Archive for September 2011
I first made these tasty little muffins about five or six years ago. It was shortly after I had bought my first “real” cookbook, Williams-Sonoma’s Baking, and I’m pretty sure I decided to make them based off the fact that my house already had the ingredients (and of course, there was a picture with the recipe. I’m a sucker for pretty photographs).
I baked and ate them happily, pleased with the result of how yummy all the fruit and nuts tasted and how moist the crumb turned out. I don’t remember them lasting very long–with three other siblings and parents who lack a strict sense of will power, these things didn’t last more than a day. I never forgot about those muffins, but in my venture to try new things and branch out with my cooking and baking repertoire (what? who in their right mind would branch out beyond muffins?) I must have placed the option of making them again to the wayside.
How silly I was to think that! I decided to make them this past Saturday morning and I have already made another batch since (and I’m guessing this pattern will continue). They’re a perfect breakfast for the now chilly mornings around here, warmed up in the microwave or toaster oven with a little pat of butter. With the warm nutty taste of whole wheat, wheat bran and cinnamon and the slightly sweetened crumb accented by toasted nuts and raisins, the taste of these things had me swooning. That’s not to mention a texture that is incredibly moist (thank you, carrot and apple and yogurt!) that has only a half a stick of butter to thank for it.
Somehow I completely passed over all the mostly good-for-you ingredients the first time I made these those few years ago. I just remember gobbling them up, back when I ate anything and everything without a care in the world for it’s nutrition (sigh). But now, after being consciously aware of adding in the wheat bran, whole wheat flour and piles of carrot and apple—and that’s not to mention the low amounts of sugar and butter—I feel guiltless and good starting my day with one or two of these. But no matter whether I payed attention to how nutritious these are, or whether they aren’t so much of an ambitious baking project or not, these were fantastic those 5 or 6 years ago just as they are delicious today. They’ll be just as good every time I make them in the future.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking
Makes 16 muffins
These muffins don’t rise too much in baking (even though they do turn out fluffy), so don’t be too afraid to fill the muffin tins at least 3/4 of the way full, or all the way full if you like bigger muffins. Also, I’ve made these with reducing the amount of sugar to 1/2 cup, and I thought they were perfectly sweet still—something to note if you’re trying to cut down the amount of sugar you’re consuming.
1 cup (155 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (155 g) whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup (20 g) wheat bran
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 (155 g) packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (375 g) plain yogurt, or buttermilk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 60 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/4 cups (155 g) grated, peeled tart apple (about 1 large)
1/ 1/4 cups (185 g) finely grated, peeled carrots (about 2 medium)
1/2 cup (60 g) finely chopped, toasted walnuts
1/2 cup (90 g) golden raisins
2 tablespoons granulated sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Butter 16 standard muffin pan cup.
In a large bowl, stir together the flours, bran, baking powder, baking soda , salt, cinnamon and brown sugar. Set aside.
In the bowl of standing mixer, beat the eggs on low speed until blended, then beat in the yogurt and butter. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until half moistened. Add the apple, carrots, nuts and raisins and stir just until evenly distributed. Do not overmix.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each cup about three-fourths full, or a bit more (see note). Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 15-17 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 2 minutes, then turn out onto the rack. Serve warm (mmm!). Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days, or freeze for up to one month.
I know this soup may not look like the most appealing thing in the world—especially during this wonderful transition time of the seasons we’re currently caught between. I mean, it didn’t to me. Why make something like African peanut soup of all things when you could be getting your last go of summer and adding roasted tomatoes into everything, or satisfying the first glimpses of fall with nutty pumpkin recipes and, ahem, a whole-wheat date bread?
Well because, to be honest with you, this soup is exactly the kind of thing you don’t really think or have daydreams about. It’s not the kind of thing that I would exactly put under my “make as soon as possible” bookmark, and I’m guessing that’s how it is with you, too. But next time you find yourself this fall with nothing in your fridge but a couple sweet potatoes, an onion, and a jar of peanut butter, pull out this recipe and give it a try.
