Thursday, December 27, 2012

December Baking

December is a busy month in the kitchen. Between Christmas cookies and homemade gifts, my sink is always full of measuring cups, spatulas, and cookie sheets. Short, dark, cold days left me yearning for the tastes of summer at the beginning of the month. I broke into my frozen blueberry stash from July to make a batch of orange blueberry poppy seed muffins on December 8th. 

These muffins are a twist on Joy the Baker's lemon blueberry poppy seed muffins. I swapped the whole milk in Joy's recipe for soy and the lemon zest for orange. These muffins are moist and full of blueberries. If your blueberries are frozen to start, toss them with 1-2 tablespoons of flour in a bowl. This will help prevent your batter from turning blue.

When you begin to sprinkle the crumb topping over your muffin cups, you will be hesitant to use all the topping. Don't stop sprinkling! I was hesitant too, but I was so very happy I used it all.

Orange Blueberry Poppy Seed Muffins
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Makes 12

1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. raw sugar
1 1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
7 T. unsalted butter
1/3 c. soy milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 t. vanilla
1 T. orange zest
1 T. poppy seeds
1 1/2 c. blueberries (if frozen, toss blueberries with 1 T. flour)

3 T. butter
3 T. raw sugar
1/2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 375° (350° if using frozen blueberries). Line muffin tin with paper cups.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently and continue cooking the butter until the cracking noises begin to soften. Transfer butter to a small bowl and allow to cool slightly.

Whisk soy milk, egg white and egg yolk, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Whisk in the browned butter. Add liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Fold in orange zest, poppy seeds, and blueberries. Transfer batter to pan.

Crumble butter, sugar, and flour with fingers in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over cups.

Bake 18-20 minutes, or until golden. Frozen blueberries may increase baking time slightly. Store and serve up to three days, or freeze.

My holidays are full of tradition and once again I whipped up a batch of my classic chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal cranberry pistachio cookies. Both were a hit, as always. I also brought back the appled brandy from 2012, with the addition of a spiced apple honey whiskey. I got the idea from theKitchn's recipe for apple spice bourbon infusion.

I started with Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey and the rest was a bit of an experiment. Begin by cooking 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, 3 tablespoons of water, and 1/2 cup apple cider over low heat, until the sugar melts. Add 1 apple (cubed), 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cloves, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Continue cooking until the apples soften and brown slightly. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add apple mixture and whiskey to a large jar. Store the mixture in a cool place for 24-48 hours. Shake the jar occasionally. Strain the whiskey before bottling.

Another addition to this year's Christmas came from my mother's request for cinnamon buns on Christmas morning. Growing up we often baked the Pillsbury brand buns but gone are the days of hydrogenated fats and buns with 20-plus ingredients. We selected a recipe from the trusted King Arthur Flour and we weren't disappointed.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you that these are any healthier than Pillsbury cinnamon buns or even the all-natural buns you can find at Whole Foods or your co-op. Yes, they are packed with calories and fat. I still think you should make them once a year! The cream cheese frosting is incredibly sweet and just what you need to sooth you into a post-unwrapping nap on Christmas morning.

Cinnamon Buns
Makes 12-16 buns

1 c. lukewarm milk
2 eggs
1/3 c. butter, cut up
4 1/2 c. flour
1 3/4 t. salt
1/2 c. sugar
2 1/2 t. instant yeast

1/3 c. butter, softened
1 c. brown sugar
3 T. cinnamon

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 t. vanilla

Combine dough ingredients in a large bowl. Stir mixture with hands until the dough comes together. Knead dough on a lightly oiled work surface for 5-8 minutes. Dough will be sticky. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to grease all sides, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 60 minutes.

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled work surface. Roll dough into a 16 in. by 21 in. rectangle. Spread 1/3 cup butter over the dough. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the dough. 

Starting with a short end, roll the dough into a tight log. Carefully slice the log into 12-16 slices. Place buns in a lightly greased 9 in. by 13 in. pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the buns rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400° and bake buns for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown. While baking, beat cream cheese, butter, sugar, and vanilla until combined. Spread icing over buns while they're warm. 

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