“Keep Maine Alive” Blueberry Muffins

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A good friend of mine sent me this picture as we were emailing each other about cooking wizardry and creativity.  It immediately locked into my heart, I’m not sure why.  Finally today I got around to looking onto the “explodingdog” site, and there’s something about Sam’s work that I find so poignant, ridiculous, funny, sad and also happy.  If that makes sense.  You should check it out.

In the meantime, my current magical endeavor has been “keeping Maine alive” in our house.  What that means is serving up culinary reminders of our summers in Maine while my husband, whose favorite place on Earth is Maine, slogs away at the last long and overbooked hours of his job before the summer break.  For more info on our Maine trips, see here.

Beautiful Bowdoin Track, Brunswick, Maine

Beautiful Bowdoin Track, Brunswick, Maine

For Maine blueberry muffins, see below!  These are based on Zoe Nathan Loeb’s (Huckleberry, Milo & Olive, Rustic Canyon) recipe for Blueberry Bran Muffins.  They are maple-ey, almost sticky and pudding-like, not cakey at all.  Be sure to buy good blueberries.
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Ingredients:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup brown sugar, plus more for topping
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup wheat germ, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup plain full-fat yogurt
2 cups blueberries

Directions:
1) Preheat the oven to 350(F).
2) Place cupcake liners in a 12 cup muffin pan.
3) In a large bowl, whisk by hand the butter, brown sugar and salt. Add the egg and whisk to combine.
4) Add the maple syrup, honey and canola oil. Whisk until emulsified.
5) Add the flour, wheat germ, baking soda and yogurt. Whisk together just until combined.
6) Fill the muffin cups about three-quarters full. Top with lots of fresh berries. Crumble a little brown sugar on top of the fruit.
7) Bake in the oven until the cake springs back and the tops are golden brown (About 25 – 30 minutes).

 

Cowberry Yoghurt Muffins Parfait Style

Cowberries are also known as Lingonberries, a small tart fruit which is a staple in Northern Scandinavia, picked in the wild and used to accompany a variety of dishes.  If you’ve been to the IKEA cafeteria you’ve seen them as a sauce for the Swedish meatballs.   They are also grown in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, but not seen very often here in California unless in jam or preserves.

Having been an English major in college, I developed a fond relationship with wordplay, so you can imagine my delight at the other common names for the Lingonberry:  csejka berry, quailberry, beaverberry, red whortleberry, cougarberry, mountain bilberry, and even partridgeberry!

My best friend from college moved to Sweden 20 + years ago and one of our very closest family friends, Stig the mad genius carpenter, is a “Sami” (formerly known as a “Lapp”; from Lapland, Sweden), and I visited Sweden once many moons ago.  I love most things Swede, in homage to my friends and for 2 other reasons:  (1) meatballs; and, (2) open faced sandwiches.

This week it’s been cold cold cold, by Southern California standards, so I’ve been feeling downright Nordic.  In addition, last Sunday we had a wonderful pie at our favorite cafe that was made with jam and a layer of yogurt, and I’ve been wanting to re-create those flavors and textures since then.  So for this Fiesta Friday I dreamt up this cowberry muffin, parfait style.  It has a bottom layer of cooked lingonberries (or you can use jam), a layer of drained greek-style yoghurt mixed with an egg yolk and some flour for firmness/bakeability, and a top layer of bacon.  The muffin dough uses a combination of rye flour and coarse polenta mixed with a little more yoghurt.

I experimented with more use of natural light in my photos this week and would love your input on the different shots.  Believe me, the whole production did not bode well for my husband this morning, who during Lent does not eat until after 5 p.m., so as he calmly did his morning reading/meditation, I was scuttling baked cowberry muffins, halved and whole, around the house pulling up blinds, moving chairs, making all kinds of noise and trouble to snap my shots.

