Ayyyye Churro Macarona!

Can you believe that when I met him TD had never had a churro?  You think you know someone and BAM a little fact like that slips out.

On the one hand, I’ll admit it was pretty ethnocentric of me to believe that the churro was as ubiquitous in other parts of the country as it is in Southern California.  On the other hand, we’re talking about a man who lists the Choco Taco as a favorite dessert. Explains a lot doesn’t it?

Whether or not churros are a part of your cultural landscape, you can’t deny the allure of cinnamon and sugar together.  Add in a cinnamon infused cream cheese filling and you’ve got yourself an easy win.

Churro Macarons

cinnamon shells with cinnamon cream cheese filling and a dusting of cinnamon sugar on top

for the shells, makes 18-20 shells for 9-10 finished cookies

 Ingredients

  • 60 grams almond meal
  • 100 grams confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 50 grams egg whites
  • 20 grams granulated sugar

Note: I did not use food coloring in these guys because the little flecks on cinnamon were too pretty to cover up.

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 315 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.  I like to draw the circles with Sharpie on a couple of pieces of parchment as a stencil. In order to use them multiple times I lay another piece of parchment over the top.
  • Weigh and measure out all of your ingredients.  When I’m making multiple batches I actually weigh out the almond flour, sugar and any other dry ingredients into separate zip-lock baggies and label them.
  • In a food processor fitted with a blade, pulse together almond meal, cinnamon and confectioner’s sugar.  Give it a few pulses then sift into a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  • In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or an electric hand mixer), add the egg whites.  Beat on medium low until frothy.
  • Increase the speed and slowly add the granulated sugar and pinch of salt.
  • Beat eggs until they form soft peaks.
  • Working in three batches, add first portion of almond meal mixture to the egg-whites.  Gently fold until just combined.  Repeat with the additional two portions of meal folding to combine while using as few folds as possible.
  • To test if the batter is ready to pipe, scoop about 1/4 tsp onto a flat surface.  The batter should act like lava and spread enough to lose its peak but not its shape.  I usually do this test several times starting at the point where everything is just combined.  If you under-mix the batter you can always give it a few more folds.  However, you are out of luck if you over mix.  So, err on the side of multiple tests.
  • When the batter is ready, pour it into your piping bag.  To be honest, I don’t bother with a tip, I just snip the bag about an inch or so from the tip.
  • Pipe your shells onto the parchment-lined baking sheets.
  • Allow to sit for 10-60 minutes or until the shells appear dry.  I have found this process is heavily dependent on the weather.  The more moisture in the air, the longer they need to sit.
  • Working with one sheet at a time, bake for about 20 minutes.  To test, gently grab one corner of the parchment and attempt to peel it from the shell.  A clean peel means the shells are done.  If they are sticky, back in the oven for another 5 minutes and test again.
  • Let the shells cool but once cool, carefully remove from the parchment.  I have found that you don’t want to let the cooled shells sit on the parchment.

for the filling

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces cream cheese (I like to use a lower fat version to keep the filling from being too heavy)
  • 1 C confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Optional: 4 TBS or so of cinnamon sugar for dusting (4TBS granulated sugar + 1 /2 tsp cinnamon)

Directions

  1. Beat the cream cheese with an electric hand-mixer until smooth.
  2. Add- in remaining ingredients and beat until combined.
  3. Once the sandwich cookies are filled, dip the finished cookie in a shallow dish of cinnamon and sugar.  The surface tension should be enough to keep some of the fine granules stuck to the cookie.

 

Any excuse

While gathering inspiration for ways to rid my house of Nutella, I came across an absolutely lovely blog called The Cake Merchant. Oboist by profession, baker by passion, this author’s gorgeous photography and creative verve for desserts quickly pulled me in.

Of course, out of all the fancy and colorful creations she highlighted, the brown sugar and cinnamon shortbread caught my eye first.  As you know, I’m always looking for excuses to make shortbread and sable cookies.  And, reading the ingredients for a brown sugar and cinnamon variety had be wondering, “why did I think of that?”

Simple and elegant, what sets these cookies apart is a sprinkling of turbinado sugar that has been doused in cinnamon.

