Blueberry-Vanilla Bean Muffins

IMG_3098Once upon a time, I baked a beautiful batch of Blueberry-Vanilla Bean Muffins. I used my favorite blue flowery muffin liners, selected the prettiest muffins (not without a touch of mother-like guilt for the rest of the still-beautiful-in-their-own-way rejects), and coerced my favorite photographer into capturing them on camera. My favorite photographer and I happen to share a home, birthday, and set of parents, which makes picture-taking quite convenient. We have a great system, Sam and I: I bake delicious treats, Sam takes pictures of them, and then he is paid in baked goods. Pretty much a win-win situation.

So, these muffins began just like any other recipe for my blog. Bake, cool, photograph. But then trouble happened. A few days after taking the pictures I started a new blog post, typed up the muffin recipe, and asked Sam for the SD card with the blueberry muffin pictures on it.

“What muffins?” That was the first clue that something was not right. “Ohhh, those muffins. That was a while ago, wasn’t it?” Well yes, I supposed it was. He looked. And looked. And looked. To no avail. Finally we admitted defeat….the beautiful blueberry muffin photos were no more. 😥

It turned out that Sam had taken pictures for a wedding the day after photographing the muffins, and somehow his camera card had cleared itself and stored the wedding photos over the muffin ones. Too bad, so sad. But seriously. I went along with a different post (luckily I was ahead of the game and had a different treat ready to go) but I didn’t forget about the muffins.

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I knew that I must share them with you. So unfortunately, I had got to make them again. Guess it wasn’t so bad after all, since I ended up with another batch of fabulous muffins! Plus it gave me a chance to make a few little adjustments. The first time around, I found myself out of vanilla extract halfway through the recipe. Usually whenever this happens I cry a little inside since I’m a firm believer that vanilla is always ALWAYS necessary, but this time I remembered the trillion-dollar Madagascar vanilla beans hidden away in my pantry. I had been planning on using them for an extra-special recipe, but then I thought about it and decided that life is too short to let the vanilla beans hide away in a cupboard waiting for the perfect occasion. Every occasion is perfect; every recipe is special! (Please excuse the cheesiness.) In short, I used those vanilla beans and I used them good!

Back to the muffin adjustments…even though the second time I made them I had plenty of vanilla extract, I kept remembering how wonderful the first batch was with the vanilla bean seeds. There’s something so alluring about those little black flecks mixed into thick batter, and they add such incredible flavor. I still had half a bean left over from the original muffins so I scraped it clean and added those seeds right into the mixture! For the second batch I also reserved 1/2 a cup of blueberries to sprinkle on top right before baking so that they weren’t covered up with batter. I like to really see those dark juicy berries on top of the muffins, you know? Makes them more eye-catching.

All in all, I guess it wasn’t so bad to have all the first pictures erased. These muffins are totally worth making again and again. They’re some of the best darn blueberry muffins I’ve ever had…perfectly soft, sweet, moist, vanilla-y (if that’s even a word), and of course bursting with fresh blueberries. Now that I think of it, Sam’s word is the only evidence I have for the mysterious wipe-out of those first pictures…could it be that he was willing to tell a little white lie if it meant getting to eat more blueberry muffins? Perhaps we’ll never know.

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Blueberry-Vanilla Bean Muffins

Makes 15-16 standard-size muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbs + 1 tsp baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, at room temperature (place in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes to bring to room temp if you’re short on time)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil

Seeds from half of a vanilla bean (or substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

1 & 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not thaw)

Extra sugar, for sprinkling

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease or line 15-16 cups in a muffin tin and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth. Whisk in the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla beans (or vanilla) into the egg mixture until well-combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir gently, just until no flour streaks remain. Be careful not to over-mix! Batter will be thick and slightly lumpy. Fold in the blueberries, reserving 1/2 cup.

Evenly spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling almost to the top (again, you will have 15-16 muffins). Top with remaining blueberries and sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired. Bake for 5 minutes, then decrease the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 13-15 minutes. When the tops bounce back lightly when touched and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, take the muffins out of the oven.

Let the muffins cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then carefully remove to a cooling rack. Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

(Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)

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Blueberry-Almond Crisp

IMG_6478One of my favorite things about summer is the fruit. As fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, mangoes, cherries, and more start appearing in the produce section I feel much like a kid in a candy store. Since on our tiny island it’s ridiculously expensive (and often impossible) to attain summery fruits throughout most of the year, I always look forward to loading up on all my favorite fruits throughout the spring and summer months.

