Blackberry Cornmeal Muffins

July 16th, 2015

Blackberry Cornmeal Muffins 1

Summertime is blackberry picking season.  I remember picking blackberries as a child, smearing the dark juices all over my fingers and clothing.  Unfortunately I haven’t found any blackberry bushes where we live now.  So I was forced to pick up a plastic box of them at the grocery store.  There is just something wrong about that.  I need to find a patch of blackberries somewhere.

Blackberry Cornmeal Muffins 2V

There is an odd synergy between blackberries and cornmeal.  They both have a grainy consistency.  Blackberry “seeds” always get stuck in my teeth and cornmeal has a sandy bite to it.  But that is why the ingredients make such a hardy and satisfying munchable muffin.

This recipe came from one of my favorite NC markets and chefs, Sara Foster.  Foster’s Market is an institution in Durham, NC and loved by the Duke University family and residents far and wide.  We like to stop in when traveling to visit the kids.  Sara Foster, former catering chef for Martha Stewart, moved to NC in 1990 and opened her gourmet market and cafe in a funky building with a gravel driveway to rave reviews.  It is the kind of place where you would want to hang out, as many Duke students actually do.  Sara’s food is honest, fresh and seasonal.

Blackberry Cornmeal Muffins 3

These simple and easy muffins taste like summer on a plate.  Smear them with a bit of butter and start your day with a smile.

BLACKBERRY CORNMEAL MUFFINS ( From Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line 12 large muffin cups with liners and spray the top of the pan lightly with vegetable oil spray or grease lightly.

Stir the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

In a separate large bowl, stir the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla together.  Gradually add the flour-cornmeal mixture, stirring just until the dry ingredients are moist and no flour is visible.  Do not mix more than necessary.  Gently fold in the blackberries.

Scoop the batter with a 1/3-cup measure or ice cream scoop to fill the muffin tins to just below the top of the liner.  Bake the muffins for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops spring back when pressed lightly and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning them out.

Note:  I used standard muffin tins and ended up with enough batter for 18 muffins.

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BLT Scones for the 4th of July

July 1st, 2015

BLT Scones 2

The countdown has started for the 4th of July celebration.  We have geared up for a visit by the whole family.  What fun.  I have been cooking up lots of treats for everyone.  The freezer has been my friend.  I made these BLT scones this week.  We sampled one and the rest went into the freezer.  David declared it delicious.  I loved the bacon bits and basil, but thought the sun dried tomatoes a little too much.  The whole idea of the scones is the combination of bacon, tomato and basil (taking the place of lettuce).  Really good, but I will reduce the tomato component next time.

BLT Scones 3V

Breakfast scones are always a part of our breakfasts when the family gets together.  My DIL Kristen has become the scone master in the family.  She introduced me to the Triple Cinnamon Scones and makes a mean savory scone with Chorizo sausage.  The recipe for this BLT scone came from a blog called 3 Many Cooks.  It is written my Pam Anderson, cookbook author, and her two daughters.

BLT Scones 4

Enjoy your 4th of July weekend.  We have many reasons to celebrate.

BLT SCONES ( 3 Many Cooks )

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, frozen solid
  • ½ cup chopped sundried tomatoes, packed in oil
  • ½ cup chopped cooked bacon*
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup sour cream, light if you like
  • 1 large egg
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Grate ⅓ of the butter into the flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; toss. Repeating grating and tossing twice more. Using fingertips, work butter into flour a bit more. Mix in tomatoes, bacon, and basil.
  2. Mix sour cream and egg with a fork until smooth. Using same fork, stir into dry ingredients until large dough clumps form. Use hands to press dough against the bowl into a ball. (There may not seem like enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together. If necessary, flick a little water into bowl bottom to get the last bits to adhere.)
  3. Place on a lightly floured work surface and pat into a 7½-inch circle, about ¾-inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut dough into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet (preferably silapat- or parchment-lined), about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve—hot, warm, or at room temperature.

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Savory Cheese and Chive Bread

May 21st, 2015

Savory Cheese and Chive Bread 4

This may look like an American quick bread, but according to Dorie Greenspan, it has a French soul.  Savory breads, cake sale’, are served all over France with apperitifs. What is so nice about this bread, other than its wonderful taste, is that it is indeed quick and easy.  After you grate your cheese, toast your walnuts and snip your chives, it is just a matter of mixing the wet ingredients with the dry and baking in a loaf pan.Savory Cheese and Chive Bread 2

The aroma from the oven was heady.  I was impatient to cut into the bread even before it had cooled.  I managed to get a few shots of it before we dug into it.  David, who has been avoiding carbs, said it was the best bread I had ever made as he nibbled away at one small piece after another.  We have eaten it with salads, as an accompaniment to grilled chicken and as toast for breakfast.  It is best that way.

