Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lemon Encrusted Blueberry Muffins

Oh. My. Goodness.

Little muffins... how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Is it your soft, moist, tender center? Is it the huge, luscious, juicy blueberries? Is it the fact that I finally got to use my new fancy microplane zester? Or is the perfect lemon crunch on top?

OK, so it's a little bit of everything that have made these my most favorite muffin ever. These are so good, I wanted to eat 4 with my dinner. And Caden scarfed down one in about 3 minutes flat. They are sooooo good. You MUST make them. I have never made a "from scratch" muffin that tasted this good. They would KO any Mimi's muffin or Lehi Roller Mills muffin.

I did think they could use just a bit more hint of lemon, so I did adjust the recipe for that. I guess I just wanted just a touch of lemon in the actual muffin. Other than that, these are so fabulous, I can't wait to eat some more for breakfast tomorrow morning.
Makes 12 muffins (although when I doubled the recipe, I got 36)

Lemon Sugar Topping:
1/3 cup sugar
zest from one lemon

2 cups blueberries (frozen or fresh)
1 1/8 cup (8 oz.) plus 1 tsp. sugar
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz.) flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
4 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup oil (vegetable or canola)
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 - 1 tsp. lemon extract or zest from one lemon (optional)

1. For the topping, stir together sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl and set aside.

2. For the muffins, adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a standard muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray or line with paper liners. (OK... so after having made these several times and getting really frustrated, I would recommend spraying your pans, even if you use paper liners.  When the top bakes over, it sticks terribly, making it a pain to remove the muffins.  Insert your liners, and then spray the top of your muffin pan with cooking spray.)

3. Rinse one cup frozen berries under cold water and spread on paper towels to dry.

4. Bring remaining cup of berries and 1 tsp. sugar to simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with a spoon several times and stirring frequently, until the berries have broken down, the mixture is thickened and reduced to about 1/3 cup, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

5. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Toss the berries that have dried on the paper towels with the flour mixture.

6. Whisk remaining sugar and eggs together in a medium bowl until thick, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil, until combined. Add buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon extract and stir until combined.

7. Using a rubber spatula, fold egg mixture into flour mixture, just until moistened. The batter will be lumpy with a few dry spots of flour. Do Not Overmix! This is key to moist and tender muffins.

8. Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, divide the batter equally among prepared muffin cups. Batter should completely fill the cups. Spoon a teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into the center of each muffin cup. Using a skewer or chopstick, or something long and pokey, gently swirl the reserved berry filling into the batter. Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over muffins.

9. Bake until top of the muffins are lightly browned, and just firm, about 17-18 minutes. Cool muffins in muffin tin and transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Then gorge yourself on them.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Caramel Crunch Bars

I wasn't originally going to post this recipe because after eating them the first night, I was a bit underwhelmed. Not that they weren't good. They were good and my kids loved them, but they were just "good," not "awesome."

But today, as I polished off my third piece in as little as 20 minutes, I realized I was not giving them enough credit. Turns out they get much better after chilling in the fridge for a long time and they are seriously addictive (as I munch on my 4th one...)

Add their addictive nature to the fact that they're easy, cheap, and fast to whip up, and you have a winner after all. These were especially nice in that Gavin and Caden could help me make them. Next time you need something quick and easy for a potluck, try these. Just be careful, because you won't be able to stop after just one...

I found the recipe here, but it's originally a Paula Deen recipe, entitled "Home-made Kit Kat bars." They taste absolutely nothing like a kit kat bar, though, so I'm sticking with the title from My Kitchen Cafe. Also, I'm not usually a fan of butterscotch and rarely have butterscotch chips on hand. Although it didn't actually bother me in this recipe, I think I may try the recipe, replacing the butterscotch morsels with semi-sweet next time, just to see how it tastes. But these bars are fabulous as is, too.

Makes a 9x13 pan
Recipe from

About 80 Club crackers
1 cup butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch morsels

1. Line an ungreased 9x13 pan with foil, leaving some foil sticking out the ends. Place 1 layer of club crackers along the bottom of your pan, cutting to fit if necessary, so that the entire bottom is covered. (This is where Gavin and Caden were my helpers... they were great at laying out the crackers!)

2. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Once it's melted, add graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, white sugar, and milk, stirring to combine. Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a boil, and boil for five minutes. (Begin timing once first bubbles form.)

3. Remove butter mixture from heat and layer 1/2 of the mixture over your crackers, spreading evenly. Top that with another layer of club crackers and spread your remaining butter mixture over that. Top with one more layer of club crackers.

4. In a microwave safe bowl, combine the peanut butter, chocolate and butterscotch morsels. Microwave 20-30 seconds at a time, until the morsels are completely melted. Spread this chocolate mixture evenly over your remaining layer of club crackers. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour. The longer they chill, the better they are, in my opinion.