Toasted Hazelnut-Pear Muffins

IMG_0936

I’ve been posting more pastry recipes than usual here lately. No heavy hitters, like crème brûlée (you can typically find me making those at work). When I’m home, I like to bake simple. When I’m not tasked with blind-baking 8 tarts or 32 perfectly set butterscotch pots de crème, I take it easy. Granola, quick breads, healthy-ish muffins – not exactly French pastry, but in real life most people aren’t (and quite frankly, shouldn’t be) eating croissants everyday.

These hazelnut-pear muffins have been in my mental recipe file for awhile. You know when you see a recipe, and then all of a sudden, you see it everywhere? That seemed to be the case with the hazelnut/pear combination. I didn’t want a sugary cake-like muffin, rather I was going for something a bit more wholesome (does that word even exist anymore?) I eschewed my brown butter tendencies in lieu of coconut oil and a generous pour of pure maple syrup. A couple bruised red pears perked right up when folded into the dark, spiced batter. Lemon zest is the secret here. I used Meyer lemon, which has a hint of tangerine flavor, and that bit of citrus added the right amount of interest. Don’t skip the sprinkle of crunch, either. Fish around in your pantry for something, anything, crunchy. Seeds, nuts, grains, they it all add much-needed texture.

These muffins are not flaky French croissants, but they make an excellent late-night or morning snack. Perfect for fueling me through a marathon tart-making session.

Toasted Hazelnut-Pear Muffins

I love these not-too-sweet muffins with a almond-milk latte or cup of tea.

Makes 6 muffins (recipe doubles easily)

  • Nonstick baking spray
  • ¾ cup hazelnut meal*
  • ¾ cup whole-wheat pastry flour**
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cardamom (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (try Meyer lemon)
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted if solid
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons milk (any type, I used a vanilla almond milk)
  • 2 medium ripe pears, cored and diced into 1/2″ thick pieces
  • 3 tablespoons raw amaranth, millet, quinoa, ground flax, rolled oats, hazelnut meal, chia or a combination
Preheat oven to 350˚ and line muffin tin with paper liners. Spray liners with non-stick spray and set aside.
Place hazelnut meal on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in oven and toast for about 10 minutes, until lightly golden and fragrant. Let cool. Combine with flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, maple syrup, zest, coconut oil, and milk. Pour into dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
Fold pears into the batter. Divide muffin batter into muffin cups. Sprinkle with crunchy topping of choice. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

*Bob’s Red Mill makes a great hazelnut meal. If you’d rather, try making your own by grinding hazelnuts in a food processor until powdery (don’t go too far or you’ll get hazelnut butter!)

**While I haven’t tested it, I expect you could swap in a gluten-free all-purpose flour here. I like Thomas Keller’s Cup4Cup.

Advertisements

How to Make Insta-Worthy Avocado Toast

IMG_0621 IMG_0933

Last year at Eat Retreat, I found myself in a car, on my way to a vineyard, talking about toast. Yes, as in, toasted bread. The conversation turned to the popularity of cupcakes, doughnuts and most recently, the cronut. We all agreed there was room for a new trend in town. Thanks to bakeries like The Mill in SF and cafes such as Sqirl in LA, there is a legitimate artisan bread movement going on. And the best way to enjoy bread? Toasted, with lots of toppings. My pal Trisha has a lot to say about it here. Whether is marion berry jam (Portlandia, anyone?) or cultured butter and flaky sea salt, toast is getting a major upgrade. My favorite way to enjoy it? With avocado, of course. While there’s nothing wrong with smashing a ripe avocado on toast, there’s something so right about taking it to the next level.

And here we go.

