From Scratch, With Love

Archive for the ‘Experimentation’ Category

Attempts at Worldliness

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I’ve probably mentioned that until a couple of years ago I was an incredibly picky eater.  It’s probably true that John deserves most of the credit for my trying new things.  On our first date he made me try fried calamari and in an effort to impress him I ate it even though I’ve had an incredible aversion to seafood as long as I can remember (right Camilo??).  It was delicious.  5 years later I took my brother (the aforementioned Camilo) out for his birthday and surprised him by taking him to a sushi place and actually eating the sushi.  Thanks John.

Anyway, this has nothing to do with seafood.  Among the food categories I had never tried is Indian food, despite the fact that my Papa is accomplished in the making of curries and such – I just stuck with plain rice, thankyouverymuch.  John’s dad, Ron, is a huge fan of Indian culture and food and introduced me to the cuisine and I’m currently obsessed.  Also, a new Indian place just opened in my town.  We went the week it opened and I hope to go again and perhaps write up a review here.

Last weekend I made a simple vegetable curry for the first time.  It was delicious.  I think I’m going to play with it a little before posting a recipe but I would like to know… what are your favorite Indian dishes?  Also, what’s a good source for Indian recipes?

Update: I made a Chana Masala dish based on (but expaded) this recipe.  Delish.

Written by poperatzii

October 22, 2011 at 10:24 am

Posted in Experimentation

The Winning Pumpkin Cookie

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Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for.  After a week and 6 or 7 batches of pumpkin cookies or varying quality, I’ve finally found a method that makes me happy.  The result is a wonderfully soft, pumpkin-y cookie that isn’t too sweet and is perfectly spiced.  Additionally, the dough lends itself both to the sugar-crusted drop cookie method AND to the rolled out and cut with a cookie cutter method.  Reminiscent of a ginger cookie, don’t feel guilty about eating 1 or 2 (or 7) of these because they are also very low in fat and sugar, thanks to the naturally moist nature of pumpkin.

By cooking the pumpkin in the butter, you benefit both from the caramelization of the butter and the intensification of the pumpkin flavor due to evaporation of water.  I also recommend sauteing some fresh ginger to bring out the ginger flavor, but adding 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger in with the dry ingredients works in a pinch.  I found that adding a little more salt to the recipe counteracts the bitter flavor or the pumpkin, and that using whiskey instead of vanilla complements the pumpkin and spice nicely.  Finally, I opted to use only white sugar because brown sugar overpowered the pumpkin too much.  I added a little maple syrup as well.  I hope you like them as much as I do!

Andrea’s Pumpkin Spice Cookies (Makes about 60 cookies)

In a small saucepan, melt 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter over high heat.  Add 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger (see note above) and saute for about a minute, until fragrant.  Add 1 cup of canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix) and 2 tablespoons of whiskey (I used Jack Daniels).  Cook the pumpkin until the butter is absorbed and the puree is less watery.  In the end, you should have about 1 cup of pumpkin mixture.  Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

In a large bowl, stir 3/4 cup of white sugar into the pumpkin mixture.  Add 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup.  Add 1 egg and stir until just combined.  Gradually stir in the flour mixture, in about three additions, stirring until just combined each time.  Wrap the dough with a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Place a sheet of parchment paper on two baking sheets.

You can make these cookies two ways.

Sugar-coated drop cookies

Pour 1/4 cup of sugar into a small bowl.

A drop a teaspoon’s worth of dough into the bowl of sugar, coating completely.  Using your hands, roll the dough into a ball and place on the baking sheet, then press the ball with your finger to flatten it slightly.  Repeat for the rest of the dough, leaving about an inch between balls of dough.  They will spread, but not too much, so you can fit a lot of cookies on one sheet.  I fit 30 cookies on mine.  Bake for 12-14 minutes, turning the cookie sheet halfway through baking time.  Let cool.  These cookies are actually best the day after they are baked.

Rolled cookies

These cookies are great for parties, or for decorating.

