muffins · sweet

Ode to My Baboushka

Broadcasting from my renovated room with new curtains (bought 2 Ikea plaids and converted them into curtains+share one of plain white curtains with my parents’ room=), another day with no prospect of a job, even the open vacancies on headhunter were almost absent today (perhaps it’s just Monday?). I have quite a crowd of things to share with you so I’m starting with that what I promised –  some (warm) words about my Granny.

Granny is such a wonderful person, extremely kind, caring and I love her… well, she IS my Granny! She’s quite conservative in her way of life and how she considers that of others (including ours) – but that is so very characteristic of baboushka, isn’t it? (BTW, the accent is on the first syllable, bAboushka, so Kate Bush is wrong;) ) She has her garden, her every year struggle with growing cucumbers which always hide from her in the leaves till they get enormously huge; with tomatoes which you have to pick before the cold weather (hey, don’t forget I live in the North) which means they get their colour artificially, lying somewhere under the cupboard; with – finally – courgettes that are more like gigantic brothers of zucchini which we tend to enjoy much more… The garden is her life, anyway, her and my Grandpa’s, cause during spring, summer and autumn days there’s always something (= A LOT) to do and this is a mandatory condition for any Soviet person to… live. Yes, you cannot live without being constantly involved in doing, mending, working, baking, sewing, constructing, growing or destroying (that depends on a person=). From their early ages my grandparents have always been working, saving each day for something (a very Soviet habit or even an obsession, that my parents seem not to have inherited;) ), being our constant support in everything that concerns hmm money. We have a family joke about our grandparents hiding a clandestine money-printing machine or breaking into banks on a monthly basis. Well, now to be serious, they just possess this Soviet … grasp, which enables you not only to plan (remember 5-year state planning for industry, economy etc in the USSR?) ahead but also to realize those plans! Guess what? They’ve never been rich but with rigid economy measures during the Soviet times. Now they continue the same lifestyle although it became self-denying  too much, I think. I wish I could EVER pay them back, not only in money, I mean in all that they have done for us.

festive table with all the required components

Ok, now the recipe of the cupcakes (well, they’re more like muffins) I made for my Granny’s birthday. As it is her usual habit to cook MUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCH more than expected (and also to get upset when we arrive – as it was arranged – already after lunch and refuse to eat much), we saw a typical Soviet festive table, including the best crockery of the house (I love it, some of it is very subtle and as it is on the table each year for a special occasion, it reminds me of my childhood years, when we with my sister would come to our grandparents’ place to get our presents, hehehe, or to give our handmade presents to them), salmon, sausage and cheese and butter plate, wine, homemade apple juice (always on the table for the sober children), fruit, chocolates and of course the cake – this time sour cream and sweetened condensed milk one, with chocolate shavings on the top.

Smetana cake

My cupcakes just got lost 😉

tea time

Linzer Cupcakes  (adapted from www.anediblemosaic.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil – I used a mixture of leftover melted butter and sunflower oil
  • 3 eggs – I used leftover egg white and 2 whole eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk – I used buttermilk (homemade prostokvasha) as I ran out of milk
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • About 1 1/2 cup jam (whatever kind you like) – I used my Granny’s very thick and sweet blackcurrant jam
  • About 3 Tbs powdered sugar  – I didn’t count how much I used

Method

Preheat oven to 180 C and line a cupcake baking pan with paper liners (I have only individual muffin-sized forms so I just lined them with paper liners bought in Germany=).  Use a handheld electric mixer (well, any mixer I suppose) to beat sugar and oil together in a large bowl, then cream in eggs until light and fluffy; beat in milk and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Gradually beat dry ingredients into wet until just combined, making sure not to over-mix (that’s what I usually tend to do, so be careful!).

