Tag : seasonal
Tag : seasonal
previous summer muffins
I know blackberries aren’t technically in season yet, but think of this recipe as a preview: by the time blackberries are perfect for the picking, you’ll already have a recipe for them!
And, spoiler alert, another one on the way.
I don’t remember when I started realizing how much I love blackberries, but when I fell for them, I fell hard. They are, by far, my favorite berry. Don’t get me wrong, I love all berries and everything related to berries (except strawberry milk and strawberry ice cream: major blegh.) But blackberries are a league of their own.
One day, I’m going to write a cookbook dedicated to blackberries. But actually, I just came up with that idea and it’s a damn good idea, so I’m totally serious.
My goal with this recipe was to get another good summer recipe using fruit, but because I already have blackberry almond muffins, I wanted to go in a different direction. I believe you can’t go wrong with a good whole wheat muffin, and the honey came to me when I was working on my lemon-honey sponge cake. At first, I added a bunch of spices to the muffins, but it was too much, so I omitted them entirely. The honey itself is at once sweet and acidic, but I add lemon zest for a bright balance to the sweetness of the honey.
I’m discovering that blackberries play well with a lot of other ingredients, and that’s exciting.
blackberry honey whole wheat muffins
adapted from my blackberry almond muffins
makes 1 dozen
4 oz all-purpose flour
8 oz whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 oz honey
zest of 1 baby lemon or 1/2 of one large lemon
6 oz milk
4 oz unsalted butter, melted, or canola oil
9 oz blackberries
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C, and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, honey, lemon zest, and milk, until homogeneous. If using vegetable oil, whisk it in with these ingredients. If using butter, mix everything else first.
Whisk in the melted butter.
Quickly dump the dry ingredients into the wet and mix together. Fold in the blackberries.
Scoop the batter into the muffin pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes. The muffins will feel springy when you push gently in the center with a finger. You can also test with a wooden toothpick: insert the toothpick into the center of the muffin and it should come out clean.
Remove the muffins from the oven and let them cool for about 5 minutes in the pan. Transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
You can keep the muffins up to 48 hours wrapped individually in plastic. Let them cool down completely before wrapping.
Smell ya later, honeys,
I’m excited beyond words to bring you all another first, unlike any first or any recipe I’ve ever published:
My first jam recipe!! (*crowd roars and my ear drums shatter into a million pieces rendering me deaf*)
I’ve been wanting to do jam, preserves, and canning for a few years now, and I finally took the plunge last spring. I crawled to hell and back trying to find the best book for learning how to make jam, and when I stumbled upon The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, the definitive guide to preserving seasonal fruit, I fell head over heels in love with their book.
I challenged myself to make jam 15 times last summer, but moving houses got in the way. I challenged myself to make jam another 15 times this spring and summer, and with only two months down (out of 6 because summer is half a year in North Carolina), I’m already almost halfway there (I just can’t stop…right after I took the photos of this batch, I started a batch of another recipe.)
I’ve run out of jars and am almost out of labels (mostly because I keep giving the jam to people.) My fridge is full of unlabeled tupperware containers with jam that wouldn’t fit into the jars, and the pyramids of quilted crystal canning jars on my pantry shelves are about to topple over. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything to put the jam on right now, so now I have to go and make english muffins or eat the jam straight out of the container (which I totally do anyway.)
The first rhubarb recipe in the book is for a rhubarb and cherry jam, which I attempted…and burned. It was one of two batches of jam that I’ve burned since I started last April. I still had leftover rhubarb, because I was hoarding it, so I tried a regular batch. Silly old me, though, I couldn’t just make a regular batch. I had to add in something odd. I had rosewater and fresh mint, so in they went! It was brilliant and inspired, and the result is refreshing, like a mojito.
