Tag Archives: raspberry

Lemon Berry Crumble Breakup Bars

This is a hard story to write — hard enough that it’s taken me almost two months to even attempt it. I still feel raw about it, and I still don’t know how to address the situation head-on. So I’ll just muddle through it the best way I can.

On November 28, Mike and I broke up. It was a cold day, and I dropped him off at the train station so he could head back to Raleigh. Watching him close the door and walk into the station was like watching a movie, except that it wasn’t fiction. I knew we were about to travel a rocky road, but there was no way to switch off the television, no credits to roll — just the aftermath to clean up as best we could.

4,237 days (or 11 years, 7 months, and 5 days) earlier, I had just turned 15 years old. I was sitting in my room, looking out the window, and talking to Mike on the phone. He had something to ask me, but was obviously nervous: “If I were to ask you . . . something . . . what would you say?”

I helped him get to the point. Yes, I want to be your girlfriend. I couldn’t have imagined at that moment where the next 12 years would take us. Who knows when they’re 15 that they’re embarking on something monumental?

Over the years, our relationship brought us trials, for sure.

It also brought me through high school. Sometimes I’d leave school and drive straight to his apartment to watch Star Trek and eat Hamburger Helper (my early attempts at “cooking for him”).

It took me to college, coming home to see him every weekend. It took me off to the coast to study marine zoogeography for a semester — I remember the strain of distance, calling every night on my newly acquired cell phone, and his visit out to Atlantic Beach to see me.

Our relationship saw me through my first teaching job, a tumultuous experience for me. In the first hopeful, idealistic days before I began, he came and painted every single one of my lab tables a deep green to cover the graffiti. Later in the year, when my administration decided to switch my classroom and everything went wrong, my clean tables were mixed in with others and his hard work was lost. He was still there, though, helping me pack up boxes and carry them down the hallway to my new room.

The relationship also saw me through my year as a research technician and, finally, to my position at Woodlawn, the wonderful school where I now teach.

It saw Mike through college at UNCC. He rocketed through in 3 years with nearly perfect grades. It also saw him move his life three hours north to a new city this past fall to begin graduate school at NC State. It saw us through celebrations, new beginnings, and difficult endings. I wouldn’t trade a single day.

These Berry Crumble Bars were actually made at the very tail end of summer and are one of the only dishes I ever photographed at Mike’s apartment in Raleigh. I brought them up to share with him and my little brother, who is an undergraduate at NC State. The bars are buttery, crumbly, slightly lemony, and bright — almost cobbleresque, and perfect with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

The original recipe used only blueberries, but throwing in other berries or even combining berries is an easy way to create multiple varieties of crumble bars; I settled on blueberry and raspberry. Mike and I probably ate a billion of them over the course of my visit. I had a way of encouraging him to have dessert after every meal. I’m sure you’re not surprised.

So what do you say at the end of a story about a breakup? I think in this case, thank you. Thank you, Mike, for being who you are, and for 12 wonderful years. Thank you, God, for the promise that all things are working together for good for me (Romans 8:28). Thank you, friends and family and lovely readers, for your support during a rough time. Here’s to weathering loss and embracing the future — and to dessert!

Lemon Berry Crumble Breakup Bars



Recipe by: Adapted from My Baking Addiction
Yields: 9 raspberry bars and 9 blueberry bars

Ingredients:
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1/2 cup white sugar
3 teaspoons cornstarch

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. In a separate, small bowl, beat together the egg, lemon juice, and vanilla. Using a pastry cutter or food processor, cut the butter and egg mixture into the flour to form a crumbly dough. Press half of dough evenly into prepared pan.

In two additional bowls, mix together 1/4 cup sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch. Gently mix blueberries into one bowl and raspberries into the other. Sprinkle berries evenly over pressed dough — I did half the pan with blueberries and half with raspberries, but you could alternate or even mix the berries if you’d rather. Crumble the rest of the dough over top of the berries. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until slightly brown. Cool completely (and even chilling a little helps to ensure they’ll hold together) before cutting into squares. These bars are fun because you can have two different flavors (blueberry and raspberry) or cut your bars such that you have a combination of both berries.