Like cinnamon toast, only a smidge more refined.

While the smell of cinnamon rising from the kitchen on a May morning felt a little bit anachronistic,  these would be a happy treat on a cool fall afternoon with a cup of tea.

 Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Shortbread

adapted from The Cake Merchant

Ingredients

  • 1/4 C turbinado sugar
  • 1 TBS ground cinnamon
  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted temp, at room temp but still cool to the touch
  • 1/2 C packed golden or light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 1/4 C all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine turbinado sugar and first tablespoon of cinnamon.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift in flour then whisk-in salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.
  3. Using a standing or electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Reduce speed to low, and add-in flour, mixing until just combined.
  5. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and work slightly until dough comes together.
  6. Divide dough in half and roll each half into a log (I like to use the cardboard round from paper-towels, split length-wise to help hold shape).  Wrap tightly in plastic and either refrigerate for an hour or freeze.
  7. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Slice logs into 1/3-1/2 inch rounds (depending on desired thickness).  Please on cookie sheet and sprinkle with turbinado and cinnamon mixture.  Press down just slightly so as not to change the shape of the dough, but help the sugar stay in place (you could also brush the cookies with an egg-wash first, then sprinkle the sugar if you didn’t want to press the sugar into the dough).
  9. Bake for 18-20 minutes if using from fridge, add-one 3 minutes or so if from frozen.  The cookies should be golden brown on top but not around the edges.
  10. Cool on wire racks.  These will freeze well if tightly wrapped.

Thurman Merman would approve

Growing up in San Diego, my mom would buy these fruit bars from a local establishment called Dudley’s Bakery.  Chewy, dense and studded with raisins, these bars were the perfect pre-swim workout snacks.  Over the years I’ve made several failed attempts at cracking the recipe code for these not-quite-cookie bars.  I could never get the texture quite right.  They were either too dry and crumbly or too chewy–like over-developed gluten.

To be honest, after my last swing-and-a-miss I’d purposefully put the damn things out of my mind.

Until a couple of weeks ago when I ran across a picture on Pintrest that looked like a “close-enough” match to merit the purchase of a bag of raisins.

Thanks to a blog called The Lemon Bowl.

Contrary to what people seem to think, I don’t generally eat a whole lot of what I bake.  For me, baking is about making, not eating.  It’s a hobby, like quilting or glassblowing or that weird thing they call cosplay that I don’t really understand.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit, these bars were the exception.  They’re really good.  Wholesome, satisfying, and for me, nostalgic, the magic in these bars is enough to help me not only overcome my distaste for raisins in baked goods, but

They are properly called hermit bars.  But, in my head, they’re Thurman Merman bars. Should I fix some sandwiches?

Hermit Bars

adapted from The Lemon Bowl

Ingredients

  • 4 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 C packed golden brown sugar
  • 1 C butter (16 TBS) unsalted butter at room temp
  • 2/3 C dark molasses
  • 2 large eggs at room temp
  • 2 C raisins or other dried fruit

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a jelly pan with parchment (standard half-sheet, 12X17) with parchment.  If you want to use a 9X13 pan, you’ll just have significantly thicker bars.  Grease and then flour the parchment and sides.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, all of the spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter for 2 minutes.
  4. Add-in brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy, 3 more minutes.
  5. Mix in eggs one-at-a-time.
  6. Reduce speed and drizzle-in molasses.  Mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  7. With mixer on lowest speed, slowly incorporate dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined.
  8. Pull bowl from paddle and mix in raisins/dried fruit by hand.
  9. Using an offset  spatula (or floured fingers if you are brave), dump dough into prepared pan and carefully distribute until you have an even layer.
  10. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes up clean.
  11. Allow to cool completely before cutting.
  12. These will store well for up to a week in an airtight container.

Butter, cinnamon and sugar my muffin

When I mentioned the big plans I had over the holidays to attempt making my own puff pastry dough, I had morning buns on the brain.  Alas, the sun was too inviting and I decided to play with puff pastry another day.

I still had morning buns on my mind though.

This recipe, if you can even call it that, is embarrassingly simple:  a sheet of puff, some butter, cinnamon and sugar.  Then, right out of the oven, an additional dip in butter and a final cinnamon and sugar bath (sort of like these french doughnuts).

