Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lemon Poppyseed Muffin Frustrations

You know how something can happen one way, and always happen that way, and then when you try to point it out to someone, it doesn’t happen that ONE time, and you just look ridiculous? That’s kind of what has gone down here.  Over the past 6 months, I’ve been taking on baking projects and photographing their results with seemingly no effort, no trouble, only deliciousness.  When I blogged about how I was doing these cooking things, and proceeded to bake my next recipe, it did not go as planned.

I had some lemons leftover from a sudden craving of lemon shortbread cookies last week.  I thought I could make some sort of lemon roasted fish or chicken, but lacked both. When you work for a grocery store, the last thing you want to do on the weekend is go grocery shopping, so I decided I’d use what I had on-hand.  I'd make another sweet – this time more on the breakfast-y side of things: Lemon Poppyseed Muffins.

I pinterested and compared quite a few recipes, and decided to go with this one.  You’ll notice it calls for sour cream, but you see, I did not have any sour cream. I know from baking cakes that this is to add moisture, so I didn't want to skip it, thus began a painstaking search for sour cream substitutions. I watched this video with wide eyes, and I ransacked my pantry and refrigerator for anything on the line up. I had lemon juice, and I had milk that was dated 4 days prior, and I had half-and-half and butter, and that was it.  No buttermilk, no whipping cream, nothing that anything actually called for. I decided I’d try two options: first, I’d try the whipping cream with lemon juice method…except I only had half-and-half.  After 5 minutes, I gave up on that ever thickening. So, I decided I’d use the ridiculous amount of butter with aged milk.

I carried on with the recipe.  When it came time to add the "sour cream," I realized that I didn’t know how to add it.  Did I need to melt the butter? Cream it? Softened or chilled? In a very split-second decision, I put the milk in a bowl and then put the whole softened stick of butter in the milk and turned to mixer up to full speed. What the heck was I thinking? I know what I was thinking. I was hungry, and I had stalled for far too long regarding the sour cream already. The result was a clumpy weird cottage-cheese-looking liquid, because duh, fat doesn't mix into liquid like that. I dumped it into the batter anyway. It didn’t seem to matter much. “It’ll just make clumpy pockets of butter if anything!” Into the muffin tins and into the oven they went!

While they were baking, I was getting creative. I always like to jazz up a recipe. Sometimes something is perfect just the way the recipe card says, and if you tweak it, it doesn't taste like Momma's, but always doing everything by the book would be quite dull. Usually, if a lemon poppyseed muffin is topped, it’s with a simple sugar lemon glaze. That is so last week (...literally, I put lemon glaze on my shortbread cookies last week). I had some mascarpone that was dying to be used up, so I decided to make a vanilla mascarpone glaze – a delicious stroke of genius! I used this mascarpone icing recipe, (again with the whipping cream! I used the half-and-half, but I'll have you know that there is now whipping cream in my fridge, sheesh) and put it on the muffins as they were just out of the oven so that the icing would melt immediately, making a glaze instead. I set them back in the oven for the icing/glaze to get a little crunch to it (and I didn’t want the muffins getting soggy). It worked!..with one set-back. Side story:

At home in Alabama, as with anywhere, Spring bounces into season and with it, a not-so-thin dusting of pollen. You suffer through the yellow coating on your car, your shoes, your porch, because there is no other option, and when the dusting has passed, you hose down all the things.  Whenever we hose down the back porch, the waterproofing causes the water to bead up on the planks of wood, and each liquid bead holds up this gross, thick film of yellow.

The muffins were so yummy and delicious with this slight crunch from the glaze on top, but the combination of colors of the yellow lemon muffin with the black/gray poppy seeds and the tan icing, had given the muffins this look like they were topped with that weird pollen-water from the back porch.

Ok, so they don't look that bad, but you're talking to a perfectionist here. I thought I’d just broil them a tiiiiiny bit longer to give the tops a toasty brown color to mask the yellow. 

And then I forgot about them.

