Blueberry Cream Scones

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Blueberries are everywhere these days, at least in our part of the country. They are at the grocery store, at the farmers’ market and at farm stands. I wonder if there are new varieties that can withstand our hot Midwestern summers? Or if farmers are realizing that people will pay a premium for local blueberries? Either way, I am enjoying the steady supply of fresh blueberries.

We had friends over for breakfast last Saturday and I wanted to make something a little different. I also wanted to make something easy, or make-ahead, so I could sleep just a bit later that morning. I settled on blueberry cream scones – easy and make-ahead. And it would use some of our bounty of blueberries in the fridge. Did I mention I overbought at the grocery store just a bit? I can’t resist blueberries, but we have eaten just about all the blueberry pancakes and fresh blueberries that we care to.

Cream scones couldn’t be easier – no cutting in butter or anything even remotely complicated. If you can measure and stir, you can make cream scones. Throw in a handful, or two, of blueberries and you are set.

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To make these even easier, you can stir them together any time and freeze them to bake at just a few moments’ notice. I made mine on Thursday, when I had time. Then I froze the raw scones on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. When they were frozen hard, I peeled them off, popped them in a ziplock bag and stashed them in the freezer to wait for Saturday morning.

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On the day of the breakfast, while the oven preheated, I brushed the frozen scones with a little cream and sprinkled them with sugar. They needed a few extra minutes to bake because they were still frozen, but they came out of the oven golden brown and bursting with blueberries. I was able to get my beauty sleep and still pull hot scones out of the oven in time for a relaxed breakfast with friends. Perfection!

Download or print the recipe here.

Blueberry Cream Scones
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 12 small scones

You can make the scones ahead of time and freeze them until you are ready to bake. See the end of the recipe for directions on the process.

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
I cup fresh blueberries (see notes)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream (see notes)
2-3 tablespoons cream or milk, if needed (see notes)

Topping:
Cream or milk
Coarse, pearl or granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment paper.

Stir together the flours, baking powder, salt and sugar. Stir in the blueberries. Add the vanilla extract and about ¾ cup of the cream. Stir gently. If there is still a large amount of dry flour, add the remaining cream. If the dough is still very dry, add more cream, or milk, a tablespoon at a time, just until most of the flour is wet, turning and mixing the dough with your spoon. The dough will be moist, but not particularly sticky. There should be only a small amount of dry flour, if any.

Use a medium cookie scoop or a spoon to dollop the scones onto the prepared baking sheet. Wet your fingers and flatten the tops of the scones. Push any errant blueberries back into the scones and make the sides even and straight.

Brush the tops of the scones with cream or milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake scones for 10-12 minutes, or until just golden on top and darker golden on the bottom. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Scones keep at room temperature for up to two days, though they really are best soon after baking. Reheat leftovers for a few seconds in the microwave before serving. Freeze the scones for longer storage, thawing overnight at room temperature, or in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Notes: You can make these with frozen blueberries if you prefer. Add the still-frozen blueberries right before you mix in the cream and mix quickly. If the berries thaw your scones will have purple streaks, which isn’t the worst thing in the world.

If you use all-purpose flour instead of the white whole wheat flour you will probably not need as much cream to get the dough to come together.

Make-ahead directions:
Do not preheat the oven, as you won’t be baking the scones right away. Prepare the scones as directed, placing them on a parchment lined baking sheet or pan that will fit into your freezer. Do not brush the tops with cream or sprinkle with sugar. You will do this when you are ready to bake them. Freeze the scones, uncovered, until solid. Once scones are frozen, peel them off the paper and place in a ziplock bag or airtight container. Keep frozen until ready to use.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove scones from freezer and place on a lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Brush tops with cream and sprinkle with sugar while oven preheats. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until golden on top and golden brown on the bottom. If scones are pale or seem under baked in their centers, give them a minute or two longer in the oven. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Cherry Almond Cream Scones

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All things almond are favorites in our house. For me they are a close third behind vanilla and chocolate. Rich and Calvin might rank them slightly higher. And if you combine the almond with cherry, Rich will be your friend for life.

I was kicking around ideas for scone flavors when we were trying to use up our bounty of cream. We had some heavenly dried cherries that I had been itching to use in something other than salads or for snacking. I had sliced almonds in the freezer and almond extract in the cabinet. Rich and I chatted briefly about the possibilities and cherry almond scones were born.

