Monday, October 24, 2016

carrot tahini muffins.

Tahini, much like all things Middle-Eastern is having a bit of moment and quite frankly I couldn't be happier about that.   

I love peanut butter (only chunky) so it should come as no surprise that I love tahini since it has a similar nuttiness and consistency to it.   It works exceptionally well in savory dishes (and makes for one killer salad dressing/sauce) but I've begun testing it out in more sweet applications.   Its roasted, earthy flavor works well in baked goods as it provides a nice juxtaposition to the sugar.   

These carrot tahini muffins had been on my list of "must try soon" for a couple of months now and I finally got around to them this past weekend.   This is my dream weekday morning muffin.  Filled with good for your grains, a slew of carrots, and subtly spiced with just enough glaze to make you feel as if you're indulging which makes Monday all the more bearable.   

Carrot Tahini Muffins
Recipe adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 12 Muffins 

For the muffins

1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
1/4 cup (30 grams) well-stirred tahini
1/2 cup (80 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk, almond milk or (nonalcoholic) apple cider
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (130 grams) whole-wheat flour 
1 cup (130 grams) spelt flour
2 cup packed coarsely grated carrots (from about 9 ounces or 5 slim carrots)

For the Glaze

1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered sugar
3 tablespoons (25 grams) tahini
2 tablespoons (30 ml) water
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Whisk olive oil, tahini and brown sugar together in the bottom of a large bowl. Whisk in eggs, then buttermilk and vanilla. Whisk in baking powder, baking soda and salt, then switch to a spoon or flexible spatula and stir in flours, then carrots, mixing just until combined.

Either line a 12-cup standard muffin pan with paper liners or coat them with a nonstick spray and then fill with batter.  Bake muffins for 14 to 16 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of each comes out batter-free. Muffins should be domed and lightly golden on top. Let them cool in pan for 5 minutes on a rack before transferring them to the cooling rack to cool completely.

If you’d like to glaze your muffins, whisk powdered sugar, tahini and water together in a medium dish. Either drizzle this over the cooled muffins or dunk them into the puddle. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

yeasted apple coffee cake.

Ever since Tyler and I went apple picking last month, I've had visions of an apple coffee cake in my head.  

Not pie (because only normal people look to make pie) but apple coffee cake.

The strange thing about this vision is that I had yet to find a recipe for apple coffee cake.  I had seen pear and rhubarb but never apple and I couldn't understand why.  Please explain to me what is more fall then apples nestled between cake and streusel and drizzled with icing (best eaten while wearing plaid.)   

And then the October issue of Bon Appetit arrived and there was the recipe for apple coffee cake.  It was dreamy looking and exactly what I had in mind.   

This cake is now a favorite in our apartment as it is everything you want to eat right now.  A yeasted cake/bread hybrid with the perfect amount of tang serves as the base for freshly picked apples.  And on top?  Streusel!  Not an overwhelming amount but just enough.   And then there is the dizzle of icing which takes the whole thing over the edge in the best possible way.   

Yeasted Apple Coffee Cake
Recipe adapted slightly from Bon Appetit 

I made some changes because I felt the recipe could be more fall.   So I swapped the orange juice for apple cider, added in some additional spices, and used a little more then 2 pounds of apples because you can never have too many apples this time of year.  Also - this cake freezes brilliantly.   

For the Cake

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, slightly cooled, plus more
1 ¼-ounce envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
⅔ cup (packed) light brown sugar, divided
1 large egg, room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
½ cup sour cream, room temperature
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
⅓ cup fresh apple cider 
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Streusel and Assembly

½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup old-fashioned oats
⅓ cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, slightly cooled
2 pounds firm baking apples (about 4 large), halved, cored, very thinly sliced
1½ cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon (or more) apple cider
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Make the Cake: Butter a 13x9" shallow baking dish. Mix yeast, 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, and ¼ cup warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer; let sit until it foams, about 5 minutes. Whisk in egg and remaining brown sugar, then stir in 1 cup flour and mix with a wooden spoon to incorporate. Sprinkle remaining 2 cups flour over top but do not mix in. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm, draft-free spot until mixture is visibly puffed and flour has cracks in places, 60–90 minutes.

Add sour cream, lemon zest, apple cider, baking powder, and salt to mixture and mix on medium speed with dough hook until smooth, elastic, and just sticking to the sides of bowl, about 4 minutes. Add 6 Tbsp. butter in 2 additions, beating well between additions; beat until a soft, slightly glossy, sticky dough-batter hybrid forms, about 4 minutes.

Using buttered fingers, pat dough into prepared pan in an even layer, spreading to edges. Cover and let sit in a warm, draft-free spot until puffed and nearly doubled in size, 60–70 minutes.

