Blueberry Hand Pies

img_7166

Okay everyone. It’s time to prepare yourselves. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. It’s that time of year when we’re bombarded with candy hearts, stuffed animals, red roses, and cheap champagne. I’ve never been a big fan of the holiday myself, and Matthew and I never do anything overly extravagant to celebrate. This year we’re opting to cook a romantic dinner for two at home. This is exactly the type of low-key Valentine’s Day celebration that I can appreciate.

After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I’ve just started finding my way back into the kitchen to do some baking. I decided to start with a simple recipe that I’ve done many times before. A couple of summers ago, I took a pie baking class at Sur La Table with a friend where they taught us how to make hand pies. Using the same recipe, I simply swapped out my circular cookie cutter for a heart shaped one! You can use any filling that you’d like, I just chose blueberry jam because it is what we had in the refrigerator. Regardless of my feelings about Valentine’s Day, one thing I definitely can support are these homemade heart shaped treats!

img_7165

Blueberry Hand Pie Recipe

Pastry Dough Ingredients
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced
1/4 cup ice water

Egg Wash Ingredients
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

Jam Filling Ingredients
3/4 cup jam
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water

Directions
To make dough, combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture forms a ball. Separate into two balls, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Place racks in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Line to baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Remove pie crusts from the refrigerator and roll out to about 1/8 inch thickness. Using a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut approximately 10 hearts from the crust. Place these hearts on a tray in the refrigerator while you’re working on the second crust. After rolling and cutting out each crust, you should have approximately 20 hearts.

Beat your egg and water together to form the egg wash and lightly brush half of the hearts with the egg wash. Place a small amount of jam in the center of each heart. Gently place the remaining hearts over the top and use your fingers to seal the edges. Go over the edges with the tines of a fork for a final seal. Use a paring knife to cut three small vents on the top and brush each heart with the beaten egg.

Place the hearts on your prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes. You want the tops to be golden and the filling to be bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
There is a fine art to rolling out pastry dough that only comes with practice. I’m still learning as I go along but have found two things that always help with the process. First, always work with well-chilled pastry; otherwise, the dough will stick to the counter and tear. Second, never roll out dough by rolling back and forth over the same section. Each time you press on the same spot, more gluten develops that can toughen the dough.

img_7167

Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins

IMG_8446

It feels like the month of January has flown by in record time! Matt and I rung in 2015 with family in Minnesota. Since then we’ve slowly been getting back into our groove in Ann Arbor. After two weeks of vacation, coming back to work is always challenging. However, there’s always some comfort in settling back into a routine and what is familiar.

I decided not to make any resolutions in 2015 because I inevitably start to lose motivation by the time February rolls around. Instead I decided to dedicate myself to working out with a trainer doing semi-private lessons with one of my workout buddies. I usually really enjoy group fitness classes so I was a little skeptical of working out with just one other person. Although each session is challenging, I’ve found that I’m really enjoying myself! One of the hardest parts is waking up for our 6 am workouts once a week. Although I am a morning person, it’s hard to get myself out of bed that early. Once I’m awake, the bigger question then becomes what on earth do I eat so early in the morning?!

These oatmeal blueberry muffins are the perfect answer to that question. They are packed with healthy ingredients and even got a thumbs up from Matt in a taste test. I love popping one in the microwave for a quick and easy snack. Considering they only have 130 calories and 2 grams of fat, you can indulge without guilt. So give these muffins a try and enjoy!

IMG_8456

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
Makes approximately12 muffins

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups quick oats
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons agave
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a muffin tin with liners and lightly spray with oil.

Place oats in a food processor or chopper and pulse a few times. Soak oats in milk for about 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl combine brown sugar, agave, apple sauce, vanilla, egg whites, oil and mix well.
In a third bowl combine whole wheat flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and whisk to combine.

Combine oats and milk with sugar, applesauce mixture and mix well. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Fold in blueberries.

Spoon into the muffin tin and bake for 22-24 minutes.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
When you bake with fresh or frozen blueberries, the color is affected by the level of acidity in the batter. If the batter has a bit too much baking soda, the blueberries turn green around the edges. You can balance the acidity by adding in a little extra vinegar (or buttermilk, or whatever acid that is called for in the recipe) to balance out the extra baking soda, or you could even use a touch less baking soda in the next recipe.

IMG_8448

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

 

 

Blackberry Swirl Cheesecake Cupcakes

IMG_0636

With the announcement of the Oscar nominees last week, I came to the realization that there were several movies that I need to see over the next month. With a little extra time on my hands this past weekend; I decided to get a head start on my movie viewing.

I saw Silver Linings Playbook featuring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. It’s a great movie about a former teacher (Cooper) that moves back in with his parents after a stint in a mental institution. He meets a mysterious girl (Lawrence) with problems of her own, and a love story ensues. It’s a wonderful tale about how life doesn’t always go according to plan, and how even then, we can still find a silver lining. Like any girl, I’m a sucker for a good love story and this movie definitely fits the bill. If you’re looking for a film where you’ll leave the theater with a good feeling afterwards, I’d definitely recommend this movie.

As we head into Oscar season, stay tuned for some more official movie reviews on Sweet Precision.

Now onto other important things, such as my baking endeavors this past weekend. I decided to bake something that included blackberries for the simple reason that they were 2 for 1 at the grocery store this week. I settled on a cheesecake cupcake recipe that I found online and slightly adapted for the fruit. These really are a cinch to make and are definitely more portable than an actually cheesecake if you’re bringing them to a party.

Blackberry Swirl Cheesecake Cupcakes
IMG_0683

Crust Ingredients
1 1/2 cups finely ground graham crackers
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar

Filling Ingredients
2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature

Topping Ingredients
1 container (6 ounces) fresh blackberries
2 tablespoons sugar

Directions
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Stir together ground graham crackers, butter, and 3 tablespoons sugar. Pres 1 tablespoon crust mixture firmly into bottom of each lined cup. Bake until set, about 5 minutes. Transfer tins to a wire rack to cool.

To make the blackberry puree, process blackberries in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth, then pass puree through a fine sieve to remove seeds.

To make the cheesecake, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy. Blend in the sugar until smooth. Mix in the salt and vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

To assemble, spoon 3 tablespoons of the cheesecake batter over the crust in each cupcake liner. Dot a ½ teaspoon of the raspberry puree in a few dots over the cheesecake filling. Use a toothpick or a wooden skewer to lightly swirl and create a marbled effect.

Bake until the filling is set, about 22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. (They will look quite puffed initially but will return to normal quickly.) Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to the refrigerator and let chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
If you’re looking for a down and dirty way to save time in the kitchen making these cupcakes, simply use a vanilla wafer for the crust. Voila, you’re set to go in seconds!

IMG_0675