These bake up into tender triangles of dairy richness with a subtle almond note, punctuated by pockets of sweet tart cherries. A thick layer of almond-vanilla glaze and a sprinkling of sliced almonds push them over the top from just good to knock-your-socks-off.

Make these. Make them as written, or make them your own. Add a few chocolate chips. Skip the topping in favor of a sprinkling of sugar before baking. Drizzle them with melted chocolate. Make them plain. But make them. You can have them mixed up in minutes and on the table in less than half an hour. Warm, sweet, scones. You know you want them…

Download or print the recipe here.

Cherry Almond Cream Scones
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 8 scones

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dried cherries (see notes)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup heavy cream (see notes)
2-3 tablespoons cream or milk, if needed (see notes)

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons milk or cream
2-3 tablespoons sliced almonds

Notes: If your cherries are very hard and dry, mix them with 1-2 tablespoon of water and microwave them for 20-30 seconds, or until they swell and absorb the water. Cool slightly before adding to the flour mixture.

If you use all-purpose flour instead of the white whole wheat flour you will probably not need as much cream to get the dough to come together.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment paper.

Stir together the flours, baking powder, salt and sugar. Stir in the cherries. Add the vanilla extract, almond extract and about ¾ cup of the cream. Stir gently. If there is still a large amount of dry flour, add the remaining cream. If the dough is still very dry, add more cream, or milk, a tablespoon at a time, just until most of the flour is wet, turning and mixing the dough with your spoon. The dough will be moist, but not particularly sticky. There should be only a small amount of dry flour, if any.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Lightly flour the top of the dough and your hands and shape each half of the dough into a round ball and then flatten into a disk ¾-1 inch tall. Try to make the edges straight and even. Cut into 4 wedges. Push any errant cherries back into the scones, so they don’t burn in the oven. Repeat with second dough ball.

Place wedges on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until just golden on top and darker golden on the bottom.

While scones bake, prepare the glaze: mix the powdered sugar with the extracts. Add the milk or cream gradually, starting with 1 tablespoon. Add more milk or cream until you have a thin glaze.

Cool baked scones for about 5 minutes. Then drizzle each scone with glaze, or dip the tops of the scones in the glaze. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. Serve warm or room temperature.

Scones keep at room temperature for a few days. Reheat for a few seconds in the microwave before serving. If you want to freeze the scones, wait to glaze them until you defrost them.

Cream Scones with a Hint of Vanilla

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“A surplus of heavy cream – what a horrible burden to have,” said no one ever. I wrote about our cream saga last week, but I never gave you any resolution. Rest assured, we managed to use the cream before any of it went bad. It was a hard task, but we persevered.

The first thing I thought of to use up our cream was a batch of cream scones. I had read a recipe years ago that used cream as the fat and the liquid in scones, no butter at all. I was intrigued, but never made any. Of course, when I wanted it, I couldn’t find that particular recipe. A quick internet search found plenty of recipes that called for both cream and butter, but very few that called for only cream. I found a good one from King Arthur flour.

I mixed up the dry ingredients in the evening to have them all ready to go in the morning for an easy, lazy Saturday breakfast. Mixing the dough in the morning literally consisted of adding a dash of vanilla and pouring in cream. I had the scones mixed and ready for baking before the oven was preheated.

The cream scones did not disappoint – they were flaky, buttery (with no butter in them), soft inside and slightly crunchy outside. And they were big. We each only ate one. I put the rest away for the next day. My mother-in-law was here for the week and we proceeded to make our way through the area’s pastry and doughnut shops on the following days, leaving the scones to sit in their container on the counter.

I give you this background because I did not have high hopes for the leftover scones. Scones usually are not good keepers and I was kicking myself for not freezing the leftovers as soon as they were cool. Sometimes coffee shop scones are stale, even in the morning, just hours after they were baked. I was pleasantly surprised that our scones were fabulous, even three, four and five days after we first made them, reheated in the toaster oven and spread with a little jam. They were a little crumbly toward the end, but they were still soft and not dry at all.

