Category: snacks

Hearty spent grain French bread.

Just a few days ago I posted about bagels, now it’s bread. I know, it’s crazy. But winter time is time to bake a lot of warming, comforting things. And bread is definitely one of those, don’t you think?

Back in August I told you all about my friend Pete, and his home-brew supply store, Homebrews & Handgrenades. I told you all about how he gave me a ton of spent brewing grain to bake with, and I made that bread.

Well things have been a bit busy around here since then. I remodeled almost the entire place, had no appliances, and then there was Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. It hasn’t been conducive to insane recipe experimentation like is required when you get something brand new, like spent grain. So whatever I haven’t used yet is sitting in jars in my freezer, waiting for me to decide what to do.

What is spent grain?
Spent Grain is a byproduct from brewing process. The chemical composition of wet spent grains is given below:
- Water, 80%
- Protein, 5%
- N-free extract, 9%
- Fat, 2%
- Cellulose fibres, 4%
- Minerals, 1%

- source

Spent brewing grain, drying in the oven (click through for cracker recipe).

First, I dried out a bunch of the grain by laying it out on a cookie sheet and baking it at my oven’s lowest setting (170° F) for 7 hours or so, basically “overnight.” This was important because the grain was wet when I got it, and I froze it immediately. That means there was a lot of moisture trapped in there!

Once it was dried (and a little toasted, ’cause I raised the temperature a bit for the last hour), I let it cool completely. Then I used my KitchenAid grain mill attachment to grind it into a flour. I used a somewhat medium grind, it wasn’t too fine but not too coarse. And then- voila- I had spent grain flour! Which, by the way, you can store in your pantry in sealed container for as long as you like.

Spent brewing grain French bread.

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Homemade bagels, part 2.

Homemade bagels in no time!

The last time I posted about homemade bagels was about 5 years ago. Maybe even 6. My photography was horrendous! Jeez. I was totally a newbie blogger, and it shows. But I’m older now, and wiser, and my photography has improved (I hope!) as well as my food-creation in general. Last time, my bagels weren’t quite as golden as they should have been, so since I love bagels and I love making things from scratch I decided to revisit this whole bagel idea. Especially since the photos will be have to be infinitely better.

Make easy homemade bagels & be eating them in no time!

This is an EASIER recipe than the last one. Seriously. The last one wasn’t even hard, just required a few different rising times, etc. This one doesn’t- one 2 hour rise & you’re all good.

So easy that I made it & was eating bagels in no time. And they are GOOD bagels!

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Snack time with Milton’s! A delicious ricotta dip… and a giveaway!

*****COMMENTS CLOSED! 1/25/13*****

*The winner is… EILEEN! Comment #21*

Eileen- Milton's Cracker winner!

 -Thanks to everyone who entered! -

***********************

Yep. Today I’m going to be giving away a TON of crackers from Milton’s Craft Bakers, but first, I’m going to give you an easy recipe idea. A really, really easy dip recipe for any party, football game- or even just for movie night!

Baked ricotta dip with mozzarella, garlic, olive oil & basil. Goes great with Milton's Craft Bakers gourmet crackers!

I love dip. I love any kind of dip; hot, cold, room temperature, cheese, onion, vegetable, sweet, salty, creamy, tangy, savory, etc. And I love any kind of vehicle to eat aforementioned dip. I’m a snack person. I can make a meal out of snack foods. But crackers? I looooove crackers. I love crackers with 5 o’s, that’s how much I love them. I eat crackers plain. I eat ‘em with cheese. I eat ‘em with dip… and this hot baked ricotta dip is just the thing.

It’s easy to make, bakes up quick and you can make it in as large or small a batch as you need!

Baked ricotta dip & Milton's gourmet crackers. (click for recipe)

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A deliciously NON-GMO giveaway from Milton’s Baking.

A giveaway for Milton's organic crackers!

I come from a cracker family. I know, I know, that sounds weird. But it’s true. When it comes to snacking, some families are potato chip/pretzel families, some families are cookie families (we might be a little of that too), and some are cracker families. When I was a kid, my grandmother was always eating soda crackers or other more buttery snack crackers. Sometimes plain, sometimes with a little butter, sometimes with cheese. My mother favored ‘fancier’ crackers like the baked whole wheat kind, with some goat cheese or brie, or maybe some fig jam. My dad on the other hand loves crackers, chips and cookies. Jay is a pretzel guy, but he does like the occasional cracker, maybe even with some aged cheddar.