Sprinkle some flour on your work surface.  Take the cookie dough out of the fridge and lightly dust with flour.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough until it is evenly about 1/8 inch thick, being careful not to let it stick to the work surface.  Using your favorite cookie cutters, cut cookies and place them on baking sheet, leaving about 1/2 inch between cookies (they will not spread too much).  Bake for about 10 minutes, less if you like them doughy.  Let cool completely before decorating, if desired.

Written by poperatzii

September 18, 2010 at 12:34 pm

I’m doing some experimenting

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A quick update: I’m on the search for a perfect pumpkin cookie.  I’m making the recipe myself.  I am also trying to limit the fat and sugar, since I feel pumpkin lends itself to such a recipe, though in my internet searches I haven’t found any such recipe, which is why I’m writing it myself.  So far I’ve tried a chocolate chip cookie base, which failed miserably:

These cookies turned out tasting great, but having a oddly dense texture which was unappealing.  They kind of look like raw cookie dough, don’t they?

Next, I tried making them using a gingersnap-type recipe.

These were a great improvement in texture, but the flavor left a little to be desired.  I’m trying to develop a recipe that really brings out the pumpkin flavor, and these tasted too much of spice.  I know I’m headed in the right direction though because I brought all the cookies to running club this morning and people raved about them.

The fun thing about developing a recipe is that I get to play chemist.  With the latest batch of cookies I played with using melted vs softened butter, and using granulated sugar vs a brown sugar/granulated sugar mix.  I had a lot of fun, but in the end there wasn’t a big difference between the cookies, so I think I have to take some bigger risks.  Next I am going to go easier on the spices and try adding some rum to the mix instead of using vanilla.  Don’t worry, once the recipe is perfect, I will post it.  Hopefully right in time for the height of pumpkin season.

Written by poperatzii

September 11, 2010 at 12:10 pm

To $1/ lb whole chickens

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I decided I wanted to roast a chicken last weekend.  I was at the store.  I wanted a small, tender chicken.  I looked at my options.  There was $1/lb chicken. And there was $3/lb chicken (kosher Bell & Evans).  I thought… is it worth it?  I mean, I can get a $4 chicken for my first roasted chicken ever, or I could get a $12 chicken.  What if I get the $12 chicken and it’s delicious?  Am I forever doomed to buying $12 chickens?

I put a lot of effort into carving this chicken.

I bought the cheap chicken.

It was delicious.  Like, amazing.  It was wonderfully moist, with a nicely crispy skin and great flavor.  And there’s not much to it.  Really.  It takes about an hour in the oven and other than that you basically just pat it dry and rub some stuff on it.  If you want to.  I ate one of the breasts, cut up, as part of lunch the next day and it was also delicious.  I bet it’d be great in a sandwich or a salad.  Next time, I kind of want to make two chickens just for the leftovers.

Andrea’s First Roast Chicken

Buy a chicken.  A cheap one.  It should be under 4 lbs.

Preheat the oven to 400.  Line a broiler pan with foil.

Take the gizzards, etc, out of the chicken’s cavity.  I just threw mine away, but it you have a use for them, go for it.  cut the chicken along the spine so that it’s open (more surface area).  With paper towels, dry the chicken inside and out.  Rub the skin with, in order, cayenne (red) pepper, sage, and minced garlic.  Place breast-side up on the broiler pan and put in the preheated oven.

After 20 minutes, flip the bird around so the other side can brown.  You might dirty your potholders a little.  It’s okay.  They’re (probably) machine-washable.

After another 20 minutes, flip it again.

After another 20 minutes, take it out of the oven and let it stand for about 15 minutes so it can absorb its own juices.  Salt lightly.

(Turn off the oven.)

OMG that was so easy!

