Tag : autumn
Tag : autumn
previous autumn monthly muffins
I will shamelessly admit that I looooove pumpkin spice. I love spices, I love the holidays, and I love squash, so it’s like a triple whammy. I know that pumpkin spice things are really more spice than pumpkin and that most people don’t actually want a candle that smells like squash or a latte that tastes like it, but I couldn’t care less, because I love all of the spices (especially cardamom.)
My new favorite is cloves. Cloves are in…and cardamom is still in, always.
I was chatting with a customer once about the PSL craze and he mentioned (whether he was right or not, I don’t really care) that when PSL first became a thing, people were so obsessed that they resorted to petty theft and misdemeanors to get their pumpkin-flavored things. I kind of doubt it, but I also kind of don’t doubt it.
Don’t get me wrong, anything super hyped up is too hyped up, and I feel bad for the other autumn and winter flavors: maple, pecan, praline, peppermint, chocolate, gingerbread, etc. I love them all (though I am most looking forward to gingerbread lattes next month.)
I did a pumpkin muffin during the early days of the Monthly Muffin, and now I’ve added on a new one. This one is more sweet than spicy, and combines two different holiday favorites in one muffin: pumpkin spice with cranberries and white chocolate.
For those of you who love everything pumpkin, or even for those of you who are soooooo over pumpkin spice everything, but like autumn, sweets, and hearty things, these muffins are perfect.
Although, if you really don’t like pumpkin at all, then I can’t guarantee that you’ll enjoy them (but I also can’t promise that you won’t enjoy them.)
pumpkin cranberry white chocolate muffins
based on my pumpkin streusel muffins recipe
makes 1 dozen muffins
4.25 oz (120 g, 1 c) whole wheat flour
4.25 oz (120, 1 c) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cardamom
1.75 oz (50 g, 1/4 c) canola oil
3.5 oz (100 g, ~1/2 c) milk or buttermilk
12 oz (340 g, 1.5 c) pumpkin puree
9 oz (260 g, 1 1/4 c) granulated sugar
4 oz (110 g, 1 c) cranberries, fresh or frozen, whole or coarsely chopped
4 oz (110 g, 2/3 c) white chocolate, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C, and line muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and spices.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oil, milk or buttermilk, pumpkin puree, and sugar until consistent.
Quickly mix in dried mixture and fold in the chopped berries and chocolate.
Scoop the batter into the muffin pan, filling each cup about 2/3-3/4 of the way full, and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until springy when pressed lightly in the middle.
Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
Squash ya later, applegator!
Y’all, I won’t lie: I’ve been preparing for Thanksgiving 2017 for the last two months. Really. I started trying out some new autumn pie recipes in early September…well, I tried one recipe and fell so deeply in love with it, I decided to commit myself entirely to this recipe and no one else.
last thanksgiving: sweet potato molasses pie
I’ve already begun drafting a list of Thanksgiving sides I want to make, and expanding on my list of desserts so I can start trying out some new recipes in preparation for Thanksgiving 2018 (of course.)
One of my friends from work hosts monthly themed supper clubs, and though I have evening class the night of her Thanksgiving Sides dinner, I promised I would bring two dishes and show up before the evening was over, and I will not be breaking those promises.
I already tested one of the recipes (gluten-free green bean casserole with browned butter cream of mushroom soup and fried shallots.)
I love autumn. Every season, I say “this is my favorite season,” but we all know the truth: autumn is my favoritest favorite. We don’t get a lot of autumn in this part of North Carolina, so I try to soak up as much of it as I can (and by that I mean I’ve been drinking pumpkin spice lattes nonstop for two months, and even making some of my own at home.)
There’s a lot that I want to do whenever the first leaves die…I mean, fall…but for the past two years, I haven’t been able to make time for any of the pumpkin- or apple-picking, hay rides, weekend trips into the mountains, and so on. The one thing that I do consistently, frequently, and obsessively, is go walking in the woods. I always coincidentally choose the rainy days for my forest-exploration days, but the gloom adds to the beauty. When I have a full day off from work and nothing else planned (except studying), I wake up early and drive out to Duke Forest or the Eno River for an hour of trailwalking and autumn photography. I end up taking the same photos every year but who cares ‘cuz they’re always magical.
The idea for this recipe started blooming a year ago. For a brief month, we got a new pie book at the store (literally, they discontinued the book within a month, so it’s a good thing I swept mine up as soon as it was on the shelf), and the first recipe from the book that I tried was a cranberry sage pie. I made that one for Thanksgiving last year and it was a hit. I’ve always been so-so about cranberries and cranberry sauce, but lately I’ve begun to like them more than I used to. I liked that pie a lot, but I wanted to like it more.
I was also only just starting to appreciate sage as a flavor and ingredient, so for now, sage will have to wait in the dugout.
ideas for next thanksgiving: lemon brulée tart, classic pumpkin pie, caramel apple tart
I’ve been playing around with apple recipes but I figured because I already have two apple tarts and an apple cider muffin, I wanted to do something different: pears. I swapped out the sage for pears (a common substitution), hyped up the spices, fiddled around with ratios, and created a filling that warms the heart, stomach, and guts.
