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May 4 / Laura

The Perfect Caramel Sauce

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Caramel can be quite intimidating to the novice baker or cook, but once you get the hang of it, you will never purchase it off the grocery store shelf again. 

The ingredients are simple:  sugar, heavy cream, butter, and a touch of pure vanilla extract.  With such simple ingredients, how could it be so intimidating? 

For starters, there are two ways (that I am aware of) for making caramel; dry caramel and wet caramel.  For the longest time I was using the wet caramel method and boy did me and my pot have a few run-ins!  I remember my first attempt when I was making caramel to use for our Taffy Apple cupcakes for Cupcakes for Courage.  It kept recrystallizing on me over and over again before I even got to put the butter or cream in.  If I was able to achieve a nice golden colored melted sugar, once I added the remaining ingredients and gave it a taste (once it cooled of course!) it was disappointingly gritty.  I never gave up though, and nor should you!  It wasn’t until I tried to do the dry caramel method that I realized how much less temperamental it was to do, and so will you.

Lucky for you though, through my trial and error, you can learn from my mistakes and have perfect caramel the first time.  This recipe produces a nice sauce that keeps in the fridge for weeks.  I store it in clear plastic squeeze bottles kind of like the ketchup and mustard squeeze bottles they have at hot dog joints.  I keep the nozzle sealed with silicone decorating tip covers which happen to work beautifully for this application instead of their intended purpose.  When ready to use the sauce, microwave for about 10 seconds to soften and squeeze over some vanilla ice cream or apple pie, or both together!

Dry Caramel Sauce Recipe

  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 TBS unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

In a large heavy bottom sauce pan (the one I use for this size recipe is a 12 inch non-stick Calphalon pot) add the sugar and turn on the stop top to medium-low.  I have an electric glass top cooking stove and the number I set it to is a 4 which is just under medium.

While the sugar starts to heat up get the remaining ingredients ready.  Cut up your butter into TBS portions and set aside on a small plate.  Measure out your heavy cream, add the vanilla to the measuring cup and stir to combine.

It will take quite a while for the sugar to start to do it’s thing.  When I need to make caramel I do during a time when I have to work on one other project (not a million other things) because you really have to devote your attention to watching the sugar, but you can also multi-task a bit.  So I don’t forget it’s on the stove, I set my timer for 8 minutes, check on it, reset the timer, go check, and so on.  Each time you check on the sugar, push the sugar from the outer edge to the middle.  What you are doing here is checking that if the sugar is beginning to melt.  As you start to see that it’s melting, each time you check on the sugar (every 8 minutes or so) just push the sugar around a bit, I like to push from the edges to the middle.  It’s going to clump up a bit, but everything will smooth out. 

A strong difference between this dry method of making caramel and the wet method is that once you see that the sugar is melting, it will immediately start to look a caramel brown color.  Whereas with the wet method, all of the sugar must melt and then it turns caramel brown.  The key with dry caramel is that you need to find the right level of heat so that the sugar melts, but it does not burn and turn bitter. 

 

Once all of your sugar has melted (don’t worry if there are a few large clumps of sugar left, you can strain those out, just be sure the rest is smooth and sugar crystal free) add the butter one table spoon at a time while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  After the butter and caramelized sugar is combined remove from the heat, count to three, and add slowly stream in the heavy cream, don’t stop stirring!  Keep stirring even if it starts to get a little wild and clumpy like.  After all of the cream is added, return the pot to medium heat.  Stir every so often and bring it back to a boil just so everything is melted again and clump free.  Remove from heat. 

Place a strainer over a large glass bowl and pour the caramel in to strain any straggling clumps.  Volah!  You have caramel sauce!  Store in a squeeze bottle like I do or an airtight container and enjoy over the next couple of weeks.  You won’t regret it!

Taffy Apple Cake

 

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Feb 1 / Laura

Homemade dog treats: Peanut Butter Banana madness!!

I ran out of dog treats and instead of going to the Natural Pet Market that I shop at, I thought, ‘I can totally make all natural dog treats myself!’

