Category: - The Baker and The Chef
New Years Day we woke up to a wintry Chicago morning with fresh snow falling from the sky.  The refrigerator was empty from being picked clean of all the delicious food we had made for friends and family.  There was no way I was going to venture out into the wintry wonderland in search of breakfast.  The Chef was at work and M1 is still four months away from being able to drive.  Time to get creative!

Everybody loves a good donut for breakfast, but they're a mess to fry, and to be honest I never know what to do with the oil once I've fried in it, so I tend to not make donuts at home.  I remembered that in culinary school we would sometimes whip up little donut imposters called Sugar Donut Muffins that we would eat for breakfast.  Unfortunately I didn't save the recipe, but I remembered the process and I didn't think it would be that hard.

I decided to do a quick google search to see if there were any recipes and I couldn't believe how many there were!  I had no idea these were so popular!  I thought my instructor had come up with the concept.  Go figure!  After reading through several different recipes I decided to use the one from Baking Bites.  It had the simplest ingredients, and most importantly, I had all of the ingredients!

I did change just a couple of things.  The first being that I used Pumpkin Pie Spice in place of nutmeg.  I'm not a huge fan of nutmeg, especially when it's the primary flavor.  Pumpkin Pie Spice contains some nutmeg as well as cinnamon and ginger so it has a nicer flavor.  It's really versatile, and I use it in a lot of things.

The other change I made was that the Baking Bites recipe just has you brush the butter on and I have you dip the whole muffin in the melted butter.  If you're going for lower fat (notice I didn't say "low fat") then brush the butter on rather than dip the muffins.

These are quick to make and very easy to make.  If you look at the pictures you'll see that M2 made the entire muffin by herself.  All I did was scoop them into the pan and put them in and out of the oven.  Definitely a good recipe to make with your kids!

-The Baker

Sugar Donut Muffin

    yield: 10 full size muffins; 32 mini muffins

  • 3/4 C Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 1/2 C All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 t Baking Powder
  • 1/4 t Salt
  • 1/4 t Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1/4 C Vegetable Oil
  • 3/4 C Milk
  • 1 t Vanilla Extract
  1. preheat oven to 350 F
  2. spray muffin tin
  3. in a mixing bowl, beat together sugar and egg until light and creamy
  4. in a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and Pumpkin Pie Spice
  5. pour dry ingredients into egg mixture and stir to combine
  6. add oil, milk and vanilla
  7. scoop batter into mini muffin pan; fill about 3/4 full
  8. bake for 15 mins, until a toothpick comes out clean
  9. pop out of the pan while still warm so they don't get soggy
  • 4 oz Butter, melted
  • 3/4 C Sugar, for rolling
  1. melt butter and pour remaining sugar into a small bowl
  2. while muffins are still warm, dip them in the melted butter, and then immediately roll them in the sugar
  3. cool and dry on a rack
I've known my entire life that I wanted to work with food.  I had no idea how to go about making that dream a reality, and in fact, I thought that it wasn't even a possibility.  I thought that to become a chef you had to have been born in France and begin an internship with a French chef when you were like nine years old.  All of the chef biographies start like that... "I grew up in France and at nine years old my first job was as a pot washer in a Michelin Star restaurant.  I slept on a small cot near the back door so that I could keep the fires stoked all night."

At the time time I was growing up American cuisine was made fun of by the rest of the culinary powerhouses, like France and Italy.  There were no famous American chefs.  We did have Julia Child, but even she went to France to learn to cook!  Going to France was not an option for me.  What to do, what to do?

Well, I obviously did a lot of cooking and baking on my own for my friends and family, so I had a little bit of a background.  The more I did it though the more I realized that what I really liked to do was bake.  Where could I get the experience I needed to bake professionally?  At a bakery, of course!  So, I applied at a bakery, and the first thing they asked was, "Have you ever baked professionally?"  Um, no.  Well, they had no jobs for inexperienced bakers.  It was the same story pretty much everywhere I went.  The good old catch-22... they won't hire you without experience, but you can't get experience if they don't hire you... ugh!