Carving the chicken:

First, carefully cut off the drumsticks by gingerly slicing it right through the joint.  Next, remove the thigh by cutting it where it meets the breast, and cutting right at the joint.  Remove the wings in the same fashion.  Separate the breast from the bone, careful to leave the skin on.  Honestly, I’ve only been able to do it nicely once (see above) but I’m confident that with practice I can get it right.  I think the Internet is an especially good source for tips on this matter.  Once I’m an expert I will definitely have a how-to post.

Written by poperatzii

September 2, 2010 at 8:31 pm

The Hard Way Is So Worth It

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I’m going to share a secret with you.  Are you sitting down?  I love to cook.

Wow.  Shocking.  Okay, so a lot of people love to eat.  I love to eat as well.  However, most people cook as a means to an end – great food.  That’s why most people don’t make their own bread, pasta, salad dressing, etc – you can buy that stuff at the store and it’s not too expensive and the quality is there.  However, I get great pleasure from the process and while I do buy bread and pasta (but not salad dressing – cmon!), when I get a chance I make my own.  You know this.

So anyway, yesterday, John had this big race that took all day.  He left at 5am and got back at 10pm.  I did not go.  The few friends I have in the area were also out of town this weekend and I don’t have a car so I was basically stranded in my little town in New Jersey by myself.  I planned ahead.  I was really excited for my Saturday alone.  Guess what I planned?  Lasagna.  Not just any lasagna.  3.5 hour lasagna.

My coworker asked at lunch on Friday whether I had any plans for the weekend.  I said “I’m making a lasagna.  It’s going to take 4 hours.  It’s going to be awesome.”  Does that sound sad to you, weekend-plan-wise?  I’m okay with that.  It was awesome.

First, I did a little research and found a really wonderful-sounding recipe for spinach lasagna in The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters (of Chez Panisse fame).  I didn’t really change it up much, except taking her advice on some variations.  I made sheets of spinach pasta for the lasagne noodles and used fresh (local – Alice would be proud) tomatoes and thinly sliced onions (my own addition) instead of sauce.  Also, Alice seemed to think the amount of paste the recipe made was enough for 7 layers.  False.  I made 4 layers.  The end result was delicious and surprisingly light for a lasagna.  It contains no meat and (surprisingly) no mozzarella, though Alice did recommend fresh mozzarella in one of her suggestions for a variation.  I also made béchamel (white sauce) for the first time and found it surprisingly easy.  I might use it in Mac and Cheese if I find myself with the time.  Lastly, I used some lightly sauteed spinach with garlic, drained, mixed with ricotta cheese.

Recommendations: I found it helpful to write out the whole recipe ahead of time so that I am familiar with all the steps.  The only part I had to actually look at the recipe for was the béchamel sauce.  Plan your time in advance or it will end up being a rather stressful 5-hour lasagna.  Keep in mind that you should let the ricotta drain before mixing it with the spinach, and that béchamel sauce is best used just after it is made, and that spinach will need to cool before it is mixed in with the pasta and with the ricotta.  Also keep in mind that the water will have to have time to come to a full boil before you cook the pasta in it, and that the pasta only needs a minute or two to cook al dente.  I find it helpful, while making a meal that uses a lot of dishes, to take some time in between steps to wash dishes and put away dry dishes so I’m not left with a sink full of dishes at the end, when I’m tired.  For this meal, when I finished eating, all I needed to wash were the dishes I used to serve and eat, for which I was very grateful.  I incorporated dish-washing into the recipe below.

I served the lasagna with some homemade bruschetta topped with garlic, fresh tomatoes, basil, and thinly sliced domestic prosciutto.  It was a very lovely meal.  It would have been nice to share it with someone, but it was also kind of satisfying to have a meal like that on my own, with a glass of wine and a nice table setting.  John has enjoyed some of the leftovers, which I haven’t tried yet.  He says it reheats well.

3.5 hour Spinach Lasagna (From The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters)

Place 1 cup of part-skim ricotta cheese in a fine mesh sieve, perhaps lined with a layer of cheese cloth, over a medium bowl to drain in the fridge.  Cover with plastic wrap so it doesn’t absorb any funky smells your fridge may have.

