Berry season has arrived with bounteous displays of fresh blueberries wherever you turn that are ripe for baking up all those favorite blueberry cobblers, muffins, or tarts.
The muffin recipe that follows is a favorite of mine, adapted from a recipe in Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the Labrea Bakery cookbook, 2000. Light and fluffy muffins busting with blueberries are guaranteed! This is also a reliable master recipe for other fresh berries as well as peaches, pears, or nectarines throughout the summer.
Blueberry Muffins with Almonds, Pecans, or Walnuts
Makes 12 muffins
- ½ cup (3 ounces) whole almonds pecans or walnuts
- 1 cup sugar 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped orange zest
- 1 tablespoon pus 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 2½ cups blueberries, divided
For the topping:
- 1 tablespoon egg white
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
- pinch of ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sliced blanched almonds, or pecan or walnut pieces
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 f / 165 c
Prepare a ½ cup capacity muffin tin, lightly coated with melted butter.
Spread the whole almonds or pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until lightly browned, about 15 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through to ensure that the nuts are evenly toasted. Remove from the oven and sat aside to cool.
Turn the oven temperature up to 350 f / 175 c
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the almonds, pecans, or walnuts with half of the sugar and process until it’s the consistency of fine meal.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, orange zest, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low for 2 to 3 minutes, until softened. Add the remaining sugar and ground nut mixture, and mix on medium for 3 or 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing well between each addition. Slowly pour in the buttermilk and mix on medium, just to combine.
Add the flour in 3 batches, turning the mixer off before each addition and mixing on low until just combined.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in 2 cups of the blueberries.
To prepare the topping: in a small bowl whisk the egg white until frothy. Add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the almonds, pecan, or walnut pieces.
Fill the muffin tin with batter to the rim. Push the remaining ½ cup of blueberries onto the tops of the muffins. Then spoon about a tablespoon of the topping over each muffin, concentrating the nuts on top of each muffin.
Bake for about 20 to 35 minutes, until the to topping is nicely browned and the muffins are firm to the touch. If the batter has cracked through the topping, gently press it downward with your fingertips to deflate.
Here is a recipe for an Italian butterscotch budino that I came across years ago in Nancy Silverton’s The Mozza Cookbook. Of course we Americans remember those Jello butterscotch puddings our mothers whipped up when we were kids. They seemed good enough at the time, though once you have tasted a rich and creamy homemade butterscotch budino you will discover a butterscotch pudding like none other. As a cook this is a butterscotch pudding you can rely upon to elicit oohs and aahs whenever you serve it, and reaffirms the old adage that there is indeed proof in the pudding!
makes 6 servings
- 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
- ¾ cups whole milk
- 2 extra large egg yolks
- 1 extra large egg
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup water
- 2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon whiskey or brandy
- 2 tablespoons slivered almonds browned in butter
Fill a large bowl with ice water and set a smaller bowl inside. Set a fine-mesh strainer in the smaller bowl.
Stir the cream and the milk together in a medium bowl and set aside.
In another medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, egg, and cornstarch together and set aside.
Combine the brown sugar, salt, and ¾ cup of water in a large heavy bottomed saucepan set over medium high heat. Cook the sugar without stirring, instead swirling the pan occasionally for even cooking. Don’t be alarmed: the sugar will become foamy and lava like with slow-bursting bubbles as it cooks. Once the sugar is caramelized, nearly smoking, nutty smelling, and dark caramel color, about 10 to 12 minutes, promptly pull the pan off the heat!
Immediately add the cream milk mixture in a thin steady stream, stirring with a whisk as you add it. This stops the cooking process and prevents the sugar from burning. This will cause the sugar to seize up and harden. Return the pan to the heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the seized sugar has dissolved and the mixture is liquid again, 5 to 7 minutes.
Turn off the heat and ladle out about one cup of the hot cream and sugar mixture and gradually add it to the bowl with the eggs, whisking constantly to prevent the cream mixture from cooking the eggs. Continue adding the cream to the eggs until you have added half the cream. Then gradually add the contents of the bowl to the saucepan with the remaining caramel, stirring constantly with a whisk, and cook the custard over medium heat until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not overheat the custard to avoid lumps in the custard.
Remove the custard from the heat and whisk in the butter and whiskey or brandy until combined and smooth.
If there are any lumps in the custard pas the custard through the strainer into the bowl set in the ice water.
ladle the budino into dessert bowls and set a side to cool until the custard has set. Then and decorate the centers of the budinos with the slivered almonds.
Let the budinos cool to room temperature. Then cover each bowl with cling film and refrigerate.
