lemon poppy seed muffins

lemon poppy seed muffins

Bear with me, folks. We’re still adjusting to the time change over here. The days that follow the springing forward of clocks are always some of the most brutal for me, it’s like a weeklong hangover. Losing that one hour ruins me for months – I swear I never really make the adjustment. I’ve accepted the fact that my body is meant to be on standard time. I’ll be secretly counting down till November.

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But I will admit that it is quite glorious to leave work when it’s still light out. And driving over the Bay Bridge with the windows down and the sun shining bright at 5:20pm in the middle of March feels like winning. So I suppose I’ll just put myself to bed a little bit earlier for the next couple of weeks and do my best to cope.

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You’ve probably gathered from all of this talk that I’m not much of a morning person. The only thing I really like about mornings is breakfast – it’s my favorite meal of the day, which is why I always make a point of having something substantial and satisfying. Lately I’ve been into Straus Greek yogurt with blueberries and hazelnuts and a drizzle of maple syrup. I am hooked on that Straus Greek yogurt – I can’t go back to any other brand.

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While I really enjoy my simple yogurt bowl at work every morning, I love doing it up on the weekends for breakfast. Usually it involves eggs. But this past Sunday, after walking around in zombie mode for a good part of the morning, I thought some muffins would help me get through the day.

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Since I ended up with a bag full of lemons after our lemon tree split in two about a week ago, I knew it was going to be some sort of lemon muffin. I also happened to have some poppy seeds on hand, so when I landed on a recipe for lemon poppy seed muffins, my mind was made up.

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These are everything you want in a breakfast muffin. They’re the perfect amount of sweet and they’re fantastic just out of the oven. I love their all-around lemony-ness, especially the drizzle of icing on top. I decided to make these extra special with a dollop of surprise blueberry jam in the center, which is totally optional but highly recommended. And they come together in under an hour, which means you can totally make a batch of muffins in the morning before heading out for the day. And the people you share them with will think  you are awesome. Just don’t take any drug tests afterwards.

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lemon poppy seed muffins

From Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

makes 1 dozen standard size muffins, or about 7 jumbo muffins

2/3 cup sugar

grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sour cream

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1/3 cup jam (optional)

1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted 

2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 

for the muffins:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, rub the sugar and the lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and hte fragrance of the lemon strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whish the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough-a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the poppy seeds. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
If making jam-filled muffins, fill the muffin cups with half the batter and top each with a teaspoon full of jam. Spoon the rest of the batter over the jam and proceed.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold. Cool the muffins completely on the rack before icing them. Best served the day they’re made.
for the icing:
Put the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl and add about 1-1/2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Stir with a spoon to moisten the sugar, then add enough additional lemon juice, a dribble at a time, to get an icing that is thin enough to drizzle from the tip of the spoon. You can then drizzle lines of icing over the tops of the muffins or coat the tops entirely.

lavender strawberry shortcakes (and the best of June)

June was so good. Like so good I wish it didn’t have to end. Here are a few of my favorites from the month:

Moonrise Kingdom I went to see Moonrise Kingdom the night it opened in SF. What a MASTERPIECE! First love. Whimsy. Nostalgia. Welcome to the wonderful world of Wes Anderson. His films have a very special place in my heart, as do his characters – Maxwell Fischer, Margot Tenenbaum, Steve Zissou. I’ll be adding little Sam Schakusky to the list. I want to watch it over and over and over again. And I want to go to summer camp.

Beach House Bloom Gorgeous. Lush. Dreamy. The official soundtrack of Summer 2012. This is in heavy rotation at the moment. Beach House just keeps getting better and better.

Girls I have to admit I was hesitant at first, not because I had been paying attention to the buzz that it had generated (I was actually completely in the dark), but mostly because I had imagined something pretty generic. After catching the last few minutes of an episode, I decided to check it out from the beginning, which resulted in a three hour, six episode marathon. Girls perfectly captures those awkward, at times painful to watch, often hilarious moments that are so very much a part of being twenty-something. I find it admirable that Lena Dunham has created a female protagonist who is far from perfect, even somewhat unlikeable, yet you find yourself routing for her. She also birthed the most quirky, complicated, loveable man/boy on television. I can’t wait for season 2.

au revoir, foie gras My sister and I had been meaning to have dinner at Gary Danko since last September, we just never got around to it. But we were especially motivated to get a reservation this month so that we could have our last rendezvous with foie gras before the ban. Oh California, I love you, but sometimes I just don’t get you. I decided to go big and ordered the five course foie gras tasting menu, which included a foie gras torchon, seared foie gras, foie gras custard, squab with pistachio-crusted foie gras, and foie gras profiteroles. You only live once, right?

