10 December 2014

Best (whole grain) Banana Bread

I've made a few banana breads over the years, and thought they've turned out *ok,* a few pretty good, despite being labeled in my head as a fickle endeavor. Bananas ripe enough?  Pull it out too soon? Right moisture? And the crux: is there something just flat about it? And that, my friends is the most dreary issue...the fact that the bread was an *ok* means to an end for blackening bananas. First-world problems in a baking enthusiast's mind that can simply be rectified by choosing a good recipe. My quest for a better bread begins with looks. I've noticed in some bakery display cases, the banana bread tends to be a lot darker (though not burnt) around the outside than the average home loaf, and the banana aspect evident through dark little threads inside the slice, not a yellow chunk in sight. 

When I cut into this bread, I was happy to see those threads. When I knew it was done, besides the finger spring-back and toothpick test, the top was browned. And the taste? Spot-on. Sweet but not overly-so, with a bit of nuttiness from the whole grain flour, and with a tight yet soft crumb neither cakey nor dense. And, banana-y. This recipe, from Flour Bakery, has been touted over the web for its consistent delivery and specific (though not difficult) preparation, and chances are it's not news to you, and yet, in a banana-baked world, we must hone in, because there is simply too much out there. I'm sticking to this.

The recipe calls for egg to be first whipped with sugar for a few-yes-a few-minutes, this is what aerates the batter. Then you slowly pour in the oil, like you're making an aioli. Your banana, vanilla and just the smallest bit of creme fraiche or sour cream get blended in and finally, your flour. I only made a few changes to Joanne Chang's recipe, which I thought worked well for it. Banana bread can typically afford a swap of some whole grain flour without sacrifice, so I threw in some Graham flour, and I cut the sugar down by about two tablespoons. When a recipe comes from a bakery, you can assume that it probably will be sweet enough. My other changes were to make mini loaves instead of a big loaf, for less oven time, and to use thawed frozen bananas. More information on this: it's not only economical to freeze bananas but actually good for the bread, provided you thaw smartly. 

When you thaw frozen bananas, at room temperature in a bowl for a few hours, they will release a lot of liquid. This might make you feel like you're headed into the wrong territory but fear not; all you have to do is pour that liquid into a saucepan and reduce it; what you're left with is a nice spoonful of banana "extract" that will heighten the flavor. Add that back into your banana flesh and proceed to mash lightly. I didn't have any walnuts so I skipped them and opted for a few sprinkled almonds on top. I love it lightly toasted, with a smidge of cream cheese and honey on top. As I write this, I'm debating whether to freeze the second loaf or keep it out for another day of toasting. Hmm, actually, that's not a very hard choice...

Banana Graham Bread
Adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang
1 2/3 cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour (I used 1c (125g) AP, 2/3 c (80g) Graham flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (I used Diamond Crystal or use half as much sea salt)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (230 grams) sugar (I used scant cup ~190 grams and found that fine)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (100 grams) canola or other flavourless oil
1 1/2 cups/340 grams mashed very ripe bananas
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream (I used creme fraiche)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional- I omit)

Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325°F (165°C). Butter and flour your pan of choice.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, or a handheld mixer, beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed for about 5 minutes for the stand mixer, and about 8 minutes for a handheld mixer; or until light and fluffy.

With the machine on low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. Do not pour the oil in all at once. Add it slowly so it has time to incorporate into the eggs and doesn't deflate the air you have just beaten into the batter. Adding the oil should take about 1 minute.

Add the bananas, creme fraiche/sour cream, and vanilla, then continue to mix on low speed just until combined.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture and nuts just until thoroughly combined. No flour streaks should be visible and the nuts should be evenly distributed.Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours for a 9x5-inch loaf or 45-50 minutes for four 5x3 or three 6x3-inch loaves; or until golden brown on top and the cake springs back when you press it. If your finger sinks when you poke the bread, bake a little longer.

-Weigh ingredients if possible-especially for the bananas. Bake long enough. I let my mini-loaves go for 50 minutes. A spring-back test is good. Press your finger into the top of the loaf, the dough should spring back and the top be a nice golden brown, not at all doughy. A toothpick should come out clean. Cool completely in the pan and then more on the rack. The bread will absorb itself even more as it sits wrapped overnight. Joanne says room temp two days, freezer 2 weeks.  

