Blueberry Muffins Redux

Sunday, August 29, 2010

“Didn’t you just post a recipe for blueberry muffins?”

Why, yes, I did.  Thanks for noticing.  But can you ever have too many recipes for blueberry muffins?

That is a rhetorical question, the answer to which is ‘no’.

The girls and I were berry-picking at my mom’s place, and I came back with enough blueberries to last us through the winter.  But before I froze any of them, I had to bake a batch of muffins.  This recipe is equally as delicious as my other one but uses almond flavouring and is covered in streusel. 

I’m sorry the photo didn’t turn out better.  I have a lot to learn about food photography, as you can tell by the seemingly invisible streusel on these muffins.  I thought about baking a second batch so I could get a better picture, but I really don’t need another dozen muffins sitting on my kitchen counter.  You’ll have to trust me that it’s thick and crunchy.  In fact, eating one warm, I couldn’t decide which carried the day – the cinnamon streusel or the warm blueberries popping in my mouth.  Try them and let me know what you think!

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

(adapted from Once Upon a Plate, which has much better photos)


1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp almond extract
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries


1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup cold butter


In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Beat in egg and almond extract; mix well.  Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk.  Fold in blueberries. 
Fill 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full.  In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon; cut in butter until crumbly.  Sprinkle over muffins.  Bake at 375ยบ for 20 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.  Serve warm.

A Tale of Three Continents

Thursday, August 26, 2010

 It was the best of fudge, it was the –

Actually, it was just the best of fudge.

Paul’s Fudge is named after my dad.  I don’t know where he got the recipe, but we’ve had it as long as I can remember.  Dad used to listen to Detroit radio station WJR in the basement while he worked on the farm accounts, and once in a while he copied down a recipe he wanted my mom to try.  If I had to guess, that’s probably where he got it.

This is the first recipe I made on my own.  I loved adding the chocolate chips to the marshmallow mixture and watching them melt as I stirred.  As a kid, I made fudge every year for the Rodney Fair, and won a few first place ribbons for it.  WJR may have been the home of the hated Detroit Tigers, but they sure knew a good fudge recipe.

A few years ago we made a batch for our friends, the Jay family.  They loved it so much that they took the recipe to China with them and shared it with their friends at the International School.  This fall, with their relocation to Geneva, Switzerland, I’m hoping that a third continent is introduced to Paul’s Fudge.  Growing up in rural southwestern Ontario, I never imagined – and I’m sure my father didn’t either – that this recipe would go so far!

Paul’s Fudge

2 cups cut-up marshmallows (about 25)
½ cup of half-and-half cream (original recipe calls for evaporated milk)
2 Tbsp butter
¾ cup sugar
pinch salt
1 cup chocolate chips
½ tsp vanilla

Combine marshmallows, milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil, then boil hard for exactly 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat, and add chocolate chips, beating until they melt.  Add vanilla and beat to blend.  Pour into greased 8” by 8” pan.  Chill and cut into squares.

(Almost) The Most Expensive Cookies Ever

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Looking over the list of ingredients, you’re probably wondering, “How could these be (almost) the most expensive cookies ever?”  The ingredients seem pretty standard.

The day I made them, I was in a bit of a hurry.  Okay, an enormously frantic hurry.  I had everything I needed except the chocolate chips, and I couldn’t even squeeze in a trip to the grocery store.  However, if I made a quick stop at Kingsway Pops variety store between my third and fourth errands, I would have just enough time to pick up chocolate chips before I had to be home.

Having finished my third errand, I detoured to Kingsway Pops and parked beside the front door.  Right across the street from a Parking Authority car.

Now I’m a law-abiding person.  And I’m also bright enough to know that if there’s a Parking Authority car on the street, the parking officer is not far away.  But I also have a strong sense of justice and I hate rules that don’t make sense.  Rules like “you have to pay for half an hour of parking even if you’re only running into Kingsway Pops for a bag of chocolate chips.”

What to do?  I hesitated outside for a minute.  Feeling like taking a risk, I sprinted in and made my purchase.  Returning to my car, there was no officer, no ticket. 

If the chocolate chips had cost $32.49 rather than $2.49, I’m not sure I’d be blogging about them.

I found this recipe on one of my favourite blogs, Cake or Death.  Liz has the most wonderful recipes and her photos are always gorgeous.  And her stories often make me laugh!

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup icing sugar

Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler placed over barely simmering water.  Heat, stirring often, until the butter and chocolate melt.  Remove from over the water and set aside to cool slightly.  In a bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla.  Using a wire whisk, beat until light in colour and thick, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the melted chocolate mixture with a wooden spoon until blended.  Add the dry ingredients and beat until incorporated.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the dough is firm enough to into balls, 1 – 2 hours.  Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 325 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Sift the icing sugar into a small bowl.

To form each cookie, roll a rounded tablespoon of dough between your palms into a 1 ½ inch ball and roll the ball in the icing sugar.  Place the cookies 3 inches apart on the baking sheets.  Bake until the tops are puffed and crinkled, about 13 – 14 minutes.  Let them cook on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Birthdays R Us

Thursday, August 19, 2010

In the Pollock house, August is birthday season.  The girls' birthdays are just nine days apart.  It always felt really efficient.  I only had to think about loot bags, party invitations and decorated cakes once a year.