Remove the budinos from the refrigerator about an hour before serving to bring them to room temperature before serving .
Sometimes that impulse to bake something first thing in the morning can send you off on a tangent until you say to yourself” hold on” I just want a nice pastry to enjoy with my morning coffee!
With resolve this simple French apple tart can be assembled and put into in the oven in no time. That said, I tend to keep several disks of pastry dough in the freezer. This is a habit that saves time and makes the prospect of baking pies and tarts so much more appealing.
The simplicity of this tart will have you returning to this recipe again and again.
French Apple Tart
1 disk well chilled sweet pastry dough
4 or 5 tart green baking apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon demerara sugar
3 tablespoons orange marmalade, warmed and thinned with a splash of water
Preheat the oven to 400 f / 205 c with the rack set in the middle position of the oven
Needed: a 10 inch tart pan
Use your own favorite pastry dough for this recipe.
Roll the chilled pastry dough out to about12 inches in diameter. Fit the dough into the tart pan and press the dough onto the sides of the pan and trim the dough evenly around the top edge.
Arrange the sliced apples, slightly overlapping, beginning at the outer rim of the pan and working your way around the pan to the center.
When you are satisfied with the arrangement of the apples, pour the melted butter evenly over the apples.
Sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly over the apples and scatter the demerara sugar over the top.
Transfer the tart to the preheated oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Check on the tart as it bakes and turn it front to back if it is browning unevenly.
The tart is done when the apples have softened and are lightly browning to your liking.
Remove the tart from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
After about 10 minutes generously glaze the tart with the marmalade glaze using a pastry brush.
Ideally serve the tart while still warm from the oven or reheat before serving.
As the holidays are fast approaching it’s time to buckle down, do some editing, and priorities your holiday baking choices. Gingerbread tops my list this year. Gingerbread covers all the bases, it’s easy to make, and who doesn’t have some fond gingerbread memories from holidays past!
Gingerbread’s origins go back to the Roman times and later popularized in Europe by an Armenian monk’s baked gingerbread in France in 922. Spiced ginger loafs and gingerbread men then spread across Europe. Gingerbread’s popularity in North America dates back to the mid 17th century and remains an American holiday favorite to this day.
In the recipe that follows I have upped the ante by using both dry ground ginger and grated fresh ginger along with freshly ground white pepper and the traditional gingerbread spices. This produces a dense, moist, and flavorsome holiday spiced “loaf” that reflects both its past and present and is sure to please one and all!
Needed: a 5 by 10 inch loaf pan, well greased with butter, the bottom of he pan lined with parchment and also greased.
- 3 slices Italian or sourdough bread, crust removed and cut into cubes
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Gingerbread batter :
- 2 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground all spice
- ¾ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 12 tablespoons ( 6 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into cubes
- 1½ cups light brown sugar
- 3 regular eggs
- ½ cup molasses
- 1 cup whole milk
Preheat the oven to 350 f/ 180 c with the baking rack set in the middle position.
For the crumb topping, spread the cubed bread onto a baking sheet and put in the preheated oven and toast until firm with coloring. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Then place the toasted bread in the food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse to a course meal.
Add the ground ginger and sugar and pulse together with the bread crumbs into a fine meal. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and set aside to use later.
In a large bowl combine the flour, ground and grated fresh ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, all spice, white pepper, sea salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Whisk the ingredients until well combined and set aside.
Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed until the mixture is fluffy, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
Then add the eggs one at a time until they are incorporated into the butter sugar mixture. Reduce the speed to low, add the molasses and mix until combined.
On low speed begin adding the flour mixture in three additions alternately with the milk until the batter is smooth.
Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan and even out the surface. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the surface and transfer to the oven and bake for approximately 55 to 60 minutes, turning the pan from front to back half way through the baking.
Test he loaf by inserting a skewer into the center of the loaf. If it comes out clean the loaf is done. If not, return it to the oven and bake for 10 minute intervals and testing until done.
Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack. When the loaf is cool enough to handle, run a knife around the edges of the pan and invert the loaf onto a sheet of parchment. Promptly turn the loaf upright and cool to room temperature.
The gingerbread is ideally best served warm. Slice the loaf as you would a bread loaf and you are ready to serve.
I like to serve each slice with a schmear of salted caramel sauce (see recipe here) and a dollop of Greek yogurt.
If the gingerbread is cold, slice and plate individual thick slices with a generous schemear of salted caramel and the dollop of Greek yogurt on the side. Pop in the microwave for 20 seconds and voila!
The warm caramel sauce glazing the gingerbread makes an undeniably “guilty pleasure” that is worth every last bite!