Rose is one of those flavors, like lavender and even anise, that you either enjoy or can’t stand. For a long time, I was in the “this tastes like perfume and soap” camp, but I’ve slowly moved into the “this is almost pleasant” camp. I’m still in a transitional stage, so rose madeleines will have to wait another year or two, but somehow the flavor works perfectly in this combination. Both rosewater and mint are common ingredients in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern sweets (like baklava, faloodeh, yazdi cupcakes, and halva.) The rhubarb is tart, and without the sugar it just tastes like vegetables, but with the sugar, it’s almost citrus-y. Whether you like rose or hate it, the flavor of the rosewater marries with the rhubarb so well you’ll never want to have rhubarb without it, and the subtle, refreshing mint goes well with the citrusy-ness of the rhubarb, in the same way that it pairs with the cool sweetness of watermelon.
rhubarb, rose, and mint (“Double R M”) jam
adapted from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, by Rachel Saunders
makes 2 cups (16 fluid ounces)
1 lb rhubarb, fresh or frozen, chopped into 1″ pieces
10 oz granulated sugar
1 oz lemon juice, fresh or bottled
1/8 tsp rosewater**
2 whole sprigs of fresh mint
**If you’d rather make regular rhubarb jam without the rosewater and mint, then just omit them and do everything else as written.
preparing the jars*
*I do my sterilizing and sealing in the oven, but you can use any other method (pressure, steam, boiling, etc.) For this recipe, any sealing or canning method will work.
Preheat the oven to 250 F/120 C.
Wash the jars, lids, and seals (if they have seals) with soap and warm water. Rinse everything and place all the pieces on a baking sheet.
Place the baking sheet in the oven to sanitize and dry the jars and their pieces while you make the jam. They should stay in the heated oven for at least half an hour to fully sanitize before you fill and seal them. It’ll take about half an hour or longer to finish cooking the jam from when you turn on the stove, so start cooking the jam after you’ve placed the jars in the oven.
Before you start making the jam, place a small plate and 3-5 spoons in the freezer for testing.
making the jam
You can use either fresh or frozen rhubarb for this. If using frozen, let it macerate and thaw in the pot with the sugar and lemon juice before you start cooking the jam, or else the rhubarb and/or the sugar might burn.
You can also macerate the fresh rhubarb. Maceration entails combining the produce, sugar, and lemon juice and letting it sit for a while, until the sugar has dissolved, the produce is soft, and the fruit has released liquid. The liquid produced during maceration acts as a buffer between the pan and the rhubarb so the rhubarb doesn’t burn or sear. It also helps the jam cook faster by letting the water start to evaporate sooner.
If using fresh rhubarb, you can skip the maceration, if you want.
Have the rhubarb, sugar, and lemon juice in a large, wide pot or pan. You’ll need something like a saucepan or sauté pan, or a Dutch oven, with sides deep enough to contain the jam or any foam if the mixture foams up. The pan/pot should be wide to allow for faster evaporation so your jam can thicken before it burns or overcooks. This large, copper preserving pan is the ideal tool for cooking jam, but a 3- or 4-quart saucier, saucepan, or sauté pan will also work wonderfully. The width is more important than the depth, so avoid using a stockpot or pasta pot. For 16 ounces of jam, at least 3 quarts is a good capacity for the pot.
Turn the heat on high and bring the mixture to a rapid boil, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. You’ll need to boil the mixture for about 20 minutes or so, until the rhubarb breaks down, the mixture thickens, and the foam subsides. The jam will eventually turn darker and gloppy like pudding. As it cooks more, you’ll notice the bubbles become larger and scarcer, and a thick, lightly-colored foam will form in the middle of the jam. Stir the mixture occasionally but keep the heat up. If you notice the jam sticks to the bottom of your pan or if you notice any burning, turn the heat down.
After about 25 – 30 minutes total, once the mixture is thick like mud or pudding and the bubbles become larger and rarer, whisk in the rosewater and whole sprigs of mint.
Turn off the stove and let the jam rest for about 5 minutes to steep/infuse the mint. Leave the whole mint the jam while you’re testing, removing it you’re ready to fill the jars.
testing the jam
Using a large spoon or ladle, skim off any thick, pale foam from the surface and discard.
