Monday, November 10, 2014

Bruegel's Monday or Sunday Morning Waffles

Happy Monday! There’s nothing quite like starting the weekend off with a big stack of waffles, something that is usually just out of reach when it comes to realistic breakfasts at home on a busy weekday morning. Am I right? Today’s waffles come from a family friend, Jamie Schuster, who taught my parents how to make these waffles when they were in medical school together in the 80s. These light waffles come together mostly overnight, and could certainly be do-able before you dash out the door for work.

As an appreciator of the quirky paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, I can’t help but be reminded of him when it comes to waffles. Bruegel’s The Fight Between Carnival and Lent features one of the earliest known images of waffles in popular culture; some of the more gluttonous villagers have waffles attached to their helmets! The first waffle irons in Europe probably started popping up around the 15th century, and haven’t left the Netherlands since. Stroopwaffles – very thin waffles with sweet syrup between to layers are a popular Dutch street food, and can be purchased anywhere in most touristy places around the Netherlands. 

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, 1559, oil on panel

Other than being an early example of the popularity of waffles in 16th century Northern Europe, Bruegel’s painting is significant for highlighting the tension between the religious and popular spheres of a small Flemish village. The busy picture shows the more pious villagers near the church to the right side of the picture, preparing for Lent. To their left is an inn, where villagers celebrate a final fling before their Lent-imposed month of abstinence. From his bird’s eye view of the scene, Bruegel approaches this subject matter without judgment, and instead provides an entertaining depiction of the extremes of both the religious and secular.

detail, lower left corner

Here, waffles are shown more on the earthly side, as a symbol of gluttony and feasting. Thankfully I am not asking you to start your week off with a heavy meal—these waffles are light and perfect for starting your week on the right foot. Something I am definitely looking forward to after spending the last two weekends thoroughly enjoying myself at the weddings of close family and friends (Congrats Beth and Chris! Congrats Mary Catherine and Chris!). Before I too embark on tons of wedding planning (more on that soon!), I am taking every opportunity to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and start my weeks and days with something like this awesome waffle.

Overnight Waffles
Originally adapted from the Blueberry Hill Cookbook

·      1 individual package baker’s yeast
·      2 c. warmed milk
·      ½ c. melted butter or oil
·      1 t. salt
·      1 T. sugar or honey
·      2 c. flour (can be 1 c. white + 1 c. whole wheat)
·      2 eggs
·      ½ c. warm water
·      pinch of baking soda

Dissolve the yeast into the warm water and stir in the sugar or honey. Add the warmed milk, along with the salt, oil or butter and flour. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in a warm place overnight (I keep mine in a closed microwave).  In the morning, add the eggs and baking soda and let warm to room temperature while the waffle iron preheats. Makes about 4-5 large waffles.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Masters and Makers: Butter Lane Cupcakes

A couple of weeks ago, I burned myself cooking dinner. Like, a bad burn. As in, I picked up a cast iron skillet that had been roasting chicken at 450°F for 20 minutes kind of burn. One that left a pretty cast iron grip mark, that is now turning into a very pretty set of blisters. After I got over the dramatics that come along with an unexpected accident and wrapped myself up in gauze (ok, I cried and jumped around while my better half raided our medicine cabinet and searched WebMD), I got to thinking about the huge amount of things I have yet to learn. Not that I ever claimed to be all-knowing, but I am usually pretty comfortable around the kitchen, which I think is what surprised me most in this whole burn-saga. Even though I love to cook and bake, and spend a ton of time doing it, there is always something I can get better at (a lot!), or something that I can practice more (like using oven mitts). 

This all brings me to the realization that all artists had to be taught at some time, right? Michelangelo was not able to carve David upon birth (just soon after, at age 26), and surely someone had to teach Picasso how to draw the human figure before he could distort it? The same goes for cooks and bakers—everyone always needs a lesson at some point, whether it is you watching your mom make veal scaloppini (hint, Mom, please teach me!!), or watching Bobby Flay grill everything and anything on the Food Network. Luckily for me, New York City offers quite a few classes for amateur bakers, and I am thrilled to announce a new series here on primary cookies, where I attempt to learn from the “greats.” 

