Blueberry Muffins

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January probably isn’t the time of year you think of for blueberry muffins, but for some reason the idea of making them has been stuck in my head all weekend. Maybe it’s because I just spent a long time at home and they remind me of walking to the bakery when I was little to get a “Boo Boo Muffin”, or maybe it’s just because blueberries were on sale at A&P earlier this week so they stood out to me. Either way, I decided to make them to bring to work tomorrow, since we have a faculty meeting and that usually means the staff room could use a bit of a morale booster.

The recipe I have is called “Cable Blueberry Muffins”. When my mom was redoing her kitchen a long time ago, I agreed to copy all of the recipes in her recipe box onto new cards so they’d be easy to find. I painstakingly went through the recipe cards, magazine clippings, and scraps of paper to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and this was one of the ones clipped out of a newspaper at some point, on a page with maybe three other recipes. I assumed it must be important if my mom had it in her special box, so I asked about it later, thinking they must be the best blueberry muffins ever, but she said she’d never heard of Cable Blueberry Muffins. Oh well.

Anyways, I apparently also at some later date copied it onto an index card for myself, and when I was cleaning my apartment yesterday, it was miraculously sitting on top of a pile of cookbooks as if it knew I was making blueberry muffins this weekend. So I used it.

First, separate the egg whites and yolks, and put the egg whites in a small bowl. Beat them with a hand mixer on medium speed, and add 1/4 cup of sugar, continuing to beat until foamy.

 

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In a large bowl, cream the butter using a hand mixer on medium speed.

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Add the vanilla, remaining 3/4 cup sugar, and egg yolks to the butter and beat until smooth.

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In a medium bowl (I realize that you will likely use your entire set of bowls to make this recipe – it’s kind of satisfying when that happens despite the extra clean up), combine the flour and baking powder.

 

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Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk to the main batter mixture (that’s the one with the butter in the large bowl), beating after each addition until completely combined.

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Fold in the blueberries. I have one spatula that’s considerably sturdier than my other one, and I use it almost exclusively to fold things in. Definitely worth investing in.

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Finally, fold in the egg whites, again using your sturdy spatula.

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Spoon the batter evenly between 12 lined muffin tins. They will be about 3/4 full.

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Bake at 350°F for 20 to 30 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

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Allow to cool slightly in the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool further.

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Obviously, blueberry muffins are best enjoyed warm with a hefty pat of butter. However, they will also keep for a couple days at room temperature if you store them in an airtight container. Alternatively, if you want to always have emergency blueberry muffins on hand, they freeze and thaw pretty well, too.

Enjoy!

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Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries

Directions:

  1. Beat the egg whites in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup sugar and beat until foamy. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, use a hand mixer on medium speed to cream the butter. Add the vanilla, remaining 3/4 cup sugar and egg yolks and beat until smooth.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
  4. Add the flour mixture and milk in alternating portions to the main batter, beating after each addition until completely combined.
  5. Fold in the blueberries using a rubber spatula.
  6. Fold in the egg whites.
  7. Spoon batter evenly among 12 lined muffin tins. Bake at 350°F for 20-30 minutes or until edges are golden. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Pull Aparts

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I love holidays. Everything about them. I like to decorate for them. I like to wear silly themed earrings for them. I like to listen to Christmas music on repeat until I annoy everyone around me. I obviously like to bake for them. But more than anything else, I love that they mean I get to spend lots of time with my family.

This weekend, I got a full 4 days with my parents and brother, and it was awesome. As we’ve gotten older, times where we are all together are getting further and further apart. My brother goes to school in Chicago, I live in New Jersey, and my parents live in Massachusetts, so its not exactly easy for us to all get to one place. But I am never happier than when we are. We may bicker occasionally and fight over the TV, but there is no one else I would rather do those things with. My family gets me, and this Thanksgiving, I am most grateful for them.

So, it makes sense that this post is a family tradition that we’ve had for as long as I can remember: Pull Aparts on Thanksgiving morning.