Take one of the frozen spoons out of the freezer, and using another spoon, transfer about half a spoonful of jam from the unfrozen spoon to the other. Replace the chilled spoon in the freezer and let it rest for 3-5 minutes. Your goal is to rapidly chill the jam so you can see whether it’s thick enough at room temperature (it will always be thicker when it’s cold and thinner when it’s warm/hot.) Freezing the jam brings it down to room temperature fast enough for you to test it multiple times and finish cooking the jam without having to wait too long. When you’re ready to test the jam, the underside of the spoon should be room temperature, neither warm nor cold. Rhubarb jam, unlike most fruit jams, doesn’t thicken completely, so it will run a little bit. When you tilt the spoon vertically, you may see the jam run just a little bit, like thick syrup.
If it seems too thin to you, turn the stove back on and continue cooking the jam**. Taste the jam every time you test it, to determine if you need more of the rose or mint. As soon as the mint is strong enough, you can discard the herb. If you need more rosewater, add more before filling the jars, and if you need more mint flavor, leave the herbs in until the flavor is strong enough.
**Your whole sprigs of mint are still in the jam, and normally, cooking fresh herbs is taboo, but if you need more of the mint flavor, leave them in until they have infused enough for you, even through the continued cooking.
Keep in mind, though, that strong flavors will become more mild once the jam cools.
The rest of the frozen spoons are for you to continue testing.
Bring your jam back to a boil and let it cook for about five minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking and burning. If you see it starting to the stick to the bottom of the pan, reduce the heat a bit. Test the jam again after 5 – 10 minutes of cooking, following the same process. Keep testing and cooking until it’s your desired consistency.
Once the jam is as thick as you want it after the freezer test, move on to filling and sealing the jars.
sealing the jars
You only need to seal the jars if you plan on keeping the jam for a long time at room temperature. If you’re going to eat the jam within 2 weeks, or keep it in the freezer, you don’t need to go through the sealing process after you fill the jars. You can even use regular glass jars or plastic containers if you plan to freeze or refrigerate the jam.
Refrigerated jam (unsealed) lasts about 2 weeks. Frozen jam will last about 6 months, and properly-sealed jam can last up to a year at room temperature.
As with sanitizing the jars, you can follow any sealing process you want (the manufacturer will have added directions to the packages of your jars.)
Remove the baking sheet of jars and jar pieces from the oven and transfer everything to a cooling rack while you fill each jar (this is just because it’s easier to fill, seal, and transfer the jars from the cooling rack back onto the baking sheet, and so you avoid spilling jam on the hot baking sheet.)
Use a ladle or spoon (a flexible silicone ladle is the best tool for this, I’ve found) to fill each jar to within 1/4″ (~0.75 cm) of the rim and use a damp paper towel to wipe the rim of the jar clean. There shouldn’t be any jam stuck to the top or outside of the jar before you put the seal on.
Place the seal on your jar and screw the lid band on snugly (not as tightly as possible, but almost all the way.) Once all of your jars are filled, place them all back onto the baking sheet (if it’s not clean, get another one), and place the baking sheet in the oven. The filled and sealed jars need to sit in the hot oven (250 F/120 C) for at least 15 minutes to re-sanitize and create a vacuum so they seal themselves.
Any jam that you couldn’t fit into the jars can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.
After the filled and sealed jars have been in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes, take them out and transfer them all to a cooling rack. Don’t disturb the jars until they’re all fully sealed and cooled. You’ll hear popping noises (once per jar) as the lids seal themselves. They should all be sealed within about 10 minutes from taking them out of the oven. You can test the seals by pressing down in the middle with a finger: if you feel a popping, the lid isn’t sealed. If, after at least 10 minutes and once the jars are cooled, any of the seals are still open, you can put them back in the hot oven again for 15 – 20 minutes, or you can freeze or refrigerate them.
Once you release the seal from a sealed jar, store the jam in the refrigerator or freezer.
Here are some ideas for what to do with the jam:
Spread it on toast or English muffins (this goes without saying).
Use it to fill an almond-rhubarb tart (with a lattice top or frangipane crust).
Spread it between layers of sponge cake (with a whipped cream filling/topping and fresh fruit) for a spring treat.
Whisk it together with tonic water and rum to make a sweet rhubarb-mint mojito.
Serve it with some cream cheese and crackers for a nifty appetizer.
