Category: Baking

maple muffin

All Things Maple Syrup

During maple syrup season (aka spring) there are always dribs and drabs of syrup sitting around that I need to use up … bits that are leftover after bottling since it never works out evenly. And so I make stuff with it. And no one complains. Currently there are 4 partially filled jars of syrup on my window sill that I need to use up. It’s a horrible problem to have, isn’t it? 

In this post I will share FIVE of my favourite recipes for using up maple syrup. (There are more, but I’m limiting myself today.)

Top usage, of course, is as syrup. DUH. Around here we pour it on pancakes, waffles and french toast – but we don’t leave any on the plate. That kind of waste of the golden elixir is strictly prohibited. My dad used to always pour it on vanilla ice cream and bananas, but none of my kids have found that to be particularly appetizing. They do love weekend breakfasts that involve maple syrup… with pancakes, waffles, or french toast.  Any of those will do. They’re all quick and easy, and adding a bit of fruit makes me feel like I’m not a bad mother. 

(I threw a hydrotherm photo in there for you scientific sorts.)

Here’s the pancake recipe – it’s so quick and easy. You may just never use a boxed mix again. We shall see. 

Basic Pancakes
A simple, fluffy and quick pancake recipe. Great for weekend breakfasts.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup all purpose flour (a little less if unsifted)
  2. 2 tsp. baking powder
  3. 1/2 tsp. salt
  4. 2 tsp sugar
  5. 1 egg
  6. 1 cup milk, soured
  7. 3 Tbsp. melted butter (you can use margarine or shortening, but why?)
Instructions
  1. Mix dry ingredients together.
  2. Beat eggs. Add milk and melted butter.
  3. Add wet to dry. Mix. Add more milk if you are making waffles.
  4. Let sit a bit, then make your pancakes as you do!
Making it Work http://pioneerintrees.com/
I’ve already written about Deborah’s famous granola … it’s truly amazing. If you haven’t made it yet, I HIGHLY recommend it.  It’s the kind of recipe that you make and put in a cool little jar and then take to someone’s house when you’re visiting and then they love you even more.

granola
Truly the most delicious granola EVER!

And I showed you the brilliant maple bars a while back. They keep well for a few days and impress the hell out of anyone who shows up at the door for a cuppa. 

maple bars
These maple bars are so freaking good – but they will stick to the pan and ruin your day. Use parchment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year Dave at Squirrel Creek Farm Services (best place to get all of your maple syrup supplies) gave us a new ‘all things maple’ cookbook and there’s a pretty lovely muffin recipe in there. I figured it was just perfect this week for Wendy. The first time I made them they were a bit ‘meh’ … they seemed a bit dry. I definitely made them too small. I was more careful with baking time, added better apple (granny smith this time) and watched my mixing technique just in case that was the culprit. Waddayaknow, they turned out pretty freaking AWESOME! (You really should make them. Who doesn’t have maple syrup and an apple laying around?) 

maple muffins
A little drizzle on top with some toasted pecan pieces? BAM. So good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maple Drizzled Apple Muffins
A tasty maple flavoured muffin that is also gorgeous to look at!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  2. 1 cup rolled oats
  3. 1/2 cup white sugar
  4. 1 Tbsp baking powder
  5. 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  6. 1/2 cup milk
  7. 1/3 cup butter, melted
  8. 1/4 cup maple syrup
  9. 2 egg whiles, lightly beaten
  10. 1 cup chopped apple (granny smith are awesome)
  11. pecan halves or pieces for the top
  12. Glaze
  13. 3 Tbsp icing sugar
  14. 1 Tbsp maple syrup
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Prep your muffin tins (butter, spray or line with paper cups).
  2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl combine milk, butter, maple syrup and egg whites.
  4. Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and toss the apple bits in there too.
  5. Stir only until moistened. DO NOT overmix. Thank you.
  6. Fill to top of muffin cups - you'll have about 9 big muffins.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
Glaze
  1. Blend together the sugar and maple syrup. Drizzle over the muffins when they are cool. Toss a couple of pecans on there and drizzle again for good luck.
Making it Work http://pioneerintrees.com/
One more recipe that I MUST share with you that I found it in a newspaper years ago is a frozen mousse. You really need to make it in the morning if your’e serving it at night, since it needs to FREEZE UP. (I often forget that part.) All you need are: maple syrup, whipping cream, eggs. Ta da! (ok, it’s a bit fussy, I’ll admit… but it’s worth it) 

