Sour Cherry Almond Muffins

sour cherry almond muffins - trustinkim.com

Why have I never made an almond and cherry baked good before? My apartment smelled so wonderful after baking these; the almond smell is dreamy! These muffins are a bit more on the mini-cake side, meaning I don’t think they’re the healthiest muffins I’ve ever made. That’s not to say I didn’t have one for breakfast a few times   . . . and they’re really good with tea!

We ate one of these while they were warm, which is when they are at their best, but they were also great the next day. I froze the rest as soon as they were cool, and they were still really good when thawed.

I found the recipe on this site: Pretty Simple Sweet. The original recipe uses sweet cherries, but I used sour cherries, and I think they pair really well with the almond flavour. I tend to like to balance sweetness with tartness.

The recipe calls for baking the muffins for a few minutes at a higher temperature, then lowering the temperature for the rest of the baking. My oven is really finicky; I have to set it for higher than the required temperature, but then I have to lower it once it is at the right temperature or it will get too hot. So for me this was quite challenging. The good news is, by checking for a light brownness, and then using a toothpick to check if they had baked through, they baked successfully. Yay!

What you need:

  • 1 & 3/4 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
  •  2 teaspoons baking powder
  •  1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  •  1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  •  1 large egg, slightly beaten
  •  1 cup yogurt (I use 3.5% fat, my homemade recipe)
  •  1/3 cup (80 mL) canola oil
  •  1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  1 teaspoon pure almond extract 
  •  1 & 1/2 cups (300 grams) cherries, halved and pitted 
  •  1/2 cup sliced almonds, plus extra to sprinkle on top

What you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F/220C. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners; I also sprayed them with baking spray.
  2. Toast the 1/2 cup of almonds in a frying pan or in the oven.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Add the sugar and stir to combine.
  4. Mix the egg with the yogurt, oil, and vanilla and almond extracts in a medium bowl.
  5. Pit and cut the cherries in half. If they are really juicy or if you’re using frozen berries, you can toss them in just a bit of flour to prevent bleeding. Prepare the cherries right before you are going to add them to the batter so that your finished product will look pretty.
  6. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold the batter with a rubber spatula just until combined. Be careful to not over-mix, which would toughen the final product. We want nice light muffins. You can expect the batter to be thick and lumpy.
  7. Fold in the toasted almonds and cherries.
  8. Spoon the batter into the lined muffin cups. Sprinkle each muffin with a few un-toasted almonds.
  9. Bake for three minutes, then reduce the temperature of the oven to 375F/190C and bake for 12-17 minutes more. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick; the muffin should be tender but not wet.
  10. Cool the muffins still in the tins for about 10 minutes, then place the muffins on a wire rack to cool.
  11. Allow the muffins to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. They can be stored on the counter for a day or two, or frozen for a few months.
  12. Enjoy!

Magret de Canard (Duck breast)=YUM!

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The first time I tasted magret de canard was at Chez Janou in Paris. We had been invited to someone’s apartment one evening, and I thought we were there for dinner. Turns out it was just for drinks. By about ten pm it became clear that there would be no food served, so we headed over to Chez Janou where I ordered the magret de canard for the first time. It was served medium-rare with roasted potatoes, and a red wine pan sauce.

When I made it this time (I’ve made it several times before, but always forgot to take photos) I served it on greens, but what you don’t see in the photo is the  potatoes roasted in duck fat, nor the pan juice I poured over the duck after I took the photo. I also served it with a baguette, which was perfect for mopping up extra juices.

In my opinion the duck breast in the photo is cooked to perfection. You might be thinking to yourself – isn’t that a little too red for poultry? Duck is a red meat, and the breast must not be cooked to well done or it will be dry. I was served a well-done duck breast on a subsequent visit to Chez Janou (they must have thought North Americans liked it this way) and it tasted like liver (ick). Some sources say that rare duck meat is unsafe, but most say it’s fine, and restaurants typically serve it even rarer than the one I have show here.