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Assorted Donut Muffins and Project Food Blog: Vote Now!

Willow Bird Baking is a contestant in Project Food Blog, a contest comprised of a series of challenges to find the next food blog star. If you missed it, my first challenge post explains why I blog, and what makes WBB special. Voting for Challenge #1 is now open! To vote, register for a Foodbuzz account. Once you’re registered, sign in and go here. To vote, click the heart next to the words “Vote for this Entry.” I am so grateful for your support!


At this point, just about all of us have either made Donut Muffins, eaten Donut Muffins from a generous friend, bookmarked a recipe for Donut Muffins, drooled over photos of Donut Muffins, or cursed the day Donut Muffins were invented as we kicked our scales across the bathroom.

I was in the “bookmarked the recipe” category for way too long. Every time I’d see another Donut Muffin post pop up in my Google Reader, I’d admonish myself for not having made them yet. They’re billed as warm, pluffy cake-donut-like muffins that have soaked up butter before being coated in cinnamon and sugar. It’s basically criminal that I hadn’t made them until this past weekend. But don’t worry — I made up for lost time.

What’s the fun of donuts? The taste, definitely — but also the puff of powdered sugar, the jam centers, the colorful sprinkles, the melty chocolate, the sticky glaze. A major component of what makes donuts so fun is the assortment. Even though I have a favorite donut, I always buy a few kinds so that I can pick through the box excitedly, tasting different combinations and flavors. So why make just one sort of Donut Muffin? Especially when it’s so easy to make a few kinds?

In my Donut Muffin assortment: Caramel Apple Donut Muffins, Jam-Filled Powdered Sugar Donut Muffins, and of course, Chocolate Sprinkle Donut Muffins.

You start out by making the batter like normal, but then separate a third of it to add diced apples to. After baking all the muffins up, the apple donut muffins get coated in cinnamon, sugar, and a caramel glaze. Another 1/3 of the batch gets coated with powdered sugar and filled with raspberry jam. The final 1/3 gets a bath in melted chocolate and some sprinkles. I bought a box of bakery cookies just to have a cute little “donut box” to put them in (no clue what I’m going to do with those cookies)!

The Chocolate Sprinkle Donut Muffins were good — but next time I’ll fill them with whipped cream or pastry cream for more donuttiness (that is a Merriam-Webster-certified real word, y’all. Okay, it’s not. Not even close). The Jam-Filled Powdered Sugar Donut Muffins were delicious little jammy bites. But the Caramel Apple Donut Muffins . . . they were OUT OF THIS WORLD. Like, OUT OF THIS GALAXY. Like, OH MY GOODNESS. My roommate had to sit down when she took her first bite, and she insists they’re the best thing I’ve ever made. Are you dicing apples yet? Good.

When they’re warmed up slightly, full of apply, buttery, cinnamon-sugary goodness, and coated with the buttery caramel glaze, these fluffy Caramel Apple Donut Muffins are analogous to the donuts you’d drive across town for. Sure, you want the assortment — and I ate plenty of the other two tasty flavors — but these are the ones you’d keep coming back for.

By the way, are you afraid of caramel? That’s probably because you’ve been using recipes with directions that say things like “look for an amber color,” or, even better, a “dark amber color.” I don’t know about you, but I think “amber” is pretty subjective. What gives? We stopped using terms like “low oven” and “slow oven” in recipes long ago in favor of fancy little things called oven temperatures. It’s time we switched over our sugar recipes to include temperatures as well. Caramel is nowhere near as frightening with a candy thermometer, y’all. You’ll be glad to see I’ve provided temperatures for your caramel sauce below, since I’m not feeling prehistoric.

What’s your favorite kind of donut? I think mine changed with my first bite o’ Donut Muffins! The recipe below shows you how to make all 3 kinds at once, but feel free to make just one sort if you’re feeling decisive.