Pipe it into a donut or choux pastry for a jam-filled dessert.
Eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon (like I do).
I love winter (I love all the seasons.) I love seeing the bare, spindly branches of trees and feeling my face get all chapped from the wind when I go outside. I love turning on the fireplace and spending all day in my pajamas.
But I’m done with winter. We had a string of snowy days throughout February, interspersed with warm, sunny spring days. It was confusing (it was global warming.) As much as I love winter, though, I was done. I started wearing my spring clothes (shorts in the rain), making spring meals (lots of grocery store herbs), and listening to my spring playlists (Alanis Morissette, heyyy), hoping that I could will it to become spring just by focusing hard enough.
And it worked! Or it just naturally became spring. Despite the equinox being yet another snow day, it is finally actually springtime, which means herbs and berries out the wazoo. Every day my freezer magically refills with berries (or I can’t help myself when I’m at the grocery store and I need a place to store them), and I love it.
Blackberry has always been a personal favorite, even more than blueberry, strawberry, or raspberry. My natural inclination is to always combine blackberry with almond, but I wanted something a little different this time.
spring pies: very berry spring pie with orange streusel
Anise, on the other hand, has not always been a personal favorite. Until recently, I couldn’t stand either anise or fennel (and yet I have an anise star permanently inked onto my shoulderblade…) My taste for the licorice-y spice started changing in December when I was making German pepper nut cookies, and as with cardamom, my love of anise sort of just blossomed from there.
I’d love to say that the choice of anise in this pie was calculated and inspired, that I tasted a blackberry and thought, “I detect a hint of anise, so anise must be the best addition.” But in reality, I really just wanted to add anise to something, and this worked out really well. I noticed after the fact that blackberries already have a bit of an anise flavor naturally. In the finished pie, the spice both blends right in and stands out: you can tell there’s something extra, but it isn’t aggressively licorice-y or spicy.
It is super addicting, though, and the smell of butter, sugar, blackberries, and the anise from the pie baking in the oven is possibly the headiest, most addicting smells I’ve ever come across.
blackberry aniseed double crust pie
adapted from Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter, by Kate Lebo
makes one 7″ pie (double to make a 9″ pie)
5 oz granulated sugar
hefty pinch of salt (1/2 tsp)
5 Tbsp cornstarch (6 Tbsp if you’re using frozen berries or freezing the pie before you bake it)
1/2 tsp aniseeds, ground or whole (seeds, not stars)
12 oz blackberries, fresh or frozen
juice of 1 baby lemon (1 small lemon, or half of 1 regular lemon; 0.75-1.00 oz of juice)
*Save yourself some stress by making a full batch of pie crust, dividing it into four pieces, wrapping each individually in plastic, and freezing the dough until you want to make pie. Thaw the frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator. Alternately, the day before, or a few hours before, you’re planning to make the pie, make the dough and refrigerate it (divided into the appropriate portions for the top and bottom crust.) The dough should chill at least an hour before you roll it out, and it’ll need to come to room temperature for about 15 minutes before you can roll it, so plan to make each portion of dough at least 75 minutes before you need to roll it out.
egg wash (enough for one 7″ or one 9″ pie)
1 whole egg
1 oz cream
Demerara sugar for topping
make the filling**
**If you’re using frozen berries and freezing the whole pie before you bake it, this should be the last step. You want to avoid thawing the berries if you’re going to freeze them again. If you’re using fresh berries or the pie is going straight into the oven after you assemble it, then this step will save you some trouble. Additionally, if you’re making the pie in advance and freezing it unbaked, you don’t need to preheat the oven until you’re ready to bake the pie (but give your oven about 15 – 30 minutes to come up to temperature.)
Preheat oven to 425 F/220 C.
In a large bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, salt, cornstarch, and ground anise/whole aniseeds.
Add the blackberries and toss to coat them evenly.
Pour or squeeze in the lemon juice and toss to moisten the filling.
Set the filling aside until you’re ready to assemble the pie.
assemble the pie
Pull the dough out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before you plan to roll it out. You can roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap, two sheets of parchment paper, or directly on a clean, well-floured work surface. Using the plastic wrap or parchment saves flour, but rolling the dough directly on the counter saves time.
