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May #Baketogether: Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake Mini Muffins

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This month, #baketogether Goddess Abby Dodge asked our loyal group of bakers a question for the ages:  are you sweet  or savory?  Abby posted a morphic muffin blueprint featuring buttermilk and cornmeal which is wide open to interpretation, be it a sweet version or a savory one.  As May progressed, I hopped back and forth from sweet ideas to savory, then back again.  Finally, Team Savory posted so many amazing riffs on this muffin  (check out the links on Abby’s post here), that I had to do my part to prop up the underdog by lining up with Team Sweet.

These Lilliputian Lovelies were inspired by a set of berry-licious mini muffin papers which jumped into my basket in TJMaxx the other day(does this happen to you? The merchandise in that store is downright aggressive, I swear).  They just NEEDED something raspberry in there! Image 

Fresh berries were both expensive and mushy looking in my market, so we will wait another month until my backyard bushes begin providing those–today I used good ol’ Polaner Spreadable Raspberries(no straining seeds=bonus!), plus cream cheese, roughly chopped white chocolate and toasted pecans.  This decadent flavor profile  was saved from being too sweet by the cornmeal-laced base.

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My recipe made 24 mini-muffins.  Well, 23 actually–my sous-chef got a little over zealous with the filling and topping there, so we suffered one casualty.  Such losses are perfectly acceptable in the pursuit of happy sous-chefs!

ImageThe muffins came together in a snap, this recipe(which yields 6 standard size muffins) is an asset to anyone’s repertoire.  Quick.  Easy. Yummy. And oh, so changeable!  Make them sweet, make them savory, Lilliputian or Brobdingnagian, the world is your oyster, er, corn muffin!Image

Look at that beautiful, slightly shaggy crumb.  That is because I did not mix them into oblivion.  Seriously, people, it’s like pancakes: Over mix at your own peril.

Lilliputian Raspberry Cheesecake Corn Muffins

(adapted from Abby Dodge)

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup (3 3/8 oz) all purpose flour

1/3 cup (1 1/3 oz) finely ground yellow cornmeal

1/3 cup (2 3/8 oz) sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp table salt

1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 large egg

3TBSP melted unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 oz. cream cheese

1/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves

2 oz best quality white chocolate, roughly chopped

1/3 cup toasted pecan pieces, roughly chopped

MAKE THE MUFFINS

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F, or 325 F if using convection bake.  Line 24 mini muffin cups with cute paper refugees from your local discount store.

2. Combine dry ingredients and mix well. Measure the buttermilk using a 2 cup glass measuring cup.  Add egg, melted butter and vanilla and mix with a table fork until well blended. Prepare raspberry filling: blend cream cheese and raspberry preserves thoroughly (I placed both in the cup from my stick blender, softened for a few seconds in the microwave, and blended. Easy Peasy.) and fill into pastry bag fitted with plain tip. Keep at the ready as you don’t want to overmix these babies!

3.  Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients and fold together BRIEFLY until evenly moist. A light touch is best. Do not over mix. 

4. Fill muffin papers about 3/4 full.  Pop a squirt of raspberry cream cheese filling into each cup.  Top with chopped white chocolate and toasted pecans.

5.  Bake about 9-11 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Image

 Cool on wire rack for as long as you can resist eating one.  If you wait 10 FULL minutes, the muffin will come away from the paper nicely.  I know it’s hard to wait, but a hot muffin sticks to the paper and you don’t get to eat as much.  It took me until I was about 41 years old to get this right. . .  Maybe one day I will learn not to burn the roof of my mouth on the pizza!  Hope springs eternal.

Thanks to Abby Dodge and all the #baketogether beauties for the inspiration!  Thanks to sous-chef Bijou for assistance and comic relief, and special thanks to my mom for help with the housework this week so I ended up with a free hour to bake and post these!  Can I pay you in muffins, Mom?

 

Remember the BadAss? Neither did I. . .

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Yesterday, in a swirl of #baketogether-y love and sisterhood, I commented on my Twitter-turned-real-world friend Michelle Jaffee ‘s post, which features a to-die-for cocoa Angel Food Cake that looks fluffy enough to levitate right off the screen and into your mouth. Serious Yum, which (if you know Michelle at all) will be no surprise. . .

The surprise came when, as I looked at my posted comment, I realized that I was signed in via my old, quasi-forgotten blogger account! For those of you who remember, and for my new peeps and tweeps, I had a brief flirtation writing a short-lived blog called Bento BadAss. It was really nothing to shout about, but as I was re-reading I stumbled upon this post, which is some nice, summery cuteness for a rainy spring day. If you’re interested. So before we say goodbye forever to the BadAss, have a (lifeguard) cookie. Because who doesn’t love lifeguards    Cookies?!  Of course I meant to say Cookies!!!