maple mousse constructing

I love to serve it with a ginger pound cake. It’s a great combo. I’ll do a post about that another time … 

Maple Syrup Mousse
A light and delicious frozen maple dessert.
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup maple syrup
  2. 2 eggs
  3. 1 cup whipping cream
Instructions
  1. Heat the maple syrup until bubbly.
  2. Separate two eggs.
  3. Put the egg yolks in the top of a double boiler and whisk thoroughly.
  4. Add hot syrup. Whisk until it thickens to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
  5. Cool.
  6. Beat egg whites until stiff.
  7. Whip cream until firm.
  8. Combine all three and mix.
  9. Put in a dish and freeze.
  10. Take the mousse out of the freezer and put it into the fridge one hour before serving.
Notes
  1. This is a good recipe to make the day ahead!
Making it Work http://pioneerintrees.com/
mini muffin

Wendy Week 3 – Get Things Moving with Bran Muffins!

I have made this bran muffin recipe for decades – it’s straight from the side of a Quaker wheat bran box. I copied it down decades ago – I have no idea if Quaker still has the recipe on the side now … I buy my bran from the bulk food store now because I’m cheap. 

I’ve tried other bran muffin recipes, and none seem to be as good as this one. It’s easy for bran muffins to be dry and boring – these ones are neither. Nice hit of molasses, the sweetness with brown sugar and a load of milk make them somehow perfect. I usually make them for the kids with chocolate chips, but I prefer them with dates. To satisfy both, I often double the recipe, split the batter, and make the kids a pile of mini muffins with chocolate, while my large muffins have dates. I’ve tried splitting the batter and putting half in with dates and half in with chocolate, but I’m telling you, it’s bloody impossible to tell a date from a chocolate chip just by looking at a baked muffin. 

This muffin recipe differs from all of my others in that it uses shortening. That’s a bit odd, no? But it works. Cream your shortening and sugars – brown sugar and molasses – as you would for cookies. Again, … wierd. Why not melt it? Well. Don’t. Ok? Listen to me. 

Note: It’s really important that you do this creaming step well, since you have to add your eggs and milk to this … and once you’ve added those liquids, if you haven’t incorporated the shortening well, you’ll have and uneven crumb in your muffin. And that is pretty gross. Check out my handy 4 step visual guide for combining the first five ingredients. Can you figure them out?? 

You’ll have quite the runny mess by now…  

Add dry ingredients and mix till just combined. This is the point that I divide my batter and add the chips and dates to different bowls. Easy peasy. 

Bake ’em up at 400 – keep an eye on them. As soon as there is no softness in the peak, pull them out. The wee ones are done in a jiffy!

big and small
These large ones have dates, while the wee ones have chocolate chips. Delish!

Oh ya… the ACTUAL recipe from the green bran box of yore … 

recipe
The things people post online…
finished muffins

Wendy Muffins Week 2 – Blueberry!

For Wendy’s 2nd week of recovery I decided to make blueberry muffins that have a perfect amount of lemon zest in them. The recipe is one I got from smitten kitchen – I follow their Instagram account and love pretty much everything that they reveal to the world. This recipe was adapted from Cooks Illustrated, and I love them too, as I mentioned in a previous post

I love this recipe because it’s dead easy, flavourful, has a nice crunchy top (thanks demerra sugar), and the blueberries – even the massive farmed ones – stay distributed through the the muffin. It’s pretty much the perfect recipe. 

