Archive for: raisins
When life (or your garden) gives you carrots, you have a couple of options. You could roast them or prepare them in some savory way, you could make carrot cake or you could make a batch of Carrot Muffins with Raisins. I enjoy carrot cake, but I was looking to do something a little different with the carrots in my kitchen this time around and decided to bake up a batch of muffins instead. Carrots are one vegetable that can be a great addition to baked goods. They’re easy to work with, have a slightly sweet flavor on their own, and add a nice pop of color.
The muffins are fluffy and slightly sweet, with a hint of butteriness from the buttermilk in the batter and a nice mixture of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg to compliment the carrots. They’re not nearly as sweet or as heavy as a carrot cake can be, but they do deliver a similar flavor and fans of carrot cake will definitely like these. I added golden raisins for a little extra sweetness, and they work very well with the spices in the muffins. The muffins are best when they are freshly baked and can be served as-is, with nothing on them, though they are also good with a little bit of butter or cream cheese.
You can use all purpose flour or white whole wheat flour in these muffins and get great results. I find that regular whole wheat flour makes them a little too heavy feeling, and I like them as a lighter muffin. I topped them off with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar because I like have a little bit of sweetness on top of a muffin, but you can easily leave them plain or omit the cinnamon and stick with coarse sugar. For an extra crunch, you can stir in a half cup of chopped pecans, walnuts or another favorite nut, too.
The difference between sticky buns and cinnamon buns is that sticky buns have a sticky caramel topping that is baked onto the buns and cinnamon buns don’t, and are typically finished off with a drizzle of icing. The caramel for sticky buns is made at the bottom of the baking pan with butter and sugar and the unbaked buns are placed on top of that layer. After baking, the buns are flipped upside down and you’re left with a gooey, sticky and completely irresistible breakfast favorite.
These Sticky Buns with Golden Raisins are the perfect dish to make for a weekend brunch. They are delicious and not as difficult to make as they might look. The base for these buns is a simple yeast dough that is very soft and lightly sweet. The dough is made and allowed to rise for about 90 minutes. Then, it is rolled into a big rectangle to be spread with butter, cinnamon, brown sugar and raisins before being rolled up into a tight spiral and cut into buns. You could actually place them on a baking sheet and turn them into cinnamon rolls with icing added after) at this point, but I put them into a baking dish I had prepped with butter and brown sugar to bake.
The finished buns are light and tender, with a very soft crumb and a lovely layer of caramel on top. The light, caramely sweetness of the golden raisins is a perfect contrast with the golden brown sugar used to make the caramel in these sticky buns. Regular raisins will still work perfectly well, and you can also switch up the type of brown sugar to use whatever kind you have on hand. You could also add a handful of chopped pecans into the baking dish with the caramel if you like your buns with a little bit of a crunch, too. However you put them together, these buns are at their best when they’re warm – so dig in when they’re fresh from the oven and don’t hesitate to look for an excuse to bake some soon.
You might be more likely to think of chocolate chips than of cereal when you’re going to do some baking, but cereal actually works well in many different types of recipes. For instance, it adds a nice crunch in Cornflake Cookies, some extra flavor in Honey Graham Chocolate Chip Cookies and a cereal treat flavor in Rice Krispy Treat Scones. In this case, I used some Raisin Bran cereal to add fiber and flavor to a batch of Raisin Bran Spice Cookies. Think of them as oatmeal raisin cookies, with a twist.
The cookies are easy to make and have cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg in the dough to give them a little bit of a flavor boost. Although you might not think of bran as having a strong flavor, the fact that the bran in these cookies comes from flaked cereal means that it has a rich toasted flavor that actually gives the cookies a lot of depth. There are already some raisins in the cereal (feel free to use another bran cereal and add in raisins, though), but more raisins add additional sweetness and texture to the finished cookies. I definitely felt good about eating these and will admit to having one or two with breakfast – it was cereal, after all!
While these cookies are good when they first come out of the oven, they actually seem to improve with age. The flavors meld more and the cookies stay nice and tender, so they’re a great cookie to make a big batch of over the weekend and store in an airtight container for snacking during the week.
There are two things that you should definitely try during the summer, when temperatures are high and you don’t really feel like cooking: baking cookies in your car and making homemade raisins. The former requires an 100F-or hotter day to work well. The latter simply requires a very warm sunny day, fresh grapes and patience.
Homemade raisins are easy to make and the finished product is well worth the effort. Raisins are formed when most of the water contained in a grape evaporates, leaving behind a slightly shriveled fruit that has a very high sugar content. They can take up to several days to dry out and go from “juicy grape” to “plump raisin,” and as long as you check on them once in a while, it is virtually impossible to over-dry them. Homemade grapes will almost always be more flavorful and sweeter than commercially produced raisins (although I’ve had some good ones at the farmers market before) because they’re fresher and still have enough of their natural moisture to keep them tender.
To make raisins, start with a bunch of fresh grapes. Rinse them well, and put them in a single layer on a flat surface. I use paper towel-lined baking racks, partially for cleanliness and primarily to increase the circulation of air to the fruit. Then, place the grapes out in full sunlight on a hot day and wait for the sun to do its work. I like to put a fine screen on top of the grapes to deter flies from approaching as they dry. The process will take about 4-6 days, depending on the weather and the sun exposure. Feel free to take the raisins inside at night, then put them out again in the morning.
Of all the fruits out there, grapes must be one of the most under-utilized when it comes to baking. I’ve probably seen only a handful of grape pies and tarts, and things like grape breads and grape cookies are far less common. Perhaps the reason for this is that raisins are an incredibly popular ingredient for baking, and unlike fresh fruits, will conveniently keep for a long time in the pantry. But grapes should not be overlooked. They hold up well to baking, work in a variety of sweet and savory applications, and are at least as easy to work with as berries and other fruits are.
This yeast bread uses both grapes and raisins in a slightly-sweet loaf that can be eaten with jam at breakfast or served with a savory meal/cheese plate. The original recipe is a Paul Hollywood (one of my very favorite bakers) creation. The grapes are a nice addition to the bread because in the heat of the oven, they shrink very slightly. This concentrates their sweetness and makes it seem like the bread has a mix of regular raisins and super-moist raisins in the dough. I used organic Thompson Seedless raisins (a very popular variety of golden raisin here in CA) and organic red seedless grapes. Green grapes sometimes have a slightly sharp taste to them that won’t work as well in this bread as the sweetness of red grapes will.
The loaf is shaped into a round before baking, which gives it a lovely, (slightly) rustic appearance. The texture of the bread is light and tender, softer than many sandwich breads. It has a tight, even crumb to it, that makes it easy to slice. Speaking of slicing, I would recommend a large serrated knife for slicing breads in general, but I found it to be especially helpful with this loaf because a large knife was able to cut cleanly through the grapes and raisins without pulling them out of the dough.