I took these little darlings to work along with the Jesuites.  Someone very important in my organizations who had the ability  threatened to fire me if I ever brought them in again.  I think this means they were a hit.

 

Mini Morningish Buns

(one sheet of puff pastry yields 16 mini and 6 regular-sized buns, hun)

Ingredients

  • Sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp (or more to taste) of ground cinnamon
  • 12 TBS butter, softened

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter your muffin pan.
  2. Combined sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl until cinnamon is thoroughly distributed.  Taste and add-more spice as desired.
  3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the puff pastry dough until about 18X10 inches.  Be sure to life the dough after each roll so that it does not stick to the surface.
  4. Spread a thin layer of butter over entire surface of dough (it will take about a stick of butter, maybe a little less).
  5. Generously sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture across the buttered surface, reserving at least 1/3 of a cup.
  6. Starting at the far long end of the rectangle, roll the dough tightly all the way to the edge of the closest long end.  The finished product will look like a log.
  7. If using a mini-muffin pan, cut log in half and then cut each half into quarters and half each quarter so that you have 16 small rolls.  If using a regular muffin-pan, cut the log in half and then each half into thirds.
  8. Carefully place each cut roll into the wells of the pan, cut side facing up.  You may want to squish the dough down a bit to get it to spread-out in the well.
  9. Bake until dark golden brown (20 to 30 minutes–begin watching at 20).
  10. While buns are baking, melt remaining butter.  Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.
  11. Remove buns from oven and let sit for 5 minutes.
  12. Using tongs (or your fingers if you are brave), remove each bun, dip it in butter, roll it in the remaining cinnamon sugar mixture and set atop a cooling rack to cool.
  13. Try not to get fired from your job.

 

Pumpkin Blondies

Pumpkin it seems, is all the rage this fall.  So much so that I’m surprised Pinterest hasn’t added it as a category.  The funny thing is that I kind of think it’s actually the spice profile people love about pumpkin and not the actual gourd itself.  Of course, I’m basing this off of the fact that Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latter doesn’t actually have any pumpkin in it.  Or maybe it’s my well documented  “not love” for all things squash coloring my belief that anyone could love pumpkin as a food.

But what can I say, I’m a sell-out and felt obligated to include at least one pumpkin-based goodie in my baking line-up this fall.

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This pumpkin blondie, while not exactly healthy, is a little less indulgent than, say, a regular blondie.  The pumpkin replaces about half of the butter and eggs without missing a beat.

And while these are just fine as is, I think this recipe begs for additions.  How about some roasted pepitas?  Extra white chocolate chunks…ooh…or maybe some butterscotch chips?  If nothing else, I recommend a dusting of powdered sugar before serving these very autumnal squares.

Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin Blondies

this is a Misanthropic Hostess recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 scant TBS cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if you can)
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 + 1/4 C all purpose flour
  • 1 C golden brown sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 C granulated sugar (depends on how sweet you want these)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 can (usually about 14 ounces) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 8 TBS (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 11 ounces white chocolate chips or chunks

Other things to add-in:

  • Roasted, salted pepitas
  • Spiced pecans
  • White chocolate chunks
  • Dried fruit (cherries would be the bomb)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 9X13 inch baking pan with parchment, butter pan and parchment.
  2. In a medium, heavy bottomed sauce pan melt butter over low heat.
  3. Once butter is melted, remove from heat, add white chocolate, swirl to cover and let sit for 3 minutes.  Whisk butter and chocolate together until smooth and allow to cool.
  4. In a medium bowl, sift together first 6 ingredients.  Set aside.
  5. In a larger bowl, whisk together sugars and eggs until combined. Whisk-in vanilla.
  6. Whisk-in pumpkin.  Then whisk-in cooled buter and chocolate mixture.
  7. Switch to a spatula and gently fold-in flour mixture.
  8. Transfer batter to prepared pan and cook for 30-40 minutes (they were done at 34 minutes in my oven) until an inserted skewer comes up clean and sides start to pull away from pan.
  9. Allow to cool completely.  Cut into squares.

