21 December 2013

vanilla-espresso chip scones

I wasn't sure I was a fan of coffee flavor in baked goods until I made Sprouted Kitchen's lovely espresso chip muffins. It was then I realized the same flavors could be great in scones. Though these scones don't go into alternate flour territory, that only makes them more foolproof. I have made them over the past few weekends a few times and consider them a keeper. Though it took a little browsing to settle on the best ratios of dry to liquid, I think I like the one I came up with. 

Perhaps since I was working within the thought pattern of: espresso, chocolate chips, vanilla, scone, what could go wrong... I opted to be more ploppy and less foldy with the dough this time around, and that turned out to be a good thing as the dough is a tad sticky and delicate. Floured hands and a little flour on your surface, with just a turn or two of the dough is all you need here. I baked the scones almost in a pie-like round but with about an inch of space between themselves, so they would rise together. 

Then, when they are about to come out of the oven, you can separate them a little more on the baking sheet so they have some space to cool off on their own. Half and half was my choice here but you can cuse full heavy cream if you have that on hand. I quite like the balance of the half and half though. Lastly, I really like these with a little mascarpone and plum preserves. Think of it as the Italian version of clotted cream and jam. Now, go make them, pour yourself a cappuccino and enjoy xxoo.

Vanilla Espresso Chip Scones

4 scones

125 grams/1 c Unbleached all purpose flour 
2 lightly heaped Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp fine ground coffee
Scant 1/2 c dark chocolate chips, chopped a little
2 oz/ 4 T cold butter
1 tsp vanilla 
60 ml/ 1/4 c half and half, cold
27 g beaten egg (half a large)

Oven to 425. Line pan with parchment. Cut butter to small pieces and place in freezer. Combine flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon and coffee grounds in a large bowl and whisk well. In a small bowl mix vanilla, egg and half and half. 

Rub butter into dry mix with fingers or pastry blender until pieces are not larger than peas. Work quickly. Stir in chocolate chips gently. Make a well and pour half and half mix in. Working from the outside gently stir to combine, moistening dough until it begins to hold together in clumps. Dump dough onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a 1 inch tall circle with lightly floured hands. Fold it over itself once, shape into circle again, and place on parchment sheet pan. Use a sharp knife with a scant dust of flour on it to slice into fourths. Leave an inch or so of space between wedges, brush top with any remaining half and half from the bowl, and sprinkle with a pinch turbinado. Place pan in freezer for a few minutes if desired. Bake 17-22 minutes. Tops should be lightly browning and the sides should feel slightly soft but not raw. Cool on pan on rack 5-10 mins then another 5-10 off pan on rack.

20 December 2013

Lazy roast carrot soup

We'll, it is December and I may have just ignited a soup kick. You know, when it has decided to warm up out. But you see, I have figured that soup does often in fact surface in kicks. I rarely make soup. In my mind it is not what I immediately want most of the time: a puréed bowl of something. I like to scatter and arrange, to toss and pour. To elongate and experience the different textures of dishes. But this soup, it's simple and restrained but deep.

What I also like about this soup is that it is relatively free form and foolproof. No real heavy measuring, no watching of a pan or pot, cutting into beans, spending hours nearby, and yet, certainly more sophisticated than puréeing stovetop cooked carrots. It is a quiet roast of a big chopped carrot in the oven, then a quick hot bath with some broth and sautéed onion, garlic, and a nice pinch of spices punches flavor into the soup an it is finished with a squeeze of lemon and whizzed to smooth.

In fact I roasted the carrot, poured the broth, chopped the onion, garlic and pinched some spices aside, went out and left it all on the counter for a bit, then came back and just gave it that cook and purée. If you opt to go into garnish land, this soup is often done with a dollop of tahini, a smear of yogurt and roasted chickpeas. I opted for the yogurt smear and a smatter of tasted pepitas. 

Do not skip the lemon juice! It adds the perfect punch.  This is a recipe you can and should, memorize. Therefore I have written it loosely. More of a technique. It is vegan, too, if you skip the yogurt top but I love that part. Happy souping!