I needed a job because life isn't free, so eventually I accepted a job as a counter worker at a bakery.  I got to watch all the professional bakers while I stood at the counter and helped customers.  I knew I could do what they did if only I could get the chance.  Well, one day I got that chance.  The muffins we served weren't baked in house.  We brought them in fresh baked from another bakery and the head baker decided there was no reason why we couldn't bake them ourselves.  In order to do that she needed to hire another baker... and I knew just the person!

I went to her and applied for the job.  All right, I begged for the job.  I pleaded for the job.  I reluctantly admitted that I had no experience or qualifications to do the job, but I had heart and I was a hard worker.  She gave me the job!  I have no idea why, but looking back it was probably because I was willing to work for next to nothing.

It was a hard job and I spent very long hours there mixing endless batches of muffins... baking endless muffins... washing endless dishes.  But I loved it.  The best part of the job was coming up with new recipes and trying them out on the customers to see what worked and what didn't.  After about a year of baking there I knew that baking was what I wanted to do with my life and so when I heard about a local culinary school I enrolled the next day.

This recipe was one of my favorites.  It's more of a dessert muffin than a breakfast muffin, but I won't lie, I've eaten plenty of them as breakfast!  We always made them with cinnamon chips (that's where my cinnamon chip obsession started), but you can leave them plain, put Streusel on the top, add a different type of chip or eat them with a sweet spread, which is what I've done today.

-The Baker

SOUR CREAM MUFFINS: (yield 9 standard muffins)
  • 1 3/4 C AP Flour
  • 1/2 t Salt
  • 1/4 t Baking Soda
  • 1 C Sugar, granulated
  • 4 oz Butter
  • 1/2 C Sour Cream
  • 1 t Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Eggs, whole
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F; spray a muffin pan or line the pan with paper liners and spray the liners
  2. In a small bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking soda
  3. In mixing bowl cream the butter and the sugar; beat in sour cream and vanilla, until well blended
  4. Add eggs, one at a time
  5. Stir in the dry ingredients, just until combined-do not over-mix
  6. Scoop into a pan and bake 20 - 25 minutes (a toothpick should come out clean)
  7. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes; then finish cooling on a rack
Notes: These muffins freeze really well.  Add chocolate or cinnamon chips to the batter for variety.  Or serve with a sweet spread.

  • 4 T Butter, softened
  • 2 t Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/8 t Cinnamon, ground
  1. In a small bowl mix together the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon until thoroughly combined
  2. Serve immediately or put in a covered container and refrigerate
The Chef was home yesterday and we decided to tackle cleaning out the refrigerator.  (Cue scary music.)  We found all sorts of things that we'd forgotten about.  Lots of expired salad dressing and moldy slop that was once food.  Yuck.  When we got to the freezer I found the blueberries that my friend Abbi had given me a while back that I stuck in the freezer and forgot all about.  Now that it truly is fall the produce isn't as tasty as it was just a few weeks ago and my mouth watered thinking about what I could do with them.

An obvious choice would be blueberry muffins, but Abbi and I (with the kids) did that already.  How about a bundt cake so I can use that bundt pan I insisted on buying but have never used?  I reached into the cobwebs of my mind for a recipe from a bakery I used to work at and stirred it all together and popped it into the oven.

This is such a versatile recipe, you could make muffins, mini-muffins, muffin tops or loaves out of it.  You also could use other fruit or even cinnamon chips.  (Unfortunately cinnamon chips aren't carried in many stores, although they used to be, but you can still find them at King Arthur's Flour,, and several other online places.)

Fresh out of the oven the cake looked delicious, but I decided to add a lemon glaze since I'd also rescued a lemon in the "Great Refrigerator Clean-Up of 2009".  Blueberry and lemon is a match made in Heaven as far as I'm concerned!  If you use a different fruit that doesn't go with lemon, or a chip, just leave the cake plain or use an appropriate Streusel.  A nice neutral Streusel is:  2/3 C brown sugar, 1/4 C All-purpose flour, 1/4 t cinnamon, 2 T butter.  Mix with a fork until it has nice coarse texture.