Here is a quick guide to testing for doneness so you don’t have to poke into the meat with a thermometer, using the feel of the meat compared to the feel of different parts of your face as a guide. When you prod the top of the breast with your finger, you are checking for the following:

  • feels like when you prod your cheek = rare
  • feels like when you prod your chin=medium rare
  • feels like when you prod your forehead=well done

To make the pan sauce you will use the bits of meat that are stuck to the pan acter cooking the breast, along with some wine and a bit of butter. The stuff left in the bottom of the pan is called “fond,” (silent ‘d’) from the French word for bottom. It is concentrated flavour that you don’t want to waste, and makes a really easy and tasty sauce.

You don’t have to eat the skin (but it is crispy and delicious), but you need to cook the breast with the skin on or it will be very dry. And that would be such a shame.

What you need:

  • duck breast
  • salt
  • red or white wine for the pan sauce
  • butter

What you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Remove the duck breast from the fridge at least half an hour before you plan to cook it. Score the fat using a very sharp knife, making sure you don’t cut all the way down to the meat. Salt the fat side quite a bit, then salt the other side a bit.
  3. Heat an ovenproof pan (I used cast iron) to high, then lower the heat to medium high. Add the duck breast skin side down and cook for 5 minutes – it should sizzle quite a bit. Flip the duck breast.
  4. Put the breast, still in the pan, in the oven for 4-8 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the size of the breast and how well you like it done. When cooked to the desired doneness remove the breast from the oven and place it on a plate or cutting board to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
  5. While the breast is resting, put the pan on the stove again and add a little wine to loosen up the fond. Let the wine cook down a little, then add a pat of butter to make a glossy sauce.
  6. I like to slice the breast before serving, and for a small meal the one breast can be shared between two people. After slicing pour some of the pan juice over the top.
  7. Enjoy!

Bruschetta

bruschetta - trustinkim.comTomatoes, freshly picked from the vine – is there a better taste of summer? Bruschetta is a tasty way to serve up some of these treasures from the garden, or the garden of a friend, or a Farmer’s market. Best made only with fresh summer tomatoes, but in a pinch, cherry tomatoes are often a best bet in winter.

I haven’t given amounts for this recipe because it’s easy to make, and you can alter amounts according to your taste and how much you want to make. Each tomato tastes a bit different, so the seasonings will depend on how much flavour is in our tomatoes.

What you need:

  • baguette
  • 1 clove garlic
  • the freshest tomatoes you can get
  • fresh basil
  • sweet onion
  • balsamic vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt

What you do:

  1. Slice and lightly toast the bread. You can toast it in the oven, toaster, or on the BBQ. The BBQ is a good option if it’s really hot and you don’t want to turn on your oven.
  2. Slice the garlic in half and rub it on the toasted bread. Set the bread aside.
  3. Mince a little bit of the onion, then chop the tomatoes and toss them into a bowl. Tear up or chop the basil and add it to the tomatoes.
  4. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the tomatoes, along with a pinch of salt – give it a toss. Taste and add more of each of these ingredients as you see fit.
  5. Just before serving, top each slice of bread with tomatoes. Alternatively, you can leave the tomatoes in a bowl and people can top their own.

Mini Frittata

mini frittata - trustinkim.com

These mini frittata, baked in muffin tins, make the perfect quick breakfast. They can be made ahead and then heated up as needed. If you’ve got any picky eaters in your household they can add whatever they like to theirs, or keep it really plain.

I’ve made frittata before, like this yummy potato one. For this version I altered the cooking method and time, and changed the filling to bacon, roasted red pepper and Parmesan. As I mentioned, feel free to use any fillers you like, just making sure they are not too watery. Tomatoes should be deseeded and drained if you are using them.

For this batch I made a half dozen frittata because I was still experimenting. You can double the amount so you have lots in the freezer – basically one egg per muffin section. Just wait for them to cool completely before putting them in the freezer. I wrapped them in a bit of parchment paper before putting them into a zip-lock bag. If you’ve got a lot of people to feed you probably won’t need to freeze anything, just keep the leftovers in the fridge for up to a few days.

To reheat, just pop one in the microwave until it is heated through – all microwaves work differently, so I can’t specify a time. I like to use the defrost setting. Alternately, you could take it out of the freezer the night before you want to eat it and let it come to room temperature, then pop it into a frying pan for a few minutes. The texture of the reheated frittata is a little bit different than when it made fresh, but still really good. I think these also taste really good at room temperature.

