Carrot Spice Muffins

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These carrot muffins are delicious both fresh and after they’ve sat longer.  Just out of the oven, they have a lovely thin crisp crust; wait a little and the spice flavors will deepen.  Because they are not very sweet, they make a great breakfast or snack.

 

Carrot Spice Muffins
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 12 muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3-1/2 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you want them
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar OR 1/3 cup white sugar+dollop molasses
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely shredded carrots
  • 1/3 cup moist raisins
  • 1/3 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted, cooled, and chopped if you have the patience (I didn’t and the muffins tasted great anyway)
  • 1/3 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.  Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt.  Stir in the brown sugar OR white sugar; making certain there are no lumps (this is more an issue if you’re using brown sugar).
  3. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the oil, eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and molasses (if using) together until well combined.
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend.  A few lumps are preferable to overmixing the batter.
  5. Stir in carrots, raisins, nuts, and coconut.
  6. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.
  8. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.
  9. The muffins are best the first day, but you can store them, covered, at room temperature for a few days.  Split and toast them, or zap them for 10-15 seconds in the microwave to heat them.

Tropical Crumble

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Since it’s mango season, you should try this tropical crumble.  Containing caramelized bananas and mangoes, with a nice kick from ginger, it’s a great summer dessert.

 

 

Tropical Crumble
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 6 servings

For the filling:

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar OR white sugar
  • 2 ripe but firm mangoes, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 ripe but firm bananas, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (1 teaspoon if you omit the fresh ginger)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger (optional)
  • grated zest of 1/4 lime (optional)

For the streusel:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar OR 1/2 cup white sugar+dollop molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

 

To make the filling:

  1. Melt butter in a wide nonstick skillet over medium-high to high heat.
  2. Sprinkle sugar over butter, and when it bubbles, add mango cubes.
  3. Cook mango for about 2 minutes, without stirring, then turn cubes over and add banana slices.
  4. Cook for another 3 minutes, turning bananas over after 1-2 minutes, until mangoes and bananas are browned.  Keep heat on medium-high to high and don’t move fruit around too much – you want the fruit to hold its shape and texture.
  5. Transfer fruit and whatever juices remain in the pan to a heatproof bowl.
  6. Gently stir in ground ginger, chopped ginger (if using), and lime zest (if using).  Set aside while you make the streusel.

To make the streusel:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a bowl with a rubber spatula, and beat or work butter until it is smooth.
  2. Beat or stir in brown sugar OR white sugar+molasses and salt, until mixture is smooth.
  3. Stir in flour, followed by pecans.
  4. Spread mixture on a piece of wax paper, fold over paper, and freeze for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven.

To assemble and bake:

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400ºF.  Butter or use cooking spray on a 9-inch pie pan (regular or deep dish) and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  (I recommend the deep dish pie pan if you have one, because the fruit juices will bubble and overflow a lot while baking.)
  2. Spoon fruit and its liquid into pie pan.
  3. Remove streusel mix from freezer and, using your fingers, break it up into topping-size chunks.  Don’t make the pieces teensy and don’t try to make them even – higgledy-piggledy is the way to go.
  4. Scatter the pieces over the fruit.
  5. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and lower the temperature to 350ºF.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the topping is richly golden and the fruits are bubbling steadily.
  7. Transfer baking sheet to a rack and allow crumble to cool to your preferred serving temperature – just warm or at room temperature.
  8. Serve by spooning into dessert bowls.  If desired, top with whipped cream, runny creme fraiche, sour cream, or vanilla ice cream.
  9. The crumble is best the day it’s made, but you can store it, covered, in the refrigerator and serve it slightly chilled.

Corn Muffins

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These corn muffins have a fun texture, what with the coarse cornmeal and the corn kernels throughout.  They’re not too sweet, so they make the perfect breakfast or snack.

 

Corn Muffins
From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 12 muffins

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 cup buttermilk OR 1/3 cup plain yogurt+2/3 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 tablespoons corn oil OR other vegetable oil, such as canola
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 – 1 1/3 cups corn kernels, fresh, frozen, or canned (in which case they should be drained and patted dry)

 

 

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400°F.  Butter or spray the 12 muffin molds in a regular-size muffin tin, or line with paper muffin cups.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg (if using).
  3. In a large glass measuring cup with a spout or in another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, melted butter, oil, egg, and yolk until well blended.
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough – the batter will be lumpy and that’s just the way it should be.
  5. Stir in corn kernels.
  6. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
  7. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.
  8. Cool muffins in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove muffins from pan.  They are great warm or at room temperature.
  9. The muffins are best eaten the day they are made. If you want to keep them, it’s best to wrap them airtight and pop them into the freezer, where they’ll keep for about 2 months.  Re-warm in a 350°F oven, or split and toast them.