This is a great dessert or a really decadent breakfast.  There's enough that you could have it for both, which is what we did!

-The Baker

Cake Base:

  • 3 C (400 g) All-purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 C (295 g) Sugar, granulated
  • 1 t (7) Salt
  • 1 T + 1 t (16 g) Baking Powder
  • 2/3 C (130 g) Vegetable Oil
  • 2 ea (100 g) Egg
  • 2/3 C (165 g) Milk
  • 2 C Blueberries
  1. Toss the blueberries in a small amount of the flour (this will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the pan); set aside
  2. Sift flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into a bowl; set aside
  3. Combine oil, egg and milk in another bowl and whisk together
  4. Mix together all the dry ingredients with the wet; stop mixing before it's completely combined; stir in the floured blueberries; stir just until just barely mixed, streaks of flour is all right (over-mixing will cause the cake to be very heavy and dry)
  5. Spoon into prepared 9" x 3" bundt pan
  6. Bake at 350 F for 65 minutes
  7. Let the cake cool in the pan and then flip out onto a platter
  8. Drizzle the warm glaze over the cake

Lemon Glaze:
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 C Powdered Sugar
  • 1 T Water
  1. Zest and juice lemon into a small pot
  2. Add the powdered sugar; stir
  3. Place pot over low heat; add the water to help dissolve the sugar; if you want the glaze to be thinner add more water, thicker add less water
When I walked into the kitchen this morning I found…

I think we all know what this means - BANANA MUFFINS!  For me, when I hear something is a “muffin” that implies a certain healthiness.  In this case nothing could be further from the truth.  Other than the fact that they’re not loaded with preservatives there’s nothing healthy about these muffins.  But, the taste, oh the taste!  They’re sweet and rich with just the right amount of banana flavor and the edges are crispy, which is so unlike most other muffins.  It’s almost like having a crisp little cookie sitting on top of your muffin.  But, they’re ugly, and I mean really ugly.  One taste, though, and you won’t care.

yield 21 standard sized muffins

(recipe from website)

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose or white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large extra ripe bananas (peeled and mashed; I like to use a potato masher)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

  1. In a large bowl sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the butter and brown sugar; stir in the eggs; then add the bananas; stir in the vanilla
  3. Combine the liquid mixture with the dry ingredients, stirring together only until mixed; stir in chopped nuts, if using
  4. Scoop the batter into greased muffin cups, filling 2/3 full
  5. Bake in a 350°F oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in a center comes out clean.

I like to cool the muffins in the pan just until they’re not falling apart fragile.  If you let them cool completely in the pan the heat will steam them and they’ll be soggy.  After you’ve removed them from the pan cool them on a wire rack upside down to, again, prevent them from getting soggy.

-The Baker

yields approximately 9 - 5" pancakes
  • 1 C AP Flour
  • 1/4 C Sugar, granulated
  • 1 t Baking Powder
  • 1 t Baking Soda
  • 1/4 t Salt
  • 1 C Whole Milk
  • 1/4 C Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Egg
  1. In a bowl whisk together all dry ingredients
  2. In a glass measuring cup whisk together all liquid ingredients
  3. Combine the dry and liquid; let stand for a few minutes; pre-heat pan over a medium flame while batter rests
  4. Oil pan and ladle batter in; leave the pancake alone until the surface is covered in small bubbles; then gently flip
  5. Add fruit or jellies when the first side is almost cooked, just before flipping

You can use skim, 2% or whole milk.  The higher the fat content of the milk the richer the pancakes will be.  I’ve even used reconstituted powdered milk when I ran out of fresh milk.  If you don’t like the idea of using oil you can use butter, but for best results it should be clarified butter.

-The Baker