Peanut Butter and Banana natural dog treats

I used a small flower shaped cookie cutter then the end of a spoon to create a little divit for the center of the flower. Cute right?

After some searching across the Internet I realized that it was super simple, you could practically throw anything together that is natural, nutritious, and follows a few baking principle and voila!  Home made natural dog treats!

Tony gets involved with the cookies!

Tony gets rolling!

The recipe below my two Yorkshire Terriers Ozzy and Lucy went bonkers over.  I brought some over to my sisters house so she could try them out with her Pompoo Angel and she gobbled them up too.  So these cookies have been tested 3 for 3…let me know how your puppies like them too!  Next I will be trying a homemade tuna treats because that just sounds so delicious and smelly that my dogs will love me even more than they already do, if that is even possible…

Puppies anxiously waiting for treats to come out of the oven...they had a taste of the cookie dough and are itching for more!

Ozzy is pulling out all the stops and he's giving me his paw to sink his teeth into one of the cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup all natural peanut butter (I used creamy but I imagine that crunchy would be great too)
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat bran
  • cookie cutter if desired

Directions

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper

Mix together the wet ingredients and then add in the flour and wheat germ.  Bring it together into a ball and transfer to a floured work surface.  Roll the dough out to about 1/4 of an inch thick and cut out your shapes.  Re-roll the scraps back together and continue cutting.  I didn’t have any cookie dough waste as I tried to use a limited amount of flour for dusting so that the dough didn’t dry out too much. 

Bake cookies until dried out and the color changes to a darker shade of brown, will take about 25-30 minutes, but it depends on the cookie shape and thickness.  Cool on the baking sheet and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator – these have no preservatives in them so they will get moldy on the counter if you don’t use them up quick, that’s why I keep them in the fridge.

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Jan 14 / Laura

Chicken Parmesan: Easier than you think!

Last night I made chicken parmesan for dinner and although you really don’t need a reason to make an Italian classic, I made it because Kathy mentioned it when I was leaving the hospital on Monday.

When Kathy was first diagnosed with Lymphoma all the way back in May – I cannot believe all this time has passed – I cooked almost every day for her and brought it to the hospital. It was hard on everyone, and I guess I thought a home cooked meal would be something to look forward to, a reason for everyone to get together there (her room was like a party half of the time anyway), and a great distraction for me to keep my mind off reality. I was a cooking machine!

In all the meals and sweets I baked I never brought chicken parmesan though. This is surprising to me in retrospect because it is so simple to make, stays hot for a long time, re-heats very nicely and I don’t know one person that doesn’t like it other than a vegetarian (and if that’s the case you can substitute with eggplant).

So here’s me making up for lost time and making it for Kathy, let’s consider it a celebration meal because she is getting released from the hospital today for her 8th and final chemo therapy treatment. She still has a long road ahead of her, but this is a BIG milestone.

Delicious Chicken Parmesan

Delicious Chicken Parmesan

So I hope you enjoy this super simple chicken parmesan recipe! Cookers beware it does have quite a few steps but they are simple steps, so just take it one at a time and you’ll be great! It would be a fantastic meal to dish out for your sweetie this coming valentine’s day (never too soon to plan ahead!). Paired with a nice glass of red wine and a Romantic Box of Love cupcakes for dessert, it’s sure to be a lovely night. Please note that this recipe makes one 9×13 inch sized pan plus a smaller pan too because I planned to make the small pan for Kathy. This recipe will easily serve 6-8 people depending on if they eat like birds or eat like Kings. Cut the recipe in half in you don’t like leftovers.

Chicken Parmesan

Ingredients

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
1 large or 2 small yellow onions, minced
1 tablespoon of minced garlic (about 2 large or 4 small cloves)
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 bunch fresh basil
3 cans whole peeled tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
extra virgin olive oil
1 bag (8 oz) of shredded or fresh mozzarella
1 cup shredded parmesan
Salt & pepper to taste
8 slices of bread
1 cup of flour
3 eggs + 1 tablespoon of water

Directions

Toast your bread in the toaster to a dark golden brown and set aside to cool.