SF Pride Since my early twenties, this has been one of my favorite weekends of the year. It is always filled with good friends and sentiment and the best kind of ridiculousness. It is also a reminder of why San Francisco is such an amazing city. This year, I learned a few important lessons: 1) You’re never too old for Pink Saturday, especially if you’re with friends. 2) Your judgement is slightly impaired after a couple of bourbon cocktails; you should listen to your friend when he says you should not get the Four Loko. 3) After age twenty-nine, you are too old to consume malt liquor energy drinks (chased with a beer) and you will pay for it the next day. And maybe even a little the day after that.

lavender strawberry shortcakes One of my favorite vendors at the farmers’ market sells Albion strawberries. They get sweeter every week and I’m totally addicted. They are perfect in their natural state, but I especially like them dressed up as a shortcake. The lavender biscuits are an excellent platform for the strawberries and I love the simplicity of the creme fraiche on top, which really ties it all together. A lovely way to end any meal. I also imagine this making an appearance at brunch.

lavender strawberry shortcakes

from The Food52 Cookbook by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs

serves 8

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

4-6 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh lavender flowers (or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried)

8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing

turbinado sugar

2 quarts small fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and halved

6 – 8 tablespoons creme fraiche

fresh mint sprigs and lavender flowers, for garnish

Heat the oven to 350F. Combine the flours, 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, baking powder, salt and lavender flours in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to mix and break up the lavender. Drop in the butter, one tablespoon at a time, while pulsing. Mix until the dough resembles course meal. Slowly add the cream, pulsing until just incorporated. (Alternately, you can make the dough by hand using a pastry blender or two butter knives. Use a fork when adding the cream.)

Drop 8 large scoops of dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Brush the tops with heavy cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 18-20 minutes until lightly golden brown. Remove from the pan and let cool on a wire rack.

While the biscuits are baking, gently toss the strawberries with a few tablespoons of brown sugar (taste to determine how much sugar to add) until some of their juices are released. Set aside.

To assemble:

Slice the biscuits in half crosswise. Lay the bottom of the biscuit on a plate/bowl and spoon some strawberries and their juice over the biscuit. Add a dollop of creme fraiche and top with the other half of the biscuit. Garnish with mint and lavender flowers.

millet muffins

It has recently occurred to me that I almost never make muffins. I think it had been well over a year since my last batch. And then these millet muffins happened.

I love millet. Lately, I’ve been throwing a few spoonfuls in with my oatmeal in the morning. I especially I love the texture it lends to baked goods, that super satisfying crunch. I’ve never met a millet bread that I didn’t like.

So when I spotted millet muffins in Super Natural Everyday, which has become one of my favorites, I immediately flagged the recipe and couldn’t wait to make them.

I’ve made these muffins twice now and I’m sure I’ll make them again. Here’s why:

These guys are made with whole wheat flour without tasting like they’re whole wheat. In other words, they’re moist and have a really nice crumb – not too delicate, not too dense. They’re sweetened with only honey, making them just sweet enough; not quite dessert sweet, but more of a breakfast or midday sweet, which means a little butter and jam are perfectly welcome. They are fragrant with lemon and most importantly, they’re studded with crunchy bits of millet. These are definitely a keeper in my book. And a nice way to get reacquainted with muffins.

millet muffins

from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson

makes 12 muffins

2-1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/3 cup raw millet

1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

1 cup plain yogurt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup barely melted unsalted butter

1/2 cup honey

grated zest from 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons of juice

Preheat the oven to 400°F and position rack in the top third of the oven. butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan or line with paper liners.

Whisk together the flour, millet, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, butter, honey, and lemon zest and juice until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling each cup about 3/4 full.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the tops of the muffins are browned and just beginning to crack. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn the muffins out of the pan to cool completely on a wire rack.

corn tortillas

The more I think about it, the more I feel that Leap Day should be an observed holiday. It only happens once every four years anyway. It’s a bonus day. People should barbeque. Retailers should have sales. (Pardon me if I’m sounding a little cray-cray, I’m nursing a cold and have had a bit of brain fog the past few days.) How about some tortillas? I’ve always wanted to make tortillas. But it’s one of those ideas that got put on the back burner, overshadowed by some cake or cookie or pie.