Pull Aparts are the same thing as Monkey Bread, for those of you more familiar with that name, but I think better because the recipe comes from my grandmother and is wonderfully particular about a couple of things, most significantly the emphasis on walnut-sized balls of dough.

First, rinse the bowl of a stand mixer in warm water, and add the 1 3/4 cups warm water to the bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir in the sugar and salt until completely dissolved.

 

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Next, add the egg, butter, and 3 cups of flour. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes or until smooth using the paddle attachment.

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Add the remaining 3 cups of flour and switch to the dough hook, beating additionally until of desired consistency. It should be together and slightly sticky.

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Brush the top of the dough with melted butter and cover the bowl with a damp towel. Alternatively, you could grease a separate bowl and put the dough in there, covering it with the damp towel.

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Put the bowl in the fridge and allow to rise at least 2 hours or until doubled in size. Punch down and return dough to the fridge to rise overnight.

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The next morning, the dough should have risen a bit more, like this:

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Preheat the oven to 350°F and melt 3/4 stick of butter, putting it in a bowl. Combine cinnamon and sugar “until it’s the right color”. I deferred to my mom on this:

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Then, set up an assembly line. Roll the dough into walnut sized pieces (see walnut in photo for reference), dip in butter, roll in cinnamon sugar, and put into baking pan.

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We have a pull apart pan that we’ve used forever, I think its about a 10 inch round cake pan with high walls, but you can really use anything. Bake at 350°F for 30 to 45 minutes or “until they look done”. (That’s directly out of the recipe)

Pull apart and enjoy!

IMG_1965 Pull Aparts

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 stick butter, melted, divided
  • cinnamon and sugar for coating

Directions:

  1. Pour warm water into large bowl of electric mixer rinsed in hot water. Sprinkle yeast over water; add sugar and salt and stir until dissolved completely.
  2. Add egg, soft butter, and 3 cups flour with electric mixer at medium speed using the paddle attachment for 2 minutes or until smooth.
  3. Gradually add remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, and beat using a dough hook until dough comes together.
  4. Brush top of dough with melted butter and cover bowl with a damp towel. Allow to rise in fridge for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
  5. Punch down and return to fridge overnight.
  6. Melt butter and put in bowl. Mix cinnamon and sugar to make coating and put in separate bowl. Roll dough into walnut-sized pieces, dip in butter, roll in cinnamon sugar, and place in baking dish.
  7. Bake at 350°F for 30 to 45 minutes or until they look done.

Fig Muffin Tops

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At some point this summer, I became obsessed with figs.  I think it may have had to do with a flatbread I had at a bar and went back for 3 separate times.  So when I was at the supermarket this week and saw that they had figs that you could buy by the box, I couldn’t resist.

Originally, I bought them with the intent of recreating the previously mentioned flatbread, which I did a pretty solid job of if I do say so myself:

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That’s fig with goat cheese, caramelized onions and balsamic glaze on a whole wheat pizza crust.  Yea, it is as good as it sounds.

Then I had more figs left over (a box is a lot of figs) so I made fig and prosciutto pasta:

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Also delicious.  But then I started to panic.  After all of this fig cooking, I still had like half a box of figs.  What could I do with them? I was running out of ideas.

So I turned to Pinterest and was saved: Fig and Honey Scones.  Who doesn’t want fig in a scone?  I happily set out to bake them… and ran into a problem.

The batter was nothing even relatively close to scone consistency.  Maybe it was due to the added liquid of using fresh figs rather than dried.  Maybe I just messed up.  Either way, what I had was most definitely not a scone.

Easiest way to solve my problem? Rebranding.  They were softer than a scone and significantly less structured, but they did resemble the top of a muffin, which everyone knows is the best part.  And thus, Fig Muffin Tops were born.

So how do you make these delicious muffin tops?  Read on.

First, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.

 

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Then, in a small bowl, whisk together the egg and canola oil.

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Add the honey and whisk until combined.  This is a potential area where I messed up – I didn’t have quite enough honey.  But I don’t think that would have caused the mayhem I saw later.

