My Story

I've always loved being in the kitchen. Isn't that the gathering place at parties and get togethers! That's where the action is, where delicious smells come from, and where I go to create some really great stuff! My Grandma was my inspiration. She lived her life in Baltimore and she was ALWAYS in the kitchen (or down at the VFW for a crab feast and beer) but Alice created so many wonderful meals for our family. I remember there was always soup before the meal, usually a steaming bowl of crab soup with a rich tomato broth and lots of vegetables. Her crab cakes were incredible, a recipe I use today, and undeniably the best. I would challenge ANY other crab cake recipe to match my Grandma Alice's. The first meal I made for my mom was macaroni and cheese from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook back when I was about 7 years old. I was very proud of it, and it was really good..a creamy white sauce combined with good old cheddar and shells sprinkled with toasted bread crumbs..yum. So off I went through life, cooking and baking, and came to realize that baking was the shizzy. I loved finding a great recipe and making it even better. Funny my kids didn't like sweets much, so I showered friends and neighbors with treats. Later down the road, when some real decisions needed to be made, I decided to attend the baking and pastry arts program at The California Culinary Academy. I was 47 years old and had no idea what I was in for (another blog). So I mastered the art of baking thanks to a dedicated and talented team of instructors. I did a gig in the basement of well known pastry kitchens and had a wonderful time working for a small caterer cooking with a great bunch of gals. But here I am now, still cooking, still baking and loving it, in my own kitchen where I can share my love of this sport with the world. I take all my own photos (another passion) and I hope you will have patience and stay with me in this newest adventure. So thank you Grandma Alice for all those delicious memories, stories and inspiration. Stay tuned..

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

From Farm to Table...Blueberry Muffins

  • The three pounds of blueberries that Jenna and I came home with a couple of weeks ago from Santa Barbara Blueberry Farm were the absolute best I've had...ever.  After picking these no spray/no pesticide beauties myself, and gladly handing over $15 for a pail that held 3 pounds to the sweet young gal at the fruit stand, I knew I had to share these blue's and make something special.  
  • Last season, I made a pie, this year, being only June, I know I'll be going back and have plans for pies later on in the summer season, but for now I woke up very early one morning this week, way before the heat of the day hit my kitchen and baked some blueberry muffins. 
  • They're pretty darn good and this is how it goes:

  • Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated
  • The secret to these better than a bakery muffins, is the addition of blueberry jam that is swirled in to the batter just before baking 
  •   2 cups fresh blueberries (about 10 oz) 
  • 1 1/8 cups sugar (8 oz) plus 1 tsp
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached AP flour (12 1/2 oz)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted then cooled slightly
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 1 c buttermilk (make your own in a pinch by adding a of  couple squeezes of lemon juice to a cup of milk)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla 
  • Lemon sugar topping: Add  1  1/2  tsp lemon zest to 1/3 cup of sugar.
  • 1. FOR THE TOPPING: Stir together sugar and lemon zest in small bowl until combined; set aside.
  • 2. FOR THE MUFFINS: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • 3. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk remaining 11/8 cups sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be very lumpy with few spots of dry flour; do not overmix.)
  • 4. I use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion. Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over muffins.
  • 5. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.
  • Here's a hint:  Do all your baking on the middle racks of your oven.   If you have 6 slots for racks, use the middle two. If you have two   pans in the oven, switch and rotate halfway through baking.

    So if you're ever traveling north or south along Hwy 101 in the Gaviota, keep your eyes peeled for the Santa Barbara Blueberry Farm. Pull in, grab a bucket get yourself to pickin'. You'll be happy you did.

...and isn't that what it's all about