Whether you’re keeping the dough in plastic wrap or between parchment paper, or having it directly on the counter, sprinkle a little bit of flour on both sides of the dough (and the rolling pin if you’re not using plastic wrap or parchment paper.)
Starting with your rolling pin in the middle of the dough, roll outwards towards the edge, making sure you don’t roll the pin off the edge of the dough. Alternate rolling and rotating the dough (about 1/8 of a circle, 45 degrees each turn), in order to roll the dough out evenly in all directions. Once your dough is at least 7″ across (use the pie plate to measure), focus on rolling out the sections that need to be longer/wider, to form a circle. Run your hand gently across the surface of the dough occasionally, to feel if there are any sections that are thicker than the rest. Make sure the dough is a consistent thickness all around. Every full or half turn (180-360 degrees), flip the dough over and re-flour as needed, to be sure the dough doesn’t stick.
If using plastic wrap and the dough seems to stick to the wrap, gently peel away the plastic and lightly flour that part of the dough, lay the plastic back onto the dough and continue rolling. If the dough comes out of the side of the plastic wrap, peel off the plastic and recenter the dough so it stays within the sheet of plastic.
Once your circle is about 8-9 inches wide, lift it into the pie plate. Make sure you don’t stretch the dough at all. Lift the edges, one small section at a time, and lower them into the plate, pressing down into the corner of the pan to secure the dough against the sides and bottom without creating air bubbles. After the dough is all pressed into the bottom and sides of the pan and there are no trapped air bubbles, place the empty shell in the refrigerator to chill while you roll out the top crust.
Repeat the same rolling, turning, and dusting process with the second piece of dough. If you want to cut shapes into the top crust, do that at this stage, using a knife or cookie cutters. If you just want to vent the top crust with slits, wait until the pie is assembled.
When the top crust is 8-9 inches wide, remove the empty shell from the refrigerator, scoop the filling into the shell (spreading it around to cover the whole capacity of the pie plate), and gently place the top crust on top of the filling.
Use a sharp paring knife or a pair of scissors, to trim off excess overhang from the bottom and top crusts, leaving about an inch of each hanging over the edge of the pie plate. You can either fold this extra crust under itself or up and over. Use a fork or your fingers to press down the edges or crimp them as you like. Use a paring knife or fork to poke slits and vents into the top of the top crust.
At this point, you can freeze the pie unbaked until you’re ready to bake it. If the dough is feeling loose, warm, or a little wet, refrigerate the whole pie for about 15 minutes to let it cool down before moving on.
bake the pie
When you’re ready to bake the pie, put together the egg wash. Whisk the egg and cream together in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, coat the top crust in a layer of egg wash and sprinkle Demerara sugar liberally over the surface.
Place the assembled, washed, and sugared pie onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and in the oven. Bake for 45 – 60 minutes until the crust is dark brown, the filling is bubbling, and it looks thick and syrupy, not thin and water-y. At first, the filling will be thin, like water, and bubbly, but as the cornstarch cooks, the filling will thicken like a syrup. You’ll be able to see the liquid through the vents of the top crust, or as it runs out over the surface of the pie.
When the pie is finished, remove it from the oven and carefully transfer the pie without the baking sheet and parchment to a rack to cool completely, so it doesn’t stick to the parchment (the filling may have started to run out a little bit onto the pan.)
Let the pie cool completely before serving. Pie lasts up to 2 days wrapped in plastic and kept in the refrigerator.
Ani-see y’all later,
previous warm-season muffins
The first time I ever baked with rhubarb (the first time I ever used rhubarb, period), was when I worked at the restaurant a few years ago. Even though I wasn’t necessarily a fan of the desserts on that menu, I was oddly enamored with the idea of baking with rhubarb. I think because rhubarb desserts aren’t common, the rhubarb season isn’t long, and rhubarb itself isn’t Southern (and thus it’s difficult to come by here). We want what we can’t have and rhubarb in its rarity had some kind of allure to me.
