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Category Archives: Baking

Bran Muffin Mania

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As a little girl growing up in Victoria, I remember regularly going to a “healthy” restaurant/bakery called Viteaway with my grandmother where she would buy me a “slug muffin”.  Though we called it a “slug muffin”, no slugs were harmed in the making of these oversized treats. These were sweet bran muffins topped with half a date that looked, to my imagination, like a slug and so they were named (not my greatest marketing moment).

While I was aware that bran was “good for me”, I enjoyed the crisp and crunchy top of the muffin, the dense, but fluffy, interior and the rich flavour of the molasses. The date (or “slug”) was an extra treat that I often kept until the end to savour the sweetness.

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Since then I’ve appreciated the delicate contradiction of an excellent bran muffin: healthy/tasty, sweet/savoury, light/moist, soft/crispy. My son also enjoys a bran muffin that is well balanced, especially if it’s crammed full of blueberries.

This recipe serves up all the key elements and is easy to tweak with different combinations of spices and fruits. I’ve started with the version that takes advantage of fresh blueberries and and warms up the flavour with Chai Spice.

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Blueberry Chai Bran Muffins

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 large egg, beaten lightly

1 cup yogurt (or sour cream)

1/4 cup molasses

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 cup fresh blueberries (or frozen)

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup wheat bran

1 tsp Chai Spice

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  3. Beat in egg, yogurt and molasses
  4. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then add to the wet ingredients
  5. Stir in blueberries (if they are frozen, rinse them first with cold water to remove any ice crystals)
  6. Spoon the batter into a Perfect Portion Muffin Pan
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until springy to the touch
  8. Cool on a rack and enjoy

Variations

Ginger Raisin Bran Muffins

Substitute raisins for blueberries and ground ginger for the Chai Spice

Cranberry Bran Muffins

Substitute dried cranberries for blueberries and Pumpkin Spice for the Chai Spice

Kitchen Hack: plump up dried fruit for baking by covering with cold water in a small pot, bringing it to a boil and then letting them soak while you assemble the other ingredients. Add a cinnamon stick to the pot to add a bit of spice. The sweetened spicy water can also be used to thin the batter, if needed.

What is your flavourite fruit to add to bran muffins?

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Eat More Bar Extravaganza

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Homemade treats are always the best, especially when they are a better copy of a commercial sweet! While I’ve never been a fan of Eatmore candy bars (too sugary), this version has become an indispensable part of our family’s annual Christmas cookie tray tradition.

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Year after year, but

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I love making them in Epicure’s Perfect Petites Silicone Cookware as it gives it the perfect shape and makes it super easy to pop them out! I used to cut them into bars, but they never looked so scrumptious.

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Eatmore Bars

Ingredients

1/2 Cup smooth peanut butter

1 Cup golden corn syrup

1 3/4 Cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 1/4 Cups rolled oats

2 Cups dry roasted peanuts

 

Method

  1. Pulse oats in a food processor until small flakes (but not oat flour)
  2. Chop peanuts, but agin, not to a dust
  3. If not using silicone cookware, grease a 10″ x 6″ pan
  4. In a saucepan, bring peanut butter and corn syrup to a low boil and stir well.
  5. Remove from heat, add chocolate chips and mix until melted
  6. Add oats and peanuts and mix them in
  7. Pour into pan or scoop into silicone cookware
  8. Chill to harden (thaw for five minutes, then slice into bars, if using a pan)

Do you have a favourite store bought indulgence that you’ve made better at home?

Gingerbread Spice Cookies

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Sleigh Cookie

Forgiveness is important, especially in baking. I love this cookie dough because it lets me get away  with a LOT: flavouring, tearing, re-rolling, flour substitutions, over baking. I’ve never made a bad batch and that’s why I’ll keep using this recipe until there are Food Replicators in every kitchen (then I’ll program it in).

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The most recent variation was for a Kids Cooking Class featuring Festive Treats, so I amped up the cheer with Epicure Gingerbread Spices. You can keep it plain vanilla (as long as you use the good stuff) or add your favourite spice blend.

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Gingerbread Brown Sugar Thins

Ingredients

2 1/4 Cups (270g) all purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1 Cup (226 g) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup (213 g) packed dark brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 TBS Epicure Gingerbread Spices

Method

Preheat oven to 300F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment or reusable non-stick baking mats.

Mix flour, salt and spices together

Beat butter, brown sugar and vanilla until light in colour and texture (about 3 minutes in a stand mixer with paddle attachment on medium speed). Then add flour mixture gradually to make a smooth dough. Press dough into a smooth flat disc.

Break the dough into 4 roughly equal pieces and roll each one out on a lightly floured surface until 1/8 inch thick.

Dip cookie cutters into flour and cut out shapes. Arrange cookies at least 1 inch apart on the sheets. Scraps can be gathered, rested for 5 minutes and re-rolled.

Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes (lift one up and check that it’s firm). Cool on sheets for 3 minutes then move to cooling racks until room temperature.

Baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days unrefrigerated.

The dough can also be kept in the fridge, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 5 days. Let it warm up before rolling out.

Decorate if you desire or keep them plain! Do you have a favourite cookie cutter shape? I love heart-shaped cookies any time of year.

 

Kids Cooking Class: Festive Treats

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eabb56f7-4b6d-4fc7-8767-2ef78e81d1deOne of my favourite parts of the holidays is baking! I like to use tried-and-true family recipes AND also get creative by trying new concepts and ideas.

The only way to make baking more fun, is to have enthusiastic helpers, so I put together a Festive Treats Cooking Class for 5 to 10 year olds and it was a cosy good time! We made:

  • Eggnog Pudding
  • Candy Cane Brownies (Gluten Free)
  • Gingerbread Spice Cookies
  • Cranapple Fruit Dip

While the young chefs made the sweet snacks, they learned about following recipes, adapting recipes, kitchen safety and the importance of trying new flavours BEFORE deciding if you like it.