Now that the girls are older, elaborately decorated cakes aren't as important.  But in the past there have been some memorable ones.  I may not be the world's best decorator, but I always had fun choosing a theme with the girls and making the cake.It would be hard to choose a favourite, but the dalmation cake, the Harry Potter wizard cap and the dinosaurs (multiple years) all rank up there.

One family party revolved around a wild west theme.  My mom, my sister and her family came, and everyone got name tags like "Calamity Grandma" or "Wild Tom Hickok".  And the cake was in the shape of a horse's head.  My husband suggested that the cake was intended for a Godfather party instead.  I'm not sure he always understand my creative urges.

Today my youngest turned thirteen.  Hard to believe I'm the parent of two teenagers!  And although they don't need theme cakes anymore, M&M decorations are still the order of the day.

How Sandwiches Imitate Life

Friday, August 13, 2010

We ate great food all weekend, from hotdogs at Yankee stadium to Italian on Restaurant Row.  But two of my favourite meals were casual lunches.

We had Saturday lunch at the Shake Shack, a Danny Meyer restaurant. We knew it was a great choice when we saw the sign saying the table was made from an old bowling lane.  I ordered the cheeseburger, fries and chocolate shake, just because it felt like that’s what I should eat.  The burger was delicious, and not way oversized like most are.  And I’m not always a fan of milkshakes – they’re usually too thick to drink, and so cold they have no flavour – but this one was perfect. 

Our last meal in New York was at the Stage Deli.  The Stage is known for its enormous sandwiches named after celebrities.  For example, if you order a Clint Eastwood, you get a turkey, tongue and corned beef sandwich, while a Stephen Sondheim is chicken salad, bacon, lettuce and tomato.

Andrew ordered the Roger Maris.  For anyone who doesn’t follow baseball, Roger Maris held the single-season major league home run record for 37 years (between Babe Ruth and, ahem, Mark McGwire), and never really received the acknowledgement he deserved. 

So how do sandwiches imitate life?  The Roger Maris is comprised of roast beef, onions – and chopped liver.

Oh, and according to Andrew, the sandwich was a real home run.

Empire State of Mind

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Due to a work commitment, Andrew and I visited New York City for a couple of days last month.  We went to a Yankees game, watching A-Rod try for, but ultimately miss, his 600th home run.  And we scored half-price tickets to two Broadway shows! 

The matinee was In The Heights.  The concierge at our hotel recommended the show and it was wonderful.  The winner of the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical, In The Heights was full of amazing dancing and infectious Latin music.

Leaving that show, we had to return to Times Square immediately to line up for evening tickets.  I was sure we wouldn’t find anything we enjoyed as much as In The Heights.  I was wrong.  A Little Night Music has been playing since last November, but was recently recast with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch.  The music was wonderful and the performances outstanding.  And what a thrill to see two legendary actresses in those roles!

One of our favourite surprises came when we ducked into Rockefeller Centre as a respite from the heat.  We stopped in the NBC store and were thrilled to see The Office merchandise for sale.  We picked up two packs of chocolate Stanley Nickels, an “Andy Bernard” coffee mug from Kelly’s theme party, and a Schrute Beet Farm Christmas tree ornament.  (Those of you who watch The Office are probably wondering, “Do they also sell jello-covered staplers?”  And for those of you who don’t watch, I apologize for the digression.)

When we travel, it’s always fun meeting and talking to new people.  At lunch on the first day, we ate next to a Bruce Willis lookalike, who knew we weren’t from New York because “you’s are smilin’ too much”.  At the evening show, I sat next to an aspiring actress.  And on our last day, as we walked through Central Park, we met a woman who volunteers at the Butterfly Conservatory.  Holly introduced us to her dog, Macaroon, and told us some of the 66 languages in which she can say ‘butterfly’!

The Blondies That Wouldn't Die

Monday, August 2, 2010

Don’t get me wrong.  I love blondies.  And I don’t have any reason to want them to die.

But you’d never guess it from the way I attacked this recipe. First, I knocked over the beaters and a good chunk of batter fell to the floor.  Second, instead of turning the oven to 325 degrees F, I turned the timer to 3 hours, 25 minutes.  (At least I caught that one before I tried to bake them.)  And third – because I always make mistakes in sets of three – I used too much parchment paper, which folded over and hung into the batter while baking, leaving a stalactite-shaped canyon through my blondies.

So this recipe must be foolproof because, once I cut around the canyon, they tasted great!  I had wished I had toffee bits to put in, but the butterscotch chips worked perfectly.  And the coconut added wonderful texture.  Next time I make them, I’ll probably cut the butter down a bit, but otherwise they were just great.

This blondie recipe appears in Baking: From My Home to Yours, by the incomparable Dorie Greenspan, and is also printed on the Cookies on Friday website. My variation appears below:

Chewy Chunky Blondies

2 cups flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 sticks (1 cup) butter at room temperature (note: next time I make these, I’ll use ¾ cup)
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the over to 325 degrees F.  Line a 9” by 13” pan with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 

Beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy.  Add both sugars and beat for another 3 minutes.  Add the eggs one by one, then beat in the vanilla.  Reduce mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, beating until just mixed.  Stir in the chips and coconut and pour into the prepared pan.  Smooth the top as much as possible.

Back for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the centre of the blondies comes out clean.  Let them cool for about 15 minutes before removing from the pan. 

Makes about 32 bars.