The pear helps balance out the tartness from the cranberries, while the rosemary both blends into the sugars and stands out with a wintery, piny taste. The spices are an obvious addition, as they are for any autumn or winter dessert. You could even play around with the crust a bit and fold in some dried rosemary or spices, or sprinkle some on top after brushing on the egg wash.
double-crust spiced cranberry pear pie
adapted from cranberry sage pie, from Four and Twenty Blackbirds
makes one 7″ pie
Do ahead: The dough and the filling can be made advance. If you plan on using the dough within 24 hours, keep it wrapped and chilled in the refrigerator. Likewise with the filling. Otherwise, keep the dough and filling in the freezer. You can even assemble the entire pie and freeze it until ready to bake, but be sure to keep it in the freezer instead of the refrigerator so the dough doesn’t get soggy. The steps provided in the recipe below are a simple, efficient, and low-hassle way of prepping the pie all in one day, using dough that you’ve already made.
Note: Frozen fruits break down more than fresh fruit, and as a result, they release more liquid. If you’re using frozen fruit for your pie, add some more of your thickener (cornstarch, in this case), or else the filling will be too runny. Even if you buy fresh fruit and freeze it, it will break down more and release more liquid.
2 Tbsp cornstarch (3 Tbsp if you’re using frozen berries)
1.75 oz (1/4 c) granulated sugar
1.75 oz (1/4 c) dark brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
8 oz (~2 c) cranberries, fresh or frozen, divided
leaves of 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, or about 2 tsp of chopped leaves
8 oz (~1.5 c) pear, chopped into large chunks (one large pear is close to 8 ounces)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cream
1 Tbsp Demerara sugar for topping
Assemble the filling
Preheat the oven to 425 F/220 C.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugars, cornstarch, salt, and spices. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine half of the cranberries (4 oz) and all of the chopped pear (8 oz), and set aside.
In a small food processor, combine all of the fresh rosemary, the remaining half of the cranberries (4 oz), and the vanilla extract and pulse a few times just until the berries are broken down and a little chunky. The mixture should be like salsa.
Add the dry mixture of sugar and spices to the large bowl of fruit and toss to coat the fruit pieces completely. Add the cranberry-rosemary mixture and combine. Set aside, covered, on the counter or in the refrigerator while assembling the rest of the pie.
Prep the top and bottom crusts
I find it easiest to roll out the top crust first and let it chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the bottom crust.
Pull both discs of dough out of the refrigerator and let them rest on the counter for 10 – 15 minutes to warm up a little bit.
Roll out one disc on a lightly floured countertop or sandwiched between two sheets of parchment or plastic. If using two sheets of parchment or plastic, lightly flour both sides of the dough disc, place the disc in the middle of one sheet, lay the other sheet on top, lightly press down on the disc to flatten it a little bit, and press the plastic wrap together to seal. Roll the dough into a circle of about 8″ or 9″ in diameter*, pausing occasionally to loosen the plastic wrap so the dough doesn’t stick to it, and adding a little more flour if needed.
*The most consistent way to roll the dough into a circle, so that you don’t have to cut it, is to roll a few times from the middle up to the top, then rotate one eighth of a circle (45 degrees), and continue, eventually turning the dough disc all the way around. Every full rotation of the disc, pause and see if any part of the circle looks wider than the rest, and run your hands over the surface to see if it’s consistently thin all the way across. Adjust your rolling accordingly until you have a circle of dough large enough to drape over the top of the pie. It should be about 1/4-1/2 an inch thick. If you can tell that the dough isn’t spreading out enough, it’s probably sticking to the plastic, parchment, or countertop, and needs a little more flour.
Rest the top crust in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic or parchment, until the rest of the pie is assembled.
Roll out the bottom crust the same way, but roll it into a larger circle, about 10″-12″ in diameter.
Gently lower the bottom crust disc into the pie plate, lifting and lowering the edges so that the dough fills in the whole surface of the plate without leaving any air bubbles underneath. Important: Do not stretch dough to get rid of air bubbles or to cover any space. Lift and lower like you’re gluing something onto a piece of paper. Stretching causes the dough to shrink in the oven. Leave the edges of the dough hanging over the edges of the pie plate, and trim if desired.
Assemble and bake the pie
Scrape the filling into the empty pie shell and spread the filling around a bit to create an even dome.
Unwrap the top crust and place on top of the pie. Fold the edges of the bottom crust up over the top crust to seal them together and crimp/fold as desired. Using a sharp knife, poke a few holes through the top crust to let the pie vent in the oven.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and cream, and using a pastry or basting brush, wash/brush the top crust and edges with the egg wash. While the egg wash is still wet, sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top.