I can’t actually remember what it was that provoked such an urgency to make tortillas, but a few weeks ago I was on a mission. So I picked up some masa harina. Then I got home and realized that I didn’t really want to roll out the dough by hand and decided that I absolutely had to have a tortilla press. Because one can never have too many gadgets in one’s kitchen.

But then I got distracted by polenta and wild mushrooms and cupcakes and estate sales. And a few weeks passed. And then finally last weekend I made sure to get that tortilla press. And then I busted out a batch of tortillas. In less than thirty minutes.

Once you make your own tortillas, you almost can’t go back to the ones you buy at the grocery store. And really, there isn’t much of a reason to. They’re super easy to make. And they have so much more flavor than store bought version. They’re good on their own, and fantastic with a little avocado, a squirt of lime, and a sprig of cilantro. But I think they’ll be exceptional in a tray of  enchiladas. Or chilaquiles. Oooooh…

corn tortillas

from D.I.Y. Delicious by Vanessa Barrington

makes 10-12 tortillas

1-1/2 cups masa harina

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 – 1-1/2 cups warm water

In a medium bowl, whisk together the masa harina and salt. Add 1 cup of warm water and mix with your hands. The dough should be moist and smooth and should stick together easily when pressed, but not be too wet. Add more water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Form the dough into 12 equal balls, about 1 ounce each. Lay them on a plate and cover with a damp towel.

Get your tortilla press ready by laying a sheet of plastic on the base (use a produce bag or resealable bag cut into one large sheet). Your plastic should be wide enough so that it can be folded over to cover the top of your tortilla.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Pick up one ball of dough and press it between your palms to flatten it slightly. Place it in the tortilla press between the plastic. Press the tortilla firmly, but not as far as the press will go (you will need to experiment with the press for the proper thickness. The tortilla should be about 6 inches in diameter.

Gently peel the tortilla off the plastic and lay in carefully in the hot pan. Cook it for 45 second to 1 minute, then flip it over with a spatula. It should have small brown spots  and look dry, but not cracked. Cook the second side for 30-45 seconds. Flip again and lightly tap the surface of the tortilla 4 or 5 times with your fingertips. Cook for 15 seconds more. Turn again and tap the other side, cooking for another 15 seconds. The tortilla should smell like toasty corn and have a dull surface.

Nestle each tortilla in a clean towel lined basket to keep warm. Use immediately or let them cool, wrap well, and refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze for 2 months.

tomato panzanella

A few weeks ago, a friend asked for recommendations for summer side dishes and salads. The first thing that came to mind was panzanella. Why panzanella? Because it is an excellent way to show off gorgeous, summer tomatoes. And it’s hearty but still very fresh and light – just the sort of thing I like to eat on a hot day. I had panzanella on the brain for the entire week that followed. Something had to be done.

If you ask me, the key to a good panzanella is great bread. And if you ask me where to get great bread in these parts, I would have to say Tartine.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – I love me some Tartine. One of my favorite things to do after work is hit the bakery and pick up a loaf of bread right as it comes out of the oven.  And since I wanted panzanella, I popped in on my way home one evening and picked up one of their famous country loaves (and a slice of coconut passion fruit Bavarian).

There is nothing like fresh Tartine bread, still warm from the oven. The aroma will fill your car and you will be forced to savagely break into the crusty loaf with your bare hands as you make your way down I-80 because the 25 minute drive home is just too long. It happens every time.

Luckily, for all of us, the Tartine Bread book was released into the universe last year. Along with recipes and techniques for making their bread at home,  it features a chapter devoted to dishes that give day old bread a second life, including this tomato panzanella.

If you like bread and you like salad, this is a perfect union of the two. Imagine really fantastic homemade croutons after they’ve absorbed the vinaigrette and tomato drippings at the bottom of a salad dish. It’s the best part of the salad, right? Now imagine a big bowl of those croutons, tossed with heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced cucumber, and basil. It cannot be beat. No joke.

tomato panzanella

adapted from Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson and Eric Wolfinger

serves 4 to 6

red wine vinegar

2 pounds baby artichokes 

1 cup + 6 tablespoons olive oil

salt

4 thick slices day old rustic, country style bread, torn into large pieces

4 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese

4 ripe heirloom tomatoes

1/2 red onion, finely diced 

1 English cucumber

1 bunch basil, stems removed

Preheat oven to 400°F. Fill a large bowl with water and add a generous splash of vinegar. Remove the tough outer leaves from each artichoke until you reach the tender leaves surrounding the heart. Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise and place the halves in the water.

