little furry four pound bundle of joy you could ever imagine. Her name is Maya, she is eight weeks old, and she is a Boston Terrier and French Bulldog mix. But don’t let her cute puppy dog eyes deceive you. She’s as naughty as she is cute! For every cute yawn, snuggle, and tail wag—there is a chewed up dish towel or mysterious accident discovered hours later.

We’d been planning on getting a puppy for months, but neither of us had any idea just how much work would go into becoming new parents! The funny part is that despite all the hard work, I’ve found myself becoming a “dog person” almost overnight. I’m quick to whip out a picture of her on my iPhone to show a coworker. I send videos of her doing the most mundane things (like climbing the stairs) to my family. Matt and I even huddle together at night plotting which commands we want to begin teaching her.

photo 1 (1)

It should come as no surprise that my baking project this week would be inspired by Maya. We’ve been trying to reward her with treats when she does something good. Going potty outside… treat. Coming to me when I call… treat. Dropping her toys when we ask…treat. Going into her crate willingly… lots of treats! Suffice it to say, we’ve gone through almost half a bag of treats in just one week. That is why I decided to bake some homemade doggie treats for Maya. The recipe is simple and contains only doggie-safe ingredients. Considering what you can pay for a bag of treats at the store, making your own treats is incredibly economical!

photo 2 (1)

Homemade Doggie Treats

Ingredients
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted natural peanut butter
1 cup skim milk

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and grease cookie sheets.

Stir together the flour and baking powder; set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together the peanut butter and milk. Stir in the flour mixture until well blended.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into shapes using cookie cutters. Place 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly brown. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
If you want to store these treats for longer than a week, make sure you package them with plastic wrap and store them in the freezer.

Photo (8)

 

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

photo 1

Last week our temperatures soared to 78 degrees here in Ann Arbor. It was a welcome surprise after the snow we had the week before. Although winter is one of my favorite seasons, nothing beats those first warm days of spring when you begin to see daffodils peeping through the soil and buds appearing on the trees. Most noticeably, some of my favorite spring fruits are making an appearance in the grocery store. It might be a while before we see fresh fruits at the farmers market, but for now I can settle with buying them from Kroger. Last week, I stocked up on some strawberries and rhubarb—two of my favorite springtime fruits.

Last week in the Sweet Precision kitchen I made one of my well known desserts—a fruit crisp. When I was younger, my favorite dish to make was apple crisp. I made it so many times that it was the first dessert I was able to make without a recipe! The wonderful thing about this dessert is that it has infinite variations based on what fruit is available or in season. It’s so versatile you can simply throw in whatever fruits you have laying around the kitchen.

photo 3

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Recipe
Makes approximately 16 servings

Ingredients
1 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups sliced fresh straw berries
3 cups diced rhubarb
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup rolled oats

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and place a rack in the middle of the oven.

In a large bowl, mix white sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, strawberries, and rhubarb. Place the mixture in a 9×13 inch baking dish.

Mix 1 1/2 cups flour, brown sugar, butter, and oats until crumbly. You may want to use a pastry blender for this. Crumble on top of the rhubarb and strawberry mixture. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until crisp and lightly browned.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
If you don’t have a pastry blender, simply use your hands to mix the butter, flour, and sugar together. As a time saver, you can even mix the topping in advance and then store it in the freezer in an airtight container until you’re ready to use it. This way you can have the crumbly topping on standby for when you get home from work and want to make something sweet and comforting quickly.

photo 2

Tarte Tatin

IMG_5956

Tarte Tatin is the French name for a famous dessert invented years ago by the Tatin sisters, in their restaurant at Lamotte-Beuvron on the Loire River. It consists of caramelized sliced apples oven-baked in a skillet with the pastry on top. When done, it is turned upside-down so the crust is on the bottom and the apple slices – wonderfully brown, buttery, and glazed with caramel—remain in a design on top. The amazing thing about Tarte Tatin is how the caramelized apples are somehow transformed into something entirely new while still retaining their distinct apple taste. It’s one of the easiest desserts I’ve attempted it make, but also the most challenging. It’s easy because it’s baked upside down, which means there is no need for special decorations or even beautiful rolling of the dough. The real challenge is finding the right balance when caramelizing the apples. Julia Child captures the essence of the dessert in this quote.