The only other memory I have of rhubarb, and in fact the only other exposure I had ever had to rhubarb, was when I was much younger: I remember my grandma making rhubarb pie when we visited her in Boston. I have a faint memory of the taste: kind of orange-y, ginger-y, tart, a little bit sweet. But it’s just a wisp. Until recently, I had forgotten that I had ever had rhubarb before the restaurant experience.
Last year and this year, wanting so desperately to master this warm weather produce, I would stock up on a pound of rhubarb each week, chop it into bite-sized pieces, and store it in the freezer until I had time to make something of it. Last spring, the rhubarb found its way into the occasional pie or crumble, but nothing notable (aside from a super delicious jam that will be coming up in a few weeks.)
This year, I finally have a rhubarb recipe: whole wheat ginger rhubarb muffins. Ginger and rhubarb are a natural pair, in my mind, but because their flavors are so aggressive, I used some whole wheat flour to round out the flavor of the muffins.
whole wheat ginger rhubarb muffins
makes 12 muffins
6.5 oz whole wheat flour
3.5 oz all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
5 oz granulated sugar
7 oz milk
3.5 oz vegetable oil
2 oz fresh ginger, grated
2 large eggs (4 oz total)
6 oz fresh rhubarb (1 cup), plus extra pieces for topping, if desired
1 oz crystallized ginger
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners.
In a small bowl, combine flours, salt, and baking powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, milk, oil, ginger, and eggs until uniform.
Quickly mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, then fold in the fresh rhubarb and crystallized ginger.
Using a spoon or large cookie scoop, scoop the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 – 3/4 of the way. If desired, top each muffin with one piece of rhubarb and extra pieces of crystallized ginger.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the muffins spring back when pressed lightly in the center with your finger, or a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let muffins cool for a few minutes in the pan, then remove them from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack.
Wrap leftover muffins individually in plastic and store in the refrigerator overnight. Microwave muffins if they start to feel firm or dry, about 10 – 15 seconds. The muffins will last up to 48 hours, but are best the day they are made (within a few hours of coming out of the oven.)
Happy Easter and Passover, y’all,
previous butter + milk monthly muffins
Cheese is in the air this week. Or is it love?
They’re basically the same thing.
When I think of February, I think of Valentine’s Day: chocolate, roses, champagne, fake aphrodisiacs, raspberries, tomatoes, cheese. I’m not the only one who thinks of tomatoes and cheese, am I?
If aphrodisiacs were a real thing (and we’ve proven time and again that they are not), cheese would be at the top of the aphrodisiacs list. Ignore the fact that it makes some people (me) fart like an angry motorboat.
Ever since I started this Monthly Muffin series, I’ve been thinking I should do something savory. Jalapeño english muffins are still on the docket for some time in the future, but I’ve actually had the idea of cheddar tomato muffins in mind for at least a year. I attempted them once maybe a year ago and then never got back around to them. I had so little faith in the results of that first attempt, I decided I wasn’t sure if I was ready to date again.
I mean, if I was ready to attempt to make cheddar tomato muffins again.
And now here we are, back in the game. And the game is bright, cheesy, herb-y, and delicious.
The muffins are made with just the rind of the tomato and without all the excess water from inside, shredded cheddar cheese, fresh oregano, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top, plus a splash of ground white pepper for a little kick.
I considered using sundried tomatoes, but to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of them compared to fresh tomatoes. On the other hand, fresh tomatoes are insanely watery and I knew even before attempting these that it would be frustrating trying to get the recipe right. I remembered a technique I learned in a knife skills class at work for prepping tomatoes so that you avoid both the seeds and the water.
Voilà! C’est une tomate sans les organes!
Making the muffins without the tomato meat means you won’t have to worry about too much moisture in the batter, the muffins getting damp after baking, or adding excess flour to compensate. Whenever you bake with fruit, you’ll always end up with excess water.
cheddar tomato muffins
makes 1 dozen
8.5 oz (2 c) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground white pepper (can substitute black pepper if you want)
8 oz (1 c) milk
2 oz (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
6-7 oz diced tomato rinds (~3 regular tomatoes, 5~6 Roma tomatoes)*
2 Tbsp fresh oregano, minced
~1/4 c finely grated Parmesan cheese, for finishing
*The cutting and dicing technique is nearly impossible with cherry tomatoes, because they’re too small to hold while cutting. A larger tomato is easier, and a firmer tomato is easier to peel and dice than a soft one, as well.
