Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkin Hazelnut Marshmallow Muffins #MuffinMonday

This week’s Muffin Monday recipe was left WIDE OPEN.  No specific recipe to recreate, just a main ingredient to include: Pumpkin.  I think the point was Halloween but I decided to go all Southern Christmas on you.

You know those baked yams or sweet potatoes we make for the holidays down south?  You’ve had them:  Baked with brown sugar and cinnamon and nuts?  Plus mini marshmallows sprinkled all over?  (If you haven’t had them, my condolences.) Anyhoo, here they are in muffin form but made much easier because you just have to open a can of pumpkin, which is an excellent substitute for sweet potato, and you are ready to mix it up and bake.

Then again, sometimes the hardest part is opening the can.

Guess whose can opener went in the airfreight shipment to Dubai?  Thank God for my handy husband and his hacksaw.
The whole house smelled like Christmas.  Is it too early for your house to smell like Christmas?  I thought not.

For the muffins
2 cups or 250g plain flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup or 95g light brown sugar
1/3 cup or 80ml buttermilk (You can substitute 1 teaspoon of white vinegar and enough milk to make up 1/3 cup or 80ml - which I did.)
2 medium eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup or 80g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
11 1/2 oz or 330g canned pumpkin (about 3/4 of the regular sized can)
3/4 cup or 120g hazelnuts or pecans (Set aside 12 for the tops of the muffins after roasting)  I used hazelnuts.
1/2 cup or 25g mini marshmallows

For the topping:  About 1/4 cup or 55g sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons cinnamon plus one nut per muffin.  You may not use all the cinnamon sugar but save the balance in a Ziploc for cinnamon toast.  Your family will thank you.

Preheat the oven to 375°F or 190°C and grease your muffin tin well or line with papers.

Pop the nuts in a baking pan and put them in the preheating oven.  Set a timer for three minutes.

Put flour, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger into a large bowl.  Mix and mash the lumps of brown sugar until you have a lovely homogeneous mixture.

Yeah, the cinnamon and ginger aren't there in the photo but they got in the muffins. 

Shake the nuts when the timer goes off and reset it.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk (or substitute), vanilla and butter together.

Shake the nuts when the timer goes off and reset it.  The brown skins should start coming off as your oven gets up to speed and the nuts start actually toasting.  (If you are using pecans, just remove them from the oven at this point or after they have browned slightly.)

Add the pumpkin to the wet ingredients and whisk to incorporate.

Shake the nuts when the timer goes off.  If they smell like they are toasted and the skins are mostly starting to fall off when you shake the pan, they are probably done.

Pour the nuts into a clean dry tea cloth or towel and rub them until the peels are off and you can pick out the clean nuts.  Keep rubbing until the hazelnuts are all (mostly) peeled.  A little skin won’t kill you, as far as I know.

Set aside 12 nuts to top the muffins and chop the rest roughly.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold until just mixed through.

Fold in the marshmallows and chopped hazelnuts.

Divide the batter between your muffin cups and then top with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon sugar and one toasted hazelnut each.

Bake in the preheated oven for around 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes before removing the muffins from the tin and cooling further on rack.

May I be the first to say to you, Merry Christmas!   If I am not the first, you need to find some less crazy friends to hang around with.  It’s not even Halloween, for goodness sake!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Sweet Potato Walnut Cheese Bread

I should call this Leftover Bread but there are a lot of people out there who turn their noses up at leftovers.  I am not one of them.  My favorite breakfast is, in fact, whatever we ate the night before.  But this bread deserves much more than leftover status, because it is wonderful.  I made it this week as part of the Random Recipe Challenge for October, where the instigator, Dom, from Belleau Kitchen, asked that we delve into our store cupboards and pick a random, forgotten item to make into something delicious.  I took a little liberty with the storage area because my freezer is way worse off than my cupboard.  I have a penchant for bagging little bits of this and that to “use later” (read: hardly ever) and thought it would be more of a challenge and certainly more random since many of the bags aren’t even labeled.  I know, shame on me.   Anyhoo, what I came out with was actually two bags: One with small pieces of leftover cheese, some blue, some chèvre with a soft rind, a little cheddar and one that I imagine might once have been a proud piece of Tomme de Chèvre.  The other bag contained walnuts.  I thought about throwing the second one back in but what’s the challenge in that?  I did an ingredients search on EatYourBooks and came up with a lovely Delia Smith quick bread recipe from her How to Cook Book 1.  I’d have to adapt it to accommodate the walnuts but I figured I could take a little leeway since I had challenged myself with two ingredients, instead of one.  And while I was at it, I decided to use some leftover sweet potatoes from the refrigerator, instead of grating a fresh potato.  After all, clearing out unused stuff was the point of the game!  It feels so good!

Random Recipes #21 - October

Wildly adapted from Delia’s Goats' Cheese, Onion and Potato Bread with Thyme.

1 level cup and a rounded 1/3 cup or 175g flour
1 1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 oz or 170g cooked sweet potatoes
3.5 oz or 100g walnuts
6 oz or 170g assorted strong cheeses
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
4 tablespoons milk
1 egg
Olive oil for greasing the cookie sheet
Butter to serve, optional

Preheat the oven to gas 375°F or 190°C.

Pare the hard rind from the cheese, if there is one, and cut it into 1/2 in or 1cm cubes.  I left the soft rind on the chèvre or goats' cheese because we like it.

Chop your walnuts rather coarsely.

Put the flour, baking powder and salt into a big, roomy mixing bowl and whisk to mix, which gives the flour a good airing.  (Delia actually said to sift all three from up high for the same effect but my sifter had left that day, in the airfreight to Dubai, so the spare whisk would have to do.)

