Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping

After a day at the beach followed by a night drinking rosé at a rooftop bar, it can be hard to wake up at 5AM for a 24 hour Sunday shift at the hospital.  Luckily, freshly baked blueberry muffins make everything (a little) better.  These muffins are adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour bakery cookbook but I added a streusel topping for an extra special morning treat (and because everyone needs a little extra butter and sugar in the morning!).  The flavor of these muffins is also enhanced by the addition of lemon zest and cinnamon- subtle, yet an excellent complement to the sweet and tart blueberries.  These were definitely a bright spot in a hectic morning and it was only a matter of hours before they were polished off!

Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping

(adapted from Joanne Chang’s Blueberry Muffins)
(makes 18 muffins)

For the muffins:

Vegetable oil or cooking spray for the pan
3-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. table salt
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
5 oz. (10 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1-1/2 cups fresh (washed, dried, and picked over) or frozen (no need to thaw) blueberries

For the streusel topping:
3/8 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup old fashioned oatmeal
pinch of salt
1/2 stick (or 4 tbs) cold un-salted butter, diced

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil (or spray with cooking spray) the top of a standard 12-cup muffin tin and then line with paper or foil baking cups. (Spraying the pan keeps the muffin tops from sticking to the pan’s surface.)

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; mix well. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, butter, milk, crème fraîche or sour cream, eggs, egg yolk, and zest until well combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold gently with a rubber spatula just until the dry ingredients are mostly moistened; the batter will be lumpy, and there should still be quite a few streaks of dry flour. Sprinkle the blueberries on the batter and fold them in until just combined. (The batter will still be lumpy; don’t try to smooth it out or you’ll overmix.)

If you have an ice cream scoop with a “sweeper” in it, use it to fill the muffin cups. Otherwise, use two spoons to spoon the batter in, distributing all of the batter evenly. The muffin cups should be filled to the top.

Combine all streusel ingredients in either a food processor or small bowl.  If using a food processor, pulse until ingredients come together in pea sized pieces and mixture is crumbly.  If you don’t have a food processor, just mix ingredients together using pastry cutter, 2 forks or fingers until you achieve that crumbly texture.

Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the tops of each muffin.

Bake until the muffins are golden brown and spring back lightly when you press the middle, 30 to 35 minutes. (The muffin tops will probably meld together.) Let the muffin tin cool on a rack for 15 to 20 minutes. Use a table knife to separate the tops, and then remove from the pan.

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Cooking Lessons: Seared Ahi Tuna Salad

I am often approached by friends asking for cooking or baking lessons.  While this sounds like a good idea in theory, I must admit, I’m a little “Type A” in the kitchen which can make relinquishing control to a new “student” a little difficult (especially if I plan on taking beautiful pictures for a future blog post!).  However, I decided to give it a shot for once.  My friend requested learning how to make something relatively simple but “healthy”.  Now those of you who follow my blog (or who have been lucky enough to sample my culinary masterpieces) may laugh at the idea of me making anything healthy, but I promise you it is possible!  This salad was inspired by the seared tuna salad at the Hillstone with some minor variations to suit my picky friend.

Below are some of the basic techniques, definitions, and tips I taught my friend in order to compose this salad:

Chopping– When food, generally vegetables/herbs, are cut into smaller uniform pieces but not as small as if it were minced (see next)

Mincing– Cutting food, such as garlic or ginger, into the tiniest pieces possible

Julienning– This refers to cutting food, generally vegetables such as carrot or zucchini, into long match-stick like pieces.  Often used to cut vegetables for a slaw. You can do this by hand (which is tedious), use a special mandolin grater, or buy a special julienning vegetable peeler.

Searing-This is when food, such as meat or fish (aka tuna) is cooked over really high heat to get a nice sear or caramelization on the outside of the meat.  

Vinaigrette- Generally this refers to a salad dressing but it can also be used as a marinade.  It is typically composed of 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar or acid.  I generally use citrus juice or other vinegars (balsamic, sherry, champagne) for my acid and olive oil for my oil.  In the following Asian inspired vinaigrette I also introduced soy sauce and rice wine vinegar for some acidity and sesame oil.  It is also great to balance out the flavor with some sweetness from honey.  You can use sugar too but the honey also acts as an emulsifier to bring your vinaigrette together (dijon mustard also works as an emulsifier).  Finally, you can add herbs and other flavors such as garlic, shallots, basil, cilantro etc.  Finish with salt and pepper to taste and test the final product by trying on a piece of lettuce dipped into the vinaigrette.

The below vinaigrette would be great on salmon, chicken or shrimp.  You can also add different vegetables (red pepper, snap peas) or fruit (mango, mandarin wedges) to the salad as you please.

While the lesson somewhat deteriorated into more of a demonstration while my friend watched and drank wine, overall I’d call it a success!

Seared Ahi Tuna Salad

(serves 4)

Start by making the vinaigrette to the give the flavors time to marinate together.

Cilantro, Honey, Lime Vinaigrette 

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs rice wine vinegar
3 Tbs honey
1 Tbs freshly minced ginger
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil

Whisk the first 5 ingredients (lime juice through honey) in a medium bowl.  Mix in the ginger and cilantro.  Slowly whisk in olive oil until thoroughly emulsified.  Taste to see if you need salt- because of the soy sauce you may find you don’t need it.  Allow to sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  You will likely need to re-whisk before serving.