Fill each cupcake well with batter to just under the top of the paper liner (DO it as it’s said, cause I didn’t and had to pull away the liners so that I could cut the top). Bake 22-24 minutes, or until light golden around the edges and a toothpick inserted into the cupcake comes out clean or with just slightly moist with a crumb or two.  Cool for 5-10 minutes in the cupcake baking pan and then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

When the cupcakes are cool, cut the tops off with a serrated bread knife (this is easiest to do by turning the cupcake upside down on the countertop, and then gently running the knife between the cupcake top and the top of the paper liner).  Use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter (or whatever shape you like) to stamp out a heart from the cupcake tops (I used a heart-shaped one and also the smallest cookie-guy cutter I had for the smallest muffins. RESERVE the cut hearts and dust them with powdered sugar!).  Pour a little powdered sugar into a small sieve and lightly dust the cupcake tops with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.  Spread a spoonful of jam on the top of each cupcake, then put the tops on and spoon a little jam into the heart-shaped cut out (I changed the procedure as i was going to transport the cupcakes to my Granny’s, so I first cut the tops off, cut the hearts, put the jam in the centre, replaced the toppings, filled the heart with a bit more jam and put them all in a container. When we arrived, I took them out and decorated with sugar powder).

the process

Visit the original recipe blog for clear instructions on how to make your cupcakes ‘linzer‘ ! And also better choose a rather thick jam cause otherwise you’ll get a lot of fuss trying to prevent the jam from escaping your cupcake.

The cupcakes lasted several days (as I baked more things), gradually becoming more moist with the jam. If you cover your cupcakes for the night or if you live in the same humid conditions as we do, DO expect that the powdered sugar decoration will disappear and you’ll have to renew it in the morning.

Real Linzer, aren’t they? almost an Austrian recipe =)

cupcakes

***

As far as cupcakes and muffins are concerned, let’s mention also my yesterday effort to use at least one of already dying courgettes from my Granny’s garden.  This is what I did:

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (adapted from here) 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cocoa, sifted – I used less than half a cup of cacao and the rest was this Soviet barley-chicory ‘coffee’
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp allspice – no such pepper in my pantry so I used some cayenne pepperand a little powdered ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon – I love cinnamon and always don’t measure it =)
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar – hoho, I economized and used half white, half brown
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil – lessssssssssss
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (I used prostokvasha, eeeeh, will tell you later about it!)
  • 2 cups zucchini (washed , ends removed, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and seeded,  grated and squeezed out)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips – no such thing here, so I just chopped a bar of my favourite – and Melina’s 😉 – Russian bitter  chocolate Osobiy)

Method

Preheat oven to 180 C. Line 20 muffin cups with muffin liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray (I used my muffin tins and newly purchased small metal tins from Bielorus which cut my hands all over, that’s why they cost only 25 cents each!). In a large bowl whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda, allspice and cinnamon; set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk together the sugar(s), butter and oil. Beat in eggs, one at a time until combined. Stir in vanilla, buttermilk, zucchini and chocolate chips. Gently stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.
Divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups. Bake until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and muffin tops are springy to the touch, 20 to 24 minutes (in my case it took half an hour as my muffins were large); rotating halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

autumn light

My Father got inspired and made some photos of my chocozucchomuffins =) and even decorated them! So more professional photos yet to come. AND for those who have never seen ZUCCHINI used in such a way, I’m telling you – just don’t tell anyone and nobody will ever guess that they ARE there! everything disappears inside, you only get great moist texture with some chunky chocolate pieces and occasional green spots – which happens if you forgot to peel your courgette well. The second thing is NOT to eat them immediately after baking, let them cool and set, because while they’re still warm, the courgette thing can easily give itself away =) But don’t worry, after some time everything will be OK. And if you’re still not at all convinced and reassured, they even use beetroot and POTATOES in cakes! And I’m sure you’ve already tried carrot cakes with cream cheese filling? Or pumpkin pie? That’s it!

I’ve already got a recipe from my Granny so once will try it for sure. It still takes me loads of time to write (or better compose) a post and I apologize for promising much and doing everything slowly, perhaps I’ve been in Greece for too long =)

P.S. Couldn’t keep myself from posting more of that subtle crockery and sweeeeet cake of my Granny’s!

Smetana cake once again

See you soon,

G.

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