Spec-uuuuuuuuu-los

You know, like those old Yahoo commercials.

It also works if you try saying it in the same tone as Joey from Friends’ “How you doin’?”

And just like that, it’s time to start testing holiday recipes.

I’m planning a couple of new tricks this year in addition to some old favorites.  Dorie Greenspan’s speculoos buttons may  just make the cut.  This recipe graced the cover of Bon Appetit during the holiday season 2012.  However, it’s taken me nearly a year to get back to it.

But, a recent, coolish Southern California Sunday had me pulling out the recipe and checking my sanding sugar supplies.

The speculoos “buttons” are a variation on the thinner-crisper original speculoos cookies that appear in Dr. Greenspan’s Around My French Table.  While the thicker version feel more gingerbread than speculoos, the spice mixture is right on the mark in “holidayness.”  The original recipe includes a glaze but I’ve left it off here because I thought the color of the cookies was so pretty.

And, I don’t even know what to make of all that crazy business over the speculoos butter at Trader Joes.  So, I’m not even going to go there.

Speculoos Buttons

adapted ever so slightly from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe as appeared in Bon Appetit

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mild-flavored (light) molasses
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sanding or other decorative sugar

Directions

  1. Whisk first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat butter in a medium bowl until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add both sugars and molasses; continue to beat until mixture is smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Beat in egg and vanilla; mix for 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low; add dry ingredients and mix to blend well.
  4. Scrape dough from bowl and divide in half. Using your palms, roll each piece of dough into an 8-inch log.
  5. Fill a shallow dish or 1/4 sheet baking pan with sanding sugar (1/2 C should do it for you).  One-at-a-time, place dough log into pan and roll back and forth until the log is covered in sugar.
  6. Wrap logs tightly in plastic or parchment paper and freeze for at least 3 hours.  Dough can be made up to 2 months ahead. Keep frozen.
  7. Arrange racks in top and bottom thirds of oven; preheat to 375°. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  8. Bake 2 sheets of cookies, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 6 minutes, until tops are golden brown and centers are almost firm, 11-13 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool. Repeat with third sheet of cookies

Open (your mouth) says me!

Today, we move away from the gluten free toward the exotic (not that the two have to be mutually exclusive).  All year I’ve been trying to make my way back to Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s cookbook Jerusalem.  Their chocolate krantz cakes remain one of my favorite recipes for 2013.  So, I was happy to  finally find some space to tackle one of the many recipes I’ve dog eared.

This recipe is all about the sesame.  Tahini to be specific.  Until now, I’d always associated the seed paste with savory–most notably as a key ingredient in hummus.  However, after experimenting with black sesame in ice cream and macarons, I knew these little seeds had the ability to transition like champs.  And so, by transitive property, should their paste.

I found tahini in a larger, local grocery store in the international foods section (a sort of antiquated descriptor that always brings to my mind 1970s housewives and canned chow mein noodles).  The recipe calls for light tahini paste but I could only find regular.  As a note–double check the ingredients before purchasing.  I assumed tahini paste and tahini sauce were the same thing. Not so much.  Tahini sauce has garlic in it.

This is a sticky dough that is  finished unusually by dumping it out of the mixer and kneading it a few times until everything is just combined.

I’ll admit, I used a food scale to get uniformly-sized cookies.

I wasn’t following directions closely enough and added the cinnamon with the other dry ingredients rather than dusting each raw cookie with a sprinkle.  Oops.  So, I improvised the garnish and sprinkled the tops of each with a few sesame seeds.

These cookies have a very mild, slightly nutty taste with just a touch of spice and a texture that begs them to be enjoyed with a cup of tea.

I have a sneaking suspicion that these little goodies will make their way into my holiday baking this year.

As for open says me.  Or, open sesame rather.  I remember learning the origins of this phrase in a folklore course I took in college.  I can remember the quarter I took the class, where I sat and the professor’s pointy beard.  I also remember the lecture was used as a way of demonstrating how certain phrases are mythologized well before their supposed first appearance, in this case in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves from One Thousand and One Nights.  What I can’t remember of course, is the original story.  So, I went with Popeye and completely bastardized the magical words, a-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga.