So when I got an e-mail asking me to review & host a giveaway for Milton’s Craft Bakers brand new line of crackers, I was psyched. To find out they’re naturally sweetened, non-GMO & organic was a bonus! I love to buy things that aren’t genetically modified, and I try to do the best I can. I don’t go nuts about it, but I do try. It can be really hard sometimes- companies are very, very sneaky about this stuff. Not only that, but some of our old favorites that we just buy because we always did have come to be known as not so great choices nowadays. Between high-fructose corn syrup, GMO ingredients & trans fats, finding new, delicious alternatives isn’t always easy. Some “all-natural” options taste like cardboard. Others break the bank- lots of money for minimal product.

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Saying goodbye to summer with tomato jam.

Wow. Hey there, end of summer.

You snuck up on me, as you usually do. But this time I feel like I really haven’t been expecting you at all. By this time in years’ past I have already thought about you once or twice, usually around my birthday. I have perhaps even dwelled upon you, sadly, as I acknowledge the days already getting a smidgen shorter, & the cicadas song plays the finale. But this year? You got me good. Suddenly, it’s the unofficial end of summer: Labor Day.

A delicious tomato jam; try it with goat cheese on toasted bread for a different spin on bruschetta!

I feel like I haven’t made a whole lot of things I wanted to this summer. Having a blog makes you a bit crazy, see. I wanted to make all these awesome things over the summer & then blog about them. I wanted to take some tomato canning classes at The Brooklyn Kitchen. I had big plans for recipes- Miemo’s mama’s eggrolls, paella. Things like that. Things that were new to me (kitchen-wise), things that I never made before. I did make one-pan pasta & homemade butter, though, both of which are things I’d never done. But the other, more complicated things? Nope. I got caught up in the enjoyment of summer… the corn on the cob, the cookouts, the lazy sticky days & humid starry nights roasting marshmallows, drinking frozen alcoholic drinks, the soaking in of the sun, eating fresh fish after a day at the beach, the making of pickles & jams, the cutting of herbs, the inhaling of said herbs (frequently heard around here: “OH MY GOD that fresh basil/cilantro/oregano/rosemary smells AMAZING!”). Then I was tricked by the unseasonably cool weather (not a day over 90 degrees in August) & I was lulled into having the windows open with cool air blowing in. But I still forgot all about the end of summer. Basically, I got distracted living life.

There are worse things.

Stepping away from the internet is a good thing. Anyway… I got distracted & forgot that summer was about to end. Summer is weird that way; it starts to end the minute it begins and before you know it you’re catching up, trying to squeeze in the last bits of it any way you can. Now, suddenly, it’s tomato time.

Fresh grape tomatoes... about to be turned into tomato jam.

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Quick little sweet pickles.

Vintage Home Pickling book.

Ahhh, pickles. You come into my life every summer at the demand of the pickle-obsessed people in my family, you sit pretty on shelves or in the refrigerator for a while and then you’re gobbled up and before I know it, I’m making more of you. Good thing I’m not a pickle fan myself. In the words of the infamous notorious Biggie Smalls: “Never get high off your own supply.” Yes, he was talking about crack, but the principle is the same.

If I actually ate pickles, then I’d never have any to give away (or sell… *ahem*), and then people would annoy me more than they already do to make more. I’m not sure how many folks out there could somehow relate the “Ten Crack Commandments” to pickles, but what can I say?

Quick sweet pickles made with cinnamon, clove & red onion.

Did you know that “pickle” is derived from the Dutch word pekel, meaning brine? Betcha didn’t. But now you do!

Any who, I found this beautiful pickle recipe at Honey & Jam. The photos were so lovely, I knew I’d have to replicate it myself. My mother is a fan of sweet pickles; give her a jar of sweet gherkins & she’ll eat the whole thing. So I thought she’d appreciate these, lovely little quick pickles made with sugar, a stick of cinnamon & some cloves. The fact that they’re quick pickles, or refrigerator pickles, makes life easier. I love canning but on a super hot day it’s nice to just slap things in the fridge & not worry about processing.

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Kosher dills, TAKE TWO!

Retro 1957 Heinz Kosher dill pickle ad.

Uhm, I beg to differ, Heinz. ‘Cause these pickles right here are quite the sensation round my way.

You might remember, if you’re a longtime reader, the Kosher dill pickles I made a few years ago from a recipe by Arthur Schwartz (I guess you realize right about now that “take two” means this is my second time making them, not that I want you to take two of them. Heh.).