Cranberry Scones

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This is another recipe that my friend John discovered and that we made together back in undergrad.  These scones are crumbly and sweet and have almost a cake-like texture.  They’re wonderful fresh out of the oven, either on their own or spread with clotted cream and jam.  If you have leftovers, toast them briefly before eating.

Original recipe

 

Cranberry Scones
Adapted from All Recipes

Yield: 12 large scones

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dried cranberries OR raisins

 

  1. In a small bowl, stir together sour cream and baking soda, and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat together butter and sugar on medium speed.
  4. Beat in egg and vanilla.
  5. Beat in baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt.
  6. On low speed, beat in flour just until it all disappears, taking care not to over-mix.
  7. Still on low speed, beat in sour cream mixture just until it all disappears, again taking care not to over-mix.
  8. Stir in cranberries.
  9. Knead dough briefly in the bowl.
  10. Form dough into scones.  You have 2 options:
    • Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and roll or pat it into a circle 3/4 inch thick.  Cut into 12 wedges and space 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
    • Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and shape each into a rough triangle 3/4 inch thick directly on the baking sheet, spacing scones 2 inches apart.
  11. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until golden on the tops and golden-brown on the bottoms.

Great Grains Muffins

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To me, these muffins are the perfect breakfast or snack food.  They’re not very sweet and have a great texture from the oats, cornmeal, and dried fruit.  As a bonus, the tops are nice and crunchy.

 

Great Grains Muffins
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 12 muffins

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2 tablespoons – 1/4 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you want them
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk OR 1/2 cup plain yogurt+1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4-1 cup quartered moist, plump prunes, other dried fruits (cut up as necessary) and/or chopped nuts (optional)

 

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400ºF. Butter or spray a regular-size 12-mold muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups.  Place muffin pan on a baking sheet.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, cornmeal, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together buttermilk OR yogurt+milk, maple syrup, eggs, and melted butter.
  4. Pour liquid ingredients over dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough – if the batter is a bit lumpy, that’s fine.
  5. Stir in the fruit and/or nuts, if using.
  6. Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups.  It will basically fill each muffin cup.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.
  8. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes, then carefully lift each muffin out of its mold and onto the rack to cool.  They taste best the day they’re made, but you can split and toast them the following day.  To keep them longer, wrap them airtight and keep in the freezer for up to 2 months.  Rewarm in the oven at 350ºF, or split and toast them.

Almond Crescents

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Almond crescents are buttery, crisp cookies.  You can coat them in confectioners’ sugar, or present them along with a raspberry coulis for dipping.

 

Almond Crescents
From Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies

Yield: 24 cookies

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
 (optional but recommended)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups almond flour
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
 (optional)

 

  1. Position racks to divide oven in thirds and preheat to 350°F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat butter, sugar, and salt at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts (if using).
  4. Add all-purpose flour, reduce speed to low, and mix until flour is almost incorporated.
  5. Add almond flour and mix just until it disappears into the mixture and the dough comes together.  If the dough is soft and hard to handle, refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
  (I skipped this step.)  At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and store in the refrigerator up to 2 days.
  6. Scoop 24 rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets.
  7. Using your hands, roll each ball into 
a 4-inch rope, then shape into 
a crescent.  Pinch the ends lightly and place on baking sheets, spacing cookies 2 inches apart.  (The shaped cookies can be frozen, wrapped airtight, and stored in the freezer for up to 2 months.  Let them come to room temperature before baking.)
  8. Bake 19-21 minutes, rotating the sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through 
baking.  The cookies will be golden at the tips, pale everywhere else, and set but too fragile to lift without breaking.
  9. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and let cool for 5 minutes.
  At this point, the cookies can be cooled completely, wrapped, and frozen for up to 2 months.
  10. If desired, sift confectioners’ sugar into a shallow bowl.  Dredge the warm cookies in the confectioners’ sugar; return to the rack and let cool completely.
  11. The baked cookies keep at room temperature for about 3 days.

Religieuses (Nuns)

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My friends and I have been watching the Great British Baking Show and decided to try one of the technical challenges – religieuses (nuns), i.e. glorified cream puffs.  A French friend of mind says that she sees them often in pastry shops in France.  They were very tasty, although they were definitely on the fiddly side.  Next time I’ll just make the puffs all the same size and skip both the stacking and the whipped cream collar, which you can’t really taste anyway.