-Recipe may be halved for 2 mini loaves, what I did. Just beat the eggs for a minute less in the beginning

06 December 2014

What To Make This Month

My time flies. How is it December? How is it so rainy this weekend and dark at 4:30 pm? And how were your Thanksgivings? Full-fledged cooking is not yet my charge; I did a wildcard of my favorite brownies with walnuts. I kept telling myself that despite the bombardment of foodie newsletter emails piling up that Tuesday and Wednesday, about dry brine, I did not have to cook turkey the next day. And yet. I'm riding the subway, I'm in the grocery store and I seem to feel a communal pressure that there will be a food shortage or a time shortage. Everyone learns something about cooking around the holidays, eh? Maybe you opt to scale back and keep your pantry leaner, or yes, do make that very same thing because it just works, or perhaps try something new. I think you have to just audition things in the kitchen sometimes. And remembering that takes pressure off that everything has to be perfect. Perhaps the most important move we make in the kitchen is simply what we choose to do that day.

Maybe you're wondering what the above photos are. I added a rendition of my favorite buttermilk scones in the cranberry orange flavor to Food52 for a contest. Scones, as we know by now, are a favorite breakfast choice around here. You can check out the recipe there, as well as get loads of other ideas for things to make (this was for baked breakfasts). Also, I've got my favorite pumpkin bread on ShopRite's blog this month, featuring their pumpkin puree. Go check that one out. For me, it's the Goldilocks of pumpkin breads: just right. And if you've got rye flour, don't skip that. It really adds a nice note.

A few other noteworthy things: This savory sweet potato galette from Hummingbird High, features sweet potatoes roasted and showered in a bit of of maple syrup, butter and cumin, sprinkled with goat cheese, and baked off in a flaky, buttery crust with just the right crunch of cornmeal. It found its way into my oven on a cold recent evening, and let me tell you, it's a good one. Even a half recipe was almost too much for the two of us. It's quite rich and filling, all it needs is a pile of salad greens. And the maple-cumin scent? Now that's something. Note to self: a full recipe would be great for a large gathering vegetarian side. Try it out with some seasonal sweet potatoes from the farm markets in their last weeks, it's that much better.
And speaking of vegetables, you should also know about Joy the Baker's roast cauliflower soup if you're wondering about that cauliflower you bought that's still sitting in the fridge. It's got just a hint of cumin and turmeric spice and some aromatics. Noticing the half-head of farm cauliflower tilted on its side in the bottom of the fridge, I made a little batch today. My favorite part was pulling the hot pot off the stove and smelling the aromatic steam. There was something cleansing about it.

Soup! Now I will want soup all the time. It's one of those things. The cauliflower is deepened by the roasting process and then given a quick simmer in the broth and puréed. Done and done. Similar to this carrot soup recipe. Yes, soup does require a few extra steps, but in the end it's all a little formula and it's worth it.  Especially when you've managed to store a small container leftover. As for the broth component, Joy mentions you can use vegetable, chicken or water. I used all three together. 

Baked eggs a la Amanda Hesser. This recipe is pretty much foolproof, not to mention mess-less, being that you may as well eat it right out of the ramekin. It also takes a few minutes to cool down, so it's the sort of thing you can leave for a bit on the table and it will still be warm when you sit down. The formula, 2 eggs to 1tbsp cream, salt and pepper, and cheese and herbs if you wish, can be scaled up for a crowd, too.  And on that note, I do feel I owe you a real recipe, one that I've tweaked to become a stand-by, and have a place in the archives on here. So long as the sky cooperates more this week in terms of lighting, I'll be back with that soon.  xxM

18 November 2014

Pumpkin Scones

Last week, I was writing teaser text for recipes on a soon-to-be-launched health website I'm helping work on. I sat, head-phoned, churning out loglines for dishes. What's the punch of this dish? Why make it? The what, when, why of cooking: lean, diet-friendly cooking for that matter. It's a good thing I'm an avid reader of Bonappetit.com, regularly distracted by their Facebook feed. Take the Pumpkin Scones from the November issue, advertised as "There isn't a brunch guest who would turn one of these down." Of course, the picture of crispy, orange-hued scones is worth a thousand words in itself, the scent of cinnamon traveling through the screen. I clicked, I Pinned, I made. My tagline: These golden, crisp on the outside, pillowy on the inside seasonal scones are the quintessential autumn breakfast. And, you can make it ahead.