Start by toasting your bread. What kind of bread? The ultimate (in my book) is thick-cut sourdough. Something with a crisp crust and chewy middle. Try and cut it yourself, if you can. I also love a super-thin Danish rye. I don’t have a toaster so I use my broiler and give the bread a flip halfway through. You want a golden, crisp edge. Give it time. While the bread toasts, ready your avocado. You want to make sure the avocado is green under it’s stem. Go ahead, give it a peak when you’re at the store. When ripe, the avo will be pretty soft, like a ripe peach. Cut it like this. Using a fork, scoop about half the avo onto the toast, using the fork tines to spread and smash. It’s all about the fork-smash. At this point, get creative. A sprinkle of flaky sea salt is a must. Give it some heat with fresh cracked pepper, Aleppo pepper, Szechuan pepper, whatever you like most. Hot sauce (I like chipotle Cholula) or sriracha is also delicious. Bonus points for out-of-the box toppings like black sesame seeds, wasabi powder, feta, smoked salmon, toasted sunflower seeds, chia, dried cranberries or hemp. A light sprinkle of soft herbs, baby arugula or micro greens ups the ante (and nutrition). A squeeze of lemon is never out of place. For the ultimate, put an egg on it. And don’t forget to take a picture. #avocadotoast

Game-changing combos:

  • Avo + dark rye + hot smoked salmon + dill + chives + lemon
  • Avo + sourdough + heirloom tomato (when in season, of course) + bacon + scallion
  • Avo + toasted pita + dukkah + feta
  • Avo + tamari rice cake + thin sliced cucumber + sriracha + Togarashi seasoning

Endlessly Adaptable Scones

photo 3-1

One of my favorite “work perks” is free reign of a fully stocked pantry. I love rummaging through the cabinets looking for snack inspiration. I often make a simple snack for my cooking class students, especially if they’ll be eating towards the end of class. I’ve made countless cast-iron fritattas, crostini variations and cheese plates. But as the weather cools down, the oven turns up. Scones have become my go-to classroom snack lately, and for good reason. They are ridiculously simple to pull together and the flavor combinations are endless. Depending on my mood or the theme of the class, I’ll throw in fruit, nuts, herbs or even cheese. Unlike biscuits, these are more akin to English cream scones, relying on a heavy dose of the white stuff instead of butter. Yet somehow they come out of the oven super flaky and buttery. They would make a perfect addition to your next brunch or alongside a cup of coffee or milky tea. Let me know what flavors you come up with!

 

Endlessly Adaptable Scones

makes about 20 to 24 small or 8-10 medium scones

adapted from King Arthur Flour via Joy the Baker

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream plus more for brushing the top
  • about 3/4 cup of anything (chopped fresh or dried fruit, chocolate chips, toasted nuts, etc.)
  • 1 teaspoon citrus zest (optional)
  • Raw sugar for topping
  • Jam, curd and/ or whipped cream for serving (optional)

Directions:

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, backing powder, salt, and sugar.  Set aside.

In a liquid measuring cup mix together vanilla extract and 1 1/3 cups cream. Drizzle the cream mixture into the dry ingredients tossing and stirring as you pour in the cream.  Add any mix-ins and zest, if using. Toss together.  Add 2 more tablespoons of cream if necessary to create a moist, cohesive, but not sticky dough.

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface.  Gently gather and knead the dough into a dish and press the disk out into a 3/4″-thickness.

Use a small biscuit cutter to cut small 1 1/4-inch circles from the dough disk.  Brush each circle with heave cream and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar.

Place 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

Remove from the oven and serve warm.

 

Add-in suggestions:

1 T. orange zest + 1/3 cup dried cranberries + 1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans

1 T. lemon zest + 1/2 cup fresh berries (such as raspberries or blueberries)

For savory scones, you can omit the sugar and add a few handfuls of shredded cheese and/or herbs

 

Marbled Banana Bread

I think of banana bread as a “free” recipe. Overripe fruit, otherwise trash, is transformed into a quick little bread using items you probably have in your pantry. I have a few variations of banana bread in rotation – Melissa Clark’s version is particularly good.

Last Sunday afternoon, in a vain attempt for something sweet that a) involved chocolate b) did not use the 2 eggs destined for breakfast, I concocted this (full disclosure) vegan version. “Vegan?!” you say. Hear me out. People have been making cakes without butter or eggs for years. One of my family’s favorites, nanny’s hot water chocolate cake, relies on a few WWII-era tricks to keep it moist, using, you guessed it, boiling water.