Bake the pie for 45 – 60 minutes, until the crust is nicely bronzed and you can tell the filling is bubbling. I suggest placing the pie plate on top of a cookie sheet, in case the egg wash or the filling drip out.
When the pie is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack until room temperature or ready to eat.
The pie can be wrapped in plastic and kept in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Brb, going to play in the leaves,
previous monthly muffins:
6/17, balsamic roasted strawberry muffins with balsamic glaze || 4/17, cinnamon raisin english muffins || 2/17, glazed lemon poppyseed muffins || 1/17, earl grey walnut muffins || 12/16, chocolate peppermint muffins
Two years ago, I went to a pie workshop at a bakery in my city known for pies and tarts. Of course, it being the beginning of fall, we had to make apple pie, for which the pastry chef demonstrated this super nifty tool that I went out and bought immediately: a hand-crank apple corer, peeler, and slicer. You spike the apple onto the end of a screw, position the peeling blade, and crank. The apple spins, strips, spirals, and its guts pull right out. It’s wonderful.
When I first bought it, I hated it. The one I bought didn’t seem to work as well as the machine the pastry chef showed us. The peeling blade would either not cut through the skin or it would get stuck in the apple, the core never lined up with the corer blade, and for the life of me I could not figure out how to get an asymmetrical apple to peel and core consistently.
So I put the machine away for about two years, and when I started working on this muffin recipe, I thought I would give it a second chance.
It worked like a charm. Perhaps the little hand crank doohickey grew and matured and learned to be a better version of itself…or maybe I realized it’s easier to use if you flip the apple around and peel tail-to-top instead.
Now I don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on an electric apple machine. Phew.
This recipe was inspired by a pastry we sell and sample at work during the week: apple cider donuts. The donuts are made with butter, buttermilk, and eggs (and they taste like heaven and make the whole store and street smell like apples and cinnamon), but following my obsession with consistency and matching up flavors, I wanted to go full-apple. Eggs became unsweetened apple sauce (the best vegan egg substitute I have ever used), and buttermilk became first-press apple cider. While I was already 2/3 of the way to a vegan recipe, I decided to take that last step: butter became canola oil.
Yes, butter and buttermilk are luscious and make things taste rich, but apple cider has enough acid for that back-of-the-tongue tang and there’s plenty of sweet and spice to make up for the decrease in fat.
The muffins are spiced, filled with chunks of Red Delicious apples, and then rolled in a cinnamon-sugar topping.
vegan apple cider muffins with cinnamon sugar
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes 1 dozen
5 oz (140 g) all-purpose flour
5 oz (140 g) whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
3 oz (85 g) canola oil
3 oz (85 g) unsweetened apple sauce
7 oz (200 g) apple cider
3 oz (85 g) granulated sugar
2 oz (56 g) dark brown sugar
1 large red apple, cored, peeled, and coarsely chopped (5~7 oz of apple bits)
cinnamon sugar coating
1 oz (28 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp canola oil
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together flours, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together apple sauce, canola oil, apple cider, and sugars.
Quickly mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and fold in the apple chunks.
Scoop the batter into the muffin cups so each cup is 2/3~3/4 of the way full.
Bake the muffins for 25 – 30 minutes, until springy to the touch. When lightly pressed down in the center with a finger, the muffins should spring back up like foam.
Remove the muffins from the oven and let them cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling before coating.
In a shallow bowl or plate, whisk together sugar and cinnamon for coating the muffins.
Brush each muffin with canola oil and roll the top of the muffin around in the sugar mixture to coat.
Muffins will keep up to 48 hours wrapped in plastic at room temperature. Don’t refrigerate the muffins, or else the coating will melt/dissolve. If they firm up, you can soften them in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.
Help, I’ve fallen in love with apples and I can’t get up!
I’m not generally a fan of chocolate cake, unless it is 1) flourless, or 2) molten. In fact, I even prefer my brownies on the less-floury side.
That being said, I’m oddly addicted to this vegan chocolate cake. For a while, I’ve been wanting to experiment with using vegan ingredients as features instead of just background ingredients. I’m in the process of working up another vegan muffin for the autumn that uses whole ingredients both for flavor and for function.
I’m also shamelessly obsessed with combining dark chocolate and fruit, namely raspberry.
There’s a dairy farm nearby that has a creamery and ice cream shop on the premises. In high school, when I was learning to drive, I would drive out to the farm for practice, and my dad and I would get milkshakes for dessert. Because of complicated, lactose-related reasons, I don’t get those milkshakes very often anymore, but they were a fond memory back then. My favorites were all the chocolate combinations: chocolate-strawberry, chocolate-orange, even the chocolate-lavender was weirdly enjoyable. It seemed like every time we went to the farm, they had tried out a new chocolate flavor combination, and I loved all of them.
I think it goes without saying that chocolate and raspberry is a classic combination…but I’ll say it anyway: chocolate and raspberry is fan-f**king-tastically classic combination.