First up is a stop at Butter Lane, a cupcake bakery located in the East Village. What sets Butter Lane apart from many of the other delicious cupcake-specific bakeries in the city is their reluctance to use any artificial dyes or additives, instead favoring high-quality, natural ingredients such as vanilla bean, pure cocoa and seasonal fresh fruit. A few weeks ago, I took the “Become a Baker Class,” a small class (there were only 2 of us!) where you receive one-on-one instruction on how to make a couple different cupcakes and a couple of different frostings, and then how to frost said cupcakes using the “Butter Lane Swirl.” Butter Lane offers a few different class choices: from beginner’s baking to cupcake decoration, all out of its cute East Village location. While my swirl still needs more work, my friend Claire and I had a fabulous time, chatting, baking and sampling for a few hours. The best part is that you get to keep what you make—and since Claire and I were the only ones in the class, we each came out with 18 delicious cupcakes, along with the recipes and a significant sugar high.  
Butter Lane’s preference for using all-natural ingredients can be a bit of a departure from the brightly colored confections we are used to seeing at high-end groceries and specialty shops—don’t people realize what red dye is made of? It is all a bit reminiscent of Henri Matisse’s movement away from the more traditional practices of his teacher William-Adolphe Bouguereau, into a more free, painterly style called Fauvism. When Matisse was young, he was a pupil of Bouguereau’s, and therefore trained in Bouguereau’s classical style, with an emphasis on realistic mythological themes. Needless to say, Matisse didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye with Bouguereau’s conservative style, and the two quickly parted ways. 

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, The Bather, 1879, oil on canvas

The differences in their work can be seen in their depictions of nudes, a common subject for both. Bouguereau’s The Bather, shows a lone female bathing herself among a rocky landscape. She sits with her body the viewer, her head turned to the side as she cleans one of her feet. The work is peaceful and beautiful; Bouguereau’s figures are typically elegant and realistic, and this is no exception. It is as if the subject was wandering around the rocky cliffs in her white gown (which she is now sitting on), and decided that this rock was the perfect place to strip down and clean the sand from between her toes. Naturally—don’t we all operate like that? On the other hand, Matisse’s Bathers with a Turtle is strange and a bit harsh. The composition consists of three nudes, one sitting, one crouching and one standing, all concentrating on a small red turtle. While Bouguereau’s nude seems almost approachable, Matisse’s nudes seem awkward and meek, with no real interaction between the three—as if, had the turtle not there, they might not interact at all. The color scheme is also a stark departure from Bouguereau’s lovely, natural tones. Matisse’s palette is certainly less realistic, with its bright blue and teal background and the shockingly orange hair of the seated woman. 

Henri Matisse, Bathers with a Turtle, 1907-8, oil on canvas

If we were to translate these into cupcakes, The Bather would be more of a Butter Lane creation, while Bathers with a Turtle might come from the more commercial bakery—you know the one—with bright, overly sweet buttercream and sprinkles on everything. One is not better than the other, but they are certainly suited for different moods. Are you in a funky Matisse mood or a natural, delicate, Bouguereau kind of mood?

While I can’t yet attest to a Matisse-approved cupcake, I can share the delicious Vanilla Cupcake with Cinnamon Frosting recipe that I learned in my Butter Lane class. If you are interested in taking one of their baking or decorating classes, check them out here—readers who sign up using the code PRIMARYCOOKIES will receive 15% off!  Woohoo!!

Butter Lane’s Vanilla Cupcakes
Recipe courtesy of Butter Lane – yields 36 cupcakes

·      ½ lb unsalted butter
·      2 ½ c. sugar
·      5 eggs
·      splash of vanilla
·      12 oz. sour cream
·      1 T. baking powder
·      pinch of salt
·      3 c. cake flour

Combine the butter and sugar in a stand mixer and beat for a couple of minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract. Add the egg mixture to the butter, and continue to mix until light again. In a third bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Pour half of the flour mixture into the batter, and mix just until combined. Pour all of the sour cream, mix, and then follow with the rest of the flour. Be careful not to over-mix. Scoop into muffin tins and bake for 23 minutes at 300˚ F. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe courtesy of Butter Lane

·      ½ lb. unsalted butter
·      16 oz. cream cheese
·      8 c. confectioners sugar
·      1 vanilla bean, scraped
·      2 T. ground cinnamon

Combine the butter and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl, and mix for 5 minutes on medium speed. Add the sugar, continue to mix, and then add the vanilla and cinnamon. Beat until it reaches your desired consistency, and then cool your frosted cupcakes. Enjoy!!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Un-Emin-like Breakfast in Bed Muffins