Over medium heat, heat ¼ cup of olive oil in a large wide bottom pot. Finely mince the onion, add to the pot of oil and stir. Next, finely mince the garlic and add that to the onions along with the bay leaves. Cook this mixture together for 5-7 minutes until everything is soft and the onions are translucent.

Next, open your cans of tomatoes and wash your hands. I know this next step is going to take a minute but it is worth it I promise! One by one, hand crush the tomatoes into the pot. I find it helps to reduce the splatter factor by piercing one side of the tomato that is facing down to release the pressure and the juices, then finish crushing the rest of it and pour in the remaining juices from the can.

Next you’re going to make a basil chiffonade! What a fancy word that chiffonade is, isn’t it? When really all you are doing is cutting it into ribbons by stacking the leaves up all in the same direction. Begin by rolling one of the narrow ends away from you so you have a nice rolled tubular shape of basil (think of rolling up a yoga mat or a sleeping bag). Next, make cuts as if you were cutting a roll of sugar cookies starting at one end and working your way over. You’ll get nice long ribbons of basil. Add this to the pot along with the tomato paste, sugar, and season with salt and pepper (I use about ½ teaspoons freshly ground pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt).

Cook the sauce uncovered, over medium heat for 30 minutes. You don’t want the heat so high that the sauce is wildly bubbling all over the place otherwise your back splash is going to need a scrubbing. You just need it high enough so it’s slightly bubbly and steamy. What we are trying to do hear is evaporate some of the liquid so it thickens nicely. After about 30 minutes of stirring occasionally and about 1 cup of the liquid has evaporated, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. At this point, taste it and adjust your seasonings if necessary.

While the sauce is cooking, start on the chicken.

On a cutting board place a large piece of plastic wrap (so big that there is excess going over the sides. Now place two of the chicken breasts, pointy/narrow end closest to you. Place another over sized piece of plastic wrap on top of the chicken so you have kind of a plastic chicken sandwich. Now, starting from close to you from the narrow part of the chicken to away from you to the thick tough meaty part, lightly pound the meat to 3/8 of an inch thick. You can do this with a meat pounder or a rolling pin, either of which will get the job done. What you are doing here is tenderizing the meat so it will fall apart in your mouth like butter. Once all the chicken is nice and tender, set aside and let’s get ready your dredging station.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large skillet heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Tear apart your toast and grind up in a food processor into fine crumbs. Grab three shallow pans, pie plates, or bowls. Put the eggs and water in one and scramble, flour (seasoned with salt and pepper) in another, and the bread crumbs in the last one.

First dredge a chicken breast in flour, make sure all the meat looks like a ghost and then shake off the excess. Then, dip the breast in the scrambled eggs on both sides and finally dredge the chicken in the crumbs so it’s completely covered. Lay in the hot pan of oil and repeat process until you have a full pan but do not overcrowd. After 3-4 minutes and the one side is golden brown, flip over and cook the other side for 3-4 more minutes. Remove from heat and repeat this process until all your chicken is cooked. Arrange the chicken pieces in a 9×13 baking dish, it’s OK if they overlap.

Once all your chicken is done cooking and arranged in your pan(s), ladle sauce over each chicken piece. I don’t over sauce my chicken, just enough so the tops are totally covered, but they are swimming in it. Next, sprinkle with a bit of fresh basil, then mozzarella, then freshly shredded parmesan.

Bake uncovered in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.

I serve my chicken parmesan with thin spaghetti or it’s great by itself too! I start boiling my water when I start to cook the chicken. Once the pasta is cooked toss it in the pot of unused sauce over low heat so the pasta absorbs the goodness.

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Dec 10 / Laura

Reunited and it feels so good: ALDI saga with Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels

You know that expression, “If so and so saw this happening today they’d be rolling over in their grave!” Well, that’s kind of how I am feeling today when I am about to tell you what my come back baked good is: Deutsche Kuche Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels.