Baking Notes:

  • You’ll end up with a lot of leftover whipped cream.
  • Below I’ve halved the amount of chocolate ganache icing, because we also had a lot left.
  • I’ve translated the ingredient names from British to American English (who’d have thought they’d be so different?), and included American measurements as well.  However, it’s easiest just to use weights and mL to measure them out.

 

Religieuses (Nuns)
Adapted from Mary Berry, via the Great British Baking Show

Yield: 8 religieuses

For choux pastry:

  • 60g/2¼oz (about 2 tablespoons) butter, cut into cubes
  • 150ml/5fl oz (2/3 cup) of water
  • 75g/2½oz (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

For pastry cream:

  • 500ml/18fl oz (a little over 2 cups) milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds only OR 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 75g/2½oz (1/3 cup) caster/superfine sugar OR granulated sugar
  • 20g/¾oz (2 tablespoons+2 teaspoons) corn starch
  • 25g/1oz (1/5 cup) all-purpose flour

For chocolate ganache icing:

  • 75ml/2.5fl oz (1/3 cup) heavy cream
  • 100g/3.5oz semisweet baking chocolate (30-40% cocoa solids if you can find it, but 50-60% is also fine), broken into small pieces

For whipped cream:

  • 150ml/5fl oz (2/3 cup) heavy cream

 

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 425ºF.  On a sheet of parchment paper, draw eight circles 2 inches in diameter and another eight circles 1 inch in diameter, spacing the circles about 1-2 inches apart.  Flip the parchment paper over and line a baking sheet with it.

  2. To make the pastry cream, pour milk and vanilla extract into a heavy-bottom pan and bring gradually to a boil.

  3. Remove pan from the heat and leave to cool for 30 seconds.

  4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow in color, then whisk in corn starch and flour.

  5. Pour vanilla-infused milk onto egg mixture, whisking continuously, then pour back into the pan.

  6. Bring back to a boil, whisking continuously on medium heat, and cook for 1 minute.

  7. Pour pastry cream into a shallow bowl.  Cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin from forming and let cool completely.  Transfer to the fridge to chill.

  8. To prepare the choux pastry, put butter and water in a heavy-bottom saucepan and heat on medium heat until butter melts.

  9. Bring the mixture to a boil and then immediately remove from the heat.

  10. Quickly pour in flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a soft ball.

  11. Return saucepan to the stove and cook on low heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.

  12. Remove saucepan from heat and leave to cool slightly.

  13. Gradually add the eggs, stirring well with a wooden spoon between each addition to form a smooth, shiny paste.

  14. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 3/4-inch plain tip.

  15. Pipe round discs onto the parchment paper in the marked circles.

  16. Wet your finger and gently smooth the top of each disc.

  17. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375ºF and cook for a further 10-15 minutes.

  18. Remove the choux buns from the oven and pierce each bun on top with a skewer to allow the steam to escape.  Return to the oven for 4-5 minutes to dry out.

  19. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

  20. To make the chocolate ganache, bring cream to a boil in a small pan.

  21. Remove from heat, add chocolate, and stir until melted and shiny.

  22. Transfer to a small bowl (you want the chocolate ganache to be deep enough to dip the buns in) and leave to cool.  Transfer the fridge to chill until the ganache has thickened to a spreadable consistency.

  23. To assemble the religieuse, spoon the cold pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip.

  24. Using a chopstick or skewer, poke a 1/4-inch hole in the bottom of each choux bun.

  25. Poke the tip into each bun.  Using a finger to cover the little hole you made in the top earlier, squeeze pastry cream into each bun until the pastry cream just starts to come back out of the hole in the bottom.  You can use your finger to wipe away any excess pastry cream.

  26. Dip the filled buns into the chocolate ganache to coat half-way up the sides.

  27. On a large platter, arrange the large buns at least a few inches apart (you want to have enough space to pipe the whipped cream collars around the religieuses later).

  28. Sit a small bun on top of each large bun.

  29. For the collars, whip the cream in a mixing bowl until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl.  (If the whipped cream is too stiff, the piped stars will look somewhat craggy.)

  30. Spoon the cream into a piping bag fitted with a small star tip.

  31. Pipe a circle of whipped cream stars around the join where the small bun sits on top of the large bun to form a collar.

  32. Serve immediately, or at least on the same day.