While I love the changing leaves, crisp mornings and new clothing opportunities (new coats! new boots! new scarves! new sweaters! I could go on forever…) that fall brings, I have to admit that I have been a bit reluctant to embrace the changing seasons this year. The incredibly cold memories of last year’s winter have me so nervous of what could be coming this year that I have found myself blocking out the beginnings of my favorite season. Now that I have finally come to my senses and switched out some of my closet, I am ready to start eating candy corn by the bag and decorating my tiny apartment with as many small gourds and miniature pumpkins as I can find. But first—what better way to ease yourself into a colder season than by enjoying a leisurely and cozy breakfast in bed?

British artist Tracey Emin has amassed considerable fame during her relatively short career (Emin, had her first solo gallery show in 1993, at the age of 30), and is perhaps most well known for her 1998 work, My Bed, which was one of the shortlisted works for the 1999 Turner Prize (Steve McQueen won instead, for his filmentry). Emin’s highly personal style comes through in this work, which is comprised of her dirty, unmade bed, littered with empty liquor bottles, worn underwear, cigarettes and stained sheets. While shocking for some, this work followed her tent completed in 1995, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995, which was appliqued with the names of literally everyone she had ever shared a bed with in a platonic or romantic sense.

Tracey Emin, My Bed, 1998. © Tracey Emin and Saatchi Gallery
Knowing Emin’s work, My Bed is not really so appalling. Instead, it is a very raw glimpse into Emin’s life at the time, specifically her depression following a breakup, and the subsequent days spent in bed. The reception of this work was mixed—while some critics questioned her authenticity, many applauded her honesty and confessional style, which I believe is the true point behind this work. Sure, seeing someone else’s filthy bed is not usually the most delightful thing, but Emin’s frankness about the state of her life is refreshing. In an age when people are so focused on their public perception, and ensuring that they present themselves in the most positive light possible –realistic or not—Emin’s significantly more raw and honest approach is something in which viewers can relate to a bit (maybe not all aspects), but in the sense that no one’s life is perfect every single moment of the day.

That’s not to say that your breakfast can’t be perfect, especially this weekend, when temperatures in the city will drop to a more fall-like mid-60s / mid-50s, and all you want to do is stay in bed all day and relax. So, do yourself a favor and make these savory muffins, to be enjoyed while you are curled up in (your freshly laundered and neatly-made, of course) bed, preferably also with a mug of coffee. I must warn you that there is a fair amount of prep that needs to be done, but you can take care of most of it the night before, making them perfect for a leisurely breakfast or brunch. Now get to prepping and relaxing—tomorrow’s breakfast in bed isn’t going to make itself! Happy Fall!

Follow Me Foodie has a wonderful post on this where she goes through countless eggs trying to get this recipe just right. I urge you to read her post and accompanying directions, which I have recounted here:

Breakfast in Bed Muffins
Recipe from Follow Me Foodie, based on the “Rebel Within” muffin from Craftsman + Wolves in San Francisco

Extra-Soft Boiled Eggs:
·      pinch of salt
·      6 large eggs
·      a bowl filled with at least 2 cups of ice cubes

Muffin Batter:
·      50g Parmesan, grated
·      50g white cheddar, grated
·      50g Gruyere, grated
·      approximately 1 c. bacon, diced (turkey bacon works too!)
·      ½ c. finely diced shallots
·      2 ½ c. all-purpose flour (may replace 1 c. with whole wheat flour)
·      pinch of salt
·      ground pepper, to taste
·      1 T. baking powder
·      ½ t. baking soda
·      1 ¼ c. buttermilk, warmed
·      ½ c. unsalted butter, melted
·      1/3 c. finely sliced green onion

Night before:

Even though you really only need 6 soft-boiled eggs to make 6 muffins, for novice soft-boiled egg peelers such as myself, I greatly encourage you to go ahead and boil a whole dozen at first (you may not need them, or you may need more, but it is always great to be prepared). Fill a large pot with water, and bring to a boil. While the water heats, let your eggs come to room temperature, so that there is not such a significant temperature difference between the eggs and hot water. Use this time to get an ice bath ready (to be kept in the freezer until you need it) and also line your egg carton with saran wrap. Once the water is boiling, salt generously, and then quickly and carefully add the eggs to the bottom of the pot. Set a timer for 4 ½ minutes, and remove the ice bath from the freezer. When the eggs are boiled, quickly move them to the ice bath, and let cool for a few minutes. Once they are cool enough to touch, but also still warm (which actually makes peeling easier) remove from the ice and arrange on a dishtowel on your counter.