Lake Lure Deck 1

We have almost finished with the dock in preparation for the summer festivities.  We ordered new window boxes for the boathouse windows and I planted some geraniums.  I will add some trailing greens and white vinca when I make it to the garden center.  David got a little carried away with the spray paint.  The green chairs used to be a more subdued shade of green, but the neon color is starting to grow on me.  Now at least I can tell boaters clearly where we live;  the boat house with the bright lime green chairs.

Savory Cheese and Chive Bread 3V

This savory bread would be great with any of your Memorial Day picnic offerings.  Let’s remember our Veterans on this very special weekend.  My Father was a proud Marine who served duty in Guadalcanal during the Second World War.  My Brother, Bill, served two tours of duty in Vietnam.  They make me so proud.

Dad in Marine Uniform

Semper Fi.  And Happy Memorial Day.

SAVORY CHEESE AND CHIVE BREAD ( Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table )

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2-1 teaspoon salt (depending on what cheese and add-ins you’re using )
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (or more to taste; you could even add a pinch of cayenne )
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 generous cup coarsely grated Gruyere, Comte’, Emmenthal, or cheddar (about 4 ounces)
2 ounces Gruyere, Comte’, Emmenthal or cheddar, cut into very small cubes (I omitted this)
1/2 cup minced fresh chives or other herbs (or thinly sliced scallions)
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to350 degrees F.  Generously butter an 8-x-4 1/2-x-2 3/4-inch loaf pan – a Pyrex pan is perfect here.  If your pan is slightly larger, go ahead and use it, but your loaf will be lower and you’ll have to check it for doneness a little earlier.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and white pepper together in a large bowl.

Put the eggs in a medium bowl and whisk for about 1 minute, until they’re foamy and blended.  Whisk in the milk and olive oil.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and, using a sturdy rubber spatula or a wooden spoon, gently mix until the dough comes together.  There’s no need to be energetic – in fact, beating the dough toughens it – nor do you need to be very thorough: just stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened.  Stir in the cheese, grated and cubed, the herbs, and the walnuts, if you’re using them.  You’ll have a thick dough.  Turn the dough into the buttered pan and even the top with the back of the spatula or spoon.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the bread is golden and a slender knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and wait for about 3 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pan and turn the loaf over onto the rack; invert and cool right side up.

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Caramelized Onion, Fennel and Tomato Focaccia

May 4th, 2015

Caramelized onion Focaccia 1

This is another tasty recipe from Katie Quinn Davies new cookbook, What Katie Ate on the Weekend.  I love making bread.  I keep a container of instant dry yeast in my refrigerator at all times.  Turning out loaves of wonderful bread is one of the easiest kitchen tasks that you can master.  Mixing the dough in a stand mixer makes it even easier.  Caramelized onion Focaccia 3V   The last few weeks have been kind of hard on me.  David has been traveling.  I have sprained my ankle and I’ve had to hire a dog walker.  And now I am facing surgery.  I have plates and pins in my right leg from a previous injury.  It looks like they need to be removed.  I’m not sure when this will happen, but plans with family and friends are on hold for a while.  Lucky for you and me, I can still sit at my computer and connect with everyone.  Also lucky for me is that my kitchen has turned out to be the best “handicapped” space I have ever been in.  I can cook, I can clean and I can be creative.

Caramelized Red onion Focaccia 2 Close

While I was baking this bread one morning in my kitchen, I was reflecting on just how lucky I am.  No matter what is going in our lives, we still must carry on with daily activities.  We can choose to passively sit back and feel sorry for ourselves . . .  or we can go into our kitchens and cook.  I choose to cook.  It is therapeutic . . . it connects us to each other . . . . and who could resist this crunchy bread.  Drizzle it with a little more olive oil, dip it in balsamic vinegar and enjoy.

CARAMELIZED ONION, FENNEL AND TOMATO FOCACCIA

2 teaspoons active dried yeast
2 pinches of superfine sugar
1/3 cup olive oil, divided, plus extra for brushing
3 cups bread flour, plus extra for dusting
fine salt
4 red onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 teaspoons fennel seeds
9 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
sea salt

Combine the yeast, sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoon oil and 11 fl oz warm water in a bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), then set aside in a warm place for 5 minutes or until frothy.

Sift the flour into a bowl and add 1 teaspoon salt.  Make a well in the center, pour in the yeast mixture and stir to combine.  If you are mixing in a stand mixer, add the flour to the mixing bowl and mix with the dough hook for about 5 minutes before you turn out onto the board and then kneed for just a few minutes on the floured board.

