Holiday Procrastibaking! Ginger Cookies

Greetings, internet!  It’s been a while.  Since my last post, I’ve submitted my GSE applications (whoo!) and have spent far too long avoiding grad school forums like the plague (because people post results on there and I don’t want to know when people are hearing back).  One of my Push to Walk trainers moved to Maine to get a degree in Outdoor Education and Recreation, and work on a dairy farm (you can check out their Kickstarter here).  If I lived anywhere near this farm, I’d probably buy all my milk and eggs from them.  Alas.

But seriously, this holiday cookie post is long overdue.  I made these cookies a couple of times while I was at Cambridge (note: the following pictures were all taken while I was at Cambridge).  Generally, I’m not huge on ginger, but I will eat mass quantities of these cookies without shame.  This recipe is slightly modified from Ina Garten’s Ultimate Ginger Cookie.

First, chop 1 1/4 cups (6 0z.) of crystallized ginger.

Ginger Cookies 1
Word of warning, the ginger will stick to the knife.

Then, sift together 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 2 tsps ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cloves, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, and 1/4 tsp kosher salt.

In another bowl, mix 1 cup of dark brown sugar (lightly packed), 1/4 cup vegetable oil, and 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses.

Ginger Cookies 4

There are some recipes where it’s okay to not have an electric mixer, but for this one, I would highly recommend getting one, borrowing one, or pleading with your next-door neighbor to let you use one, because molasses is pretty difficult to mix by hand.  Like actually.

Ginger Cookies 5
I’ve been mixing this for over five minutes and I feel like my right tricep is about to die.

Five minutes on medium speed with an electric mixer, you’re done and can move on to the next step.  I can’t move on just yet, because this is still not completely mixed (which you can see from the picture – see how the oil is kind of separate from everything?  Yeah, you don’t want that), so keep mixing!

Ginger Cookies 7
MY ARM HURTS, BUT THIS IS FOR THE COOKIES.

Alright, this batter consistency looks about right.  If you foolishly mixed this by hand, take a couple minutes to stretch your arms.

Add two medium eggs OR one extra-large egg + 1 yolk.  One egg is not enough, and two extra-large eggs are too much.  Make sure the eggs are at room temperature.

Ginger Cookies 6

The batter will become MUCH easier to mix by hand now.  Just mix for a minute, scrape the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure no ingredient got away, and then, gradually, begin to add the dry ingredients.

Ginger Cookies 8

Mix the dry ingredients for a couple of minutes, just until combined.  Scrape around the bowl with a rubber spatula again to make sure all of the ingredients are mixed.

Ginger Cookies 9

Now, add the chopped crystallized ginger from earlier.

Ginger Cookies 10

Mix until combined.

Ginger Cookies 11

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (some people like to preheat sooner, but it takes me a long time to place cookie batter on baking sheets, so I’m okay with preheating it now).  Take out two baking sheets and line them with parchment paper.  Prepare a small amount of sugar in a bowl or on a plate.   You’ll need this soon.

Ginger Cookies 12
A bowl would’ve been better, but the plate was right there and I was feeling kind of lazy.

Scoop the dough into 1 3/4″ balls, place them on the baking sheet, and flatten with your palm before rolling them in sugar and putting them back on the baking sheet.

Ginger Cookies 13

You might be wondering why the cookie batter looks kind of sticky.  Remember that thing I said earlier about how you should use either 1 extra-large egg + 1 yolk, OR 2 medium eggs?  This is what happens when you use 2 extra-large eggs.  Alternatively, if you only use 1 extra-large egg, your batter will be a little too crumbly.  Eggs are tricky.

Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until the cookies are a light golden color.  Ina Garten’s recipe tells you to bake them for exactly 13 minutes, but it really depends on your oven/other factors that probably involve science.  Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 1-2 minutes, and then transfer onto wire racks to cool completely.

Ginger Cookies 15
You are so worth the tricep soreness I’m going to have in the morning.

This recipe should yield 16 fairly large cookies.

