Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Chocolate Chunk Muffins and Brioche from the Huckleberry Cookbook

At the library I found this lovely new cookbook, Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes from Our Kitchen. The design and photography of this book are scrumptious! Check out the sunny polka-dot pattern print on the edge of the pages. I loved leafing through this book again and again before I even tried any of the recipes because of the clean, open design and beautiful photos. Some of the "stories" mentioned in the title were a little bit of a downer though. There's a section of apologies in the back of the book that includes some very specific digs at specific customers. 



That weirdness aside, I just had to try the chocolate chunk muffin recipe. The muffin recipes are the original recipes used at the restaurant where they are baked in a convection oven. The author notes that in a regular oven they will be flatter, and less domed because the flour content is lower than you would find in a typical recipe for home bakers. My oven has a convection bake setting that I have never really used. So this piqued my interest. I made the recipe twice—first on the regular setting and with the convection setting the second time.

First batch — overfilled, regular oven setting.

This made a lot of batter for 12 muffins, but the recipe specifically says, "Fill the muffin cups with batter all the way to the top, even a little over." DON'T!!! These were delicious, but ugly and made a terrible, smoking mess in the oven.

Second batch — convection setting, not overfilled
The second batch came out much better. Even on the convection setting, they were still a little flat, but I didn't mind at all. They were so good. This time I divided the batter among 17 muffin cups rather than 12. I think that made more of a difference than the convection setting. The big chunks of dark chocolate are the best part of these muffins-really, really, good. (Just go ahead and ignore the advice about overfilling.)

For Christmas dinner, I also made the brioche from the book.


It made a beautiful loaf and my kids loved it. I thought it was pretty good, but I have another recipe I like better for the texture of the inside. This one was not as soft and buttery on the inside as it could have been in my opinion. Also, I think there is a typo in the recipe. The ingredients include both all-purpose and bread flour at the same volume—one and three quarter cups, but the weights listed are significantly different at 215 g all-purpose and 185 g bread flour. At first I thought all purpose flour might just be heavier than bread flour, but the volume of 185 g bread flour was only about a cup and the dough was super sticky, so I added more bread flour. In the end it turned out ok, but with both of these recipes there were some problems that made for a less than relaxing baking experience.

Monday, December 29, 2014

My favorite Christmas tradition

Ever since my oldest was two, we have been painting some pottery each year at Christmas to make a set of Christmas dishes. We use the same colors each year to unify the set—red, green, yellow and a little black. But the neat thing is that the set is now a record of their changing interests and abilities over time. It makes for a pretty cool, eclectic set.

This year the girls did a couple mugs. E is really into wolves. I can't wait to see how our new wolf and Christmas tree mugs turn out when they come out of the kiln!



The year my youngest was just a year old we made these matching plates with everybody's hand print. The little hands! These plates are just about my favorite thing.


We've added some more dishes over the years so we can mix things up. It's a good thing the dishes are awesome, because as you can see here, my table decorating skills are otherwise lacking ; ) I've seen quite a few pretty tables on facebook. By Christmas I am just really tired from making all that magic happen. We always have Indian take-out on Christmas eve on these dishes and then something homemade on Christmas day.






Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mission Accomplished

So I started this blog and then didn't post anything for months, but guess what? I finished grad school! This fall I was so busy student teaching. It was an awesome/crazy/stressful/productive/all-consuming experience. I learned so much, and I was in a class full of precious Kindergarteners. It was just the best.

Before all the craziness began, I was gathering my materials. I had looked all over for a clipboard, because if there is one thing I had learned from previous field experiences and subbing, it was that I need a clipboard. It keeps me from scattering important papers about the room while I'm busy meeting the needs of 15-30  diverse little individuals. Well, I looked and looked and couldn't find anything I liked—so much plastic chevron print with a ribbon on top! So then I found a clipboard/folder/notebook made of chipboard at Target and I made it my own with a rubber stamp. Then I colored all the flowers I stamped with colored pencils—so fun and relaxing! I love the way it turned out, and the little ones at school would notice it and ask, "Did you color that?!" Coloring—it's how you cultivate street cred with five-year-olds.
My cheery clipboard.
To celebrate my graduation I spent a day bike riding in Gulf Shores on the Backcountry Trail. It was a beautiful day and so relaxing. If you're in the area I'd recommend checking out the trail. Bikes can be rented from the store in the adjacent state park. The trail has six distinct ecosystems. You can see big live oaks with Spanish moss, sand dunes, rosemary, longleaf pines, palm trees, and swamps with alligators. You might even see a bobcat or the mythical Catman!