If you like this you might like these

Black Sesame Ice Cream

Black Sesame Macarons

Tahini Cookies

from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Ingredients

  • 2/3 C /130 g superfine sugar
  • 2/3 C/ 150 g unsalted butter at room temp.
  • scant 1/2 C/ 110 g light tahini paste (fully leaded worked well too)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 5 tsp / 25 ml heavy cream
  • 2 C  + 1 1/2 TBS / 270 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • sesame seeds to sprinkle on top if desired

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line 2 sheet pans with parchment.
  2. Cream together sugar and butter in a stand mixer or use hand mixer on medium speed for 1 minute.
  3. With the machine running, add-in tahini, vanilla and cream until combined.
  4. Add-in flour and mix for one-minute until the dough comes together.
  5. Transfer to a work surface and knead until smooth.
  6. Pinch-off 2/3 ounce / 20 g / 1 1/2 TBS dough and roll into a ball.  Use the back of a fork to push down lightly on top of the ball so that it flattens just slightly and takes on the tine marks.
  7. Place on lined baking sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon and sesame seeds.
  8. Continue with the remaining dough, spacing cookies about 1 1/4 inches apart (they won’t spread much).
  9. Bake for 15-17 minutes until golden brown (watch the bottoms of the cookies).
  10. Cool before serving.  Will keep in sealed container for up to 10 days.

Snickerdoodles on steroids

True to the namesake of her bakery, Christina Tosi of Milkbar has a particular affinity for things cereal and cracker related.  Her cookbook contains several recipes for a category of concoctions she calls “the crunch.” Operationally defined, crunches are a an array of recipe add-ins whose primary ingredient is most often derived from snack foods including cereals, crackers, chips and pretzels.

Among these little nuggets of nirvana I discovered a formula for homemade cinnamon toast crunch, crunch.  Well, she had me at the first crunch.

The technique involves browning butter in the microwave.  ‘Go ahead she says, it’s easier than stovetop.’  Apparently not for my microwave.  Oh, I got brown butter.  I also got an appliance covered in a layer of butter so thick you could grease toast with it for years.  But, maybe your microwave is better behaved.

The next ingredient is white bread.  I can’t tell you how odd it was to walk down the bead aisle looking for plain white bread.  We don’t eat a lot of bread in our household.  Whenever I buy a loaf I have to keep it in the fridge because left in the pantry, it’ll go moldy before we even get halfway through.  Of course, the mold may have something to do with the fact that I buy fairly gross good-for-you grown up bread that doesn’t have a lot of preservatives.  So buying white bread was a bit of a wonder (uhm…see what I did there…wonder…bread).

Off with the crusts and into 1/2 inch pieces.

A gentle toss with the brown butter and a cinnamon sugar mix and it’s time to get toasty.

Out of the oven, this stuff is ridiculous.  Seriously…crunchy and buttery and cinnamony.

But wait.  Remember the mother snickerdoodle recipe from last week?  Well, Christina does encourage the reader to experiment.  So, what do you think might happen if we chopped up the cinnamon toast crunch crunch into smaller bits.

Then carefully folded them in to the snickerdoodle dough and rolled each ball of dough in cinnamon and sugar before baking?

You get a snickerdoodle on steroids my friends.

You know you want to make these.

If you like this, you might enjoy these

Brown butter chocolate chip cookies

Big sky buns

Soundtrack

Lumineers.  What?  Everyone else is.

Snickerdoodles on Steroids

Adapted from Milk, Christina Tosi

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Crunch

Ingredients

  • 1/4 (100 g) white sandwich bread
  • 1/3 C (115g) brown butter (instructions below), just warm
  • 1/2 C (100g) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp (2g) kosher salt
  • 1 tsp (2g) ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. To brown butter.  Place 1/2 C unsalted butter in a microwave-safe dish.  Cover with a microwave-safe saucer and microwave on high for 3-5 minutes. The butter will melt and then start to pop.  If you are the TMH’s microwave, it’ll then explode leaving you with about 1/3 of a cup of browned butter.  Set butter aside to cool.
  2. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Tear or cube the bread into 1/2 inch pieces.  Put it in a bowl, douse with the brown butter and let soak for about a minute.
  4. Add the sugar, salt and cinnamon to the mix and toss well.  Spread the mixture on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.
  5. Pull from oven and break-up with a spatula.  Bake an additional 5 minutes.
  6. Cool the cinnamon toast crunch crunch completely.  Chop into crumbs a little bigger than orzo.