Here’s a link to the Ina Garten recipe (I’ve altered amount of cloves, eggs, and baking time): http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/ultimate-ginger-cookie-recipe.html

For those who don’t want to flip between the official recipe and my modifications, here are the modified ingredients and directions:

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups (6 0z.) chopped crystallized ginger
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
1 extra-large egg + 1 egg yolk OR 2 medium eggs (at room temperature)
Granulated sugar (for rolling the cookies)

Directions:
1. Chop the crystallized ginger.
2. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt.
3. Mix brown sugar, vegetable oil, and molasses in an electric mixer for five minutes at medium speed (or at close to ten minutes by hand).
4. Add egg(s) and mix for a minute, until combined.  Don’t forget to scrape the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
5. Gradually add the dry ingredients until combined.  Scrape bowl again with a spatula.
6. Add crystallized ginger and mix until combined.
7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (some people like to do this sooner, so, to each their own).
8. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll batter into 1 3/4″ balls, flatten with your palm, and roll in granulated sugar before placing on baking sheets.
9. Bake for 11-13 minutes, until golden brown.
10. Let cookies cool for 1-2 minutes on baking sheets.  Then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Thanks for reading!  Now that my applications are done, perhaps I might actually get around to reviewing more bakeries and such!

Happy holidays!

Val

Procrastibaking – Chocolate Manuscript Cookies (with Walnuts!)

Last post, I said I needed a snappy title for my chocolate chocolate chip cherry walnut cookies.  I decided on Chocolate Manuscript Cookies.  Why?  Because CCCC stands for Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cherry, and for Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, which houses an insane number of medieval manuscripts!  I guess Chocolate Manuscript Cookies (with Walnuts!) would be a more accurate name, but whatever, I’m calling them Chocolate Manuscript Cookies.  Because I’m a nerd and I’m owning it.  Don’t eat these while actually reading a manuscript though, because I guarantee you that someone who works at that library will tackle you to the ground.  If you’ve got a digitized manuscript on your screen, however, go nuts.

What am I procrastibaking for?  Chapter three!  The rambling idea of which I have emailed off to my supervisor, who is busy marking exams right now.  I should probably start writing the chapter soon because it’s due in about ten days.

I originally got this recipe from the Food Network website, but I’ve altered it enough that posting the link to it will not be of that much help.  Mostly because the original recipe calls for a whole tablespoon of vanilla extract, which, no, I refuse to put that much vanilla extract into a cookie.

For this recipe, you will need your butter (2 sticks of it) at room temperature (or at the very least, softened).  I’ll wait here while you go do that.

Right, let’s start with toppings so that they’re prepped and ready to go once the rest of the batter is done.  First, chop 1 cup of walnuts.

CMC 1

When it comes to walnut-chopping, chop them until they’re at a size you’d be happy with in a cookie.  Meaning, if you take a bite of a cookie and get that size of walnut, would you be happy, or would you think, “I should’ve chopped this more/less”?

Now add 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of dried cherries.  Try to get unsweetened cherries.  England puts sugar on everything, so I had to put sweetened cherries into my cookies.  Unsweetened cherries would’ve given the cookies more of a sour taste to balance out the sweetness of the rest of the cookie.  Alas.  Sweetened cherries it is.  Feel free to play around with the amount of toppings.  I may do 1 cup of each next time.

You can put these in a medium-sized bowl and mix them so that they're evenly distributed, but I'm leaving them on the chopping board because I only have one medium-sized bowl, and I need it for the dry ingredients.
You can put these in a medium-sized bowl and mix them so that they’re evenly distributed, but I’m leaving them on the chopping board because I only have one medium-sized bowl, and I need it for the dry ingredients.

Set aside.  In a medium-sized bowl, add 2 1/4 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp baking soda.

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Combine.

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In a larger bowl, add 2 sticks of softened/room temperature butter, 3/4 cups granulated sugar, 1 cup packed brown sugar (I use dark), 2 large eggs (beaten), 1 tsp vanilla, 2 tbsp milk (I use 2%/semi-skimmed), and 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (I use Green & Black or Ghirardelli).

I promise it'll look real good real soon.
I promise it’ll look real good real soon.

Mix.

CMC 6
I am a baker of my word.

Gradually stir flour mixture into butter mixture.  If you have a mixer, just add it slowly while it continues to mix.  If you do not, add it in thirds and mix after each addition.  So, first third, stir until mostly combined, then add the second third, stir, then the third third.

This was the first third!
This is the first third!
CMC 8
Post third third.

Add toppings and fold them in until combined.  I say “fold” and not “mix” because the batter will take a bit of arm power to actually stir.  You’re also just trying to get the ingredients evenly distributed throughout the batter without overmixing, which is done a lot more efficiently through folding instead of straight up mixing.