Next, make the spinach pasta.  [Note: to make plain pasta, omit the spinach and use 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks.]  In a medium sauteé pan, heat up 1/4 cup of water over medium heat.  Once it starts to simmer, add 4 oz spinach (fresh or frozen).  Cook, stirring, until wilted.  Remove to a bowl to cool.  Once cool, squeeze dry and place in a blender with one egg and one egg yolk.  Puree.

In a large bowl, sift 1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour (I used about 1/4 cup of whole-wheat flour in the place of some of the white flour because I’m like that.) with 1 teaspoon of salt. Make a well in the middle and pour in the spinach puree.  With a fork, stir the puree as if you’re whisking eggs for an omelet, slowly drawing the flour into the mixture.  Once the mixture becomes more dough-like, use your hands to incorporate the flour, adding water, if needed.  Once the dough cannot take anymore flour, pour any remaining flour onto a work surface and gently knead the dough until smooth.  Divide the dough into four pieces and let rest, covered with a damp paper towel.  Sift the remaining flour back onto the work surface to get rid of any dry pieces of dough that may have escaped.

Wash dishes.

While the pasta dough rests, prepare the spinach for the filling. Mince a clove of garlic.  Heat the same pan you used before over medium heat and add about a teaspoon of olive oil.  Add 8 oz of spinach (fresh or frozen) and a pinch of salt and cook, using tongs to make sure it cooks evenly, until ALMOST wilted.  Add the minced garlic and sauteé for another minute or so until the spinach is fully cooked.  Remove to a bowl to cool.  Once cooled, squeeze to drain the water and mince until uniform.  Add to the drained ricotta cheese and set aside.  You can taste it to see if it’s delicious – after all, this is a main flavor for your lasagna.  You can add herbs, pepper, salt, nutmeg, or whatever your heart desires.

Okay, so the pasta has rested.  Now it’s time to roll it out.  You can do this with a rolling pin or with a hand-crank pasta machine.  There are also stand-mixer attachments, but I don’t know anything about them.  I’ve never used a rolling pin either because John’s parents gave me a pasta machine for my birthday, right around when pasta making started to intrigue me.

I’ve described pasta making in the past, but allow me to do so again.  You want to start out with the rollers in the largest setting (number 7 on my machine).  In this setting you are basically kneading the dough until it becomes smooth.  First, flour the mound of dough in that bit of flour you had left, sifted, on the counter.  Next, pass it through the machine by turning the crank.  It will be rough and possibly sticky.  That’s ok.  If it’s sticky, add some more flour.  Fold the dough in half length-wise and pass it through again with the crease on one side.  Continue this process until the dough is smooth and satiny.

If making spinach pasta, the dough will be more uniformly green than it was when you started.

Now that it’s satiny, change the roller setting so that it’s slightly narrower (“6” on my machine).  Without folding the dough, pass it through the machine.  Continue to narrow the settings and pass it through until it is the thickness you desire.  I used the “3” setting.  You want the pasta smooth and without holes.  If you accidentally put a hole in it, just roll it up and start from the widest setting again.  When the pasta is the thickness you desire, coat it in flour and lay it on a drying rack.  I cut my pasta sheets in half so that they were about the length of the pan I was using.  Repeat the process for the rest of the dough.  If the sheets are well-floured, they won’t stick if you lay them of top of one another.  Fill a large pot halfway with water and put it over high heat.

Wash dishes and clean up the counter.

Okay, so you have the pasta and the ricotta cheese.  The only other components of the lasagna are the béchamel sauce and the sliced tomatoes and onion.  Now, the béchamel sauce takes about 30-40 minutes, but for the last 20-30 minutes, it just simmers and needs to be stirred every so often, so you can slice the vegetables during this time.