I’ll be sharing the recipes (links will be added above), but would love to bring a class to YOUR kitchen and cook with your kids and their friends so they can measure, mix and make it themselves! Enter your name, email and time options below to find out more:

What is your favourite festive treat?

 

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Conundrum

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IMG_6553Pineapple Upside-Down Cake can be perplexing: How do you balance the flavours of fruit and cake? What’s the best way to invert the finished cake? When should you stop “testing” it to make sure every bite is equally delicious?

While these questions may not have plagued us for centuries, they have at least crossed MY mind. Fortunately, I found answers. The solution was in creating single servings of the topsy-turvy cake in mason jars.

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The individual serving size makes it easy to prepare, portion and present these sumptuous servings of sweet pineapple and almost savoury cake. The flavour of the cake offsets the pineapple with a hint of cardamom that gives a subtle tropical flavour.

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Pineapple Upside-Down Cake In-A-Jar

Topping Ingredients:

4 TBS unsalted butter

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 diced whole pineapple (or substitute canned tidbits)

Topping Method:

  1. Grease the bottom and sides of six 250ml wide mouth mason jars with butter. Place on a lined baking sheet
  2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan on medium heat
  3. Add brown sugar, stir occasionally until the mixture is pale and foamy, about 3 to 4 minutes
  4. Distribute evenly into the mason jars and arrange pineapple in a single layer, but tightly packed together

Cake Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (organic, if possible)

3 TBS cornmeal

1/2 tsp salt

8 TBS butter, softened – but still cool

1 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 TBS (for egg whites)

4 large eggs, separated – at room temperature

2 tsp vanilla

2/3 cup milk

Cake Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350
  2. Whisk dry ingredients together
  3. Cream butter in a mixer at medium speed
  4. Add sugar gradually and continue beating until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes)
  5. Beat in yolks and vanilla
  6. Reduce to low speed and add dry ingredients and milk, alternating between the two (begin and end with dry ingredients)
  7. Beat egg whites at low speed until frothy, then increase to med-high and beat to soft peaks
  8. Gradually add the remaining 2 TBS of sugar, continue to beat to stiff peaks
  9. Fold one quarter of the beaten egg whites into the batter
  10. Then fold in the remaining egg whites
  11. Distribute the batter evenly to mason jars
  12. Bake until the top of the cakes is golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean (about 20 minutes)
  13. Let the cakes rest for 2 minutes then run a knife around the edge to loosen them, then individually invert the cake on plates
  14. Garnish with maraschino cherries and mint sprigs
  15. Serve and enjoy

IMG_6537The mason jars also make it a snap to save or share the individual cakes. Who do you know that loves cake in a jar?

Brownie Brouhaha

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IMG_2581Brownies can be controversial, at least when it comes to my friends and family. Some factions say there needs to be frosting, others are in the cakey camp, while a few are stuck in the fudgey side. There is often heated debate about how Butterscotch Brownies (blondies) and Black Bean Brownies are not acceptable options at all. But, when I’m the one donning the apron I say nay to frosting and go for my tried and true One Pot Brownie recipe (please note: no pot is IN the brownies, they are mixed IN a pot).

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I have been using the same recipe since I started baking when I was eight (out of desperation as my mother wouldn’t bake or buy sweets as often as I wanted them). It has never failed me, though I have failed it on occasion. A couple of times, I MAY have over-baked the brownies until they were dried out. My problem solving brain and thrifty heart turned this loss into a win by making ice cream sandwiches with them!

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Kitchenette Brownies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup creamed honey

2/3 cup cocoa powder

3 eggs

1 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon Epicure Baking Powder

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Kosher Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Melt butter in a saucepan on the stove
  3. Mix sugar, honey and cocoa powder into melted butter
  4. Add eggs and and mix with a whisk
  5. Add flour, baking powder and salt and gently combine
  6. Stir in vanilla extract
  7. Pour into a greased 8-9″ pan or the Epicure Perfect Petites for 30 lovely little loaves
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean or just a bit crumby)

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Serve with fresh fruit (I had grapes, mango and raspberries) and a dollop of whipped cream (try not to over whip it like I did).

Which side of the brownie battle do you take or will you just take any brownie that’s available?

Old Fashioned Gluten Free Cornbread from Gluten Free on a Shoestring

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Gluten Free Cornbread baked by Kitchenette Finds

Gluten Free Cornbread baked by Kitchenette Finds

I just had to share this recipe that I found on Gluten Free on a Shoestring, a really wonderful blog by Gluten Free cookbook author Nicole Hunn. The cornbread disappeared in under 24 hours, which is a new record in our house!

The only change I made was to use Greek Yogurt instead of plain yogurt. It was super simple and easy to throw together and went very well with Black Bean Chili we had for dinner, and with a smear of honey for dessert and topped with butter next to scrambled eggs for breakfast the next morning.

Prep time: 5 minutes       Cook time: 30 minutes       Yield: 1 cornbread

Ingredients

2 cups (264 g) coarsely ground yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 egg (60 g, out of shell) at room temperature, beaten

4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 1/2 cups (340 g) plain yogurt, at room temperature (can substitute an equal amount of sour cream or buttermilk)

4 tablespoons (84 g) honey

For the complete recipe please click through to Old Fashioned Gluten Free Cornbread on Gluten Free on a Shoestring.

What is your favourite thing to put on or eat with cornbread? Chili? Honey? Cheese? Butter?

Photo of Old Fashioned Gluten Free Cornbread from Gluten Free on a Shoestring

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