That is beautiful.
That is beautiful.

It will look like way too many toppings at first, but once you fold them, you may be tempted to throw in more walnuts.

I won't judge if you eat the batter.
I won’t judge if you eat the batter.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Use a tablespoon to scoop the dough onto the sheets.  Again, small sheets (because England), so I just put 9 scoops on each sheet.  Make sure there’s enough room for your cookies to expand, because they will once they’re in the oven.

CMC 11
The lighting is only dark and depressing because it looked like it was going to rain outside. I feel like “because England” should be a hashtag for poor weather, small bakeware, and overly sweetened cherries.

Not pictured, but heavily recommended: flatten each ball of dough with the palm of your hand.  Your cookies will look more uniform when they come out of the oven, plus you’ll be able to feel which cookies have more or less toppings than the rest, and can redistribute the toppings more evenly.  This is important, because cookies with fewer toppings tend to spread out more in the oven than cookies with more toppings.  I’ve had perfectly normal cookies come out of the oven next to cookie semi-pancakes.  Cookie semi-pancakes can be avoided.  Redistribute those toppings!

Bake for 9-10 minutes.  You may use this time to lick whatever batter remains on the spoon that you used to stir/fold everything.  Then remove the cookies from the oven and wait an additional five minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

These are the ones I flattened with my palm before they went into the oven.
These are the ones I flattened with my palm before they went into the oven.  Someday I shall take a picture of them stacked on top of each other.  I’m told it’s artsy.

This recipe is supposed to yield 3 dozen cookies, but I have routinely made 4 dozen.  Perhaps I should make these larger next time.

Here’s the recipe in full!

Ingredients:
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup cherries (feel free to play with this combination as you see fit)
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 sticks (~227g) butter, softened
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla and 2 tbsp milk (semi-skimmed, but others may also work)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C)
2. Chop walnuts to cookie-appropriate size.  Add chocolate chips and dried cherries.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, stir together flour, salt, and baking soda.
4. In a larger bowl, mix together butter, both sugars, eggs, vanilla, milk, and unsweetened cocoa.
5. Gradually stir flour mixture into butter mixture until combined.  Fold in toppings.
6. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Measure out batter by the tablespoonful and make sure the cookies have room to expand.
7. Bake for 9-10 minutes and remove from oven.  Wait 5 more minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Thanks for reading!  If you like what you’ve read, please feel free to follow/subscribe to this blog or my Twitter (@Access_Bakeshop), or to share this recipe on the social media outlet of your choice.  Next week, another coffee shop!

Happy procrastibaking!

Val

Procrastibaking: Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes when I find recipes online, I think, “Okay, this may turn out great, or my baking equipment will hate me forever.”  Seriously, I am concerned that one day my spatula will see an ill-advised combination of ingredients in my mixing bowl and I’ll hear a faint, “You want me to scrape that?” emanating from the handle.  You never know.  I say this because I tried a recipe once for chocolate muffins years ago, where I was told the batter would yield a dozen muffins.  My mom read through the recipe and she thought that there just wasn’t enough of each ingredient going into the batter.  I was in elementary or middle school at the time, so, at an age when I took a recipe’s directions over my mom’s years of experience (sorry, Mom).  The batter yielded three muffins.  And they weren’t even good.

Now, when I try recipes, I read at least twenty comments from people who have tried the recipe, or I go with a cookbook that hasn’t failed me in the past (I can do a post on cookbooks if you’d like!).  Comments on recipes may be the most useful comments on the internet.  There are generally no trolls (because who’s going to insult a chocolate chip cookie recipe?), people provide honest feedback (e.g. “The recipe said bake 9-10 minutes, but they were done after 8”), or you get some hilarious fails.  My favorite recipe fail has to be the review entitled “HORRIBLE MESS IN MY OVEN,” where a woman attempted to bake a chocolate cake, but the batter spilled over in the oven and yup, you guessed it.  She said her “poor husband” had to scrape the oven clean.  My mom, sister, and I refer to it as the HMIMO cake now, and we’ve tried the recipe.  If it doesn’t end up destroying your oven, it’s actually a freaking fantastic cake.  I won’t be mad if you leave my post now to go bake that cake.

