Blueberry Lemon Thyme Cupcakes

Spring has only just barely joined us here in Bozeman and I am ready for it. Although I haven’t yet figured out in what capacity I’m going to participate in running season this year, not needing multiple layers of clothing to visit the great outdoors is definitely improving my morale. M and I have been hiking every weekend since mid-March when the ski area closed, and with the social distancing practices it’s turned us from standard trails towards wandering about new-to-us public lands.

Blueberry Lemon Thyme Cupcakes {{Baking Bytes}}

As the snow became less frequent and the plants started to show bits of color, my typical lemon cravings arrived too. I’d had cupcakes on my list to make for approximately a year at this point and a springtime version seemed the obvious solution. (Plus it allowed me to use these gorgeous cupcake liners I bought at Costco way too many years ago.) Borrowing a recipe from the always-amazing Pastry Affair, I set out on a cupcake quest. I knew I wanted to incorporate an herbaceous aspect and with thyme being the most appropriate herb available at the store that day, I was inspired by yet another Pastry Affair scone recipe I’d made last year.

Knowing I wanted a lighter buttercream frosting in lieu of a decadent cream cheese concoction, I modified a separate recipe with another addition of thyme in order to harmonize the two recipes with plenty of springtime flavor.

Blueberry Lemon Thyme Cupcakes {{Baking Bytes}}

Moist and light, these cupcakes are packed with blueberries and accented with lemon and thyme for a slight twist on a classic. They are not exorbitantly sweet which means even with the buttercream frosting it’s a reasonable sugar high. (Still plenty sweet though, it is a cupcake, after all.) The frosting is fluffy and bright with a little thyme flavor, and a few specks of the herb throughout. I opted for some simple rose swirls to keep it a relatively light amount of frosting, and to bring an edible bouquet to my kitchen.

Blueberry Lemon Thyme Cupcakes {{Baking Bytes}}

These keep well on the counter, remaining moist and delicious for at least five days. Realistically probably longer but we’d given away or demolished all 18 of them by then. If you’re in need of a wonderful treat with plenty to share, these cupcakes are perfect. They’d make a lovely addition to Mother’s Day but are low-stress enough for any weekday treat.

Blueberry Lemon Thyme Cupcakes {{Baking Bytes}}

Blueberry Thyme Cupcakes

Vaguely adapted from Pastry Affair
Makes 18 cupcakes

Ingredients

1 3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
2-3 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1 tsp lemon zest, minced

2 large eggs

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup Sicilian Lemon olive oil (or any vegetable oil)
1 Tbsp vanilla

2/3 cup milk

1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 Tbsp flour (if using frozen berries)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare two cupcake tins with a total of 18 baking cups.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. With an electric mixer, cream together butter,  sugar, and thyme until light and fluffy, at least 2 minutes.
  4. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each one, then mix in yogurt, oil, and vanilla.
  5. Add in the dry mixture about 1/4 cup at a time,  until mostly combined.
  6. Stir in the milk on low speed until the batter is smooth and there are no flour streaks.
  7. If you have frozen berries, toss them with the tablespoon of flour until well coated.
  8. Gently fold in the blueberries until evenly distributed.
  9. Fill each baking cup with about 1/4 cup off batter, then bake for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. (If your tins will fit side by side on the same oven rack, you can bake them all at once, otherwise I recommend doing each tin separately.)
  10. Cool briefly in pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely prior to frosting.
  11. Frost as desired, then store in a sealed container on the counter up to one week (or until devoured.)

Lemon Thyme Buttercream Frosting

Borrowed from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Makes about 2.5 cups

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 Tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp lemon zest, minced
1 Tbsp thyme, minced
pinch of salt

Directions

  1. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and creamy, about two minutes.
  2. Stir in the remaining ingredients on low speed until just coming together.
  3. Beat on high speed for three minutes, until frosting is fluffy, uniform, and fragrant.
  4. If necessary, adjust consistency with an additional 1/4 cup powdered sugar another tablespoon of cream to thicken or thin, respectively.
  5. If you are relatively light with frosting (like me), you can store leftovers in the freezer. Bring to room temperature and beat again before using, adjusting texture with additional cream if needed.