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Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and use a rubber spatula to combine.

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Add the cream and mix together with the rubber spatula.

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In a small bowl, combine the figs with the sugar.  I used fresh, but you could use chopped dry figs as well.

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Fold the figs into the batter carefully – figs are fragile little fruits.

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Using LOTS of flour, turn the batter onto a floured surface and pat into a round.

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Cut it into 8 roughly even sized wedges and transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  This is messy.  It’s fine, I promise.

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Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.  They will spread a bit – you can fix that with some strategic spatula cutting later.

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Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Serve warm or freeze and half muffin tops whenever you want them!

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Despite the rebranding due to unforeseen structural issues, these turned out pretty awesome.

Enjoy!

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Fig Muffin Tops

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 cup diced figs

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, and cinnamon.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and canola oil.
  3. Add the honey and whisk to combine.
  4. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine with a rubber spatula.
  5. Stir in the heavy cream.
  6. Stir the sugar into the diced figs and add to the batter, folding in carefully.
  7. Turn batter onto a heavily floured surface and flatten into a disk.  Cut into 8 equal wedges and put on parchment lined baking sheet.
  8. Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
  9. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Banana Bread

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This post marks exactly (well, 2 days from exactly) 1 year of SMiLes by Meg.  In deciding what to make to mark this occasion, I wanted to go big.  I wanted to make something that was quintessentially me.  And I wanted it to be crazy complex and impressive to look at and eat.  But then I became paralyzed.  What would I make?  What recipe would fulfill everything I wanted it to do and more?  I couldn’t decide.

Then there were a couple more practical concerns – I wouldn’t be seeing anyone to pawn off this extravagant dessert on until Tuesday.  And, let’s be serious, anything that is that amazing to look at and eat isn’t made to last 3 days.

So, rather, I made something decadent that I could enjoy myself without feeling too bad about it: banana bread.  Now, last week, I had emailed my friend Shirlee, of Strawberry Lemonade Bar fame, to ask for her chocolate chip zucchini bread recipe.  I could remember her bringing it back to our dorm room after various school breaks, and how delicious it always was.  Apparently my mom was right – I invent memories that never happened.  She insisted that she actually made chocolate chip banana bread, and sent me that recipe instead.  Funny enough, the recipe she sent is actually the same one I’ve always used for banana bread, too, so you can expect to see it in a later post (it includes coconut, so I’m saving it for a time when I’m home with my mom).  However, I wanted to try something new.  With banana bread on my mind, I turned to the Claire’s Cornercopia Cookbook and decided to try her recipe.  You’ll remember that last time I tried one of these recipes, it was a bit of an adventure, but this time brought much more success.

So let’s dive right in.  First, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  I don’t often bake with salt, but since I messed with the last recipe I tried from Claire’s and it backfired, I decided to stay true to this recipe.

 

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And in staying true to the recipe, I encountered my first real test on the next step – whisk together 7 eggs.  Yes, you read that correctly: 7.  I was sure that was crazy.  Who puts 7 eggs in anything other than a custard?  Wouldn’t that majorly throw off any baking ratio science?  But, despite my serious shock, I continued diligently.  On the plus side, 7 eggs make a cool flower arrangement in a bowl.

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Then, whisk in the sugar and melted butter until well combined.

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Stir in the mashed bananas.  The batter will be exceptionally lumpy.  Roll with it.

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Stir in the flour mixture until just combined.  Don’t be fooled by what appears to be combined and just lumpy – those lumps are actually little flour grenades, waiting to be popped.  I kind of dragged my spoon up through the lumps to detonate as many as possible.

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Stir in the chopped walnuts.  Now, here I did alter Claire’s recipe – I was confident it wouldn’t cause too much trouble.  You see, adding 1/3 cup of walnuts looks like this:

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This didn’t even vaguely look like enough walnuts to me, so I poured in the rest of the bag, totaling around 1 cup.  Banana bread, if it is going to contain any sort of mix in, should contain generous amounts of said mix in.