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, white pepper, and baking powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, and eggs, until uniform.
Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture and quickly combine.
Add the cheese, tomatoes, and oregano, and fold the batter together just until no dry patches remain.
Scoop the batter into the muffin pan, filling each cup about 2/3 of the way, and sprinkle a large pinch of shredded Parmesan cheese on top of each muffin.
Bake 25 – 30 minutes until springy to the touch and the tops are turning a bit golden.
Let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Muffins keep for up to 48 hours wrapped individually in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator.
My relationship with cooking pork is much like the oft-debated “When was our first date? Was it the night on Lover’s Overlook when we fondled each other with our clothes on? Or was it the first time you took me out for dinner at Johnny Rocket’s and paid for my meal?”
Excluding bacon, the first time I cooked pork was soon after I moved home from Japan. I was just starting my individual foray into the world of cooking techniques and, intrigued by the idea of braising, I decided to try braising a pork belly. I expected something similar to Chinese spare ribs or those delectable slices of chashu/charsiu you get in ramen.
I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t even find pork belly. I braised some part of a pig in coconut milk and spices, and I was so excited to try this homemade delicacy. I had braised! I had made pork! It would taste sooooo delicious!
It tasted like Death.
Let me clarify: that’s Death with a capital D. It didn’t necessarily taste bad, though at the time I figured I might never braise a pork whatever-it-was again (it’s been long enough, I should give it another chance.) It just tasted…dead. Not like blood, not like mold (cough cough, lamb, cough cough), not like rot. But like flesh, or like dirt. Eating those chunks of whatever part of the pig I bought, I had a striking sense that this thing had lived, had skin, muscle, and bones, and then had died.
For my vegan and vegetarian readers, I apologize for the graphic imagery. For the rest of you, I rarely have qualms about what I’m eating, because as much as I can, I try not to eat things that would give me qualms (or salmonella, but that’s an entirely different monster.)
So it wasn’t that I felt psychologically or spiritually that this thing was dead. It just tasted dead. Like Death.
If I had to find a better analogy, I would say it tasted a little like dirt.
At the time, I figured that pork usually tasted like dirt, forgetting that I had actually eaten plenty of un-dirt-y pork in my life already, and I decided to focus on chicken instead.
That brings me to the second date, the one where he actually took me out in public, to a restaurant, as a couple, and paid for my dinner: Easter, 2016.
Knowing that pork and lamb are the common Easter dishes, I decided I would go out on a newly-blossomed limb and try one or the other. I gathered together a packet of spring pork and lamb recipes, attempted a shepherd’s pie well before the holiday to prepare, decided with certainty that I would never cook lamb again (that tasted like an entirely different kind of Death), and then picked out a pork recipe for the big celebration: Brunello Cucinelli’s pork tenderloin with garlic and rosemary.
I had to make a few tweaks to the process because Signor Cucinelli is far more skilled than I was, but when we finally cut into the garlicky, floral pork roulade, it tasted…like Life?
That’s tacky. Sorry. It tasted like spring. No capital letters.
Everyone who tried it (my grandma and my parents) agreed that it needed to come around again, so throughout the last 2 years, I found times to try the recipe again, or to try other (simpler) pork recipes (one of which will feature on the blog later this year), or, feeling super creative, to adapt that recipe for the season.
And so that’s what we have: in December, feeling the cold of winter deep down in places where cold should not be, I went whole-hog (not literally) and changed up the recipe to suit the season: rosemary became fennel and star anise; the garlic became garlic, apples, walnuts, spices, and honey; the white wine for roasting became apple brandy; and the white wine pan sauce became brandied apples with butter, shallots, and spices.
Basically, it’s baklava but with pork instead of phyllo dough, and savory-sweet instead of only sweet.