Assorted Donut Muffins


Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, adapted from the base recipe by Buns In My Oven. Caramel sauce by Martha Stewart.
Yield: 36 mini-muffins or 18 regular muffins

Batter Ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking power
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk (low fat is fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Extras for Chocolate Sprinkle Donut Muffins:
melted chocolate
sprinkles
whipped cream (if desired, for filling)

Extras for Caramel Apple Donut Muffins:
2 tablespoons melted butter, for dipping
1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 apple, peeled and diced (I used a Gala apple)
caramel sauce (recipe below)

Extras for Jam-Filled Powdered Sugar Donut Muffins:
raspberry jam (or flavor of your choice)
about 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
melted butter leftover from Caramel Apple Donut Muffins

Directions:
Prepare two mini-muffin pans by spraying with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Beat sugar and egg together in a large bowl until fluffy. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir until combined. Add vegetable oil, milk, and vanilla extract and mix. Separate 1/3 of mixture into separate bowl and fold in diced apples (these will be the Caramel Apple Donut Muffins). Pour all batter into prepared muffin tins, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake for 13-15 minutes until tester comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing onto a cooling rack (if muffins are extremely delicate and difficult to remove, you may need to bake them a minute longer — mine weren’t quite done enough. On the cooling rack, separate the donut muffins into 3 batches: the apple muffins, 1/2 of the plain muffins, and the other half of the plain muffins. These will be your three types of donuts.

For the Caramel Apple Donut Muffins: Melt the butter in the microwave and mix the cinnamon and sugar in a separate bowl. When the muffins are cool enough to handle, dunk the tops into the melted butter and then into the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Let dry/cool on cooling rack as you prepare caramel sauce (as directed in recipe below). Store caramel in fridge and drizzle on heated Apple Muffins right before serving.

For the Chocolate Donut muffins: When the muffins are cool enough to handle, dunk the tops into the melted chocolate. Add colorful sprinkles. You could fill these with pastry cream or whipped cream using a narrow pastry tip inserted into the bottom of the muffin if you wanted a cream-filled donut muffin.

For the Jam-Filled Powdered Sugar Donut Muffins: When the muffins are cool enough to handle, dunk the tops into the leftover melted butter and then into sifted powdered sugar. When donuts are cool, fill them with raspberry jam using a small pastry tip jabbed into the bottom of the muffin. Be careful not to overfill and burst your muffin (that should definitely be a more popular idiom than ‘burst your bubble,’ don’t you agree?) You may have to re-powder tops before serving if you keep these overnight, since some of the powdered sugar dissolves.

NOTE: Store all your muffins in an airtight container in the fridge.

Caramel Sauce Ingredients:
3/4 cups sugar
1/8 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of coarse salt

Directions:
NOTE: This makes more caramel than you need, but I don’t reduce the recipe because it would make it difficult to use a candy thermometer, a tool that I believe is absolutely crucial in preparing caramel. I know you can find something else to spoon caramel sauce over — and this is truly delectable caramel.

Prepare a bowl set in an ice-water bath. Place sugar and water in a saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until it boils and the sugar is dissolved. Throughout this process, use a wet pastry brush to wash down the sides of your saucepan often to prevent crystal formation. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the mixture reaches 345 degrees on a candy thermometer (begin swirling gently when you see hints of amber, so the sugar cooks evenly), about 5-7 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat and add cream carefully (the mixture will bubble up) while whisking constantly. Return mixture to medium heat until it boils and sugar melts.

Remove from heat, and pour into the bowl set in your ice-water bath. Let the caramel cool, whisking often, for 10 minutes before whisking in creme fraiche, vanilla, and salt. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving over Caramel Apple Donut Muffins. Can store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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Secret Garden Recipe: Pink Ice Petit Fours

Want to have a tea party?

We’re going to find a garden enclosed in cool, moss-covered stone walls. We’ll lay out delicate china on a wrought-iron table with ivy growing up each leg. Arrayed in sweet sundresses and sandals, we’ll carry in platefuls of hot buttered scones, pitchers of raspberry and strawberry lemonade, and pots of fragrant orange tea. Every sip will be accompanied by a staunch pinky point. Twilight will find us still laughing, unwilling to let the summer daylight slip away.

Oh, and of course there’ll be petit fours. The dainty, sweet little cake squares will be the jewels of the tea table.

What a fantasy. In actuality, I’ve just finished my first week of teacher meetings. The past few days have been filled with book shelving, furniture moving, copy making, curriculum planning, sweet student meeting, and lots of teacher giggling. I’ve left with a headache nearly every day, relieved that headache with a nap nearly every day, and even still . . . gotten a ton of work done nearly every day!