I made them the first time two summers ago while Jay was away on tour, and when he came home he flipped. He totally loved them, was obsessed in fact. And yes, he said they were his “favorite pickles” (until he tasted the grilled pickles, the hop pickles, the maple whiskey pickles…etc, etc). I tease him about that a lot. But I do know that despite the fact that he might love all kinds of pickles, Kosher dills are his absolute favorite. The less vinegar, the better. No vinegar at all? Perfect!

Arthur Schwartz's Kosher dill recipe.

They taste just like a deli pickle, apparently. Super crunchy & half-sour, like a “new” dill. He’s been asking me to make them again ever since, & I’ve slacked off.

Yeah, I’m horrible. But he’ll get over it- he gets a lot of treats.

So anyway here’s version two of Arthur’s recipe, adapted for a smaller scale (yields 1 quart as opposed to 3). Pro tip: Make sure you get cucumbers that are all the same size & shape, roughly. They’ll ferment at the same time more than a variety of sizes would. Unless you’re going to cut them into slices or “chips”, that is.

Kosher dill pickle recipe, 3-6 days to ferment.

How to make Kosher dill pickles at home! NO CANNING NEEDED!

This recipe makes some beautiful pickles.

ARTHUR SCHWARTZ’S HOMEMADE KOSHER DILL* PICKLES (Adapted by David Leibovitz from Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking)

Makes 1 quart or 2 pints, can be doubled or tripled

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse white salt (Kosher, if available)
  • 5-7 Kirby cucumbers, scrubbed
  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled and lightly-crushed
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons pickling spice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small bunch of dill, preferably going to seed, washed

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil with the salt, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and add the remaining water.
  2. Prepare jars (1 quart or 2 pint jars, preferably wide mouth) by running them through the dishwasher or filling them with boiling water, then dumping it out.
  3. Pack the cucumbers vertically into the jars, making sure they’re tightly-packed. As you fill the jars, divide the garlic, spices, bay leaves, and dill amongst them. You can also slice the cukes into spears or slices, whatever you prefer.
  4. Fill the jars with brine so that the cucumbers are completely covered. Cover the jars with cheesecloth, secured with rubber bands, or loosely with the lids. Store in a cool, dark place for 3 days. You’ll probably have leftover brine, so either make another batch or just toss it… yes it’s a little wasteful, but it’s just saltwater!
  5. After 3 days, taste one. The pickles can ferment from 3 to 6 days. The longer the fermentation, the more sour they’ll become, however whole cucumbers that aren’t sliced at all might take longer in general. Once the pickles are to your liking, refrigerate them.

Easy Kosher dill pickle recipe- no canning required.

*Just to clear this Kosher thing up:

A “kosher” dill pickle is not necessarily kosher in the sense that it has been prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary law. Rather, it is a pickle made in the traditional manner of Jewish New York City pickle makers, with generous addition of garlic and dill to a natural salt brine.[3][4][5]

In New York terminology, a “full-sour” kosher dill is one that has fully fermented, while a “half-sour,” given a shorter stay in the brine, is still crisp and bright green.[6]Elsewhere, these pickles may sometimes be termed “old” and “new” dills.

Dill pickles (not necessarily described as “kosher”) have been served in New York City since at least 1899.[7] They are not, however, native to New York; they have been prepared in Russia, Ukraine, Germany and Poland for hundreds of years.[citation needed]

So these are kind of a cross between a refrigerator pickle, a fermented pickle & a shelf-stable pickle, seeing as how you end up refrigerating them & not processing them, yet they do in fact sit out for a while to “ferment.” They’re incredibly easy to make, and they really don’t have any of the somewhat “scary” elements of fermentation/lacto-fermentation (no yeast forms, there’s no mold skimming, etc). It’s sort of an intro to refrigerator pickles, canning & fermenting all at once.

I do prefer to make these kinds of pickles one jar at a time, just because I run out of room & places to hide them during their 3-6 day fermentation period. It has to be a relatively cool, dark area… and there are only so many of those during the summer months. Plus, that cuts down on the amount of “NO NO NO! DON’T EAT THOSE YET!” moments. Which, in a house like mine, there are many. There are jars of things brewing, freezing or sitting just about everywhere; sourdough starters, cold brewed coffee, bacon fat, flax seed, spent grain, fermenting pickles… all of these things somewhere, whether in the fridge, freezer or counter.

Arthur Schwartz's easy Kosher dill pickle recipe.

