Caramelized bacon apple muffins
October 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
I’ve never had a Canadian Thanksgiving. The first time I really thought of it was when I started getting emails about the Canadian Club’s Thanksgiving dinner for students in the dining halls here at Princeton. Still, in the rush of schoolwork and daily activities, I never actually made it up-campus to one of those dinners. Now I suppose there are many members of my family for whom Thanksgiving in October is a normalcy, but my Thanksgivings have always been in November, albeit very untraditional food-wise. Still there is something very appealing about getting to have two.
Unfortunately, there is no time today to make pumpkin pie, so I’m just going to have to snatch a slice from the dinner on the way to the gym (to be eaten afterwards, I promise). Fortunately, there are still a variety of treats in our room from the latest baking adventures: Caramelized bacon apple muffins (coined breakfast-in-a-bite) and caramel bacon chocolate chunk cookies. It wasn’t hard to get the boys on board with the idea of bacon in everything and while we originally got a couple of odd faces at brunch when we launched the idea, everyone was sold by the next day at dinner. The muffins weren’t even out of the oven when all the fingers and knives in the room started going for the block of bacon caramel left over.
One of things I like most about Thanksgiving is the work that goes in beforehand, the splitting up of the menu amongst people, the chaos of the kitchen with everyone attempting to do their own thing at once, and then it all, finally, coming together in the end in a complete meal. When I first started baking in the dorm kitchen in my sophomore year, people would come for the eating part. Sometimes they would help with the dishes, and occasionally they would watch. Now, we’re staying in on Saturday nights (it’s tough getting old), have the keys to an always-locked kitchen, and while the number of kitchen appliances and utensils hasn’t changed a bit (think almost zero), baking is quickly becoming a group activity. Which makes me very happy.
Caramelized bacon apple muffins
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen‘s blueberry muffins
For the bacon caramel:
1 c. sugar
6 T. salted butter
6 slices bacon
For the muffins:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 medium sized chopped apples (skin on)
To make the caramel:
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and butter. Crumble the bacon into small pieces and add to the pan. Heat over medium heat until the mixture turns deep, amber brown. Let it simmer just beyond what you feel comfortable with. Remove pan from heat and set aside. The caramel will start to harden while you make the muffin batter; it will likely be very sticky when you start to use it, and if it gets too hard, a sharp knife will do the trick. You will have quite a bit of caramel left over after adding it to the muffins — perfect for making cookies!
To make the muffins:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the bowl, folding the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. It’s important to not over mix, mix just until the flour disappears. Fold in apples and small pieces of the bacon caramel. Spoon the batter into greased muffin pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and a knife stuck in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
This recipe makes 8-10 standard-size muffins.
Ushering in Fall
September 26, 2011 § 2 Comments
It’s hard to believe it’s fall when the air still hangs damp and heavy, broken up by droplets of rain that seem to cling to the skin, alongside clammy, greasy sweat. I just so love East Coast humidity. But one of these cloudy days found us piling into the bright-red bug convertible and driving the fifteen minutes to Tehrune Orchards. It was Apple Day at the orchard apparently, though I did my research and the real Apple Day, in celebration of local distinctiveness and finding common ground, is actually on October 21st. Lies.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed picking Empire and Red Delicious apples, riding the wagon, cruising through the corn maze and celebrating when we reached the exit, and picking wildflowers. We ate fluffy cider donuts, coated in cinnamon sugar, from a paper bag, and peered at the cases of ginger and oatmeal cookies and racks of apple cider in the general farm store. We forgot for a few hours that we were grown-up college students and rode the parked tractor, poked our heads through the farm animal scene cut-outs and practiced our milking skills on the wooden cow. Then we piled back in the cars and drove back to campus, back to our readings, problem sets and the daily grind.
About a week later, the apples cored and cut, coated in brown sugar and vanilla bean, were piled into little baking dishes and topped with a generous heaping mound of crumbly oats and browned butter.
Crisps were one of the very first things I made in the kitchen, if you exclude the concoctions of shaved chocolate and milk I used to love when I was four-years-old. Every so often, I would pull my only cookbook of my very own, Fanny at Chez Panisse, from the shelf and make a fruit crisp, sometimes doubling the topping to make sure there was enough. Sometimes enough wasn’t enough and I remained unsatisfied with a 2:1 topping to fruit ratio. Nowadays, I go by look and feel for the topping. I use my hands and throw ingredients around, a method that tends to work out well in the dorm kitchens, which are just barely stocked enough to be functional.