Zucchini Bread Muffins

It’s amazing what can bring you back to something you love. I have been having a bit of difficulty recently – actually, for a number of months, truth be told – of not wanting to bake. There has been a vague wanting to kinda-sorta, but not enough to really incite me to do so. Seeing as that has been the one item I have been working toward – being a baker – and that has been something of a guiding light in my where-do-I-go-from-here thoughts, this presented quite the mental mire. Add to that the normal life stuff of work, worry about the future, helping friends move, work, work, work, etc., and you get me thinking about my blog with trepidation.

Though time will tell whether I have completely moved past this hurdle, a confluence of occurrences has brought me to the current post. First, I inherited a zucchini that had presumably been intended for slicing and adding to bagels at an office meeting a few weeks back. I’m presuming that because I also obtained cherry tomatoes and a pickling cucumber from after that meeting, but no one seems to have gone for any of those toppings – not even the person who brought them. Not sure what went on there. Probably one of those “this sounds like an amazing idea!” things that just didn’t get followed through – much like me and cottage cheese. I mean, I like it, but any time I buy it I forget it’s even there.

Add to the zucchini an episode of Scrubs in which Kelso gets free muffins for life. Mikal commented afterward about the episode making him want muffins. I told him to grate the zucchini for me (we had been watching a Scrubs marathon as I was home sick and feeling thoroughly shitty) and maybe I’d do something with it. You’re welcome.

I was rather startled to realize that I have not yet posted a zucchini bread recipe. I mean, it’s only one of my favorite summer baked goods. Seriously, what’s wrong with me? It’s one of the first things my mom made when we moved up to Washington state, and the house we moved into had a small number of garden beds with squashes and pumpkins and sunflowers and raspberries. Prior to that we had lived in California, where she had made some things – I remember blueberry pancakes, which I didn’t particularly like, and crepes – but not much. I think the growing things inspired her. I remember being very confused when she said she was making zucchini bread – I mean, it’s a vegetable that tastes great sliced and breaded and fried, why would you make that into bread? Wouldn’t it be gross? I was really very skeptical until it came out of the oven smelling like heaven, and tasting even better. We had a lot of zucchini that summer, some of them absolutely huge, so we made a few batches.

I guess it makes sense that nostalgia would be one of the more frequent catalysts for igniting a passion for something you love.

The recipe below is adapted from Smitten Kitchen, which I love for her stories and great recipes. While I have a zucchini bread recipe somewhere in the kitchen, I turned to Pinterest to see what I had pinned, maybe find one I have found to be good. This recipe has a good amount of spice (the other one I was looking at had no spices, but did add lemon zest – I’ll try that with what zucchini I have left over), so it might be a little more appropriate closer to the autumn time. Then again, I think I am looking forward to autumn, since that is when I historically have re-entered baking mode. There’s just something about shorter, windier days and turning leaves that makes me want to warm the house with baking.

Zucchini Bread Muffins

3 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Grease 24 muffin tins or line them with baking cups.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then mix in oil, yogurt, and sugar to combine. Add in zucchini and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.

Divide batter evenly across the 24 muffin cups. (I found that a 1/4 cup measure is pretty much perfect for this – the muffins rise quite considerably, so I’m rather glad I didn’t go with the 1/3 cup.) Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of a middle muffin comes out clean.

Tea Scones

Scones are an amazingly easy yet slightly tricky edible. They’re very versatile – you can easily come up with different flavors based on a couple of basic recipes for the base dough. For instance, I took a lovely lavender scone recipe (apparently I have yet to post it – egads!) and instead of using lavender buds I used a couple of bags of tea – and let me tell you, it’s pretty amazing.

Mikal came up with the idea. I was trying to figure out what to make the night before and asked his opinion, to which he said, “I don’t know.” I gave him a look of No-that’s-my-answer-you-can’t-have-my-answer, so he suggested scones. And then he suggested tea scones. I thought I had a recipe for tea-based scones on Pinterest, so I started looking there but couldn’t find one. My original thought would be to brew tea and use it cooled as the moisture that sticks it together, but Mikal suggested the substitution.

