Blueberry Muffins

Week #3 of surprise brunches: blueberry muffins!

A few days ago, while we were on a walk, my dad mentioned that blueberry muffins sounded good to him. I kept this in mind and made them for brunch today! Just so you know: I’m always thinking about what to bake next, so if you’re ever craving a certain treat, just drop a subtle hint…they might just happen to show up within the next few days!

I had a hard decision to make when choosing a recipe: should I make regular blueberry muffins, or blueberry oatmeal muffins? I’d narrowed it down to two recipes…it was just a choice of one or the other. The hard thing about these surprise brunches is that I can’t ask my family for their input! Being an incredibly indecisive person, this is unbelievable difficult for me. Eventually, I caved and asked my mom which one to make. She said regular blueberry—so that’s what I went with! I think it was a good choice, too. As for the other recipe, I’ll have to try it sometime soon, as well.

When baking these muffins, I made quite a few changes to the recipe. First of all, I thought that 1¼ cup sugar sounded like way too much, even when I compared it to other recipes. I ended up putting in just shy of 1 cup, and they were still plenty sweet. Next time, I think I’ll probably reduce it even more.

I’ve read about substituting applesauce for butter or oil in muffins, and I thought I’d give it a try. This being my first time, I didn’t want to make a big mistake, so I only replaced a third of the butter. Better to be safe than sorry. I’ve heard that using applesauce can make muffins too dense, but that wasn’t a problem for mine. They had a perfect texture—moist and soft, and neither too dense nor too airy.

There were two more changes I made to these muffins. I didn’t sprinkle sugar over the top—just a minor difference, but I thought I’d mention it. Personally, I’m not a fan of sugar-sprinkled muffins. Next, I changed the baking temperatures a little.

Before going into this, I read a lot about muffins, and how doing different things can make them turn out differently. Actually, here’s one of the posts that proved to be very helpful and interesting:

One thing I learned was that by putting the muffins in the oven at a higher temperature for the first few minutes, then lowering it for the rest of the bake time, you can get taller, rounder muffins with bigger tops. Well, mine certainly rose…many of them too much so! I don’t think that the high-low temperature method was to blame for that, though. A lot of the muffin tins were just filled too high. At least I got three perfect looking muffins: just enough for a nice photo!

Strawberry Cheese Danishes

For my second week of surprise brunches, I made danishes! Since it was such a lovely day, we got to eat them outside on the back patio.

I started making these danishes two days ahead, though I’m sure you could manage it if you started just one day in advance. The danishes are made using what’s called “rough puff pastry”, which is similar to puff pastry, but instead of having a layer of butter, you mix it into the dough in chunks. This makes the process faster and easier, though the layers aren’t quite as defined.

When making the dough, I must have made a mistake, because it came out very wet. It was more like batter than dough, really. I’m still not sure what I did wrong. I re-read the recipe many times, but I still can’t figure it out. Luckily, the addition of a little extra flour fixed my problem immediately.

Other than that, I didn’t have any mishaps when baking these. For me, that’s quite the achievement. I divided the dough into sections, folded them up, added the cheese, topped them with a bit of jam, and baked them. They came out perfectly!

I got this recipe from NYT Cooking—click here to see it.

Starry Strawberry Tart

Tonight, I made a strawberry tart for dessert. I’ve used this recipe three times now, and it’s become one of my family’s favorites. The recipe is actually for a blueberry tart, but it works with other fruits, too! Each time I’ve made this, I’ve used a different fruit. The first time, I used blueberries, and then I made it again with blackberries, and this time it was strawberries. It’s been delicious every time!

I’ve definitely become faster with every time making this tart. The first night I tried it, I baked well into the night, and by then it was too late to eat it! We had to wait until the next day, which was certainly not what I had intended. Last time, I worked quicker, and today I made it faster than I’ve ever done before. Not to brag, but I must say I’m pretty proud of myself for that.

Before trying this recipe, I’m not sure I ever realized just how delicious custard is! In fact, I’m not quite sure I’d ever tried it at all. Whatever the case, I’m in love with it now! This recipe makes an especially thick and creamy custard/pastry cream, and it’s absolutely scrumptious. Maybe this is technically called a “berry tart”, but the custard is the real star of the show! When making this tart, I always end up with some leftover custard, but my family loves it so much that I’ve never reduced the recipe. We’re all more than happy to have an extra dollop on our slices!

When using blackberries or strawberries instead of blueberries, I just substitute the berries and leave everything else exactly the same. This recipe calls for 200 grams of blueberries, which I’ve found can easily be replaced with 200 grams of any other berry. The funny thing is, we had such huge strawberries that it only took four! Those things were enormous!

