I’ve written quite a lot of letters recently (PAPER, PEN, ENVELOPE – do these things still mean to you anything?!) and also got 2 wonderful postcards from my friend Mengchao (she sent them the same day, back in September, and they arrived – thank God – with a week gap between them!) and a wonderful letter from Jana, who just turned a common ride on an elektrichka back home from work a real journey round Switzerland (with a map included!!!)! Thank you girls, I love you! And your letters are on their way, though you’ll have to be patient =)
Haha, I even sent a letter to Athens, Greece, to a small shoe-making family enterprise, thanking them for the boots I’m wearing (that I got in Athens this February). The boots are featured in a special set of photos on Flickr, called travelling shoes =) I love them but they’re causing me some troubles with my apparently picky legs. I’ve told you already that my trajet to work involves quite a fast way of walking several kms, so the comfort of shoes is crucial.
Ok, now let’s talk about food, this time I’ve prepared for you two recipes calling for currants. Those berries were so abundant this summer that half of our freezer is just packed with them (and who knows what’s the situation with my Granny-the-Gardener’s one!), especially with the black type, which I actually don’t like at all. I prefer the red currants, regardless of their tangy taste, those are the berries for me, while black currants make me sick unless they’re well baked and well sugared!=) So here are muffins – quick, non-yeast and fool-proof and a little bit more artisan buns from fresh yeast, marzipan and cardamom – for you to decide!
Eh oui, Mengchao, je dédie ce post à toi, ma chérie ! Que ta vie soit pas sucrée, mais pas trop salée ! Que les hirondelles vivent toujours heureusement !=)
I’m copying the recipe:
Buttermilk Berry Muffins (adapted from a well-known, much-used and much-loved www.joyofbaking.com) will make a dozen of muffins that you do not need to be asked twice to eat!
- 2 1/2 cups (325 grams) all purpose flour – I added a bit of flax seed flour
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) white sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- zest of one orange or lemon – I used a bit of both
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) buttermilk – I took milk+prostokvasha, and apparently more
- 2/3 cup (160 ml) safflower or canola oil – I used 100 ml olive+vegetable oil
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract – I also added some ginger
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh or frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries) – I took a mixture of frozen black and red currants+ added a piece of chocolate in the middle of each muffin
Preheat oven to 190 ‘C. Position rack in centre of oven. Butter muffin cups. Set aside (I was using paper liners).
In a large measuring cup or bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract.
In another large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and zest. Gently fold in the berries. With a rubber spatula fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are combined. Do not over mix the batter!
Fill each muffin cup almost full of batter, using two spoons or an ice cream scoop. Place in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes (Mine required more time as the berries were just out of the freezer and also my muffins were large). Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about 5 minutes before removing from pan. Dust with powdered sugar (which I didn’t do).
Curious what’s inside?
100% yum-yum! Especially the chocolate ‘surprise’ (you can see it, so there’s not much of surprise) and the extra flavours which flax seed meal adds. Well, the idea that you have no less berries in your freezer is also adding up as a bonus=)
Now it’s time for yeast-hooked bakers, even for those who keep fresh yeast in their fridge cause they just cannot pass near cute cubes of fresh yeast on display in the supermarket without taking them home… Once you do it, you have to find a recipe to use it, of course! Plus, I had some long forgotten marzipan in my fridge already expired, but I’m sure still edible especially if baked. So I found a perfect recipe including both fresh yeast and marzipan! There’s this yet unusual for me combination of berries and cardamom in those buns – this spice has just recently entered my kitchen, I brought it from Greece, have never seen it in Russian stores! Here’s the copied recipe with my remarks:
Red Currant and Marzipan Swirls (adapted from www.whatsforlunchhoney.net) will make very soft buns or even cakes of buns
- 250 ml milk, lukewarm
- 500g all purpose flour – I had to add a bit more
- 1 cube (approx. 42g) fresh yeast
- 50g white sugar
- 75g butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 75g butter
- a pinch of salt + I also added some ginger
For the filling:
- 500g red currants, washed and removed from the stalks – I used my stocks of frozen black and red currants
- 200g marzipan, cut into cubes – I had much less, and I grated my marzipan+added about a cup of sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom powder – I used my mortar to grind some cardamom pods
- 1 egg
- 150g icing sugar – I didn’t do the icing, just sprinkled some sugar on the buns before baking
- extra flour
Crumble the fresh yeast into the milk. Stir to dissolve.
In a large mixing bowl add the flour and make a well in the middle of it. Pour in the yeast-milk mixture. Taking some of the flour from the sides begin to prepare your yeast dough by mixing a small amount of the flour into the mixture. Cover and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
Add sugar, egg, salt and butter to the dough and using the dough hooks of your stand mixer knead the dough until it comes together (I have no mixer, so I did all the work by hand). Then for the final few minutes use your hands to make a smooth silky dough (here I had to add some more flour). Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm dry place for approx. 30 minutes. Then give the dough a final good knead with your hands.
Using a rolling pin roll out the dough on a floured surface into a rectangle approx. 60 x 45 cm (That should be a HUGE piece of dough! I really tried to roll and stretch it that far but finally decided to make it smaller, the size of my largest wooden working surface that is old as hills=). Gently move the dough over to a sheet of baking paper cut in approx. the same size (I actually rolled out the dough already on a piece of parchment, but much smaller than the piece of dough). This will help to roll the dough more easily.
For the filling:
Place the marzipan, cardamom and egg in a mixing bowl and whisk with an electrical hand held whisk until the mixture is nice and smooth (as I out less marzipan, I added extra sugar which also was just right as I knew my berries are quite tart).
Preheat the oven to about 180 – 200 ‘C (I started from 190 and then switched to 200 ‘C). Prepare two baking trays by lining them with baking paper (I chose another ‘style’ – I arranged some of the buns in a row in my long loaf pan and the majority of the buns in a large round pan in circles, without leaving much space between them, but not squeezing them either. I however lined my trays with paper which eased the things up when I was removing the buns from the pans).
Spread the marzipan over the yeast dough in a thin layer. Lay out the red currants (/your berries) in an even layer leaving about 1 cm free around the edges.
Roll the dough from the long side up, using the baking paper as an aid as you roll upwards.
With a floured sharp knife cut about 12-15 slices from the dough roll, making sure to flour the knife in between each cut (I didn’t count, just proceeded on with cutting and arranging the buns in the pans).
Place the swirls on the prepared baking trays. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Back each tray separately for 15 minutes (As I had two pans quite fitting in the oven together, I baked them both and thus the time of baking increased – actually, doubled! Also the fact that the berries were frozen also prolonged the baking. I even removed them from the pans and let them crisp a bit in the oven several minutes). Remove from the oven and allow to cool to warm on a rack.
In the meantime prepare the sugar frosting by adding 2-3 tablespoons of water to the icing sugar and stirring until smooth. Coat the warm swirls with the frosting and then allow to dry (I didn’t do that).
TIPS You can use any kind of berries for these swirls, suggests the author, or even dried berries or you favourite jam. I’m sure that any filling will do as long as you like it!=)
The result was a combination of quite common yeast dough with a very unusual taste due to cardamom and a hint of marzipan which melted along with the sugar and the egg and resulted in this pinkish filling oozing from the buns.
Happy baking to you,