The dough is a breeze to work with. It clumps nicely in the bowl when you stir in the wet ingredients, due to the moisture content from pumpkin, egg and buttermilk. But the leavening chemistry and longish bake (be sure to let them go until their tops brown a bit; they will still be nice and fluffy inside) ensures they aren't overly-moist. I was pleased with how soft they were inside while developing nice crispy edges. Oh, and the fresh cranberries. You get to chop some of them up, too and add them to the mix, and the notes of tart chew are just about right with the pumpkin spices.

Needless to say, everyone needs pumpkin scones in their life Bon Appetit originally ran the recipe with a cinnamon butter to spread on top. We prefer my old standby of honey, butter and flakey salt stirred together though, so we went with that. New recipes, old standbys, life is about finding the balance between theses two things. Enjoy.

Pumpkin Scones 
Makes 8, though I halved it.

1/2 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 cups flour
6 oz/ 1.5 sticks good butter, cold
1/2 cup chopped fresh cranberries
1 egg
1/4 cup buttermilk, well shaken + more
1/2 cup pumpkin puree

In a large bowl whisk sugar, baking powder, soda, spices, salt and flour. Cut in butter to resemble coarse meal with some pea size lumps. Stir in cranberries. Stir together pumpkin, buttermilk and egg, and make a well in the flour mix. Add wet mix at once and begin to gently but quickly incorporate to moisten into a mass. Turn out onto a work surface and bring into a disk, folding the dough over itself once or twice. Cut into 8 wedges and freeze until firm, 30 minutes. *At this point dough can be frozen in ziplock to bake later. When ready to bake, heat oven to 400,  brush wedges with buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 25-30 minutes, adding 5 minutes or so if frozen, until tops are golden brown, a toothpick comes out clean, and scones are firm. Cool on a rack 15 minutes at least.

11 November 2014

Overnight oat groats

Who am I to, just in the height of pumpkin love season, talk about oatmeal on here? Not rolled oats, not steel-cut oats, but the oat groat itself, the most pure form of the grain. Maybe you haven't even heard of them. I didn't, before my mother gave me half a package and sold them off as so "chewy and good!" I'll admit this didn't register as a cue to make them right away. I delayed, I Googled once. They take an hour to cook by themselves. I do not like to wait in the mornings. I found crock pot and slow cooker overnight recipes...don't have 'em. And then, I found a stovetop technique that served my lack of breakfast patience well, and also, it seemed, the oats, in Culinate. I was in business and finally ready to branch out. Oatmeal, in itself, evokes routine, doesn't it? We are quite the granola type and replenishing the granola frequently, one of my most meditative kitchen routines. But with resolve, I opted to push the groats to the forefront of my cabinet and purposely run out of rolled oats so that a granola shortage would ensue, and very late on one of the first cold fall Saturday nights, reached for the grandmother oat, the groat.

I took Culinate's technique one step further and toasted the groats lightly before their initial boil/soak. Then I went to sleep and so did the oats and in the morning, bowls of goodness were that much closer. I've made the groats like this twice now and love the basic recipe. You start by, as I prefer, lightly toasting the groats in the saucepan with a dot of butter...a quick toast, you don't want them to darken much, just let off a hint of fragrance. Then you'll add water and a flick of salt, cover and bring to an almost boil. At that point, turn off the heat, leave covered and go to bed :) This hot soak plumps the oats overnight so they only need a little time in the morning, when you'll stir in cinnamon and grated apple and simmer about 15 minutes, then steam off the heat for 10. A touch brown sugar, milk, raisins and pecans finish it off and a drip of maple syrup is the final touch. A warming, energizing breakfast ladies and gents to reboot your so-called routine. There is nothing quite like eating warm whole-oat oatmeal in your pajamas at the kitchen table as the sun shines and cuts through the cold air. Enjoy!

Toasted Overnight Oat Groats

Adapted from Culinate. Serves 2.

1/2 tsp butter
1/2 cup whole oat groats (I used Shiloh Farms)
1 1/2 c filtered water
Small pinch salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 an apple, grated on a box grater
Handful raisins and toasted nuts (optional)
Pure maple syrup, brown sugar and milk of your choice

The night before, set a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Add the oats, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or so, until a hint of fragrance emits. Add the water, and salt, stir and cover, standing close by. When the pot is just reaching a boil, turn off the heat and leave it there.

