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You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book –Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

One of my book clubs occasionally reads a kind of edgy book. This is one of them. By Mohsin Hamid, Exit West: A Novel is a book set in an age not dissimilar to our own and in current time, but something bad has happened in the world. Something never divulged, although symptoms of a civil war are mentioned. A unmarried couple, Nadia and Saeed, are given the opportunity (as others are, as well) to go through a door (this is the exit part of the title) and to another place in the world – it takes but a second – to go through the special door. They go to England (London), to a palatial mansion. Sometimes the power grid is sketchy. Another door. And yet another. And finally to Marin County (north of San Francisco). You follow along with the ups and downs of the chaste relationship of the two, this couple from a house to living on the streets. And the eventual dissolution of the relationship too. I wasn’t enamored with the book, but after listening to the review of it and hearing others talk about it, I suppose there’s more to this story than it might appear. Hope is the word that comes to mind. The book is strange, but it won the Los Angeles Times book award in 2017. It’s received lots of press. It made for some very interesting discussion at our book club meeting.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes. Story: Jennifer Stirling wakes up in hospital, having had a traumatic car accident. She’s introduced to her husband, of whom she has no recollection, and is sent home with him eventually, to a life she neither remembers or embraces readily. But this is the life she was raised to have, so surely it must be worth living, underneath the strange, muted tones of her daily existence. Jennifer goes through the motions, accepts what she is told is her life and all seems to bob along well enough, except when she finds a letter that isn’t her husband’s handwriting, and is clearly a link to someone she has been involved with, but whom? London, France, Africa and America all come into play in this story of a woman piecing back together her life in effort to understand what she has lost, and what she threw away. There is a bit of a time-hop from 1964 to 2003. . . from a reviewer on amazon.  I loved this book from page one to the end. There’s some bit of mystery and you so get into the head of Jennifer Stirling. I could hardly put it down. Great read.

Francine Rivers, an author relatively new to me, but much admired, is most known for this: Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) It’s a trilogy. The first 2 books are about Hadassah, a young woman in the time of the Roman Empire. When Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed, the Christians still alive were sent off and away, separated and derided and abused. Hadassah was one of them. She’s a slave to a wealthy family and it takes 2 of the books to read before the son of the family finally realizes that he’s in love with Hadassah. If  you’re a Christian, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the time following Christ’s crucifixion, about the lot of the struggling Christian community. The 3rd book in the trilogy is about a gladiator who is part of book 1 and 2, but not a main character. You’ll learn about his life too, after he regains his freedom from the fighting ring and the battle of his soul. These books are a fabulous read. Can’t say enough good things about them all. I’ve never been a huge fan of old-world Roman Empire reading, but this one was altogether different. Very worth reading.

Amy Belding Brown wrote this book: Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America, a true accounting in 1676, of Mary Rowlandson, a woman who was captured by Native Americans.  Even before she was captured on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. The story is riveting, and perplexing once she is traded back to her home. You’ll see a different side to the Indian problem back then and find yourself conflicted. An excellent read.

Taylor Caldwell was a prolific writer, and one I read when I was younger. She died in 1980, and this book, her last, Answer As a Man certainly delivers as her others did. All his life, Jason Garrity has had to battle intolerance and injustice in his quest for power, money, and love. His new hotel will give him financial security, the means to support a loving family and become an upstanding citizen. When family secrets and financial greed combine to destroy his dreams, his rigid moral convictions are suddenly brought into question. . . from Goodreads. Caldwell believed the banking industry was way too powerful, and often took aim at it, as she did in this book. It chronicles the life of a very poor, impoverished Irish immigrant to the U.S. He was an upstanding citizen, God-fearing, but maybe naive in some respects. Good book if you enjoy very deep character study.

Another book by Diney Costeloe, Miss Mary’s Daughter. When a young women is suddenly left with no family and no job or income, she’s astounded to learn that she’s actually a granddaughter of a “grand” family in Ye Olde England. She’s very independent (at least I thought so, for the time period), but is willing to investigate this new family of hers. There are many twists and turns – is she going to inherit the family home – or is the man who has been caring for the home and his daughter the logical inheritors. There’s a villain who nearly sweeps her off her feet, much intrigue from many characters. Well developed plot with a happy ending. A good read.

Celeste Ng is a hot new author. I read another of her books (see below) but this time I read Little Fires Everywhere. There are so many various characters and plots in this book, as in her others. This book focuses on a Chinese baby abandoned at a fire station and the subsequent court battle when the single mother surfaces six months later to try to reclaim her daughter from the family in the process of adopting her. Emotions well up, waxing and waning on both sides of the issue. You may even find yourself changing your own mind about the right or wrong of a child raised with a natural-born mother (albeit late to the raising) or the mother the child has known since near birth. Ng likes to write books with lots of grit and thorny issues. Although a good read, I liked Everything I Never Told You better than this one.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

Recently finished C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Also finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. About a dysfunctional family, through and through. I picked this up from amazon from someone who read the book, named “McReader,” and she says: “Set in the 70s, the story follows a Chinese American blended family in Ohio. When Lydia [the daughter] is found floating in the lake, her family is forced to analyze what put her there. Was it pressure from her family to succeed? Was it pressure to fit in? Was it a crime of passion or convenience? I was spellbound reading the last half of this book. I loved each flawed family member, especially Hannah,. While the story went where I hoped it would go, I was not disappointed at all with the progression. It was also quite insightful on the prejudices that society had about Chinese Americans still during that timeframe and how careful parents have to be to put their dreams onto their children.” Such a good book and definitely worth reading. Would be a good book club read. You’ll be hearing more from this author. Am currently reading her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Breads, on January 2nd, 2017.

lemon_crumb_muffins

Light and tasty with lemon juice and lemon zest. And, topped with a really nice crumb, then lastly, drizzled with a lemon glaze. Yum.

My daughter Sara raved about these muffins, so as soon as I had an excuse, I baked these for my Tuesday night bible study gathering. As far as muffins go, these were cinchy easy to make, as long as you have sour cream and a lemon on hand. It’s an easy batter to mix up (standard ingredients), mixed with the wet ingredients and scooped into muffin cups. Then you sprinkle the crumb mixture on top.

lemon_crumb_muffins_unbakedThe original recipe (from Taste of Home) said it made 40, so I cut it down, and cut it down, and I got 10 from the batch, but I think I should have tried to make 9 of them so they’d have been a little taller.

While the muffins are baking, you mix up the glaze and have it ready.

There’s only one caution – make sure all the muffins are baked through – two of mine weren’t quite done, and after they were out of the oven and cooling, then sunk deeply in the middle. Had to toss those out. So, use a cake tester or toothpick to make sure there isn’t any batter sticking to it before you remove them. I baked them 21 minutes, but perhaps they needed 24-25. Just an FYI.

I let the muffins rest for about 5 minutes before I used a small teaspoon to drizzle the lemon juice and sugar syrup on top. That little drizzle made them especially delicious, I thought.

