1 Apt. 2B Baking Co.: July 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Whole Wheat Zucchini Muffins with Nuts and Cherries

Last weekend, when I heard that two of my best pals were heading upstate to their beautiful cabin I couldn't help but invite myself along for the ride. After a week long heatwave it was high time to get the f out of the city and into the woods to take a dip in the swimming hole and breathe some non-conditioned air. Luckily my generous pals don't mind sharing their special spot, so to thank them for their never ending hospitality (and to ensure they invite me back) I brought a little treat. I wanted to bring something along that would be equally tasty for breakfast before hitting up the u-pick farm nearby and as a snack by the creek later in the afternoon and these hearty muffins fit the bill. They utilize lots of zucchini which is ever so plentiful this time of year along with toasted nuts, seeds and some dried cherries for a nice tart zip, but feel free to switch up the additions to suit your personal preference.

Whole Wheat Zucchini Muffins with Nuts and Cherries
adapted from 101cookbooks
yields about 24 muffins

2c whole wheat flour
1c all purpose flour
1 1/2t baking soda
1/2t baking powder
1t salt
1t cinnamon
1/4t nutmeg
3/4c olive oil (or canola oil)
1c sugar
1/2c brown sugar
3 large eggs
2t vanilla extract
zest of 2 lemons
1'' piece of ginger, grated with a microplane
3c finely shredded zucchini (about 3 medium), squeezed gently to remove excess liquid
1 1/2c mixed chopped nuts, toasted (I used half pecans and half walnuts)
1/3c poppy seeds
1/2c dried cherries roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350ยบ and line 2. 12 cup muffin tins with liners

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Then stir in the chopped nuts and poppy seeds, making sure to reserve a few tablespoons to sprinkle on the top of the muffins.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, sugars, eggs, lemon zest, ginger, and vanilla extract.
3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently to combine. Fold in the zucchini and cherries.
4. Fill your muffin liners 2/3 full, then sprinkle the reserved nuts over top. Bake until the muffins are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean, about 25 min.

Big thanks to the folks over at The Kitchen Generation for mentioning the Baking Co. last weekend and thanks to everyone on twitter and facebook who have been so friendly and supportive of my bloggy-blog recently.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tart Cherry Jam

It's not very nice of me to post a tart cherry recipe seeing as their cruelly short season is pretty much over, but I just love tart cherries so much. So much that I blew a good chunk of my grocery budget on tart cherries a few weeks ago. Some girls like shoes but me, I like expensive produce, sue me. Their bright tart flavor makes them the perfect fruit for jamming and baking. This year I made this batch of jam which I will carefully ration until next year (wishful thinking) and I froze a few quarts so I can bake up a cherry pie the next time someone invites me over to dinner. Maybe I'll bring some homemade ice cream too, any takers?

Tart Cherry Jam
Adapted from David Lebovitz and The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook
yield, about 5 half pint jars

4lbs pitted tart cherries, pits reserved
2 1/4 lbs sugar
1/3c freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Place the cherry pits on a hard surface (like the floor) in between two old towels and gently tap them with a hammer until they crack. I used a paper grocery bag for this step and it got a little messy, lesson learned. Remove the tiny kernel from the cherry pits until you have about 1 1/2T, coarsely chop them. If you have no idea what I am talking about, the kernels look like this and they lend a subtle bitter almond flavor to the finished jam. Place the kernels in a tea infuser or a tightly tied cheesecloth bag.

2. Combine 3lbs of the cherries with 1 3/4lbs of the sugar in a large heatproof bowl. I use my hands for this step, squishing the cherries between my fingers to "chop" them a little bit.

3. Put the remaining cherries, sugar, and 2oz of water into a non-reactive jamming pot. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil stirring often, then boil the mixture until the cherries have shriveled and the liquid is thick and syrupy, about 7 minutes. Immediately strain this mixture over the reserved cherries in the bowl, pressing firmly to extract as much cherry goodness as possible. Discard the cooked cherries.

4. Add the cherry mixture, along with half of the lemon juice and your reserved pits back into the jam pot. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil, stirring often and cook for 10-15 minutes being careful to not let the jam scorch. Remove the pot from the heat and let the mixture rest for a minute or two. Skim the foam off of the top of the jam and discard. Stir in the remaining lemon juice.

5. Return the pot to the heat and bring to a boil. Cook the mixture for 5 more minutes, then test for doneness. If necessary, cook for a few more minutes. I ended up cooking my jam for about 5 more minutes. Remove the cherry kernels, then pour the jam into clean, sterilized jars. Store in the fridge or process in a boiling water bath for 10min to make the jam shelf stable.

