12 July 2011

Farmers' Markets, even in the City!

"That is the most perfect bowl of cherries I have ever seen." My apartmentmate's boyfriend was over for dinner, and I had just brought out dessert. I had just made enchiladas for the first time, to moderate success, and we were all stuffed. But the cherries - Michigan cherries from the 61st St. Farmers' Market - were just too delicious to ignore.
I wish I'd gotten a photo of them in their straight-up glory, but instead I was left with a few cherry muffins to photograph instead. These were born on Saturday, when I had to feed my sourdough starter (known in the apartment as the "bread monster" or "my baby"). I'd been reading up on sourdough and found some recipes for the "discard", or the cup of starter you throw away when you feed the rest. The deliciously tangy-smelling cup had been going into the trash, so once I realized I could use it in baked goods, I pulled my baby out of the fridge for a feeding.
Here you see one of the muffins (recipe to follow) in a whimsical teacup meant for muffins/cupcakes. In the background is the loaf of bread I made from the fed starter! The farmers' market cherries, cup of starter, additional flour, an egg, baking soda to react with the acid in the starter, and a teaspoon of almond extract combined to make delicious muffins, with the perfect crumb.
Here's the starter himself, at home in the fridge, to who we owe such delicious baked goods.

Besides baking, I've been working at the Smart Museum this summer, as a business intern as well as a cafe attendant. I'm also the social media intern for DiningOut Chicago magazine. My duties there involve updating the facebook and twitter pages, and writing the monthly/bimonthly newsletters.
We've also been exploring Chicago. A couple weekends ago, I went with my girlfriend to see Loretta Lynn at the Taste of Chicago! The food wasn't impressive, but the free concert was fun.
Loretta Lynn (the famous "Coal Miner's Daughter") only sang a few songs, and no wonder - she was wearing a huge, high-necked, long-sleeved dress in the summer heat! Luckily the songs were swing-dance-able, so we could dance and impress all the people sitting around us. (Or at least that's what I like to think.)

But now that we have no dining hall (glory hallelujah), cooking is a big part of our lives in our little apartment. I've always been a little scared of frying, but Ash approaches it fearlessly. She's inspired me to make samosas, falafel, and these: egg rolls!Sorry for the long time without posting; between the job, internship, and life, there's not much time. But whenever I have a morning off like today, I'll try to put a little something up. :)

And here's the cherry muffin recipe! I made it into a one-bowl method...we don't have a dishwasher!
(side note: why is it that my gorgeous red cherries turned a little blue? No, they aren't sad, it's just a chemical reaction between the cherries and the baking soda.)

Cherry Muffins

1 cup unfed sourdough starter
1/4 cup olive oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup flour (whole wheat or all-purpose)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup halved and pitted cherries

Preheat the oven to 375F. Pour the starter into a bowl, and leave it while you feed the remainder. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and sugar, and mix. Your goal here is to combine the dry ingredients, but don't fully incorporate the starter. Make a well in the middle and add the oil and the egg. Lightly beat the egg in the well. Add the extracts, and mix everything together. Be careful not to overmix - too much gluten development will make tough, bread-y muffins. Gently fold in the cherries, and scoop into a greased muffin pan. Fill the muffin cups almost all the way up. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until you can't resist the smell of fresh muffins any longer!

24 April 2011

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! I made a carrot cake for our Easter brunch (which is happening later this afternoon - brunch hours didn't turn out to be the best for most of my friends, but the menu has stayed the same: strawberry apple crisp, cinnamon raisin bagel bread pudding, asparagus, and bunny cake).
For spring break, I went to San Fransisco to visit a couple friends, one from Spain, and one from Deerfield. Here are the famous trolleys - there are actually hills in the Bay Area!!
The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park was GORGEOUS.
The Ferry Building - it's tower is modelled after La Giralda, a tower in Spain - or so we Spanophiles like to think. :)