What’s GOOD: the overall lemon flavor, tender crumb to the muffins themselves, and lastly, the good lemony crunch from the drizzle. The crumbly mixture on top also gave these good texture.

What’s NOT: nary a thing.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open file)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Lemon Crumb Muffins

Recipe By: Taste of Home
Serving Size: 9

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter — melted
3/4 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
TOPPING:
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cold butter — cubed
GLAZE:
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/3 tablespoons lemon juice

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine the eggs, sour cream, butter, lemon peel and juice. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. (These don’t make really tall muffins – if you want taller, just fill them more than 3/4 full.)
2. TOPPING: In a small bowl, combine flour and sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over batter.
3. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. DO use a tester because if they’re under-done, they will sink in the middle. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.
4. GLAZE: In a small bowl, whisk glaze ingredients; drizzle over warm muffins. Serve warm.
Per Serving: 345 Calories; 16g Fat (40.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 48g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 84mg Cholesterol; 211mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, on July 19th, 2016.

chai_masala_banana_bread_orange_whipped_cream

Are all banana breads the same, with not much difference? Not so! This one’s very different – not only does it have chai spices in it, but it also uses coconut palm sugar (a dark brown sugar from the coconut tree).

A few weeks ago I followed a link and ended up at a blog called Indian Simmer (that I now subscribe to through my RSS reader). I suspect the blog is aimed mostly at people from India, wherever they might be living. Sometimes I don’t even recognize the names of things they talk about, but the blog is written in English and comes from the voices of five different women. Right away I got interested in this recipe for chai_masala_banana_breadbanana bread, just because it contained chai spices. I had some aging bananas on my countertop, and I only had to go to the grocery store to buy coconut palm sugar. An item I’d never heard of – you could substitute dark brown sugar if you don’t have it, and I might do that next time. The sugar is quite dark brown in color, but also a very golden color (more like the color of gingerbread), definitely not light brown – it’s more of a caramel color, as you can see from the color of this banana bread.

Since I was expecting my granddaughter Taylor (the one who just finished her freshman year at Sonoma State) and 2 of her friends to arrive from Northern California that day, I thought this would be something I could have on hand that they could snack on if they wanted to. They have reported that they like this bread very much – they took several slices wrapped in a plastic bag when they headed for the day at Disneyland. If you’re expecting regular banana bread, this isn’t it. It’s sweet. It’s spicy. It warms your mouth for sure. I thought it was better the 2nd day, actually – I was able to taste the bananas in it better on day two.

chai_masala_spicesFirst, though, you have to make the CHAI MASALA (pictured) – not a lot of difficulty to do, providing you have all the ingredients (black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, ginger, whole nutmeg, whole cloves, whole green cardamom pods). All those things get whizzed up in a spice grinder until they’re a fine, fine powder, then you mix them together. I didn’t make a whole lot because I didn’t know what else I might use it for, although it should last 6-8 months. I made two loaves of this bread and I used about 2/3 of the mixture you see on the plate. Whatever you do, just make sure you grind the stuff to a fine powder – that’s a real requirement as you don’t want to bite into a cracked peppercorn. The only problematical ingredient here is the pepper – it’s surprising that the recipe calls for as much as it does – you might think the bread would be hot-hot, but it’s not. You do feel a warmth; that’s all and since it couldn’t come from anything else (well, maybe the ginger, but I doubt it) it must be the pepper.

I suspect that amongst Indian cooks, everyone has her own combination of chai spices that she likes – maybe you like more ginger and less cloves, or more nutmeg and less pepper. That kind of thing. This combo tasted fine to me, so I’ll go with it!

chai_masala_banana_bread_ready2bakeThe bread mixes up much like any other – except that this bread contains yogurt, and olive oil plus milk and honey. All different tastes of things in this one. Into a greased loaf pan (unless you’re using one of the really nice, new pans that don’t require greasing) it goes. I have the ones from King Arthur Flour – they don’t require greasing or powdering, or lining. See photo at right with the batter just poured in. The recipe indicated the bread would be ready in 40 minutes. Uh . . . no. Definitely not cooked through. I used my instant read thermometer, and it took a full 60 minutes at 350° and it reached 198°F in the middle of the loaf.

It was all I could do when I upended them to cool, not to slice into it right then and there, but I knew it needed some more resting time. I waited an hour or so, the girls had arrived and they’d not had lunch, so I sliced a few pieces and we all snacked on it before I took them out to dinner.

As I’m writing this I’ve got things ready to make a chicken dish for dinner tonight, kind of like chicken fingers. A new recipe. If it’s worth its salt, then I’ll be writing it up in the next few days. Watermelons have been in a bin outside the entrance to Trader Joe’s for the last couple of months. I’ve not bought any until the other day, so I’m making one of my favorites, the Minted Watermelon Feta Salad to go along with the chicken. I made 2 of these banana bread loaves and the one in the freezer will be served to my Bible study group when they come to my house next (soon). I’ll take a photo of it then – served with the orange zested whipped cream to go along with it.

What’s GOOD: this might be an acquired taste if you’re looking for regular old-fashioned banana bread. This bears little resemblance to the traditional – but, the flavor is wonderful, warmed with the spices. The texture is super-tender, but it has plenty of structure so you needn’t fear slicing into it. The yogurt likely gives it the tenderness. I loved it – almost better on the 2nd day.

What’s NOT: maybe a little extra effort since you have to grind up a variety of spices to make the chai masala. Otherwise, it’s much like other banana breads as far as work is concerned. I liked it, so no complaint here.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chai Masala Spiced Banana Bread with Orange Cream

Recipe By: From Indian Simmer blog
Serving Size: 12

2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour — or use regular all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons chai masala powder — see recipe below
1 large egg
1 cup coconut palm sugar — or substitute dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2/3 cups milk
1/2 cups Greek yogurt, full-fat
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium bananas — ripe
ORANGE WHIPPED CREAM:
zest of 1 orange
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
CHAI MASALA POWDER:
2 tablespoons black peppercorns, ground to a fine powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ground from one stick
1 teaspoon ground cardamom pods, ground finely
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg

NOTES: If you don’t have coconut palm sugar, just use dark brown regular sugar. The flavor won’t be quite the same, but you might not want to buy the other. It’s a bit pricey. Next time I make it I will cut down slightly on the sugar – it was plenty sweet with a cup of the coconut palm sugar in it plus the honey.
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
2. In a bowl combine the flour, soda, baking powder, salt, and the chai spices. Use a whisk to combine and mix them. Set aside.
3. With mixer on medium, beat egg for about 1 minute, then add sugar, honey, milk, yogurt, vanilla. Keep beating until sugar dissolves well and the mixture gets light.
3. Add dry ingredients into the liquid ones and mix well with mixer on medium.
4. Add yogurt to the mixture while still mixing it. Turn off mixer and fold in mashed bananas until no streaks of banana are visible.
4. Pour the batter into a buttered and lined loaf pan. Place the pan into the oven and bake it for 45 minutes, then test with a knife. Continue baking for 5-minute intervals until the bread is cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of about 198°F.
5. Remove from oven and allow it to cool before pulling out of the loaf pan. After 15 minutes, slide a spatula down all four sides and gently turn the loaf over into your outstretched palm and arm, then allow it to cool completely. Eat it immediately, or serve as a dessert with orange whipped cream.
6. ORANGE WHIPPED CREAM: In an electric mixer with whisk attachment, whip the ingredients together, on medium high until stiff peaks form.
7. CHAI POWDER: Grind each ingredient separately in a spice grinder (or a coffee grinder that you reserve for spices), then combine them into a small jar. Keep tightly sealed and it will be usable for 6-8 months.
Per Serving: 360 Calories; 12g Fat (29.8% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 58g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 51mg Cholesterol; 390mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, on June 1st, 2016.