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Pour the batter into a sprayed 9×5 inch loaf pan and bake at 350°F for about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes.  A toothpick should just come out clean.  I recommend starting to check on it around 45 minutes, since ovens can vary and you really don’t want to end up with dry banana bread.  Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack and cooling further, or serving immediately.

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Like the zucchini bread last week, this recipe kind of ended up with a ring of walnuts around the bottom and sides.  That’s really nothing to complain about.

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Unlike last week’s recipe, the consistency of the bread was more spongy than moist.  I’m assuming this is due to the 7 eggs that found their way into it.  However, it did give me a couple of what I think are awesome ideas.  First, I think it would be delicious served with some sort of spiced ice cream, like with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger – don’t be surprised if I end up testing that hypothesis and next week you learn how to make the ice cream.

Second, It would probably also make an exceptional vehicle for bread pudding.  All of the gooey goodness would just absorb right into it.  I’ve never made a bread pudding, so that could also be an experiment.

Anyways, Claire promises the bread will keep well for days if left wrapped in aluminum foil on the counter – I plan on doing that and having banana bread for breakfast for awhile.

Enjoy!

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Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large, ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly with a whisk.
  3. Add the butter and sugar to the eggs, whisking until combined.
  4. Stir in the bananas until combined.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir until just combined, making sure to pop any flour bubbles.
  6. Stir in the walnuts.
  7. Pour batter into sprayed 9×5 inch loaf pan and bake at 350°F for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out just clean.  Cool 5 minutes in pan before serving.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

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I am officially back in New Jersey. School starts next week, and my summer is coming to a far to fast close. After spending the last couple months indulging in the luxury of hanging out with my family and not planning lessons, coming back here was a bit of a shock. That shock was not improved by the fact that my AC unit had leaked, causing my floor to buckle into a mountain range.

But, alas, life goes on. I spend today unpacking my stuff and cleaning as vigorously as I could without being able to clean floors yet, and still managed to find time to bake some zucchini bread!

I had initially planned to make all sorts of cool baking substitutions to make this recipe healthy. I was going to replace eggs with chia seeds (which apparently A&P doesn’t stock) and half the oil with applesauce (which goes moldy and smells like vinegar if you leave it in the fridge too long). But, when those didn’t work out, I embraced the unhealthiness of this vegetable-based bread and added chocolate chips.

So, the first thing you have to do is beat the eggs. To use half an egg, just whisk an egg for a bit in a bowl and pour in about half of that mixture.

 

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Then, beat in the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and grated zucchini. In case you aren’t sure how many zucchini to buy to get 1 cup grated, it’s one medium zucchini. Not three. I don’t know why I thought that a zucchini and a carrot would yield a similar amount of grated vegetable, but that’s what I was basing my purchasing on. So I need to find zucchini recipes for the rest of the week.

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Then, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and allspice. Beat until just combined.

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Stir in the chocolate chips by hand. I just used one full 6 oz package, but add more or less, or substitute for nuts, as you see fit.

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Pour the batter into a 9×5 inch loaf pan sprayed with Pam. Bake at 350°F for 40-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes before turning onto wire rack to cool completely.

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With the sheer amount of oil and sugar that goes into this, it’s hard to convince yourself that it’s at all healthy, despite zucchini being in the title. Nevertheless, I advice you to embrace it and take solace in the fact that you are actually at least getting a serving of vegetables.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Beat eggs in a large bowl.
  2. Add sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and zucchini and beat until combined.
  3. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and allspice and beat until just combined.
  4. Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into sprayed 9×5 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350°F for 40-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes in pan before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Coconut Bread

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Happy Mother’s Day!  This weekend, I traveled back home to hang out with my mom on her big day, so naturally I had to bake something for her.  And, as you should all know by now, that means it had to be something coconut.  First I was looking at coconut coffee cake, thinking it would be good for a Mother’s Day brunch, but I wasn’t really sold on anything I found.  Then, I stumbled upon this coconut quick bread from Smitten Kitchen and knew it was meant to be: quick, easy, and it would take away minimal time from Mother’s Day morning.