Roast Carrot Soup Recipe

Lightly inspired by Katie at the Kitchen Door

Serves 2 or 3

1/2 lb carrot or 1 large, sliced into knobs
Sea salt and pepper
2 Tbs olive oil divided
1/8ish tsp each: cumin, cayenne, turmeric, see salt and black pepper
Juice of 1/4 of a lemon
1.5 Cups vegetable broth

For topping: teaspoons thick plain yogurt, toasted pepitas

First toss the carrots in salt, pepper and a splash oil, set on a foil or parchment lined sheet and roast the carrots in a 425 oven, til tender about 25 mins. A minute or two before they are done, heat the rest of the oil and sautéed the garlic and onion on medium in a deepish skillet or saucepan a few minutes, until fragrant. Add the spices and mix well. Add the carrots and broth and bring to a boil, then let simmer about 8 minutes. Remove from heat, and purée in a food processor until smooth. Add the lemon juice, give it a final whiz or warm if needed, and serve, add a few pinches of salt if needed, divvy into bowls, smear a teaspoon yogurt and toasted pepitas. Enjoy!

11 December 2013

Brown Butter Kabocha Spice Loaf

Oh my, it's cold. And with that, I could only think of one thing: baking a loaf of something, preferably something familiar. The shear idea of loaf breads evoke warmth to me. Snow falling, temperatures dropping, wreaths everywhere, slices of pumpkin bread on mornings where the only effort necessary is cutting bread and pouring hot coffee. Frozen, it can be tucked away, too.

I've made pumpkin bread and I've made pumpkin bread and a few weeks ago little pumpkin coffee cake loaves that disappeared in a flash. But the other day, when it snowed and rained, I made a this glistening brown butter kabocha spice bread and I think it deserves a note.

As soon as this loaf came out of the oven snowy Monday, I wanted to rush to the page to tell you about it. Life and work got in the way so it's two days late, but all the better. I got to taste it the next day, after it had rested overnight, and got to see some smiling faces as theater buddies pinched off pieces of a thick slice at rehearsal. Of course, I also practiced restraint originally, and allowed it to cool for a good hour before cutting off a slice and spreading  a light dollop of plum preserves atop before enjoying a slice solo on the cold afternoon. And confirmation was made, peace was experienced.

The bread was tweaked slightly from Heidi's popular loaf, but I skipped the nuts,
opting for just a sugar crust atop (delicious slim crunch layer), and used a blend of spelt and all purpose flours for the batter, as well as traded the garam masala route for some straightforward but strong ginger, cinnamon, and even a pinch orange zest. Well pureed homemade kabocha purée (you can use butternut or acorn, too) is also one of the things that distinguishes the loaf. Not only does it lend an inimitable earthiness of fresh roasted winter squash that bakes into a hearty yet light and tender crumb, but the deep sunset hue of kabocha really makes it more bright orange than lots of loaves that tend turn out browner. Although I've creamed butter for the last few pumpkin loaves, and saw a nice fluffy rise, the nutty brown butter is also your friend here. It adds moist depth. Cinnamon, ginger and clove imbue the loaf with the classic scent and you know it is time to slice when, having cooled down, the loaf fills your kitchen with that perfume.

Lightly hand mixed, the thick battered cake takes just a smidge of time to put together. Brown the butter, and keep an eye while you set up the other ingredients. Mix dry and wet, fold together,  and once you get it into the oven, you let go and come back to find a sparkling loaf and it brings you home.

Brown Butter Kabocha Spice Loaf
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1/2 cup + scant 1 Tbsp /125g unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1 cup / 115 g spelt flour
scant 1/2 cup / 55 g  all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp each ground cloves + ground ginger
Small pinch each fresh grated ginger + orange zest
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup / 5 oz / 140 g fine grain natural cane sugar or muscovado sugar, + 1 tablespoon for topping
2 large eggs
1/2 cup / scant 125 g well-pureed roasted winter squash
1/4 cup / 60 ml milk

Melt butter in a small pot over medium heat until it's light brown and gives off a deliciously nutty aroma but do not burn. This can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool. Preheat oven to 350F  with a rack in the top 1/3. Butter/parchment a 1-lb loaf pan, roughly 9x5x3-inch.

Whisk flours, baking soda, dry spices, and sea salt into a large bowl. In another bowl whisk sugar, eggs, squash, and milk. Whisk in melted butter, but make sure it isn't hot to the touch. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture, and fold/stir until just combined. You want most of the flour gone with a patch here or there.