In the morning, grate the apple. Remove the cover of the pan and set the heat to medium. Add the apple and the cinnamon to the oats, and cook over medium low for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover again and let steam off the heat for 10 minutes.

Don't skip that. Make coffee.

At this point, I stir in the raisins and a spoonful brown sugar as well as a spoonful half-and-half. To serve, ladle into bowls, too with nuts and maple.

02 November 2014

Stick to it

Well, this was a relaxing weekend over here, waking up to the extra hour and all, and thank God, because I spent the latter part of the week complaining how hard it is to do everything and deal with stuff and go to jobs and manage your time and fit in a downward-facing dog and cook. My mom, in the car, which is where we've had more discussions in my life than any physical place, gently informed me I'm spoiled and some people get up at 5 am to get it all in. **Smiles** We were celebrating her birthday, so I resisted a challenge except to say, "What? I know no one who does that." "I do," she said. We were driving in the glorious section of Hudson County where you cross over Route 78 to go from Jersey City to Hoboken, the Holland Tunnel sign awkwardly huge and close to the edge of the land. I am thankful to be in this car right now, I thought. I am thankful for all things that help. 

Our tone then shifted into how it can take a few weeks to get acclimated into a personal flow outside the parameters of a new job, semester, season, sport, etc, and it can take a little adjusting to move beyond feeling like you're always racing to catch up to some invisible thing or be motivated to do the things that bring you joy outside of the parameters that provide you with pay so that you experience a payoff in the hours that you are not located within those parameters. Some people are better at this than others. Clearly since I find the need for italics and notes on this here, I experience ins and outs with this topic. Like anything, maybe it starts with giving yourself a break and knowing what makes you feel best and sticking to it. I bought flowers today. I made granola and another batch of tomato sauce with some San Marzanos I found. And I made more scones, which always makes everything right.

I've been revisiting these Buttermilk Scones for the past few weeks and tossing in different add-ins in place of rhubarb. Pictured above, following a lead from the beautiful Vanilla Bean, I tossed in about 1/3 cup 'dry-roasted,' diced apples and a few pieces minced candied ginger. And as pictured way above, we went with cinnamon, a shake of cacao nibs and a few pieces of shaved dark chocolate. Making the dough in a free moment during the week and pulling out on a weekend is something that takes any so-called weekend baking pressure and spins it around. No need to dirty bowls at 10 am. Instead preheat the oven, let the scones bake a few extra minutes, and shower. Or sit on the couch. Or write, read, cuddle, etc. You do what works for you and you stick to it. 

I found a few other little gifts in the kitchen this week. A head of broccoli, fresh from the farm stand, floret-ed and prepared a la Melissa Clark--Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli as she calls it, was a revelation. It not only holds up in the fridge a day or two making it ideal for scooping onto a lunch plate or container, but unbeknownst to you, you are eating raw broccoli, something I know I never consent to under most circumstances. But in this ceviche-style application to the good old magic tree, broccoli is tossed with a dash vinegar and salt then spices and garlic are heated in olive oil on the stove just to fragrance, and a spike of toasted sesame oil Asians it up just a tad. It gets poured on the florets and left to sit out for an hour, or chill up to 48 hours, and it's then there for you. 

And finally, I took home my first butternut of the season from the market: I chunked it, tossed with a quartered shallot, glug of olive oil, sea salt, coarse pepper and a little bacon grease and roasted it up on two trays at 400 for a good 35-40 minutes. The tender results from such a simple, hands-off act are fall on a plate, filler for your fridge and proof that you can do things and they can be just darn good and easy. When I lived with my mom a few years ago she would always chide at me when I cooked, "make double" as in, if you're going to bother at least have a lot. I hated that, I was always afraid I'd make a mistake and cause waste. I think I am finally coming around to silencing that fear. If you are going to break down a butternut, you best roast the whole thing.