And if you’re wondering why the blog is titled “Winter Stuffed Pork,” I’ll give you a hint: cranberries are for autumn, spinach is for summer, and spring remains to be determined.
pork loin roulade with apples and walnuts
Learn from my mistakes: pork loin and pork tenderloin are not at all the same thing. They both go by many names, but what you’re looking for in this recipe is pork loin, pork roast, or center loin. It’s a big chunk of meat, shaped like a block, with a nice layer of white fat on top. If it looks kind of like a certain genital thing, it’s a pork tenderloin and will turn out completely differently in this recipe (so don’t use that one.)
Also, get yourself a good digital meat thermometer. When roasting meat, it’s easy to overcook the meat, and with pork more than anything else, it’s easy to dry out the meat too much. Anything you cook will continue cooking after you remove it from its heat source, so you can consider removing the pork from the oven when it registers between 140 – 145* degrees Fahrenheit. Adding brandy and cider to the roasting pan/Dutch oven will help, and if you think your pork dried out just a bit too much, then go heavy on the brandied apples on top.
*For anyone who doesn’t have a lot of experience cooking meat, make sure you cook pork all the way through (it’s not the same as beef, which has a wider range of safe temperatures.)
for the pork roulade
8 garlic cloves
1/2 c walnuts (2 oz)
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp fennel seeds, divided
1 tsp anise seeds or ground anise
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 c honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
1/2 of one large granny smith apple, or any other red apple (save the other half for the brandied apple topping)
1 2-pound boneless pork loin or tenderloin
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c apple brandy
for the brandied apples
1 shallot, cut in half and sliced
1/2 of one large granny smith apple, or any other red apple
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c apple brandy
1/2 c apple cider
1/2 c honey
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp orange zest (zest from 1/4 of a large orange)
make the pork roulade
Preheat oven to 400°.
In a small food processor, pulse together the garlic cloves, walnuts, 1 Tbsp of the fennel seeds, a hefty pinch of salt, the spices, a splash of olive oil, and the honey, until coarse and chunky but not too pasty. Set aside until the pork is ready.
Place pork, fat side down, on a cutting board with the short end toward you. Holding a sharp knife parallel to board and about 1/2 inch up side of loin, make an incision along entire length of one side. Continue cutting, lifting meat with your free hand as you go, until loin is open and flat. Alternately, stand the pork up on one of the long sides so you’re cutting vertically, if that’s easier. This process is called butterflying.
Cover the butterflied pork with a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper, and using a meat mallet, pound out the meat until it becomes a little thinner and more even.
Spread garlic mixture over inside of loin and season with salt and pepper. Chop the half of the apple into small chunks, about 1 centimeter or 1/2″ wide. Place the apple bits evenly around the pork on top of the garlic mixture.
Roll pork tightly; using kitchen twine, tie at 1 inch intervals. Rub the outside of the roulade with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and the remaining 1 tsp of fennel seeds.
Place the pork, fat side up, in a large cast iron pot, skillet, or roasting pan. Add the apple brandy; roast pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of loin registers 140 – 145*, about 1 hour (the pork will continue to cook a bit after you take it out of the oven.) *Start checking after about 40-45 minutes.
When the pork is done, remove it from the pot and set aside to rest. Pour the liquid and fat from the pot into a large measuring cup and scrape out any brown bits. If needed, bring the liquid and fat to a simmer before you pour it off so that you can deglaze the pot and scrape out any stubborn browned bits. Keep the mixture for the topping.
make the brandied apples
Place the emptied pot or a clean sauce pan on medium heat and add a splash of olive oil.
Chop the other half of the apple into small chunks just like the first half.
When the oil is heated, add the shallot slices and apple chunks and saute for 3-5 minutes until both start to brown a bit.
Add the minced garlic and saute for about a minute until you can smell the garlic.
Add the apple brandy and bring to a simmer, deglazing the pot again and reducing the liquid by half. Pour the roasting liquid and fat back into the pot and add the apple cider, then bring everything to a simmer. Add the honey, bring to a simmer/boil, and let it cook until it thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
Add the butter and orange zest, and whisk until the butter melts. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Slice the roulade evenly (slices about 1″-2″ thick), and serve with the apple brandy sauce.
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.