Now we peel. Turn your faucet to a low trickle (strict water conservators, hide your eyes!), and gently tap the side of your egg against the edge of a bowl or your kitchen sink. Begin peeling your egg from the widest end of the egg, moving towards the narrower end, keeping the egg under the running water, which helps separate the shell from the egg. Peel through the thin membrane, which often will help remove some shell, and work through the whole shell, being careful not to peel off too much egg white that you puncture the yolk. I found that the first half was pretty easy, but the last part is trickier, and this resulted in quite a few thrown away eggs! Once the egg is peeled, store in the plastic-wrapped carton, and keep going…you need 5 more! This is where those extra 6 or so really come in handy. Once you have amassed 6, cover with more plastic wrap, store safely in the refrigerator overnight, and either call it a night, or quickly get through the rest of the prep—the rest can wait until the morning, and only takes a few minutes. Also very important: don’t forget to take out your trash. Discarded soft-boiled eggs will leave your tiny apartment kitchen smelling like a sulfur spring by morning (known from experience…)!

Morning of:

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Combine your cheeses into a small bowl, and set aside. Fry up your bacon, dice, and add to a small bowl, and set aside. Dice your shallots, and cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes, and let cool. Heat the buttermilk up in the microwave for about 30 seconds so that it is a little warm, and set aside. Using nonstick cooking spray, grease the insides of your popover pan thoroughly—after you peeled all of those eggs, the last thing you want to do is have them stick to the pans! 

In a large mixing bowl, mix together your dry ingredients: flour, salt, pepper, baking powder and baking soda. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk and melted butter. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, and stir until just combined. Stir in most of the cheese mixture (leaving about ¼ for the topping), the bacon, shallots and green onions until just combined.

Using a large spoon, scoop about 2 T of batter into the bottom of each popover mold. Use a small spoon to make a small indention into the batter, and then gently place a soft-boiled egg on top of each indention. Add the rest of your batter into either a disposable icing/piping bag, or a Ziploc bag, and cut a small whole in the tip/corner. Pipe the batter around each egg, and completely covering the top, using up all of the batter on all 6 muffins.  Top each muffin with your leftover cheese.

Bake for about 17 minutes, rotating about halfway through, and then let cool for at least 10 minutes. Slice in half and tada!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Banana-Split (Rocker) Ice Cream Sandwiches

Jeff Koons, Split-Rocker, 2000, stainless steel, soil, geotextile fabric, internal irrigation system, live flowering plants

Happy Monday! After a brief vacation, which then turned into a bit of a hiatus, I am back, and ready for plenty of sweet treats and sweeter art this fall! Is it just me, or has this summer been the summer of Jeff Koons? In May, his works were the highlights of Christie’s and Sotheby’s Post-War and Contemporary Art sales, and achieved $33 million and $28 million respectively. Then in June, his Split-Rocker installation arrived at Rockefeller Plaza to coincide with his retrospective at the Whitney, which opened around the same time. Now, Split-Rocker is closing, and his exhibit at the Whitney is winding down as the museum prepares to move to a new building in Chelsea.

Since I work at Rockefeller Plaza, Split-Rocker was hard to avoid, and after I got over the initial shock of seeing an approximately 37 foot half-pony and half-dinosaur rocker outside my building, I actually started to appreciate the approximately 50,000 flowering plants installed where the Rockefeller Christmas tree is every year. I wasn’t expecting to like Split-Rocker so much—while I generally appreciate Koon’s kookiness, I was a bit underwhelmed by his Whitney retrospective. The museum did a beautiful job of displaying his work, dating from the 1970s to as recently as last year, but I just wasn’t able to connect with the group as a whole. The exhibition featured everything I expected to see—balloon dog, inflatables, porcelain Michael Jackson and Bubbles, gazing balls and his pornographic Made in Heaven series—but the collection as a whole seemed a little too commercial and unnatural.