provencal_olive_fougasse

Know how to pronounce it? Foo-ghass. A bread. A sort of chewy flatbread – not the thinnest type, as we often see in restaurants as a base for a semi-pizza kind of thing. No, this is an actual bread, maybe about an inch thick. This one studded with black olives (cured type).

When my friend Joanne invited me for lunch a few weeks ago I didn’t know she was going to prepare lunch at her home, so it was a special treat when I spotted this bread sitting on her kitchen counter and learned we would have some of it for our lunch. Oh, was it good. Chewy, still almost warm from the oven.

The recipe came from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, Around My French Table: More than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. The dough is mixed (preferably with your stand mixer and the dough hook – makes it really easy). The batter/dough is allowed to rise for a couple of hours, then you turn it over inside the rising bowl, stirring and deflating it, cover, then you simply put it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, or the next day, you kind of pour it out onto a work surface, roll it out into 2 rectangles, put them on rimmed baking sheets, sprinkling it with flour as you move it. You cut those holes into the dough (all the way through) and allow the bread to rise again out on your countertop (covered). They’re glazed with a bit of oil and sprinkled with kosher salt and you poke it all over with a fork. Then bake it in a hot-hot oven for 10 minutes, turn it and reverse the baking sheets, and bake another 10 minutes and it’s DONE. How easy was that?

The original recipe called for both oil packed sun dried tomatoes, rosemary and olives. Joanne only used the olives plus rosemary from her garden. I read that bacon is a very common addition to fougasse when you eat it in France. But, you can also use some dried fruit and nuts (not with the olives) to make it a bit different. What’s really nice about this is you make enough for 2 breads – you can bake one and leave the other one for another day or so in the refrigerator and bake the 2nd one later. Joanne and Larry had taken the first loaf to a neighborhood gathering and she said everyone raved about the warm bread. I raved too when she baked the 2nd one for our lunch. It was wonderful with the Nicoise salad. You need only plan to let it rise the 2nd time for about an hour or so and bake for 20 minutes. Again, thank you, Joanne!

What’s GOOD: what’s there NOT to like about freshly baked yeast bread. I’m a sucker for fresh bread anytime, anywhere. This one was lovely with the salad lunch. My friend Joanne made this one, but it’s easy and I’ll definitely remember this for some upcoming evening when I’m entertaining. It’s so EASY!

What’s NOT: well, you do have to plan ahead – this needs to be refrigerated at least overnight and allow for two rising times. One at first when you mix it up, then again before you bake it. That’s the only down side to making any kind of yeast bread. But this one’s worth the effort.

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Fougasse

Recipe By: From Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, Around My French Table
Serving Size: 12

1 2/3 cups warm water — plus 2 teaspoons, divided (105°F to 115°F)
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
5 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil — divided, plus more for brushing
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup oil-cured black ripe olives — pitted, quartered
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed — drained, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary — minced
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
Coarse kosher salt

1. Pour 2/3 cup warm water into 2-cup measuring cup. Sprinkle yeast, then sugar over; stir to blend. Let stand until yeast dissolves and mixture bubbles, 5 to 7 minutes. Add 1 cup warm water and 4 1/2 tablespoons oil.
2. Mix flour and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt in bowl of heavy-duty mixer. Pour in yeast mixture. Attach dough hook; beat at medium-low speed until flour is moistened but looks shaggy, about 3 minutes. Increase speed to medium; beat until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and climbs hook, about 10 minutes (dough will be like sticky batter).
3. Mix olives, tomatoes (if using), rosemary, and lemon peel in medium bowl. Add to dough and beat 1 minute. Using sturdy spatula, stir dough by hand to blend.
4. Lightly oil large bowl. Scrape dough into bowl. Brush top of dough with oil. Brush plastic wrap with oil; cover bowl, oiled side down. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled, 1 to 2 hours.
5. Gently turn dough several times with spatula to deflate. Re-cover bowl with oiled plastic; chill overnight (dough will rise).
6. Sprinkle 2 large rimmed baking sheets with flour. Using spatula, deflate dough by stirring or folding over several times. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Place 1 piece on floured work surface; sprinkle with flour. Roll out dough to 12×8- to 12×9-inch rectangle, sprinkling with flour to keep from sticking. Transfer dough to sheet.
7. Using very sharp small knife, cut four 2-inch-long diagonal slashes just to right of center of rectangle and 4 more just to left of center to create pattern resembling leaf veins. Pull slashes apart with fingertips to make 3/4- to 1-inch-wide openings.
8. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover dough with towel. Let rest 20 minutes. Beat 2 teaspoons water and 1 tablespoon oil in small bowl to blend for glaze.
9. Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 450°F. Brush fougasses with glaze; sprinkle with coarse salt and pierce all over with fork.
10. Bake fougasses 10 minutes. Reverse position of baking sheets and turn around. Bake fougasses until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to racks; cool 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Per Serving: 244 Calories; 10g Fat (37.0% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 591mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Desserts, on February 28th, 2016.

coconut_lemon_teacake1

Oh, what a lovely slice of deliciousness. Coconut flavor in the bread and on the top, and lemon caramel drizzled over the top. This one’s really, really good!

One of my book clubs came to my house awhile back, and not only did I review a book (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel by Rachel Joyce), but I also needed to prepare some mid-morning food for everyone who came. We had a really interesting discussion about this book. It’s one of my favorite books I’ve read in the last couple of years and I think this book “experience” was enhanced by a group discussion.

I made coffee, had fresh fruit, some Biscoff cookies, this bread, and also some chocolate/banana small cake bites too. I’ll write up the cake recipe too – soon. When everyone left, I packaged up everything and put it in a big ziploc bag in the freezer for my Scrabble group that came to my house a couple of weeks later. But I’ll tell you – I had a hard time staying out of that bag during the ensuing weeks because I wanted some of this bread.

