Recipe Write Up: Blueberry Compote Sour Cream Muffins

First of all, and this has nothing to do with the recipe, I just learned this morning that CBS has adapted the Great British Bake Off for American TV!!!!! Yea, the American Baking Competition doesn’t have a title that rolls of the tongue like its British counterpart, but hey, its still has delicious looking baked goods. And no, before you ask, it does not have brief little segments that talk about culinary history and what not. Its a bit disappointing but remember this is American TV so I’m going to take what I can get. Even a writer for NPR.com acknowledge the emergence of the American Baking Competition, seeing it the way I do: as a harmless reality tv with a touch of decadence. Its a straightforward formula that has worked (and not worked) in the past so I’m curious to see if this show will be as successful as its British inspiration.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2013/05/29/187050032/cbs-debuts-a-baking-competition-as-broadcast-continues-borrowing-from-cable

*I really like how at the bottom she insists that any show with Gordon Ramsey is a Gordon Ramsey show, not a competition show. It’s true though. I don’t care about the contestants (except for Masterchef) I just really want to see Ramsey call someone a donkey*

Alright, I’m done wasting time. On to the main event.

Muffins, like cupcakes, are one of those that I just absolutely love to make. Doesn’t matter what the recipe is, I will gladly throw my apron on and jump into the kitchen if it means I get a chance to bake a batch of these tasty beauties. So I’m going to confess something: I may be a novice cook but when it comes to baking, especially cupcakes and muffins, I’d like to consider myself something of a pro. Does that mean every cupcake or muffin I make is going to come out of the even with a heavenly glow and angelic choir screeching out of them? No, but I can almost guarantee that they will taste good, about 95% of the time. Usually. Given such this decent track record, my mom’s work buddies asked me to bake something yummy for a co-worker who was retiring. While at first I had a million ideas going through my head. I could make cake, cupcakes (both meant I’d get to make icing!!!), bread, tarts (something new for me), or brownies. The possibilities were endless. But then mom threw me the curve ball. Well two curve balls. 1). They were going to be eaten on the train my mom’s friends took into the city and 2). They were going to be eaten at 6:00am. Well, that criteria kind of killed a bunch of my ideas, save for one. MUFFINS!!!!!!

While I was initially going to use a use a recipe from a blog that I follow, I was at my local library (not surprising) when I stumbled upon a cookbook dedicated towards producing delicious muffins. After flipping through a few recipes, I decided the book was worth checking out. As I would soon discover, the book, Moufflet: More than 100 Gourmet Muffin Recipes That Rise to Any Occasion was written by fellow blogger, Kelly Jaggers of http://www.evilshenanigans.com. Divided into six chapters, the book covers muffin recipes that range from the decadent to the super savory. The last two chapters features a variety of spreads, glazes, and crumbles to top off your muffin creation. But with so many choices how on earth was I going to pick one? Well, since I had previously selected a recipe, mom had already told the others that I was baking muffins with blueberries. Given that little stipulation, I was considerably limited in which recipes I could go for.

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How could I pass up on a chance to use such beautiful blueberries?

As the title of the post says, the winning recipe was Blueberry Compote Sour Cream Muffins. Certainly a mouthful but with such a promising result. And while I have made blueberry muffins before, the incorporation of a compote presented a new challenge for me. The combination of the sweet berries mixed with the tartness of a lime juice ultimately produced a result I was extremely proud of. When combined with the sour cream based batter, the pale white mixture gradually turned a light purplish blue along with streaks of darker blue. It was quite the sight to behold.

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I kind of went a bit overboard with filters on my camera. Can you blame me when my phone camera takes better pics than my real camera?

Then of course, came the fun part, and no, that does not mean eating the left over batter (which I did do :P). To fill the cupcake liners, one had to follow a specific process: fill them up halfway with the batter, then the compote, and then finally, more batter to top it off. After that, its just a scant twenty minutes in the oven before you have yourself a lovely plate of muffins.

ImageI really loved the sort of tye-dyed effect that they had on the surface, it was different and, most importantly, it looked natural. No bizarrely colored muffin messes here! While the recipe said it would make about 18 muffins, I somehow managed to shrink the recipe down to 15.

Not sure how that happened but it is what it is. I kind of wish now that I made more just to keep on the side I’d need to go the store to get more blueberries.

Oh well, there is always next time.

Fresh Blueberry Compote Sour Cream Muffins

    Makes about 18 Muffins

    From Kelly Jagger’s Moufflet

1 ½ cups fresh blueberries*

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

⅓ cup butter, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup half and half

2 eggs

*I followed the recipe exactly but in the end, I didn’t have enough compote for all the muffins. If you want to try the recipe, eyeball the amount of blueberries you use for the compote. Throw more in there if you think there should be more*

1. In a medium saucepan mix 1 cup of blueberries, the cornstarch, sugar, water, and lime juice. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thick and the berries have burst, about 10 minutes. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then fold in the remaining blueberries

2. Preheat oven to 350F and prepare 18 muffin cups with nonstick spray, or line with paper liners

3. In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Once sifted, whisk in the sugar until evenly mixed

4. In a separate bowl add the butter, vanilla, sour cream, half and half, and eggs. Whisk until the mixture is well combined

5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. With a wooden spoon or spatula, gently fold the mixture until just combined, about ten strokes. Do not overmix. Add half the blueberry mixture and just swirl it into the batter, leaving large streaks of blueberry

6. Divide half the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups, and top with the reserved blueberry compote. Then top with the remaining batter. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the muffins spring back when gently pressed in the center and the tops are golden brown. Cool in the pan for 3 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan to cool on a wire rack. Enjoy warm!