With this inspiration, I took a vegan chocolate layer cake recipe, turned it into a single layer cake, added red wine vinegar, non-dairy dark chocolate ganache, and a raspberry-sherry compote*. Every single bit of the recipe works together in luscious harmony: the cake is light, but also dark, and slightly tangy from the vinegar, wet enough to be enjoyable, but fluffy enough that it’s not heavy; the ganache is dark and smooth, no matter what type of milk you use, and has just enough sweetness to be pleasant without detracting from the darkness; the compote is sweet and fruity, not overly acidic, and it has the mmmmmmmm of an after-dinner sherry. If all of that seems like too much mouth commitment, top the cake with some fresh raspberries for a refreshing balance to the chocolate and booze.
*You can swap out the sherry for really any kind of liquor or liqueur, or red wine. I just found that the sherry was my favorite booze to use in the compôte. Substitute your favorite Cabernet or Pinot Noir in a 1:1 ratio, for example.
decadent vegan chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and raspberry-sherry compôte
makes one 9″ (or two 6″~6.5″) cake
adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking
Do ahead: To save some time, you can make the compôte in advance and keep refrigerated in a sealed container. Because it’s a sauce (it’s basically undercooked jam), it’ll keep for a while. Additionally, you can make the cake a day in advance, let it cool, wrap it in plastic, and store it in the refrigerator overnight. And the make things even easier: the cake can also be made in advance. You can make the cake a day or two ahead of time and keep it in the fridge wrapped in plastic, or you can make it farther in advance, wrap it, and freeze it.
Ganache note: Ganache is just a combination of solid chocolate and cream (or any type of milk, dairy or non-dairy); you can have a really thick, solid ganache by using more chocolate than cream, or a thin, syrup-y mixture by using more cream than chocolate. It’s a really simple recipe (2 ingredients), and you can fine-tune the ratio depending on what consistency you want. A 1:1 ratio, though, will be more frosting-like or thinner than what I used for the cake. For toppings on pies and cakes, I’d recommend using less cream/milk than chocolate.
1.5 c (6.4 oz) raspberries, fresh or frozen*
1/4 c (1.75 oz) granulated sugar
1 fl. oz. (1 oz) sherry
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
*Fruit note: when you freeze fruit and then cook/bake with it, or when you buy frozen fruit and then cook/bake with it, be aware that the fruit will produce more liquid/water than when you use the fruit fresh. Also, the frozen fruit will break down more when it starts to cook. For sauces and jams, this means 1) you’ll need to cook just a bit longer to evaporate the excess liquid, and 2) you’ll have fewer large chunks of the fruit due to the fruit breaking down more.
1.5 c (6.4 oz) all-purpose flour
3/4 c (5.3 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 c (1 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/2 c (3 oz) vegetable/canola oil
4 tsp (0.7 oz) red wine vinegar
1 c (8 oz) non-dairy milk
Optional: 1/2 c vegan chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate chunks, 1/2 c (~2 oz) fresh raspberries
2/3 c (4 oz) bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped coarsely
3/8 c (3 oz) non-dairy milk or unflavored, non-dairy cream
Make the compôte
Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat.
Bring to a rolling boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. If the sauce boils up too high or starts sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning, reduce the heat and simmer instead.
Let the sauce thicken and reduce, remove from heat, and let cool for a few minutes. Transfer the sauce to a container with a lid and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Make the cake
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Grease cake pan(s) and line with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together vanilla, oil, vinegar, and non-dairy milk until fully combined.
Add dry mixture to the wet mixture and combine. If using, fold in the chocolate chips/chunks and fresh raspberries.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan(s) and spread out evenly.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until the top is not shiny any longer and the cake feels springy and foamy to the touch. The cake is also done when it starts pulling away from the edges of the pan or when a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then remove from the pan and let finish cooling on a wire rack. When the cake has totally cooled down, start making the ganache.
Make the ganache and assemble the cake
Using a double boiler or a heat-safe bowl and small saucepan*, melt the chocolate and non-dairy milk together.
*There are many different methods of heating and combining the ingredients. You can microwave them together in a microwave-safe bowl, then whisk. You can boil/simmer the cream and pour it over the chocolate, then whisk. You can even microwave the cream and pour it over the chocolate. I usually make a double boiler out of a saucepan and metal or glass bowl, because I can make sure I’ll get enough heat in the ingredients for the chocolate to fully melt.
Combine the solid chocolate and non-dairy milk in the heat-safe bowl or the upper part of the double boiler, and fill the saucepan or lower part of the double boiler with about an inch or a centimeter of water. Bring the water to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Place the bowl or double boiler on top so the steam heat melts the chocolate. Whisk the mixture occasionally.
When the chocolate is almost entirely melted into the milk, remove the double boiler from the heat, and whisk vigorously until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth.
Pour the ganache over the cooled cake and spread out evenly so it covers the top and drips down the sides. Let the ganache cool and solidify, either on the counter or in the refrigerator (it doesn’t need to be wrapped or covered), before serving.