If you like cake that masquerades as breakfast food, you’ll love this. After polishing off a good portion of it, I realized you could take this into full dessert territory with frosting. I have big plans for a peanut butter glaze next time. Nanny hated PB, but I’m sure she would approve.

Marbled Banana Bread

Ingredients

1 cup mashed very ripe banana (about 4 small bananas)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup almond milk (or any other milk) + 1 tsp. vinegar (this mimicks buttermilk)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour or spelt flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons boiling water, divided

Directions

Heat oven to 350 F. Prepare boiling water (no need to measure). Lightly grease an 8×4 loaf pan.

Mash the banana in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the sugars, olive oil, milk and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt. Add to the banana mixture, folding gently until combined (it’s OK if its lumpy – don’t overmix).

Scoop one cup of the batter up and transfer it to a separate mixing bowl. Now, in a small tea cup mix the cocoa powder with 3 tablespoons boiling water and stir vigorously with a fork until the chocolate is dissolved. Add this chocolate mixture to the one cup of banana and mix until the chocolate is thoroughly smooth and incorporated.

Add 3 tablespoons of boiling water to the regular banana mixture and mix the batter just until relatively smooth.

Scoop alternate 1/2 cupfuls of chocolate/banana batter into the loaf pan. Once all of the batter is in, swirl it with a knife or long skewer.

Bake for 55 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing. I store mind wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and then tin foil.

-Recipe adapted from Post Punk Kitchen

Pumpkin Spice French Toast with Roasted Walnuts and Warm Maple Drizzle

It seems like everyone is on the pumpkin spice train these days. This French toast rolls the best of Fall into one. Earthy pumpkin + warm cinnamon + toasty walnuts + sweet maple syrup. Throw in some plaid, a cute pair of boots and a fuzzy sweater and you might be the season’s poster child. Best of all, this dish comes together in about 10 minutes (who says French toast is only for Sundays?)

Pumpkin Spice French Toast with Roasted Walnuts and Warm Maple Drizzle

Serves 2

Ingredients

French Toast:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil or butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk (your choice, I used vanilla almond milk)
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 slices whole grain bread

Maple Drizzle:

  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • For garnish: 2 tablespoon walnuts, toasted and chopped*

Directions

  1. Heat  canola oil or butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.
  2. In a shallow dish, thoroughly whisk together the eggs, milk, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, pumpkin puree and a pinch of salt.
  3. Place the bread in the egg mixture and flip to coat each side. Transfer to the preheated skillet. Cook on medium-low for about 4 minutes or until bread slightly puffs up and the bottom is golden brown. Flip and continue cooking an additional 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a plate or to a sheet tray in a 200°oven until ready to serve.
  4. For the maple drizzle, in a small microwaveable dish, combine  maple syrup with pumpkin pie spice. Microwave for about 10 seconds.
  5. Top the french toast with toasted walnuts and drizzle with the warmed maple syrup.

*To toast walnuts, preheat oven to 350°. Place walnuts on a large rimmed sheet tray. Toast for about 8 minutes or until fragrant and lightly golden (check them often – they burn easily!) Toast up a whole mess of walnuts and store them in the freezer.

Luck of the Irish Soda Bread

Another holiday, another festive carb. St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching and what better way to celebrate than to bake up a big ol’ loaf of Irish soda bread?

If you’re new to quick breads, this is a good place to start and yields some fairly impressive results (just LOOK at that thing!) Soda bread is a cinch to make – it’s basically a glorified biscuit.

According to the ever-so-accurate Wikipedia the traditional cross placed on the bread was thought to ward off the devil or fairies. Now if that’s not a reason to make this bread, I don’t know what it.

Another bit of Emerald Isle food trivia – did you know that ‘champ’ is an Irish term for mashed potatoes with scallions? Who knew? Thank you to Kitty Hoynes in Syracuse for the clarification.