We were able to eat the scones for so many days because the recipe made a lot. I got twelve large scones from the recipe. While they were very good leftover, they were really best when they were fresh. I have cut the recipe in half for future scone adventures. I also give directions for making the scones smaller than the original behemoths. I doubled the vanilla from the original, because, why not? And I replaced half the flour with white whole wheat because I like the nuttiness that gives the scones. Can you use only all-purpose flour? Sure. You might not need quite as much cream, in that case, but I’m sure you can find a use for it.

Download or print the recipe.

Cream Scones with a Hint of Vanilla
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Makes 8 small scones

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, approximately*
2-3 tablespoons cream or milk, if needed*

Topping:
Cream or milk
Coarse, pearl or granulated sugar

*If you use all-purpose flour instead of the white whole wheat flour you will probably not need as much cream to get the dough to come together.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment paper. Set aside.

Stir together the flours, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add the vanilla and about three quarters of the cup of cream. Stir gently. If there is still a large amount of dry flour, add the remaining cream. If dough is still very dry, add more cream, or milk, a tablespoon at a time, just until most of the flour is wet, turning and mixing the dough with your spoon. The dough will be moist, but not particularly sticky. There should be only a small amount of dry flour, if any.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Lightly flour the top of the dough and your hands and gently shape each half of the dough into a round ball and then flatten into a disk ¾-1 inch tall. Try to make the edges straight and even. Cut into 4 wedges.

Place wedges on prepared baking sheet. Brush each scone with cream or milk and sprinkle with your choice of sugar.

Bake scones for 10-12 minutes, or until just golden on top and darker golden on the bottom.

Serve scones hot or at room temperature, with butter and jam.

These keep for several days in an airtight container at room temperature. Reheat in toaster oven, oven or microwave. Freeze for longer storage, thawing overnight at room temperature, or in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Saturday Breakfast Inspirations

Saturday mornings are our only day of the week to sleep in. And they are usually the only day of the week that we indulge at breakfast. The other days of the week breakfast is something quick and healthy.

When I am really on the ball, I bake something on Friday so breakfast is ready and waiting whenever we want it on Saturday morning. The dishes are a distant dream and the morning can be family relaxation with a warm cuppa, a plate of deliciousness and the newspaper.

I was flipping through recipes on the blog (yes, it turns into my own recipe reference sometimes) for inspiration and a couple of baked treats caught my eye. I guarantee one of them is going to find its way onto the table tomorrow morning.  Which would you bake?

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Brown Sugar Cinnamon Doughnut Bites

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Sugar-Topped Cranberry Orange Muffins

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Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

Almond Topped Chocolate Chip Muffins

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A few months ago I asked Calvin if he wanted something new for school day breakfasts. He eats lunch late, so it is always a challenge to find something that will hold him over all morning. He suggested chocolate chip muffins with almond extract. I figured a few chocolate chips were okay as long as I threw in a few whole grains. With those parameters I took the concept and ran with it.

I have been tinkering with this muffin recipe for several months. I have used various combinations of whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour and almond flour. I put oats in the batter, and then I put more oats in the batter. I put chocolate chips inside and on top, then just inside. I made umpteen variations of the crumb topping. I played with the sweetness level. Some versions were a little too grainy, others were too sweet or not sweet enough. Some topping attempts fell off the muffins as I took them out of the pans, some sank into the batter and others melted and ran off in the oven.

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The final recipe (at least for now) is a tender, almond-scented muffin full of chocolate chips and topped with a buttery almond topping. The batter has both oats and whole wheat flour, along with a moderate level of sugar. I used oil in the muffins, but butter in the topping for flavor.

We still aren’t tired of these muffins, and we have been eating them for breakfast and snacks for at least two months now. If that isn’t an endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Download or print the recipe here.

Almond Topped Chocolate Chip Muffins
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 12 muffins

Muffins:
1½ cups buttermilk
1 cup oats, quick or old-fashioned
¼ cup oil
1 egg
⅓ cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Topping:
¼ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup rolled oats, quick or old-fashioned
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Mix the buttermilk and oats together in a large bowl and set aside while you gather your ingredients and make the topping.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease 12 standard muffin cups and set aside.

Make the topping:
Use a food processor, mini chopper or a pastry blender to mix together the almonds, oats and granulated sugar. When the mixture is fairly finely ground, with the almonds mostly broken up, add the butter and mix until everything starts to clump together slightly and looks like coarse wet sand. Refrigerate topping while you mix the muffins.