Make Streusel and Assemble: Just before dough is finished rising, preheat oven to 350°. Pulse flour, oats, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and a pinch of salt in a food processor a few times to combine. Add butter and process in long pulses until streusel is the consistency of moist crumbs.

Working with several slices at a time, fan out apples slightly and arrange over dough, shingling rows in different directions; sprinkle streusel over top. Bake until apples are tender and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 35–45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. 

Whisk powdered sugar, apple cider, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl, adding more apple cider by the teaspoonful as needed, until icing is very thick and smooth and falls back onto itself in a slowly dissolving ribbon. Drizzle over coffee cake.  Serve immediately.  Can also be wrapped and frozen for up to 1 month.   

Thursday, October 6, 2016

martha's mac and cheese.

I tried to start this blog post a million different ways but at the end of the day all I have to say is that this is the absolute best mac and cheese around.   With October kicking off as the month of gloom comfort food is all I want to eat.  (I'm looking at you soup, cheesy pastas, and apple crisp. )

If you scour the web, a lot of people have waxed poetic justice for this particular recipe for cheesy pasta.  I didn't need to add my name to the list, but I'm going to but it's just that insanely good.   Yes it requires you making a bechamel and buying two types of cheese but the resulting dish is the definition of comfort food.   Incredibly rich and impossibly creamy whoever you make this for will be begging for you to make it again and again.  

Martha's Mac and Cheese
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Here are my notes.  This makes an INSANE amount of mac and cheese.  Unless I'm hosting a party, I always half the recipe.   I also find in the original recipe that the ratio of sauce to pasta is high so I upped it by 1/2 a pound.  In addition I've added in some extra flavorings (hot sauce and dry mustard) because that's how Mom made it growing up.   

Serves 12 (or even 14)

1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs   
6 tablespoons (unsalted) butter, plus more for dish
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard 
5 dashes of hot sauce
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano
1 1/2 pounds elbow macaroni

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, dry mustard, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.

Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer's directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; scatter Panko breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

c+t buy a house in jc - part 2 - the renovations never end.

Since the day we closed (which is unbelievably almost 2 months ago), Tyler and I have spent what feels like every waking moment working on our apartment.   It's been a lot of non-stop work.   

I'm so over it.   

I mentioned in my last post that home renovations don't agree with my personality.  I'm a get it done, wrap it up, make everything look pretty as soon as possible kind of person.   I want things done now and I'm married to a person who is perfectly happy with manana (i.e. tomorrow).   It's been an utter challenge working so closely with something who is equally vested in the project but thinks, acts, and works completely different then me.  Get two people together that both think their way is right and in the words of Tyler's wedding vows, fireworks are bound to fly.  

He wasn't kidding.   

But I like to think for all the challenges our personalities bring to the table, we truly in every sense of the word balance each other out.  I light a fire under his butt, he reminds me it's a marathon not a sprint. It's not always easy, but we make it work.   

As I write this, and look back at pictures, I realize we've accomplished a lot in 2 months.  For two people who have never owned a home and never handled a renovation we are getting things done. Slower then I may like (and a lot of times two steps forward and one step back), but things are happening.   I wont lie that I continue to ask myself why I couldn't be happy just moving in not doing any work.  This would have been the significantly easier (and vastly cheaper) option. But we are not that kind of people.  We like fixing things and making them our own and what's the point of a house if you aren't going to make it your home?   

Which leads me to all that has happened in the past two months.  Brand spanking new floors that match through the whole apartment!  A two-tone painted living room and bedroom.  A lime-washed brick wall and open shelves that Tyler built himself.  Fancy new windows were installed that open with the greatest of ease.  I painted kitchen cabinets and marble counters were installed.   We have brand new lights (including a dreamy long arm sconce) that totally change the look and feel of the place.  I got wallpaper on a wall and my god is it beautiful.   I've spent more time on Craigslist, Etsy, and Ebay then I care to reveal but it's a rabbit hole.   

The list of things to still tackle remains insanely long but we are slowly but surely checking things off and making progress.   Much more to come.   Wish us luck.     

(Also, Jackson, as you can see from these pictures, isn't much help but he does provide an endless number of kisses which is appreciated.)   

Sunday, September 18, 2016

apple and cheddar scones.

I know, it's been a while.

The last few weeks have been incredibly trying.  Home renovations don't agree with my personality.  I want things done when I want things done and home renovations don't end when you want them to.  Instead the problem you thought you were fixing snowballs into a new problem.  With each step forward you move one step back.

Most days I feel as if we are no where near having a home.  I worry I'm going to continue to live in a construction site.  A place where our old bathroom sink permanently lives in our living room.  A place where Jackson is constantly jumping over paint cans in order to find his favorite ball.  A place the stresses me out.  

But this weekend, it finally feels like we are in a better place.  We are in no means done (is your home ever done?) but we have shelves in the kitchen and most boxes unpacked and I can finally (kind of) see the fruits of our labor.