21 October 2014

Cold paaaste

"How bout some veal and cold paast?" A line I remember sexy Sylvia, Don Draper's (20th?) mistress yelling out to her actual husband in the last season of Mad Men, while standing in front of the refrigerator, presumably tortured over her Doctor husband-Ad Man affair-love triangle. Her husband had been away, and she was trying to get a meal in him upon his return.  "Paast" is an Italian shorthand for pasta and as Sylvia was Italian, and a good cook, I took it as a nod that lots of Italians are fine eating their pasta cold or cold-ish. A similar moment on The Sopranos comes to mind, too, when Tony takes out a plate of pasta from the fridge, Carmela offers to warm it up, and he says, already diggin in, "Nah, it's good like dis!"

Pasta room temperature is actualy my preference. I'm not sure where the propensity to rush piping hot pasta out of the kitchen and onto the plate to inhale, came from, (restaurants?) but, I never do it that way home. I've discovered this accidentally when I make pasta and intend to serve it hot but don't seem to have the other things in order yet to eat the meal, like bowls, silverware, an accompanied salad made or dressing for said salad. So the pasta sits for a bit and the flavors meld and that is just fine by me. Note: this is not true for red-sauced pasta where you want it to be a on the hot side of warm.

Another myth, that leftover pasta is a culinary no-no, also never makes sense to me. I  find it can come in handy for a quick lunch. If you make a bit more pasta than you serve at a dinner, keep a little pasta water with it the plain pasta, and the next day, give it a quick rejuvenation, and you have lunch for one or two. You just have to do the rejuvenation part right. 

For the revival, I tend to resort to the same tricks: a skillet, low heat, some liquid (I often throw in a dash vegetable or chicken broth if I have it frozen as ice cubes, and if not, just the pasta water or regular water + lemon juice), some kicks ( I like a dab of mustard and creme fraiche) and some very quick melding vegetables like baby spinach or something that's already cooked like roasted cherry tomatoes. You can only use one pan to do this, and you cannot forget the basil or parsley and strong cheese. A few chopped olives don't hurt either. For cheese, I really like feta.

I spent the weekend attending a few events representing the ShopRite Potluck Blog at the Food Network New York Food and Wine Festival. It was my first time at such an event and a lot of fun. We gave out recipe cards from the blog and I met some of the other girls on the team. The Festival was a whirlwind of food samples, wine samples, brands, celeb chefs, demos, panels. I had to remind myself to breathe a lot, and take it in one morsel at a time. It was exciting to see so many people passionate about what they do. I tasted some delicious brands of grilled sausage, cheese, handmade caramel sauce, and a few samples of small plates prepared by restaurants. The Red Lion Inn chef (from MA) had a vegan sample of smoked roasted tomatoes topped with ratatouille and micro greens that I could have made a meal of, and the Tessa chef a refreshing razor clam gazpacho that was also delicious. I also discovered a wine brand that has the packaging I always wished for. It exists! 

When we got home for the festival, despite being around food all afternoon, save a luscious walk in Central Park, we were, of course, hungry, so I riffed on a trendy dish making rounds on the web for a simple rustic dinner; pasta tossed with deeply roasted cauliflower florets, a heap of grated hard cheese and a hefty handful herbs, and toasted sliced crushed almonds served, as always, warm-ish, and the next day, I revived the leftover pasta tubes I'd saved as described above and below. The simple vegetarian flavors were all I could have wanted as a return to my own kitchen and a welcome to the cooling temperatures outside. Enjoy!

Revived Leftover Pasta

Olive oil
Generous handful leftover pasta in a little of its water
Generous handful baby spinach
Sea or Kosher salt + pepper to taste
Pinch red pepper flakes
Scoop roasted cherry tomatoes (optional)
A few torn olives (optional)
Approx 1/2 tsp good mustard
Approx 1 tsp creme fraiche 
1 small garlic clove, grated fine, minced or pressed
4-5 basil leaves, torn or chiffonade 
Fresh lemon juice and/or vegetable broth 
Topping: chunk of salty cheese like feta, crumbled

Heat a wide skillet over medium high heat, then add the oil. When it shimmers add the spinach; it should cook down within seconds. Season with a pinch salt and pepper and pepper flakes, and toss. Turn the heat to the lowest setting and add the pasta and a little of its water. If you have broth, add a Tbsp of that instead or in addition to the water, it will all be absorbed. Toss. If using, add the roasted tomatoes and olives, toss. Add the mustard and creme fraiche and stir, letting it coat the pasta and meld into the liquid. Add half the feta and a little lemon juice, stir so the feta warms. Add the grated garlic, stir, letting off the fragrance, then remove from the heat. Add half a tsp or so olive oil and half the basil and remaining feta. Transfer to plate. Top with remaining basil, another half tsp olive oil and a sprinkle coarse sea salt like Maldon. Enjoy immediately or let rest at room temperature for a bit.