Serve the cake with the raspberry sauce and some more fresh berries.
The cake lasts for a few days covered in plastic and stored in the refrigerator.
Last year, I made a decision to master pie once and for all. I went about it as scientifically as possible: I compiled half a dozen pie crust recipes, tested each one (with labels, taste-testing, notes, sample batches, and all), and developed my own recipe.
October (2015), when I took a pie class at a local bakery, all of that went out the window, as I had learned a new recipe and some new techniques (which I never mastered.) At that point, I thought I had everything down to a science and it was time to start playing with fillings. I even attempted to make my own pumpkin puree from fresh pumpkins.
I have since learned, from first hand experience, reading things online, and asking professional chefs, that this is a waste of time. I haven’t pureed a pumpkin in approximately 382 days.
Half a year later, I took another pie class, and everything I thought I knew about pie went out the window…again. The technique I had learned last autumn was just a little too much work to justify something that should be as easy as pie. The pastry instructor from the cooking school gave us a useful ingredient ratio for pie pastry, so now I don’t even bother looking at my pie crust recipe (which I updated a few months ago after taking that class.)
For what I call “American pie crust,” the crust that most of us Americans know via apple, pecan, and pumpkin pie, the best ratio is 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter, and 1 part ice water. How you go about chilling and combining the three is up to you, but it really isn’t difficult. The first few times, it can be daunting because we seem to mythologize pie crust, but once you’ve gotten the process into your muscles and bones, it’s a 5-minute recipe that you can do with your eyes closed, and the result is always phenomenal.
Even filling, which until this past summer frightened me, can be simple. I never managed a fruit pie recipe over the summer, but come April this blog will be replete with blackberry cobblers, mixed berry pies, lemon meringues, and Little Jack Horner will be weeping with joy. A berry pie filling is five basic ingredients: sugar, starch (corn, tapioca, flour), berries, flavor (lemon zest, extracts, spices), and liquid (optional, because the sugar will melt and the berries will excrete juices in the oven.)
For the sweet potato pie, I went through a few iterations of recipes, each time experiencing the same problem: my filling was runny and the sweetener was leaking out as the pie cooled down. After much pestering of chefs and coworkers, I decided to reduce the liquid in the filling drastically and simplify everything, and here we are:
The molasses is the main sweetener, and sweet potato is already relatively sweet, while the egg helps the filling set up (sweet potato puree is very loose, unlike pumpkin), and the rum is added for an additional splash of flavor. Altogether, the filling is slightly tart, deeply yam-y, and pleasantly molasses-y, so if you don’t like Meyers Jamaican rum, this might not be the pie for you!
ideas for next thanksgiving: cranberry ginger pie, classic apple pie, lemon meringue pie, fig and feta pie
sweet potato molasses pie
one 7″ pie (~6 servings)
15 ounces (1 can) sweet potato purée
2 ounces molasses
0.5 ounces dark rum
dash of salt
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp packed brown sugar
pecans, walnuts, or marshmallows for topping
Roll out pie pastry, ~9″ in diameter, fit into a 7″ pie plate and crimp or fold the edges as you like. Freeze or refrigerate the shell unbaked.
Preheat the oven to 425 F/220 C, and set oven racks at top and bottom 1/3 of the oven.
Combine the sweet potato purée, molasses, egg, rum, salt, cornstarch, and brown sugar*, and whisk until smooth. Fill the shell and spread the filling out with a spatula, smoothing along the surface.
*The sugar and starch will mix in more easily if you first combine those two with each other in a smaller bowl, then whisk them into the filling.
Decorate with pecans, and bake for 40 – 50 minutes until the crust is bronze and the center of the pie is set.
Optional: Let the pie cool, then turn on the broiler. Garnish the pie with marshmallows and toast/broil them for about 10 minutes, until starting to brown.
Pie can be served warm or chilled.
I remember the good ol’ days of getting out of my car at 10:00 p.m. and watching my glasses fog up immediately. Those precious “is that sweat, rain, or the humidity?” moments. The 5:00 am sunrise and “will the sun ever set?” times.
But those are over now. My glasses don’t fog up anymore and I can walk around without fainting.
I’ve finally finished up all the frozen summer berries and started stocking up on pumpkin puree, sweet potatoes, and various apples in anticipation of autumn sweets, and let me tell you, I’m anticipating a lot of sweets.
About a year ago I started really exploring pie crust. I watched every YouTube video and read every recipe I could find. I tried every possible technique the Web would show me, and even did a bit of scientific experimentation, complete with sticky labels and test batches and all.
It was very official, y’all.
And then I took an autumn pie workshop at Scratch Bakery last October, and everything I thought I had figured out was flipped, turned right upside down on its very head. I stuck with the recipes from that workshop for months, until I took a pie class at work, and everything was made even simpler by the pastry chef. The first thing she taught us when we got to work on the dough was a universal ratio for the dough: 3 parts flour, 2 parts cold butter, 1 part ice water.