Pour batter into prepped pan, sprinkle with extra sugar, and bake for about 50-60 minutes. Check at 50. Mine took 55. Look for browned edges and a center well set. Use a cake tester. Cool in pan, for 15 minutes then on a rack to room temperature. 

04 December 2013

Pear Spice Muffins (wheat-free)

Since incorporating almond flour into baking around here, I've really been wanting to use it in tandem with other flours that aren't grain-free. But it's not, of course a one-to-one substitute. Recipes designed to utilize all-almond (and coconut) flour are abundant, but what about those incorporating some spelt, barley, oat and flours other than wheat...less easy to find. That was what sent me into a flurry over those brown butter espresso chip muffins I photographed in the last post--the workings of the almond, oat and spelt flours together: finally three of my favorites all made it into the bowl at once and had a party. The result was lighter than a typical all-almond flour muffin with lovely crumb from hearty but not heavy, spelt, and the moisture was just right. And though I'd make those brown butter, espresso + chocolate muffins daily if I could, I just had to cast a seasonal spell on the whole thing and reinvent it for fruit and spice. Hello pear and clove and vanilla (and brown butter).

In terms of the spices for this muffin, you want to strike the perfect balance between just-shy and overly-dominating. I opted for a little of everything based on what I had on hand. I didn't want to gingerize them too much, so just a small pinch fresh grated ginger along with a hearty teaspoon vanilla paste went into the wet ingredients. A few whole cloves got ground with the oat flour and a pinch cinnamon perfumed it all for good measure. You could surely experiment with some cardamom or even stick to just vanilla. I loved the hints of other spice notes at play though, and the scent of the cloves seeping into the batter will infuse your entire kitchen...

I think we talked about roasting pears before for baking. Giving them that 20 minute dry-bake in the oven and leaving them to cool for a bit is a good trick for combating any potential steaminess that tucking a fruit like pear into a muffin might bring. Here I don't dry them out as  much as I would for scones but when they cool, I fold them into the batter and even throw a few atop the muffins before sprinkling on a little walnut-brown sugar spritz. Enjoy just cooled down perhaps with a little light honey drizzle.

Pear Spice Muffins
Makes 5 regular


4 Tbsp/55g salted butter (or coconut oil- note I used about 3 T butter and the rest coconut oil) 
1 egg
40 ml plain whole milk yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup + 2 T (~48g) spelt flour
2 1/2 Tbsp (~15 g) oat flour (grind rolled oats)
1/2 cup (~55 g) almond flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 whole cloves, ground
1/4 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 medium or 1/2 a large green pear, diced

1 Tbsp chopped lightly toasted walnuts
1/2 tsp brown sugar


First, preheat the oven to 375 F and place diced pear on a parchment-lined sheet and bake 20 minutes, then allow to cool.

To make muffins: Preheat oven to 350 F and grease 5 holes in a tin with a little butter. Set aside. Brown the butter: Set a saucepan to medium heat, toss in butter and let bubble and fizz until brown specks start to form at the bottom and it turns amber. Do not burn. A light browning is just fine. Immediately transfer to a bowl to cool. If using part coconut oil, whisk that into the cooling butter. Set aside.

Whisk to combine flours, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder, cinnamon and cloves (note: I whizzed the cloves with the oats in a clean coffee grinder when making the oat flour), set aside.

Whisk egg, yogurt, cooled butter, vanilla and ginger together. Smell it... : )

Toss 1/4 of the cooled pear into the dry mix and stir to coat. Pour wet into the dry and give a few stirs, just to combine, toss almost all the rest of the pear in and fold together just barely. (Leave a little handful pears for the tops)

Scoop batter into tins, filling 3/4 full, stud tops with a few more pear pieces then sprinkle with walnut/brown sugar mix evenly.

Bake about 20 minutes in oven, until a tester comes out just clean and the centers are just cooked through, then cool in the pan a few minutes. Carefully twist muffins out and cool on their sides (like lead photo) for another minute or two, then cool by themselves on a wire rack for at least 10-15 minutes. Enjoy just warm or freeze and reheat in a low oven.