Natural Light, from above

Natural Light, from above

From Above, Instagram enhanced

From Above, Instagram enhanced

Side View, Natural Light

Side View, Natural Light

Side View, Instagram enhanced

Side View, Instagram enhanced

Whole Muffins, Natural Light

Whole Muffins, Natural Light

Natural Light

Natural Light

I Made a Mess, Instagram enhanced

I Made a Mess, Instagram enhanced

Here’s the Recipe:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup lingonberries or lingonberry jam

1 Tbps cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp water

1 1/4 cup greek style (full fat) yoghurt

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp rye flour

1 cup coarse polenta

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 Tbsp baking soda

1/2 cup water

8 slices bacon, cooked to 75% of how crisp you would normally like it

(Makes 4 large muffins)

Instructions:

1.  Gently warm 1/2 cup lingonberries, or lingonberry jam.  Mix 1 Tbsp cornstarch with 1 Tbsp. water and add to lingonberries.  Stir for 2 minutes then let sit for at least 10 minutes, or to cool.

2.  Mix 1 cup greek yoghurt (full fat) with 1 egg yolk and 2 Tbsp flour.  Set aside.

3.  Mix 1 cup rye flour and 1 cup coarse polenta and 1 Tbsp baking powder.  Add 1/4 cup greek yoghurt, 1 egg and mix well, and 1/2 cup water and mix well.

4.  Layer large silpat muffin molds or pour into muffin tin as follows:  2 large spoonfuls of lingonberry, 2 spoonfuls of yoghurt mixture, 2 spoonfuls of flour mixture, repeat layers but with 1 spoonful of each mixture.  Break bacon slices into pieces. Top with bacon.  Cover the tops of the muffins for the first 35 minutes of baking.  Uncover for the last 10 minutes of baking.  Let cool well before unmolding.

Mmmmm!

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A little more history on this delightfully sour berry:

  • In Sweden and Norway, reindeer and elk steak is traditionally served with gravy and lingonberry sauce.

  • A traditional Swedish dessert is lingonpäron (literally lingonberry pears), consisting of fresh pears which are peeled and boiled in lingondricka (lingonberry squash) and then preserved in the pear-infused lingonberry squash and not uncommonly eaten during Christmas. This was very common in old times, because it was an easy and tasty way to preserve pears.

  • In Sweden and Russia, when sugar was still a luxury item, the berries were usually preserved simply by putting them whole into bottles of water. This was also a home remedy against scurvy.

  • In Russia this preserve had been known as “lingonberry water” (брусничная вода) and is a traditional soft drink. In Russian folk medicine, lingonberry water was used as a mild laxative.

  • A traditional Finnish dish is sautéed reindeer (poronkäristys) with mashed potatoes and lingonberries, either cooked or raw with sugar. In Finland, a porridge made from the fruit is also popular.

  • In Poland, the berries are often mixed with pears to create a sauce served with poultry or game.

Porridge Files

I love a bowl of porridge for breakfast or lunch, don’t you?  Here are some recent versions at our household:

Lazy Person’s Lemon Farro Muffins with Golden Raisin Embellishment

This is what I do with my leftover citrus after I’ve squeezed the living daylights out of it:

Read More

Original Birgerbird Recipe: Carrot Top Pesto

This is Nose-To-Tail Cooking at its best, veggie version of course.  When life gives you carrot tops, make Carrot Top Pesto!  You may have noticed I’ve got Carrot Top on the brain.  I got this idea from my favorite cafe and e-grocer, Red Bread.  They serve a carrot top pesto every once in a while with their savory squash pancakes.  It has a less floral and more earthy flavor than classic pesto made with basil, but the flavors pair well with a buttery fried egg, or toast and sweet jam.  I wouldn’t serve it alone with pasta because I think it benefits from either a sweet or savory element to off-set its muskyness.  That’s musky in a good way of course.

I often serve the pesto on toast as a spread for an open faced sandwich, or on top of a fried egg for a savory breakfast.  This morning I made a miso vegetable soup with fried eggs and the pesto:

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Here’s the Recipe:

2 cups chopped carrot tops

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup pine nuts (you can use other nuts in a pinch)

2 garlic cloves, smashed with the back of a knife and finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

a few cranks of freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese

Dash tabasco, siracha or lemon juice

Blend all ingredients leaving the cheese out and approximately 1/4 cup of the olive oil..  When you blend the ingredients, place all the dry ingredients into a blender or food processor (or, if you wish, use a mortar & pestle) and stream in the olive oil slowly.  Lastly, add the cheese to taste with a spoon and stir.  Pour in the last of the olive oil and stir well. Splash on a bit of hot sauce or lemon juice to brighten.  Enjoy!

Happy Customer

Happy Customer