They will get cloudy after a day or two, that’s perfectly normal. And yes, I recommend wide mouth jars for this particular recipe. Especially if you’re making whole pickles, not sliced. AND DO NOT USE LARGE WAXED CUCUMBERS FOR THIS. It just will not work well. The wax prevents anything from penetrating the cucumber, and even if you slice them the skin will still be waxy & weird. You can quadruple this recipe and make one gallon as well, if you enjoy pickles that much. I actually just invested in some half-gallon Ball® jars (mainly for making cold brewed & sun tea) & I also noticed that my dill is growing like crazy… so perhaps Jay has a full half-gallon of Kosher dills in his future!

I don’t know how often I have to keep saying this, but: ANYONE can make these! They’re insanely simple! There’s no reason why you shouldn’t try making them.

Unless you don’t like pickles. In which case, can I interest you in a cake?

Tart & tangy lemon garlic tarragon pickles.

Happy Friday, folks. You might notice things look different around here; new images, etc. I’m in the (very slow) process of doing a full redesign- so if things look odd, for example if font sizes aren’t looking right, or images look bizarre, just bear with me. I like doing these things at 3:30 in the morning so there’s a chance things aren’t quite as they should be. In the meantime… any issues that may pop up are purely cosmetic. Everything is working, the recipe index is totally functional, as are the archives, categories & search features. And the recipes continue!

Finding new blogs to read that capture and actually hold my interest is something else I like doing at 2 or 3 in the morning. Jay gets home at around 2:30-3:00 a.m. and I usually wait up for him, so while I’m waiting if there’s nothing else to do, i.e. no movies/TV shows to watch, laundry to fold, blog posts to write/blog maintenance to take care of, e-mails to read or return, design work to be done, etc. If there’s none of that, I tuck into bed on the ol’ Macbook, maybe with some tunes, & look up new blogs. Sometimes, there are awful blogs. Really awful. Either they’re just poorly written, bad grammatically, uninteresting or they have such bad design I can’t even figure out what I’m looking at. As a matter of fact, I truly don’t even think most people know how many horrible blogs there are on the internet. I’d estimate the number at, oh… A LOT.

But other times I find a real diamond in the rough. Hidden internet gems that I’ve never seen or heard of before, just waiting there for me to find them. And I do. If you’re out there, & you’ve got a killer blog… I’ll find you. *cue this song* And when I find you, I spend what seems like hours scrolling through & going back through the archives like a web stalker. Is that creepy? Or is that totally normal?

Anyway.. how I find most of them are via links on other blogs, on Facebook, sometimes on Twitter, but most often via Pinterest photos, which is where I found the blog I’m ripping off this pickle recipe from.

Lemon garlic tarragon pickles. No canning required!

I first saw the photo for these pickles on Pinterest, and when I clicked through I saw the blog’s name was Pork n Whisk(e)y. How could I NOT love a blog with that name?! Come on now. Not to mention I clicked around & saw things like preserved oranges, ale mustard, bourbon sour cherry dark chocolate brownies, etc. I was hooked. I just love me a good blog, especially a good food blog.

When it comes to a food blog, the recipes are what pulls me in. But add some good photography & a clever name? I’m sold.

So then I make something from said blog, because you know something else I like to do at 2 a.m.? Make food. Since I had originally stumbled upon the lemon garlic tarragon pickles, that’s what I decided on making. It sounded different and it just so happens that in my jar stash, I had TWO quart jars left…

Tarragon is one of the four fines herbes of French cooking, and is particularly suitable for chicken, fish and egg dishes. Tarragon is the main flavoring component ofBéarnaise sauce. Fresh, lightly bruised sprigs of tarragon are steeped in vinegar to produce tarragon vinegar.

Tarragon is used to flavor a popular carbonated soft drink in the countries of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and, by extension, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The drink, named Tarhun (Armenian pronunciation: [tɑɾˈxun] Тархун), is made out of sugary tarragon concentrate and colored bright green.

In Slovenia, tarragon is used as a spice for a traditional sweet cake called potica. In Hungary a popular kind of chicken soup is flavored with tarragon.

cis-Pellitorin, an isobutyramide eliciting a pungent taste, has been isolated from Tarragon plant.[5]

-Wikipedia

Tarragon is one of those herbs that isn’t for everyone. It has a faint licorice or anise-y flavor, but it’s also vaguely peppery. Very French, very summery, very fresh, very unique. Which means this is definitely not your every day ordinary dill pickle. But then again, when do I ever make those? I make pickles with beer & whiskey for crying out loud.