With Split-Rocker, Koons takes inspiration from familiar childhood and cultural creatures in his construction of a toy rocker, the halves of which are made up of the heads of his son’s toy pony rocker and toy dinosaur rocker.  The pieces don’t fit perfectly together, clearly defining unnatural, and yet they open up into a visible sprinkler system inside, providing life for the thousands of flowers.  Split-Rocker was up for 3 prime flower-growing months, so the work changed over the course of the installation, which seems so different than the sterile, manufactured presence of the Whitney show.

Just because fall has begun and Split-Rocker is coming down at Rockefeller Plaza, doesn’t mean that ice cream sandwich season is over quite yet.  This spicy ice cream is to die for, and goes perfectly with these chunky oatmeal cookies, which are perfect on their own all year long! I may not have a workshop of artists around to help me achieve the ideal cookie, but I think these came out pretty perfectly!

Slice and Bake Oatmeal Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe adapted from Averie Cooks

·      1 stick unsalted butter, softened
·      ¾ c. brown sugar
·      ¼ c. sugar
·      1 egg
·      2 t. vanilla extract
·      ½ t. almond extract
·      1 c. oats (not instant)
·      ¾ c. all-purpose flour
·      ¼ c. whole wheat flour
·      ½ t. baking soda
·      pinch of salt
·      ½ c. slivered almonds
·      ½ c. chocolate chips

 In a medium sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugars for a couple of minutes, until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla, beating well, and scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Add in the flours, baking soda and salt, and beat just until combined. Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips with a large spoon. Turn the bowl over onto a lightly floured workspace, and roll the dough into a large log, about 3 inches in diameter and 14 inches long. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and place in a freezer-safe bag. You will want to chill the dough for at least a day before you bake with it, and you can even chill it for up to 2 months—perfect if you only want to slice a couple of cookies to bake here and there!

When you are ready to bake the cookies, let the dough sit out for about 5 minutes while you pre-heat your oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, and slice the dough log into cookies, 1 inch thick. Arrange the cookie slices on the baking sheet, 2 inches apart from each other, and bake for about 18 minutes, watching carefully after about the 15-minute mark. Since the slices of dough are so thick, it takes a while to bake, but you want to remove them when they are starting to brown, so that they firm up while they cool. Let the cookies cool completely as you make the ice cream.

Banana Cinnamon (Bananamon) Ice Cream:
Recipe slightly adapted from Ample Farms Creamery

·      1 ½ c. whole milk
·      ¾ c. skim milk powder
·      ¾ c. sugar
·      1 ½ t. vanilla extract
·      1 ¼ t.  ground cinnamon
·      1 lb. ripe peeled bananas
·      2 c. half and half

In a blender, combine the milk, skim milk powder, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and bananas, and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a bowl, and stir in the half and half. Transfer to an ice cream maker and churn according to the specific brand’ directions.

When the ice cream is ready, scoop a large scoop out onto a cookie, and add another cookie on top, creating a sandwich. Continue with as many cookies as you have (or do a few at a time, and save the rest of the cookies and ice cream to put together later). Enjoy!

Monday, September 1, 2014

End of Summer Shark-Bite Corn Basil Muffins

Happy Labor Day! While this holiday is historically a celebration of the American labor movement, it is also largely seen as the unofficial end of summer. This summer was a bit stressful at times (dramatic much?), but was mostly filled with pretty weather, fun trips, quality time with family, lots of baking and plenty of lazy days. I don’t like the idea of summer ending, but an upcoming vacation and birthday means September can’t be too bad!

Summer for many means trips to the beach and the return of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. Sadly this year’s programming seemed to hit an all-time low, with even more footage than usual of sharks just biting stuff and eating meat fed to them by humans, as well as new shows: “Alien Sharks”, “Zombie Sharks”, and the fake documentary, “Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine.” The depiction of sharks as dangerous predators is nothing new, though the shark-infested waters seen in Théodore Géricault’s Raft of Medusa are only a small part of the drama in this epic work. 

Theodore Gericault, The Raft of Medusa, oil on canvas, 1818-1819
Raft of Medusa, completed in 1819, is based on the real events surrounding the wreck of the French government vessel Medusa off the coast of Africa in 1816. Seen as proof of the corruption of Louis XVIII’s rule, the captain and other officials took the lifeboats, leaving over a hundred passengers to drift on a makeshift raft. Few survived when the raft was rescued 13 days later, and the people who did suffered sickness, thirst, hunger, cannibalism and insanity as they struggled to remain alive in the shark-infested waters. Arranged in a pyramidal form, this work shows the various stages of hope and despair, capturing the moment the survivors see a ship—potentially rescuers. The foreground, or base of the pyramid is crowded with nude corpses—including a father holding the body of his son—the forms of which were inspired by Michelangelo’s figures descending into hell in the Last Judgment. The viewer’s eyes go next to the men in the middle who have spotted the boat, and then finally to the top of the pyramid, where the men frantically wave rags in hopes of attracting their rescuers. 