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for the counter

1 cup cake flour

2 T. sugar

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar OR lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp. salt

3 T. unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 cup raisins or currants

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or spray with vegetable oil spray.

Whisk the flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar or lemon juice and salt together. Work 2 T. of the butter into the dry ingredients with a fork until the texture resembles course crumbs. Stir in the buttermilk and raisins with a fork until the dough begins to come together. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter. Knead just until the dough becomes cohesive and bumpy, about 30 seconds (do NOT knead until smooth).

Pat the dough into a 6-inch round about 2 inches thick. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Cut an X into the top of the loaf using a serrated knife. Bake until the oaf is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes.

REmove the loaf from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Melt the remaining 1 T. butter and brush over the top. Sprinkle with a little sugar, if desired. Let the loaf cool for 1 hour.

-Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Pumpkin Muffins with Streusel Topping

Mmmmm…..pumpkin. These muffins combine the seasonal squash with warm cinnamon and buttery streusel topping.

Speaking of pumpkin, have you heard of the ‘chumpkin’?! It’s a Starbucks chai latte with a shot of that pumpkin flavoring. I had a sip and it was like liquified pumpkin pie – a bit too sweet for my taste.

I’m heading up to the Hudson Valley this weekend to visit the ol’ alma mater. Hope these muffins are a hit!

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup water
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Streusel Topping:

1 1/4 cup oats
1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into chunks

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two muffin tins with paper liners or spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, water, pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth and combined.

4. Slowly stir in the flour mixture. Mix until ingredients are combined.

5. For the streusel topping: in a small bowl mix together the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix in the butter with your hands until the mixture is crumbly.

6. Fill muffin cups half way full with the pumpkin batter. Top each muffin with streusel topping.

7. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove pans from oven and cool on a wire rack. Remove muffins from tins and enjoy.

-Makes about 12 large muffins and 12 mini muffins-

Recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Thanksgiving Recipe Round Up

Wondering what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner? While a can of cranberry sauce is nice thought, with a bit more effort, it’s easy to make something your whole family will enjoy. These recipes can be made a day ahead or that morning, either way, they are delicious.

 

Crunchy Chickpea Snack Mix

Warning: these are addictive! When roasted, chickpeas become crispy on the outside and remain soft on the inside. Try switching it up with different herbs and spices. Cinnamon and cayenne, cumin and coriander and black pepper and rosemary are all wonderful substitutes.

Ingredients

1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed and patted dry

1 T. olive oil

1/3 cup almonds (sliced, slivered or whole)

1/2 T. thyme

salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400° Place chickpeas on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme. Roast for approximately 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden brown and toasted (you may hear them “pop” – this is fine.)  Add almonds and bake for an additional 5 minutes . Nuts should be lightly toasted (you will smell them!) Cool in pan and serve warm or at room temperature. Store extra in an airtight container.

 

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Flaky, buttery and slightly sweet, sweet potato biscuits are the perfect complement to a Thanksgiving spread or the next day, using leftover mashed sweet potatoes. Another variation? Try using 1 cup pumpkin puree.

Ingredients

2  cups  all-purpose flour (about 9 ounces)

1  tablespoon  sugar

2  teaspoons  baking powder

1/2  teaspoon  salt

5  tablespoons  chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1  cup  pureed cooked sweet potatoes, cooled

1/3  cup  fat-free milk

Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine sweet potato and milk in a small bowl; add potato mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 5 times. Roll dough to a 3/4-inch thickness; cut with a 2-inch biscuit cutter into 10 biscuits. Place biscuits on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Gather remaining dough. Roll to a 3/4-inch thickness. Cut with a 2-inch biscuit cutter into 6 biscuits. Place the biscuits on prepared baking sheet. Discard any remaining scraps.

Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan; cool 5 minutes on wire racks. Serve warm or at room temperature.

-Recipe courtesy of Cooking Light