The recipe – I read about it on Orangette, but it comes from a book titled Lemons by Alison Roman (not available at amazon). I’ll need to frequent some used book stores to see if I can find it. You can buy it from the publisher for $14, (which seems pricey for a 48 page cookbook), so I’d like to find a used copy if I can do so. I have a couple of lemon cookbooks, but if this recipe is any representation of what’s contained in that cookbook, then I need to own it!

teacake_sliced_coconut_lemonThe recipe is just slightly different than most tea bread recipes, in that it uses coconut oil (melted). And it does have a coconut topping that’s baked along with the bread. Then you make a lemon juice mixture to go on top. Here’s where my cooking went off the track (in a good way). I set the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan on the stove, then walked 10 feet away and began working on something here at my computer. I lost track of time, and the aroma of lemon juice/sugar didn’t seem to alert me that I needed to get back to it. When I finally smelled it, I dashed over to the stove and discovered that the mixture had turned to a light brown caramel. I didn’t want to make another batch, so I just used it anyway – I used a spoon to drizzle the lemon-caramel over the top of the finished bread. It was a delightful change/mistake that I’ll probably do the next time I make it, so I’ve included it in my recipe below. It gave it a lovely crunch, in addition to the unsweetened coconut flakes that were also slightly crunchy.

What’s GOOD: the coconut and lemon flavors are prominent (which I liked). There isn’t much of anything made with lemon that I don’t like, but this tea cake is particularly good, and I want to bake it again, because I didn’t have enough of it the first time around.

What’s NOT: not a single thing. Worth making for sure.

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Coconut-Lemon Tea Cake with Caramel Drizzle

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Lemons, by Alison Roman but I read about it at Orangette blog
Serving Size: 9

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 cup sugar — divided
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
3/4 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or 2% yogurt, or sour cream
1/2 cup coconut oil — melted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
CARAMEL DRIZZLE:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a (9×5 approximately) loaf pan lightly with cooking spray or butter, and line it with parchment paper. Grease that too (with difficulty). If you have a nonstick pan, this step may not be necessary.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and kosher salt.
3. In a large bowl, rub 1 cup of the sugar with the lemon zest until the sugar is fragrant and yellow and smells like you just rubbed a lemon in there. Whisk in the yogurt, melted coconut oil, and eggs. Add the flour mixture, and stir just to blend.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Sprinkle coconut flakes over the surface, and bake until the top of the cake is golden brown, the edges pull away from the side of the pan, and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. (I found that the coconut flakes were browning before the cake was done, so tent the cake loosely with foil after about 45 minutes.)
5. During the last 10 minutes or so the cake is baking, combine the lemon juice and remaining ¼ cup of sugar in a small saucepan, and bring it to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Then continue simmering until the mixture has turned golden brown (caramel), but don’t let it burn. Remove cake from oven, and leaving it in the cakepan, drizzle this mixture over the top of the teacake with a spoon, keeping all of it on top (not down the sides). Allow cake to cool completely before removing the cake and serving. Cut pieces a bit thicker than normal as the topping is crunchy and you’ll tear it as you slice. Hold your hand across the top (at the top of both sides) as you slice between two fingers (carefully) each piece so each slices stay whole.
Per Serving: 328 Calories; 15g Fat (40.4% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 55mg Cholesterol; 291mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, on August 27th, 2015.

cream_filled_coffeecake

Recently I was asked to bring a coffeecake to a meeting. My mind said, “why not make something different.” This was the result. It’s a yeast-raised cake which is really more like a bread, a sweet bread, but still it has the consistency of bread, not the fine crumb of a more traditional cake-type coffeecake.

It’s a sweet bread, using yeast, that has a topping on it that’s mostly brown sugar, and once baked and cooled, the whole thing is split horizontally and filled with a rather different kind of buttercream filling.

I’d read about this cake back in 2013 on the King Arthur baking blog. It had such an unusual story – I’m a sucker for a good, heartwarming story anytime – especially old-fashioned kinds of recipes, and this is one.

It seems there was this nice lady named Doris Knutson, from Wisconsin, who was quite famous in her local circles for this very special coffeecake. And no, she absolutely did not, would not give the recipe to anyone. So the story goes, upon her death, her children made a photocopy of what they had and it was distributed at her funeral. Everything was there, but when some folks tried it, it wasn’t working real well. One of Doris’ friends sent the recipe and an plea to the test kitchen at King Arthur, along with a detailed explanation and in came King Arthur to the rescue.

King Arthur went to work on the recipe, trying to figure out exactly how she used the different ingredients (there’s a batter, a topping and a filling) to make this really unusual coffeecake. The folks at King Arthur believe they cracked the code and this coffeecake is the result.

flour_milk_gravy

There at left is the filling – I call it a “gravy,” (see down 2 paragraphs for a full explanation).

If you decide to make this, I recommend you read the recipe all the way through once. Then take a breath and read it again all the way through before you actually begin making it. There are lots of steps (not difficult) but there is a procedure. King Arthur updated it so you can do some of the work in your bread machine (I did). It also rises a couple of times, and mine took longer than the recipe indicated. you’ll read all the failures they had before they finally got it to work. Some people use two  8-inch round cake pans – that might be a good thought – especially if you don’t have a 10-inch springform. Mine is about 9 3/4 inches so I assumed it would work (it did).

The filling is very unusual – if you go to the entire article at King Arthur, you can read down through all the comments (which are interesting in themselves, including one from Doris’ daughter). Anyway, the filling is a roux – but not a browned roux with fat. This roux contains flour and milk and it’s cooked to a consistency more like a gravy (to me anyway). Then you add a fluffed up mixture of butter and powdered sugar. Very different, though when you’re done it has the consistency of frosting.

The dough is made first, and as I explained, because King Arthur suggested it, I made it in my bread machine. First I set it on the dough cycle, let it sit 30 minutes, then I re-started the dough cycle, adding in the additional flour, so then it went for 1 1/2 hours until it had about doubled in bulk. I rolled it out of the bread machine and kneaded it a little bit (it was quite sticky), so I actually just held it in my hands and pushed and mushed to get all the air bubbles out.cream_filled_coffeecake_ready_to_bake

At that point the dough is placed in a 10-inch springform pan (greased). Some people add the topping part way through this next   rising – I added it at the end and had to kind of stick the pieces onto the dough. It might be a good idea to put on a egg wash and then the topping would stick pretty well, I think.

This rising took longer than the recipe indicated – they said 1 1/2 hours, but mine took about 2 hours – to get the dough to rise about an inch above the pan. It’s a good thing I started making this at about 2pm, otherwise I’d have been up half the night! As it was it finished baking at about 8pm and I just let it sit in the springform pan overnight. I baked it per the recipe, 45 minutes, and my Thermapen registered 198°.

The next morning I sliced the cake/bread in half horizontally and made the filling. Do read the instructions carefully about this – be sure the gravy or roux cools before you add the butter and powdered sugar as you don’t want any melting butter! The filling is spread on the bottom half, then the top is placed back on the bread and it’s supposed to be chilled for 30 minutes or more. I don’t coffeecake_slicereally know what that does for it, but I did comply.

Do use a serrated knife to cut it. My bread knife doesn’t have a pointed end, so it didn’t work well trying to cut wedges. I finally used a shorter serrated knife to cut a round plug-shaped size in the middle, then the wedges were easier to slice since they weren’t as deep.