I hate to break it to you kids, but I didn’t make some fancy shmancy homemade Dutch pretzels this morning, I actually (quite literally) popped open a vacuum sealed can of ‘delicate pastries’ that I bought from ALDI when I went back there with guns blazing a month or so ago. OK, so maybe I didn’t have guns blazing as the frustration had worn off by then from my cupcake drama in Cupcakes, Lessons, and ALDI: The truth be told, but I definitely was expecting the worst, when I in return I received the best treatment ever.

I went strolling in there with unused ingredients in tow and my receipt in hand ready to state my case and hopefully receive a full refund. Well, to my surprise the ‘Double Guarantee’ that is printed on their packaging is actually something the store lives up to. The manager was surprised, ‘In the 8 years I have been working here I have never had one person come back unhappy with our products.’ In my head I am thinking, ‘there’s a first time for everything’ and then she explained to me how the refund would work. At first hearing, I thought I was going to receive store credit from how she was telling me, but after the confusion dissipated I realized that not only was I going to receive a full refund in cash, I was going to receive an equal amount of money to spend on new products in the store. Say what? That my friend is what a double guarantee is.

She wanted me to pick out other groceries that I hadn’t tried yet to reestablish the relationship so I could discover the quality of their products. WOW. I was impressed and off I went with my quarter to release a cart from the cart corral. (If you are unfamiliar with ALDI the only way you can use a cart is if you deposit a quarter into this little slot which unlocks it from all other carts. Then you receive your quarter back when you return it. Possibly this is to prevent theft, but I’m not sure why someone would want to steal a cart in the first place. It would seem to me it’d be pretty obvious that you’re a thief when you are either walking down the street with it or loading it in the back of your truck. Not to mention…if you really wanted to take a shiny cart home with you, is 25 cents really going to stop you?) So I loaded up my cart with ingredients for making enough bolognese and pasta to feed an army along with 6 bags of Halloween candy. When I was checking out I went about $5 over my $68 limit and the manager approved it all nonetheless. Nice!

So was the relationship between me and ALDI saved? Not really. Don’t get me wrong, I was truly impressed with the customer service of the manager there and my entire family ate the Bolognese and spaghetti, but I have cooked with much better looking tomatoes for about the same price from better grocery stores.

But what about those pretzels?!?!? Eh, those were mediocre too. I did however enjoy the explosion that occurs when you open the can. My mom used to make the Pillsbury cinnamon rolls on the weekends and holidays; I have always loved that sound and the feel of the can popping in your hands. But I don’t think the popping sensation is enough for me to eat them on a regular basis; when you can’t pronounce half of the ingredients on the back of the can it makes you wonder what you are eating. Tony and I did have a ton of fun decorating them though!

I really missed you guys, I love reunions, they feel so good don’t they?  I look forward to baking you homemade cinnamon sugar pretzels from scratch very soon…

Pretzels before they went into the oven smothered with cinnamon and sugar.

Tony took his sweet time artistically frosting each of the pretzels. I might have to hire him as our acting piping specialist for our cupcakes...

My personal favorite of Tony's designs.

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Nov 11 / Laura

Cupcakes for Courage: Event this weekend!

Good morning to all!  I know that I have been providing very few recipes lately, but that is because I have been working on a new venture!  I am proud to introduce you today to Cupcakes for Courage an organization dedicated to helping the community in a variety of ways. 

After you read up on our organization, why not come out and have a taste?  We will be selling cupcakes this weekend on Saturday 11/13/10 from 9AM – 3PM at:

St. John Early Learning Center

7214 S. Cass Ave, Darien, IL  (630) 969-7987

Come check out the 45+ Crafters and Vendors  to welcome in the season.  This year they are having Raffles, Split-the-Pot, Bake Sale, Gold Rush Girls, Partylite Fundraising, Music with Platinum Events & Promotions, mini spa services and Gonzo the Clown for the kids.  All proceeds from the from the fair and the bakesale are in support of the pre-school and the baked goods are donated by volunteers and also yours truly – Cupcakes for Courage – is donating red velvet cupcakes!  So 100% of the proceeds from the red velvet cupcakes will go to the needs of the pre-school.  