As with most other muffin recipes, you mix the fat / sugar / egg / dairy / flavouring together in one bowl, and the dry ingrediants in a separate bowl. Some recipes have you make a “well” in the dry ingredients and then add the liquid to that … blah blah blah. It doesn’t matter!! Just keep the wet and dry apart and then mix them up all at once … no gradual adding of ingredients. The key to muffins is that you don’t want to over mix. If you do, you’ll get little cement pucks. 

ingredients
Three bowls. Wet ingredients, dry ingredients and blueberries with a bit of flour. Simple.

The overmixing factor cannot be igored. As SOON as the flour is incorporated you must STOP. See here? 

ready to mix
Coating the blueberries with a bit of flour will help prevent them from “bleeding”. But you know this.
mixed
Done the mix. Not too much blue in the batter…

Rather than a wooden spoon, I use a really cool gadget from Lee Valley called a Danish Dough Whisk. (Of course it’s European, as many cool cooking accessories are.)

As I mentioned above, it’s recommended that you top the batter off with a sprinkle of that chunky demerra sugar. It’s worth a trip to the store if you don’t have any! 

uncooked
The batter is stiff going in to the pan – but it’s fine. Sprinkle the sugar randomly on top.
muffins done
Done! 
plated muffin
Enjoy with a wee spot of butter. (Makes everything better, don’t ya know?)
muffins

6 Weeks of Wendy Muffins

One of my BFFs, Wendy, just had surgery. I’ve committed to making her family a batch of muffins every week for 6 weeks. It’s a muffin pledge.

Week 1: banana oat muffins with chocolate chips. A family fav.

Sometimes you have too many bananas laying around because they’ve gone a bit too brown and they are rejected… sometimes you buy too many bananas ON PURPOSE. 

bananas
These ones were $1.15 in the dinted produce section of my grocery store. (How great is that??)

My “go to” methods for reducing the number of bananas in my house is to freeze them (peel, slice, baggie). My methods for actually using them up are generally: smoothies, banana muffins and banana bread (in that order). 

This muffin recipe is FANTASTIC. First of all, because it calls for 5  or 6 medium bananas. It’s a blessing. Amen. So many other banana muffin recipes use up 2 bananas. That’s just bonkers. Why go to all that trouble for just 2 bananas?

This recipe is also FANTASTIC because the muffins are DELICIOUS. They are moist and have a great ‘crumb’. It’s a totally standard recipe – no special ingredients other than maybe oatmeal, which is pretty standard in my opinion. The oats give it some body, which differentiates the muffin from a banana bread. (Why bother making banana bread in muffin form? Just make the bread already!)

ingredients
You’ve gotta love a basic recipe.

In all my years of baking muffins, I’ve learned that the things you toss in at the end are often most important part of the muffin. Raisins and other dried fruit can really piss kids off, while chocolate chips are not fully enjoyed by many adults. Toasted nuts are good for all, I find. Sometimes I split the batter and try to please everyone. But not usually. I generally make whatever the hell I want.

This recipe (in its infancy) actually called for cranberries – dried or otherwise. I’ve put them in once (ok, they were actually dried cherries). People at work ate them happily enough, but they’re basically always starving and desperate. So there were no further iterations with dried cranberries cherries. 

This batch has a couple of handfuls of chocolate chips. For maximum enjoyment.

muffins
Look at those melty chocolate chips! So yummy.