Dinner starvation was creeping up on me. While cooking a delicious Niman Ranch Apple Gouda Sausage, those would-be adorable creations were getting quite black. I tried to mask the black with my mascarpone icing-glaze that had now gotten to be a weird mashed-potatoes consistency. 

I really gave up at this point, and I messaged my coworkers that they were going to eat a lot of burnt muffins in the morning. The mascarpone is really what burned, so the muffins below were fine. Nonetheless, this perfectionist apologized profusely to each coworker as they took one to eat it.

All of that being said, I promise to deliver inspiring kitchen stories at some point, but you have you start somewhere! I'll usually include recipes at the end of my posts, but I don't really feel like I have the right to instruct you on this one, so follow the links if you wish.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Big Move to Island Life

Oh, hi!

It has been far too long of a while since my last post. Remember when I ended by saying that I had "a busy couple of weeks coming up," and I wasn't sure when you'd next hear from me? Well, I wasn't kidding. Here's a really quick, get-up-to-speed rundown of events since Aug. 22 of 2013. 

  • 8 days later :: I flew from Atlanta to Milwaukee, and finally let this wonderful guy steal my heart :) Sappy, I know, sorry...ish. Commencement of long distance relationship!
  • 5 days later than that :: I flew to Grand Cayman and interviewed for a design job. 
  • 4 days later :: I had the job...and then onset anxiety and stress because holy doodoo I was moving out of the country any day now.
  • Two weeks passed and my best friends got married and there was a whole lot of "EVERYONE IS GROWING UP AND DISAPPEARING" running through my head.

I moved my things from Atlanta back home to Birmingham while awaiting Cayman Islands Immigration clearance (an absolute nightmare), and then I waited. And waited. And waited some more. 
"Good things come to those who wait." All I got were migraines. 
Finally, I became a resident of the Cayman Islands on Nov. 15 and started my new job 3 days later, and it's been busy! I've had a lot of visitors and then was spoiled to get to spend almost 3 months in the Caribbean with my guy :) I've probably logged at least 48 hours of snorkel time, and my freckles have multiplied (my tan, not so much -____- ).


I've also been taking a lot more pictures, mostly on the subject of food. Food is a big thing here, especially on Sundays.  Sundays become a weird brunch-ghost-town. Nothing is open except restaurants, and almost every restaurant on-island has a Sunday Brunch event where you eat fancy little things and drink bottomless mimosas, and then you go to bars and keep drinking to ensure hatred of yourself on Monday morning.  I can't keep up with all that.  I eat the fancy little things, usually at a table for one, and I photograph every single cup and plate. 
It started as an Instagram restaurant-journal-of-sorts, but then I needed more. I started actually READING my cookbooks. Seriously, follow along with your imagination here: hot Caribbean sun in the sky, waves crashing, toes in the sand, cookbook in hand << that dork is me (and sitting next to me is some hunky nerd tinkering with a million GoPro gadgets).
So, I'm learning how to properly roll dough and fold ingredients and pair flavors, and SOMETIMES I'm not EVEN using a recipe. I'm also around food all day at work (this is a terrible, terrible thing). Every time I think about buying something, Lemon Shortbread Cookies for instance, I decide that I'd like to learn how to bake them instead. My new motto :: BAKE, COOK, AND EAT ALL THE THINGS! or something like that.

So anyway, what do I plan to do with these new-found interests? I don't know. I know that I'm pretty dang good at taking pictures of food, and that my food is delicious, if I may toot my own horn. I'm still sketching clocks and doodads, though materials for prototyping are too expensive when you live on a speck of dirt in the ocean, and I'm still doing Frootshoots. To hopefully not sound super cheesy, you could say I'm still Designing Amanda. I'll make an effort to post more often, and we'll just have to see where that takes me! If you'd like to follow along in real-time, follow me on Instragram @amandapandamania and you can accuse me of eating too much and constantly making you hungry :)
I've got three tropical Frootshoots locked and loaded, but we'll save those for the next post. 

Stay tuned!