Nut Butter Trio

Last year I borrowed a food processor a few times because I had been concerned I wouldn’t use it enough to make the storage space worth it. After the third time in as many weeks that particular hesitation seemed downright silly and I promptly put it on my Christmas wish list (thanks Mom!)

Nut Butter Trio {{Baking Bytes}}

My initial interests were hummus and pesto, which I made regularly throughout the summer and fall. Thoroughly sold on food processors, I adventured into the world of nut butters. Starting with an amazing one from my favorite cookbook, Run Fast, Eat Slow, I quickly caught the bug and tried other types as well. The recipes here are all small batches so you can test them out, but I usually double them now. (If you have extra, I am pretty sure your friends will help you out – mine always do.)

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The first one (top/right, in my photos) is a minor adaptation from the RFES cookbook. Vanilla and espresso come together in a sweet and creamy peanut butter that is perfect for your morning toast or an afternoon pick-me-up. The espresso kick means it pairs perfectly with coffee and a hint of vanilla never goes wrong. I especially liked it on banana or pumpkin bread, but found I preferred the regular version with apples.

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After peanuts I moved onto almonds (bottom/left). While I personally do not see the appeal of standard almond butter as a spread (unless you are allergic to peanuts), I do enjoy it in oatmeal and on yogurt parfaits on occasion. This iteration, however, is lovely on all your favorite morning carbs and especially so on oatmeal pancakes. Lightly sweetened and with plenty of poppyseed flavor, it’s a lovely twist on a peanut-free variety. For some springtime fun you could even add some lemon flavor via zest or infused olive oil to brighten the whole thing.

Nut Butter Trio {{Baking Bytes}}

Lastly, I gave walnuts a try (the dark one, clearly). The texture of this butter turned out a little grainier (although perhaps they just weren’t roasted/processed long enough) but the flavor is possibly my favorite. Hearty walnut balanced with a chai spice blend is a match made in fall heaven and definitely needs to grace your table soon. I make my own chai spice, but it is easily tailored to fit your preferences. I enjoyed this one on toast (obviously) and waffles; a light drizzle of maple syrup only adds to the experience.

Nut Butter Trio {{Baking Bytes}}

Whichever nut butter speaks to you the most, I hope you find a new favorite in this collection. There’s something for everyone here and I hope you use it as a starting point for all sorts of experimenting in the future. These butters would also make amazing gifts for the holiday season, a small 4oz jar of each flavor would be both adorable and delicious. (If you’re wondering about the super cute jars in my photos, they are upcycled Olivelle sea salt containers, so I’m not sure where to purchase them – sorry!)

Vanilla Espresso Peanut Butter

Modified from Run Fast, Eat Slow
Makes about 1.5 cups

Ingredients

2 cups roasted, salted peanuts

1 Tbsp brown sugar, to taste
1/2 Tbsp espresso powder
1/2 tsp vanilla bean powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbsp chia seeds, optional
avocado or olive oil, optional1

Directions

  1. Add peanuts to a food processor and process until smooth, scraping the sides as necessary. This can take several minutes but the mixture should go from grainy to clumpy to a ball and finally, to creamy.
  2. Add in sugar, espresso powder, vanilla bean powder, and vanilla extract and blend until combined.
  3. If desired, add in avocado oil (for extra creaminess) and/or chia seeds (for a protein boost) and process again until incorporated.
  4. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to a glass jar and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Should keep at least one month.

Poppyseed Almond Butter

Makes about 1.5 cups

Ingredients

2 cups almonds2

1 tsp almond extract
2 Tbsp sugar, to taste
2-4 tsp poppyseeds, to taste
1 tsp salt

avocado or olive oil, optional1

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Spread nuts on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast about 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Do not burn!
  3. Let the nuts cool for about 10 minutes, then add to a food processor and process until smooth, scraping the sides as necessary. This can take several minutes but the mixture should go from grainy to clumpy to a ball and finally, to creamy.
  4. Add extract, sugar, poppyseeds, and salt, then blend again until completely incorporated.
  5. If a smoother texture is preferred, drizzle in avocado oil to taste.
  6. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to a glass jar and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Should keep at least one month.

