Monday, July 29, 2013

Strawberry Muffins with Pecan Streusel #MuffinMonday

I am back on the ground in Dubai but I can’t complain.  Sure it’s hot but we have air-conditioned houses and air-conditioned cars and air-conditioned shops, which is more than I can say for the fair city of Paris.

This week’s Muffin Monday ingredient really isn’t any ingredient at all, but a combination of them:  Streusel.  I looked it up.  According to the Oxford Dictionary, streusel is a crumbly topping or filling made from fat, flour, sugar, and often cinnamon.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says further that it often contains nuts or other spices.  Streusel comes from the German word streuen, which means to sprinkle or strew, both words we also use in English.  And while I admit to sprinkling streusel, I do try to confine it to the top of muffins or coffeecake.  I suggest you do the same.

For the muffin
2 cups or 250g flour
3/4 cup or 170g sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup or 180ml milk
1/2 cup or 120ml canola or other light oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup (measured after chopping) or 150g (weight after hulling) strawberries

For the streusel
1/2 cup or 60g pecans
1/4 cup or 50g dark brown sugar
1/4 cup or 30g flour
1/4 cup or 55g cold butter

Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C and generously grease cups of 12-cup muffin tin or line with muffin cup liners.

Hull and chop your strawberries and chop the pecans.  Set the strawberries aside.

Make your streusel by mixing together your brown sugar, chopped pecans and flour.

Cut in your butter with a pastry blender.

This takes a bit of doing and you will probably have to scrape the butter off the pastry blender and back into the bowl a few times before it starts to come together with the dry ingredients.

Persevere.  You might find it helpful to use a fork at the end.

Set the streusel aside (in the refrigerator if you are in a warm place) and continue making the batter.

In a large mixing bowl, combine your flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In another smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, vanilla and egg.

Add all the milk mixture to flour mixture.

Gently fold just until dry ingredients are moistened and then fold in your chopped strawberries.

Divide your batter relatively evenly between the 12 muffin cups.

Sprinkle the streusel on the top of the batter and pat it down a little bit so it doesn’t fall off as the muffins bake and rise.

Bake 20-25 minutes in your preheated oven or until muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool 10-15 minutes before removing muffins from tin and placing on a wire rack to finish cooling.

Eat any pieces of streusel that fall off as you are removing the muffins.  The family will never know or miss them.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Traditional Cherry Clafoutis

The traditional baked French cherry clafoutis is made from sweet summer cherries and a sweet eggy batter. Serve it with some cream for a really easy yet decadent dessert.

Many years ago, we lived in a beautiful old home in Paris. This one, in fact. We were visiting friends this week and I stuck my camera up over the gate to get a photo.

But what I really wish I could show you is the back garden. It wasn’t as large as the front but its walls were covered with red climbing roses and it was shaded by the generous branches of an immense cherry tree. During the summer, we would feast on sweet red cherries till we couldn’t eat any more. We made pies and jam and even cherry bounce, a sweet wine of sorts. We froze them in baggies. We gave them to neighbors. We shared them with friends. Indeed, we were amply blessed. For me, cherries ARE summer in Paris. And forever after, everywhere, cherries MEAN summer. And vice versa.

When I first saw the theme of this week’s Sunday Supper - farmers’ markets and local food - I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to take part. In Dubai, the markets are closed for the summer. With daily highs that can soar to above 46°C or 114°F, no one wants to sit outside to sell anything. And, as you can imagine, customers would also be scarce. I was delighted when we ended up with a week in Paris visiting friends, while my dear husband attended to his work-related reasons for the trip. Yay! Parisian markets are the best!

My friend's neighborhood market. Look at all those cherries! Mine came from right here.

I've added a bunch of market photos at the bottom of this post, for anyone who is interested.

And, since summer means cherries, there was no question about what I would buy at the market. My friend and I were discussing the possibilities for a recipe because we thought it needed to be something French and she said, “Clafoutis.” I replied, “Exactly what I was thinking.” Great minds. And when an American and a Scotswoman in Paris are cooking French, whom else could we turn to but Julia Child? This recipe is from her first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julia will never steer you wrong.

Butter for greasing the pan
1 1/4 cups or 295ml milk
1/3 cup or 75g sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup or 63g flour
15 oz or 425g fresh sweet cherries
1/3 cup or 75g sugar
Powdered sugar or heavy cream for serving, optional

Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare your baking pan by buttering it liberally.

Pit your cherries. If you don’t have a cherry pitter, simply tape four toothpicks together and use them to push the pit though from the stem end and out the bottom. Your hands will look like you killed someone but the cherry juice does wash off with just a little staining. Do protect your clothing, which will not be as fortunate.

In a blender or liquidizer, blend the milk, the first 1/3 cup or 75g sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour. I used the hand blender since it’s easier to clean, but I must confess, its measuring vessel was a bit too full and I had to blend veeerrry carefully not to spill. Just listen to Julia and ignore my photos. Use the blender.

Pour a 1/4 inch or 2/3cm layer of the batter in your buttered baking dish.

Bake in the oven about 5-7 minutes or until the batter just sets in the pan. Jiggle the pan to check. Remove from the oven and scatter your cherries evenly over the batter.

Sprinkle on the second 1/3 cup or 75g sugar.

Pour on the rest of the batter.

Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour or until the clafoutis is puffed and golden and a knife plunged in the center comes out clean.

It falls again after just a few minutes but still tastes the same so don’t worry.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar or drizzle with heavy cream and serve warm.


Appetizers & Salads
Soups & Sides

Marché du Pont de l'Alma

Here are a few photos of the market. And you might have guessed I didn't buy just cherries. :) The wonderful produce is hard to resist.