What you need:

  • 6 eggs, preferably free-range
  • 2 tablespoons diced onion
  • 2-3 slices bacon, cooked
  • 1/2 roasted red pepper
  • 2-4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • chopped herbs of your choice – I used basil and oregano
  • salt and pepper

What you do:

  1. Grease the muffin tins well.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F/175C
  3. Fry the onion in a bit of olive oil or bacon fat until it is soft and just beginning to brown. Remove the onions from the heat.
  4. Pat the red pepper dry on a piece of paper towel, then chop it up.
  5. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat them with a fork.
  6. Add the onion, bacon, pepper, cheese, herbs, and some salt and pepper. Mix these ingredients in with the fork.
  7. Pour the egg mixture into the prepared muffin tins – I used a ladle for this.
  8. To be safe I put a baking tray underneath the muffin tin in case it spilled over; it did not. Place the muffin tin in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. The eggs should not be runny on the top, so cook them for a few minutes longer if they are not done
  9. Cool for a few minutes before tipping them out of the muffin tin. They are delicious to eat right away!

Hummus Sandwich

hummus sandwich - trustinkim.com

I don’t often make meals that are as easy as this one, and when I do I usually don’t think of it as a recipe worth sharing. But this one is! It’s tasty, nutritious, and easy to make. Feel free to alter the ingredients as you see fit.

I don’t recommend this one as a make and take, since it would probably get soggy. But then, I’m a bit of a sandwich snob and I never like sandwiches that have been made ahead of time. 

What you need:

What you do:

  1. The first step is optional, but I think it makes the sandwich extra tasty: slice the ciabatta in half, then heat a frying pan. Add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan, then place the bread cut-side down to grill it a little. Less than a minute is probably good.
  2. Add hummus to the bottom slice of the bun, and add whatever else you are putting on it (you know how to make a sandwich.) Salt and pepper the tomatoes a little.
  3. Put the top on and eat right away!

Blackberry Liqueur

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Summer in a bottle! I picked a few tubs of blackberries down by the train tracks, and here’s what I made with them. This winter there will be blackberry cocktails and maybe some desserts featuring this gorgeous blackberry liqueur. We already had some drizzled on ice cream, and I plan to make a blackberry liqueur-champagne drink soon . . . 

This is really easy to make, but you need two days to complete the process. Most of the time is just letting the berries soak. And picking the berries – I have discovered that if you try to do this in a rush you get hurt. So many prickles! So I take my time, and it has been a someone meditative process. Being calm, picking only the berries that are ready to fall off the plant, the ripest and sweetest ones. 

The amounts used are based on the fact that I had 3 cups of blackberries. Adjust the amounts if you have more or less. It’s not an exact science. I looked at a lot of recipes to get ideas about what to do here, so this is a compilation of some of their ideas for amounts and processes. I added a few sage leaves, and I’m not sure yet if they are noticeable in the finished product, and are optional for this recipe.

The first batch turned out so well that I’ve just begun another one!

Simple syrup really is simple to make. Just add equal parts water and granulated sugar to a pot, let it heat until the sugar has dissolved, and let it cool. For this recipe I used 1/2 cup water to 1/2 cup sugar.

What you need:

  • 3 cups (750mL) fresh blackberries
  • 2 & 3/4 cups vodka (680mL) (I used Stolichnaya)
  • a few fresh sage leaves, optional
  • 1 & 1/2 cups (325mL) water
  • 3/4 to 1 cup simple syrup (180-250mL), to taste
  • cheesecloth for straining

What you do:

  1. Wash the berries and drain them. Place them in a large bowl or pot and mash them with a potato masher or the bottom of a bottle.
  2. Pour the vodka over the berries. They should be completely covered. Put a lid or plastic wrap over the container and let it sit in a cool place for about 24 hours. (It was really hot when I made mine, so there was no cool place to put it. I just moved on to the next step a bit earlier.)
  3. Strain the berries and vodka into another bowl, keeping the pulp. Cover the berry and vodka mixture.
  4. Place the pulp in another container and pour the water over it. Let this sit for 24 hours, then strain it, adding the juice to the vodka mixture.
  5. Use cheesecloth to strain the berries again, to get all the vodka and blackberry goodness out of them.
  6. Strain the vodka and berry mixture several more times through the cheesecloth until the liquid has no pulp in it. 
  7. Bottle the liqueur. It should keep for a long time in a cool cupboard, but I’m choosing to keep mine in the fridge since I have space.