Drain the artichokes, place in a bowl, and toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Arrange the artichoke halves cut-side down in a large ovenproof skillet. In the same bowl, toss the bread pieces with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. spread the bread over the artichokes, grate Parmesan all over, and put the pan in the oven. Roast until the artichokes are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside and the bread is a deep golden brown, 15-25 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut each tomato in half crosswise. Holding each half over a small bowl, gently squeeze it (as if juicing an orange) to release the seeds. Reserve the tomatoes. Add the onion, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, and salt to the seeds, and stir to combine. Stir in the olive oil.

Cut the reserved tomato halves into 1-inch chunks. Peel the cucmber. using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, shave the cucumber into thin strips.

In a serving bowl, combine the artichokes, bread, tomatoes, cucumber, and basil. Add the vinaigrette and toss. Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes before serving.

x bread

I caved. But I caved with purpose. I ended my three week baking strike last weekend. It had to be done. One of my most favorite boys was hosting an Easter brunch and I couldn’t show up empty handed.

Instead I came prepared to take down a few bloody marys and armed with raspberry crumble bars and x bread.

X bread – don’t you like the sound of that? Kind of mysterious, a little provocative, right? I think the x is actually short for experimental, as in experimental bread no. 7, the other title of this bread. X bread is a Cheese Board specialty. Mmmmm, Cheese Board (this is the kind of response you’ll elicit when you mention the Cheese Board to any of their many adoring patrons). The Cheese Board is a Berkeley institution. It’s part cheese shop, part bakery and part pizzeria. The line for pizza is always out the door, but don’t let that discourage you, it moves quickly. The last time I was there I left with a slice of caramelized onion and mushroom pizza, two scones, and x bread.

X bread is a three-cheese bread roll. It’s a Ricotta-based dough that envelops hunks of Cheddar, fresh jalapenos and scallions, and finished with a sprinkle of Parmesan. It has a tender crumb and a richness from the Ricotta and butter in the dough and the pockets of melted cheddar throughout the bread are killer. There’s also a nice hint of sweetness that sets it apart from your typical savory bread. I think it’s my favorite cheese bread ever. It might become yours, too.


x bread

adapted from The Cheese Board Collective Works by the Cheese Board Collective

makes 12 rolls

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

3/4 cups warm water

4 cups plus 1 tablespoon bread flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, at room temperature

1/2 cup Ricotta cheese

3 eggs

2 large jalapeno chiles, seeded and coarsely chopped

3 green onions, green and white parts, chopped

1 pound Cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and whisk until dissolved. Cover with plastic and let stand for 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 4 cups flour, sugar and salt.

Add the butter to the dry ingredients. With the paddle attachment, mix on low speed for 4 minutes, or until it is the size of small peas. Add the yeast mixture, Ricotta cheese, and eggs. Mix on low until combined, about 2 minutes. Switch to the dough hook, increase the speed to medium, and knead for 6 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, silky, and elastic. In a small bowl, toss the jalapenos and green onions with 1 tablespoon of flour. Add the mixture to the dough and continue to knead on medium speed until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. If the dough becomes too wet from the vegetables, add a tablespoon or more of flour.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Flatten it into a 1-inch thick round and place the cheddar cheese in the center. Gather the dough around the cheese and knead just until the cheese is evenly distributed, taking care not to break it up.

Form the dough into a ball and place it in a large oiled bowl. Turn the dough to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1-1/4 hours, or until doubled in size.

Lightly dust 2 baking sheets with flour. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide it into 12 pieces. Cover with a floured kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape each piece into a small round and place on the prepared pans at least 3 inches apart. Gently flatten the rolls with the palm of your hand. Cover with a floured kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size and a finger pressed into the dough leaves an impression.

Fifteen minutes before the rolls have finished rising, arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back. Bake 15 minutes longer, for a total of 30 minutes, or until the rolls are golden on the top and bottom. Transfer to a wire rack. While still hot, brush the rolls with olive oil and sprinkle them with Parmesan. Let cool.

Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

oatmeal sandwich bread

It’s been an interesting week over here. For a number of reasons, I’ve decided to part ways with carbs. It had to be done. All of this baking and doughnut making was really starting to show. And since I know nothing of that word moderation, I tend to go all or nothing in terms of my dietary patterns. But we’ll be reunited when I go to New York next month, where I am sure to have my fill of pizza and delicious sweet things.

Of course, before I said goodbye to carbohydrates, I made bread.  As I mentioned last week, I’m trying to use some of the flour I’ve accumulated over the last few months. And bread making was an obvious solution.

Aside from the pan de muerto I made in high school for Spanish class (which was very bad), I cannot recall a single bread making experience in all of my years of baking. I’ve always been impressed by people who make bread. Years ago, I had a coworker who made his own bread every week. I thought this was pretty much the coolest thing since sliced bread.

Up until about a month ago, I was really intimidated by bread making and yeasted doughs in general. There was the issue of activating the yeast with just the right temperature of water – too hot and you’ll kill the yeast,  too cool and the yeast wont do a thing. Then there’s that whole concept of patience; there is a lot of down time when working with yeasted dough and I tend to like instant results. I was also without a dough hook attachment for my mixer, which I thought was an absolute necessity for successful bread making. So I finally broke down and bought the attachment (a great tool, but not 100% necessary afterall). And I figured out that the whole waiting thing isn’t so bad as long as you busy yourself; run a load of laundry, poke around in the garden, call a friend, do what you’ve gotta do.

Last month’s doughnut making extravaganza really opened my eyes to how magical yeasted dough is. I love the idea of flour and water becoming this living, breathing thing with the addition of yeast. And I really enjoyed working the dough the old fashioned way – you can literally feel it transform beneath your hands into this gorgeous, malleable entity. I realized that if I could make doughnuts, I could make bread.

And since everything on the list of ingredients was sitting in my pantry, I turned around and got to work on this oatmeal sandwich bread. This is another gem from Good to the Grain. It’s made with whole-wheat flour, rolled oats and molasses. The molasses give it a lovely sweet aroma which fills the kitchen as it bakes. The bread is hearty without being too dense and is perfect freshly sliced or toasted. It is an excellent platform for butter and preserves and fantastic in the form of a grilled cheese sandwich, which was my way of abandoning carbs with a bang.

oatmeal sandwich bread

adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

makes 1 large loaf

butter for the bowl and the pan

1 package active dry yeast

3 tablespoons unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses

2-1/2 cups whole-wheat flour

2 cups bread flour

1 cup rolled oats

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 tablespoon kosher salt

*If you prefer to make this bread by hand, knead the dough for about 15 minutes, adding flour as needed.

Lightly butter a large bowl and a bread loaf pan about 9x5x3 inches.  Set aside.

Add 2 cups of warm water, yeast, and molasses to the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir, allowing the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes, until it begins to bubble. (If it doesn’t, it may be inactive; throw it out and start over with a new package.)

Add the flours, oats, and butter to the bowl with the yeast mixture and stir until combined. Cover with a towel and let stand for 30 minutes. (This gives the flour time to absorb the water, which will yield a moist bread with a better crumb.)

Attach the bowl and the bread hook to the mixer, add the salt, and mix on medium speed for 6 minutes. The dough should slap around the sides without sticking. If the dough is sticking at any time during the mixing, add a tablespoon  or two of bread flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft, supple, and  slightly tacky.

For the first rise, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a few times. Put the dough into the buttered bowl, cover it with a towel, and let it rise for about 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size. (It is ready if a dimple remains after a floured finger is gently pushed into the dough; if the dough springs back, it needs to rise longer.)

To shape the dough, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Press down on the dough, working it toward a square shape while depressing all of the bubbles. Fold the dough down from the top to the middle, then up from the bottom to the middle. Next bring the newly formed top and bottom edges together and pinch the seam in the middle, sealing the seam with your fingers. Pinch the sides together and roll the shaped dough back and forth, plumping it so that it’s evenly formed and about the size of your loaf pan. Place the dough in the pan with the seam side down and press it gently into the corners of the pan.

For the second rise, cover the dough with a towel and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough puffs up barely or just over the edge of the pan. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

When the dough has finished its final rise,  sprinkle the top of the loaf with oats or bran, if desired.