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Summertime’s surplus of fresh fruit also means some extra-tasty desserts. As convenient as frozen fruit is, there’s nothing like a blackberry pie made with berries picked from the wild tangle of bushes down the lane or a rustic galette filled with sweet, fresh cherries rather than the usual sticky red canned ones. Pies, cobblers, crumbles, etc. are some of my favorite go-to desserts throughout the summer because they allow for sweet, juicy fruits to take center stage.

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This Blueberry-Almond Crisp is the perfect treat for a warm summer evening: plump, sweet blueberries are tucked underneath an oatmeal-almond crumble topping and baked until the top is crisp and golden and the berries are thick and bubbly. I love the combination of blueberries and almond, and this crumb topping packs in just the right amount of almond crunch and flavor to contrast the sweet, juicy blueberries. A warm bowl of Blueberry-Almond Crisp with a scoop of vanilla ice cream tastes like the epitome of summer, at least in my book.

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This recipe has become a summertime favorite in my family. Go pick up a container of fresh blueberries and try out this wonderful crisp for yourself! You don’t want to miss out on this one.

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Blueberry-Almond Crisp

For the fruit filling:

4 cups fresh blueberries (or unthawed frozen blueberries)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

For the crumb topping:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup old-fashioned oats

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) cold butter, cubed

2 tablespoons almond paste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8″x8″ baking pan; set aside.

Place the blueberries in a large bowl. Add in the lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla, sugar, and flour. Gently fold the mixture until the blueberries are well-coated. Let the berries sit and macerate while you make the topping.

For the topping, whisk together the flour, oats, almonds, sugars, salt, and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl. Using two forks or your fingers, cut in the cold butter and almond paste until the mixture holds together into large crumbs.

Spoon the berry mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with the crumb mixture and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the topping is golden-brown and the filling is bubbly. Let the crisp cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

(Recipe heavily adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

Lemon-Berry Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling

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Happy July 5th, everyone! I hope you all had a fun and safe 4th of July yesterday, whether your day was filled with sunshine, parades, picnics, friends, fireworks, or all of the above.

Before heading downtown for our annual parade yesterday, I decided to start the morning off with a sweet treat to celebrate. Lemon-Berry Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling fit the bill nicely: tender, sweet, lemony muffins bursting with fresh juicy berries and containing a surprise pocket of lemon-cream cheese filling. To make the muffins more festive I loaded them with a mixture of blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries and figured that the cream cheese filling qualified as the “white” part of my red-white-and-blue color scheme. Sure, the cream cheese was hidden in the center, so the color scheme was more like red-blue-and-muffiny brown, but who’s complaining? For all intents and purposes, they were red-white-and-blue. Okay? Okay.

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Although the muffins themselves are delicious with a soft, moist crumb; a hint of cinnamon, vanilla, and almond flavors; a fresh citrus zing from the lemon; and a triad of sweet, juicy berries, they’re made even better with the secret filling. One bite in and you’ll encounter a tiny pocket of sweet lemony cream cheese that takes these muffins from good to great!

In my muffins I chose to use half whole-wheat flour and half all-purpose to give them a little more heft and fiber. The recipe below calls for only all-purpose flour, but it’s up to you. Same goes for the type of berries, extracts, spices, etc. Like many of my recipes, this one is highly adaptable!

Bake up a batch of these Lemon-Berry Muffins as a special treat one of these mornings! In no time at all you can be enjoying a warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven muffin for breakfast or brunch. Be sure to watch for people’s reactions as they discover the sweet surprise filling. Some surprises are not so good (like the surprise that would have occurred had I not realized in the nick of time that I was starting to pour peppermint extract into my measuring spoon rather than vanilla) but this surprise is definitely a nice one! Unless of course you happen to dislike sweet lemony cream cheese stuffed inside a tender lemon-berry muffin. But that would be just plain silly.

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Lemon-Berry Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling

Makes 9 standard-sized muffins

1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Grated zest of 1 large lemon (about 2 teaspoons)

1/3 cup milk

1 large egg

1/4 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

1 cup fresh berries, rinsed and chopped (I used 1/3 cup each of strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries)

Coarse sugar, for sprinkling

Cream Cheese Filling:

3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line or grease 9 cups of a 12-cup muffin tin; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a smaller bowl, use your fingers to incorporate the lemon zest into the sugar until fragrant. Whisk the lemon-sugar into the flour mixture.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, egg, vanilla, and almond extract until smooth. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until incorporated. Be careful not to over-mix. Gently fold the berries into the batter, which will be thick.