Turn out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.  Place in a large bowl that has been greased with a little olive oil and cover with a damp kitchen towel.  Set aside in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a skillet over low-medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 12-15 minutes or until soft.  Add the brown sugar and vinegar and cook, stirring, for 7-10 minutes or until the onion has caramelized and the vinegar has been absorbed.  Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

Punch down the dough with your fist.  Turn out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead for 1-2 minutes.  Spread the dough out to form a rough rectangle, then cover the surface evenly with the onion mixture.  Scatter the fennel seeds on top, reserving a few to scatter over later.  Carefully fold the dough over on itself a few times until most of the onion mixture is incorporated into the dough (this bit can get a little sticky so ensure your countertop is well-floured).

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. and grease a baking sheet with olive oil.

Press the dough onto the prepared sheet, cove with a camp kitchen towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 20 minutes or until doubled in size.

Use your finger to press dimples into the dough, then carefully press the tomato halves into the dimples.  Brush well with oil and sprinkle over the remaining fennel seeds, then season with a few good pinches of seal salt.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and cooked through.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Harvest Focaccia

February 8th, 2015

Harvest Focaccia 1

Known as Schiacciata con l’uva in Tuscany, this grape harvest focaccia is showcased in the windows of bakeries all over the region during the Fall harvest season.  According to Angelo Ciardella, a retired restauranteur and cooking teacher, “In Italy we don’t have Thanksgiving.  It’s the time of the grapes.”  The bread appears only during September when the uva fragola or concord grapes are ripe.  The focaccia is studded with the grapes, raisins, and walnuts and sprinkled with rosemary.  In the version I made, the grapes were layered in the bread dough so that they were more evenly distributed.  The top was also sprinkled with coriander seeds and turbinado sugar to bring out the sweetness of the grapes.

You may be wondering why I would be posting about this recipe in February instead of September.  The reason is that we will be in Tuscany during September this year during the harvest season . I found this recipe while doing research.  Planning a trip is satisfying on so many levels.  Researching the food of the regions where you will be staying is one of the sensory delights.  Another is finding interesting places to stay.

Tuscany Kitchen

This is the kitchen of one of the villas we are considering in a small village near Lucca and Florence.

Tuscany Fireplace

The villa also has a beautiful open fireplace.  We are still working out the details of our trip.  What fun it would be to stay here for a few days.

Harvest Focaccia 2V

Because I didn’t have access to concord grapes I used seedless red grapes.  The flavor is not as intense as it would be with the wine grapes, but we had no complaints about this delicious bread.  This Schiacciata (skee-ah-chah-tah) con l’uva was the closest I could come to the authentic bread experience.  It will be interesting to taste the real thing.  What I loved about this recipe is that it had a stick of butter in it.  It gave the focaccia an almost cake-like consistency.

Harvest Focaccia 3

Buon Appetito!

HARVEST FOCACCIA (Food Network Magazine)

2 1/4-ounce packets active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 cups (about 1 pound) seedless red grapes
2/3 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, cracked with a heavy pan
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Put 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water, the yeast, 1/2 cup olive oil and 1 tablespoon each turbinado sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.  Mix on medium speed until the yeast and sugar dissolve, then let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.  Add both flours and mix on medium speed to make a smooth but stick dough, about 4 minutes.

Poke the butter pieces into the dough, spacing them evenly apart. (Do not mix.)  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside in a wam place until doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Mix the dough with the dough hook on low speed just until there are streaks of butter throughout, about 1 minute.  Put the grapes and raisins in a microwave-safe bowl, cover loosely and microwave until juicy, about 10 minutes.  Let cool, the strain through a sieve, discarding the liquid.

Brush a 10 x 15-inch rimmed baking sheet with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Divide the dough in half and transfer one piece to the baking sheet, leaving the other in the bowl.  Cover both pieces of dough loosely with parchment paper; set aside until plump and airy, about 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Spread the dough on the baking sheet so it fills the pan, dimpling it with your fingertips.  Scatter half of the grape-raisin mixture evenly on top.  Put the remaining piece of dough on top and stretch and pat it to cover the bottom piece of dough. (Don’t worry if the dough tears.)  Scatter the walnuts and the remaining grape-raisin mixture on top. dimple the dough all over with your fingertips, poking the topping into the dough.  Cover loosely with parchment and set aside until the dough rises above the sides of the baking sheet by about 1/2-inch, 35 to 40 minutes.

Mix the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, the coriander, rosemary, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper; sprinkle over the dough.  Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake 10 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. and bake until the focaccia is golden and springs back when pressed 20 to 30 minutes.  Brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil; let cool in the pan 15 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.  Can be served warm or at room temperature.  Warning:  Be careful not to eat the bread piping hot or you can burn your lips or mouth on a grape.  This came from personal experience. 

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© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.