Measure out 3 tablespoons of white flour into a small bowl and 2 cups of milk into a measuring cup.  In a medium (not nonstick) saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and continue whisking for about 3 minutes.  Slowly add the milk.  It will thicken very quickly at first but don’t worry.  Add the milk in small batches and it will eventually thin out and become a slightly thick sauce.  If it is lumpy, pass it through a mesh strainer to remove lumps and put back in the heat.  Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then lower the heat until it is at a bare simmer.  Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.  A skin will develop on the top.  That’s okay, just stir it.

The pot of water should have come to a boil by now.  Add some salt.  Before you add the pasta, fill a large bowl with cold water.  If your water isn’t very cold, add a couple ice cubes.  Add the sheets of pasta carefully, one at a time, to the vigorously boiling water.  Cook for 1-2 minutes, until al dente.  The pasta should be undercooked – remember, it will be cooked further in the lasagna.  You just want it firm.  Drain the pasta and place it into the cold water to stop the cooking process.  Once chilled, drain it again and remove to a bowl.  Drizzle it with olive oil to prevent sticking.  It will probably stick anyway, so just be careful when you handle it.

(Remember to stir the sauce)

Wash any dishes you have incurred and slice 2 large tomatoes and 1 large yellow onion very thinly.  Grate about 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese.  Preheat the oven to 400 and lightly grease a 13 x 17 inch dish.  You could probably also make this in an 8 x 8 dish with more layers.  I’m not sure how cooking time would be affected.  If the béchamel sauce is almost done (taste it), add a pinch of salt and a grating of fresh nutmeg.  You can also add about a tablespoon of dry sherry.  Taste it to make sure the salt is right and it’s delicious.  Remove it from the heat and add the grated parmesan cheese.  Drizzle some of the freshly made sauce over the bottom of the dish.

Gently remove two strips of pasta from the bowl in which they have been resting and lay them on the bottom of the dish, trimming them to fit.  Spread a third of the ricotta mixture on top of the pasta and lay half the tomatoes and onions on top of that.  Lay down another layer of pasta. Spread half the remaining béchamel sauce on top of the pasta.  Lay down another layer (I recommend using the scraps you have cut from the other pasta for a layer, because you might not be left with enough whole strips and you want the top layer to be the prettiest).  Spread with half the remaining ricotta and the rest of the tomatoes and onions.  Lay down another layer of pasta and spread with the remaining white sauce and ricotta.  Lay down a final layer of pasta and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Cover with aluminum foil and place in the upper half of the oven to bake for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove the foil and sprinkle some freshly grated parmesan on top and bake for another 15 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

I found that the time it took for the lasagna to cook was exactly the right amount of time to prepare my bruschetta, wash any dishes, take the wine out of the fridge to warm up a little, and clean up.  I also set the table nicely for my dinner for one.  By the time the lasagna was ready for me, I was also ready for it.

I hope that some day in the near future you find yourself with the time and the desire to prepare a meal like this.  It’s incredibly satisfying to put the time and effort into a delicious meal, even if it’s just for yourself.  It really reminded me what it is I love about food and it was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Written by poperatzii

August 1, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Cookie Experimentation

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So you know how I’m into oatmeal?  Really, you don’t?  How about now?  Or now?  Or now?  Ok, so I’m into oatmeal.  I eat it almost every day, at least once.

Let’s backtrack.  On Saturday, I got this amazing book, Perfect Light Desserts, in the mail.  I immediately made Nick Malgieri’s oatmeal raisin cookies, chocolate chip cookie, and granola bars, all of which turned out delicious.  The chocolate chip cookies, however, were a little flat and not quite up to par with Kim Boyce’s whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, though they were lower in calories.  So I thought to myself, using my brain, what can I do to give these cookies a little more volume?  And of course I thought of oatmeal.

See, I still wanted to keep them healthy, so I didn’t want to raise the caloric density of the cookies.  Adding oatmeal, actually, lowered the calories per cookie, since it made more cookies without raising the amount of calories dramatically.  Why do you care about calories, Andrea, you might ask.  Aren’t you always tweeting about running?  Well yes, dear reader, I exercise (a lot).  But you may have noticed, I also write a food blog.  As a result, I also eat a lot.  That’s why this new book is perfect – it allows me to bake real cookies and cakes with real techniques and ingredients, without completely negating all the running I’m doing.  Genius.