These past few weeks I haven't wanted to cook much.  Making dinner and baking cookies felt like a chore.  But over the past two days I've found myself feeling at home once again in the kitchen (pictures coming soon!).  I'm making lists of dishes I want to make.  I'm researching recipes online.  I'm returning to my happy place.

These scones came about in a recent search for apple recipes.  After picking up a mirror this week, Tyler and I stopped at our favorite apple orchard for Macs (his favorite) and Ginger Golds (mine).  We came home with 26 pounds of apples and I set out to find recipes for incorporating them.  These scones are reminiscent of the ones they serve at Tandem Bakery and I utterly love them.  Filled with pockets of sweet apple and salty cheese, they make for a perfect fall breakfast.  Best eaten on your new balcony with good coffee.

Apple and Cheddar Scones
Recipe from Leite's Culinaria and Smitten Kitchen

As is typical of me, I added a little more apple and cheddar to the scones (about 500 grams apple and 90 grams cheddar).  I like ensuring there are a lot of pockets of deliciousness.   I also swapped 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat since I like the added nuttiness in a pastry like this.   

Makes 6 generous scones

2 firm tart apples (1 pound or 2 454 grams)
1 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces or 195 grams) all-purpose flour  - Feel free to swap up to a 1/3 of the flour for whole wheat
1/4 cup sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons for sprinkling (total of 2.2 ounces or 63 grams)
1/2 tablespoon (7 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (3 grams) plus additional for egg wash
6 tablespoons (3 ounces or 85 grams)unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes plus additional for baking sheet if not lining it with parchment
1/2 cup (2.25 ounces or 65 grams) sharp cheddar, shredded (white is recommended, I assume for aesthetics)
1/4 cup (2 ounces) heavy cream
2 large eggs

Position a rack at the center of oven and preheat oven to 375 °F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Peel and core apples, then cut them into one-sixteenths. (I assumed this meant chunks, not slivers.) Placed them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake them until they take on a little color and feel dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. They will be about half-baked. Let them cool completely. (You can speed this up in the fridge, as I did.) Leave oven on.

Sift or whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Set aside. Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, along with cooled apple chunks, cheese, cream and one egg. Sprinkle flour mixture over the top and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together. Do not overmix.

[Don’t have a stand or hand mixer? I’d rub the cold butter into the flour mixture with my fingertips or with a pastry blender, hand-chop the apples coarsely and mix the rest together with a wooden spoon until combined. It might feel awkward, but it should all come together. Again, don’t overmix it though it will be harder to do this by hand.]

Generously flour your counter top and place the scone dough on top of it. Sprinkle with flour. Use a rolling pin to gently roll (or use your hands to pat) the dough into a 1 1/4-inch thick, 6-inch circle. Cut circle into 6 wedges. Transfer them to a baking sheet that has either been buttered or lined with a fresh sheet of parchment paper. Leave at least 2 inches between each scone.

Beat remaining egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with egg wash and sprinkle them with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. With a spatula, lift them to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Before you eat one, make sure you realize how addictive they might be. Once you’ve got that down, go for it anyway.

Do ahead: Scones are best the day they are baked. However, they can be made ahead of time and stored unbaked in the freezer until you need them. Simply brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle them with sugar, and bake them still frozen for just a couple extra minutes. This way they are always freshly baked when you want them. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

basil vinaigrette.

Despite the fact that we are undergoing a major home renovation that is making my life incredibly stressful, I can't stop myself from cooking.  Or, as has been the case in the last couple of weeks, "assembling" food so it resembles a meal and can be labeled "Dinner".  I've gotten really good at throwing odd bits of things plus whatever is fresh at the farmers market (Tomatoes!  Corn!) onto a plate and describing it as a composed salad.  So far no one is complaining.   

The key to this whole thrown it together meal thing is adding something special to the dish. Sometimes it's fancy cheese (I'm looking at you burrata) but lately its been this basil vinaigrette.  It's the easiest thing in the world and it is so good.  Seriously, we've been putting it on anything and everything including but not limited to - heirloom tomato and feta salads, tri-tip steak, roasted red peppers, roasted eggplant, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.  It just always works and I'm thankful for that.   

Basil Vinaigrette 
Recipe from David Lebovitz 

1/2 cup (125ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 small shallot (25g) peeled and sliced or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon kosher or flaky sea salt
2 cups loosely packed (25g) fresh basil leaves

Put the olive oil, vinegar, water, shallot, mustard, and salt in a blender. Coarsely chop the basil leaves and immediately put them in the blender.

Cover the blender and mix on high-speed for 15 to 30 seconds until the vinaigrette is smooth. If the sauce is too thick for your liking, add a little more water or olive oil to thin it out.

Serving and storage: The basil vinaigrette can be used right away or will keep for a week in the refrigerator. It’s best served at room temperature.