13 October 2014

some say thank you

Here's something: if you ever get the opportunity to sous chef at a vendor product demo at Whole Foods, you will learn almost everything you need to know about humanity. Ok, that's a grand statement. But you will learn a lot. A few snippets: people come in, walk around just to eat the samples a few times a day. Some stand at the table and eat sample after sample as you hurry to cut more with your sharp knife while asking nothing about the product. Some ask pointed questions about the product, and then just walk away. There was the woman who wanted not the sample I was making, but just a "swipe of the almond butter" I was using to make the samples (!!) and the one who threw a sample right into the trash beside the table after grabbing it off the table. Most commonly, people mistake you for an employee and ask where the quinoa is located. But some say thank you. I had no idea how much of a difference it makes to vendors emotionally when customers say, "may I try?" rather than just take one. I have nothing on full-time food-workers and chefs, and as astonishing as the behavior may be, demos work. Product was practically swiped from the shelves the two days we were there. 

After a few days of slicing vegetable rolls (that are brilliantly made with vegetable purees as opposed to seaweed), I attended to the needs to smell cinnamon and feel fall through flour as much as possible at home, and use some of the apple cider I bought from the farm. I had so many things on the list, I decided to start with something simple, something no one would turn down at 4 o'clock in the afternoon on a warm but grey Monday with a cup of strong coffee: baked apple cider donut holes. You don't need a donut pan to make these; a mini muffin pan is great, and you can even swap in a little whole wheat flour (I used a little Graham). You need some good apple cider, and some flour, brown sugar and butter. No mixer for these. This recipe, from over at Serious Eats, keeps it simple. They mix up in ten minutes, they bake in ten minutes, and then they take a roll into some cinnamon sugar and rest. The result is a light tender, spiced mini donut muffin/hole. If traditional cider donuts or fried donuts don't feel at all possible (or desirable) in your kitchen, give the mini muffin version a try. I will promptly be making more. 

Baked Apple Cider Donut Holes 

Barely tweaked from serious eats 
Notes: I only have one mini muff pan with 12 wells, so for easy math I opted to quarter the recipe. Sadly this only gave me 8..but I have more apple cider. If you have a 24 cup pan or two 12s you could obviously halve this and do fine. Or if you have a huge oven and a 36-pan make the whole thing. The  recipe below is the original (36 donut holes. My only change aside from quartering it was to swap in some graham flour, just about a third of it. 2 Tbs graham and 6 Tbs AP to make the 1/2 cup needed. 

  • 2 cups all purpose flour ( 1 2/3 c AP and 1/3 c whole wheat are fine)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 7 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled, divided
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

    Set rack in center of oven, preheat to 400°F. Butter mini muffin pans, set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Add brown sugar and work into mixture by hand to break up clumps. Set aside. In a second bowl, whisk together cider, egg, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of the melted butter. Add wet to dry ingredients and quickly but gently fold together until all streaks of flour are just incorporated and you have a light, fluffy batter. Divide evenly between cups of muffin pans (about 2/3 full). Bake  8-10 minutes, rotating trays once.While muffins bake, whisk  remaining cinnamon and granulated sugar together in a tin or shallow bowl. As soon as muffins are done, immediately turn out onto a rack and roll them a few at a time in the remaining melted butter, then remove to cinnamon sugar and shake until well-coated. Let muffins continue to cool on rack. You may reheat to serve, with the oven at 400°F— it will only take 1 minute. 
    Will keep at room temp in a container covered a day or two, but just the least bit ajar is best.
  •  ***Also: Looking for something fruitier for fall? Last week I revisited a friendly little quick-bread from the archives on here: Cornmeal and Concord grape cake. Whether you'd call it a cake or cornbread, is up to you. I go for fruited cornbread as I sliced it into squares.  This is just about the only time for Concord grapes, my favorite grapes, so if you can get your hands on some, by all means try this. THEY MAKE SEEDLESS CONCORD GRAPES! Found at Whole Foods. Just don't ask a demo person for a lone swipe of their almond butter : )