Michelangelo, The Last Judgment, Sistine Chapel, fresco, 1536-1541
This dramatically lit work highlighted the huge scandal of the wreck, and was an icon of French Romanticism. As some of Géricault’s contemporaries painted works as propoganda for the government, this work is clearly anti-government, and is a clear break from the popular Neoclassical taste at the time. The dark color palette and sinister nature of the piece asked viewers how this emotional work could also be art—a paradox that appealed to the soul, and forced viewers to see beyond the conventional beauty of art.

 Summer may be ending, but who’s ready to take a bite out of fall?

Corn and Basil Muffins with Tomato Jam
Adapted from Crepes of Wrath (muffins) and Mark Bittman (tomato jam)

Tomato Salsa:
·      1 ½ lbs. ripe Roma tomatoes, cored and chopped coarsely
·      1 c. sugar
·      1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
·      1 T. minced ginger
·      juice of 1 lime
·      1 t. ground cumin
·      ½ t. ground cinnamon
·      dash of paprika
·      dash of all spice
·      pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan, preferably cast iron, a dutch oven or something similar. Turn stove heat to medium, and allow the mixture to come to a boil, stirring often. Once boiled, lower the heat to a simmer, and let the mixture thicken over the next hour or so, mixing occasionally. You will know it is ready when it has reduced down to a jam consistency, and you find yourself sampling it every few minutes! Let cool a bit and then store in clean jam jars until you are ready to fill your muffins. This delicious jam will keep for about a week (unless you can it for real, which you can read about here). Depending on how many muffins you make, you may have a bit left over, which is fine, since this jam goes especially well with everything—I can’t wait to try with my morning eggs and my weekday sandwiches! 


Makes about 10 full-sized muffins
·      1/3 c. brown sugar
·      2 ½ T. unsalted butter, melted
·      flax egg (1 ½ T. flaxseed meal + 5 T. water, let sit for 5 minutes)
·      1/3 c. buttermilk
·      1/8 c. olive oil
·      ½ c. milk
·      1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
·      ½ c. cornmeal
·      1 t. baking powder
·      ¾ t. baking soda
·      pinch of salt + pepper to taste
·      2 ears of corn, kernels only
·      2 T. chopped basil
·      approximately ½ - 1 c. ricotta cheese

Preheat your oven to 350˚F and grease or line a muffin tin. In a large bowl, beat together the melted butter and sugar until incorporated—a minute or two. Add in the flax egg, buttermilk, and olive oil, one at a time, making sure to mix well after each addition.

In a smaller bowl, combine together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt and pepper. Add 1/3 of the dry mixture to the wet, beating well to combine. Follow with ¼ c. milk, more mixing, and then repeat—dry—milk—dry. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and then stir in the corn kernels and basil, incorporating fully, but try not to overmix. Spoon the batter into your muffin pan and bake for about 22 minutes—keeping a very close eye on them after the 20 minute mark. 

Allow the muffins to cool completely before you proceed with filling them. When ready, carefully core the cupcakes using any technique you prefer—an actual cupcake corer, or my method: improvising with a pastry tip and a ¼ teaspoon. I am sure that a cupcake corer is much easier to use, but this gadget was surprisingly difficult to find in my neighborhood—one kitchen store actually told me that they were sold out—who knew these were so popular?! Anyway, I used the larger end of a standard pastry tip to cut a perfect circle in the top of each of my muffins, and then used a ¼ teaspoon to gently scoop a tiny portion of the cake out. Next, use the same tiny measuring spoon to fill each hole with the homemade jam. Finally, using either a pastry bag or a plastic bag with a whole in one corner, gently pipe ricotta cheese over the top of your jam opening. 

Now, climb out onto your fire escape or stoop—or porch if you live somewhere with actual outside space, and enjoy these seasonal treats while you savor the last days of summer! Happy Labor Day!
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