Add the oil, egg, sugar, almond extract and vanilla extract to the oat and buttermilk mixture. Mix well.

Mix the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder together in a small bowl. Add to oat mixture and stir gently. Do not beat or you will end up with tough muffins. When the flour is almost completely mixed in, add the chocolate chips and stir until there are no streaks or pockets of dry flour.

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Divide batter evenly among the greased muffin cups, which will be almost full. Use a measuring tablespoon to divide the topping between the muffins, using about 1 tablespoon per muffin. Keep most of the topping toward the middle of each muffin. If the topping is compacted into mounds, use your finger to break them up slightly.

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Bake the muffins for 13-15 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and bounce back when touched lightly. A toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin will come out with just a few moist crumbs, if you can manage to miss the chocolate chips.

Let muffins cool in the pan for about 10 minutes to firm up a bit. Then remove them from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to two days. After that the muffins will start to get dry. Freeze for longer storage. Thaw at room temperature for a few hours, or in the microwave for about 20 seconds per muffin.

 

A Twist on an Old Favorite – Beer Muffins

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You remember beer bread, don’t you? Periodically it is all the rage – nowadays it makes the rounds on the internet, but in the past it would be the recipe passed around at work, church dinners or supper clubs. You stir up self-rising flour, or the equivalent, beer, sugar and sometimes butter and bake it until done.

I saw a tweet about beer bread yesterday that made me want some. It was almost dinnertime and I didn’t want to wait for a big loaf to bake and cool. I decided to make beer muffins instead – shorter baking time and easier to serve hot. I have made the muffins in the past, but not for a few years.

We didn’t have any beer, since we really don’t like to drink it. And our beer knowledge is sketchy for the same reason. The wall of beer at the grocery store was a just a little bit dizzying. Rich was with me and we finally decided to buy hard cider, since we do like to drink that, and see what it did in the beer muffins.

The hard cider worked beautifully, lending a slight apple flavor to the muffins. I cut back on the sugar just a bit, since the cider was sweeter than beer. And I did my usual replacement of half the flour with white whole wheat flour to up the fiber and nutrition a bit. It also added a nice nuttiness. I skipped the butter in this batch, since we planned to spread them with butter at the table. They were a success all around, with just a few left over for today’s breakfast.

I am still hankering for plain old beer muffins, with their clean maltiness. But I am also inspired by the success of the hard cider. Now I am intrigued by the possibilities of using different beers in the muffins. Maybe a dark beer, with some rye flour in the mix. And I am toying with using pumpkin spice ale and maybe a little canned pumpkin to make something truly different.

Once I make my plain beer muffins, with ordinary beer, I am going to start experimenting now that the proverbial wheels are turning. I think it’s time for this non-beer drinker to pick up a few different varieties and start baking.

Download or print the recipe here.

Beer Muffins
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 12 muffins

Be sure to measure your flour by stirring it in the canister and lightly spooning it into your measuring cups. Level the top with the back of a knife. If you scoop your cup into the canister to fill it, or if you pack the flour, you will have too much flour and end up with dry, crumbly muffins.

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups white whole wheat flour*
3 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar**
12 ounces beer or hard cider of choice
2 tablespoons butter, melted (optional)

*You can substitute all-purpose flour for the white whole wheat, if you prefer. **Reduce the sugar, or even leave it out, if you want less-sweet muffins.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups and set aside.

Mix flours, baking powder, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. Add beer and melted butter and stir to mix. Do not beat and do not try to get rid of all the lumps. You just want to get all of the flour wet.

Divide dough evenly between the greased muffin cups.

Bake 15-18 minutes, or until the tops are have a few golden brown spots and the edges are golden brown. Do not over bake or they will be dry.

Serve warm, when they are at their very best. Store any cooled leftovers in an airtight container. Leftovers can be split and reheated in the oven, toaster oven or very briefly in the microwave.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Doughnut Bites

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I realized that I only posted savory recipes last week. I was so excited about the stuffed chicken, and the ingredients that went into it, that sweet baking got the short shrift. I can’t let the situation go on any longer, so today we will turn to doughnut bites.