It was pie-vana. I had a pie-alization. The flaky, buttery dough, the rich summer berries, the dark almond-flavored cherries, they all came together to form one simple truth:
Pie is easy.
And now a full year later, making the dough is like second nature: I toss everything into a food processor, no gimmicks or silly tricks, squeeze it into a ball, and freeze it. And it turns out well every time!
Now that the crust is a breeze, I want to expand on my fillings. Last year, I made Spiced Chai Apple Streusel Pie and Boozy Pecan Rum Pie for the holidays. I’m already dreaming up new autumn and winter combinations for this year (Pear and Fennel, Chocolate Peppermint, or Limoncello Brûlée?)
I’ve also been playing around a little bit with free-form tarts (Italian: crostata; French: galette) and just filling them with a layer of fruit and spices. One evening, when I was really feeling the impending leaf-changing and air-crisping, I sliced up some apples (skins on because I can’t be bothered to peel them), and mixed up some sugar and spices. I threw in some dried rosemary and assembled the tart, then when it was in the oven, I placed some leftover rosemary sprigs (I had made focaccia that day, as well) on top for an extra flavor infusion, and voila!
rosemary spiced apple crostata (crostata di mele e rosmarino)
makes two 7″, or one 9-10″ crostata
200 – 300 g red apples
50 g granulated sugar
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1-2 fresh rosemary sprigs (with or without leaves)
1 egg yolk, for washing
1 spoonful raw, turbinado, or demerara sugar, for coating
Core and slice the apples. You can peel them if you want, but they’re just as good with the skin on. Set the slices aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, and spices. Set aside.
Roll dough out into a circle or a square a few millimeters thick. With a bench scraper or spatula, mark approximately halfway (both vertically and horizontally) between edges, then 2/3 of the way between the outer edge of the dough and your marking. You should now have slight marks/scores 1/6 of the way in from the edge of the dough, and halfway across. This is just a guide for how much of the dough to fill and how much to fold.
Spread about 2/3 of the spice mixture between the outer markings (so the middle 2/3 of the dough, leaving the outer 1/3 border empty.)
Layer the apples on top of the spices, and sprinkle the other 1/3 of the spices over the apples.
Fold the edges of the dough in, pinching them together where they overlap.
Freeze the tart for at least half an hour to let it chill.
Preheat your oven to 425 F/220 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Brush the edges of the tart with egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake the tart for 30 – 40 minutes until the crust is bronze and the filling is bubbly.
Remove and transfer to a wire rack with the parchment paper underneath the tart.
Cut and enjoy!
Tarts to you later,
What is my favorite thing about baking, you ask?
Well, I have to test the recipes a lot before I feel confident calling them “my own,” let alone “successful,” and as a result…I get to eat a lot.
And if I’m making something buttery or high-carb-y, and my parents are on a diet, I have to eat a lot, a lot. I mean…I get to eat a lot, a lot.
When I was in Japan, I discovered the versatility of rice flour as a gluten-free ingredient, and ever since it’s become my goal to really get to know gluten-free ingredients, and to find recipes using the more common, easier-to-find, and cheaper ingredients.
Also, I started budgeting again and, y’all, it ain’t lookin’ good.
I spent the entire month of November on a muffin journey: testing out the previous monthly muffin, then attempting to make a gluten-free version, testing every flour combination imaginable (white rice + brown rice, white rice + buckwheat, white rice + half a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, white rice + soy flour, and white rice + chickpea flour.) I discovered that they all work well as long as you have a base of white rice flour, plus a high-fiber flour. You can also do 100% white rice flour for a lighter muffin, but for those of you who, like me, need to hibernate immediately, hearty is good.
I also tested out dairy and non-dairy versions: buttermilk, greek yogurt, and soy milk.
In all, I made enough muffins to feed the city, and when I was just about to start the dairy testing, but realized I had no more puree left, I picked out a recipe for the January monthly muffin (shhhh, it’s a secret. duh.) The texture of these muffins is so unbelievable, you’d never guess they’re gluten-free. None of the weird gummy-crumbly-heavy-like-a-boulder stuff, and you don’t have to break the bank searching for flours you’ve never heard of (but if you would like to do so, by all means, go ahead.) When it came to non-dairy milk, I decided just to try a totally vegan version, and those turned out as well as the rest, albeit a little smaller and drier.
All substitutions included in the recipe below.
gluten-free sweet potato ginger muffins (with vegan substitutions below)
adapted from whole wheat pumpkin streusel muffins
makes 1 dozen
80 g (2.8 oz) white rice flour
80 g (2.8 oz) high-fiber gluten-free flour (brown rice, soy, chickpea, buckwheat) or 80 g white rice flour (160 g total)
80 g (2.8 oz) starch (tapioca and cornstarch combined, or one of the two)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
80 g (2.8 oz) buttermilk*
150 g (5.3 oz) maple syrup or agave nectar
45 g (1.6 oz) canola oil
200 g (7 oz) sweet potato puree
1 c crystallized ginger
*You can substitute greek yogurt, milk (dairy or non-dairy), or dried buttermilk. For greek yogurt, the batter will be thicker, so add a few extra grams of yogurt (90-100 g), and for milk, substitute 1:1 (80 g.) If you use dried buttermilk: 80 g water into the wet mixture and 4 teaspoons of buttermilk powder into the dry.