Anyway, here’s my experiment.  I took Nick Malgieri’s basic chocolate chip cookie recipe (which he attributes to David Joachim, the co-author, by the way), with my own basic alterations (I had to add whole wheat flour, of course, and hand-chop the chocolate instead of using chocolate chips.  Thanks again Kim Boyce.  I also used about half the chocolate called for in the recipe and (John agrees) it was the perfect amount – any more would have been way too much.), and added oatmeal.  However, I also wanted to see what the effect would be of adding cooked oatmeal to the dough, since I never see that in cookie recipes, but it works very well in muffins.  So I decided to make two half-batches of the dough by dividing the dry ingredients and wet ingredients in half and trying two different methods of oatmeal integration.

The results? Well… dry oatmeal works better.  After I added the wet oatmeal (made with 3/4 cup water and 1/2 cup oats, in an attempt to make it less wet), the dough was far too moist:

Looks like it would be delicious eaten with a spoon though, doesn't it?

I ended up adding an extra 1/2 cup of dry oats to the dough to try to dry it out a little, but wasn’t too successful.  The cookies ended up very wet and with a weird texture:

They’re in the freezer right now because I want to try them out as ice cream sandwich cookies.  The cookies made with dry oatmeal, however, are amazing.  They are definitely more 3-D than the original chocolate chip cookies I made and they also have a nicer texture.  I’m really happy with them and will definitely be making them like that in the future, perhaps even with more oats!

Low Fat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (Adapted from Nick Malgieri’s Perfect Light Desserts) – Makes about 36 cookies

Preheat oven to 350, with the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roughly chop 4 oz of top-quality bittersweet chocolate and place in the fridge if the room is warm (my kitchen is always warm).

In a medium bowl, sift together

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)

Stir with a fork to mix and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together 1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 4 tablespoons) softened unsalted butter and 6 tablespoons granulated sugar.  Add 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (recipe calls for light, I used dark) and stir until creamy.  Stir in 1 egg and 2 tablespoons whole milk.  Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Gradually stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture, in three batches, stirring until just combined.  This is important, since it’s a low fat recipe.  You don’t want to over stir the batter or the cookies won’t be soft and chewy.

Once the flour is stirred in, add 1 cup of old fashioned rolled oats.  Stir until just combined, then add the 4 oz of chopped chocolate.  Let the dough rest in the fridge for about 15 minutes so that the cookies don’t spread too much.

See how much better that dough looks?

Once chilled, spoon slightly heaping teaspoon-sized portions of dough onto the parchment-lines cookie sheets, about 1 inch apart.  Bake for 8-12 minutes, turning and switching shelves halfway through, or until the cookies are slightly dull in color, but still quite soft.  They should be just beginning to brown on top.  Let them cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then slide the parchment paper onto the cooling rack to cool completely.  They should be good for about a week in an airtight container, or indefinitely in the freezer (they will stay pretty soft!).  Try making ice cream sandwiches with them!

On another note I also made Nick’s (we’re on a first name basis now) chocolate spice cookies – amazing!  They’re soft and spiced and super chocolate-y!  I heartily recommend this book.

Written by poperatzii

July 21, 2010 at 8:26 pm

I’m a Big Muffin Fan

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I’m really into muffins.  I think it has something to do with my obsession with breakfast.  Also, with muffins, you just need a good base recipe, then you can add whatever you want to it.  Finally, muffins are very forgiving and unlike cupcakes and many other baked goods, you don’t need to measure too carefully.

There are a couple things I like to do with muffins that might sound a little different.  First of all, I always use buttermilk.  I like the tang and the moisture it adds.  Second of all, I always separate my egg whites and yolks and beat the egg whites.  It adds a nice fluffines.  Finally, I always use melted butter, not oil.  It gives it a wonderfully buttery flavor.