So this one is dedicated to all the moms out there, but especially my own. Love you, Mom!

First, whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl.

 

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You may notice my location change again: this weekend I got a preview of condo life on the oceanfront, which is where I’ll be spending my summer.  So my baking view is this:

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Anyways, next you’ll need to stir together the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon.  I used a fork.

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Add the coconut and sugar and stir together.  Don’t forget to pack the coconut while you’re measuring!  I think I used half of a 5 2/3 cup bag in 1 1/2 cups…

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Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture.  Stir until just combined.

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Melt the butter over low heat.  If you’re feeling particularly daring, you can brown it, but I was afraid I’d mess up/didn’t want to take the time.

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Add the butter to the batter and stir to combine.  Pour batter into a greased (or sprayed) 9×5 inch loaf pan.

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Bake at 350°F for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Pro Tip: Allow to cool completely before cutting.  Otherwise you end up with a plate of crumbs because you were too excited (we may have made that mistake).

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I know that was a less than detailed post, but I’m tired after driving 5 hours back to my apartment.  Plus, it’s Mother’s Day – you should be spending time with your mom, not reading my blog!

Enjoy!

 

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Coconut Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut, packed
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla in a small bowl.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  3. Add sugar and coconut, stir to combine.
  4. Create a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture.  Stir until just combined.
  5. Stir in melted butter.
  6. Bake in a 9×5 inch loaf pan for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting and serving.

Irish Bread

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Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day!  So, naturally, I had to bake something for the occasion.  I looked through the recipes that I had stolen from my mom’s recipe box and found one for Irish bread, and the decision was made.  Funny enough, after I had already made the Irish bread, I got a call from Sandy (her recipes include Trout Farm Apple Pie and Oh Henry Bars) asking if I wanted an Irish recipe for my blog this week.  I told her I had already baked some Irish bread, only to find out it had actually been her recipe, and the recipe she was planning on giving me, that I had used.  Weird how things like that happen.

Anyways, I was in New Haven for the weekend visiting a friend still working at Yale, so I had the lovely Marj as a sous chef in this particular adventure.  She’d never had Irish soda bread (the horror!), but did approve of the end result enough to bring it to a parade viewing party today.  And though my mom does stand by the fact that Stop & Shop Irish Soda Bread is the best, this particular recipe definitely does its job as a homemade alternative.

First, cream together the sugar, crisco, and egg.  Marj has a blue stand mixer that we wanted to use, and I have to admit that although it’s no buttercup yellow, it was a nice color.

 

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In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder).  Another cool kitchen gadget of Marj (I’m sure you can see why we’re friends) was her flexible mixing bowl.  You just pinched the sides together to make a spout for pouring!

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Alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk to the bowl of the stand mixer, keeping it at a low speed and beating until well combined.

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Finally, add the caraway seeds and raisins (heaping amounts of both – you can never have too many caraway seeds in Irish bread) and stir until evenly distributed.

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Spread batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350°F for about an hour, maybe a little more, until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Allow to cool in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  I think Irish bread tastes better when you leave it out for a bit and let it get a little hard, but if you want to eat it warm, I’m not going to stop you.

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On another, unrelated, note: while Marj and I were waiting for the bread to bake, we were talking a little about Lent.  Marj doesn’t celebrate it, but mentioned that if she did, she would rather do something positive than give up something for the 40 days.  I was thinking about it later that day and realized that I liked the idea as well, but in addition to giving up something.  For the past two weeks, I happened to bake things for other people (my cake for Mimi and this bread for Marj), which made me think that I could have the counterpart to my giving up sweets be baking sweets for others every week of Lent.  So if you’re reading this and desperately in need of a treat that I could bake for you, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

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Enjoy!

IMG_0820  Irish Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup crisco
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg

Directions:

  1. Cream together egg, sugar, and crisco.
  2. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl.
  3. Alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk, beating after each addition.
  4. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds.
  5. Bake in greased loaf pan for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool in loaf pan for 10 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.