MY SUGGESTION: I think this bread needs more filling, so if I were to make it again I would probably triple the filling (there isn’t all that much of it anyway) and cut 2 horizontal slices and slather the filling on both. That way you’d have enough of the filling with each slice.

The bread, by itself, isn’t dry exactly, but it’s like eating a slice of bread, so usually we have butter, or jam or something to go on it. The same is true here, so the top half was a little lacking in enough to wash it down. You’d have to be very careful slicing it if you used 2 layers of filling. But I’d still try it anyway.

What’s GOOD: the cake/bread is very tasty. It’s a traditional sweet bread yeast recipe. What makes this different is the filling (1) and the topping (2). And baking it in a springform pan is different too. Don’t expect this to taste like a cake dessert cuz it isn’t! But it’s very good. Different. I liked that part. I can’t say that I had all that any of my lady friends come to me begging for the recipe, though. This morning I put a bit of butter on one of the left over slices (there were only 2 pieces left) and had that with my breakfast.

What’s NOT: do remember it’s a yeast bread and requires 3 rising times – it takes 5+ hours to make.

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Cream-Filled Yeast Coffeecake

Recipe By: Bakers Banter 2013 (King Arthur Flour)
Serving Size: 20

DOUGH:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter — soft
2 tablespoons cold water
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour — maybe using another 1/4 cup
TOPPING:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter — soft
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
FILLING (my advice: triple the filling):
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter — (8 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioners sugar — sifted

TIPS from King Arthur bakers: (1) If you’d like to have two smaller coffeecakes (one to give, or one to freeze), leave the dough recipe as is; multiply the topping and filling ingredients by 1 1/2, and divide the dough between two 8″ round pans. The baking time will be about 5 minutes shorter. (2) Be careful combining the two parts of the filling. Whisk together gently, just until they’re mixed. Whipping vigorously at this point will make the filling appear curdled. It will still taste great, it’ll just be a little raggedy-looking. (3) This coffeecake freezes very well with no fuss. Finish the recipe all the way, including filling the cake, then put it in a cake carrier and freeze for up to 2 weeks.
1. DOUGH: In a large bowl or the pan of your bread machine, combine the sugar and salt. Heat the milk and butter together until the butter is melted, and pour over the sugar and salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the water, eggs, and vanilla, stirring to combine. Let the mixture rest until it cools to lukewarm. Stir in the yeast and the 2 1/2 cups flour. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
2. Add the additional 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups flour; start with the smaller amount and see how the dough behaves, adding 1/4 cup more if it’s still very sticky. Mix and knead for 6 to 8 minutes at slow to medium speed with your mixer; or use the dough cycle on your bread machine.
3. The dough will be soft, smooth, and silky; perhaps just slightly sticky to the touch. Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours, until puffy-looking and almost doubled. Or let your bread machine finish its cycle.
4. TOPPING: Combine the brown sugar, butter, salt, cinnamon, and flour, mixing with a fork or your fingers until crumbs form. Set aside.
5. To shape and bake the cake: Deflate the dough, round it into a ball, and place it into a greased 10″ springform pan. Cover with greased plastic or a large inverted bowl until the dough domes an inch above the rim of the pan, about 45 minutes. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F. When the dough is ready, sprinkle it with the topping (some will slide down). Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a paring knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool it in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before tilting it out of the pan and returning it to the rack to cool completely.
6. FILLING: Because this is a bread (not a sweet cake-type coffeecake) it needs more moisture – I recommend tripling the amount of filling, cutting it into 3 layers and using, then, more filling in between the 2 layers.) While the cake cools, put the flour in a small saucepan. Add the milk a little at a time, stirring to make a smooth mixture. Use a wire whisk to make sure you don’t have lumps, and keep using it when you’re cooking it. It takes very little time to get to a thick gravy-consistency.
7. Cook the flour and milk over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and cool. In a small mixing bowl, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then whisk into the flour/milk mixture.
8. To assemble: Split the cooled cake horizontally, and spread the filling on the bottom layer. Replace the top and refrigerate the cake until 30 minutes before serving.
Per Serving: 263 Calories; 11g Fat (36.4% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 49mg Cholesterol; 79mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Breads, easy, on May 28th, 2015.

blooming_bread_pesto_mozzie

I thought I’d taken a photo of this when it was baked, but I guess I didn’t. This is one of those big monster loaves of bread, cut into little towers you pull off, with a mixture of pesto inside, then with oodles of mozzarella cheese all over it.

I was visiting with daughter Sara awhile back – I’d forgotten about posting this one – it was before I went on my April/May trip to Europe. Anyway, Sara invited all of her husband’s extended family over for a Sunday night dinner. I helped Sara some with preparations, and she handed me the ingredients for this, and said “go for it, Mom.”  I’d made one of these before, about 7-8 years ago, but it was a slightly different variation of the same – that older one with cream cheese and goat cheese, from an old friend, Karen. This one with mozzarella only. By far, this one was easier to make, but both were fabulous.

If you consider making this, please don’t look at the calories or fat, okay? Just know it’s probably not good for us, but it’s a treat. There were 4 children at Sara’s that day (ages 11-17) and they gobbled this up in no time flat. Most of the adults got a taste or two. Where I was sitting at Sara’s kitchen counter, it was put right in front of me, so I did get to sample more than some people did. I could have made a meal of it – in fact, after a few pieces I was almost full.

Sara bought the loaf of bread at Costco – a big, round loaf. You must buy an unsliced round loaf, then you slice it both directions in about 3/4 inch slices, but not down through the bottom crust, so it stays in place. I cut the bread too deep – it should have stood up a little bit better than it did, but hey, it made no-never-mind to the taste. You slather ready made pesto (Trader Joe’s and Costco both carry it now), then sprinkle shredded mozzarella all over it. Into an oven it goes, and once the mozzarella is fully melted, pull it out. Let it sit for a couple of minutes before serving as you could easily burn your mouth if it’s too hot. You’ll hear raves, I promise.

What’s GOOD: well, the taste! It’s delicious. The better the cheese you buy (like whole milk mozzarella, and/or mix in some provolone) the better it will taste. If you make your own pesto it’s probably better than store bought. But make it easy – buy ready made pesto, but don’t, please, buy already shredded mozzarella. You know the cheese producers put something on that so the cheese doesn’t clump. Whatever it is, it dilutes flavor, or else they don’t use very good cheese to begin with. So make it with good cheese.