Quick & easy lemon garlic tarragon pickles. No canning required.Wow.. I cut some of those bad boys a bit unevenly didn’t I?

LEMON GARLIC TARRAGON PICKLES (from Pork n Whisk(e)y)

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 Kirby or other pickling cucumbers
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 5-6 tarragon sprigs
  • 1 1/2 cup distilled 5% white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Wash & cut the cucumbers into quarters, lengthwise, trimming off the blossom end (if kept on, it makes for mushy pickles). Place the cucumbers, lemon zest and tarragon into a quart jar that’s been sterilized.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the lemon juice, water, garlic and vinegar over medium-high heat to a simmer. Then add salt, peppercorns and sugar. Stir to dissolve.
  3. Pour lemon juice mixture over cucumbers and tarragon in the jar. Let cool loosely covered until near room temperature.
  4. Seal and place in refrigerator. Keeps for at least 3 weeks, however they’ll probably be okay far longer.

Quick, simple, refreshing & easy. Still tart & sour, but in a very different way than your average, everyday pickle. My mother says they’re great with cream cheese (!). Seriously. I don’t know about that but she swears by it. And the best part (for most of you)… no canning required! Although if you wanted to, you could certainly make these shelf-stable; it seems to me that there’s plenty of vinegar in the recipe to do so. And if I’m wrong (because I’m no Master Preserver), it shouldn’t be too hard to tweak it.

If you’re looking for other pickle recipes to create this summer, I have a ton. Take a look at the pickling/pickles categories & take your pick (pun intended). Happy June.

Lemon garlic tarragon pickles.

And in case you’re wondering, some other recent blog discoveries of mine (that have become instant favorites) include Skunkboy, Headed Out West, The Militant Baker, Farmette, Spoon Fork Bacon, {local milk}, Cook Republic & Tartlet Sweets.

Irish tea, bread & sympathy.

Coming from a family environment where my main grandparental influence came from my maternal grandparents, I’m pretty well versed in all things Irish (and German- but that’s another post). My grandmother Agnes was full-blooded Irish, second generation born in New York, and my grandpa was 1/4 Irish, 3/4 German. My grandpa passed away when I was very small, about 6 years old. But my grandmother was with me my whole childhood and young adult life. She passed away when I was 30, so I’d say that from her I got a full course in Irish-American tradition. Tea was a big part of this. My grandma drank tea all day. ALL DAY. She never drank coffee, not unless it was a fancy coffee once in a while after dinner, or an Irish coffee at one of her favorite Irish pub/restaurants that me & Jay used to take her to. My whole life, tea was a major player in everything. If you were sick- have a hot cup of tea with honey or lemon (or both). Sad? Have a hot cup of tea with milk & sugar. And in the summer, as expected, there was always iced tea.

The same can be said for Irish soda bread. I’ve made all different kinds, ate all different kinds, both homemade & store-bought. My favorite still remains; the Irish soda cake. I could eat it morning, noon & night. But I still come up with new ones to try, despite my allegiance. And this one is a recipe I tore out of Gourmet or Bon Appétit ages ago and never made. It’s from Downey’s in Philadelphia, and the addition of dark brown sugar intrigued me.

Soda bread (Serbian: česnica/чесница, Irish: arán sóide, Scots: fardel) is a variety of quick bread traditionally made in a variety of cuisines in which sodium bicarbonate (otherwise known as baking soda) is used as a leavening agent instead of the more common yeast. The ingredients of traditional soda bread areflourbread sodasalt, and buttermilk. The buttermilk in the dough contains lactic acid, which reacts with the baking soda to form tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. Other ingredients can be added such as butter, egg, raisins or nuts.

In Ireland, the flour is typically made from soft wheat; so soda bread is best made with a cake or pastry flour (made from soft wheat), which has lower levels of gluten than a bread flour. In some recipes, the buttermilk is replaced by live yoghurt or even stout. Bakers recommend the minimum amount of mixing of the ingredients before baking; the dough should not be kneaded.

Various forms of soda bread are popular throughout Ireland. Soda breads are made using either wholemeal or white flour. In Ulster, the wholemeal variety is usually known as wheaten bread and normally sweetened, while the term “soda bread” is restricted to the white savoury form. In more southern parts of Ireland, the wholemeal variety is usually known as brown soda and is almost identical to the Ulster wheaten.

