Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cinnamon Chip Muffins

Muffins are a big hit with everyone in our household. They are a favorite after school snack for the kids and mom loves them with a piping hot latte or tea.
Super easy. These muffins  remind me of individual coffee cakes. The crumb is very tender. The cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg is just right. 

I found this product called cinnamon flav-r-bites at King Arthur Flour a great place to buy flours, sprinkles, decors, flavorings, anything for baking really. So these were the inspiration for this recipe. 

One thing that is so important when making muffins is to not over beat the batter.

I learned this lesson in food science class in college and even vaguely remember doing a report on muffins and leavening. However it was the time another stylist sternly told me about muffin mixing that really hit it home for me. I knew over mixing was bad it produced a pointed top and could lead to nasty tunneling in the crumb. But on this particular job the stylist I was assisting was not sure I knew that and upon my mixing looked over my shoulder to tell me to stop mixing the muffins. I got it. She was a perfectionist and wanted perfect muffins and she was unsure of my ability to do so. So this lesson was brought home and the muffins were photo ready that day so many years ago. 

Cinnamon Chip Muffin Recipe-makes 12

8 Tbsps unsalted butter, room temp
2/3 cups sugar
1 lg egg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp soda (baking)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup king arthur cinnamon flav-r-bites
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsps vanilla

**cinnamon sugar made with 2/3 cups sugar and 1 Tbsp cinnamon for topping.
I always have this on hand in a shaker jar for cinnamon and french toast

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy about 2 minutes. Make sure butter is at room temperature. Add egg.

In another bowl mix the dry ingredients flour, baking powder and soda salt,nutmeg. You can put them through a strainer to sift or whisk when all together. Then add cinnamon chips.

Add vanilla to buttermilk.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to the butter alternating between the two and starting and ending with flour. Be sure to do this step by hand and only mix until incorporated no more. Actually you can have a slight bit of flour unmixed and you will be fine.

Put batter in muffin tins sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake for approximately 20 minutes.

When done muffins should be golden brown. Leave cool in tin about 5 minutes on cooling rack and then take them out of pan and let finish cooling on the rack. Otherwise the muffins will steam in the tins and get soggy. 

Note: I have no affiliation with King Arthur Flour I just blog about things I like.

The End

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Time to reflect a bit on where I have come from and where I am going. It has been six months since I started blogging. At that time I never knew what a blog was or about all the food blogging going on. Thanks to Julie at democralypsenow  for acquainting me to the blogging world. Her advice to the audience "blog about what you know." That is exactly what I did.

As a food stylist I work on sets with other stylists preparing beautiful food for advertising. In a suburban kitchen I prepare what my family likes, experiment with recipes and create new ones. 

I love photographing food in my kitchen especially when the light is perfect. Light is everything. When we cook there is a story. I try to be conscious of that, the story. 

In my kitchen there is no art director or any one telling me what looks good. This is a blessing and maybe at times a curse because you are Hans Solo. I think this one comes from cousin Liz.
So blog I will out into the cybersphere and hopefully people will come to visit and hang out and talk food.

Today I am making broccoli soup. Cream of to be exact. I opened the vegetable drawer, as we call it, and noticed it was brimming with broccoli. It was a no brainer as to what to do with it. This soup is easy and it is wonderfully satisfying and high in fiber as you can imagine. This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks and it may be one of the first ones in my library. It is Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook. What I like about this book is the simplicity. The book has no photos, no bells and whistles but what it does have is great recipes. Every one I have made has not disappointed. This cream of broccoli soup tastes just like it should. Smooth, creamy and comforting to the core. Grab your favorite baquette for dipping and you have a meal.

You can make it vegetarian as Mollie does or you can substitute chicken broth for the water and adjust the seasonings.

As with all recipes they are guides. Feel free to make them your own and make notes. You may find you like what you did better. Or not.

smart phone shot

This is the base recipe I used.
The changes I made are I omitted the dried thyme because I had fresh lemon thyme in my garden. I also omitted the basil.
For the milk I used 1 cup whole milk and one cup heavy cream. I liked the richer flavor of the cream.

This soup is not super thin or thick. If you like a thicker soup you could make a roux. To me the viscosity was perfect. Mollie suggested garnishing with some steamed broccoli florets. I like this idea a lot. It adds dimension and makes a nice accoutrement.

Another garnish idea is fresh thyme. I have this fragrant lemon thyme in the garden and it is perfect for this soup.
Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think. Would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Autumn Squash and Apple Bisque

Fall Leaves on Pleasant Street

What can I say but fall has arrived. We are enjoying a beautiful week of Indian Summer weather here in the Chicago burbs. The temperatures are warm and the leaves are beginning to turn and fall. Today I felt the first crunch beneath my feet. In some ways it felt like a switch was flipped the way the seasons just seemed to change almost overnight.

I think as you get older you are more aware of these things or at least I try to be. Or maybe it is my conscious effort to slow things down a bit and feel the world around me.

To me the first things I thought about when the kitchen temperature dropped was baking and soup. What a better soup to make other than butternut and apple bisque. With squash and apples at their peek this is seasonal cooking at it's best. This soup was a recipe I prepared and styled years ago for a Chicago Tribune article. I spent about 7 years as a freelance food stylist for the Sunday magazine section of the Chicago Tribune. I loved trying the recipes and some stayed with me over the years.

What I love about this soup is the texture and the sweet, spicy goodness it possesses. I love to have it with a hunk of French baguette for dipping. Top it off with creme fraiche for extra zing and a sprinkle of paprika for color. 

Autumn Squash and Apple Bisque-
Adapted from “Apple Companion” by Liz Clark and jill Vorbeck

4 Tbsps butter
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
1 qt chicken stock
2 medium autumn squash (I used butternut) 1 ½ lbs total, peeled, seeded, diced
2 ½ firm apples, cored, peeled, diced (I used honey crisp)
½ cup heavy cream
salt and cayenne pepper to taste

1. Melt butter in heavy saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add onions, ginger and cinnamon.
3. Saute, stirring constantly, until onions are transparent.
4. Add chicken stock, squash and apples and bring to a boil.
5. Simmer until squash and apples are soft.
6. Cool mixture slightly.
7. Puree in a blender, filling container no more than ¾ full or you will be splattered with hot burning soup and no one wants that.
8. Return to heat and add cream season to taste.

Cooking Tip: When cutting a hard squash be very careful. My only kitchen accident involved an acorn squash and the emergency room. My advice on this squash avoid it at all costs. Just kidding of course. I love acorn squash but to peel it whole I recommend softening it slightly in the oven until it is slightly softer and you could get a knife through it. When cutting round things it is a good idea to cut a part off the bottom so it will sit flat and not roll.