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: