Sweet Potato Corn Muffins

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There are a thousand ways to make healthy muffins, but I like them best when they are soft and squidgy, low in fat, and a little bit sweet. The great thing about these particular muffins is that the bulk of them is made from vegetables commonly found in desserts. Sweet potato puree, stoneground cornmeal and whole wheat pastry flour compose the bulk of the batter, while nut milk and natural yogurt add plenty of moisture. I also have a soft spot for this recipe because I can make it 100% organic without breaking the bank or sacrificing flavour, and the potato puree results in a pleasantly tender texture similar to that of banana bread. Although totally addictive on their own, the muffins are made even better with fun add-ins, like a cup of toasted chopped pecans or a mixed and matched cup of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. One batch will have you looking forward to breakfast all through the work week.

Sweet Potato Corn Muffins

Inspired by: Minimalist Baker, ‘Sweet Potato Almond Butter Muffins’

Ingredients:

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (130g)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (100g)
1/3 cup stoneground cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup natural yogurt
3/4 cup almond milk
1 egg
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sweet potato puree (from 9 oz cubed sweet potato)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons oil of choice
1/3 cup raw granulated sugar of choice

Optional Add-Ins:

Choose one of the following:

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
  • 3/4 cup dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, or chopped dried apple
  • 3/4 cup dried coconut flakes
  • 1 cup mixed nuts, seeds and dried fruit

Method: 

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Brush the muffin moulds with a small amount of oil.

In a large bowl, whisk to combine and aerate the all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. If using add-ins, toss them in with the dry ingredients.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the potato puree, yogurt, vanilla extract, oil, and sugar until the ingredients are well combined. If you are using a large granulated raw sweetener, allow the sugar to dissolve for a few minutes while occasionally whisking the mixture.

Whisk in the egg until it is well combined. Gradually add the almond milk while whisking until the mixture is smooth.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well and use a spatula to fold everything together just until no streaks of flour remain.

Fill the muffin cups almost to the top for large domed muffins (the batter will fill approximately 11 of the muffin moulds). Bake immediately in the preheated oven for 20-23  minutes or until the tops spring back to the touch. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

The muffins will keep for 3-4 days in a sealed container at room temperature.

 

 

Carrot Cake Pancakes (Vegan)

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     For someone with a serious sweet tooth, pancakes are a quick and convenient way of whipping together a satisfying meal using ingredients that I already have on hand. They are also a low risk way of experimenting with a variety of wheat and non-wheat flours, and are easily made without eggs or dairy. Lately it has become a worthy challenge for me to prepare all the food that I make for myself with ingredients that are organic but also cheap and accessible, and as a result pancakes have become a staple in my diet. If you can’t find organic currants, a 1/4 cup of raisins or chopped dried apples make tasty alternatives. Top these fancy hotcakes with freshly sliced bananas and maple syrup and invite your best vegan friends over for breakfast.

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 Carrot Cake Pancakes (Vegan)

Ingredients:

3/4 cup unbleached white pastry flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour), spooned and leveled

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour, spooned and leveled

1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg

1 1/4 cup almond milk or other non-dairy milk

3 tablespoons organic raw sugar or sweetener of choice (I often use sucanat)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 tablespoons oil

1/2 cup shredded carrot, lightly packed

3 tablespoons organic dried currants

Method:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the currants and toss to combine. Make a well in the center of the flour for the wet ingredients.

In a small bowl, whisk together the almond milk, raw sugar, oil, and vanilla extract. Try to dissolve the sugar as much as possible by giving the mixture the occasional whisk until it is time to combine the liquid with the dry ingredients.

Heat some oil in a large pan over medium heat.

Prepare the shredded carrot while you wait for the pan to become hot.

Add the grated carrot to the wet ingredients and give the mixture a final good stir. Poor the liquid into the centre of the flour and use a wooden spoon or a small stiff spatula to stir the dry ingredients into the wet. Begin in the center and work outwards, slowly drawing the flour into the milk in circular motions until no streaks of flour remain.

Spoon 1/4 cup sized scoops onto the hot pan. Let the pancakes cook until there are open holes on the top of the cakes and the edges are a noticeably darker colour. Flip the pancakes and cook for several minutes more until the bottoms are a dark golden brown. Serve immediately.

Cranberry Curd Tartlets

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This fall I was lucky enough to come across a mass haul of fresh, local, and organic cranberries. These bright, tangy berries freeze remarkably well, and not unlike lemons they are capable of producing a punchy curd that can be used in a variety of desserts. When paired with orange juice, a handful of brown sugar, some good vanilla extract and placed in a nutty shortbread shell, cranberries are happy to shine on center stage.

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Cranberry Curd Recipe

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cranberry Curd
Ingredients:

14.5 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup fresh orange juice (from about 3 oranges)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed (2.5 oz)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks plus 1 whole egg

Method:

Combine the cranberries, water, and orange juice in a medium saucepan. Cover the pan and set it over medium heat. Cook the cranberries for 35-40 minutes, stirring frequently, until they pop and release liquid. Use the stirring tool to burst open any stubborn cranberries. Remove the pan from the heat just before the liquid begins to thicken. Use a fine mesh strainer to separate the juice and the pulp from the solids, making sure to scrape the bottom of the strainer to include all the pulp. You should have 1 3/4 cups of juice with very fine pulp. Discard the remaining seeds and solids.

In a clean pot, cook the cranberry juice with the sugars, salt, and butter until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts, approximately seven minutes.

Whisk together the egg yolks and whole egg until the mixture lightens slightly. Vigorously whisk in the warm cranberry liquid one tablespoon at a time. Return the mixture to the pot, and cook over medium-low heat while whisking constantly. Cook the curd until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and registers 160° F on a candy thermometer. Strain the curd into a glass bowl and cover securely with a sheet of plastic wrap. Let cool completely to room temperature. The curd can be made up to 1 day ahead and stored well covered in the fridge. Loosen the refrigerated curd by stirring it with a spatula before assembling the tarts.

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Spiced Pecan Tart Shell Recipe

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Sweet Tart Dough, in Baking: From My Home To Yours
Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (188g)
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes (4.5oz)
1 large egg yolk
35g toasted pecans

Method:

Lightly grease 8 to 10 small individual tart shells with removable bottoms.

Combine the flour, icing sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Place the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor along with the toasted pecans. Pulse until the pecans are fairly finely ground with some visible bits remaining.

Add the butter to the food processor and pulse just until the largest chunks of butter are the size of small peas. Lightly whisk the egg yolk with a fork. Add the yolk in three batches, pulsing after each addition. Once the egg is added, pulse in long ten-second pulses until the dough begins to clump and curd. Dump the crumbly dough out onto a clean work surface and knead sparingly to fully incorporate the ingredients.

Place a small handful of dough crumbs in the bottom of a tart shell. Press the crumbs gently but firmly along the edges of the shell. Place another tiny handful of crumbs in the shell, then press them down evenly and seal the edges to form the bottom crust.

Place the tart shells on a tray and refrigerate them for ten minutes. Prick the bottom of each tart with a pointed toothpick approximately 8 – 10 times to dock the shells. Place the tarts in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Bake the tart shells for 12 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 5-6 minutes or until the edges are golden brown and the bottoms are completely dry. Let cool completely on a wire rack. The shells can be made up to 1 day in advance. Store the shells in their individual pans in an airtight container until you are ready to assemble.

To Assemble

Carefully spoon or pour the curd into the prepared tart shells. Slide the tarts to one side of the tray so that they remain stationary then cover the tops with a sheet of plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour to set the curd. At this point, the tarts can remain in the fridge overnight and be served the next day.

Just before serving, prepare the whipped cream topping.

Chantilly Cream Recipe

1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar or granulated sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine all three ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Carefully remove the tarts from their individual moulds. Top the curd with a generous scoop of whipped cream and serve immediately.

Contemporary Pecan Pie

Here is what you need to know about this pie:

A mixture of brown sugar and honey takes the place of corn syrup.
Brown butter makes it toasty and rich like a dark cup of coffee.
One tablespoon of lemon juice cuts through the sweetness like a knife.
A subtle 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon adds depth and warmth.
It tastes 100% traditional.

When I set out to make a classic pecan pie without corn syrup, I had to pause to ask myself why. Was it because corn syrup is inherently evil? Had I just been brain washed into thinking that it was that bad? I had avoided corn syrup in the past largely because it seemed a more processed product than raw honey and organic maple syrup, but to completely denounce the sweetener without any research hardly seemed fair.

What I discovered was that due to the unknown effect of consuming large amounts of fructose, high-fructose corn syrup is generally considered to be a consume-at-your-own-risk kind of ingredient. On the other hand, pure glucose syrup is a simple sugar that has several interesting applications in the kitchen. The problem is that most commercial corn syrup actually contains an unspecified amount of high-fructose syrup as an ingredient, unless the brand advertises otherwise. Eventually, after sifting through multiple conflicting articles, I decided that regardless of the possible pitfalls of corn syrup, honey and maple syrup are always going to be superior options for me. Not only do they impart so much more flavour, but it is incredibly easy to find people who produce these products locally and organically.

