Do Or Pie


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Cranberry Muffins

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I know everyone likes to complain about Valentine’s Day but it’s actually an excellent food holiday. Thanksgiving, Passover, and any holiday involving bagels and lox are clearly my preferences, but I’ll support a day that encourages chocolate consumption. My office is having a Valentine’s breakfast and I volunteered to bring muffins. Not many people at work know the extent of my baking obsession so this feels like kind of a big deal. I got a little over-excited and made the muffins last night. The freezer is now full of fat little muffins which no one will eat until Friday morning and I’ll spend the rest of the week praying the muffins are still delicious and not freezer-y. Since I know my powers of restraint are limited I made a few mini muffins that I wouldn’t feel badly about snacking on. I mean, it was mini muffins or what? Eat the office’s breakfast? Really I’ve done everyone a favor.

Each mini muffin has exactly one cranberry and one or two walnut pieces. The proportions could not be any more adorable.

mini muffin

Adapted from the New York Times

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tsps orange zest
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups frozen cranberries (but any berries work well in these muffins)
Chopped walnuts (optional)

In a standing mixer cream together butter and sugar for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add sour cream, vanilla, and orange zest.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add slowly to the wet mixture until combined. With a spatula fold in the berries.

Add batter to prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops with a few walnuts.  I used 18 regular and 10 mini muffin cups. You would probably get about 24 regular muffins if you’re conservative with the batter. Fill each cup about 3/4 of the way to the top. But really, are you actually going to skip the chance to make squee-worthy mini muffins? Nope.

Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. Tops will be golden brown and springy when you poke them.

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Lemon Tart with Almond and Olive Oil

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I’m actually not sure if this is normal but I bake with my friends constantly. Jackie, one of my college baking buddies and music-playing friend* recommended this recipe the other night over dinner and clearly I made it as soon as possible. I’m suffering fruit withdrawal. Ugh, winter.

When Jackie first told me that this tart had olive oil in it I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped. Full disclosure: I was almost to the bottom of a (large) glass of red wine at a bar so it’s possible this was an overreaction but I mean, come on, olive oil? The olive oil flavor is subtle and I probably didn’t need to be nervous about adding the amount indicated in the recipe. Nonetheless, I’m a chicken, so the recipe below reflects what I actually did (less than I was supposed to). The combination of lemon and olive oil is clearly an excellent choice.

*[below] Jackie plays piccolo while I photograph our shadows at marching band practice before a Columbia football game in 2010. I have no idea which team we were playing but I’m certain we lost. Well, the band always wins. But the team definitely lost.

zoe and jackie CUMB 2010

The entire tart came together quickly; while the oven was pre-heating I pressed the tart crust into the tart pan (this took about 5 minutes) and was a bit tricky. My hands may be permanently butter-coated but I think the crust was well worth the effort: flakey and light, and just a bit almond-y. The sweet almond crust balanced the tart lemon curd.

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Adapted from Gourmet 2008

Tart shell
2 tablespoons roasted almonds with skins
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
3 1/2 tablespoons fruity olive oil (I used what we had lying around from Fairway. Worked great.)

Lemon curd
3 large or 4 small lemons
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 whole large eggs plus 2 large yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons fruity olive oil

In a Cuisinart, combine almonds, flour, confectioner’s sugar, and salt. Mixture should be finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until you get a coarse mixture with pea sized bits of butter. Add the egg yolk and oil. Pulse until the dough comes together.

While you preheat the oven to 425 degrees, press the dough into a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Bake the shell for about 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown. Set tart shell aside to cool.

Grate enough lemon zest for 1 tablespoon. Juice the lemons until you have 3/4 cup lemon juice (strain out pits/pulp).

Over medium heat in a medium sauce pan, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, eggs, and egg yolks. Continue to whisk the mixture while it heats. When the mixture begins to boil, whisk quickly for another 2 minutes and remove from heat. Whisk in olive oil. (I only used 1 1/2 tablespoons but go for the full 2 tablespoons if you’re feeling adventurous.)

Add the lemon curd to the shell. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, but up to 2 hours. Slice, serve. Lips will pucker, yums will ensue.

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Spicy Cheddar Cheese Sticks

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It is requiring every ounce of my will power not to eat all of these off the counter right now. They are intended for a birthday* tonight and now that I’ve published them on the internet I officially can’t devour the cheesy magical sticks myself. But goodness me, these are excellent. If you like crunchy snacks, cheese, and fun-shaped food this recipe is perfect. I’d like to try these again with another kind of cheese and maybe other spices. Gorgonzola? Maybe for tomorrow’s evening-of-snacking otherwise known as the Puppy Bowl. Or that football game is happening too.

*Happy birthday, Lisa!

Spicy Cheddar Cheese Sticks
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

6 ounces grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (yummy cheese is essential here)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, still a bit cold
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons milk (I used skim)

In a Cuisinart, add grated cheese, butter, flour, salt, and pepper flakes. Pulse to combine. The mixture should have small crumbles. Add milk and pulse until the dough forms a ball.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Using a sharp knife (or pizza cutter) create long strips. I made mine about 1/2 inch wide and 10 inches long.

Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. The ends and bottoms of the sticks should be golden brown. Delicately remove them from the pan once they’ve cooled a bit. Munch away.

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