To make the cream cheese filling, stir together the cream cheese, lemon zest, and sugar in a small bowl until smooth.

Fill each of the 9 prepared muffin cups about halfway with batter. Drop about 1 teaspoonful of the cream cheese mixture onto the batter in each cup. Then divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, carefully covering the cream cheese center. Sprinkle the muffin tops with coarse sugar if desired. (I also topped each with a raspberry.)

Bake for 17-20 minutes or until tops are set and edges are golden-brown. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.

(Recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

Blueberry-Lemon Buttermilk Bundt Cake

The third week of August is, without fail, a crazy week.  Summer job schedules are full-force, our county fair takes place, summer schoolwork is uncovered from the depths of procrastination, spending time with my horse is squeezed in whenever possible, and my birthday falls on the 15th.  No matter how much I try to plan ahead and get things done in July, that end-of-the-summer rush inevitably arrives right around now.  This year was no exception!

Luckily, although I took a raincheck on entering baked-goods in the fair this year, I still had time to bake myself a birthday cake.  I’m all about prioritizing when times get busy…should I wash my car, which is currently covered in a quarter-inch thick coating of dust, or sit outside in the sun?  Get started on my English homework, or go for a run in the forest?  Change my sheets, or watch an episode of Desperate Housewives?  Responsibly, I picked the latter of all these tough decisions.  Yep, I definitely have my priorities straight!  So when it came to baking a birthday cake or giving my bathroom a much-needed cleaning, there was really no question.  As for what I decided, this post should clue you in…..

After much debate, I finally settled on making this Blueberry-Lemon Buttermilk Bundt Cake.  I usually go for a more traditional, 2-tier, buttercream-frosted birthday cake, but there was something about the combination of plump blueberries, fresh lemon zest, and tangy buttermilk that I couldn’t resist.  And I’m so glad I didn’t!  I couldn’t be happier with my decision.  The result was an incredibly moist, lemony Bundt cake studded with sweet, juicy blueberries and topped with a tart-sweet lemon and buttermilk icing.  It was the perfect end to a wonderful birthday…my eighteenth!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blueberry-Lemon Buttermilk Bundt Cake

Cake:

2 1/2 cups + 2 Tbs all-purpose flour, divided

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 eggs, at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup buttermilk

3 cups fresh or unthawed frozen blueberries

Lemon-Buttermilk Icing:

2 cups powdered sugar

1 Tbs buttermilk

1-2 Tbs fresh lemon juice

1 Tbs unsalted butter, very soft

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan.  Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups of flour, the baking powder, and the salt.  Set aside.

Place the sugar and lemon zest into a large bowl.  Using your fingers, rub the lemon zest into the sugar until evenly combined.  Add in the butter and, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat until light and fluffy.

Add in the eggs one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition.  Add in the vanilla and mix until combined.

Still on low speed, add in 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix just until flour is incorporated. Add in half the buttermilk, then another third of the flour, the other half of the buttermilk, and the last third of the flour, beating after each addition.

In another bowl, toss the blueberries with the 2 tablespoons of flour.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the blueberries into the batter.  Spread the batter evenly into the Bundt pan, smoothing the top.

Bake for 55-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in its pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes before removing from pan to cool completely.

When cake is completely cool, whisk together the powdered sugar, buttermilk, lemon juice, and butter until smooth.  For a thinner glaze, mix in additional buttermilk or lemon juice 1 teaspoon at a time or until it reaches your desired consistency.  Spoon the icing over the cake using a knife or offset spatula, spreading it downward every now and then.

Store the cake at room temperature, loosely covered in plastic wrap, for up to 4 days.

(Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, originally from Smitten Kitchen)

Blueberry Coconut Cake with Lemon Sauce

Growing up in Colorado, I was able to experience 4 “true” seasons.  In the fall, I would rake up giant piles of red, orange, yellow, and brown leaves and jump into the middle, scattering the leaves and ruining all my hard work.  But it was totally worth it.  In the winter my brother and I would sled down the snowy hill next to our house, heedlessly focusing on nothing but the thrill of flying down the slope atop our blue plastic sled.  Once we nearly gave our mother a heart attack when we couldn’t stop and slid into the road, right in front of a car, and down into our neighbor’s snow-covered vegetable garden.  Pretty sure we scarred my mom–and the driver–for life.  Not to mention the vegetable garden.  Spring, though it often came late, brought sweet-smelling flowers and the occasional bee sting.  I could always tell that spring was coming when the crabapple tree in our side yard turned a brilliant scarlet, full of new blossoms.  Summers were dry and brutally hot, with the exception of evening thunderstorms that shook the house and lit up the dark-clouded sky.  I used to love standing in the front doorway, watching the rain come down in sheets and counting the seconds between the lightning and thunder.  Then I moved to the Pacific Northwest.

Now almost nine years a Washingtonian, I can identify about 10 different types of rain, leap  out of bed like a little kid whenever it snows during winter nights (the number of which I can count on one hand), and have learned to say goodbye to the sun from about October to May.  Don’t get me wrong, there are definite advantages to living in a mild climate, but I’m still a Colorado girl at heart.  However, no matter how much I miss skiing down the Rocky Mountains and inner tubing through the Colorado River,  I can’t help but feel lucky when I hear about the sweltering summer that most of the US has been having this year.  Some of my Colorado friends were on call to evacuate their houses as relentless forest fires swept through the state, and I know that many other states have reached record highs.  Here on my little island, we reached a toasty 66 degrees today, and according to my thermometer the highest temperature we’ve had all summer is a whopping 74 degrees. Jealous yet?

So even though it doesn’t really feel like summer here, and I actually turned the heat on in my car this morning (it was 54 degrees out, okay!), I’m still trying to make it feel like it’s July and not March.  Take this Blueberry Coconut Cake with Lemon Sauce, for example.  Blueberries, coconut, and lemon all scream SUMMER, and this sheet cake is perfect to bring to a group event like a backyard BBQ or a picnic at the beach.  It’s just like a moist, fluffy blueberry muffin in cake form, topped with a layer of toasted coconut and drizzled with lemon sauce.  My dad couldn’t stop raving about how good that “blueberry coconut thing” was, and the lemon sauce was to die for.  It’s good enough to eat by the spoonful!  Not that I know from experience, or anything.  This cake is fast, very easy, feeds a crowd, and best of all, tastes like a little piece of summer.  Maybe if I close my eyes while eating a slice for dessert, I can forget that it’s 55 degrees outside, has been 80% cloud cover all day, and my hopes of maintaining a tan this year are about zero.  The fact that it just started to rain is not helping.  I might need two slices… 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blueberry Coconut Cake with Lemon Sauce

Cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

1 Tbs baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 large eggs

1 cup milk (low fat is fine)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups fresh or unthawed frozen blueberries

2 Tbs flour

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Lemon Sauce:

1/2 cup white sugar

1 Tbs + 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp lemon zest

1 cup water

1 Tbs butter

2 Tbs fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.  If using glass pan, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  If using aluminum pan, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and vegetable oil.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and fold in the wet ingredients using a rubber spatula.

Toss blueberries with the 2 tablespoons of flour and gently fold into the batter.  Spread the batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with flaked coconut.  Bake for 20-25 minutes if using an aluminum pan, 35-40 minutes if using glass, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack.

For the sauce, in a small saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and lemon zest.  Slowly whisk in the water until smooth.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking often, and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes at a full boil or until mixture has thickened.  Remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in butter and lemon juice.  Keep the sauce warm or at room temperature.

When ready to serve, cut the cooled cake into slices and drizzle each piece with the lemon sauce.

(Recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

Healthy Blueberry Muffins

As much as I love sweets, sometimes I enjoy baking healthier things; treats that taste good but that I can feel better about eating.  These blueberry muffins are much healthier than your average blueberry muffin, which is usually made with loads of butter, sugar, and all white flour.  These are made with applesauce instead of butter or oil, whole wheat flour, and minimal sugar, which allows the sweet, juicy blueberries to really shine.  But don’t let that scare you!  Despite their healthier ingredients, the muffins are still sweet, moist, and tender.  These muffins are perfect for breakfast, snacks, or even dessert.  They’re simple, delicious, and good for you–a great bonus!

Healthy Blueberry Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 Tbs baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup lowfat milk

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or spray with cooking spray.

Whisk together milk, applesauce, egg, vanilla, and almond extract in a small bowl.  In a large bowl, stir together flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients.  Stir just until flour is incorporated (batter will be lumpy).  Gently fold in blueberries (if using frozen berries, don’t thaw beforehand).  Spoon batter into muffin cups.  Bake until golden-brown, about 18-20 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Store leftovers in an air-tight container at room temperature.

(Recipe adapted from                 Simply Daily Recipes)