Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins

I have 6 dead bananas on my kitchen counter. When I went home last week, my mom gave me 3 that were “on their way out” so that I could make banana bread with them. I spent 20 minutes looking at “banana _______ bread” recipes (plain banana bread is a bit too boring for me) and decided to make strawberry cream cheese muffins.

Yeah, I realize that doesn’t make sense at all. Honestly, I wasn’t going to bake anything tonight or for the next few days, but Tropical Storm Debby has spoiled my afternoon plans. I had every intention of mowing my lawn today (at least, you know, the part the neighbors can see), even if only to avoid having our neighborhood handyman stop by and express to me again how much he really, REALLY wants to mow my lawn, but there’s just too much rain. Muffins to the rescue!

Note: I follow the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra. A good portion of this recipe is a slight adjustment from other recipes I’ve used. And people think baking is hard… 😉

Strawberry Cream Cheese MuffinsMakes about 24 muffins
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced into small pieces
turbinado, for sprinkling onto muffin tops

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Either grease or line a cupcake pan with wrappers. (You’ll need to do this again, but the muffins need to be baked one pan at a time.)
2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together. Set aside.
3. Cream butter and sugar. Add in the cream cheese, egg, milk and vanilla, mixing until well-blended.
4. Add the flour mixture and combine well.
5. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the strawberries into the rest of the batter.
6. Spoon the batter into the muffin wells, until about 2/3 full.
7. Sprinkle turbinado on each of the muffin tops.
8. Cook for 10 minutes; rotate the pan and cook 11 minutes.

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Chocolate Mint Cheesecake

As you may have noticed from your facebook or twitter feeds, I’ve been doing a lot of baking lately. I’ve been trying to justify the amount of time I’ve spent creaming butter and sugar together as practice for the bakery I’ll open when I’m done teaching, but the truth is that I don’t have a job and I’m bored. I was lamenting my lack of income to my dad one of the last times he visited when his fiancee offered me a solution: in order to help me have some kind of income this summer, she’s hired me to proofread things for her for a quarter per page. This may not seem like a lot of money, but when you realize that a 300-page document is $75, you find this number to be more reasonable.

Tonight I’m in the middle of one such 300-page document and it’s a doozey. And, because it’s taking me longer than I thought it would, I’m missing out on two events that I would’ve loved to have gone to. Tonight calls for something special.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve worked on creating what I think is the perfect crust. I’m not quite there yet, but this almond crust is pretty darn close. [I definitely “cheat” and use my food processor to mix the dough for the pie crust, though I’ve done it by hand before too.]

Almond Crust
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch table salt
1/4 cup butter, cold, cut into pieces
1/4 cup crisco
2 tbsp ice water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease one round pie pan.
2. In a food processor, add flour, ground almonds, sugar, salt, butter and crisco. Pulse mixture until just combined. Then add the water and pulse again until the water is mixed throughout.
3. Turn dough onto a flour surface and roll flat until about 1/4 inch thick. Line the rolled out dough into the pie pan, pinching the edges up. [Because I have still not gotten the hang of picking up pie crusts, I roll my dough onto a piece of parchment paper and flip that into the pie pan.]
4. Line the dough with foil and add pie weights or a bag of dried beans. This will prevent the crust from rising up.
5. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the crust turns a pale golden color.

Chocolate, mint and I have been bffs for years. I probably should’ve realized sooner what an amazing addition they’d make to cheesecake, but I didn’t. Better late than never?

Chocolate Mint Cheesecake
3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips, melted and cooled
1 tsp peppermint extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cream together cream cheese and sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. With the mixer running on low speed, add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add in the vanilla, mix for 30 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
4. Mix the cooled chocolate and peppermint extract in the cream cheese mixture until all the chocolate is combined.
5. Scoop the mixture into the prepared pie crust, being careful not to overfill.
6. Bake for about an hour, or until the cheesecake has set.
7. Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate for about 4 hours.

[I had a bit of both leftover crust and batter, so I made two mini cheesecakes. This works out nicely, because I owe someone a cheesecake and now I can just give him one of the special mini ones!]