All proceeds from this event will go to adding items in the classroom – to update and bring in new inside gross motor equipment that the children can use together during the cold Chicago winter that seems to last 6 months.  The money raised allows St. John’s to replace the old equipment with newer safer products that increase activity and health.

So come out and get a head start on your holiday shopping and nosh on something sweet!  A portion of the proceeds from the cupcakes sold at our booth (as always) will go to lymphoma and blood cancer research.  We will be selling boxes of cupcakes containing one of each of the following flavors:  Loco-Choco-Mocha, Pink Peppermint, Pumpkin Pie, and Taffy Apple.  Be sure to pick up a raffle ticket when you stop by so you can enter to win 1 dozen cupcakes to enjoy this holiday season!  Inquire on Saturday for more details.

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Oct 30 / Laura

Vanilla Bean Scones

One of my favorite baked goods for breakfast is a crumbly scone and today it was a vanilla bean scone.  They are really quite versatile as they can be savory or sweet having different ingredients folded in while still using the same basic recipe.  They are quick enough to whip up to make on a whim one Saturday morning and perfect for a Sunday brunch.  A savory scone could have bacon, cheddar and chive or perhaps brie, caramelized onion, and sun dried tomatoes. 

One of my fondest memories with a sweet scone was a sour cherry lemon variety that was served warm as a side to our breakfast at a Harbour View Retreat in Vancouver, BC; a bed & breakfast that Tony and I stayed at in 2009.  The house was beautiful – our bedroom had a private balcony with a view of the bay and a scenic mountainous backdrop.  There was a lush garden with various sitting areas, enormous potted assorted herbs that fragranced the outdoor breakfast table, and a hot tub that we soaked our muscle aches away with a glass of champagne after biking the trails of Stanley Park

As you can tell by me description, the bed & breakfast and Vancouver were truly majestic.  If you enjoy the outdoors and city life you will surely love what Vancouver has to offer.  Sadly, a Harbour View Retreat shut down a year after our stay, although I do not know why, I can imagine the lack of privacy with running a bed & breakfast might get to you after sometime. 

So at this point you might be wondering why I am chatting up cherry lemon scones while the title of this post contains vanilla bean scones – don’t you remember how I said they are very versatile?  It is very easy to not add the vanilla beans in the recipe below and replace that flavor with 1-2 teaspoons of lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and ½ cup of dried sour cherries.  Starbucks by me serves up vanilla bean scones that are super delicious and I love to order a 3 pack of minis with my skinny vanilla latte.  The difference between my scones and theirs is that mine are tender while Starbucks are almost cookie like.  I have intentions of trying these again very soon because they were very good, but adding ¼ cup more sugar to the mix to achieve that half way cookie consistency. 

Another reason I chose to do a vanilla bean scone is because I absolutely love the use of dried beans versus vanilla extract.  I purchase mine from My Spice Sage where I order all of my extracts and spices.  They have great specials and with every order you have the option of choosing a free sample of a spice in a 1 ounce portion.  I recently placed an order and the special was to receive 8 free Madagascar vanilla beans with your order and on top of that a free spice which I chose vanilla beans so I ended up getting 16 free beans!  That is amazing considering at your local grocery store like Whole Foods or Jewel that amount could set up back $30+. 

In continued research of my favorite bean, I found out that 97% of beans are cultivated in Madagascar where My Spice Sage’s beans are from and according to an ancient myth, a tragic love story is responsible for the creating of vanilla beans.  From wikipedia.com:

The first to cultivate vanilla were the Totonac people, who inhabit the Mazatlan Valley on the Gulf Coast of Mexico in the present-day state of Veracruz. According to Totonac mythology, the tropical orchid was born when Princess Xanat, forbidden by her father from marrying a mortal, fled to the forest with her lover. The lovers were captured and beheaded. Where their blood touched the ground, the vine of the tropical orchid grew.