Salad

8 oz of mixed baby lettuces (you can use anything you wish here although I’d recommend using against something with lots of flavor such as arugula, I used a mix of frisee and red lettuce but a pre-washed container of mixed lettuce or spinach would work just fine)
2 avocados, halved and sliced
2 tomatoes, cut into about 8 wedges each (can also use halved cherry tomatoes)
chopped cashews or nut of your choosing to top the salad

Toss the lettuce with about 3/4 of the vinaigrette.  Reserve the remaining to drizzle on the tune.  Divide the salad onto one half of 4 plates.  Top each with 1/4 of the avocado slices, tomato wedges and cashews.

Seared Ahi Tuna

4 5 oz fresh tuna steaks (each about 3/4 to 1 inch thick)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper

Generously salt and pepper each side of the tuna.  Heat both oils in a 12 inch skillet on high heat until a drop of water sizzles.  Add the tuna steaks and cook until browned on each side about 1-2 minutes, so that it is still raw on the inside.

Let it rest on a cutting board for about 5 minutes.  Slice AGAINST THE GRAIN (or else it will fall apart) and place next to the salad.  Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette. Bon appetit!

A Duo of Ice Creams: Blueberry Lavender Chip and Salty Caramel Peanut Chip

I’ve been on a bit of an ice cream making kick recently.  It started in June when I was rotating on the burn surgery service.  To minimize heat loss from critically ill burn patients, the operating room is kept heated at a balmy 100 degrees.  While this is good for the patient, after  3 (or 7) hours it starts to make the surgeon  (aka me) a bit delirious (or just outright cray cray).  Thus, I instituted Ice Cream Fridays to have something sweet and COLD to look forward to at the end of the week.

Although I am no longer on the burn service, the temperature outside the operating room has risen prompting me to continue my ice cream making (although really I need no excuse to make ice cream!).

Last month I took advantage of in-season blueberries to create Blueberry Lavender Chip Ice Cream.  This recipe is a variation on the Wildberry Lavender Ice Cream by Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream.  I did not have essence of lavender oil as called for in the original recipe so instead used some dried lavender flowers I had previously purchased to add a subtle lavender undertone.  I then added white and dark chocolate chips for texture and because everything is better with chocolate!  The result is a beautiful purple, creamy ice cream studded with crunchy rich white and dark chocolate chunks with a mild floral aftertaste from the lavender.

My next creation was also a spin on a Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream flavor.  I started with her Salty Caramel Ice Cream (with a little extra salt added) and then added roasted peanuts and dark chocolate.  The combination of the salt, caramel, chocolate and peanuts is reminiscent of a Snicker’s bar…in a sophisticated and semi-frozen form.

If you want to have fun with ice cream this summer (or anytime) I highly recommend checking out Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream cookbook (I promise I am not sponsored by them!).  The recipes are fairly straight forward and easy to make with a wide variety of flavor combinations!

Blueberry Lavender Chip Ice Cream

(adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream)

1/2 cup wild blueberries, fresh or frozen
2/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar, divided
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 oz of cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
Pinch of dried lavender flowers
3 oz each chopped white and dark chocolate

For the blueberries:
Combine blueberries and 2 Tablespoons sugar in a small saucepan over low heat.  Bring mixture to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat, set aside and cool.

Prep
Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Cook
Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar,  corn syrup, and dried lavender in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Chill
Gradually pour hot milk mixture through a strainer and into the cream cheese mixture, whisking as you pour until smooth.  Add blueberry sauce and stir until combined.  Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Freeze
Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy.  Just before the ice cream is done, add in the white and dark chocolate chunks and spin until thoroughly mixed.

Salty Caramel Peanut Chip Ice Cream

(adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream)

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 oz of cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 1 Tbs light corn syrup
4 oz. salted and roasted peanuts
4 oz. chopped dark chocolate

 

Prep
Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Mix corn syrup and cream.

Cook

DISCLAIMER FROM JENI’S SPLENDID ICE CREAM:

Danger! This is the dry-burn technique. I don’t add water to the sugar before putting it on the heat, as some chefs do. Caramelizing sugar dry means it goes faster, but you have to watch it more closely and be ready with your cream. Here is an overview of what you are going to do:

Stand over the pan of sugar with a heatproof spatula ready, but do not touch the sugar until there is a full layer of melted and browning liquid sugar on the bottom with a smaller layer of unmelted white sugar on the top. When the edges of the melted sugar begin to darken, use the spatula to bring them into the center to help melt the unmelted sugar. Continue stirring and pushing the sugar around until it is all melted and evenly amber in color-like an old penny. When little bubbles begin to explode with dark smoke, give the sugar another moment and then remove from the heat. Immediately but slowly pour about 1/4 cup of the cream and corn syrup mixture into the burning-hot sugar. Be careful! It will pop and spit! Stir until it is incorporated, then add a bit more cream and stir, then continue until it is all in.

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Heat the sugar in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat until it is melted and golden amber in color (see note above). Remove from the heat and, stirring constantly, slowly add a bit of the cream and corn syrup mixture to the caramel: It will fizzle, pop, and spurt. Stir until well combined, then add a little more and stir. Keep adding the cream a little at a time until all of it is incorporated.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the milk. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.

Bring back to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. If any caramel flecks remain, pour the mixture through a sieve.

Chill
Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Freeze
Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy.  Just before the ice cream is done, add the peanuts and chocolate chunks and spin until mixed in.