Some photos from my day on the trail:






Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kringles!

These were so good, I'm a little surprised that I made them.
pastry cherry kringle Danish delicious breakfast 3 days recipe
Kringle with cherry and cream cheese filling




















Danish pastry Kringle chocolate cream cheese filling delicious breakfast recipe
Kringle with chocolate filling
They are a Danish pastry called a Kringle that takes three days to make, because layers of butter are rolled between the dough and refrigerated between additions. I used this recipe with a few changes. It is labeled "advanced," but really it is not that difficult beyond having the patience to wait three days! for the Kringle. 

Instead of the butterscotch filling, I made a half batch of the cream cheese filling from this (also very good) king cake recipe.  This was the filling for both Kringles, adding cherry pie filling to one and mini semisweet chocolate chips to the other. The icing is made of melted butter, milk, and powdered sugar. I used half of it to drizzle on the cherry Kringle, and then I melted more of the chocolate chips in the remaining icing. L helped me drizzle that over the chocolate Kringle. 

These were so good! I have had Kringles before, but never homemade. They were so flaky and buttery. Definitely the kind of thing you want to eat sparingly. I went out to mow the lawn right after breakfast and I think I could feel the butter slogging through my veins. The recipe says you should have 24 layers of butter, but I counted 12. That was before the final filling and folding which I believe yielded 36 layers of butter in each slice. 

There was quite a bit of leftover cherry pie filling and cream cheese filling. I put the pie filling in a glass baking dish and topped it with some of the cream cheese filling. Then I put it in the fridge for a few days, because really we didn't need any dessert for a few days after the Kringle. I made a crumb topping of oatmeal, almond slivers, butter, and a little brown sugar and baked it all-yum!
baking cherry crisp cream cheese fruit dessert
Here's the cherry cream cheese crisp before topping and baking. I forgot to take a photo after baking-will have to write up a recipe, make again and photograph

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Zinnias!

zinnias, sunflowers, fresh flowers, vases, glass bottles


My favorite thing in our garden this summer? Zinnias. Also the cheapest and easiest thing in our garden this year since they were grown from a few packets of seeds. I filled our largest raised bed with several types of Zinnia seeds, some Sunflowers, Milkweed and a mix of seeds to attract the good bugs. And voila!—fresh flowers for the house all summer and probably into the October here on the Gulf Coast. I'm always amazed that this much good stuff can spring from those little seeds.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Butterfly Gardening



green yellow black caterpillar
We have really loved being out in the garden this summer and have added a new butterfly garden bed to the backyard. Hopefully all the Milkweed we've added along with other plants like Zinnias, Pentas, Echinacea, and Verbena will entice some Monarchs when they come through a little later in the year.

For now we have had several of these Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars munching away on some Dill plants. Their bright green and yellow colors are beautiful. We have grown so attached! The girls and I go out several times a day to check on the little guys. The kids are amazed that you can actually see them eating — the caterpillars go to town on that dill. We have also learned that their chrysalis can range from brown to green to blend in with its surroundings.

butterfly garden I was trying to get some videos and photos to show students how much they grow and how they eat. When I got close to one of the caterpillars, two little orange bubbles bulged out of the top of its head for just a second. My first thought was that it was a way of scaring off predators. Then the caterpillar didn't move at all for a couple hours and I started to worry that I'd scared him to death and that maybe orange bubbles shoot out of their head when they die. (See, we really are quite attached.) So I read up on them and found out that my first guess was right. (whew - thankfuly!) They are glands called osmeterium that they use to scare off predators. In researching butterfly gardens, I found this really great project executed by students at Charlotte Preparatory School. They are helping to preserve Monarch habitats by propagating Milkweed plants and sharing them with their community. Also, did you know that you can register your garden as an official Monarch Waystation? They provide lots of good information about creating Monarch habitats.
gulf coast, gardening, zinnias, sunflower, digiplexis, trellis, arbor, mandevilla, sedum

zinnia, fairy house, sunflowers