I started out with a packet of black tea. When that didn’t quite get the scent I was looking for (the initial step in the process is to rub the dry flavor in the sugar, releasing the oils into the sugar), I added a bag of blueberry rooibos tea – and that was amazing! Smelled so good. Then when it baked – smelled so good. Then when I took them downstairs to work – smelled so gooooooooood! I can’t wait to try this with the Country Peach Passion tea >:D

Tea Scones

adapted from Some the Wiser

1/3 cup sugar
1 tea bag (flavor of choice)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp unsalted butter, frozen
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut butter into cubes and place in the freezer.

In a medium bowl, combine sugar and tea bag. Using your fingertips, mix sugar and tea together, rubbing it a bit between your fingers. (If one tea bag doesn’t do the trick, try two – it should be a bit fragrant once you rub the sugar in with it.) Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add butter to flour mixture and mix until it resembles coarse meal.

In a small bowl, combine egg and yogurt and mix well. Stir yogurt mixture into flour mixture. Using your hands, shape dough into a ball, making sure to integrate all of the loose clumps.

When dough is well-combined and sticks together in a large ball, turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into shapes after whatever manner you choose (see here for my thoughts on shaping scones). Dip top of scones in sugar, then distribute with a good amount of space surrounding them on a lined baking sheet. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until golden. Allow scones to cool.

cocofancy2014062002

Birthday!

Birthdays are exciting. In my world, they are not a single-day thing: the whole week is an excuse for celebration. This is much harder to achieve when working full-time, I have found. Work schedules do not always coincide, and creating surprises and delightful moments can be quite the feat.

I am lucky in that I have a supportive honey and wonderful boss who allow me the leeway to go out of my way to deliver yummies.

Last year for Leslie’s birthday, I made a yogurt cake with blackberry sauce – an understatedly rich cake. This year I went with something a bit lighter and healthier. It’s been rather warm this week (I know, I really should expect this in June in California, but apparently I’m still getting used to the novelty of it), and fruit sounded so good. I did attempt to kick this tart up a notch by using chocolate mousse as my base, but for whatever reason it just didn’t come together right – so I went with my also awesome backup plan of Honey Orange greek yogurt combined with crème fraîche. I may attempt to mousse this weekend, or perhaps in the future. I’m not terribly a fan of chocolate with fruit (I just don’t see the draw of chocolate-covered strawberries, and yes I have tried it), but I think that particular twist on it would be appealing to at least some people.

Fresh Berry Tart

prep time: 2+ hrs.

Crust

1 1/4 cup flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
3-8 tbsp iced water

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and rub in using your fingertips, until fine crumbs form. (You can also perform this step and the following in a food processor.)

Slowly add the water, mixing until a crumbly dough beings to form; do not overwork the dough or it will be tough. Pinch a piece of dough: it should hold together. Add water or flour as necessary (in very small bits) to achieve the correct consistency.

Turn the dough on to a piece of plastic wrap. Hold the film with one hand and use your other hand to push the dough away from you until the dough is smooth and pliable. Flatten the dough to a round and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 2hrs or overnight. Leave to soften for 10 minutes before rolling out.

To bake: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roll the dough out to 1/8″ thick, then line the pans you are using – whether one large tart pan or multiple small ones – with the dough. Use excess dough to reinforce any areas where the dough may have ripped.

Line the pastry case with foil and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 15 minutes, until the edges are set and dry. Remove the foil and weights and continue baking 5-7 minutes until golden.

Set aside crust to completely cool while preparing the filling.

Filling

1 cup greek yogurt (I used Greek Gods Orange Honey)
1/2 cup crème fraîche

Fruit Jam (optional) If you are using this option, spread the jam across the bottom of the crust while it is still warm – that way it is easier to spread, and will have a chance to solidify a bit before adding the filling.