Try this recipe. It’s fantastic!! 

breakfast
Wendy had a great start to the day – drugs and muffin and tea. Perfecto.
Banana Oat Muffins
Uses lots of bananas, is moist and EASY!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/4 c all purpose flour
  2. 1 1/4 c quick oats
  3. 2/3 c granulated sugar
  4. 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  5. 1 tsp baking soda
  6. 1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt depending on your taste
  7. 1 egg
  8. 2 cups mashed bananas (5 or 6)
  9. 1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted, hurray!
  10. 1 cup of anything you like (nuts, chocolate, dried fruit)
Instructions
  1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Mix well.
  3. In another bowl beat egg, banana and melted butter until smooth.
  4. Add to dry ingredients and stir to blend.
  5. Stir in cranberries just to mix.
  6. Fill greased muffin tins till almost full.
  7. Bake at 375˚ for approximately 20 minutes.
Notes
  1. Sprinkle a few large flakes oats on the top for a pro finish.
Making it Work http://pioneerintrees.com/

Got Lemons? Make this Lemon Bread!

When I was a kid I was very much aware of moms and aunts and grandmas who liked to bake. Why? Because my mom’s specialty was jello with fruit floating in it (and incidentally, we loved it). At some point my aunt Liz impressed me with this iced lemon bread. I dutifully wrote it down and it still stands as my favourite way to use up a couple of lemons.

lemons
These smallish Meyer lemons are so lovely! 

I don’t know if it’s because of the shortening, but this sweet bread is very light and moist. That being said, if I’m low on shortening I combine what I have with butter and that seems to work out too. So forget what I said about the shortening being the reason. Maybe it was a lot cheaper to use shortening back in the day so that’s why it’s there. I have no idea about shortening. What IS it, anyway? 

The selling point of this bread it the lemon juice / sugar combo that you pour over the top while it’s hot. The bread soaks it up and when it’s cool it’s a bit sticky, but SUPER tangy. It’s awesome. And maybe that’s why is light and moist. Yep. That’s why.  

lemon bread
Note the invisible glaze. I LOVE hidden sugar. Nirvana. 

 

Iced Lemon Bread
Yields 1
A light sweet bread with a tart lemon glaze.
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Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup shortening
  2. 1 cup white sugar
  3. 2 eggs
  4. rind of 1 large lemon or 2 small lemons
  5. 1/2 cup milk
  6. 1 1/2 cups all purpose or bread flour
  7. 1 tsp. baking powder
  8. pinch of salt
  9. optional: poppy seeds
Glaze
  1. 1/4 cup white sugar
  2. juice of 1 large or 2 small lemons
Instructions
  1. Grease your loaf pan and place a piece of parchment on the bottom. This loaf will stick to the bottom because of the glaze.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the shortening and sugar together until light. Add eggs one at a time. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and rind. Add alternately to the creamed mixture with the milk (flour/milk/flour/milk/flour).
  3. Pour batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake at 350º until done.
  4. Mix together the sugar and lemon juice. Slowly pour over the hot bread. Let the loaf cool for at least 10 minutes - then take out of the pan to cool completely.
Notes
  1. This recipe will make 3 nice sized mini loaves (If you have one of those mini loaf pans that makes 4 lovely loaves).
Making it Work http://pioneerintrees.com/
large cupcake

Why Not Carrot Cupcakes?

Ever been at a meeting and had those oily and predictable muffins offered as a snack? Ever wished it was cake? I have. Sadly, no slices of cake are offered up at meetings that I go to … so the other day I decided to make cupcakes for my table group. They LOOK like muffins. They have veggies. Everyone’s happy. 

Generally I decide what I’m baking for a meeting in the morning … and this is not always a good thing, since I don’t have a lot of time. I had seen some kickin’ carrot cupcakes on Insta a while back and of course I didn’t bookmark them – who does that? – so I took a quick look online for a simple carrot cake cupcake that can be made in less than an hour. I found a promising one on the Food and Wine Network website. (And with lots of stars! Very important.) Extra bonus, I loved the title: Take 5 Carrot Cupcakes. I got busy.  

Ya Ya … lots more happened, but who has time to take photos when you still have to get ready for work? So … yada yada yada … and then time to make my favourite cream cheese icing recipe. The honey, lemon juice and zest combo make it SPECTACULAR. Really you must make this. 

icing recipe
I think that this is from the LCBO Food & Drink magazine. I recognize the font. (Interesting coincidence that both of these recipes are associated with alcohol.)

