Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cinnamon-Sugar Muffins

I found this recipe in the recesses of my hard drive, titled "French Breakfast Muffins." I'm not sure what's French about them, or why they're specifically breakfast muffins, but whatever. They sounded good, so I figured I'd give them a try. These muffins go really fast--from separate ingredients to fresh from the oven in less than an hour. P.S. I forgot to take pictures until they were almost ready to come out of the oven, so this is all you get.

Five tablespoons butter, melted

Half a cup of sugar

One egg, room temperature if you can manage it
One and a half cups of flour
One and a half teaspoons of baking powder
Half a teaspoon of salt

One-quarter teaspoon of nutmeg

Half a cup of milk


Quarter-cup of sugar

Quarter-cup of butter, melted

One teaspoon of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a medium-large bowl, sift together all dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and stir until combined, but still a bit lumpy. I expected something like cupcake batter, but what I got was much closer to bread dough. Scoop batter into muffin tins that have been sprayed with cooking spray. You'll be able to get anywhere from 8 to 12 muffins (I got 10). Bake for 20-25 muffins, or until they just start to turn a bit golden at the edges.

For the topping, mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Place melted butter in another small bowl. Brush the warm muffins with melted butter, then in the cinnamon sugar.

A couple things: you can really taste the nutmeg in these. In fact, if it weren't for the nutmeg, these wouldn't have much of a taste. Also, without the cinnamon-sugar coating, they'd be pretty awful. Next time I make them, I think I'll skip the nutmeg in favor of cinnamon, and add 3/4 cup of sugar instead of half. All in all, however, they're pretty tasty as is.

01.03.2010: I made these again last night, keeping everything the same, but used cake flour instead of regular flour. They were magnificent. So by all means use whatever flour you've got, but know that using cake flour and sifting the ingredients really makes all the difference.

Takes just under an hour
Makes 8-12
Difficulty: 1

Monday, April 27, 2009


I have a problem. I'm addicted to Girl Scout cookies. Samoas, in particular. It's been a problem since I was a Girl Scout myself. They're delicious, and I must have them. But Tim won't let me buy them because the Girl Scouts get almost no money from each box they sell. It's something ridiculous like 10 cents from each box goes back to the girls. Anyway, Tim feels really strongly about it, so I've begrudgingly forsaken them each year. Until now. Now I can make my very own at home, and all is right with the world.

Warning: this is a pretty time-consuming recipe.

For the cookies:
Two sticks of butter, softened

Half a cup sugar
Two cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Up to 2 tablespoons milk (you may not need any)

Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl.

Almost there....


Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed.
Next, the vanilla and milk, adding in the milk only as needed to make the dough come together without being sticky.
This is what my dough looked like after one tablespoon of milk.

The dough should come together into a soft ball. Add in a bit of extra flour if your dough seems sticky.

Looking good....

Oh, excellent!

After I dumped the dough out, I smooshed it together with my hands and rolled it around a bit to get this shape.

Roll out the dough between sheets of parchment paper. I had to do it in two batches because I had a lot of dough and not a lot of counter space.
Preheat oven to 350F. Using a cookie cutter or glass, cut out circles and transfer them to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. If you want, use a knife or straw or something to make holes in the middle. Or don't. I didn't. Ball up the scraps. re-roll them, and continue cutting circles until you've used all the dough.

Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until bottoms are very lightly golden brown around the edges.
Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, to allow them to firm up slightly, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. You should have just used up about an hour. On the other hand, I could only bake one batch of cookies at a time. So if your oven can handle more than one, you'll significantly reduce your time.

If you need to take a break to eat or walk the dog or wash your hair, now's the time to do it.

For the topping:
Three cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

Twelve ounces chewy caramels

1/4 teaspoon salt
Three tablespoons milk

Eight ounces dark, semisweet, or milk chocolate chips (I used milk)

(Note: because I only ended up with two dozen cookies, I only used 2 cups of coconut, and it was perfect.)

Preheat oven to 300F.

Spread coconut evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden.
Watch carefully, especially near the end of toasting time; the coconut toasts very quickly once it begins to become golden.

Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside. Unwrap the caramels and place in a medium microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt.
Heat in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until the caramel is melted and smooth. When it's smooth, fold in the toasted coconut with a spatula.
Using a knife or a frosting spatula, spread the topping on the cookies. Reheat caramel for a few seconds in the microwave if it begins to firm up. If you need another break, here's a good place for it. It'll take the caramel about twenty minutes to set, anyway.
When you're ready, melt the chocolate in a small bowl. You can use a double boiler, or do it in the microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring in between, until melted and smooth. You can dip the bottom of each cookie in the chocolate, but that didn't work for me. I turned each cookie upside down and used a rubber spatula to sort of paint the bottoms with chocolate.
When all the bottoms were done, I transferred the leftover chocolate to a zip lock bag and put the cookies in the fridge for ten minutes to help the chocolate firm up.
After ten minutes, turn each cookie back on it's bottom (my chocolate wasn't completely set, but I dealt with it). Snip the tip off the corner of the bag and pipe the chocolate over the top. I put mine back in the fridge after that to let them finish setting.

Let each cookie set completely before storing in an airtight container.
Difficulty: 2
Takes 2-3 hours

Makes 2-4 dozen

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Las Tortillas!

Recently, I've taken to frying my own taco shells out of flour tortillas. They get crisp and airy and hold together better than the store-bought corn kind. I mean, I love taco shells in every way, but it seemed like an easy and delicious way to put a little extra love and effort into a simple, thrown-together, last-minute dinner. And they're a big hit.

So wouldn't it be great, I thought, if I could make my very own tortillas? I'd seen a couple recipes, and they looked quick and easy. I was right about the easy part, but not so right about the quick part. They're slightly time consuming because you can only cook them one or two at a time.


First, mix together four cups of flour and one and a quarter teaspoons of salt in a big bowl.

Add six tablespoons of shortening and use forks or a pastry cutter to work it into the flour. There's so much flour in the bowl that you'll have a hard time telling when you've reduced it to coarse meal sized chunks, but do your best.

Bring a couple cups of water to a boil and slowly add to the flour until the dough starts to come together. Use a wooden spoon at first, but finish with your hands. BE CAREFUL! The water will make the dough quite warm.

Toss the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead just until the dough comes together, no more than 5 minutes.

Shape into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 30 minutes. The dough won't rise because there's no yeast in it. It will, however, create some condensation because it's still warm, so don't worry when you go to unwrap your dough and it's wet.

Using a knife or a dough scraper or whatever, cut your dough in half.

Cut each half into thirds...

And each third into three more pieces.

Shape them into balls, press flat, and roll them out. THIN, people! As thin as you can possibly make them. THIN like your life depends on it. Because I have almost zero counter space in my kitchen, it only worked for me to roll them out one at a time. Also, mine never really turned out round. Mostly they're shaped kind of like Brazil, with a couple more like Texas. Near the end they started turning sort or square. Whatever. Don't worry about shape. It's not all that important, unless you're having Martha Stewart over for Fajita Night.

So, heat a cast iron skillet or a griddle over medium heat. I ended up over medium low because the tortillas were burning. Toss on a tortilla and cook for about 20 seconds per side. I used a fork and my fingers to flip them. Some of mine bubbled or puffed up, some didn't. It's sort of hard to know exactly when to flip, so I counted to 20 and flipped regardless. If I had to flip them more than once to make sure they were all cooked, I did. No big deal.

Please note: These are two different tortillas. #1 just went into the pan, #2 has been flipped. The shape doesn't change that much when they cook.

Remove the tortilla to a cooling rack, and let them cool completely before you stack them. Store them wrapped in paper towels in a plastic bag in the fridge, or freeze them. Because of the inconsistency in the shape, this particular batch isn't really good for much besides an open-face quesadilla (which is exactly what I was making them for, anyway!). Maybe you'll have better luck. Enjoy!

Difficulty: 2
Makes 18 tortillas
Takes about two hours, less if you're able to cook more than one at a time.