The Soda farl or “Griddle cakes”, “Griddle bread” (or “Soda farls” in Ulster) take a more rounded shape and have a cross cut in the top to allow the bread to expand. The griddle cake or farl is a more flattened type of bread. It is cooked on a griddle allowing it to take a more flat shape and split into four sections. The Soda Farl is one of the distinguishing elements of the Ulster Fry, where it is served alongside potato bread, also in farl form.[11]

MY VERSION OF DOWNEY’S IRISH SODA BREAD

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons, plus additional for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons well-shaken buttermilk at room temperature
  • 1 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F with rack in the middle. 
  2. Blend flours, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and butter in a large bowl with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Stir in buttermilk and eggs until smooth dough forms. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and divide into small round individual loaves (I got four). Space them evenly on a lightly floured baking sheet. Sprinkle with flour, and cut an X in the top of each loaf with a sharp knife.
  4. Bake 20 minutes, then reduce oven to 375° F and continue to bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes.
  5. Transfer loaves to a rack to cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with butter, creme fraiche, marmalade or jam.
  6. Bread is best the day it’s made, but can be frozen. Just wrap it tightly in 2 layers of foil and freeze no longer than one month. Refresh, wrapped in foil in a 325° oven until heated through, about 20 minutes.

 

This recipe can be made into one large, round loaf or doubled and made into either three long “baguette” style loaves or two large round loaves.

You can feel free to add raisins (or Jameson soaked raisins) or caraway seeds, if you wish. I come from a family that happens to prefer it plain, as do I, so I rarely if ever add anything to it. It’s best, like stated above, the same day. But I wrapped it in foil and reheated it slightly the next day & it was perfect. Also, it’s just personal preference as to what to serve with it. If you’re having it with a meal, then butter is the norm. If you’re serving it with tea or coffee or as a snack, then jam, orange marmalade, clotted cream or creme fraiche is good. But it’s great plain too.

And I must say, as much as my old standby recipe is my favorite, this one was really, really good too. If you never found a soda bread you like.. I suggest you try making some of your own, that way you can tweak it and add or subtract the elements you want to. You just might end up a fan.

Cheery lil’ cherry Christmas muffins.

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It never fails; every holiday season, I try to come up with different pretty little muffins and things that can go from breakfast to lunch to “snack time.” Whether it’s breads or loaf cakes or muffins or rolls, I like to have things on hand that can be grabbed at any time of day, whenever anyone pops in or decides they want one with a cup of coffee or tea… or a glass of milk. Because this is the time of year when people are always coming by, stopping in, etc. and you’ve gotta have something on hand to give these wandering wassailers, whether they’re coming morning, noon or night.

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Cupcakes don’t always go with breakfast. And they’ve also got a shorter table-life than muffins. Muffins last forever, it seems. And in the new issue of the Food Network magazine, there’s a buttload of inspiration in the form of a booklet with 50 muffin recipes! So I guess I’m not alone in my idea that muffins make great snacks for last-minute guests, eh?

A lot of the recipes sounded amazing, but the ones I really liked I had bigger plans for. So I gathered up some things I had in my cupboards- dried Bing cherries & white chocolate chips, namely- and threw ‘em into my favorite muffin recipe base. If I had had some pistachios, I’d have thrown them in there too. Pistachio goes well with both cherry & white chocolate. Oh- and cranberries would work just fine instead of cherries- both fresh and dried. The tartness of both cherries & cranberries work because of the sweetness of the white chocolate.

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WHITE CHOCOLATE CHERRY MUFFINS

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons set aside
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter — melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs – beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios (optional, I didn’t have any)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. and grease up 12 muffin cups or put liners in them (I prefer liners because it’s less messy that way).
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, stir together milk, eggs, cooled butter, and vanilla until blended. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add milk mixture and stir just to combine. Stir in cherries, then white chocolate chips. DON’T OVERMIX THE BATTER.
  3. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling them almost to the top; top each muffin with a sprinkling of sugar from reserved 2 tablespoons. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean.
  4. Remove muffin tin to wire rack; cool 5 minutes and remove from tins to finish cooling. Serve with whatever you like, whenever you like.

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The cool thing about the white chocolate chips in this case is that they don’t melt like semisweet or milk chocolate chips would. They stay whole, as do the cherries, so you taste each of them separately & get the texture too. That’s why the addition of unsalted shelled pistachios would be great! Not only would it make the muffins Christmas colors, but the texture of the three separate things would be awesome. Chewy cherries, thick white chocolate and crunchy-ish pistachios.

And they go great with milk & pretty paper straws, too.

Table runner custom-made for me by Yoyo of topstitch.org/topstitch.artfire.com

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