- A friend of mine bought tart cherries at the Union Square Greenmarket yesterday, so NY'ers will probably still be able to get tart cherries until the end of the week. Run, Quick!
- Before ladling my jam into jars I usually sneak a few spoonfuls of the cherry syrup from the pot and save it for cocktails and soda. I don't know if this is proper jam etiquette, but I do it anyway, and it is good.
- Following Autumn's lead, I spiced up one of my jars by stirring in a few crushed red pepper flakes and a 1'' piece of vanilla bean before sealing the lid. I am pretty excited serve it with my next cheese plate.
- If you can't find tart cherries, feel free to use this recipe with sweet cherries. The finished jam won't have the characteristic pucker that tart cherry jam does, but it will be delicious none the less.
- This jam has a fairly soft "set" which makes it great for topping things like ice cream and yogurt and less good for eating in a sandwich. It's too precious to mix with peanut butter anyway.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mango, Blueberry and Coconut Ice Pops

Have you guys declared your official summer jams? As far as I'm concerned, summer hasn't quite started until I've picked out my soundtrack for the late sunsets that stretch into long warm nights and rooftop parties that turn into all nighters because the weather is just too nice to go home. They're the songs that you play on repeat until everyone around you says enough already, enough! Then you smile and play them again because you know all the words and you love singing along and shaking your booty and feeling free. This summer I'm loving Cults with a side of Roy Orbison for good measure and lots of ice-pops because they are also, the JAM.

Mango, Blueberry and Coconut Ice Pops
yield, about 8 large pops

For the Blueberry Layer

1 pint blueberries, about 2c
1c water
4-6T sugar (depending on the sweetness of your berries)
1t lime juice

Combine the blueberries, sugar, and water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the blueberries are very soft, about 5 min. Remove from heat and strain the mixture over a bowl, pressing firmly to extract all of the blueberry goodness, add lime juice. Divide the mixture in half and place in the refrigerator to cool.

For the Blueberry Coconut Layer

1/2 of the reserved blueberry mixture
2-3T coconut milk from a small (6oz) can

Stir the two together. Done!

For the Mango Layer, which tastes like awesome mango-coco pudding!

4 very ripe champagne mangoes, pit and skin removed
remainder of the small can of coconut milk
juice from 1 lime
2T honey or agave (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If your mango flesh was at all stringy (it happens) you may want to pass this mixture through a sieve. Taste your mix and if you find it needs a little sweetness, go ahead and add the honey or agave.

To Assemble

I found it really helpful to pour the three mixtures into separate containers with spouts like measuring cups or small pitchers. This will give you more control over pouring and the tidyness of your layers. You can also carefully spoon the mixtures into your ice pop molds. You can really layer these guys anyway you like, so choose a flavor to start and pour some in. Place your pop molds in the freezer for about 20min before pouring another layer, thin layers will take less time to freeze. Keep your mixes in the fridge in between pours to help keep them chilly so they will freeze faster. When you get to the top, and before the pops are frozen solid, add the sticks. Freeze until pops are totally solid, another 4-6 hours or overnight. If you are feeling a little less ambitious, just make single flavored pops and freeze about 6 hours or until solid.

Don't have ice pop molds? Try using small baking dishes like brioche molds, ramekins, or even small dixie cups.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Quick Pickles

Happy Friday everyone! I am planning on spending my weekend searching for tart cherries to make a jar or two of preserves and maybe if I am lucky I can find someone to drive me upstate to pick some raspberries. I'm also going to make some veggie spring rolls using these quick Vietnamese pickles I've been making lately thanks to my newfound obsession with Vietnamese flavors and Not Without Salt's bahn mi recipe. These pickles are simple to make and so tasty in all kinds of dishes from salads to sandwiches and they would make an excellent contribution to a picnic spread this weekend. What are you all up to?

Vietnamese Pickles
adapted from Simply Recipes

1lb carrots peeled and cut into 1/4'' matchsticks
1 lb daikon radishes peeled and cut into 1/4'' matchsticks
1 jalapeno without seeds or ribs, cut into thin matchsticks (optional)
1/2c plus 2t sugar
1t salt
1 1/4c rice vinegar
1 c warm water (warm enough to easily dissolve sugar)
About 3 pint jars

1. Place the carrots, daikon, 2t sugar and 1t salt in a large bowl. With your hands, massage the sugar and salt into the veggies until they are soft and pliable, about 3min. Transfer them to a colander, rinse with cold water and drain well.

2. In another bowl mix the remaining sugar, vinegar and warm water until the sugar dissolves.

3. Pack the carrots and daikon (and jalapeno if you'd like some heat) into clean sterilized jars and pour in the brine to cover the veggies. Refrigerate and let sit overnight before eating.

These pickles are not shelf stable and should be stored in the fridge where they will last 4 to 6 weeks.

For another easy pickling method, check out this great post from Food in Jars, my go-to for all things jar related. I used her method for the jar pictured with peppercorns, red pepper flakes and bay leaves. They are mighty tasty too.