I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Almond Amaretto Cherry Muffins

Almond Amaretto Cherry Muffins

A basket of nice, sweet muffins is a wonderful addition to a breakfast or brunch table, and these almond-y bites are made really moist with the addition of almond paste. A  bite-sized version of my Simple Moist Almond Cake. Nice tart cherry is a great pairing with almond – if you use big Bings, you might want to snip them into smaller pieces.

Almond Amaretto Cherry Muffins

¼ cup amaretto

4 ounces dried cherries

7 ounces almond paste

½ cup sugar

6 Tablespoons butter, melted

½ teaspoon almond extract

3 eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

Place the cherries in a small bowl and pour over the amaretto.  Leave the cherries to soften, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray.

Beat the almond paste, sugar, melted butter and almond extract together with a mixer until well-blended, but with a few small lumps remaining.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until completely combined.

Stir the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bow, then beat into the almond mixture.  Beat just until the mixture is combined and there is no flour visible.  Stir in the cherries with the soaking liquid until evenly distributed.

Divide the batter between the prepared muffin tins and bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 15 – 18 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins

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Muddy Bread

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I tend to think the best recipes, and the best dishes, are those shared among friends.  Those with tips and hints and “I always do it this way…” caveats.  My friend Holly served this bread at a recent Book Club meeting, and everyone begged for the recipe (and for her flank steak recipe as well).  She was kind enough to share not only the recipe, but also its wonderful history. 

From Holly…

I couldn’t give you the bread recipe without the story behind it.  The history of the bread recipe follows…

A dear woman, known as Muddy to her ten grandchildren (and their friends) made this bread for years and years.  At every year at Christmastime she would make scores (yes, scores plural!) of loaves and distribute them around Little Rock to all of her friends and family.

The first time I was lucky enough to taste this bread I was seven years old.  Muddy had come to our school to talk about her travels to some exotic locale and I went home with my best friend who happened to be Muddy’s granddaughter.  Muddy took us to her house where there was freshly baked bread sitting on the counter and more loaves rising.  We feasted on homemade bread and chocolate that afternoon and Muddy sent a loaf home with me.  I have been eating this bread ever since, and I think of Muddy every time I eat it.

Muddy passed away about ten years ago.  However, I am happy to report that my best friend’s mother is now known as “Muddy” to all of her grandchildren (8 at last count) and continues to bake this bread for friends and family all over Little Rock.

The recipe attached appeared in a Little Rock cookbook sometime in the late 70s or early 80s.  I think Muddy actually baked by intuition, but this recipe is a good guide.  I used to actually knead the bread, but now I just attach the dough hook on my stand mixer.  It may not be as physically satisfying, but it is quicker and the bread tastes just as good. 

Enjoy this gift of love from Muddy!

“Muddy” Bread                                                                                  

2 ½ cups warm water

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 pakage dry yeast (2 packages may be used on a cold day)

½ cup sugar

1 ½ tsp salt

2 ½ Tablepoons melted fat (I use butter), plus more for brushing

6 cups unsifted flour

Stir into 2 ½ cups warm water, 2 Tablespoons sugar and yeast.  Let mixture set 5 to 15 minutes.  Add ½ cup sugar, salt, and melted fat.  Stir in flour, cup by cup until too thick to stir, then work in by hand.  Turn onto floured board or counter: add more flour if necessary and knead at least 10 minutes.  Place in a large greased bowl and brush top with melted butter.  Cover and let rise in warm place (76 to 85 degrees) to twice its bulk (about 1 ½ hours).

Divide into 2 equal portions gently.  DO NOT KNEAD. Mold into 2 individual loaves.  Place each into a greased loaf pan (9 ¼ x 5 ¼ x 2 ¾ ).  Be sure sides and bottoms of pans are well greased.  Brush entire surface with melted butter.  Cover pans with light cloth and let rise, rounding to the top of each pan (about 1 ½ hours).  Preheat oven to 375.  Place pans on center rack of oven, allowing air space between each pan.  Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, then lower temp to 275 and bake 15 to 20 minutes.  Test loaf for doneness by trying to slip one out of the pan easily.  If it doesn’t, return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove from oven. Brush each loaf on top with butter while still in the pan.  Lift loaves gently out of pan.  Let cool on rack.  For a softer crust, brush sides of loaves with butter while hot.  Leave loaves uncovered while cooling.

Makes 2 loaves

The Runaway Spoon’s Tips and Hints:  Following Holly’s advice, I use the stand mixer too.  First with the paddle attachment until the dough starts getting stiff (after about 4 cups of flour).  Then I switch to the dough hook, adding the flour until the dough is cohesive and pulls into a ball.  As a true believer in the everything is better with butter philosophy, I brush on melted butter everywhere Muddy suggests it.  And it is a real treat that this recipe makes two loaves.  I eat one as soon as I can, then cool the other one, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then in foil and freeze it.

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