Angel Eyes Angel Food Cake, or, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Weeknight Dessert

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Do you have a favorite Spaghetti Western?  No, I don’t mean pasta with BBQ(though it sounds kind of yummy, that would probably be Western Spaghetti)!  I’m talking about those gritty, visually breathtaking films, made by Italians, starring Americans, filmed in Spain!  Many will tell you that the best of the genre is Fistful of Dollars, but in my book the winner has to be The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.  Clint (The Good) does his usual fab thing, sharpshooting Eli Wallach(The Ugly) down from the gallows just in time; the theme music is positively iconic; the setting and scenery will take your breath away.  But the thing that I love most, that I cannot possibly look away from on the screen? The Bad: Lee VanCleef.  His cheekbones.  His subtle and not-so-subtle expressions.  His eyes.  So unique that they actually named his character for them:  Angel Eyes.

If that film could translate into a dessert, I think it might be something like this cake  It is my go at this month’s #baketogether, and the result is truly Good, Bad, AND Ugly.Image

THE GOOD

Every month, Abby Dodge posts a recipe on her blog, inviting the world to try it, morph it, spin it and SHARE IT via blog, facebook, or twitter(hashtag #baketogether).  April’s offering?  Angel Food Cake. Here is Abby’s cake.  I decided to try a slightly Mexican/tropical spin on this one, due to the fact that I happened to have on hand a batch of cajeta, a Mexican caramel sauce made from goat’s milk.  That’s right friends.  Goat’s milk. Now, don’t make a face.  It’s not only for tangy cheese, you know.  My cajeta included a dash of Licor 43 and some Mexican cinnamon, and it’s beyond yummy. Abby’s inspiration?  Good.  My cajeta? Also good.  My concept was to spike the basic cake with a coconut flavor,top with grilled and slightly carmelized pineapple, my cajeta, and shaved coconut.

THE BAD

Don’t worry, it’s not THAT bad.  But if I were to make this cake over again, I would change the way I flavored the cake itself.  I used a coconut extract, and something about the finished cake reminded me of either Malibu Rum or Hawaiian Tropic suntan oil. A little bit too Jersey Shore on both counts– Not exactly what I was going for.  So:  Beware coconut extract!  Instead I would probably toast up some of that unsweetened coconut and whizz it through a coffee bean/spice grinder and sift it with the dry ingredients.  Live and Learn.

THE UGLY

The finished product was not actually ugly!  I think it rocked!  I went with the whole 1950’s vibe to Angel Food Cake and preceded it with a homey dinner of meatloaf with mushroom gravy, buttered noodles and spinach.  I thought it was perfect! Image

The kids, however, had their own garnishing ideas.   Here is where it gets ugly.  Viewer discretion is advised.

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Credits:  Starring The Goat,  The Egg White, and the Pineapple.  Directed by Nancy Gardiner and shot entirely on location in my kitchen.  Technical Support/Props by my mom(it was her cake pan). Thanks to Executive Producer  Abby Dodge.

No animals were harmed in the making of this cake.

Once upon a Tart. . .

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One day something caught my eye on Twitter–a buzz about a virtual baking get-together by Abby Dodge called #baketogether.  Abby posted her recipe for a simple yet sublime chocolate tart, inviting the world in to take it, bake it, make it our own and then share how it all turned out.  Now I have been reading tons of baking and food blogs for years, often trying recipes but rarely(ok, never!) commenting or contributing because I (self-consciously) thought that I really had nothing to offer. . .I mean these were professionals, people, and I?  Just a simple florist from Connecticut whose claim to baking fame was the lifeguard gingerbread boys I made every year for the guys on Chair 5!

However, there’s something about Twitter.  Something engaging.  Something approachable, and immediate, and well. . .just friendly! So after I enlisted the help of my 5-year old chef and made a nice little tart, I did something new.  I took a photo. I tweeted a comment. I came out of the cupboard, so to speak!  And slowly, surely, I found myself commenting a bit more often on the blogs I love, tweeting back and forth with some awesome and inspirational people, and generally showing up for the party a bit more.  Soon, two things began to nag at me: first, I frequently found myself with a lot more than 140 characters’ worth to say! And second, you know that line when you leave a comment on a blog?  The one that says “your website”? I felt like such a dork leaving it blank.

So here I am.

Thanks for stopping in.