What’s NOT: the only thing I can say is that the slicing and slathering is a little bit fussy, but it doesn’t take all that much time. It’s fairly straight forward and you’ll have it ready in about 10-15 minutes max. You can probably do it ahead and refrigerate it (covered) for an hour or two. It might not even need refrigeration if you made it 2 hours ahead. Don’t quote me – don’t sue me! There’s no mayo in this, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

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Bloomin’ Pesto Mozzarella Bread

Recipe By: My daughter Sara’s recipe
Serving Size: 6-8

1 loaf white bread — round, unsliced
1 cup pesto sauce — fresh (jarred, or make your own)
12 ounces mozzarella cheese — shredded
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
2. Prepare the bread: Score the bread lengthwise as you would to slice the loaf into 1/2 to 3/4″ thick slices, but do not cut through the bottom. Turn the loaf a quarter turn, and slice the bread the other direction, but only slice it to about 1″ from the bottom. You’ll end up with a whole, round loaf of little towers or fingers of bread.
3. Use a spatula or butter knife to spread pesto in all the edges and crevices, down deep in the bread.
4. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella inside the all the nooks and crannies, pushing it in so that the cheese doesn’t melt off the edges/sides.
5. Transfer the loaf to the prepared baking sheet, and bake until the pesto is bubbly and the mozzarella is melted, 15 to 17 minutes. Serve warm.
Per Serving: 394 Calories; 33g Fat (74.4% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 62mg Cholesterol; 533mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, on April 19th, 2015.

cheddar_cheese_chive_biscuits

What’s there not to like about a rich biscuit? And filled with cheese? Here I made them to accompany a bowl of that Cheese and Ale Soup I told you about a few weeks ago. You can barely see a bit of it up in the top left corner.

Back when I made the soup the first time – the Cheddar and Ale Soup with Bacon and Shallots, I was testing it to serve at a lunch tea I was hosting at my home. It was a fundraiser for my PEO Chapter. There were 10 of us (8 guests and my co-hostess Linda, and myself) who came in early March. First we served the soup, sprinkled with shallots and bacon with this biscuit on the side. Butter was on the table, and everybody loved the soup – every bowl was scraped clean.

Then I did a tea demonstration. First I explained some little known history of tea – dating back to 2737BC (did you know that – the first known tea dates back that far in China?). I discussed types of teas (there are only 2-3 main categories of black tea) and the components of each one. As a young person all I knew was Lipton tea bags and an occasional cup of Constant Comment. So, I told the story of when I was first introduced to REAL tea, as I called it “praw-per” tea from my dear, dear friend in England, Pamela. And I opened 3 different tins of tea (Darjeeling, English Breakfast and Lapsang Souchong [a smoky tea, favored by Winston Churchill, in case you wanted to know]) to pass around the table for each person to smell. I also passed a jar of Lady Grey tea (a milder form of Earl Grey), and a packet of one of my favorites, Marco Polo, a blend from a tea shop in Paris called Mariage Frères (if you are interested, you can google it – you can buy it here and on their website, but expensive) that my friend Yvette introduced me to about 8-10 years ago.

At my lunch tea I demonstrated how to make a proper pot, from the water, the pot itself, the tea, the steeping, the straining, the tea cosy, milk, sugar, etc.  First I made a pot of blended tea (a mixture of mostly Darjeeling and English Breakfast, with a small amount of Lapsang Souchong) that my friend Pamela introduced me to, back in 1981. We poured each guest a small cup (very proper decorated English bone China cups and saucers) so they could taste it. A couple of them weren’t so enamored with the smoky part. This was almost like a wine tasting, or an olive oil tasting. Guests could throw out the remains if they didn’t like it. Then I made a pot of the Lady Grey. Several ladies really liked that – it’s made by Twining’s. The story is interesting – it seems that the Nordic people do love tea, but they generally didn’t like Earl Grey – too pungent most complained. So in the 90s, Twinings decided to make a “new” blend, with less oil of Bergamot (that’s what makes Earl Grey distinctive) and some citrus notes to market to the Norwegian population, to resounding success, apparently.  If you’re interested you can get it at Amazon: Classics Lady Grey Tea 20 Bag in several shapes, sizes and loose or bagged. I bought my box of it in England many years ago, and even after all these years, it’s still just fine. They’re sealed up well, however.

Then lastly, I made a pot of Marco Polo (I gave them a choice, but most wanted to try it). It got raves by more of the ladies. That tea, from Mariage Frères in Paris (in the Marais district), is their unique blend. So I read somewhere, it has Chinese and Tibetan flowers plus berries and fruit, in a bold black tea. It’s very different from Earl Grey. No bergamot for sure. The Marco Polo has become SO popular at the tea store, they now have about 10 varieties. Click this link to see them all. I have the standard Marco Polo, none of the other variations.

During the tea part of our luncheon, I served my favorite Buttermilk Scones, that I’ve been making for about 30 years (half with lemon zest, the other half with added golden raisins), some absolutely gorgeous, huge stemmed strawbebiscuit_with_soup_bowlrries and an apricot tea square Linda brought. Along with my home made lemon curd and crème fraiche. And apricot jam. And more tea. We had a lovely time.

All that said, these biscuits – well, they’re a recipe from a restaurant in Encinitas (in San Diego County) called Solace and The Moonlight Lounge. It’s been at least 8-10 months ago my San Diego good friend Linda and I went there for dinner or lunch and we’d been told to be sure to order their biscuits. They brought them first, still warm, along with an orange honey butter to go with it. The recipe for that is down below in the next paragraph. Oh my goodness. Well, awhile after that, the recipe was printed in the Union-Tribune, so Linda sent it to me. Thank you, Linda.

They’re as simple as any biscuit, really. It does require buttermilk, though. And it’s heavy on the butter! But oh, so good.

What’s GOOD: they’re a rich biscuit (meaning there’s more butter than standard). The kind of cheese makes a difference – I used half Irish sharp white cheddar and some Tillamook sharp cheddar (yellow) and a bunch of fresh chives minced up. They taste wonderful. You might, just might, be able to eat them without adding butter on top, but if you’re going to indulge, go for added butter! At the restaurant they serve it with orange honey butter (1/4 pound unsalted butter whipped well to make it light, 1/4+ tsp orange zest, 3/4 tsp honey, a couple of dashes of salt and 1/8 tsp minced garlic, mixed well, refrigerated, then allowed to warm back up to room temp).

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of – need to have buttermilk on hand and fresh chives (or you could probably substitute parsley). Serve while they’re hot from the oven.