With that settled, I turned to crafting a recipe that was both free of corn syrup and ‘traditional’ – that is one without bourbon, chocolate, or any other third party ingredient attempting to offset the sweetness. Rather, I relied on the subtle aroma of darkly browned butter, a whisper of cinnamon, and soft notes of floral honey to add dimension without compromising the classic flavour of molasses and nuts. Use this as an opportunity to see how far you can brown your butter without burning it, and you will be rewarded with unparalleled flavour.

Contemporary Pecan Pie
Adapted from: Carole Walter. ‘Southern Pecan Pie.’ Great Pies and Tarts.

Ingredients:

1 disc prepared pie pastry*

7 tablespoons unsalted butter (3.5 oz)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons mild honey
8 oz pecans

*an additional disc of pastry is required for a braided edge

Method:

Roll the disc of pastry into a 12 inch circle. Carefully fit the pastry into a 9 inch pie plate, then crimp or decorate the edge as desired. Freeze the shell for at least 30 minutes.

Darkly brown the butter, then let it cool while you prepare the other ingredients. Click here to learn how to make brown butter.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the oven racks so that you can place the pie plate on a rack in the lower middle of the oven, and a baking tray underneath it on the bottom rack.

When the oven has finished preheating, toast the nuts on a baking sheet for 6-8 minutes or until they are aromatic and slightly oily.

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, white sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large measuring cup, combine the cooled brown butter, vanilla extract, and lemon juice.

Pour the liquid over the sugar mixture and stir until the ingredients are moistened. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, just until they are well combined. Wisk gently – you do not want to incorporate too much air into the mixture or it will puff up during baking. Whisk in the honey.

Remove the prepared pastry from the freezer. Spread the cooled nuts across the bottom of the pie shell. Give the filling a final stir then pour it over the nuts. Fill the pie to a scant 1/4 inch below the top of the crust, to allow room for the filling to expand during baking.

Place a large metal baking sheet on the bottom rack of the preheated oven. Place the pie on the middle rack and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, rotating carefully after 30 minutes. Use a pie shield if necessary to prevent overbrowning in the last 20 minutes. The pie is finished baking when the crust is completely golden brown and the filling has puffed up through to the centre. The filling should still wobble slightly when the tray is jiggled, and it should only begin to crack in the last few minutes of baking – if at all.

Let the pie cool completely before serving. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

Brown Butter Spiced Madeleines

Earlier this week I ventured into the heart of hipster Toronto, to visit my old haunting grounds in Kensington Market. This is one of my favourite places in the world for several reasons, but what really keeps me coming back is the sheer density of food, art, and fashion jammed into one energetic space. Nothing gets me excited like the thought of more culturally diverse markets, spice stores, and delicatessens than I know what to do with. It did not take me long to spot a bakery that had sprung up in my absence, and I was dancing when I realized I was in for a treat. Go to Blackbird Baking Co. and get yourself some bread, because the wholegrain Pullman I took home set a whole new standard. And if vegan restaurants and vintage clothing is more your thing, there is plenty of that in the area as well.

With it being fall, the season in which we add spice to everything, my main mission was to restock my depleted spice cabinet. A fist-full of whole nutmegs, ground ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, all-spice, and Chinese 5-spice together create the base of a solid winter horde. Since balancing spice is an acquired skill, I thought what better to learn than to whip up batches of bite-sized madeleines, each flavoured with a slightly different combination of spices. After much munching, this version emerged as the winner.

Brown Butter Spiced Madeleines
adapted from Epicurious, Spiced Madeleines

Ingredients: 

3 3/4 oz unsalted butter, browned and cooled*
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (94g)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ceylon cinnamon (or 1/2 teaspoon regular cinnamon)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
large pinch all-spice
pinch salt
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 large eggs, at room temperature

*Click here to learn how to make brown butter

Method: 

Brown the butter. Whisk in the vanilla extract and let cool to lukewarm.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, all-spice, and salt.

Whisk the eggs and sugars together until well combined.

Add the flour to the egg/sugar mixture and gently whisk, or fold with a rubber spatula, until no streaks of flour remain. Quickly fold in the cooled butter just until you have a uniform batter.

Cover the top of the batter with plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for at least 2 hours, and up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Butter and flour a madeleine pan. Fill each cavity 2/3 full with the chilled batter.

Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350ºF and bake for another 6-8 minutes or until the centers spring back to the touch.

Turn the madeleines out onto a wire cooling rack. Dust with icing sugar just before serving, or drizzle with a simple glaze of water and icing sugar once they have cooled.

Homemade Gingersnap Cookie Crust

Ever since I started baking, I have been turning down cheesecake recipes across the board for one singular reason – those damn cookie crusts. Too stubborn to bring store-bought cookies into my kitchen, I stealthy avoided this dessert until I finally did what I knew needed to be done all along. It was time to make some cookies.

Graham crackers, here I come.