Of course any good icing requires a bit of sugar.

icing sugar
I enjoy sifting. And I LOVE parchment paper. It’s my kitchen bff.

 In no time at all you’ve got a decent table snack. 

carrot cupcakes
Normally I’d put a few candied pecans on the top or some extra lime zest, but I was in a hurry …

Since I doubled the recipe (so I’d be sure I’d have enough), I was able to bake up a few extras for the fam me. So glad. 

large cupcake
I often use ramekins when I have extra batter. Very handy indeed.

 

 

cake

OOH LA LA … Jamie’s Hummingbird Cake

I have always wanted to make this cake from Jamie’s Comfort Food. It looks SO delicious in the book … and wouldn’t you think that anyway, with a name like Hummingbird Cake? Just look at it!! Mmmmmmm…

I have a rule when I try a new recipe, that I have to do it exactly as is … if I change anything right away, how will I know if it was supposed to be like that or if my changes made a difference? I mean really? I follow the recipe and make notes in the margin afterwards … and then NEXT TIME I make changes (add salt, reduce the oil, try it with pecans … that kind of thing). With this rule in mind, I bought the ACTUAL ingredients listed in the recipe even though they are not what I’d use generally. For example, who buys self-rising flour and superfine sugar? Expensive!! 

flour and sugar
Seems like an unnecessary expense. Tell me why it’s important to use either of these!

I also wondered about why I was buying chunks of pineapple when it asked me to chop up the chunks … I WANTED to buy crushed pineapple, but I couldn’t bring myself to break my rule. So I drained it, saved the juice and froze it in ice cube trays for smoothies (a trick I learned in the days of baby food), and chopped.

Note: chopping pineapple into little bits is not easy. I did a poor job of it. Lost patience. No one seemed to mind the uneven and large gobs of pineapple in the cake though…

Everything else in the recipe seemed normal … That is until the first sentence where I had to grease two 9″ springform pans? WTF? Who has 2 springform pans the same size? I’ve got a 6″, 9″, 10″ and a couple of those wee baby ones for cute little “cheesecakes for two” (that I’ve never used), but not 2 big ones of the same size! So I used regular 9″ pans … and I have to say, I bet the cakes would have turned out better if I’d used springform. 

I got crackin’ and made the cake – loved the fact that it uses 4 ripe bananas! I can’t tell you how often I’m trying to use up bananas. Why do I buy so freaking many of them?? MUST. STOP. BUYING. BANANAS.

The batter looked pretty good – I was a bit nervous about the 1 cup of olive oil. Seems like it would weigh that sucker down. And you know what? I wasn’t really wrong … Jamie says things in the recipe about the cakes being “sponges”. I don’t know about that!! If so, they were sponges saturated with oil and pineapple and banana!!

The candied pecans didn’t work out for me AT ALL. He said to put in 1/2 cup of superfine sugar and a splash of water. WTF is a splash? Beside that it said that I should watch the video. I really should have taken it as a sign. In the end I worked away at the candied nuts and finally just did them the way I normally do … and they were just fine. His method was BONKERS.

Even though the cake was far heavier than the Hummingbird title would suggest – leading me to fret that it would be less than good – it turned out to be quite tasty freaking awesome! Why? Well, the icing was THE BOMB! Omg cream cheese icing is sooooo good with a squeeze of lime and some lime zest! Why haven’t I discovered that until now?? I think the icing saved it. 

I WILL make it again. Enough people loved it! But next time I will have two springform pans, go with crushed pineapple, and do the nuts my way. But it’s a keeper.

Check it out here.

slice of cake
Ok, so I’m not a pro photographer like all of the foodies out there…

 

 

Biscuits and Jam

When you have a cold day, a warm fire and a book to read, all you really need to top it off is a few biscuits with jam.