We usually take the time on Saturday mornings to bake something special for breakfast. I wanted to make something new this past Saturday, but I wasn’t sure what. I wanted something simple and quick, but on the decadent side. I scrolled through my archive of recipe PDFs gleaned from blogs and recipe sites and Mini Donut Muffins from Natalie at The Sweets Life caught my eye. They fit all the criteria – quick, easy and decadent.

The original recipe was for a nutmeg doughnut rolled in cinnamon sugar. I decided to change them, as I almost always seem to do with recipes. I like nutmeg, but usually only mixed with other spices in pumpkin pie or spice cake. I decided to change the nutmeg to cinnamon, and to increase the amount. I also switched the white sugar to brown sugar, just because I like it with cinnamon, and I like the caramel notes it adds to baked goods. I added a bit of salt and used white whole wheat flour for half of the flour.

I happened to have whole milk on hand, which I rarely do. The whole milk gave them an extra richness that I think baked goods made with my usual skim milk sometimes lack. I might just have to keep a little whole milk on hand for baking. And it’s pretty good in my hot tea and coffee too.

I rolled the doughnut bites in white sugar instead of cinnamon sugar since they had plenty of cinnamon inside them. I dipped the first ones in melted butter before dipping them in the sugar, as directed in the original recipe, but I skipped the butter after the first few. The sugar stuck just fine, which saves a few calories. As if we were counting calories with these.

I was surprised how well the doughnut bites turned out, given all my changes. They were tender inside and crispy outside, contrasting nicely with the slight crunch of the sugar. We ate an embarrassingly large portion of them on Saturday and Calvin finished up the rest of them at Sunday’s breakfast. Rich and I had oatmeal.

Download or print the recipe here.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Doughnut Bites
Adapted from The Sweets Life by The Cook’s Life
Makes 24

½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup milk (I used whole, but whatever you have will work just fine)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup white whole wheat flour*
½ cup all-purpose flour

Topping:
⅓ cup granulated sugar

*If you prefer, use all-purpose flour instead of white whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 24 cup mini muffin pan and set aside.

Combine brown sugar, melted butter and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir to combine, making sure to break up all the lumps in the brown sugar. Add milk and stir well. Add baking powder, salt, white whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour and stir gently to combine.

Divide batter evenly between the muffin cups. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned and firm when pressed.

Toss hot muffins gently in granulated sugar to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store any leftovers at room temperature in an airtight container for a day or two. Freeze for longer storage.

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

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I am currently in love with baked goods that contain sour cream. Over the past few weeks I have made sour cream blueberry muffins and a sour cream cinnamon streusel coffee cake. Twice. I had to make sure I could duplicate the results, right? The sour cream adds a nice moistness, along with a richness that you can’t really duplicate with any other ingredient.

The coffee cake is out of a Farm Journal cookbook that I picked up from the bargain table at Waldenbooks right after Rich and I got married. That dates us, since Waldenbooks disappeared into bookstore heaven eons ago. Their bargain tables were always good, unlike the bargain tables and shelves at big bookstores today. Not sure where the good cookbooks (and other books) go these days, but not anywhere easy to find. But I digress – back to cake.

I have tinkered with this cake several times since I bought the book. The cake originally called for baking it in a tube pan, and putting all the crumbs on top of the batter. This makes for a big cake, with a thick layer of crumbs on the bottom when you turn the cake out onto a plate. Or on the top, if you turn the cake back over. The first change I made was to use half the crumbs in the middle of the cake and half on top.

Baking the cake in a tube pan sometimes makes it dry, since it is so deep, so I tried it in a 9 by 13 inch pan next. That worked better, but it still made a huge cake. I don’t usually want to eat coffee cake for a week. Or, rather, I want to eat coffee cake for a week, but my jeans seem to think I shouldn’t. In the interests of health, I made a half recipe and baked it in a square pan, still using half the crumbs in the middle and half on top. Now I had a manageable-sized cake that we could eat in a couple of days.

And what a cake – rich, moist vanilla cake with cinnamon streusel threaded through the middle and on top. All it needed was a tiny, or not so tiny, drizzle of vanilla glaze to reach perfection.

Download or print the recipe.

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake
Adapted by The Cook’s Life from
Farm Journal’s “Homemade Breads”
Makes 9-12 servings

Streusel topping and filling:
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

Cake:
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup white whole wheat flour*
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sour cream

Glaze:
½ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
2-4 teaspoons milk, approximately

*You can substitute all-purpose flour for the whole wheat, if you prefer.

