Best of Baking

IMG_0803The holiday break has afforded many opportunities to rev up the new Kitchenaid mixer. I look at it daily and think “what can we make today?” And then I tell my mixer that treats cannot be an everyday occurrence. Although they should be.

For a New Year’s get together I jumped on the chance to bring dessert so that I would have an excuse to make a chocolate cake. I made my favourite Nigella version, posted here. It was more-ish as always and was promptly demolished, as chocolate cakes should be. You should make it. And fill your face with it-but don’t blame me for your derailed resolutions. Blame Nigella.IMG_0793

If you want something a little lighter and less guilt-inducing, I made holiday gingerbread in December and didn’t get around to posting it. I shared the cookies around at a few holiday shindigs and people are still talking to me about it. It’s just a McCormick recipe, but I think the magic is in the technique. Roll the dough as thin as you can and bake them until firm, and you’ll end up with light, crispy, refreshing ginger bombs. They are so good and so delightfully spiced that I am thinking about making another batch just to have for after-dinner treats. They keep really well in the freezer, just waiting for when you need a ginger pick-me-up. You can also tell yourself that ginger is good for digestion and therefore this cookie is good for you. Plus they have molasses and that’s better than white sugar, right?Blueberry Muffins

So finally, in a moment of holiday boredom, I whipped up some blueberry muffins to pass the time. I used my favourite recipe from Smitten Kitchen (see my previous post here) and they were perfect to have on hand for post-Christmas snacking and lounging about.

So here are 3 ideas for homemade treats to start 2013 with a bang and give the finger to any thoughts of healthier living and self-denial. Plus, some self-righteous food guy once said (something to the effect of) “it’s ok to eat treats as long as you make them yourself.” And that’s the mantra I live by. Although it’s also ok in my books if Pan Chancho or Bread & Butter Bakery make them too.

Morning Glory Muffins

I’ve been in a baking mood this month, so far churning out several batches of muffins and last week’s chocolate cake, but am starting to feel a bit guilty at the thought of making one more sweet treat. So today’s mission was to make something that had some amount of nutrition hidden amongst its tastiness.

There is a chain of cafes that started in Calgary called the Good Earth, which I miss regularly. I see that they have expanded into BC and Saskatchewan, and can only hope that one day they will make their way to Ontario. Kingston’s closest equivalent would be the Sleepless Goat, but I almost don’t want to insult the Good Earth with the comparison. The Good Earth is always clean and comfy, while still maintaining a bit of a hippy vibe and serving healthy, earth friendly food. While the Goat is undoubtedly earth friendly, their lack of cleanliness seriously limits my visits there.  One of my favourite things from the Good Earth is a Morning Glory muffin, with one of their fabulous lattes made with fair trade espresso. The best breakfast!

With these muffins in mind, I trolled the internet for recipes, and came up with my own version of the muffin. I’m happy to report that they do the Good Earth proud, and came out beautifully domed and dense with healthy goodness. A perfect breakfast treat.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or whole wheat)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 apple – peeled and shredded
  • 1/2 cup sultana raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tbsp. ground flax seed mixed with 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 12 muffin cups.
  2. Mix ground flax seed with water, let sit for a minute. Then add eggs and beat mixture. Stir in oil and vanilla, then add grated carrot and apple.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Gently stir in the wet ingredients.
  4. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

Cheers to 2011

The new year not only brings the promise of a fresh start, but also the first anniversary of La Gourmandesse. Looking back to January 2010, I found myself a bit bored and in need of some inspiration. Writing a blog devoted to the pleasures of food and wine was just the ticket to spicing things up.

Over the past year, I have found some wonderful new wines. My favourite $10 or less discoveries have to be Sogrape Gazela, Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc, Argento Malbec, and Farnese Sangiovese. I also tried at least 10-20 bottles that I’d rather forget. But, much like dating, trying cheap wine comes with risk and rewards.

As well as embarking on a $10 wine challenge, I tried bottles in the $15-$25 range. The best finds were Concha Y Toro Cabernet Trio, Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin, and J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon. Luckily, I have at least one bottle of each of these waiting in the cupboard for a happy occasion.

La Gourmandesse has given me a place to showcase the tasty treats I would have been cooking and baking anyway, and also spurred me to find other delicious food and wine blogs to draw inspiration from. My regular reads are Smitten Kitchen, Reems Eats, 1 Wine Dude and Pretty.Good.Food. I love to read about other people’s food and wine lives; the inclusion of great photography also never hurts.

Some favourite recipes I discovered this year were quinoa salad, fudgy layer cake, and new takes on blueberry muffins and banana bread. You can see my love of baked goods shining through there. I suppose that explains my need to hit the gym a little more frequently in 2011.

Thinking back on how delicious 2010 was, how much fun I had discussing affordable wine with people, and how much I loved hearing “I was reading your blog and…”, I’m really looking forward to what 2011 will bring. The $10 wine quest is definitely not yet complete,  there is always a new bottle or two to try.

2011 is bound to bring more chances to share great food and drink with the people that matter most to me, and also give me opportunities to showcase them here. So cheers to the new year, may it bring much inspiration and pleasure.

Beautiful Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

As I mentioned in the Peach Buckle post, I am a big follower of the blog Smitten Kitchen. I’m going to take the risk of looking like a blog stalker, and re-post another one of Deb’s masterpieces. And then I’ll give it a rest for a while, I swear. It’s just that there’s so much great local fruit around lately, and Deb just keeps giving me delicious ways to use it up!

I love blueberry muffins. My mom used to make huge batches when I was little and our family would devour them in a few days. Her recipe was called “Helen’s Blueberry Muffins,” I can still see them written out in her recipe notebook. I don’t know who Helen was, but she made a good muffin.

However, the muffins I made today have blown Helen’s out of the kitchen. They are a masterpiece of a muffin. I think they’d be great with peaches or raspberries too.  I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter, so I’m going to be lazy and just give the link to Perfect Blueberry Muffins.

I am usually rushed when baking, but today since I am procrastinating from all the things I should be doing, I decided to go all out with the hand mixer and the sifter.  Actually following the recipe produced the fluffiest muffin to ever come out of my oven.

The only changes I made were to add a drop of vanilla to the wet ingredients, a squirt of lemon juice because I didn’t have a lemon for zest, I used 3% plain yogurt and I baked them in a 6 cup muffin tin. Deb’s recipe made 9-10 medium muffins, so I went for 6 monster muffins. They were perfectly done at 25 minutes.

Blueberry Muffins

Moist muffin perfection!