Chai Walnut Butter

Makes about 1.5 cups

Ingredients

2 cups walnuts2

2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp chai spice
1/2 Tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

avocado or olive oil, optional1

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Spread nuts on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast about 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Do not burn!
  3. Let the nuts cool for about 10 minutes, then add to a food processor and process until smooth, scraping the sides as necessary. This can take several minutes but the mixture should go from grainy to clumpy to a ball and finally, to creamy.
  4. Add sugar, spice blend, vanilla, and salt, then blend again until completely incorporated.
  5. If a smoother texture is preferred, drizzle in avocado oil to taste.
  6. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to a glass jar and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Should keep at least one month.

Notes

Depending on how much fat/water is still in your nuts and how chunky you like your nut butters, you may not need any oil. I found I liked some of them (almond butter especially) with oil in it just to smooth it out, but it’s totally up to you! Also a great place to try an infused olive oil for a different punch of flavor.

You can certainly buy pre-roasted and salted nuts here, just skip the additional salt in the recipe. However, I found the ones I tried to be too heavily salted for my preferences. If you have access to roasted unsalted nuts then that’s even better!

BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches & Maple Walnut Brussels Slaw

(Long post incoming, but I promise the recipes are worth it!)

Week four already! Is October going by crazy fast for anyone else? After spending the first half of month in Europe I am now in Iowa for work and boy is my body confused. Here’s hoping my sleep and my stomach get back on track soon.

This week is entree week. Pulled pork is one of my absolute favorite meals and Pinterest piqued my curiosity of substituting jackfruit for the meat. I’ve seen it multiple times over the last few years but never actually got around to trying it. This menu was the perfect opportunity to give it a shot since it nicely fits the theme and is inherently vegetarian and lactose-free.

BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches {{Baking Bytes}}

I vaguely considered using fresh jackfruit until I saw the size of one and realized I didn’t want enough to feed the entire Mongol army. Feel free to go fresh if you like, or stick to canned if you want a slightly less exhausting adventure. Ensure you rinse your canned stuff thoroughly in order to remove as much of the “can” flavor as possible. I will fully admit canned jackfruit is not widely stocked nor cheap in my area, but it was definitely a fun recipe nonetheless.

Is it pork? No. Is it delicious? Yes. While it definitely won’t fool any meat eaters since the texture and flavor are both quite different, it’s still an awesome addition to your repertoire and a fun way to add a vegan option to a barbecue spread. And either way it was a perfect vessel for the most amazing barbecue sauce I’ve ever made.

Smoky Sweet BBQ Sauce {{Baking Bytes}}

Smoky, sweet, and just enough spice, this barbecue sauce is definitely my go-to recipe. My mom actually sent me this recipe like six months ago and I completely forgot about it until I was considering the menu for this series. I am so glad I finally gave it a try because I personally think my slightly adapted version is just perfect. Easy, smooth, and a perfect balance of smoke and spice without the overload of sugar store-bought varieties typically employ. It comes together in about five minutes and keeps in the fridge for quite a while, so if you try nothing else about this recipe, definitely give the sauce a go! I’ll definitely be using it on everything from burgers to meatloaf to actual pulled pork going forward.

The last piece in this delightful sandwich is the slaw. Pulled pork sandwiches are nearly always accompanied by some kind of coleslaw and I wanted to include that element here as well. Inspired by an existing Olivelle recipe of which I’ve already posted another version, this one is simple but a perfect sweet and crunchy  addition to the barbecue flavor. An equal mix of barrel aged white balsamic and their new vanilla maple olive oil blend into a light and sweet dressing that compliments the crisp sprouts and cabbage without competing with the barbecue sauce. I added some walnuts for extra crunch and that slight nutty flavor adds just a little interest to the whole experience.

Maple Walnut Brussels Sprouts Slaw {{Baking Bytes}}

Sandwiched between your favorite lightly toasted bun with a spread of (mayo), the jackfruit and slaw combine into a sweet and spicy experience that’s not only delicious, but also pretty healthy. It’s inherently vegetarian and can be easily made vegan by subbing or ditching the mayo, making it appropriate for a wide variety of diet preferences. It’s a lovely cozy fall meal but would also be awesome for those summer potlucks, so keep it handy all year long.

BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches {{Baking Bytes}}

Whether you try one piece or the whole shebang, I hope you find a new go-to somewhere in the set!

BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Smoky Sweet BBQ Sauce
6oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup Smoked Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 tsp liquid smoke, optional
2 Tbsp Sweet Smoked Chili Rub
1 Tbsp Applewood Smoked Sea Salt1
15 twists Bourbon Barrel Smoked Black Peppercorns1
1/4 tsp ground chipotle or cayenne pepper, optional

Maple Walnut Brussels Sprouts Slaw
1/2 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded (about 3 cups)
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

3 Tbsp Barrel Aged White Balsamic Vinegar
3 Tbsp Vanilla Maple Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Vanilla Bean Sea Salt

BBQ Jackfruit
2 Tbsp Caramelized Garlic Olive Oil
3 (14oz) cans young jackfruit in water2
2 Tbsp Sweet Smoked Chili Rub
1 cup smoky sweet barbecue sauce
3/4 cup water

for each sandwich
1 burger bun, toasted
1/2 cup bbq jackfruit
1/4 vanilla maple slaw
mayo (or your favorite vegan substitute), to taste
additional barbecue sauce, to taste

Directions

  1. For the sauce: Blend all sauce ingredients until well combined; store in a pint jar and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 6 weeks.
  2. For the slaw: In a medium bowl, mix together Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and walnuts.
  3. In a pint glass or mason jar, whisk together Barrel Aged White Balsamic, Vanilla Maple Olive Oil, and Vanilla Bean Sea Salt until completely combined.
  4. Stir dressing into Brussels mixture until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 5 days.
  5. For the bbq sandwiches: Drain and thoroughly rinse jackfruit, then pat dry. Set aside.
  6. In a large frying pan or wok, heat the olive oil until shimmering.
  7. Stir in jackfruit and Sweet Smoked Chili Rub and toss until well coated.
  8. Stir in barbecue sauce and water, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until jackfruit is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
  9. Spread mayo on bottom half of a toasted bun; top with 1/2 cup jackfruit, 1/4 cup slaw, and additional barbecue sauce, to taste.
  10. Cover with the other half of the bun and enjoy immediately.

Notes

You can substitute plain salt and pepper with minimal taste difference, but the smoky versions add a lovely depth of flavor.

If you prefer meat, I harbor no judgement for substituting normal pulled pork!

Jalapeño Cornbread & Strawberry Jalapeño Lime Chia Jam

Week three, commence! This week brings a super fun cornbread and jam combination that’s been in my head since Olivelle released their Jalapeño Lime Balsamic Vinegar this summer. Strawberry and jalapeño are a really fun combination and cornbread is one of my favorite side dishes. I tweaked my go-to recipe to be lactose-free, included some extra flavors, and behold: a new happiness was born.

Jalapeño Cornbread and Jam {{Baking Bytes}}

Moist and with just the right amount of crumble, this cornbread is excellent on its own or smothered in your favorite condiment. It goes wonderfully with chili or barbecue and is perfect all year round. The jalapeño adds a lovely flavor with as much (or in my case, as little) heat as you like depending on how many seeds you remove. The hint of lime is a fun surprise and ties it into the chia jam with perfection.

Jalapeño Cornbread and Jam {{Baking Bytes}}

Chia jam is something that has intrigued me for awhile but I somehow never got around to making until just now. I realized one of my hesitations was the texture, but using a berry bypasses this since fruits like strawberry and blackberry already result in a more seedy texture than stone fruits.

Strawberry Jalapeño Lime Chia Jam {{Baking Bytes}}

Frozen strawberries from Oregon (mostly to appease M) are readily available and have tons of flavor. A splash of the balsamic and a spoonful of chia seeds and in less than ten minutes you have a truly excellent jam. The fun part about this one is you could easily substitute a different balsamic for a completely different flavor. The Barrel Aged for a more standard pairing, or perhaps Sweet Basil for a fun spring edition. The world is your oyster jam!

Jalapeño Cornbread and Jam {{Baking Bytes}}

Whip up a batch of cornbread and jam and they are sure to brighten any chilly day. Individually both excellent, together these recipes create that perfect sweet and spicy combination without a ton of extra sugar.