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease an 8 by 8-inch square pan and set aside.

Make streusel: mix flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add butter and mix with a spoon or your fingers until you have moist crumbs that are no larger than a pea, with most of them smaller than that. Set aside.

Mix flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl and set aside. Beat butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Add about half of the flour mixture stir gently. Mix in sour cream. Add remaining flour mixture and mix until incorporated.

Spoon about half of the batter into the greased pan and spread to the edges. Sprinkle with half of the streusel. Top with dollops of the remaining batter. Spread dollops together, trying not to disturb the streusel too much. Sprinkle top of batter evenly with remaining streusel.

Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs, not batter.

While cake is baking, make icing. Mix powdered sugar, vanilla and 2 teaspoons milk together in a bowl. Gradually add more milk until the glaze is the desired consistency. Add milk very gradually to avoid lumps.

Drizzle warm cake with icing. You may not use all the icing. Serve the rest at the table for anyone who would like a little extra. Let cake cool for a few minutes before cutting into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store at room temperature, tightly covered, for up to three days. Freeze for longer storage.

Baked Vanilla Doughnuts (or Muffins)

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I baked doughnuts this week until they were coming out my ears, or at least covering the counter, kitchen table and even the living room coffee table. I have arrived at a recipe that makes beautifully browned, moist doughnuts covered with crackly glaze, all redolent of vanilla. To top it off, they are low fat and made with whole wheat flour, which no one would guess in a million years.

The recipe I had (which was a hybrid of several recipes and the result of past experiments) was supposed to make six doughnuts, but I always ended up with extra batter. So I had to cut the ingredients back and make sure those amounts worked for six doughnuts. It took a few batches, but I figured out that part. Then I had to double it all and see if that worked to make twelve. So far, so good.

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I also wanted to give a muffin option, in case you don’t happen to have a doughnut pan. If you have any interest at all, though, pick up a doughnut pan. When you make muffins, you miss out on the crispy outside edges and the increased surface area to soak up glaze. The pans are pretty cheap and widely available. You can get by with one, and just bake two batches of six, if you are making the full recipe. But if you don’t want to bother, or don’t have the space to store another pan, the batter makes very tasty muffins.

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Again, experiments to see how best to bake only six muffins in a standard twelve muffin pan – use every other cup instead of baking them in one end of the pan. Then I needed to bake a full recipe to see if twelve muffins baked in the same time as six – the times were very close. Now I had doughnut muffins to add to the array.

Bear with me for some baking chemistry to explain why I had to bake a few more batches. The recipe I was working from (the recipe of mysterious origins) called for cream of tartar, baking soda and buttermilk. Baking soda is a base (remember high school chemistry) and needs an acid to react with to make the carbon dioxide bubbles that make the doughnuts rise. Buttermilk is acidic, as is cream of tartar. I figured the recipe didn’t need both, so I tried cutting out the cream of tartar. At the same time, I baked another half batch of six with baking powder to see what would happen. Baking powder already contains an acid and a base, so I technically didn’t need buttermilk, but I didn’t want to change more than one thing at a time. Scientific method does have a real world application!

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Both batches rose just fine, but the baking powder batch was noticeably paler than the baking soda batch.

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The texture of the baking soda batch was just a bit finer and I liked it better – it got spongier, in a good way, after it soaked up the glaze. Baking soda won out, and cream of tartar went back into the baking cabinet. I was so happy with the baking soda results that I decided not to try any other experiments with baking powder. I was already swimming in doughnuts and was a little tired of being in the kitchen.

Rich’s co-workers and my fellow church choir members benefited from the baking frenzy. I have to say that I am thoroughly tired of the aroma, taste and sight of vanilla doughnuts, at least for a day or two. Now another flavor would be a different story…

Download or print the full recipe here.
Download or print the half recipe here. 

Vanilla Doughnuts or Muffins
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 12 doughnuts or muffins

 If you don’t have a doughnut pan, you can bake these in a standard muffin pan.

½ cup all-purpose flour*
½ cup white whole wheat flour*
6 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 tablespoons buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten

*These work perfectly fine with 1 cup of all-purpose flour if you prefer.