 

Vanilla Cake with the best butter icing

Vanilla Birthday Cake - trustinkim

 

If you’re looking for the best, moistest, tastiest vanilla cake, then look no further. This is the one. The cake is so delicious, and my mom’s recipe for the buttery icing is the BEST! By request this one had coconut on it, but you can leave that off if you wish.

To celebrate a “really big birthday” recently I wanted to make an amazing cake that I knew the birthday boy (man) would love. I found the recipe for the vanilla cake on Sally’s Baking Addiction.  During the party I completely forgot to take a good picture of the cake – oh no! So this is the best I could do when it was already half eaten. You can’t see in the photo, but it’s a triple layer cake.

I’ve been enjoying my mom’s vanilla icing for as long as I can remember, so finally I asked her for her “boiling icing” recipe. It’s a little trickier than some, but it’s worth it. I like it best when it’s just come out of the fridge, so the icing is a bit harder, but it’s also nice when it’s sat out for a while and the icing turns creamier.

I only made a few changes to the original recipe: I used a different frosting, and  added the toasted coconut. In the method I made one change, which is what I usually do when adding dry and wet to a batter: I added half the dry, then half the wet, and then repeated the step. I find this makes it easier to mix.

Just make sure you leave time to let the cake cool completely before you put the icing on it. Alternatively, you can make the cake ahead of time and freeze it. 

The recipe makes a triple layer cake, so don’t try to fit it into two pans as it won’t bake through. If you don’t have three pans (and I don’t live near you do I can’t loan you mine), you could put 1/3 of the batter into cupcake pans or a loaf pan. Your cake won’t be as tall, but then this is a really big cake, so you could get away with it.

A note about the blending flour: this is also called instant flour, and it works better when used for thickening, like in this boiled icing recipe. My mom uses it, and I didn’t, so I ended up having to run the milk and flour through a fine sieve because I had lumps. So if you don’t have blending/instant flour, you can substitute it with a.p. flour, but just beware that you will need to whisk it really well so it doesn’t get lumpy.

What you need for the cake:

  • 420 grams (3 & 2/3 cup) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 345 grams (1 & 1/2 cups) unsalted butter – room temperature
  • 400 grams (2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs plus two egg whites – room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 360 mL (1 & 1/2 cups) buttermilk
  • (optional – toasted coconut)

What you need for the icing:

  • 1 & 1/2 cup milk
  • 7 & 1/2 tablespoons blending flour 
  • 1 & 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 & 1/2 cups granulated sugar

What you do for the cake:

  1. Prepare the cake pans by cutting parchment paper circles to fit in the bottoms of the pans. Grease the pans, then grease the parchment paper.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
  3. Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
  4. Beat the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer. Beat on high speed for about three minutes, until it is smooth and creamy. You will need to scrape down the sides from time to time.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, including the extra whites, then beat in the vanilla. The batter may look a bit curdled as you do this, but it will come together.
  6. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter on low speed, mixing until just about combined. Add half of the buttermilk, again mixing until just about combined. Repeat the process, adding flour, then buttermilk, until they are just combined. Make sure you mix to the bottom of the bowl to avoid any lumps; you can do this with a rubber spatula.
  7. Pour the batter into the three pans, equal amounts in each. You can weigh them if you want this to be precise.
  8. Bake for 23-26 minutes, testing for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the centre of the cake to see if it comes out clean.
  9.  Allow the cakes to cool completely – leave them in their pans to do this, and place the pans on a wire rack.

What to do for the icing:

  1. In a saucepan combine the flour and cold milk, stirring until there are no lumps.
  2. Whisking constantly, bring the mixture to a simmer. Continue to whisk it until it becomes thick. Allow this to cool completely.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the cooled milk and flour mixture on medium speed, a little at a time. Continue to beat until it is light and fluffy.
  4. To ice the cake, place one layer of the cake on your serving dish. Using a flat metal spatula, spread a bit less than 1/4 of the icing on that layer, then do the same on the next layer. On the edges of the cake spread a thin layer of icing, then the same on the top. If you have time, refrigerate the cake for about half an hour, then add the final layer of icing to make it look finished. Here’s a video to show the process.
  5. Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour before slicing so that it will hold its shape.

    birthday cake -  trustinkim.com