Jalapeño Cornbread and Jam {{Baking Bytes}}

But if you want to drizzle honey on top of the whole thing, you won’t be wrong.

Strawberry Jalapeño Lime Chia Jam

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

1 cup frozen strawberries1
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp Jalapeño Lime Balsamic Vinegar

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, simmer strawberries over medium until softened.
  2. Mash or puree berries to desired texture (I like mine chunky), then stir in chia and balsamic.
  3. Let cool briefly before serving; store leftovers in the fridge.

Notes

Why frozen? Unless you live in the Willamette Valley, the flavor is going to be better than fresh berries. Feel free to use fresh if you prefer though!

Jalapeño Honey Cornbread

Makes an 8×8″ baking dish

Ingredients

1 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup white flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp Lime Fresco Sea Saltoptional

2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk (cow, almond, coconut)
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil1
2 Tbsp honey, melted
2 Tbsp Jalapeño Lime White Balsamic Vinegar

1 jalapeño, diced (remove seeds for a milder flavor)2

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly coat an 8×8″ baking pan with nonstick spray or oil. Set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients until well combined.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together wet ingredients until well combined.
  4. Fold wet ingredients into dry until just combined, then stir in jalapeño.
  5. Pour into prepared pan and bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown along the edges and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
  6. Let cool briefly, then serve with jam.

Notes

1 For an extra limey flavor, substitute some or all Tahitian Lime Olive Oil.

For a legitimately spicy experience, don’t remove the seeds. I removed most of mine to keep the heat down and the flavor light.

Chive & Onion Cream Cheese

Sometimes we all need a superbly simple recipe to bring to a potluck, adorn a cheeseboard, or just brighten up our daily sandwiches a bit. This cream cheese is exactly that. It takes about 10 minutes to put together and keeps well in the fridge for at least a week, by which time I’m certain it’ll all be gone.

Chive & Onion Cream Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

You may be wondering why you’d bother making your own chive & onion cream cheese when it’s something readily available at the grocery store, but fortunately I have two great answers for that. Admittedly this recipe was original born from the necessity of using lactose-free cream cheese, which is available at the store but only in the plain variety. One of my best friends is exceptionally lactose-intolerant and making this from scratch allowed her to enjoy it too. However, having made it I am here to tell you it’s well worth the homemade effort because not only can you customize the proportions and use up excessive chives from your garden, but pieces of fresh onion and garlic gracing the creamy goodness is far superior to most recipes that call for the powdered variety.

Chive & Onion Cream Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

I started off this adventure on Pinterest as per usual, and nearly all of the abundant recipes used powdered or dehydrated onion and garlic. While I’m sure this is also fine, especially if it’s what you have on hand, the idea of freshly sautéed produce intrigued me and I opted to give that a try. Requiring a pan and a smidge of olive oil seemed a small price to pay for the depth of flavor and freshness received in return.

Chive & Onion Cream Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

I am not normally one who cares for chunky spreads, preferring smooth nut butters and pureed jams, but this is definitely an exception. Creamy goodness punctuated by soft and golden bits of onion and garlic and adorned with fresh green chives is a perfect combination of flavor and color without being texturally odd.

Chive & Onion Cream Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Use this spread with crackers as I have here, atop bagels and toast, inside a cucumber sandwich, or to dress up a wrap. The neutral flavors go with nearly anything and I’m confident you’ll have no trouble finding delicious uses for the batch. Feeding a crowd? Might want to double it to make sure you have some leftovers for yourself.

Chive & Onion Cream Cheese

Makes about 6 oz

Ingredients

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup minced yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 Tbsp fresh chives, minced
4oz cream cheese (lactose-free if needed), room temperature

Directions

  1. If you haven’t already, set your cream cheese on the counter to soften.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering.
  3. Add onion and garlic and sauté until fragrant and onions are translucent. Add to a small bowl and allow to cool about ten minutes.
  4. Add cream cheese and chives and fold in until well combined.
  5. Store in the fridge until ready to eat, allowing cream cheese to rest on the counter about 10 minutes before serving.