Saturday, February 28, 2009


Friends, we have some housekeeping items to talk about.

Okay, let's be honest. There's just one. But it's a pretty important One. We'll make this quick and painless.

Sugar Duchess is leaving blogspot. It's moving. Don't panic--it's still around, just in a different place. And it's wearing a different face now. I hope that's cool with you.

I will now be at blogging at

So, dear friends, please update your Readers. Please update your RSS feeds, or bookmarks, or whatever else you need to do to. Please continue to visit me and leave your splendid, witty comments. I think you're swell.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

This is the third time today I've tried to sit down and write this post. I don't know, friends. The muse just isn't with me. Just consider all subsequent words optional, okay?

Actually, what do you say we skip the chit chat for now, and get straight to the muffins? Thanks.

Here's the deal with these muffins--divine. The lemon flavor pops out in a way that is both big and subtle. The poppy seeds add a slight crunch and a visually delicious speckled effect. The icing adds a bit of a sweet zing that sends the whole thing way over. I could eat them all for breakfast. And maybe I did.

However! However, although terribly delicious, these guys are pretty sneaky little suckers. Sure, they masquerade around under the name of muffins. They lure you in with pretty promises to be dense, wholesome and sustaining, like their muffin friends. But don't you be fooled for a second. Take one bite, and these little stinkers will show their true colors.

Any muffin this sweet, with such a light and tender crumb, smacks of cupcake. I suspect it started out as a pound cake recipe that was eventually made into cupcakes. And then I imagine some poor, unsuspecting baker got tricked into dubbing them muffins.

Well, I can't complain. I got surprise cupcakes out of the deal. And cupcakes for breakfast is just what I needed for a Monday morning.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
from Joy of Baking


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
zest of one lemon (or 1-1/2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice)
1 cup plain yogurt, not nonfat
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Lemon glaze:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, poppy seeds, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in the lemon zest or juice, plain yogurt, and vanilla, until well blended. Stir in the flour mixture until just moistened. Do not over mix.

Spoon the batter into a prepared muffin tin and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan and glazing.

Glaze: While muffins are baking, stir together the powdered sugar and lemon juice. The mixture should be runny. Once the muffins have cooled for five minutes, remove from pan and drizzle glaze over them with a spoon.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Maple Sugar Ragamuffins

Friends, I have good news.

You trying to shed a few pounds there? Maybe, maybe yes? Good, because I can help you with that. I have invented a weight-loss program that can't not succeed.

Here's my fail-proof, 5-step approach:
  1. Go to your kitchen.
  2. Whip up a batch of these Maple Sugar Ragamuffins.
  3. Why not? Do a few jumping jacks while they bake.
  4. Eat one, or half of one.
  5. Get your mind totally blown by sheer, unadulterated sweetness, and lose interest in anything containing sugar for the next, oh, year or two... Or five. Yes, they are that sweet.
See how simple that is? Self-control just became that much easier. You won't need any more sugar for months, if not years. And all because of one simple, unpretentious, little sweet roll. You just wait and see--this recipe will be hailed as the world's greatest health food. The obesity trend in America will be reversed. Mark my words.

So, aside from being shaped like your classic cinnamon roll, these are actually very similar to your classic biscuit. That is, if biscuits were loaded to the ears with sugar, and topped generously with icing.

If you have maple sugar sitting around for this recipe, that's perfect. I don't, so I made my own by adding 1/4 teaspoon of maple flavoring per 1 cup of granulated sugar, and grinding and mashing it in really thoroughly.

Maple Sugar Ragamuffins
adapted from Gourmet


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon maple sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup whole milk
for filling:
6 Tablespoons softened butter
1 cup maple sugar
for icing:
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon maple flavoring


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment.

Whisk together flour, maple sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Blend in the butter with a pastry blender until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some small pea-size butter lumps. Add milk and toss with a fork until a shaggy dough forms. Gently knead dough 10-15 times on a lightly floured surface.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface, into a 13- x 11-inch rectangle. Spread softened butter evenly over dough and sprinkle all over with maple sugar, pressing firmly to help adhere. Beginning with one long side, roll up dough snugly, jelly-roll style. Press to seal the seam. Cut roll crosswise into 1-inch slices. Arrange slices, cut sides down, 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with any leftover maple sugar. Bake until rolls are puffed and golden, about 18 to 20 minutes.