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Cheese and Chive Biscuits

Recipe By: Solace & The Moonlight Lounge, Encinitas, CA, 2015
Serving Size: 15

1 1/2 cups pastry flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter — cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons chives — minced
1 1/2 cups white cheddar cheese — loosely packed, grated [I used all cheddar this time]
3/4 cup Fontina cheese — loosely packed, grated
1 1/4 cups buttermilk — may need up to 1/4 cup more
1 egg white — (optional)

1. Sift together flours, baking powder and salt. Add butter, chives and cheeses and mis with a pastry knife or a paddle attachment of a mixer on low speed for 2-3 minutes ti incorporate the butter. There should still be small, pea-sized chunks of butter; this will make the biscuits flaky. At this point you can store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a day or two if necessary.
2. Slowly add buttermilk, starting with 1 cup and fold together for about 10 seconds. Move the ingredients around by hand and pour the remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk into the bottom of the bowl to make sure the moisture gets there. Mix again for just a few seconds. Add another 1/4 cup buttermilk if the dough hasn’t pulled together. Do not over mix the dough.
3. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 2-3 times only. Handle the dough as sparingly as possible to keep the butter form melting. Using your fingertips, flatten dough out to about 3/4 inch thick and brush the top with egg whites. Cut into desired shape.
4. Preheat oven to 425°. Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake biscuits in the middle of the oven for 17-20 minutes or until golden brown. If you have a convection oven, bake at 400° for 12-14 minutes. You can crack one biscuit open to make sure it is cooked through. If it is not, reduce oven temp to 250° and check again in about 2 minutes. You can bake these ahead of time; when ready to serve, reheat. Be certain the biscuits are fully cooked through, however, as they will fall while they’re cooling.
ORANGE HONEY BUTTER: If you want to serve these with what they do at the restaurant, add this: 1/2 pound unsalted butter, 3/4 tsp grated orange zest, 1 1/2 tsp honey, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 T garlic, minced: Whip butter in mixer for 10 minutes until light and airy. Add remaining ingredients and whip for another 8 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerator, but let it warm back to room temperature before serving.
Per Serving: 253 Calories; 15g Fat (53.3% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 44mg Cholesterol; 339mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Breads, on February 3rd, 2015.

bacon_tomato_jam_dukka_biscuits

 

Having never heard of Dukka before, I was intrigued. Even when we visited Egypt in 1997, I don’t recall anyone talking about Dukka, nor did I see it on any menus. Unfortunately I didn’t get to the spice market there, either. In the picture above you can’t actually see the Dukka because it’s on the biscuits.

Dukka is a spice mix. That’s all. It doesn’t contain anything all that unusual. But it’s as varied as saying “Italian seasoning,” which can contain a whole variety of herbs.  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Dakka (also Dukka, or Duqqa) (Egyptian Arabic): is an Egyptian condiment consisting of a mixture of herbs, nuts (usually hazelnut), and spices.  It is typically used as a dip with bread or fresh vegetables for an hors d’œuvre.  Pre-made versions of dakka can be bought in the spice markets of Cairo, with the simplest version being crushed mint, salt and pepper which are sold in paper cones.  The packaged variety is found in markets that is composed of parched wheat flour mixed with cumin and caraway. [It may also contain things like]  sesame, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. Reference to a 19th-century text lists marjoram, mint, zaatar and chickpeas as further ingredients that can be used in the mixture. A report from 1978 indicates that even further ingredients can be used, such as nigella, millet flour and dried cheese. Some commercial variants include pine nuts, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds.

dukka_mixtureMost versions contain some kind of nuts such as cashews, pistachios, almonds or hazelnuts, with hazelnuts being a common one, also cashews. It sounds like every household cook has his/her own version of it, or maybe varies depending on which nuts and seeds are in the house at the moment. I found one other good-sounding recipe for dukka at Food & Wine.

The bacon-tomato jam is pretty straight-forward. Cook the bacon, drain, add everything else and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until it’s cooked down to a jam-like consistency. You can make this ahead, just reheat it before serving.

dukka_biscuits_bakedThe biscuits are all quite simple too – it’s a buttermilk biscuit, plain and simple. They’re dipped in dukka, though, before baking, and the tops are brushed with buttermilk and more dukka is added there. Cool the biscuits, split them, spread with the jam, and serve. Done.

What’s GOOD: I absolutely LOVED these appetizers. For me, it was the bacon that did it. The Dukka wasn’t all that prominent in the flavors, but then I didn’t do a taste test of just the biscuits and Dukka. I think Dukka, in Egypt for sure, is probably a next-to-the-stove condiment that’s probably made up in quantity and used on just about everything. Like we have salt and pepper – they have Dukka.
What’s NOT: a bit of preparation here – both the jam and the Dukka. The biscuits need to be made fresh – don’t make them the day before. Make maybe half an hour before you need to serve them. They’d be particularly nice served warm.

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Bacon Tomato Jam on Dukka Biscuits

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor
Serving Size: 10

BACON TOMATO JAM:
1 pound thick-sliced bacon — diced
2 pounds tomatoes — ripe, seeded & diced
1 medium white onion — peeled, diced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar — packed
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons garlic — minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
DUKKA BISCUITS:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces unsalted butter — chilled, cut into 1/2″ dice
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup dukka
More buttermilk for brushing on top of the biscuits
DUKKA SPICE MIX (makes about twice what you’ll need):
1/3 cup almonds or hazelnuts
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds

NOTES: The Dukka mixture can be made up in advance, and will keep for about a month in a sealed plastic bag or jar. The recipe for Dukka makes more than you’ll need for this recipe.
1. BACON-TOMATO JAM: Cook the bacon in a large saute pan until crisp. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and discard drippings.
2. Add tomatoes, onions, sugars, vinegar, garlic, pepper flakes and bacon, and bring mixture to a boil, stirring often. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and jam-like consistency, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. This can be made a day or two ahead. Reheat before serving.
3. BISCUITS: Preheat oven to 350° and position a rack in the center.
4. Pulse flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor until combined. Pulse in the chopped-up chilled butter. Add buttermilk and continue pulsing ONLY until the dough barely comes together.
5. Transfer dough to a work surface and pat and roll out to 1 inch depth. Use a floured 2-inch round cutter and cut out as many biscuits as you can.
6. Dip the bottoms into Dukka mixture and transfer the biscuits to a parchment lined baking sheet. Gently gather the remaining dough scraps and press them into a 1-inch deep round. Cut out more biscuits, dip them in Dukka and transfer to baking sheet.
7. Brust the tops with buttermilk and sprinkle with additional Dukka.
8. Bake biscuits until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack. Split and spread each biscuit (cut side up) with bacon-tomato jam. This assumes each person will eat two biscuit halves.
9. DUKKA: Preheat the oven to 350°.
10. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until golden. Coarsely chop the nuts.
11. In a skillet, toast the seeds over moderate heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until chopped along with the chopped nuts and pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer the dukka to a bowl, add salt and pepper, and allow to cool. Store in a plastic bag or sealed jar. Will keep for about a month.
Per Serving (you’ll have left over jam and Dukka, so this is likely very high): 548 Calories; 32g Fat (52.6% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 47g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 64mg Cholesterol; 1192mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, Desserts, on December 31st, 2014.

Umbrian Apple Cake with Creme Anglaise made with apple cider

Diane Phillips, the cooking instructor who made this, is Italian. And this is her grandmother’s recipe, one that she has made hundreds and hundreds of times over her lifetime. It’s a beautiful cake – almost more like a coffeecake than a dessert cake – but it could be either one. It was scrumptious.

At the cooking class, Diane says her mother is probably rolling over in her grave because she serves this occasionally with a crème Anglaise. The cake is a firmer style – notice it has some bigger holes in it – this isn’t a super-tender kind of cake, but kind of like the difference between white bread and corn bread. They’re just different. The flavors were wonderful, and if I’d felt I could have, I’d have licked the plate of the crème that still clung to it. Someone in our cooking class did just that. My mother would have rolled over in her grave if she’d seen me do that!