“To be sure, a Tarte Tatin should be brown and sweet, but it needs to be more. The apples need to be cooked in sugar and butter long enough that they are not only coated in buttery caramel but also permeated with sweetness. Like what happens in jam-making, where some of the water in the fruit is replaced by sugar.”

photo (4)

Perhaps the most special part of this post is the pan that I used to cook the tart. On a trip to Paris last fall, my parents visited E. Dehellerin. Tucked away on rue Coquillière not too far from the Louvre, this store has been selling cookware for professionals and serious home chefs since 1820. According to my parents, it’s a store that definitely favors function over form, boasting aisles packed with pots and pans reaching as high as the ceiling. Julia Child was a regular here purchasing kitchenware while she attended school at Le Cordon Bleu. Knowing that E. Dehellerin is famous for their copper, my dad purchased a Tarte Tatin pan which was made specifically for this recipe. I was pleased to learn that not only does copper conduct heat faster, but it also does so much more evenly. This combination is perfect for temperature control when working with the sugar at a high temperature. Thanks dad!

The following recipe is courtesy of Julia Child’s book The Way to Cook, published in 1994. A Christmas gift from my dad several years ago, this is a magnificent cookbook in which Julia distills her knowledge from a lifetime of cooking into one book. In the book, she states that this recipe is her fourth and definitive recipe for Tarte Tatin.

IMG_5967

Tarte Tatin Recipe

Ingredients for Pastry Dough
3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cake flour
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons chilled butter, diced
2 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening
1/4 cup ice water, or as needed

Ingredients for Tart Tatin
6 Golden Delicious apples, cored, peeled and halved
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, as accompaniment

Directions
Preparing the dough. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, place the flours, sugar and butter. Pulse 5 or 6 times in 1/2-second bursts to break up the butter. Add the shortening, turn on the machine and immediately add the ice water, pulsing 2 or 3 times. The dough should look like a mass of smallish lumps and should just hold together in a mass when a handful is pressed together. If the mixture is too dry, pulse in more water by droplets. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and with the heel of your hand, rapidly and roughly push egg-size blobs into a 6-inch smear. Gather the dough into a relatively smooth cake, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days).

Preparing the apples. Quarter, core, and peel the apples; cut the quarters in half lengthwise. Toss in a bowl with the lemon and 1/2 cup of sugar, and let steep 20 minutes so they will exude their juices. Drain them.

The caramel. Set the frying pan over moderately high heat with the butter, and when melted blend in the remaining 1 cup sugar. Stir about with a wooden spoon for several minutes, until the syrup turns a bubbly caramel brown – it will smooth out later, when the apples juices dissolve the sugar.

Arranging the apples in the pan. Remove from heat and arrange a layer of apple slices nicely in the bottom of the pan to make an attractive design. Arrange the rest of the apples on top, close packed and only reasonably neat. Add enough so that they heap up 1 inch higher than the rim of the pan – they sink down as they cook.

Preliminary stove-top cooking. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F for the next step, placing the rack in the lower middle level. Set the pan again over moderately high heat, pressing the apples down as they soften, and drawing the accumulated juices up over them with the bulb baster – basting gives the apples a deliciously buttery caramel flavor. In several minutes, when the apples begin to soften, cover the pan and continue cooking 10 to 15 minutes, checking and basting frequently until the juices are thick and syrupy. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly while you roll out the dough.

The dough cover. Roll the chilled dough into a circle 3/16 inch thick and 1 inch larger than the top of your pan. Cut 4 steam holes, 1/4-inch size, 1 1/2 inches from around the center of the dough. Working rapidly, fold the dough in half, then in quarters; center the point over the apples. Unfold the dough over the apples. Press the edges of the dough down between the apples and the inside of the pan.