Bake for about 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. The loaf is ready when the top and bottom crusts are dark brown. To see if the bread is ready, give the top of the loaf a thump to see if it sounds hollow. If the hollow sound isn’t there and the bread isn’t quite dark enough, bake for another 5 minutes.  Remove the loaf from the pan and cool on a baking rack, preferably for a few hours, so that the crumb doesn’t collapse when cut and the flavor can develop.

blueberry-filled doughnuts

Imagine warm blueberry pie, with that gorgeous, naturally sweet, just set, deep violet filling. Now imagine that filling inside of an airy, fried pillow of dough. This is what I daydream about these days. During a family dinner last month, my cousin’s husband requested jelly doughnuts. And they’ve been on my mind ever since.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been cleansing for the past three weeks. Every morning I drink a tall glass of cold water mixed with psyllium husks as fast as I can (which gives me brainfreeze), followed by a smoothie that consists of frozen blueberries, soy protein powder and flax oil, and then another dose of psyllium husks before bed. It’s really not so bad. But what makes this morning routine bearable are the blueberries. I’ve got mad love for blueberries.

Of course, when on any type of cleanse, I tend to obsess about the things I should be avoiding, such as beautiful, deep-fried, blueberry filled doughnuts. Something had to be done.

The first batch was nearly a disaster. I threw the dough together and refrigerated it overnight as instructed. When I woke the next morning, I discovered that the bowl I used was too small and the dough had runneth over. And it was runny, more of a batter than a dough. I took one look at it and knew that it couldn’t be rolled out. So I moved on to plan B, and tried another recipe. And did the whole thing by hand rather than use my stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. The initial results seemed much better. And I loved kneading the dough by hand. I loved kneading the dough so much that I was convinced that I could salvage that first batch of dough. So I added more flour. And then more flour. I kneaded until the dough came together into a huge, smooth, elastic mass.

I was actually quite happy with that batch of doughnuts, but since I used three different types of flour (all-purpose, bread, and pastry) and had no idea how much I actually added to the original recipe, I thought I should give it another go. And then I found another recipe that looked promising, so I made a few adjustments. And spent another Sunday making doughnuts.

Through all of this trial and error, the greatest lesson I’ve learned is this: the key to being a happy, successful doughnut maker is to be sure that there are people around to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Because raised doughnuts take time. And patience. But there is nothing quite like a doughnut, freshly fried, filled with warm fruit, and coated in powdered (or granulated) sugar. And they must be devoured immediately, preferably by loved ones.

blueberry filled doughnuts

adapted from FoodFest 365! and The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook

makes 1 dozen doughnuts

5 tablespoons warm water

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dry active yeast

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted ,  plus more for dusting

6 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon nutmeg

3 large eggs, room temperature

1-1/2 cups whole milk, warm

5-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

canola oil for frying

blueberry filling or your choice of jam

In a medium bowl, combine the water with the yeast and stir until dissolved. Add 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar and 1/2 cup of flour and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 10 minutes to rise.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, nutmeg and salt. Add the milk, eggs,  and butter and mix until well combined.

Add the yeast mixture to the dough and thoroughly combine.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead. If the dough is sticky, add more flour until the dough hardly sticks to your hands. Continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 7-10 minutes. Put the dough in a large buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, undisturbed.

Punch the dough and then turn onto a floured surface. Knead dough a few times and then roll out until it’s  1/2 inch thick. Cut the dough into rounds with a 3-1/2-inch cutter. Set on a baking sheet lined with a lightly floured kitchen towel. Cover with another towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

While the doughnuts are rising, fill a large heavy bottomed pot with oil about 2 inches deep. Heat oil over medium heat until it reaches 350°F on a candy thermometer.

Place a round of dough in the hot oil and fry until golden, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the doughnut with a slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels. Repeat until all dough has been fried.

To fill the doughnuts:

Pour the blueberry filling into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip. Using a chopstick, poke a hole 3/4  of the way into each doughnut. Gently rotate the stick to make a well for the filling. Insert the tip of the pastry bag into the hole and fill until the doughnut feels heavy. Place the filled doughnut in a bowl of powdered or granulated sugar and coat evenly. Repeat with the rest of the doughnuts. Serve immediately.

for the blueberry filling:

makes about 3 cups

4 cups blueberries

2/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup water

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Combine the ingredients in a large pot over medium heat. Stir often to dissolve the sugar.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and let simmer until a thick syrup has formed, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat. The mixture will thicken as is cools. Set aside.