Glaze:
1 teaspoon butter (basically a pat of butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons water

Grease two 6-well doughnut pans or a 12-cup muffin pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, mix together butter, vanilla, buttermilk and eggs. Add egg mixture to dry mixture and stir gently until no dry pockets of flour remain. Do not beat. Fill doughnut pan, using 3 small (size 100) cookie scoops of batter per well, or about 3 tablespoons batter. Evenly space the three blobs of batter around the center post of each well. Or fill muffin cups about half full. Bake 8-10 minutes or until doughnuts (or muffins) are just golden on top, golden brown on the bottoms and bounce back when touched.

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While doughnuts are baking make the glaze. In a small bowl, melt the butter and add powdered sugar and vanilla. Add a tablespoon of water and mix in as much powdered sugar as possible. Add another tablespoon of water and mix until you have a smooth, thick glaze. Add the last tablespoon of water to make a very thin glaze. It will seem like all the water will not mix in, but keep stirring until it does. Adding the water gradually helps to avoid lumps – don’t be tempted to add it all at once.

As soon as doughnuts (or muffins) are done, remove them from the pans one at a time and dip the tops in the glaze. Move to a plate to cool. If any glaze remains when all doughnuts are dipped, use a spoon to drizzle over the doughnuts. As the doughnuts cool, the glaze will dry to a clear finish. If you are doing muffins, you might want to poke a few holes in the tops and drizzle on additional glaze. They don’t have as much surface area as the doughnuts and need a little help to absorb more glaze.

As with all doughnuts, these are best the day they are made, but they are still pretty tasty the next day. You might want to warm them for 10 seconds in the microwave if you are eating them the next day.

Sugar Topped Cranberry Orange Muffins

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I was all set to make blueberry muffins for breakfast on Saturday when I realized I had used the last of the blueberries a week ago. I was not going to go to the store, so the frozen fruit choices were raspberries or cranberries. I made a batch of cranberry orange bread for a bake sale in November and have been craving it ever since, so cranberries won out. I decided to make muffins since they would bake in a short amount of time. You can bake just about any quick bread recipe as muffins, or vice versa.

The recipe I was starting with called for orange zest and orange juice, but I was feeling very Saturday morningish, and wanted an easy recipe, so I skipped the zest and used orange juice from a jug. Next time I will at least run the microplane over an orange to get a little zest to punch up the orange flavor just a bit. Not sure I will actually take the time to juice the orange, but I will do the zest.

I combined a couple of recipes and then made a few further variations. That is always a gamble, but this time it worked beautifully. The results were tender, orange-scented muffins with surprise bits of tartness from the cranberries. The sugar and butter topping was icing on the cake.

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Download or print just the recipe here. 

Sugar Topped Cranberry Orange Muffins
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 10-12 muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup white whole wheat flour (or ½ cup all-purpose flour)
½ cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange zest, optional
¼ cup canola or vegetable oil
⅔ cup orange juice
1 egg
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (no need to thaw frozen berries)

Topping:
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups and set aside.

Combine all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and orange zest in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl mix oil, orange juice and egg, beating well.

Add oil mixture to flour mixture and mix gently until about half mixed. Add cranberries and mix gently until there are no dry streaks of flour.

Fill muffin cups half to two-thirds full – if you want taller muffins, fill the cups with the larger amount of batter. You may only get 10 of the larger muffins. If you have empty cups, place an ice cube in each one.

Bake muffins for 12-15 minutes, or until tops are just starting to turn golden brown and feel set when pressed with a finger. If the tops are pale or the centers are soft, bake a minute or two longer.

While muffins are baking, melt butter in a small bowl. Place ¼ cup sugar in another small bowl.

After muffins are baked, let them sit in the muffin pan for 2-3 minutes. Then run a knife around the outside of each one and ease it out of the pan. Dip the top of each muffin first in butter, then in sugar and set on a rack to cool for a few minutes before serving (see Note).

Note: It is best to dip muffins immediately before you eat them. If you are saving some muffins for another time, wait to dip them until you are ready to eat them. If you dip them ahead of time, the sugar melts into the butter as the muffins sit and makes them sticky instead of forming the desired white, slightly crunchy topping.

Muffins keep for a day or two in an airtight container, at room temperature. Freeze muffins for longer storage. Thaw muffins for a few hours at room temperature, in an airtight container. Dip muffins in butter and sugar after thawing.