**You can make these vegan by using 80 g non-dairy milk and 20 g vinegar in the wet mixture, and 3 tsp baking soda (10 g vinegar + 1 tsp baking soda = 1 egg), instead of 1 tsp in the dry mixture. These will be a little drier than the recipe, so I would do 160 – 170 g syrup instead of 150.
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cups.
In a small bowl, combine the flours, starch, salt, baking soda and powder, and spices.
In a large bowl, whisk together syrup, buttermilk, canola oil, eggs, and puree.
Dump dry mix into wet and mix quickly. If desired, mix in extras (nuts, raisins, etc.) and divide evenly among muffin cups, ~3 Tbsp per cup, then top with streusel, nuts, cinnamon brown sugar, or whatever else you like.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until firm to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let cool in pan, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.
I like them best when they’re topped with cinnamon and brown sugar.
Halloween may be done and gone, but Pumpkin Season isn’t over yet, and we still have a few months of apples, sweet potatoes, cranberries, booze, ginger, and more! Once the pumpkins are all adopted away, it’s Yam Time, yo.
There are various dietary restrictions and differences among my family and friends: I can’t have dairy (well…I can but I shouldn’t), my uncle can’t have gluten (definitely can’t), and my cousins try to eat healthy. Little Woeful Me likes to bake constantly, but even my Massive Mouth and Insatiable Stomach can only take so much, so I generally try to think of things I can give to people, and I’ve pulled more than one muscle stretching to find reasons to give them to the people.
Recently, I thought of making autumn muffins for people who want less sugar. I don’t know much about sweeteners and calories, but I went out and stocked up on molasses, agave nectar, and maple syrup.
Long story short, pumpkin muffins + molasses = not pumpkin muffins (and if you calculate the conversion from brown sugar to molasses the way I do, then you may just end up with dark brown spicy mush.) I made a few variations with molasses before I realized it’s just too intense for a pumpkin anything, and so I tried maple syrup and agave nectar instead. Both of them worked perfectly without compromising the integrity of the muffins (although, really, how much can you compromise the integrity of such a proud pastry?)
And then I got a bakery job interview and they wanted me to bring in a pastry, so I made the muffins a sixth time. And then, I thought I would attempt some gluten-free versions, so I made them a seventh and an eighth time. And then, my parents ate them all before I could take any pictures, so I made them a dozen more times.
All within a week. And they all only lasted about 12 hours. They were/are damned good.
I call them “semi-whole wheat” because I like to do a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flours. WW flour is really dense and dry, and has a really heavy taste. On the other hand, it has far more nutrients than refined white flour/all-purpose. I’m not sure how 100% whole wheat muffins would turn out, but for hearty, gut-warming autumn muffins, the whole wheat is unbeatable. If the recipe you’re taking from only uses white flour and you want to mix in whole wheat, figure out what percentage of whole wheat you’d like (eg., 50% all-purpose, 50% whole wheat), and then just reduce the amount of whole wheat by a few grams (so, 60% all-purpose, 30% whole wheat, and less flour overall), to match the ratio of wet to dry ingredients. Otherwise, you’ll end up baking and burning some whole-wheat pumpkin boulders. And if you want less sugar, omit the streusel topping and use something else instead (like pecans.)
but hold up, what is “muffin of the month”?
Sometimes it’s hard to think of things to blog about, or to produce enough quality content within a short period of time (I can honestly only manage two recipes a month.) I’ve found that a good way to beef up your blog is by doing regular post series, such as Throwback Thursday, Shortbread Sunday, Five Bottles of Red Wine Friday….or something like that. Each month, in addition to whatever else I can manage, I’ll be preparing a new muffin recipe.
Aside from the fact that they’re the easiest thing to make, it was the first M word I thought of…
semi-whole wheat pumpkin muffins with streusel topping
makes one dozen
120 g all-purpose flour
80 g whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cardamom
160 g maple syrup or agave nectar (can be substituted 1:1 ratio)
230 g pumpkin puree (or sweet potato)
50 g canola oil
2 eggs (100 grams total without shells)
100 g buttermilk
extras: oats, toasted pecans, raisins
80 g granulated sugar
50 g all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp water
3/4 tsp cinnamon
4 Tbsp (57 – 60 g) unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with 12 paper muffin cups.
make the streusel:
In a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, cinnamon, and oats (if using.)
With a fork or whisk, blend in the water, breaking up any clumps as you go, in order to wet as much of the mixture as possible.