Mash your cooked sweet potato and add it to the flour.  Mix the potato in with a fork, until it looks like crumbs.  Use your hands if you need to.

Add two-thirds of the cheese to the potato/flour bowl.

Add in the walnuts and the smoked paprika.

Still using a fork or spoon, gently mix everything thoroughly.

After that, beat the egg with the milk.

Pour the mixture into the bowl, just bringing it all together to a loose, rough dough, still using your fork or a rubber spatula.  It will seem too dry to come together but just keep mixing and turning the bowl and the dough and your patience will be rewarded.   It will come together.

Rub a little olive oil on your baking sheet and transfer the dough on top of the oil.
Pat it gently into a 6-inch or 15 cm rough round.  You may need to wet your hands with some water to keep the dough from sticking to them.

Now lightly press the rest of the cheese into the surface of the dough.

I saved the small chunk of cheddar for this purpose, in case you are wondering why they all look the same. 

Bake the bread on the middle shelf of the oven for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove it to a cooling rack or cutting board and serve it still warm if possible.  Slathering of butter optional but delicious.


After note:  To take using leftovers one more step, this was delicious toasted on the griddle the next morning for breakfast.

There is nothing better than bread fresh from the oven, except maybe sweet potato, walnut cheese bread toasted the next day.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Apple Allspice Muffins #MuffinMonday

If you have Liked my blog page on Facebook  – and thank you so much if you have – then you know that I was traveling in Egypt last weekend.  I have finally gotten straight that Upper Egypt is south and Lower Egypt is north and I am sad to be leaving this place just as I get the hang of it!  It’s all to do with the Nile, you see.  This ancient, mighty river flows north all the way through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.  Most of its path is pure desert and, yet, along the banks and into the adjoining land, amazing vegetation grows in an astounding manner.  Flying into Luxor from Cairo, we saw acres and acres and acres of green.  As we traveled by van and bus to temples and tombs, all impressive testimonies to the ingenuity and wealth of ancient Egypt, we saw those lands being worked (mostly by hand with the occasional tractor) by modern-day Egyptians no less ingenious, providing food for the nation.  We passed fields of banana trees, corn, sugar cane and trucks and wheelbarrows piled high with ripe red tomatoes and shiny purple eggplant sand green cabbages more than a foot and a half across.  No kidding!   I will include a few photos of our trip after the regularly scheduled Muffin Monday muffin recipe for those who might be interested.

This week’s muffin comes from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home To Yours.  It is a simple recipe made beautiful by a generous streusel topping.  My only two alterations were the addition of one green apple chopped finely (and some lemon juice to stop it going brown) and a teaspoon of cinnamon, because I think allspice, apples and cinnamon are very good friends.  I hope you all agree.


For the streusel:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

5 tablespoons or 70g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the muffins:

2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 large green apple
2 cups or 250g all-purpose flour

1/2 cup or 115g granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed or 50g dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup or 115g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 eggs

3/4 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 375°F or 190°C and grease your muffin tin or line it with paper liners.

First we will make the streusel topping.  Put the flour, brown sugar and allspice in a small bowl and stir with a fork, mashing out the lumps in the brown sugar.

Add in the cold butter, cut into chunks and combine with a pastry blender or your fingers.  I tend to start out with the pastry blender and then use my fingers to get rid of the final large stubborn lumps of butter.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

On to the muffins!  Measure out two tablespoons of lemon juice into a small bowl big enough to hold your chopped apple.  Peel, core then chop the apple and add it to the lemon juice, stirring well to make sure all the little pieces of the apple are covered.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, allspice, cinnamon and salt.  Mash the brown sugar lumps out with a fork.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, melted butter and vanilla extract.

Pour your wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold them together until just mixed.

Fold in the chopped apple.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Heap some streusel topping on each muffin.  This makes a lot of topping so don’t be shy.  Dorie’s instructions say to lightly press the topping down into the batter but I completely forgot this step.  I didn’t lose any topping while baking so don’t stress out if you do too.

Bake in the preheated oven about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool on a rack for a few minutes and then remove the muffins to cool completely.


~ ~ ~
And, now, some photos from our trip.

A tomb in the Worker's Village  - these are the folks that dug the enormous tombs
for the Valley of the Kings, where, sadly, photo taking is no longer allowed. 

Some of the beautiful decorations from inside the tomb. 

The Habu Temple in Luxor.

Amazing that color still remains.

Going to market?

The streets were filled with these little trucks and even motorbikes loaded with old corn stalks to be used for roofing.

The desert highway from Luxor to Abydos, away from the Nile, obviously. 

Donkeys are a typical mode of transportation.  We must have seen at least one hundred. 

Washing day!  I love the way they paint their balconies. Some even had curtains to keep out the dust and sun. 

Full load of bananas.

Not sure you can tell how large these cabbages were but they are ENORMOUS.

Tractors and camels (and donkeys and mules and water buffalo) all worked the fields and plied the roads. 

The temple in Abydos. 

This is the ceiling of the Abydos Temple.  It was lived in during past centuries and the fires that
were built to cook and heat the enormous stone structure had discolored the original painted carvings.
They left part dark after restoration so we could see the work that was done. 

Carvings in the temple of Dendera

Empty sarcophagi outside the temple of Dendera.  

Beautiful town streets that have an irrigation system.  And a street cleaner. 

More painted balconies and laundry. 

We passed this lovely mosque on our way home.

Thanks for traveling along with me!