Gingersnap Cookies
adapted from David Lebovitz and Alice Waters

Yield: 24 cookies
Ingredients:

2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour (280g)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2/3 cup unsalted butter (150g)
2/3 cup granulated white sugar (133g)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup fancy molasses
1 large egg

Method:

Pull the butter from the fridge and cut it into small cubes. Let the butter sit at room temperature while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Place the egg in a mug with warm water to quickly bring it to room temperature.

In a large bowl, use a whisk to combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.

When the butter has softened slightly, scrape it into to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, or until the butter is soft, smooth, and a little fluffy. Scrape down the bowl.

Add the granulated sugar and beat just until the mixture becomes smooth, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.

Add the vanilla, molasses, and room temperature egg. Beat on medium speed until smooth, scraping the bowl to ensure that all the ingredients are combined. It is normal for the mixture to curdle slightly when the mixer has stopped. Unhook the bowl and add the dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon or a small, sturdy spatula just until the dough has formed and no streaks of flour remain.

Quickly and gently roll the dough into 1oz balls, flattening each ball with the palm of your hand immediately after rolling. Place the flattened balls on a baking tray and chill them in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Bake the cookies on a parchment lined tray for about 12 minutes, or until the edges have begun to darken slightly and the bottoms are a shade darker.

Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Ginger Cookie Tart Shell

Yield: one 9 inch tart shell

Ingredients:

12 ginger cookies
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter

Method for Fully Baked Tart Shell:

Butter a 9 inch tart shell with a removable bottom.

Crush the cookies by pressing two between the palms of your hands and grinding them together. Break up any large pieces with your fingers until all or most of the crumbs are a fine sandy texture.

Sprinkle the sugar over the crumbs and stir to combine. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the melted butter evenly over the crumbs, and then use a fork to quickly disperse the liquid and combine the ingredients. The crumbs should hold together when you squeeze them gently in your fist. If they are still a little dry, use the rest of the butter until you reach the desired consistency.

Dump the crumbs into the center of the tart shell. Using the back of your fingers, lightly disperse the crumbs evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Use a straight-edged measuring cup or drinking glass to press the crumbs evenly against the tart pan. First press down the bottom of the shell, then hold your thumb against the rim of the pan and squeeze the crumbs against the side with the cup, while using your finger to press down from the top to form a solid edge.

Freeze the tart shell while you wait for the oven to preheat to 350° F, at least 20 minutes.

Bake for 12 -13 minutes, or just until the crust is dry.

Let the shell cool completely before filling. Alternately, the crust may be refrigerated and used as directed in another recipe.

Just for Fun: Sparkling Apple Snacking Cake

Remove chocolate from a basic brownie recipe, and you get a blondie. But what happens when you take the caramel, or the brown sugar, out of a blondie recipe?

This apple cinnamon snacking cake was inspired by yet another winning Dorie Greenspan recipe, this time from Baking: From My Home to Yours. Her books are full of jumping off points, and we love her for that. The ratio of ingredients and the method are what makes this cake unique, as they result in an ultra dense and moist vanilla cake with a thin crackly top reminiscent of a tray of brownies.

Always a sucker for baked apple treats, we chose to adapt the original recipe to create a no-fuss cake filled with the flavours of honey, cinnamon, and one tart Ida Red. Simple, comforting, and so quick to put together that you can pull dessert from the oven just as your friends arrive, this cake makes it easy to impress.

Tips for Success:
• Wait until the last minute to shred the apple, as it will quickly turn brown in the open air.
• Take the time to drain any excess water out of the shredded apple to avoid a soggy cake.
• Keep in mind that just like brownies, the center of the cake may appear slightly under baked when you remove it from the oven.

Sparkling Apple Cake 

Yield: 9 inch round cake
Prep: 30 minutes
Baking Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients: 

Cake
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (175g)
2 tablespoons liquid honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour (125g)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 oz unsalted butter
1 medium tart apple

Topping
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a 9 inch springform pan.

Melt the butter and let it cool.

Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, and baking powder.

Put the sugar in a medium bowl and whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Whisk in the honey, salt and vanilla extract.

Peel and shred the apple, and use your hands or a fine mesh strainer to gently squeeze out the excess water. Set aside briefly.

With a rubber spatula, stir the flour into the egg/sugar mixture until there are no longer any streaks remaining in the batter. Gently fold in the melted butter until smooth, then fold in the shredded apple, making sure it is evenly dispersed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Make the topping by combining the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it evenly over top of the cake.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 – 28 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the middle has a crackly, paper thin crust.

The cake may be served slightly warm, but it will also keep very well for several days in an airtight container at room temperature.

 Inspired by: Dorie Greenspan’s “Swedish Visiting Cake”, from Baking: From my Home to Yours