After you make this recipe, don’t throw your vanilla bean shells away!  Visit this post to find out how to give them a run for their money.

Vanilla Bean Scone Ingredients (makes 16 scones)

This recipe was adapted from myspicesage.com

  • 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Whole  Madagascar Vanilla Beans
  • 2 ¾ cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup butter, diced
  • Special equipment – Pastry Blender

Glaze Ingredients:

  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons water
  • 1 Whole Vanilla Bean 

Directions
Slice the vanilla beans in half length-wise, and use the tip of the knife to scrape out the vanilla caviar. Whisk the caviar into the heavy cream, then add the eggs and whisk, set aside.

Whisk the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and use a pastry blender work the butter into the dry until you achieve a crumbly like texture, you do not want the butter to completely disappear.  Alternatively, you could use a fork, your finger tips, or pulse a few times in the food processor (be careful not to over mix if you are using this method). 

Make a medium sized well in the middle of the dry ingredients bowl. Whisk the eggs into the vanilla – cream mixture and then pour the mix into the well of the dry ingredients. Use a fork or your hand to slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet.  It will begin to clump together and form it into a loose ball.

Flour a hard work surface and press out the dough into a rectangle about 16 inches by 8 inches.  I do not like to waste any of the dough so I press the ragged edges back into the dough and reshape versus cutting excess dough off and throwing away.  Make vertical cuts every 4 inches, then cut in half horizontally, then cut each square in half diagonally so you end up with 16 perfect scones. 

Bake the scones on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets at 425 degrees for 12-14 minutes. Bake until edges are slightly golden in color.

Transfer to cooling racks until completely cool.  Place the same baking sheet with the parchment paper still intact underneath the cooling rack.  This will catch excess glaze for easy clean up!

In a small, flat bottomed bowl combine the confectioner’s sugar and water together. Slice the 2nd vanilla bean in half, and scoop out the vanilla caviar. Add to the glaze and stir with a whisk until there are no lumps.  If the glaze is too thin or too thick, add more sugar or water depending on the consistency you are trying to achieve.  I like mine to be a nice thick coating so I like mine to be on the thicker side.

Dip the top side of the cooled scones into the glaze, allow the excess to drip back into the bowl for a moment and then glaze side up return to the cooling rack to dry. Once the glaze sets up, these are best served immediately or store in an air tight container for up to 2 days (this is how long it took us to eat these so I don’t know past 2 days!)

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Oct 19 / Laura

The Lemon Poppy Seed Saga: Part 1

I have been searching far and wide for the most delicious lemon poppy seed muffin recipe, which is in my top three favorite breakfast muffins along with banana walnut and blueberry.  In the past year, I have probably tried 10 recipes for lemon poppy seed and each one left me dreaming of something more…a Portillo’s muffin to be specific.  

You would think these days with the Internet and sharing of recipes that there would be a clone out there, I mean, there are even published books for “Top Secret Restaurant Recipes” (which I own has the delicious Red LobsterCheddar Biscuit recipe), but I have searched and searched to no avail.  If anyone has come across it please share!  Not sure what they do to their muffin that makes them so moist, lemon-y, and a sticky top crust, but they are the best.  A couple of thoughts on how they get them so delish:

  1. Use of oil in the batter versus the common butter for muffin applications.
  2. Use of lemon curd for the lemon flavor and added moisture.
  3. Special chemicals/preservatives that make it impossible for me to duplicate!  And if it were non-organic ingredients I would reconsider my opinion.

So this morning I woke up considering my options while raiding my fridge, and since I had two lemons, sour cream, and vanilla yogurt I thought I would make two attempts each with the different dairy ingredient.  As I tasted the first batch I decided to switch a couple more details along the way which you will find later.