I found a new recipe for Buttermilk Biscuits this past summer when I was experimenting with Bourbon (you have to read the post – lol). They turned out marvellously, so the recipe has usurped the baking powder biscuit recipe from Grandma Mack. (Sweet Jesus, don’t tell anyone in the family…) You do have to have a little foresight though, so that you can pop 1/2 cup (one stick) of butter into the freezer. I’m also not sure that the oven REALLY has to be at 475 degrees … 425 works just fine, thank you very much. If I go to 475 my oven will think it’s self cleaning and bad things might happen like they did the last time.

The ingredients are really basic. Today I planned to use lemon juice to sour the milk so I decided to grate the rind into the batter and then chop up some dried cranberries to go in the biscuits. Sadly this will mean that the kids won’t like them. AW DAMN.

Oh and for the love of Jesus, add some salt! Why it’s not in the recipe I’ll never know.

I use these super nifty cutters from Lee Valley. I bought them for myself during the Christmas online ordering season, as a reward for getting through all of the crazy shit at school. I think I deserved them. And only $20! What a deal.

Couldn’t help but slather them with a little more melted butter and sprinkle on some demerara sugar.

With a banana-peach smoothie and some home made peach jam on the side, they’re the perfect snack!

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A Day at the Lake

It’s a lovely thing to come to the lake in the winter. We drive as far in as we can then strap on our snowshoes and hike in a couple of kilometers to the Bell camp. This year we didn’t trust the lake so we went by road, dragging a couple of sleds behind us. The girls went ahead, helter skelter, dropping various things off of their sleds with nary a look behind them. Funny how they didn’t notice. By the time Paul and Liam and I got there, we were laden with bags that had fallen by the wayside. Next year, bungie cords.


The lake is dead quiet. Surreal in the lack of wind and waves and birds and children hooting as they get dragged behind a boat.

We hike in the woods when the ice seems too thin for comfort. We wander around our friends’ cottages. There are snow fights and icicle finds. We are overdressed but grateful for it all.

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Inside, it’s so cozy. We all have our books (paper or otherwise) and some have a project – a puzzle, sudoku or a pair of socks to work on. Charades.

Of course lots of great food – and baking is a sure bet with me in the cabin! I get to create all sorts of yummy things – cinnamon buns and cookies and tea biscuits. For dessert tonight is a banana cake. I forgot the ingredients for the topping so I have had to improvise with ice cream bowls, marshmallows, chocolate and pecans. Result? YUM!

All in all, a glorious time at the lake.

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Photo cred @carolbell268

Crap Day for the Neighbours … and a Cake

Today Paul called to tell me that our neighbour’s place was on fire – he was jumping in his truck to go over. I grabbed my hat and coat and boots and booked it out the door.

First barn ignited.

When I was 18 I witnessed a cottage burning down, and not long after there was a huge fire at the Camp I worked at. The 2 events traumatized me at the time and instilled in me a healthy fear of fire. The fire today brought it all back. The sight, sound, heat, smell. The panic, the emotion.

After I woke up my next door neighbours, I ran across the road to see what I could do to help. Not much of course. I bawled a bit. I talked to each member of the family, let them know that they should come over for shelter, food, tea. Brought two of them to my place and found them clothes – one had a towel wrapped around his waist and another was in undies and a T-shirt. Eventually Em and her 4 month old settled in for the day.  Paul made a big stew and I got busy baking up a cake and a pan of brownies. People came and went through the day. It was an action packed day.

And of course today being Sunday … “traditional family dinner”… I was in charge of dessert. The plan was to make a lemon chiffon cake for my sister’s upcoming birthday. Here were the various stages.

It’s a rich, moist, light cake. Has a total of 14 eggs in it, and quite a bit of fresh lemon juice and butter. Whipped cream in the frosting and of course white chocolate grated on top. It’s a beauty!! Happy birthday Lou!

Here’s to a better day for my neighbours tomorrow.

 

photo credit for featured image: Harrison Perkins @HaPerkins