But this cookie recipe I’m about to post here has not been altered (except that I left out the chocolate drizzle at the end, because it called for shortening, which I am not fond of using).  You could leave now and go to the site where it was originally posted by clicking here.  But if you want a helpful step-by-step of what your batter should look like (basically, a glorified recipe review), keep reading.  I love this recipe because you only need one bowl, and up until this point I had not realized how well cinnamon and chocolate go together in a cookie (I mean, the flavor combination made sense, but holy moly is this yummers!).

This is another recipe where you need to leave your butter (2 sticks) and eggs (2 large) out ’til they’re at room temperature.  Got those?  Perfect, let’s begin.  For anyone on my floor reading this, yes, these are the cookies I baked a few weeks ago, and I am only posting the pictures now.  Please do not think that I baked cookies this week and hid them away from you.  Actually, yesterday I baked double chocolate cherry walnut cookies, but that recipe is going up later.

Put your softened room-temperature butter in a large bowl.  This is the only bowl you will need for the recipe, so make sure it’s large.  The recipe says to beat it with a mixer on high for 30 seconds.  You know of my mixer woes, so just mix it really quickly for 100 stirs.

Cinnamon 1

Now add 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.

Seriously, just throw everything in.
Go ahead and throw everything in.

Stir until combined, scraping the bowl as needed with a spatula.

Everything smells like cinnamon and I want to eat the bowl.
Everything smells like cinnamon and I want to eat the bowl.

Add 2 eggs and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Cinnamon 4

Stir until combined.

Cinnamon 5

Now add 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour.  Be sure to start by mixing slowly, because that much flour will fly straight onto you if you try mixing it full-force to start.  Here, mixing with a wooden spoon has its advantages, because the batter will get a bit difficult to mix, and a mixer might not actually be able to get the whole job done.  You’ll have some flour in some awkward spot, and you’ll have to use a wooden spoon to properly incorporate everything (so, HA, technology, I’m not completely reliant on you for my cookie-baking).  Then add 2 cups of chocolate chips and mix:

Cinnamon 6

Take out a couple of cookie sheets and line them with parchment paper.  My cookie sheets are super small, because this is England and I don’t know why, but everything is smaller here.  Shape the dough into 1″ balls and space them about 1-1 1/2″ apart from each other.  My oven preheats pretty quickly, so now is the time that I would preheat my oven to 190 degrees celsius (375 degrees F).

Cinnamon 7

Right, off you go to the oven!  Bake 6-8 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned.  You will smell cinnamon and butter everywhere.

Cinnamon 8
THEY SMELL SO GOOD.

Let them cool for a couple of minutes before transferring them onto a cooling rack (or just straight up eat them).

Cinnamon 9

What is not pictured is the small room of medievalists who ate the dozen and a half cookies I brought with me to our medieval history workshop the following day.  Now, the recipe says this will yield 72 cookies.  I managed a little over 50 cookies (to be fair, I would’ve paid more attention counting the total number of cookies baked, but I might have eaten a couple of cookies and given some away to some girls on my floor who wandered into the kitchen wondering why our hallway smelled like cinnamon).

Here’s the recipe in full:

Ingredients:
1 cup/2 sticks/230g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large eggs (also at room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C (375 degrees F).
2. In a large bowl, mix butter for 30 seconds with a mixer (on high), or stir 100 times vigorously.
3. Add both sugars, the baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and mix until combined.
4. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.
5. Add flour and mix until combined.
6. Fold in chocolate chips.
7. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper/non-stick cooking spray.  Roll batter into 1″ balls and space them 1-1 1/2″ apart on the baking sheet.
8. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool for a couple of minutes before transferring them onto a cooling rack.  Eat, and share the remainder (if you want to).

Thanks for reading!  This was a pretty short post, so don’t be surprised if I write up another post this week.  Then again, I have another chapter draft due next week (self-imposed, otherwise I will get nothing done), so this may be the only post this week.  We’ll see!

Happy procrastibaking!

Val

Procrastibaking: Blueberry Crumbles!

My first chapter is due next week.  I scrapped one of my chapters (which included the tale of a man who lost his hand in an epic three-man fight) in favor of one where I write about vocabulary!  The epic three-man fight will go to the introduction, so that people will want to read my dissertation, and then BAM, I hit them with my summary of 500+ mentions of the term debilitas over the course of four centuries.  Once they think they’ve been bored out of their minds, a chapter on castration, followed by one on disability and political power.  Can you tell I was bingeing on “Game of Thrones” when I outlined the second and third chapters?