For Cookies

  • Snickerdoodle dough
  • 1/2 recipe cinnamon toast crunch crunch
  • 1 C sugar combined with 1 tsp cinnamon
  1. Go here for the base snickerdoodle recipe and follow directions but swap-in 1/2 of the cinnamon toast crunch recipe for the birthday cake crumbs.
  2. When scooping dough, roll each ball in the cinnamon sugar mixture, set on parchment lined baking sheets and flatten a bit with the bottom of a cup (about 3″ diameter).
  3. Follow the remaining instructions for the sprinkle cookies.

 

 

Sex and the City and muffins

I was at the gym the other day watching Sex and the City on Closed Caption while toiling away on the rowing machine.  I think it’s funny that I get most of my pop culture via subtitle while at the gym.  Of course this can lead to confusion like the time I was watching VH1 while on the treadmill and spent an entire music video thinking Menudo were the Jonas Brothers (all the while opining, ‘hey, these Jonas Brothers are way cooler than I thought…what with the retro-vibe and all’) only to find out that the subtitles were on a two-minute delay.  In this case Menudo really was Menudo.

Anyhow, as a West Coast girl, my impression of New York City is almost entirely derived from a combination of Sex and the City, the Sopranos,  SNL and old episodes of Felicity.  Oh, and of course, the season finale of Glee.

I loved S.A.T.C.–though will  admit I was a late-comer to the show. In fact, I may have missed it entirely if I hadn’t started dating TD who, on our first Sunday evening together casually said, “hey, don’t you want to watch Sex and the City.”  Which really meant, “I want to watch Sex and the City but as a manly man need to use you as my beard.”  By then, the show was in its third season.  One episode and I understand what the big deal was…even if the 27-year-old in me thought those old-broads were acting a little immature for their age.

Fast forward just over ten years to my recent time on the rowing machine.  They were showing Catch-38–the episode where Carrie realizes that at 38 she should or should-not be making some important decisions about her life.  Wait…I just turned 38…when did I catch up with the S.A.T.C. girls?  You know, those “old broads.”  Oh dear.  Oh crap.

Existential crises aside, that episode motivated me to try a recipe for New York-Style Crumb Cake Muffins from Cooks Illustrated (January 1, 2008).  If I can no longer have the fashion S.A.T.C. brought me, at least I could have a vaguely reminiscent baked good (what…I’ve stretched it too far?).

I have a weakness for crumb-topped coffee cake.  But really, who doesn’t?  You start this recipe by making the topping.  And, let’s be honest, this is the most important part.  While tasty, the muffin is just the delivery method for these buttery, sugar-cinnamony crumbles.  Melted butter, sugars and cinnamon (duh) are combined.

Until they form a dough which is then set aside to cool.

Then the muffin dough is pulled together.  Butter is added to the dry ingredients little by little until crumbly sand forms.  Then the eggs and buttermilk are added until the mixture is light and fluffy.

The beauty of this recipe is that it only makes 12 muffins–which is great for a Sunday morning treat.  After portioning-out the dough into lined cupcake molds, the topping gets broken into large pieces and arranged on top of the muffin batter.  You’ll feel like you’ve got too much crumble dough–do not worry, just pack-in-on, the muffins will rise in the oven.

Once out of the oven, you are supposed to wait 20 minutes before removing them from the pan and another 20 before eating.  Good luck with that.

These were fantastic for brunch.  And, even better,  I’m going to “transform” this recipe in a couple of weeks for a bridal shower by adding an icing and calling them cupcakes.