After making oatmeal pancakes a couple months ago, I decided that the same idea could be applied to muffins.  See, muffins and buttermilk pancakes have a lot of similarities.  Have you noticed?  A base muffin recipe is basically a base pancake recipe with a little more sugar and a little less liquid.  I tried to adjust this recipe twice.  The first time they came out a little too dense, indicating I used a little too much liquid.  They were also too sweet and oily.

The second time (yesterday) they came out perfectly.  I brought them to my running club and I was inundated with praise.  The oatmeal gives them a nice texture, and the molasses gave it a rich flavor.  In addition, they are pretty healthy, as muffins go, since I didn’t have to use a lot of butter and sugar (in case you are wondering they’re about 180 calories each).

Having just gotten Perfect Light Desserts (by Nick Malgieri) after trying the chewy oatmeal raisin cookies that David Lebovitz posted on his blog, I was also inspired to add a little applesauce to replace some of the oil, so the muffins would be less greasy but still moist.  Here’s the base recipe I created, along with some ideas for variations.  I made them into oatmeal raisin muffins, which I think would be great around the holidays.  As a side note, those oatmeal raisin cookies from Perfect Light Desserts are amazing – they stay chewy for days and are really good as ice cream sandwich cookies AND they’re only 55 calories each.  I recommend trying them.

Andrea’s New Muffin Base Recipe (Inspired by Kim Boyce’s Oatmeal Pancake Recipe from Good to the Grain)

Preheat oven to 400 and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners, or grease each cup individually.

Prepare 1 cup of oatmeal and let cool.  To do so, boil 1 cup of water and add 1/2 cup of old fashioned or quick cooking oats.  Cook according to package directions.

Melt 3 Tablespoons of butter in the microwave or a double-boiler and let cool.

In a large bowl, sift together:

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup oat flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Set aside.

Separate 2 eggs, putting the whites in a clean medium bowl, and the yolks in a small bowl.  To the yolks, add 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon molasses, and 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce.

Beat the egg whites with a whisk or hand-held mixer until soft peaks begin to form (not until stiff).

Now it’s time to mix it all together.  Make sure your oven is preheated, so that the muffins can go right into the oven before the baking powder is fully activated.

First, pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture.  Gently stir until the flour is just moistened.  It will still be quite solid and dry.  Next, add the cooked oatmeal and gently fold it until just incorporated.  It will be lumpy.  That’s okay.  Next, fold in the melted butter (again, until just incorporated).  Add the beaten egg whites and fold gently.  Don’t worry about mixing it in too thoroughly.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups.  You want them basically all the way full, unlike with cupcakes, to get a nice mushroom top.  If you don’t get all 12 muffin cups full, add about 2 tablespoons of water to the empty cups to keep the pan from getting ruined and to add some moisture to the oven.

Bake for about 17 minutes, or until the top begins to brown.  You might want to bake it a little longer if you like the muffin tops crunchy.

Variations

For Blueberry Muffins: Add a fresh grating of nutmeg to the dry ingredients. Toss 2 cups of rinsed fresh blueberries with a couple of tablespoons of the dry ingredients (so they don’t sink) and fold them into the batter after the egg whites.

For Oatmeal Raisin Muffins: add a sprinkling of cinnamon to the dry ingredients and 1/2 cup of raisins (or dried cranberries) to the batter after the dry ingredients.

Honestly, the possibilities are endless.  Try adding chocolate chips, orange zest, chopped toasted nuts, mushed bananas, or grated apples.  You can substitute brown sugar for the white sugar and molasses (added to the buttermilk instead of the dry ingredients).  Let me know what you come up with!

Storage: Let cool completely and store in an airtight container for a couple of days or indefinitely in the freezer.  Defrost at room temperature overnight or in the oven at 400 for 7-10 minutes.  Enjoy the nice crunch the oven gives the muffin.

Written by poperatzii

July 18, 2010 at 9:58 am