But anyway, you can imagine that sorting through 500+ mentions of debilitas in primary sources is kind of super exhausting, especially when my Latin skills could use some work.  This meant one thing: procrastibaking!  To, um, clear my head and relax and stuff.

Mother’s Day (the US version) was this past Sunday, and one of the things that my mom bakes that I absolutely adore is her blueberry lemon crumb pie.  It is happiness in a pie shell, and I have no idea how to bake it.  So the alternative was to bake something I’ve seen her bake before and that I’ve helped with – blueberry crumb cake.  My mom and I saw Ina Garten make it on “The Barefoot Contessa” (our favorite Food Network program), so of course we had to try it out.  Being away from home in a strange kitchen, however, means that I do not possess a cake pan.  Thus, it was time to return to my trusty muffin pan.

Now, this is a recipe where you will have to set the eggs and butter at room temperature, so if you’re going to bake in the morning, set them on your kitchen counter/table the night before.  Eggs can stay at room temperature for up to 24 hours, so don’t worry about leaving them out overnight.  If you want to bake them in the afternoon, you can probably take them out in the morning, unless the butter is frozen, in which case overnight may be better.  Eggs need to be at room temperature along with the butter so that they better incorporate with the other ingredients.  This gives you better crumbles and happier tastebuds. Do it for your tastebuds.

Note: This is Ina Garten’s recipe, but I have modified it very slightly, and I have noted where modifications have been made.

First, we start with the blueberries (assuming you left the eggs and butter at room temperature and can actually start baking).  You’ll need a cup of blueberries, washed and dried.  I like to dry them on a plate covered in a paper towel.  Now is also a good time to zest a lemon.  The recipe says 1/2 tsp, but just zest the whole thing.

BC 1
This is more than a cup of blueberries. I always wash more fruit than is necessary so that I can snack on, I mean, taste test the fruit. Quality control cannot be overlooked in such serious matters *munch munch*

Then, preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).

Take a stick of unsalted butter (113 g, you metric people) and melt it.  The stovetop is the easiest way to control the melting process, though it may take the longest amount of time (and then you’ll have to wash the pan).  You can melt the butter more quickly in a microwave, but you will have to check on your butter every 10-15 seconds, because if it stays in the microwave too long, your butter will explode.  I say this from experience…and from 10 minutes of cleaning melted butter from the inside of the microwave (sorry, floormates, that was me!  Here, have a crumble!).

BC 2

While your butter cools down, gather the dry ingredients: 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup dark brown sugar (note: the recipe originally called for light), 1 tsp ground cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg.  Put these in a medium-sized bowl.

BC 3

Mix well.

BC 4
The brown sugar might stay a little blocky. This is fine. Just try to break everything down and mix it as best as you can.

Now, pour in the butter.  Use a spatula to get everything out.

BC 5

Stir.  You will get something that does not look pretty, but that smells really good.

BC 6
Don’t worry, it’s supposed to look like this.

Add 1 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour into the questionable-looking mixture.

BC 7

Stir the batter slowly to combine the flour with the melted butter mixture, and like magic, you will have a beautiful mixture.  Set that on the side to cool while you prepare the non-crumble part.

Please refrain from eating all of the unbaked crumble topping.  Take a piece for quality control if you must, but just know that you are robbing future batter of its crumbly topping.
Please refrain from eating all of the unbaked crumble topping. Take a piece for quality control if you must, but just know that you are robbing future batter of its crumbly topping.

Remove the crumble topping to a smaller bowl because you’ll need that medium-sized bowl again for the dry ingredients.  Unless you have another medium-sized bowl lying around.

Time for the dry ingredients!  Add 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp kosher salt into a bowl.

BC 9

Ordinarily, you’d sift these.  I do not have a sifter with me, so I recommend whisking or using a fork to combine them.  You want to make sure everything is evenly dispersed.

BC 10

Set aside.

Now take a large bowl and add 3/4 stick (85 g) room-temperature (or super soft) unsalted butter, along with 3/4 cup granulated sugar.  Note: please do not take butter straight from the fridge and try to microwave it.  There’s a chance you’ll get it at the right consistency, but you will mostly likely melt your butter, and then it will not be usable (though I guess you could try to chill it again, but let’s try not to make the butter suffer too much).

BC 11
I once tried to mix butter and sugar while the butter was not completely at room temperature. Big mistake. Or should I say, big mixtake? Ha. I’m hilarious.

The recipe calls for a mixer.  As I’ve mentioned before, I do not have one here because the outlets in this country are different from the ones in the US, and I did not want to spend lots of money on something I couldn’t bring back with me.  If you’re going to be in one country for a long time, though, I highly recommend getting a KitchenAid mixer.  Those things are amazing.

Right, you’re supposed to mix the butter and sugar for 4-5 minutes in a mixer.  This is highly important because you want the butter and sugar to mix and become one light and fluffy homogenous form, so you can’t skimp on the mixing.  If you have a mixer, go rock that mixer.  If you don’t, here’s a backup plan:

Use a wooden spoon to put the sugar all over the butter, so that there are no stray sugar granules.

BC 12

Now mix as fast as you can for 500 reps.  You heard me.  Take a 15-second break every 100 reps, and then get back to work.  When you finish, it should look like this:

BC 13

That is light and fluffy.

Add 2 eggs, one at a time, and stir after each one to incorporate each egg into the batter.

BC 14

BC 15

Add 1 tsp pure vanilla extract, lemon zest (from the whole lemon), and 2/3 cup sour cream.

BC 16
If you’re wondering what that clear-ish liquid is, I tried adding lemon juice to the mix to see if it would give the crumbles more of a lemon flavor. It did not, which is why I am not including it in the ingredients or in the main body text.

Stir well to mix everything.

BC 17
Don’t be concerned with those small flaky things around the bowl. That’s the lemon zest. You didn’t curdle anything.

Now add those dry ingredients you prepared earlier.

BC 18

Mix just to combine, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all of the ingredients get incorporated.  And mix slowly, otherwise you’ll get flour in your face.  Do not overmix once you’ve added the dry ingredients.

BC 19

Add one cup of blueberries and fold them in using a spatula.

BC 20

Prepare a muffin pan with tall cupcake liners.  This is necessary for keeping the crumbly part of the crumbles in.

BC 21

Fill your muffin tin.  There should be enough batter for twelve crumbles, so just make sure that the distribution is even.  If there’s a crumble with a sad amount of blueberries (i.e. none or disproportionately less than the other crumbles), pick some of the extra you washed and dried and drop ’em in.

BC 22

Now, take the streusel (crumble) part you prepared earlier, and disperse them evenly over each cupcake case.  It will seem like you have too much streusel at first, but trust me, you’ll need all of it.

BC 23
I thank the inventor of tall cupcake cases.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until you poke one with a toothpick and it comes out clean.

BC Done

Pretty sure that without those tall cupcake cases, there would’ve been a horrible mess in the oven, because these things rise when they bake.

Right, I’m going to eat one, and then get back to work.

BC Cross Section

Here’s the link to the recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/blueberry-crumb-cake-recipe.html

And here’s the ingredients and modified directions for anyone who didn’t feel like clicking the link:

Ingredients:

For the streusel (crumble topping):
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar (light or brown works fine)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 stick (113 g) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

For the cake:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 stick (6 tbsp/85g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest (but you can zest the whole lemon and use that)
2/3 cup sour cream
1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions:

1. Wash and dry a cup of blueberries (or more if you want).  Zest a lemon.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
3. For the streusel: combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl.  Stir in the melted butter and then the flour.  Mix well and set aside.
4. For the cake: Sift/find some way to combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
5. Cream the butter and sugar for 4-5 minutes (or 500 really fast reps after making sure that the butter is completely covered in sugar).  Add eggs, one at a time, and stir after each one to incorporate it.  Add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream.
6. Add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture, and mix just until combined.
7. Fold in the blueberries with a rubber spatula.
8. Line a muffin pan with tall muffin cases.  Fill each case with roughly the same amount of batter, and correct for any blueberry distribution discrepancies.
9. Break apart the streusel mixture from earlier and load up each cup with crumbly goodness.
10. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Wait at least five minutes before consuming them to let them cool off.

Happy procrastibaking!  If you like what you’ve read, please follow, subscribe, or follow me on Twitter (@Access_Bakeshop).

Next week: back to finding places to study and drink hot chocolate in Cambridge!

Val

P.S. I leave you with an artsy picture that my floormate took while keeping me company in the kitchen:

Blueberries in a cup

Procrastibaking: Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins

Greetings, future procrastibakers!

That’s right – procrastibaking – when you put off work by baking delicious treats (which you will then eat in order to fuel your capacity to do work).  Procrastibaking is a wonderful thing.  You can take a break from work, bake something wonderful, and share it with friends and colleagues who are just as stressed as you are.  You’ll get together and munch on yummy things, and one of them will ask you how your dissertation is going.  You’ll mumble at first, and then start to talk about an issue you’re having with a chapter.  As you explain your problem, you begin to develop a brilliant solution.  Eureka!  An epiphany!  Aren’t you glad you procrastibaked?

I mentioned at the end of last week’s entry that I wanted to try something new this week.  Behold, a recipe for banana walnut chocolate chip muffins!  The recipe and directions will be written twice here: once throughout the entry, and once at the very end of the entry.

The ladies who live on my floor (it’s an all-female dorm) are very familiar with these muffins.  I bake them once or twice a month, and they usually vanish overnight.  This recipe comes from Evelyn Raab’s The Clueless Baker, my all-time favorite cookbook.  The recipe is for banana bread, but I did not feel like purchasing a loaf pan when I got to England, and so I opted to use a muffin pan instead.  This actually turned out for the best, because muffins are more portable than a loaf, bake faster, are easier to store, and don’t dry out as quickly as a loaf does.

An important note before baking anything!

If you’re about to bake something, huzzah!  But please remember the following useful tips:

1. Read the ENTIRE recipe first.  I will very likely post things on here in the future that require things to be at room temperature, which is best achieved by leaving things out overnight.  I’m sure you’d hate to start a recipe and find that you have to delay your procrastibaking by even more hours.

2. Don’t just read the ingredients and throw everything into the same bowl at once!  Wet and dry ingredients usually need to be separated until the last moment.  There’s some science behind this that I would’ve understood if I hadn’t spent high school chemistry reading books for English class under my desk, but it mainly comes down to not throwing everything into the same bowl unless the directions specifically tell you to do so.  At a high school track team baking event years ago, two of my teammates threw all of the contents of a blueberry muffin recipe into a bowl.  The result was a liquidy mess of floating clumps of flour and blueberries.  If you do not heed this advice and this happens to you, throw the batter into a blender.  It won’t be pretty (I recall that we feasted on purple muffins that day), but they’ll be bake-able.

3. Make sure you always know where your oven mitt is.  Nothing’s worse than hearing the oven alarm go off and having nothing with which to remove the baked goods from the oven.

That’s all for now, but I’m sure I’ll find reasons to add more later.

Back to the muffins!  You’ll know when it’s time to make banana muffins when your bananas look like this:

The recipe calls for two bananas, but if you have two fairly small bananas, you'll need a third one.  Similarly, if you have two very large bananas, try to find a third large banana and make a double batch.
The recipe calls for two bananas, but if you have two fairly small bananas, you’ll need a third one. Similarly, if you have two very large bananas, try to find a third large banana and make a double batch.

At this point, you essentially have a moral obligation to make banana muffins.  I mean, where else are they going to go?  The garbage?  How dare you.

The recipe doesn’t call for walnuts and chocolate chips, but it’s suggested.  You can throw in whatever you want really: walnuts, pecans, chocolate chips, raisins, etc.  Just make sure there’s 3/4 of a cup of everything total in the mix.  These are my toppings:

Banana 1

Next, if you’re using them, chop your nuts and set your toppings on the side.  You’ll thank me later when you have your batter all ready to go, but no toppings prepared.  Then your batter will sit there getting super impatient while you chop walnuts.  Don’t leave your batter hanging like that.

I like to use 1/2 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup chocolate chips.  First, measure out your walnuts:

If you really want to get into a nut-chopping mood, might I suggest T-Swift's
If you really want to get into a nut-chopping mood, might I suggest T-Swift’s “Blank Space” as background music?

Now chop.  But not too much.

Banana 3

Then add the chocolate chips and set on the side.

Banana 4

Next, you’ll need your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, and baking soda:

Banana 5

Put 1 1/4 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1 tsp baking soda in a large bowl:

Banana 6

Then mix with a sifter, whisk, or fork until well-combined and set aside:

Banana 7

Next, you’ll need your wet ingredients: seriously ripe bananas, vegetable oil, and eggs.

Banana 8

Now, if you have a blender, this next part is simple.  Put the 2 bananas, 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, and 2 eggs in the blender, and blend until it looks like a delightful banana smoothie (“smooth goo” is how Evelyn Raab describes it).  If you do not have a blender (which I do not here in the land of “all the outlets are different from American ones”), then follow these steps.  Break up the banana pieces into a medium-sized bowl:

Banana 9
If you’re wondering why this looks suspiciously like the bowl I used to mix the dry ingredients, it’s because I put the dry ingredients in the wrong bowl (my bad). I moved the dry ingredients into a larger bowl, cleaned this one out, and put the bananas in.

Grab a wooden spoon and mash the living daylights out of those bananas:

Was I mashing this to Tegan and Sara?  Um, heck yeah.
By this point, your kitchen will start to smell like bananas.  You’re welcome.

Now that they are sufficiently mashed, add 1/2 a cup of vegetable oil and 2 eggs:

Banana 11

You want to create a blender effect, so I use a whisk to mix everything together.  First, start slowly, otherwise vegetable oil will go flying everywhere, but once it looks like the ingredients are mostly combined, start whisking furiously for about 3-5 minutes.  If your arm doesn’t get tired, you aren’t whisking hard enough (hey, think of all the muffins you’ll have to eat to replenish those calories!).

Banana 12

Once you have a (near) blender-quality banana mixture, pour it into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure all of that banana mixture goodness pours into the bowl:

Banana 13

Combine the wet and dry ingredients until just mixed.  Use a spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure there are no hidden pockets of flour:

Banana 14

Remember those toppings that you prepared in advance (because you’re just efficient like that)?  Add them in and mix until evenly dispersed:

Banana 15

Now that your batter is ready, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius) and line a muffin pan with muffin/cupcake cases.  You can also grease the pan with butter or use a cooking spray, but I think cupcake cases are generally less messy:

Banana 16
If you’re curious, I got the cupcake cases (and the muffin pan) from Lakeland.

Fill the pan as evenly as you possibly can.  I like to use the 1/4 cup measurement when I pour batter into muffin tins.  This recipe makes a dozen muffins (or one loaf!), so just try to use up all of the batter:

Banana 17
The bananas I used were a bit large, so the batter ended up coming pretty close to the top of each muffin case. They’re usually a bit lower than this.

Once your batter and the oven are good to go, bake for 20-23 minutes.  That means that after 20 minutes, stick a toothpick (I use a wooden chopstick) into a muffin.  If it comes out clean (traces of chocolate are considered clean in this case), then they’re done and you can remove them from the oven and onto a counter.  If the toothpick has clumps of batter on it, leave the muffins in for a couple more minutes and try again.  I left these in for 20 minutes:

A girl on my floor walked in and said,
Note the hole in the muffin on the lower righthand side.  That is where I plunged in a chopstick.  Happy to say it came out clean.

Let them cool for about five minutes before you try grabbing one from the pan.

Then, nom away!

Banana 19

The chocolate chips ended up sinking to the bottom of the muffin.  I think this was another side-effect of the large bananas.  Let that be a lesson to use slightly smaller bananas.
The chocolate chips ended up sinking to the bottom of the muffin. I think this was another side-effect of the large bananas. Let that be a lesson to use slightly smaller bananas.

Here’s the recipe:

Banana Muffins (adapted from Evelyn Raab’s The Clueless Baker) – yields a dozen muffins

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 seriously ripe bananas
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).  Line/grease a muffin pan.
2. Chop walnuts.  Combine with chocolate chips and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and baking soda.
4. In a blender, add the bananas, vegetable oil, and eggs, and blend to a smooth goo.  If you do not have a blender, break up banana pieces into a medium-sized bowl and mash them until they are somewhat goopy.  Add vegetable oil and eggs and whisk until you achieve (near) blender consistency.
5. Add banana mixture to dry ingredients, scraping the sides with a spatula, and then mix until combined.
6. Add walnuts and chocolate chips.
7. Spoon batter into muffin cups.
8. Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until a toothpick/chopstick comes out clean.  Remove and let cool.
9. Enjoy!

Happy procrastibaking!  If you like what you’ve read and want more deliciousness in your inbox, please follow or subscribe!  Or, if you want to show your friends the awesome muffins that you’re going to bake in the near future, please share on the social media site of your choice!  Updates will be about once a week, alternating between recipes and bakery/café reviews.  Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

Val