In the photo at top you can’t quite see that the apple slices are placed in a decorative pattern, cored-edge down into the batter. Makes for a very pretty look when it’s done. The recipe calls for 5 Golden Delicious apples. Two of them are peeled, cored and diced into the batter itself. The other 3 apples are peeled, cored and sliced, and go into the pattern on the top.

The crème Anglaise starts off with apple juice. But after watching Diane make this, I decided that when I make this myself, I’ll use apple juice concentrate – why go through the process of reducing apple juice when you can use concentrate? The cake can be made 2 days ahead (covered, unrefrigerated). The sauce can be made up to 4 days ahead and can be frozen for up to a month.

What’s GOOD: the sauce was divine. It’s rich, but makes a nice moisturizer for the cake, which is just slightly on the dry side (good dry, though). It could also be served with whipped cream (easier). The cake has very nice flavor from the apples. Diane served this as part of a brunch, but it could be a dessert too.

What’s NOT: the sauce takes a bit of time to make, but hey, you can do it ahead, so do that!

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Umbrian Apple Cake with Cider Creme Anglaise

Recipe By: Diane Phillips, cooking instructor and author
Serving Size: 12

CAKE:
1 cup unsalted butter — softened (can use mild, fruity olive oil if preferred)
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon Amaretto
1 teaspoon vanilla paste — or extract
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 medium Golden Delicious apples — peeled, cored, cut in 1/2″ slices
1/4 cup unsalted butter — melted
3 tablespoons sugar
CIDER CREME ANGLAISE:
2 cups apple juice — or cider
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla paste
5 large egg yolks

NOTES: To keep apples from turning brown while you make the batter, pour Sprite over them, to cover. Drain and pat dry before proceeding with the recipe.
1. CAKE: Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat the inside of a 10-inch springform pan with nonstick spray (not Pam).
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Add the zest, Amaretto and vanilla paste. Beat until blended.
4. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
5. Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt, blending until smooth.
6. Cut 2 of the apples into very small dice and fold them into the batter. Transfer to prepared pan and smooth the top.
7. Arrange the cut apples, core side down (in other words, don’t lay them flat but push them into the batter on the edges) on top of the batter in circles over the entire surface (in the shape of a sun). The apples should be close together. Brush the apples and batter with the melted butter.
8. Generously sprinkle the apples and batter with the 3 tablespoons of sugar.
9. Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pan, and the cake is golden brown. A skewer inserted into the center should come out clean.
10. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, remove the sides of the springform pan and cool completely. Dust top with powdered sugar if desired. The cake will keep, covered, at room temperature, for 24 hours.
11. CREME ANGLAISE: In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the cider and 1/2 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes, until reduced to 1 cup. Cool the cider completely.
12. In a 2-quart saucepan heat the cream, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla and egg yolks over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.
13. Continue stirring over medium heat until the mixture thickens and just begins to simmer. Immediately remove from heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the reduced cider to the bowl, cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until well chilled, about 2 hours. Sauce may be served warm or cold. Use any left over sauce in salad dressings, or as a drizzle over ice cream.
DO-AHEAD: The Creme can be refrigerated for up to 4 days, or frozen for a month.
Per Serving (you’ll use just half the sauce): 596 Calories; 34g Fat (51.5% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 66g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 252mg Cholesterol; 255mg Sodium.

Posted in Breads, Brunch, on August 24th, 2014.

apple_mini_muffins_raisins_walnuts

Mostly I’m wishing fall was in the air. But it’s not, and won’t be for a long time in this land of sunshine. So the only thing I can do is start to bake a very typical fall bread. I made this traditional muffin recipe into mini-muffins (max two bites per) and this recipe makes 24 of the cute little things. And yes, they’re delicious.

My Scrabble group was due at my house last week and the hostess usually bakes something. Sometimes we’re overly busy and we might buy something, but usually there’s some kind of bread or muffin served when we Scrabble. I bought a Granny Smith apple, cut the recipe (that made 12 regular sized muffins) in half (I gave away all but one or two of of the 24 the recipe made), added some chopped raisins and walnuts and they came together in a jiffy.

mini_muffins_ready_to_bake

Starting with a recipe from King Arthur Flour, I decided to not use whole wheat flour (I wanted a tender muffin), so I adapted their recipe a bit. The raisins and walnuts were my addition to the recipe, but the basic baking chemistry was all kudos to the King Arthur baking folks at Baking Banter. I didn’t have buttermilk on hand, but I did have Greek yogurt (which was an acceptable substitution in the original recipe). I think their recipe was hand mixed. I used my Kitchen Aid instead. Just don’t over-mix, that’s all. The pan you see in the picture is one of King Arthur’s – they’re bright aluminum looking, but they have some kind of Teflon surface because these muffins slipped out like greased lightning with no pre-greasing. Note that only about a rounded tablespoon of batter went into each muffin cup.mini_muffins_ready_to_bake_2

There’s a close-up of the batter. You can see the corrugated style of the pan. Makes for very easy cleanup, I’ll tell you for sure. If you don’t own any of these, I’d highly recommend you add a few to your Christmas wish list.

A little bit of brown sugar is sprinkled on top just before baking. I don’t know that I’d bother with that the next time – some of the brown sugar spilled out onto the muffin pan surface once the muffins began to rise in the baking process. But no big deal – none of it stuck to the pan.

What’s GOOD: the best part is the tenderness (from the yogurt/acidic dairy). This recipes requires just one apple – a good thing. I liked the raisins in it and the walnuts (neither were in the original recipe – I just added them for texture). This was quick to mix up and bake. Delicious when they were still warm and still really good at room temp. When I served them I heated them up just briefly in a low oven.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. These are really tasty. And easy.

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Super Tender Apple Nut Mini-Muffins

Recipe By: Adapted from King Arthur Flour, 2013
Serving Size: 24 mini-muffins

1/4 cup unsalted butter — 4 tablespoons, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/8 cup brown sugar — divided use
1/2 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk — or 1/2 cup plain (not Greek-style) yogurt; or 3/8 cup Greek-style yogurt + 2 T milk (to equal 1/2 cup)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup Granny Smith apple — cored, and chopped; about 1 large apple

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease and flour a mini muffin pan, or line with papers and grease the insides of the papers.
2. Mix together the butter, granulated sugar, and a little more than half of the brown sugar, beating until fluffy.
3. Add the egg and mix well, stopping once to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
4. Gently mix in the buttermilk or yogurt.
5. Stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
6. Fold in the chopped apples, walnuts and raisins.
7. Using about a rounded tablespoon of batter each, divide among the prepared mini-muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining brown sugar on top.
8. Bake the muffins for 12-15 minutes (mine took 14), or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
9. Remove the muffins from the oven, cool them for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn them out onto a rack to finish cooling completely.
Per Serving: 59 Calories; 2g Fat (32.2% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 10mg Cholesterol; 56mg Sodium.

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