Last time I made this tart, I didn’t quite roll the dough out thin enough, so the bottom crust was too thick. There wasn’t any issue with the taste, but it meant the tart was shallower and the filling was harder to fit in. This time, I made sure to roll it out thinner, which resulted in quite a bit of extra dough. The crust of this tart is almost cookie-like, and it was my mom’s idea to make little cookies with what was left over. Originally, I had just planned on eating them, but after they baked, I had another idea. I realized that the little stars would actually make a really pretty decoration for the top of the tart! It was kind of a last-minute decision, but I think it was definitely a good one.

In my opinion, it came out quite pretty!

If you’re interested in trying this recipe, you can find it here.

Homemade Bagels

With all of the safety precautions currently in place for COVID-19, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. Perhaps too much time—a lot of which I’ve been spending browsing through delicious recipes on Pinterest. I’ve pinned more things that I could probably ever make in my life, but that’s just how Pinterest is, isn’t it?

Among these recipes I’ve compiled, there have been a lot of neat breakfast/brunch foods I’ve been interested in trying. A few weeks ago, I was struck with a brilliant idea: what if I tried a new one every weekend? I further developed this idea into a full-fledged plan to cook up a surprise brunch for my family every weekend. Not only would it be a fun an delicious way for me to practice my baking skills, but it would also give me an opportunity to test out a lot of new recipes! When I told them about my plan, my family was 100% on board with it.

One of the main things I was eager to try was homemade bagels, and I figured they’d be a great way to kick off my new routine! The recipe I used can be found here.

I started making the dough the night before, so that it would have time to proof in the refrigerator overnight. Once I had mixed it up, kneading this dough was like a workout. It was so firm! I didn’t want to use the mixer, though. Kneading it by hand, though difficult, was actually pretty fun. Let’s just say that it took me longer than the 10 minutes the recipe estimated.

In the morning, I divided the dough in two and added a cinnamon-raisin mix to one of the halves. The recipe, while offering topping suggestions, didn’t include instructions for cinnamon raisin bagels. I, however, had my heart set on cinnamon-raisin bagels, so after taking a look at a few other recipes, I came up with my own mix. To make it, I used a half cup of raisins, one teaspoon of cinnamon, and one teaspoon of vanilla. I had a lot of leftover cinnamon-covered raisins (which I snacked on as I baked), so I think that next time I’d just make half of that, but otherwise it was perfect. I kneaded the raisin mix into the dough and sprinkled in more as I shaped the bagels.

Instead of making 8 bagels, as the recipe said, I divided my dough into 12. I had worried that they might be too small, but they expanded to the perfect size when I boiled them. I wouldn’t have wanted them any bigger.

Speaking of boiling the bagels, you wouldn’t believe how FUN this step is! There’s something about it that’s just so entertaining, though I’m not quite sure what it is. It’s certainly a unique method!

We could not wait to eat these things! Multiple members of my family (including myself) burned our fingers trying to take them off the tray too soon. It was totally worth it, though! The outsides of the bagels had a slight crunch to them. Maybe that’s not what you think of when you envision a bagel, but I thought it added a wonderful contrast to the chewy texture of the insides.

Let me tell you, these bagels disappeared so quickly. All twelve were gone by noon the next day! As it turns out, they make great sandwiches!

I really enjoyed making (and eating!) these bagels, and would definitely make them again. There’s only one problem I had with them: now, I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to eat store-bought bagels again!

Apple Pie with Lattice

Last weekend, I made an apple pie. Usually, when I make pie, I top it was a “crumble crust”, as my family calls it—a sort of streusel topping. This time, I decided to try something new and attempted a lattice for the first time.

I found this tutorial helpful when getting started:

Once I had a basic idea of what to do, I was able to make some changes from the basic lattice and add my own touches. Weaving the strips together was actually surprisingly easy, as was the braiding. The hard part was trying to keep the strips from breaking as I worked with the small pieces, especially as the dough became more and more handled.

By the time I made it to the roses, the dough was very overworked and flaked apart at the lightest touch. Keeping the flowers from breaking was a very delicate process, but I managed to (slowly) get it done.

Every time I make pie, I like to roll up the extra bits of dough with cinnamon and sugar to make these little bite-sized morsels. It’s a trick that’s passed down through my family for years. Bake them for a few minutes, and they’re absolutely delicious. However, after doing the roses, the leftover dough wouldn’t even stick together! We had to make do with crumbles. Not as pretty, but they still tasted good.

Overall, I think that the pie looked pretty nice for my first time making a lattice. Just a tip, if you’re ever working with pie dough: be careful not to overwork it! I definitely learned my lesson, and I’ll be much more careful next time.

New website!

Welcome to Room for Brownies! My name’s Arya, and I’m a 14-year old aspiring artist, baker, and writer, among other things.

If you’re here because you love baking and/or cooking, then we’ve already got something in common! Making food is one of my favorite things to do. Not only is the process fun, but you end up with a delicious reward for your hard work!

On this website, I plan to post my own recipes as well as reviews of the ones I test, so there’s plenty to look forward to. Delicious things are coming soon!

Until next time,