We can still have petit fours, though, right? Petit fours are sweet little tea time desserts that seem to specialize in being adorable. Any number of miniature desserts can be classified as petit fours (literally “small ovens” in French), but for my sister’s surprise garden party earlier this summer, I knew I wanted dense, fruity cake squares. Petit fours are sometimes filled with jams, and then are covered in poured fondant or chocolate.

Now, before I gush, these bite-sized cakes were not perfect. More specifically, the poured fondant was not perfect. In fact, instead of “poured,” let’s call it glopped fondant. Shall we?

The thing is, fondant is going to be super sweet. There’s a cavity-inducing amount of confectioner’s sugar in it, not to mention the corn syrup. The only hope of this stuff covering your petit fours and not ending up with a cloying mess is making sure the poured fondant is heated enough to be very thin, so only a thin layer sticks to the outside of the cake square. This proved to be impossible with the recipe I used. It was warmed in a double boiler for gentle heating, but as soon as I started to pour, I was only able to cover a couple of cake squares before it was glop. Even when it was fully heated, it never really got thin enough to cover the squares in a reasonable way. As a result, they were too sweet.

Oh, and that color? That was not the color I was going for. I had a pale, rose petal pink in mind. Um, that’s all I’ll say about that.

While the petit fours weren’t perfect, the taste itself (beyond the fondant) was so wonderful. The cake was deliciously moist, cool, and dense with a gorgeous buttery almond flavor. The raspberry jam covering was the perfect complement to the almond (one of my favorite flavor combinations!) and was simple to brush on, though it never dried completely. Really, if you use poured white chocolate or a different poured fondant recipe (how about trying this one, which looks great?), these would be fantastic (and they’d probably look a little less “gloppy” as well). Even in their overly sweet state, I ate a ton of them due to their brilliant flavorings.

This is also one of those recipes that ends up looking fancy despite being relatively easy to make — and you know I love those. A few key steps (like freezing the cake before cutting it up and making sure your fruit glaze is very thin) ensure that the process is relatively simple.

Go have a tea party!

Pink Ice Petit fours



Recipe by: Adapted from Diana’s Desserts
Yield: 60 1-inch petit fours, or about 16 2-inch petit fours

NOTE: This recipe does not include the poured fondant recipe or instructions due to the aforementioned difficulties. If you want to try poured fondant, I’d recommend looking at this post on Cakes and Cupboards, which looks promising. Nevertheless, poured fondant might still be too sweet for you. Another option is a poured chocolate. You’ll probably need two coats if you use white chocolate. If you want completely smooth petit fours, I recommend using a thin layer of rolled marzipan under your icing, or the buttercream procedure outlined on Cakes and Cupboards, above.

Cake Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
3 egg whites

Fruit Glaze:
12 ounces raspberry preserves (or heated jelly)
3 tablespoons water

Directions:
Prepare the cake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch baking pan, or use Wilton’s Cake Release.

Cream butter, shortening, and sugar together in a large bowl. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk. In another bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto a cooling rack. When cooled, chill cake in refrigerator for a bit before freezing it for at least 1 hour.

Right before removing the cake from the freezer, prepare fruit glaze. In a medium saucepan, heat preserves with the 3 tablespoons water on low heat. If using jelly, judge whether or not you need any of the water to make it a thin consistency.

Remove cake from freezer. Using a long, serrated knife, cut a thin slice off each side of chilled cake. Cut cake into squares of desired size (for me, about 1.5-inch squares). Place squares 1/2 inch apart on a cooling rack over a sheet pan. Use a pastry brush to spread a thin layer of heated preserves over tops and sides of petit fours before icing. Allow excess to drip off. Let dry (I put them in the fridge and let them set up a bit — they never really “dry”). Repeat if necessary to thoroughly coat squares.

Prepare your desired poured fondant or chocolate and pour over the petit fours. Decorate the tops with different frostings, chocolates, sprinkles, candy, sugar flowers, etc. as you wish. Refrigerate until ready to eat — eat within a day or two.

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