You’ll find that after a little bit of chopping here, a little bit of waiting there, and a whirl of pureeing at the end, you’ll end up with a flavorful, exotic and satisfying soup. Carrots, red bell pepper, sweet potatoes and a touch of honey make a savory-sweet base. This is accented by a slight kick of ginger and heat of cayenne pepper, and the whole thing gets rounded together by smooth peanut butter. Sprinkle chopped green onion and roasted peanuts on top, and what more could you ask for on a weeknight when all you want is a comforting bowl of thick soup and a hunk of bread to dunk in it?
It’s a tasty, easy soup that packs a surprising complexity of flavors in the short amount of time it takes to make it. It gets better after a day or two, as the flavors meld and the texture gets even thicker (trust me on this, I’ve had it for dinner every night this week). It didn’t scream out to me as the essence-of-the-season, seize-the-opportunity-now type of meal to me at first, but somehow having a big pot of it sitting in my fridge waiting for me whenever I want a warm bowl of soup has made it quite the comforting thing, perfect for right now.
Sweet and Spicy African Peanut Soup
Adapted from Ellie Krieger’s The Food You Crave
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced (about two cups)
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 medium carrots, diced
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons peeled ginger, grated
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
2/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter
2 teaspoons honey
½ cup chopped scallion greens (about three scallions)
Roasted peanuts, for garnish and crunch
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and carrots and cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften, about 5-7 minutes. Add the cayenne, black pepper, garlic, and ginger and cook for about 1 minute more. Stir in the sweet potatoes, then the broth and tomatoes and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or in a regular blender in a few batches (never filling the blender more than half-way at a time), and return the soup to the pot. Over low heat, add the honey and peanut butter and stir until the peanut butter melts. Serve warm, garnished with scallions and roasted peanuts.
I woke yesterday morning with cold toes. Cold toes! I grumbled around my house, piling on sweatshirt upon sweatshirt while mumbling to my poor roommate something about the weather and how it’s “still suppose to be summer.” But to be honest with you, I’m kind of really excited for the change in seasons. Yes, I know that it’s still technically summer and that there are still lovely, lovely fresh vegetables and fruits out there at the moment (I ate tomatoes with basil and parmesan on toast for dinner three nights this past week), but still. One cold-ish day is all I need to ready to jump on the seasonal fall bandwagon and plan out my share of apple treats and squash dinners.
And so, I have a warm loaf bread to present to you today, a little preview of sorts to fall. When I first saw this recipe in the New York Times last week, the article suggested serving this bread with cream cheese and grape sandwiches, leaving me to think it was a yeasted kind of sandwich bread that to me sounded nice and cozy. I clipped out the recipe, only realizing later that it’s actually a plain, old quick-batter loaf bread.
To that I’m not sorry whatsoever, as it turns out a whole-wheat loaf bread, slightly sweetened by brown sugar and studded dates with a tender, moist crumb and nuttiness from the whole wheat flour, was exactly what I was wanting (and needing). It’s soft and subtle, with a kind of neutral flavor palate that I’m supposing was intended for it to be turned into things like sandwiches with grapes and olives and the like. That’s all fine and well, because I ended up serving my slices up with a thick layer of cream cheese and a sprinkle of cinnamon—a wonderful combination, if you ask me. If you do end up making this loaf, at least try that out.
But no matter how you eat this bread, or even if you don’t eat it at all, make sure you manage to find some soft baked good or rather to munch on when the first wave of chilly air comes by. I know it’s made my transition into fall a lot more inviting. That, and wearing socks to bed.
Whole-Wheat Date Bread
Adapted from Melissa Clark, New York Times 9/7/2011
Butter for greasing pan
½ cup (95 grams) dark brown sugar, lightly packed
2/3 cup (160 grams) plain yogurt, buttermilk or sour cream (I used plain greek yogurt)
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (125 grams) whole-wheat flour
¾ cup (90 grams) all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2/3 cup (140 grams) extra virgin olive oil
1 cup (200 grams) sliced pitted dates
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan. In a medium bowl, beat together the sugar, yogurt, honey and vanilla. Beat in eggs, one at a time and scraping down bowl after each addition.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet, just until no longer lumpy. Using a rubber spatula, fold the olive oil into the batter in three additions. Fold in the dates.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until it is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean with maybe a crumb or two, 50 to 55 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before turning the cake out onto a rack to cool completely. Add cream cheese, cinnamon, honey, or whatever you see fit to top.