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Archive for the ‘breakfast’ Category

I don’t recall even knowing about millet until very recently, when my aunt tried to tell me about a certain grain that the Chinese like to use for porridge. We had to use a Chinese-English dictionary to figure out that she was talking about millet. (Its name in Chinese literally translates to “small grain.”) Shortly after this conversation, the prevalence of millet was revealed to me. While browsing through some Chinese snacks at the supermarket, I found that millet was a main ingredient for some of them. Who knew?

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Millet was a staple grain in northern China long before rice became popular. These days, millet is primarily grown and consumed in India and Africa. Millet is quite a versatile grain. It is used to make breads and porridges, and has about the same protein content as wheat. With its revival here in the states, it has also found its way into baked goods. Like these muffins here.

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I made these blueberry muffins for a simple Mother’s Day brunch a couple weeks back, served alongside fresh fruit, broiled shrimp on skewers, and quiche (which I’ll be sharing with you next). While millet is not the main ingredient in these muffins, it is certainly a star. I could not suppress the grin on my face that grew bigger and bigger as I worked my way through my first muffin, crunching down on the nutty millet embedded within.

Try it. I think you’ll like it.

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Blueberry Millet Muffins

Makes 12. Adapted from a recipe for blueberry muffins here

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup toasted millet
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup milk

1. Toast millet by placing 1/2 cup millet in a shallow pan over medium heat. Occasionally move and stir millet until you hear popping sounds and smell a nutty aroma. Set aside to cool.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 12-cup muffin pan with squares of parchment paper or muffin liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Working over the bowl, toss blueberries in a fine sieve with about 1 1/2 teaspoons flour mixture to lightly coat. (If you are using frozen blueberries, like I did, there is no need to thaw them. Blueberries can be coated with flour mixture directly out of the freezer.) Set aside the flour mixture and the blueberries. Mix cooled, toasted millet thoroughly into the flour mixture.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a handheld mixer, beat butter and 1 cup sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Mix in vanilla and lemon zest.
3. With the mixer on low speed, add reserved flour mixture, beating until just combined. Add milk, beating until just combined. Do not overmix. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the blueberries. Divide batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups.
4. Bake, rotating pan halfway though, until muffins are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of one muffin comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. (With frozen blueberries, the blueberries may still be cold after the muffins come out of the oven. Allow for muffins to come to room temperature if you want to bite into room temperature blueberries.)

Note: Muffins can be stored for several days in the fridge in an airtight container, or even at room temperature. For best enjoyment, reheat muffins in the oven before consuming.

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Did I mention how much I love a good, hearty breakfast? I would have eggs, bacon, toast, potatoes, pancakes, and french toast every day if I could, but as much as I crave harmonious plates of starch, protein, sugar and grease (and maybe some veggies thrown into an omelet), it probably does me good to show some kind of restraint.

We have a couple of good breakfast spots within walking distance that we like to go to when we’re feeling lazy. Sometimes, we’ll go for a little drive to try out a greasy spoon or cafe in the city, hoping to find ourselves some new favorites. Having eaten a lot (and I mean A LOT) of breakfasts, though, I must say that my favorite breakfasts have been ones served at home.

During the week, breakfast is a quick and simple affair. Coffee, orange juice, and some cereal, toast, or yogurt. Come weekend, after a good long sleep, I am dancing in my pajamas at the thought of having a substantial breakfast for lunch.

Lately, it’s been the thought of homemade pancakes that excites me. (Okay, okay, so it happens more often than not.) Sadly, though, the one thing that kept me from realizing my pancake dreams for two whole weeks was the absence of maple syrup at home. After all, what good is a fluffy pancake when it’s not cloaked in maple syrup? I also blame my forgetfulness. Why maple syrup didn’t make the shopping list — twice — is beyond me.

By Saturday, a jar of maple syrup still had not magically materialized in the cupboards. It suddenly struck me that we had a full jar of lemon curd sauce in the fridge, sealed and left over from the holidays, just waiting to be used. Who needs maple syrup when we can have lemon curd sauce-covered pancakes?* Content with this happy solution, I whipped up a couple of short stacks of buttermilk wheat pancakes, and dribbled on them a generous amount of warm lemon curd sauce.

buttermilk wheat pancakes with lemon curd sauce

These fluffy, pretend-it’s-good-for-you pancakes topped with a creamy, zesty lemon curd sauce were TO. DIE. FOR. Like dessert for breakfast, which is what pancakes are, really.