History of Cookbooks pt. 2

*Considering how lengthy my last post was when I included my history section, I have decided to dedicate a separate post to it entirely. That way, I won’t have to fight with my inner voice that screams at me when things are getting to lengthy*

For today’s segment, I’m going to give a brief overview of four of the first ever printed cookbooks, all originated in the fifteenth century.

1). De honesta voluptate et valetudine (Of Honest Indulgence and Good Health) is considered to be the first ever printed cookbook, published in 1474 Italy. Written by Bartolomeo Sacchi, he combined methodologies towards achieving good health along with recipes from other works. According to authors Anne Willan and Mark Cherniavsky “The recipes in De honesta have an artisanal rather than an intellectual bent, reflecting the new scientific philosophy of the humanist era” (49).

Like other cookbooks printed during this century, these books were relatively plain in appearance; there was definitely no celebrity chef’s picture plastered on the cover. Additionally, the average reader of these books were often ones of wealth or nobility. For that reason, they paint a clear picture of what life was like for those with affluent backgrounds, especially during times of feasts and banquets.

2). While the first printed cookbook originated from Italy, the second on my overview comes from Germany. Kuchenmeisterei (Mastery of the Kitchen) was published in 1485. While De honesta was written for a targeted audience, the author of Kuchenmeisterei had a broader audience in mind: “For princely households, prosperous city-dwellers, for  wealthy cloisters, and for master chefs in the taverns and inns of the nobility and their families” (Willan & Cherniavsky 50). A rather short volume, the book is divided into sections, such as dishes for fasting-days (soups, fruit preserves, and fish) meats, game, and finally, side dishes.

3). The list would not be complete without something French. Published in Paris, in 1486, Le Viandier (The Victualler) captured the essence of culinary traditions during the medieval era. Influenced by older manuscript from the fourteenth century, Le Viandier was extremely popular during its time, even getting a re-print in the nineteenth century. As for recipes. it is rumored that they originated from the author, Taillevent, himself. The remaining recipes are more contemporary, reflecting the culinary trends of the century. Another thing that is interesting to note  is that the recipes “Reflect the fact that table implements were sparse” with purees and porridge appearing frequently throughout (Willan & Cherniavsky54).

Additionally, the presence of spices too is an interesting trend. Heavily used in preparation, spices represented both signs of wealth as well as a new means of trade. Light and portable, they could be traded for other goods. Strangely, the popularity of spices would wane, barely being featured in European cooking during the sixteenth century.

4). The English cookbook, Boke of Cokery (1500) complete today’s list. Published in London, the book featured both recipes from the medieval era and more contemporary, English recipes and techniques. As the case with the other books mentioned here, the printed version of the Boke of Cokery was based off earlier texts. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that much about the Boke of Cokery, though a bit of online research brought me here: http://www.godecookery.com/gcooktoc/gcooktoc.htm

While I can’t totally tell if this is the same cookbook since the title is different, overall, this is a really  cool website. With translated manuscripts and cookbooks, articles, term glossary, and much much more, you could spend hours reading up on per-modernity cooking. If you have some time, check it out. There are tons of translated recipes there so if you’re planning a Renaissance themed dinner party, this would be an excellent source.

That’s all for now though I can assure you the next installment will be coming soon. I will admit that I am still figuring out how I want to present this whole history thing so please bear with me. I promise to iron out the kinks over time.

 

Till then,

Litbaker

Work Cited

Willan, Anne, Mark Cherniavsky, and Kyri Claflin. The Cookbook Library: Four Centuries of the Cooks, Writers, and Recipes That Made the Modern Cookbook. Berkeley: University of California, 2012. Print.

The Ramblings of a Foodie Dreamer

There are two things in this massively complex world that I love: food and knowledge. Without one, we’d be dead. Without the other, well, let’s just say we wouldn’t be living in the wonders of the twenty-first century. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that I don’t have to say anymore to convince you why both subjects are important. We good? Good. Moving on now.

This blog, a rather rash idea suddenly spurred into action, is not going to be about me. Ok, a little bit of it will be about me, but I am not the star of the show. Food is along with the history behind it. Think of this blog as a research blog, one that has little crumbs of knowledge interspersed amongst recipes and the ramblings of a wanna be librarian and food-fanatic. Have I lost you? Let me try explaining this again. History is all around us, some of it more obvious than others. What I desire to do with this rather small piece of web-space is to showcase and highlight the history of food, its presence and impact on both my life and yours. How? By focusing on those that have made food what it is today. From the history of cookbooks in America to the [abridged] biographies of culinary heros and trendsetters, I wish to uncover and understand why our modern culture of food is the way that it is today.  Throw in some niffy parts about me learning how to cook while researching these food heavy-weights along with studying to become a librarian and I’d say you’re in for a grand old time!

Now before you comment, I am quite aware of the magnitude of this project. It is going to take a lot of perseverance, research, money, and a sturdy wall to bang my head against during times of frustration. Is it going to be easy? Probably not, though I’m grateful that I possess quite a few skills when it comes to doing research (thanks to my sociology degree and four year work experience as a student librarian). And I’ll also say this, I can cook (kind of) as well as bake, so I won’t be hopping into a kitchen completely clueless. That’s already half the battle right there. Additionally, I will try very hard not make my posts the same lengths as something like an honors thesis. My goal is to be informative, to inspire the readers to do some research of their own if anything that I write intrigues them. The same applies to the recipes that I will feature; please give them a whirl and let me know how it works out for you. I have a massive recipe list stored on my computer, Demyx  (I’ll explain the name later) that I’ll post eventually.

That’s all for now  though I can assure you, more will be coming and its either going to be awesome or just simply hilarious. Either way, you’ll have something that will amuse you.

Till next time in which I promise to have 1). something informative to say, 2). an actual recipe, and 3). cute cat pictures,

Litbaker