Bake and serve. Bake about 20 minutes at 425 degrees F. Bake until the pastry has browned and crisped. Being careful of the red-hot pan handle, remove from the oven. Still remembering that the pan is red-hot, turn the serving dish upside down over the apples and reverse the two to unmold the tart. Serve hot, warm, or cold, with the optional whipped cream or ice cream.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
After you take your tart out of the oven, you can test to see whether it’s ready be unmolded. Simply tilt the pan, and if the juices are runny rather than a thick syrup, boil down rapidly on top on the stove. However, be sure not to evaporate them completely or the apples will stick to the pan. If a few apples stick to the pan—which does happen—rearrange the slices as necessary.

IMG_5974

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

IMG_5870

The first thing a lot of people learn about making anything with batter is to not over mix it. Unfortunately, that’s all a lot of folks ever learn and there’s certainly more to know when making a great cake. Last weekend, I took an excellent class on cake baking at Zingerman’s Bake House. In the class, I learned how to make (and take home) three complete cakes each requiring a different mixing technique—Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Angel Food Cake, and Flourless Chocolate Truffle Cake.

For those who aren’t familiar, Zingermans is a gourmet food business headquartered right here in Ann Arbor. Their slogan is: “You really can taste the difference,” and they offer baking classes to educate consumers about the products they sell. I left my four hour class with three cakes in tow, armed with tons of new knowledge about baking cakes. Today, I want to share the recipe for pineapple upside down cake.

Pineapple upside down cake is a classic American dessert that was very popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s. An upside down cake, according to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, is “a cake baked with a bottom layer of fruit and turned upside down before serving.” Today, this cake is still going strong—and boldly taking on new, adventurous flavors such as chocolate fudge and maple syrup. I would be remiss not to note that cooking a cake or tart with a fruit layer on the bottom and afterwards inverting it is neither new nor indigenous to America. Among the most famous of these treats is the French tarte tatin, an early 20th century upside-down apple tart. Stay tuned later this month for a recipe on this classic French dessert!

IMG_5881

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Original Recipe from Zingerman’s Delicatessen

Pineapple Topping Ingredients
1/4 cup butter (melted)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup pineapple (cut into 1/4 thick rings)
1/2 cup pitted cherries

Cake Ingredients
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 1/8 cup buttermilk (room temperature)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit 20 minutes before baking the cake.

Spray a 9” round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray, and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Melt the butter and pour into the prepared cake pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar onto the melted butter. Top with pineapple rings and place cherries between the pineapple pieces. Set aside, while working on your cake batter.

Onto a parchment paper, sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Once all of the egg yolks are incorporated, add the vanilla extract and mix in.

Alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, 1/3 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Start with 1/3 of the dry, mix well, and then add 1/3 of the buttermilk, and repeat two more times with remaining ingredients. Once everything is incorporated, beat well with a rubber spatula to make sure your batter is fully mixed and fluffy.

Pour batter into prepared pan with topping, and smooth with the spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. Check the cake after 20 minutes. When it is done, the top of the cake should be golden brown and spring back when lightly pressed in the center. A cake tester should come out clean. It should have begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan to a cooling rack. Let rest 5 minutes. Run a small knife or metal spatula around the sides of the pan and invert the cake onto a cooling rack or cardboard cake round. Serve warm or and room temperature.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Fat plays a very important role in baking. It tenderizes the product by coating and weakening the gluten bonds within the structure. In fact, the name shortening was coined as such because it shortens the gluten strands when baking. The point behind all of this is to provide a word of caution when substituting other ingredients for fat in recipes. Often the structure and texture of a cake will be significantly different when you begin to substitute for fat. Definitely don’t try it in this recipe!

IMG_5861

Miniature Banana Bread Muffins

IMG_5768

I have a very special helper in the kitchen. Whenever I’m mixing and whisking away, this special helper is always ready to lend a helping hand… or paw. Let me introduce you to Rudi, our cat that loves baked goods almost as much as I do. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you will remember that almost 2 years ago Rudi ran away and had a one month stint in the Ann Arbor wilderness. Upon his return back to captivity, I made him some delicious chewy cat treats. However Rudi doesn’t discriminate between cat and human food, he loves it all.