My findings

Although both are pretty darn good (as Tony just confirmed when he tried a bite of each), they are no comparison to the Portillo’s competition.  The yogurt muffins were tangier which made the lemon taste more prominent with comparison to the sour cream muffins.  Both had a nice crumb and texture, however, Tony and I both agree they need to be sweeter, not more lemon-y, and it would be nice to have that moist muffin top.  Out of all the lemon poppy seed recipes that I have tried, none have achieved a golden top or a moist top; they were done in the center before golden and remain crispy even a day old. 

So why not a glaze?  If I were serving these immediately, I would like to put a glaze on it, but if you can’t eat over a dozen muffins in one day, then I’d nix it.  They get extremely sticky all over the place and just simply do not keep well.  And again, it’s not what I am going for here.

So what’s next?  I examined my Banana Walnut Muffin recipe since they achieve a beautiful golden top and get moist after resting and found that the sugar to flour ratio is significantly higher .75:1 whereas the lemon poppy seed recipes I just tried are more like .33:1.  So I am going to bump up the sugar to flour ratio the next time I have a go of it, possibly increase the poppy seeds, and maybe try out that lemon curd idea. Also, in the name of research, I will go stop by Portillo’s and pick up a muffin just to really see how they all measure up.  Until then, give one of these a try!  They are truly tasty and I would love to know what you think!

Yogurt Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Sour Cream Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Sweet Lemon Glaze

The above recipes were adapted from http://www.joythebaker.com

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Oct 19 / Laura

Sweet Lemon Glaze

Drizzle this glaze on to your favorite lemon poppy seed muffins, breakfast bread, or coffee cake.  Yum!

Sweet Lemon Glaze on a moist Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar

Directions

Whisk the lemon juice and sugar together in small bowl or liquid measuring cup.  Add more sugar or more lemon juice depending on how thin or thick you like the glaze to be.

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Oct 19 / Laura

Yogurt Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

The tanginess of the yogurt in this recipe really brings out the lemon flavor in these muffins while also keeping them nice and moist.   I used vanilla yogurt because it is what I had on hand, but plain yogurt would do just fine as well.  Another possibility would be greek yogurt if you have that handy in the fridge, but I would mix it up with some milk to thin it out.  Feel free to also substitute the yogurt for buttermilk which is also nice and tangy.

Your lemon sugar should stick together a bit and have a faint yellow tint. You'll no longer see the individual zest pieces.

 Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • ¾ cups vanilla yogurt, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and live 15 muffin cups with paper baking cups.

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds.

In a medium bowl measure out the sugar and zest the lemon in the bowl; using your finger tips rub the sugar and zest together until fragrant well incorporated. 

To the same bowl add the oil, eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice and whisk until combined. 

To the wet ingredients add half of the flour and using a rubber spatula mix until you still see a bit of flour.  Add the yogurt and mix until just combined, then add the flour being careful not to over mix. 

Divide the batter among the muffin tins and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Reminder:  these do not brown on top so do not wait for the color to change or you’ll end up with dry muffins, not moist delicious ones!

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Oct 19 / Laura

Sour Cream Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

These muffins have a beautiful moist crumb interior on account of the sour cream used and also rise perfectly with that rounded top.  Exactly what you are looking for in your morning muffin!  Serve them chatting with friends over a cup of hot coffee, along side a few slices of oven roasted bacon and slow cooked scrambled eggs, or as a side dish to a crisp salad – the possibilities are endless! 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • ¾ cups sour cream (8 oz package), room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and live 15 muffin cups with paper baking cups.

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds.

In a medium bowl measure out the sugar and zest the lemon in the bowl; using your finger tips rub the sugar and zest together until fragrant well incorporated.  To the same bowl add the oil, eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice and whisk until combined. 

To the wet ingredients add half of the flour and using a rubber spatula mix until you still see a bit of flour.  Add the sour cream and mix until just combined, then add the flour being careful not to over mix. 

Divide the batter among the muffin tins and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Reminder:  these do not brown on top so do not wait for the color to change or you’ll end up with dry muffins, not moist delicious ones!

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