Thursday, April 2, 2009
If ever there was a reason to buy a plane ticket and jet off to sunnier lands, this Spring Break in Seattle is the one. Equal parts cold and wet, infused with miserable throughout. Worst spring weather in more than 25 years. It has snowed more times than I care to remember this year with the most recent snow yesterday, April 1. The weather man must have had fun with that April Fool's Day!
The prospect of playing outdoors being dashed to pieces (or rather drowned, in this case), my husband suggested some cooking lessons for our oldest child during her week home from school. She studiously pulled down my giant baking cookbook by Dorie Greenspan called, appropriately, "Baking", and began to flip through the complicated recipes.
"Mommy, it's time I learned this stuff," she told me. I suggested starting with muffins, since we were totally out of food for breakfast the next morning. I had just enough pantry items to make a batch of muffins if I was able to steer her away from the Pecan Sticky Buns or Lemon Poppyseed Muffins. Plain Jane was what we needed.
With a few minor alterations, we settled upon the Allspice Crumb Muffins. However, allspice with it's clove-like flavor ranks very low on my list of spice-likes. That small detail was easily remedied with cinnamon. The recipe calls for 3/4 cup whole milk. I possessed only about 3 TB of milk...fat free at that. Combined with a TB of half-n-half we were up to 1/4 cup of milk. I filled the remaining requirement with Rice Dream, which as it turns out is a perfectly fine substitute in this recipe.
My cute little girl donned her denim apron sewn for her by her Great Aunt Bev who "should sew for a store or something because she's so good." First she mixed the crumb topping...
1/2 c flour
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
5 TB cold butter, cut into bits
Her small fingers mashed it up until it became clumps of crumbs which she then licked, announcing that it didn't taste very good yet.
After a hand washing...she read the next instructions and ingredients, turned on the oven to 375, lined the muffin pan with papers, and started in on the dry ingredients.
2 c flour (we discussed the scoop and sweep method)
1/2 c sugar
1 TB baking powder (this is what makes the muffins rise up)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt (or less if your butter is salted)
Then stir in,
1/4 c brown sugar (which has to be packed and in our case, crumbled from the hard clumps it had formed in the non-airtight container!)
Now for the wet ingredients...
Melt 1 stick (8 TB) butter (and let it cool so it doesn't scramble the eggs)
2 large beaten eggs
3/4 c whole milk (or other combo!)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir quickly to blend. Divide the batter evenly into the 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle on some streusel and gently press the crumbs into the muffin batter.
Bake for 20 minutes or as my daughter informed me, "the tops must be golden, mommy." Ah, it's great when your kids learn how to read! Allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes in the pan. Then instruct your 6 year old to gently lift it up with a fork and transfer it to a wire rack to cool.
They're like little coffee cakes. Very tasty.
Today, she chose Brownie Buttons. Cute little mini-muffin shaped brownies dipped in white chocolate and even flavored with a bit of orange zest.
We got to learn how to zest the orange, about the oils in the zest, and about pith.
Zest of 1/2 an orange mixed with
1 tsp sugar (set this aside)
Butter your mini-muffin tin and preheat the oven to 350.
Melt together over very low heat, stirring constantly:
4 TB butter
2 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (and we added a little bit of extra dark chocolate)
1/3 c brown sugar
Stirring got boring and so she took a little time off to play PBS Kids with her brother...
After it melts smooth, let it cool a couple of minutes (again, so it doesn't scramble the eggs).
orange zest mixture
1/2 tsp vanilla (which doesn't taste good...trust me)
1 large egg, beaten
Mix thoroughly, then sprinkle on:
1/4 c plus 2 TB flour
Mix only until flour is incorporated. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups (the recipe says it makes 16, but we barely had enough for 12). Bake for 14-16 minutes. Allow to cool 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. When cooled, dip in:
2 oz melted white chocolate (or more if needed)
Refrigerate about 15 minutes until the chocolate sets.
Tomorrow's baking lesson will have to come from a healthy cookbook!