Archives for category: Quick Breads

Most days, the first thing that the mixer guys I work with have to accomplish is to bake a rack of cornbread.  We sell our cornbread in individual pans and typically, by the end of the day we are sold out.

What may shock some of you, is that despite working in a bakery and handling hundreds of pounds of sugar everyday, the guys I work with aren’t in love with desserts; you won’t see them sneaking a taste of one of the pastries and if they are sampling a new dessert, they will take the most microscopic bite you have ever seen.

You don’t have to ask them twice to dig into the cornbread though.  After the cornbread comes out of the oven (oh…it makes the kitchen smell like home…), they will reserve themselves a pan.  Most of the time they will just dig right into the hot bread, steam billowing from their mouths, enjoying a moment’s break in their busy days.  Other times, they will scramble an egg on the stove and then have a little feast during their break.  In their words, “You have to have your cornbread and leche.”

If I am not too busy, sometimes I will join them in their cornbread ritual.  One coworker will grab me a cup of coffee and in that hasty moment, nothing tastes better than hot coffee and hot cornbread.

My sweet tooth is still intact and I wanted to add my twist to the cornbread tradition on my Saturday off.

Growing up, every time my mom made cornbread, she would eat her’s topped with maple syrup.  Because of my raving sweet tooth, I quickly followed suit and now every time I smell cornbread baking in the oven, I can’t help but hope there is some maple syrup near by.

For this version of cornbread, I added maple syrup to the batter along with lemon zest and frozen blueberries making a perfect breakfast, snack, or pick-me-up with some leche (or coffee).

Lemon Blueberry Breakfast Cornbread

Makes one 8-by-8-inch pan or fills an 8-inch cast-iron skillet

Inspired by two favorite cornbread recipes in The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

Note:  I have written this recipe for using a cast-iron skillet which makes a wonderful crust on the edges and bottom of this bread, but if you do not have one (go..get..one…now!), you can use a 8-by-8-inch baking dish.  This is another great use for buttermilk!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 heaping teaspoon lemon zest

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon lemon juice

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 cup frozen blueberries, not thawed (tossed with 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400°F and add cast-iron skillet to oven to heat as well.

Meanwhile, whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and lemon zest together in a medium bowl until combined.  Process the buttermilk, thawed corn, and maple syrup in a food processor until well combined.  Add the eggs and lemon juice and continue to process until well combined (it’s okay if come lumps remain).

Fold the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula.  Fold in the melted butter until just incorporated and then gently fold in flour coated blueberries until just combined.

Remove hot skillet from oven (be cautious).  Brush bottom and sides with ALL the vegetable oil and then scrape batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes.

Let cool for five minutes, then gently flip out onto a wire rack.  Serve warm topped with additional maple syrup!

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Last week at Central Market, we introduced our new muffin recipe and flavors.  I may be biased, but they are darn good and full of interesting ingredients.

Pear ginger, fig and star anise, banana granola, antioxidant punch (goji, acai, cranberries, and pomegranate), chocolate hazelnut toffee, and strawberry goat cheese to name a few.

We can hardly keep them on the shelves.  Let’s just say I have consumed more than my share of muffins this week and any Houstonians out there should come check them out along with all of our other tasty treats!

I absolutely love savory-sweet combinations, so despite swearing off strawberries after the strawberry dipping fest that was Valentine’s Day (I estimate we dipped close to 13,000 strawberries…by hand), the first muffin I dove into was the strawberry goat cheese variety.

Sweet strawberries (and yes we use real fruit in our products) and musky goat cheese play tug-of-war with your senses and eventually meld to create the perfect balance of sweet and savory.  Simple ingredients yes, but these are no ordinary muffins.

While I love what we bake at work, I figure if I can bake it on my own, why buy it?  So, after dreaming about my new favorite muffin, I decided to give it a whirl at home.

I typically use frozen berries when I bake because they are frozen when perfectly ripe and I think they hold-up much better than fresh fruit during the baking process.  This recipe was no exception and I used frozen strawberries, but if you have some fresh strawberries, there is no reason you can’t use them.

The biggest difference between my muffins and those from work, is the addition of fresh thyme, an herb whose woody flavors pair wonderfully not only with savory ingredients but also with sweet, floral berries.

I used a basic muffin batter base from my The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book; the batter is not overly sweet, but is the perfect backdrop for the berries and cheese.  If you have a favorite muffin batter, feel free to use that and just use my recommendation for filling measurements.

Strawberry, Goat Cheese, & Thyme Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Inspired by Central Market.  Batter recipe from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

Note:  Frozen strawberries are ginormous so I chopped them (while still frozen) into bite-sized pieces.  This batter yields billowy, tender muffins.

3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt

2 large eggs

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 1/2 (about 7 oz) cups roughly chopped frozen strawberries (not thawed)

4 oz fresh goat cheese (no rind), very coarsely crumbled

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and thyme together in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk the yogurt and eggs together until smooth.  Gently fold yogurt mixture into flour mixture with a rubber spatula until barely combined, then fold in butter, strawberries, and goat cheese until just distributed.

Using a greased 1/3-cup measure, portion the batter into each muffin cup.  Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out with just a few crumbs, 25-30 minutes.

Let muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove and cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack before serving.

There are a few staples that I keep stocked in my kitchen at all times:  all-purpose flour, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, unsalted butter, and buttermilk.  There is so much that can be done with these simple ingredients and I get anxiety when I see I am missing any of them.  You never know when the urge to bake cookies will take hold and you need to be prepared!

Of all of these versatile staples, buttermilk may be my favorite.

My first memory of buttermilk doesn’t involve a meal, but rather a movie.  When I was little I loved watching the cartoon movie based on the book Charlotte’s Web.  I vividly remember a scene where the farmer’s wife makes buttermilk pancakes (who cares about the rest of the movie, I remember buttermilk pancakes).  I had no idea what buttermilk was, but it sounded good and those cartoon pancakes drenched in cartoon syrup made my mouth water.

Buttermilk wasn’t a staple in the pantry of my childhood.  Besides the occasional use of powdered buttermilk, I never remember seeing my mom use the real thing (note: powdered buttermilk is actually quite useful, but it’s just not the same as liquid buttermilk).  Once I moved into an apartment and really began cooking for myself, I quickly learned that buttermilk is not only a supremely useful ingredient, but a versatile and luxurious one as well.

I love the way thick and rich buttermilk glugs out of the carton and adds tang and moisture to dishes.  Whether it’s added to muffins, cakes, folded into mashed potatoes, whisked into soups, used to make homemade creme fraiche, even more muffins, and of course pancakes, I can’t get enough buttermilk.

Now, I will also be using buttermilk in quick breads.  This moist and healthy quick bread with the robust flavor of molasses and hearty textures of whole-grains, is expertly pulled together with beautiful buttermilk.  Perfect.

Molasses-Buttermilk Bread

Makes one 4-x 8-inch loaf

From Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

Note:  This bread is wonderful served with whipped cream cheese.

1/2 cup rye flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup unsulfured molasses

3/4 cups raisins, chopped dates, or currants (I used pitted medjool dates)

Preheat oven to 350°F and spray and flour a bread pan.  Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl; whisk the wet ingredients together in a second bowl.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir quickly to combine.  Stir in the fruit.  Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool for at least 15 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a rack for serving.