Fresh Fruit – (I used 2 pints strawberries, 1 cup blueberries, and 1 cup raspberries)

Combine greek yogurt and crème fraîche (or just use one or the other – all depends on how you want the flavor) in a bowl and set aside.

Prepare fresh fruit as you desire. I hulled the strawberries, then cut a number in half, and the rest into slices. The raspberries and blueberries I rinsed.

Once the crust is completely cooled, spread the yogurt/crème fraîche mixture over the bottom of the crust. You can spread as thick of a layer as you would like. Next, arrange fruit artfully (plopping things on there is also considered artful, honest).

Voilà, you have an amazing fruit tart. The crust takes the most time – I tend to forget that it needs to chill for hours before doing things. I also still have the tendency to not read a recipe fully before embarking on it – especially if it’s something I have made before. Probably not the greatest idea. cocofancy2014061201 cocofancy2014061202

Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s amazing just how comfortable chocolate chip cookies are. Any time I am looking for a quick something to make, they tend to be the first in mind.

I have been experiencing a crisis of motivation recently. Outside of some peanut butter-jelly thumbprint cookies, I haven’t made much of anything for the last month or so. A lot of it has been time – lots of things going on – but a fair amount has been energy. I tend toward worry-wartism, and I seem to have forgotten how sapping it is to worry about things one cannot necessarily impact at the moment. It seems I have also forgotten one of the most basic lessons I have learned so far in life: never let anything take away your passion.

So I decided to bake this morning, and it’s chocolate chip cookies. They’re quite rich, but so very good. When I first started making them years ago I would eat a whole batch (2-3 dozen) in a matter of a day or two (and that’s with my mom making me put them away frequently). I have already posted the recipe with some photos, so I won’t repeat that in its entirety.  Apparently I have not posted the recipe here yet. Strange – I know I have some pretty nifty old pictures of the process. Ah, well. Here’s hoping sharing cookies will get me back into the groove of things.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

10oz chocolate chips (I prefer Guittard semi-sweet)
2 1/2 cups unsifted flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375°F. Sift flour together with baking soda and salt, set aside.

Cream butter with sugars in a mixing bowl until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Gradually add in sifted dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips.

Cocofancy2012013001

At this point I tend to put the cookie dough into the fridge for 30+ mins so that it’s easier to scoop. 

Cocofancy2012013002

Spoon or scoop the mixture onto a lined cookie sheet, about 2″ apart. Bake for 9-11 mins, or until golden brown.
Cocofancy2012013003 Cocofancy2012013004

It’s been a while

It has been a strangely busy and draining few weeks. Mikal has landed an internship that may well turn into a full-time job, which has been an interesting experience. He is enjoying it, which is definitely a plus. On the other hand, it seems to be messing with my morning routine something fierce, and between that and the hectics, I just haven’t felt like posting or baking. Weird, right?

It seems like our life is entering a state of flux. We have been looking around at new places to rent, because while I love living here, living at work is a little much at this point. I’ve gotten to that point where it’s time for a change, and rearranging the furniture is helping, but not really enough. On the plus side, we did get new couches and I rearranged the kitchen, and it’s tidier than it has ever been here…. but it’s also making me feel the need to clean and organize more often. That’s how I have spent half of my last three weekends – cleaning out closets, rearranging the kitchen, cleaning out the fridge, trying to clean up the living room after we got the new couches and rearranged…. It’s simultaneously really rewarding and exceptionally tiring. There are so many reasons why I could never be Suzy Homemaker.

At any rate, I’m hoping to get a couple of posts done for the next couple of weeks so that I can at least feel like I have been productive with the blog. I have stopped with the starter and more complex yeast breads project because I still cannot make a decent loaf of sandwich bread. Better to start at the basics. But then, I’ve always tried for the extra credit without doing the homework, so it really shouldn’t surprise me that I’m doing the same thing in this situation.