While the rolls are baking, make the maple icing. Mix the powdered sugar, melted butter, milk, and maple flavoring in a bowl, and beat until smooth. Pour the icing all over the rolls, about 10 minutes after they come out of the oven.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sugar Duchess Loves You

Happy Valentine's Day!

I think you're a fabulous person. Here--have a cupcake.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Homemade Pizza

Every year I'm fascinated with Valentine's Day. You know why?

So many people hate it.

Huh? Somebody fill me in. I was always under the impression that people liked love. They love love--they're absolutely crazy about it. They listen to songs about love, and they watch movies where people fall in love, and they think and dream about the person they love, and they're even fascinated by the love lives of all their friends.

Our entire society is completely saturated with romance, and always has been. A huge chunk of the art, literature, and music of the Western tradition for centuries past has all revolved around the subject of romance. Romance, romance, romance. Well, and religion makes a pretty big showing too, since we're being historically accurate here.

But dedicate a single day out of the year to romance? Heavens, no! Horrors!

If you happen to be one of these romance-averse people, at least bury your aversion in a good, homemade pizza this Valentine's Day. You can't go wrong there. And you might even find yourself falling in love.

Homemade Pizza Crust


3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon instant yeast
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cup lukewarm water


In a large mixing bowl, mix together 1-1/2 cups of the flour with all the other ingredients, on medium speed, until completely smooth. Stir in the remaining flour and knead into a moderately stiff, elastic dough, about 8-10 minutes.

Transfer to a greased bowl and cover with a cloth. Let it rise in a warm (75-80 degrees F) place until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Punch down the dough and turn onto a lightly-floured surface. Roll out into a 14-inch circle, and transfer to a pizza pan or stone. Top with sauce, cheese, and desired toppings.

Bake until crust is lightly browned, about 13-14 minutes.

(**Note: If you're using active dry yeast rather than instant yeast, dissolve the yeast in the water before mixing with the other ingredients.)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sparkly Molasses Cookies

It's raining outside today. The sky is grayish-whitish. Sounds are muted, and colors are more vibrant. The mountains look all misty and mysterious, like I'm living next to the set for Lord of the Rings. Everything seems to move in slow motion. The air is clean and you can smell the wet concrete. The earth is beautiful and clean again.

This is one of those mornings when I wish I could stop the clock, drop everything that's calling for my attention, turn off all the lights in the house, and sit by a window, just watching the rain fall. I'd probably crack it open a bit and let the smell of the rain drift over my face. And then I'd most likely fall into a coma of ecstasy.

You know all those nursery rhymes and children's songs about the rain, and how you want it to go away? Well okay, I can only think of two off the top of my head. Those songs never applied to me. I'm not a "hot and sunny weather" type of girl. I love the rain.

*sigh* Now you all know I'm strange. Let's talk about food.

Molasses cookies. They've got a pretty sweet setup going on.

To begin with, they're soft and chewy, and let's be honest--that alone wins them a blue ribbon.

Second, they're filled with cinnamon and ginger and cloves. My love affair with rainy days is strikingly similar to my love affair with cinnamon and ginger and cloves. In fact, if I could bake up a rainy day into a cookie, I believe it would incorporate cinnamon and ginger and cloves. I do.

Third, the turbinado sugar. That sweet, nutty crunch in every single bite. Divine.

And last but not least, the molasses. Someday if I get to heaven, I'm going to find the person who first decided to put molasses into a cookie (because he'll certainly be there), and I'm going to march right up to him and give him a big kiss.

Sparkly Molasses Cookies
adapted from Joy of Baking


2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable, canola, or safflower oil
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup turbinado sugar (for covering the cookie balls before baking)


In a medium bowl sift or whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 - 3 minutes). Add the oil, molasses, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Beat in the flour mixture mixture until well incorporated. Cover and chill the batter until firm (about 2 hours or overnight).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place about 1 cup of turbinado sugar in a medium sized bowl.

When the dough has chilled sufficiently, roll into 1 inch balls. Then roll the balls of dough into the sugar, coating them thoroughly. Place on the baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart and, with the bottom of a glass, flatten the cookies slightly.

Bake for about 9-10 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies have crinkles yet are barely dry. (They will look a little underdone.) Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.