Slowly whisk in melted butter, breaking up large clumps with your hands or the whisk, until there’s no dry mixture left. You can put this in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
make the muffins:
In one medium/large bowl, combine flours, salt, spices, baking soda, baking powder, and oats (if using.) In another medium/large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup (or agave), pumpkin puree, canola oil, eggs, and buttermilk.
Using a whisk or rubber spatula, mix dry ingredients into wet, mixing quickly until they’re mostly combined. They don’t need to be fully mixed together, but you shouldn’t see any flour.
Using a large spoon or a cookie scoop, fill each muffin cup about 3/4 – 4/5 full, and sprinkle the tops liberally with streusel.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until the tops are dry and they resist a little when you press down. You can also test by inserting a wooden toothpick into the center of a muffin, and if it comes out clean, they’re done!
They’re perfect for breakfast, lunch, first dessert, second dessert, midnight snack, moonlight walks on the beach, and more.
See ya later, pumpkin eater.
Whenever I’m home, I like to peruse the farmer’s market and learn about what’s in season at the moment. You can buy pretty much anything at any time of year at the supermarkets, but for the best gustatory (look I used a word) experiences, it’s good to remain seasonal. Unfortunately, that means no more pesto or repeats of the unbe-leaf-able spicy basil beef I made last month (I devoured an army’s share.) But it also means I can spend the next 8 months thinking of way to use the herb before it comes back around, so I can be prepared to have The Best Spring and Summer Ever in My Mouth.
I wrote about this a little bit on the dead blog, and in order to keep this one going while I find some recipes I can feel confident sharing, I’m going to post monthly about what’s in season here in North Carolina, and maybe even in other areas, while also writing about what will soon be in season the next month so that we can all prepare ahead of time.
Here’s what’s good this month in North Carolina:
september fruits (take a peek here, too):
non-sweet fruits ‘n’ things:
september vegetables and other such things:
recipe ideas (without links because I don’t want to take away from other sources, so you can search for specific recipes as you like):
curried or candied sweet potatoes | | sautéed greens with black pepper and lemon juice, or vinegar | | roasted cabbage wheels with olive oil and spices | | roasted pumpkin seeds | | pumpkin soup | | pickled cucumbers | | cucumber soup | | tomato soup (and grilled cheese sandwiches!) | | tomato sauce/marinara sauce | | salsa (for football season!!) | | peanut butter | | peanut butter pie | | peanut collard green salad | | peach cupcakes | | peach tarts and crostadas | | peach cobbler or crumble | | peach streusel muffins | | raspberry jam | | raspberry muffins | | raspberry-blackberry pie | | fig pudding | | olive oil fig cake | | apple brown sugar cake | | apple pie | | apple whole wheat muffins | | apple cider (for the really stressful days)
Thinking of all this produce is making me hungry and the itch to cook is far too strong to resist. I need a pumpkin spice latte (don’t judge.)
Categories: seasonal produce
“How many seasons do you have in the United States?”
“Hmmm…we have about 100. Because it’s entirely plausible that the earth can inhabit 100 different positions around the sun in one country, but only four in another.”
They like to say there are four seasons in Japan. We like to say there are two seasons in Los Angeles: Spring, and Rain. That being said, there are still four seasons in Los Angeles. There are four seasons in North Carolina (four very beautiful seasons.) In fact, there are even four seasons in the Arctic Circle, even though that area is only relevant during one of them.
But all bitterness aside, let’s discuss autumn in Japan.
This season is called “the season of food,” and is peak harvest time. It’s a season of stuffing oneself in preparing for the coming winter. It’s a season of that strange burning smell coming from the farms around my apartment. And it’s a season of orange: persimmons, an attempt at mimicking Halloween, Japanese sweet potatoes (red on the outside, orange on the inside), mikan, Japanese pumpkins (green on the outside, yellow-y on the inside), and my tiresome search for pumpkin-scented anything. The last one isn’t any color in particular, actually.
More so than my home and native land, Japan cares about seasonality. I’d forgotten what “seasonality” meant, until my vice principal dropped a grilled sweet potato on my desk last October. I haven’t turned back since (I also haven’t successfully roasted a sweet potato since then.) The alternative name for the season, which is usually aki (秋), is shun no shokuzai. It means “peak seasonal produce.” In addition to the aforementioned orange things, that includes the first rice harvest (shinmai, 新米), mackerel (shioyaki sanma, 塩焼きさんま), chestnuts, gingko nuts, figs, apples, and matsutake mushrooms.
Any day now, my school will start serving new rice with boiled chestnuts, sliced persimmons, and fried mackerel. I think I just gave myself a foodgasm thinking about it…
Not only will the food change, but the mood, decorations, and dishes will change. In other words, I will start using coffee-scented candles instead of vanilla, because I can’t find a pumpkin-scented thing to save my life. Restaurants will use ceramic and clay dishes instead of glass; brown, red, and orange will adorn walls around the country; and I will start wearing cardigans again.
From now until I fly home, it’s Sweet Potato Day every single day. Once I can figure out this roasting business, I’ll throw up some recipes here.