Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Baking the Bake-Off: Easy Crescent Danish Rolls

This weekend while reading through the latest updates on the Pillsbury Bake-Off website, my daughter and I noticed this recipe for incredibly simple danish rolls made out of Pillsbury crescent rolls and a handful of other ordinary ingredients. It has been a while since I have prepared and shared with you a recipe from the Pillsbury Bake-Off contest, so this seemed like a nice thing to try that I actually had the time to make. It also required very little shopping - the only thing I didn't have handy was crescent rolls, and that was easily remedied with a quick run to the store.

I had originally set out to bring you each and every Pillsbury contest grand prize winner in the order it won, but I soon realized that preparing the recipes in such a strict order was a bit unrealistic. I still very much want to continue testing all of the grand prize winners, but I might not necessarily present them in chronological order. I also would like to be able to open up the field a bit, sometimes sharing recipes that I have tested that were finalists or category winners, and not only the grand prize winners. I actually have already snuck in a few of the non-winners previously, and no one seemed to mind. ;)

The 1975 Pillsbury Bake-off was a rather unique contest year. Two recipes took home the grand prize title, including Easy Crescent Danish Rolls . The recipe was a huge hit and has since become a classic, with variations appearing in many community cookbooks across the country and adapted and shared all over the web. As you can see from my photo of the ingredients above, the recipe calls for fairly typical items, at least in a US kitchen. Certainly in my kitchen, in any case. I can see why such a recipe captured so much attention. Easy, inexpensive, really attractive looking, quick to prepare, and the taste is really good for something made in 10 minutes.

True to the recipe name, these were very easy and despite being just a bit messy to eat, with the cream cheese filling hot and bubbly and oozing out the sides, they were quite tasty. I will make them again, varying the citrus and jam and extract flavorings. I think raspberry with lime would be amazing in this recipe. I would cut the filling in half though next time, to cut down ever so slightly on the messiness. Also, the vanilla tints the icing a pale brown color, which I found a bit unpleasant. I would recommend a white vanilla if you want a nice color contrast and pure white icing.

Note: I used light cream cheese and skim milk this time, and there really was no problem with taste or texture. I almost always use light cream cheese in recipes normally without any issues. For my preserves, I used a delicious strawberry jam I had bought at a local farm stand called The Girls in Boca Raton, near where my mother lives. They have a huge assortment of home canned jams and jellies and the most adorable old fashioned ice cream counter and candy shop.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Elusive Starbucks Raspberry Muffins: Take 1

Regular readers of Lavender Blue may recall that a while back, I posted a reader poll requesting input from all of you on which item from the Starbucks bakery counter I should try to recreate. The winner was the Low-fat Raspberry Sunshine Muffin. I really love these buttery tasting, slightly citrusy muffins studded with lush lumps of juicy red raspberries. It is really hard to imagine they are low-fat, because they don't have that gummy, awful "I have been lightened up" taste that many diet baked goods seem to take on.

Having made a similar, albeit full fat version of these muffins many times before, I confidently thought I could use my old standby recipe as a model, and then consult my cookbooks and online resources to find ways to remove the fat and at the same time, get as close to the flavor and look of the actual Starbucks muffins as I could. My main influences this time were my favorite recipe for raspberry muffins and a low-fat muffin I found on Eating Well's website here. I entered everything into my trusty Mastercook program and crunched numbers until I was able to get the fat and calories down to 6 grams of fat per muffin and under 200 calories, which is about what the actual Starbucks muffins supposedly contain.

When converting the recipes, I wanted to stay away from whole wheat flour, as I was fairly certain Starbucks does not use whole wheat in their version. I also tried to incorporate certain flavors I had detected while sampling their muffins, namely lemon zest, yogurt, a hint of orange flavor, and of course the raspberries. My results came out ok, but I am not quite there yet. The flavors were close and the muffins looked very similar to the Starbucks version, but the texture was way off. Mine were a bit too springy and spongy, clearly a diet muffin. My daughter knew in a second that these were not the real thing. So, I still need to work out the proportions.

In case you are curious, here is the recipe I came up with:

Not Quite There Yet Starbucks Raspberry Sunshine Muffins
(makes 12 muffins)

Dry ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp dry buttermilk powder*
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients: (I think this is the main area that needs work)
1/2 cup water*
2 large eggs
1/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
3 tbsp canola oil
1/4 tsp lemon flavoring
1/4 cup orange juice

1 lemon, zest of (reserving some of the juice for the topping)
1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries, unthawed (this amount was way too much, I'd use only 3/4-1 cup next time)

2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp granulated sugar
lemon juice, as needed to mix ingredients together

Preheat oven to 400 F and line 12 muffin tins with paper liners (Starbucks uses large squares of folded parchment that have radiating points).

Mix together the dry ingredients in one large bowl and make a well in the center. Mix together the wet ingredients and then pour them into the well you made in the flour. Stir just enough to combine, leaving a few small lumps but no dry patches. Gently fold in the fruit.

Fill the muffin tins with the batter. Combine the flour, butter and sugar for the topping using a fork or pastry blender, adding a small amount of the lemon juice for flavor. You just want to get crumbs here, not a paste, so do not overwork this. (This was one of the areas that needs improvement, as I had trouble getting this to form nice crumbs, perhaps due to having my butter a bit too soft.) Sprinkle a little of the crumb mixture over each muffin. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the muffins are puffed and golden on top, and a toothpick tests clean. A word to the wise: Allow to cool before eating or the hot, molten berries will burn your tongue!

*NOTE: I used buttermilk powder + water this time, however next time I would just use real buttermilk or just more yogurt.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

And the World Goes Round

I am so sorry to have left you all hanging for such a long gap of time. I am still out here, still cooking and baking and testing out new recipes. I still am trying to figure out the recipe for those Starbucks muffins I promised you all in my poll. I hope to get those tackled and posted soon for you. My world is a bit chaotic at the moment and I have not been able to really keep up with writing. I have a few things to share with you when I get some breathing room, but for the past month and probably for the next several, I will be in a state of upheaval, so my blog postings will be less regular than they had been.

Time flies when you aren't having fun too, as long as you have lots to do and not enough time to do it all.