This past weekend Matt was away at a conference and I was home alone with Rudi. Although we both missed Matt it was nice to have a lazy weekend to relax around the house. I even engaged in one of my favorite guilty pleasures—a Law and Order SVU marathon. No weekend at home would be complete without a little baking, and I decided to experiment by trying out some miniature banana bread muffins.

I love this recipe because it’s so quick and simple! You know those times when you need to make a dessert but don’t have much time for preparation? Well these little morsels are the perfect solution for those moments. It only takes about 5 minutes to mix the ingredients together and then you can put them in the oven and forget about them for 20 minutes. It couldn’t be any simpler than that!

IMG_5764

Banana Bread Miniature Muffins
Makes approximately 24 miniature muffins

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large bananas, mashed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, melted

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat muffin pans with non-stick spray, or use paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Combine bananas, sugar, egg, and melted butter in a large bowl. Fold in flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Scoop into muffin pans.

Bake in preheated oven. Bake mini muffins for 10 to 15 minutes, and large muffins for 25 to 30 minutes. Muffins will spring back when lightly tapped.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
If you’d like to jazz up your muffins, try adding a brown sugar crumble to the top. Simply mix together 2 tablespoons four, 3 tablespoons butter, 5 tablespoons brown sugar, and a dash of cinnamon. Evenly sprinkle over the top and voila—you have some added flavor!

IMG_5757

Irish Soda Bread Muffins

IMG_5702

I recently celebrated my 30th birthday. Instead of dwelling on the potential downsides of turning the Big 3-0, I made a conscious decision to do the opposite. Instead, I decided to embrace where I am in my life and reflect on how much I’ve grown personally, spiritually, and professionally. Now that I’m plunging into my thirties, I even did some self reflecting on the upcoming years and some of my dreams and aspirations. Who says it’s not too late to run that half marathon?

While there were several things that I was expecting on my birthday, one thing that I didn’t see coming was the wonderful surprise party that Matt threw for me. It was a surprise that unfolded in stages leaving me guessing at every turn. What made the celebration even more special was getting to spend time with my parents and several friends from out of town. I’d been missing my family and close friends in Ann Arbor, so it was invigorating to have an entire weekend with loved ones.

Aside from celebrating my dirty thirty, there’s also been some baking going on in the Sweet Precision kitchen.

Saint Patrick’s Day is a holiday brimming over with myths and traditions that date back centuries. Perhaps the best part of the holiday is the food and beverages that also get consumed. March 17th wouldn’t be complete without a few classic items such as green beer, corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, and my absolute favorite— Irish soda bread.

Irish soda bread is a sweet white bread made with eggs and butter, which is studded with raisins and sometimes caraway seeds. The “soda” in the name comes from the baking soda used to leaven the bread instead of yeast and kneading. These muffins are a fun and healthier twist on the traditional bread. Half of the flour is whole wheat and the butter in the recipe is reduced to three tablespoons which means that each muffin comes in at approximately 145 calories.

IMG_5689

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 tbsp chilled butter
1 cup 1% buttermilk
3 tbsp honey or agave
1 large egg, beaten
2/3 cup raisins

Directions
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray muffin tin with baking spray.

In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt). Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a small bowl, stir together buttermilk, honey (or agave) and egg until blended. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Stir in raisins.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean.

Remove tin and cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before removing muffins from tin; finish cooling on rack. Serve warm or cool completely and store muffins in an airtight container or ziplock bags at room temperature.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
None of us want to deal with a mountain of dishes once we’ve made muffins. But don’t let that inspire you to use an already dirty spoon to divvy up the batter. Use a cookie scoop — even though it’s one more thing to clean — to equally measure the batter into your muffin tins. This will ensure evenly cooked muffins.

IMG_5696