They have me dreaming of pancakes again; only this time, without the maple syrup.

Buttermilk Wheat Pancakes

1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
3 tbsp butter, melted
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
6 tbsp whole wheat flour
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp melted butter

1. Melt butter in pan you will use to cook the pancakes. Pour melted butter into medium bowl and add buttermilk and egg. Whisk together. Use paper towel to wipe up excess butter in the pan.
2. In another bowl, mix all-purpose flour, wheat flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Pour flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Stir until dry and wet ingredients are just incorporated.
3. Heat pan to medium-high and ladle the batter into the pan, spreading and ladling less/more batter to form pancake to desired size. Once bubbles form on the top of the pancakes, flip them over, and cook them on the other side for about 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter. In between pancakes, swipe the end of a stick of butter around the hot pan. Makes 4 large diner-sized pancakes or 6-8 smaller pancakes.

Lemon Curd Sauce
Elegant Comfort Food from Dorset Inn
by Jane Stern and Michael Stern
via Cookbook Heaven at Recipelink.com

Juice and grated zest of 6 lemons
6 eggs
2 cups sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened

Combine the lemon juice and zest, eggs, and sugar in the top of a double boiler. Whisk over low heat until the mixture coats a spoon. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter a small amount at a time. Refrigerate the sauce until ready to use.
(Makes approximately three to four 8 oz jars. I would recommend using canning procedures if this is more sauce than you’ll need. You could also halve the recipe for a smaller batch.)

* This idea is not entirely my own. I was reminded of a brunch item shared with a friend — a gingerbread pancake topped with lemon curd sauce and slices of poached pears. This dish also inspired me to make a gingerbread cake for the holidays, for which I made a huge batch of lemon curd sauce.

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J used to live a mere block away from Grand Central Bakery. One of his favorite things to get from Grand Central Bakery is the berry jammer. Jammers are basically “thumbprint” buttermilk biscuits, filled with a generous amount of jam. Any kind of jam would do, according to your liking. What makes jammers good, J says, is that they are not as cloyingly sweet as other breakfast pastries. The plainness of the buttery biscuit really allows the flavor of the jam to stand out.

I happily found a recipe for the jammers on Grand Central Bakery’s website. As the recipe says, “the better the jam, the better the jammer.” I took this advice seriously and proceeded to make some raspberry jam, as I had some frozen raspberries handy. Making jam is so easy, and it’s even easier when the fruit has a high pectin content so that the jam thickens on its own without the addition of commercial pectin. Pectin is a complex sugar concentrated in the skins and cores of fruit, and in jam-making, helps to thicken the jam when combined with heat, sugar, and the right amount of acid (either from the fruit itself, or by the addition of acid, such as lemon juice).

Raspberry Jam (adapted from here)
makes twice as much as you need for the jammers (below)

2 cups frozen raspberries
1-1/2 cup sugar (jam recipes usually call for a 1:1 ratio of fruit:sugar, but I don’t like my jams too sweet)
1 squeeze of lemon juice (although you can probably skip this, as I already reduced the sugar content)

1. Place sugar in an ovenproof shallow pan and warm in a 250°F (120°C) oven for 15 minutes. (Warm sugar dissolves better.)
2. Place berries in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a full boil over high heat, mashing berries as they heat. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
3. Add warm sugar, return to a boil, and boil until mixture will form a gel (see tips, below), about 5 minutes.

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Grand Central Bakery’s “At Home” Jammers
recipe halved to make (9) 1/3 cup-sized jammers

2 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 lb butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup buttermilk
½ cup jam (the better the jam the better the jammer)

Cut cold butter into dry ingredients with pastry blender, fingers, or pulse with food processor. Flour should begin to take on the characteristic of corn meal, however up to 1/2-inch diameter chunks of butter should remain. Mix in buttermilk just until dough will hold together. Pat out on floured surface to 2 inch high and cut out with biscuit cutter (Lacking specific tools, I used a 1/3-cup measuring cup to do this — this gave me a total of 9 biscuits). Use thumb to make hole in the middle while you gently hold on to the outside with the other fingers (think pinch pot). Fill with 1 tbsp jam and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until golden brown.

raspberry jammers

These jammers were jammin’, to say the least. The baked raspberry jam, nestled within bites of buttermilk biscuit, sang on our tongues and made us dance in our seats.

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