New York-Style Crumb Cake Muffins

Posted verbatim from Cooks Illustrated, January 1, 2008

Makes 12 muffins

Don’t be tempted to substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour, as doing so will make a dry, tough muffin. If you can’t find buttermilk, you can substitute an equal amount of plain, low-fat yogurt. When topping the muffins, take care to not push the crumbs into the batter. Cooled leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Ingredients

  • Crumb Topping
  • 1/3cup granulated sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
  • 1/3cup dark brown sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
  • 3/4teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8teaspoon table salt
  • 8tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
  • 1 3/4cups cake flour (7 ounces)
  • Muffins
  • 1 1/4cups cake flour (5 ounces)
  • 1/2cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/4teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4teaspoon table salt
  • 6tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3cup buttermilk
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. 1. FOR THE TOPPING: Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. 2. FOR THE MUFFINS: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard-sized muffin pan (cups have 1/2 cup capacity) with baking-cup liners.
  3. 3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.
  4. 4. Using 1/4-cup measure or ice cream scoop, divide batter evenly among muffin cups; using small rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer. Following photos below, break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in even layer over batter (about 1/4 cup of crumbs per muffin), beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool muffins in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack at least 20 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

Homer has died and gone to heaven: Doughnut Muffins

Yeah, yeah, I know, you watch “Best Thing I Ever Ate” on the Food Network too. This blog does not claim to be particularly original. Tasty yes. Ground breaking? Eh. So, when I saw the episode about Sprinkles’ founder Candace Nelson’s favorite baked good I knew I had to find the recipe and bring it here. I mean come on—this is what the sister grand pubha of cupcakes puts at the top of her list. It’s gotta be good. And it is, really good. Like, reaaalllly gooood. But there is a secret to the doughnut-muffin that makes them extra super excellent that they don’t share with you on the show that I will share with you here. Promise.

Start with all room temperature ingredients. The butter, milk, buttermilk and eggs—the whole lot—at room temperature (I know you’ve hear this before). What’s more, this is no delicate batter. While you could do it with a hand-mixer, I recommend the big guns (and no TD, I don’t mean your biceps).

Grease the muffin pans but don’t use liners. You’ll see why in a second. The original recipe says to use about ½ cup of batter in each muffin cup. For me, 1/3 cup was perfect (once you see the amount of levening agent in this recipe you’ll understand why).

The batter on its own isn’t particularly interesting or unique. It’s when they come out of the oven that the magic occurs (but just the ordinary magic, not the super special magic part I’m going to tell you about at the end of this post).

While your buns are in the over, melt some butter. A lot of butter. And while you are at it, whisk together a cinnamon sugar party.

Now, as soon as you can handle the muffins without either burning yourself or crushing the muffin, the real fun begins. Start with a nice, all over butter bath. That’s right, bathe these cakes in butter.

Then, before the butter sinks in, give them a sugar scrub all over.

Don’t be shy with the sugar baby.

The doughnut muffin is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. The outside is cinnamon-sugary with a little bit of crunch while the inside is moist and crumbly.

These are delectable as they are but wait. Oh yeah, I’m going there. The only thing better than a plain doughnut muffin.

Is a jelly doughnut muffin. But that isn’t the secret part.

Here is the secret part.

If you have the discipline, let them sit in a tightly sealed container over-night. What they lose in crunch they gain in doughnuttyness. Is there anything better than a doughnut the size of a muffin?

Doughnut Muffins

Kathleen Stewart, Downtown Bakery and Creamery

12 oz. (24 Tbs.) unsalted butter, warmed to room temperature
1-3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 lb. 11 oz. (6 cups) all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1-2/3 cups milk
1/4 cup buttermilk

For dipping:
8 oz. (16 Tbs.) unsalted butter; more as needed
2 cups sugar
2 Tbs. ground cinnamon

To make the muffins

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. In a stand mixer or a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until just mixed in. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Combine the milk and buttermilk. With a wooden spoon, mix a quarter of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Then mix in a third of the milk mixture. Continue mixing in the remaining dry and wet ingredients alternately, ending with the dry. Mix until well combined and smooth, but don’t overmix. Grease and flour a standard-size muffin tin. Scoop enough batter into each tin so that the top of the batter is even with the rim of the cup, about 1/2 cup (I used 1/3 C) Bake the muffins until firm to the touch, 30 to 35 min.

Melt the butter for the dipping mixture. Combine the sugar and cinnamon. When the muffins are just cool enough to handle, remove them from the tin, dip them into or brush them all over with the melted butter, and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar.