Three Kings Muffins

“Three Kings Muffins”? What’s that all about?

This is a multilayered story. First, I want to promote shorter, expressive names for recipes, evocative names. The gourmet trend to include more and more of the ingredients in the names of recipes, leaves names looking too much like the recipes themselves. I’ve done the same, but in the end, it’s less memorable.  Names like “Cordon Bleu”, or “Tiramisu”, or “Hello Dolly Bars”are like the title of a book. They require you to look inside, taste and discover, do a little reading, to learn about the ingredients that make a whole from the parts. If it’s a good book, you’ll remember the title. Second, I like giving names that connect to my Christian tradition whenever possible. It’s a sweet way of weaving my faith into the cultural fabric of life.

“Fine, Tim, fine. Still, what’s with the three kings thing?” Well, It’s all about the recipe, so here goes:

  1. The recipe begins with Magnolia’s “Sour Cream Breakfast Buns.”
  2. Modifications begin here, using three flours instead of one (thus three kings):
    1. 1 cup all-purpose flour
    2. 1 cup oat flour
    3. 1 cup Spelt
  1. Three treasures were placed inside as gifts (not in the original plan):
    1. 1 cup apples (surplus from a previous recipe)
    2. 1/2 cup cinnamon chips (surplus from a previous recipe)
    3. 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (surplus … you get the picture)
  2. A star was placed in the center –
    1. 1/2 teaspoon cream cheese filling (surplus… etc.)

As you can see, I couldn’t include all of these items in a name. So I had to come up with something. Kind of like Cisco (a.k.a. Vibe on The Flash), I get to name things. With three flours, three “gifts” inside, plus a star…

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The Vibe says, “It’s Three Kings Muffins.”

What did the process look like? Hmmmm.

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  1. Lightly oil and flour muffin tins – I do like the convenience of Baker’s Joy.
  2. Fill muffin tins 1/2 way – NOT 2/3.
  3. Dab 1/2 teaspoon cream cheese filling and push down with thumb

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  1. Cover with topping (as per Magnolia recipe)
  2. Add a THIN dab of butter (as per YUMDOM requirements!)
  3. Bake
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Magnolia recipe estimates 18 muffins. This actual recipe yielded 24 muffins.

Then enjoy.

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Then enjoy giving some to friends.

gifted muffins

Happy Thanksgiving! Have a sweet day!

#70 Caramel Apple Pecan Cheesecake

Every Thanksgiving at Allysa’s cousin Polly’s house they used to gather the evening before to do the holiday baking, and every year Allysa was called upon to create a new cheesecake. This is a recent year’s recipe, and it was loved by all.

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RECIPE LINK

I was asked to bake something for a special meeting of foreign language teachers from our school and another nearby expatriate school.

I decided it was time to try my hand at a cheesecake. I had never baked one in my life. Wisdom dictates to do something you’re good at for such occasions and not to try new things. I defied wisdom, once again, and was modestly successful.

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Looks pretty good. Details discussed below.

DETOURS and DISAPPOINTMENTS: Having defied conventional wisdom, I decided to go whole hog – no, I didn’t add pork. “Whole hog” is an expression for “all the way”, but you CAN visualize it. See!?

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DETOUR #1 and a disappointment: The crust. OK. I was in a metrics mood that morning. I was thinking, “In the future I’m not gonna fiddle with tablespoons, sticks, and ounces anymore. It’s gonna be grams and milliliters.” So, like a good scientific baker, I used a pastry recipe for the crust that measured things in grams. I must add, that I didn’t like the flour-butter-brown sugar recipe proposed by Magnolia from the start. I had never heard of such for a cheesecake – and this was gonna be my FIRST cheesecake. Well, anyhooo, it turned out kind of how I’d imagined it – flour-y, close to a regular American pie crust. I will never use this recipe for a cheesecake again. To make matter worse, and to take blame for a crust that nobody wanted to eat, I did NOT do a good job forming the crust in the pan. It was too thick, especially at the edge where the bottom and sides meet.

DETOUR #2 not a disappointment: The filling. It turned out FABULOUS. I’d like to make a new word at this point fusing FLUFFY and FABULOUS, but FLUBULOUS doesn’t work. It was NOT a flub. I also don’t want to coin the word “FLABULOUS” because no one would want to eat the cake thinking of all that flab they would be creating around their tummies. So I’ll just leave it at FLUFFY and FABULOUS. But why? After all, I made a detour from the experts. OK. Here’s the detour – The recipe called for 1 pound of cream cheese. I had 1/2 pound of cream cheese and 1/2 pound of “cream cheese spread”. The spread is the same cheese but fluffed up with air. Well, I ended up with a TALL, FLUFFY cheesecake which is something I’d always wanted to make. Philadelphia Cream Cheese comes in flavored, spreadable forms nowadays that might serve well a number of confectionery creations in your kitchen. So, success on this issue — and it seems to be the issue that most people (including myself) care most about when considering a cheesecake.

DETOUR #3 a little disappointment: The pecans on top. I decided to leave them whole and cover the top of the cake with them. It looked pretty, but I’m not sure I’ll repeat it. Pecans get lost from some bites.

ROASTING PECANS: I also roasted the pecans a little too long this time and they developed a slightly burned taste. Don’t go beyond 10 minutes (even 9 could be smart) for roasting your pecans at 350 F. They continue to cook a little bit after removing them from the oven. Roasting brings out deeper flavors of the nuts, but too much is damaging. Be careful and be glad.

REWARDS OF OBEDIENCE: I want to thank the authors of the Magnolia cookbook for the directions concerning baking the cake. I followed these directions carefully; placed the cake on a cookie sheet to bake, then turned off the oven after an hour and propped open the oven door to leave the cake there to cool very slowly for one hour. The cheesecake that emerged was golden and without any cracks. That brought a smile to this novice baker’s face.

I am glad to end my story with a smile.

I hope you have a smile today too.

After all, this was, in the end, a blessing.

HAVE A SWEET DAY.

#67 Apple Walnut Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Icing

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ANDREW !

“We made this exceptionally pretty cake for special orders only, but so many customers requested it that it became part of our standard cake repertoire. ”

Excerpt From: Jennifer Appel. “The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/idq2G.l

RECIPE LINK

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This recipe makes Magnolia Man think so much of his beloved France – walnuts from our trees, golden delicious apples, Bonne Maman caramel, and fine calvados from Normandy.

This cake was not difficult to make – but I cheated a little bit. I didn’t make the caramel myself. The Magnolia cookbook has the recipe, but I had a jar of Bonne Maman Caramel and I couldn’t resist the ease of using it (this time).

The recipe calls for this cake to be a two-layer cake. I decided to split the batter between three pans for three layers. All I needed to do was watch the bake time which was reduced a bit. It worked out.

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SOMETHING NOT-AS-USUAL: This recipe had three cups of flour – 2 cups all-purpose, 1 cup whole wheat. That is not unusual in the baking world, but it is for the Magnolia cookbook. The whole wheat created a cake more easy than usual to break and crumb. I managed to keep it together, but I did need to pay attention when handling it. The whole wheat also tends to “burn” more easily. This started to happen so I turned on the fan of our lovely convection oven.

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Walnuts. Lots of walnuts.
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Merci, maman – Bonne Maman.

I smiled after piping the caramel onto this cake. The cake doesn’t look like the Magnolia pictures – and I like mine more. Ha!

SWRILS? The instructions in the cookbook asks that you swirl the caramel on top of the cream cheese icing. I have NOT been able to swirls that looked like anything other than a heavy-handed mess. So, what to do? Google it! of course.

I got a good idea from a cupcake decorating video (which I can’t find at the moment) using a plastic sandwich bag.

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CHUNKY GOOD: Inside this cake are 1inch big chunks of apple and coarsely chopped walnut chunks.

Nothing delicate about this cake. It’s a dense, moist, pack-a-flavor-punch cake.

MAKE IT. SHARE IT.

#47 Aunt Daisy’s Fresh Fruit Torte, p. 191

Here’s a quick and easy confection that lends itself to any fruit combination you might desire. We decided to use pears and cranberries for a delicious autumn torte. (p. 191)

RECIPE LINK

We at Patisserie Chezbonneau decided to use Golden apples instead of pears, and then added 1/2 cup blueberries with the cranberries (because I needed to use them up).

So, starting with this,

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and this,

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and this.Unknown

It all progressed to this,

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then this,

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then finally, this.

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Or rather like

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Aunt Daisy’s Fresh Fruit Torte sharing space with a square of Peanut Butter Fudge Brownie (recipe #48).

Aunt Daisy’s Fresh Fruit Torte is perfect for a snack with tea or coffee. It could play a wonderful role at a proper Tea. I prepared this one as part of a Thanksgiving meal with friends. Most of it was eaten, but the competition with Pumpkin and Pecan Pie was tough.

DETOUR: The author’s note at the top of page 191 mentions that any fruit combination could work fine with this torte. I had handy three well-known fall fruits that are often found together – apples, cranberries, and blueberries. I took the liberty of mixing a portion of the fruit into the batter (as with the Blueberry Coffee Cake) and added a clump of blueberries in the center on top. I probably should not have put the clump of blueberries on top as it created a too-moist spot that required more bake time. I would repeat that part. SUCCESS? Yes, I believe so.

#36-Red Velvet Cake with #37-Creamy Vanilla Frosting and #38-Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake with #39 Buttercream Icing

A tale of two cakes, two potential disasters, and a double birthday party!

Red Velvet Recipe    Creamy Vanilla Frosting Recipe

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“This was one of our most popular cakes at the bakery.” (p. 113)

Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake Recipe     Chocolate Buttercream Icing Recipe

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“We think this is the ideal chocolate layer cake.”(p. 112)

All’s well that ends well. So goes the saying and so went a long night of baking.

THE RED VELVET STORY

Verify! That’s the word to remember here. I verified everything for making this red cake, except the red food coloring.

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I knew I had some and I was right. But the recipe called for six tablespoons and I had about 1/2 teaspoon worth.

OK. Now what?

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“Honey, I’ll go get some red food coloring for you.”
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La bête saved by la belle.

La belle did find some food coloring, but it was in a powder form that neither she nor la bête had seen before. And now they know they never want to see it again. As it turned out, the powdery food coloring was actually yellow (not red) and was 96% salt, 4% color. But that was only discovered after making the batter, seeing it turn burnt orange and taste salty. THEN “you-know-who”, the “one who cannot be named” read the label on the can.

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Back to square one. Throw the three cake pans of cake into the garbage an begin again.

Yep. You got it.

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Honey. I’ll go to a different store and try again to get you some red food coloring for the cake.

Uh huh.

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Belle found the right stuff for Bête.
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And the right stuff happened.

CHOCOLATE BUTTERMILK LAYER CAKE STORY

This is the story about a pan on a shelf in a house in the desert.

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The pan was a tall pan, a cake pan, a tall cake pan, said Sam. Sam liked tall things, and didn’t like seeing tall things stuck on short shelves. So Sam had an idea…

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Why not USE the tall thing on the short shelf?

And so it happened. Sam took the tall pan, the tall cake pan, from the short shelf, and filled it with all the cake batter he could find. Sam was good at finding cake batter. Sam was so excited when he put the tall cake pan with all the cake batter he could find into the not-so-tall oven, that he forgot to look at the clock or set the timer. So, after a whiling-away time for quite a while, Sam was wondering. “How long has that tall cake pan been in the not-so-tall oven?” Well, said Sam to himself, there’s no real telling. So let’s take a look.” And look he did. And what did he find?

Sam found a very funny thing but it didn’t make him laugh. The tall cake pan in the oven that was not-so-tall had no cake at all. Inside the tall cake pan was a tall amount of liquid with a very firm hat on top. “What to do?”, thought Sam. “I know”, he said out loud, “I’ll lower the temp on the tall cake pan. Lower means slower”, he said feeling proud.

And so he waited, and he waited, and he waited. And then he looked again. And, what did he find?

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He found that it all worked out just fine.

Then Sam put the very tall cake pan back on the very short shelf and went to bed.

SWEET DREAMS.

#29, Cranberry Orange Bread

A Thanksgiving tradition in some families.

RECIPE LINK

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The two stars of this show.

Before we get started, have you ever wondered why “banana bread, zucchini bread, etc.” are called breads and not cakes? I’ve been asking myself that question, especially after having a bite of this festive jewel. Oh… Here’s the answer.

Why didn’t I wait until Thanksgiving to bake this? It’s not even Halloween yet. For very practical reasons: 1) I had all the ingredients handy, 2) I needed something easy to do and ALL of these “bread” recipes are SO EASY to make and 3) THEY ARE SO GOOD!!!!, 4) It’s never too early to dream about Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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Where’s my coffee?

DETOURS? None that I know of. At least not a big deal. I did end up with a tad bit extra orange juice and a bit of pulp in the mixture due to my zesting technique (or lack thereof). I held my orange over the batter trying to let the zest fall directly in but my orange was very soft and kind of squished all to pieces and into the mixture. LUCKY ME/WE!  …….. Yeah. Why not? Why not have orange pulp as part of the recipe? Why not call for fresh squeezed oranges in the recipe? The Magnolia book sticks to very traditional, late 20th century, easy-in-the kitchen recipes for the most part. The Magnolia bakers really do present a kind of classic Americana.

This classic piece of Americana with classic American fruits of oranges and cranberries is headed for a Kiwi I know.

HAVE A SWEET DAY!