Monday, November 9, 2015

Apple Oatmeal Crumble Muffins

It's Muffin Monday! I just made that up.

Here's what I love about muffins: everything. They're perfect when you have overnight guests, after school snacks and they're my ultimate fave breakfast. You are super smart if you stock your freezer with them for unexpected events or simple snack needs. They're "healthy" cake.

Recently, I was sitting at my desk and got super hungry. All I wanted was an oatmeal muffin with apples and crumb topping. Like, absolutely nothing else would do. At all.

If you scour the internet, you'll find several lovely recipes. Some of them require toasting the oats. Others want Irish oatmeal made first. None that I liked incorporated apples and crumb topping. Plus, I wanted SIMPLE. Easy. And immediate.

In 45 minutes start to finish, I had one of these warm and heading toward my mouth. It was so good I had to eat another one after they cooled to make sure I wasn't just in a bubble of instant gratification. These are good. Spicy, hearty and sweet, these cover breakfast and dessert. 

I have to thank And Then We Saved for the base of the recipe. I added in an apple and then baked in some crumb topping originally sourced from Ina Garten. 

If you have guests coming during the holidays, these will have you covered. If not, 




Apple Oatmeal Crumble Muffins
Makes 12 ample muffins

1 C milk (any kind - I used almond milk)
1 C old-fashioned oats
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 C flour
1/4 C sugar
1 t baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 t allspice or cloves
1/4 t nutmeg
one Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced 

Crumb Topping:
1/4 C sugar
1/3 C brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg
1 stick butter, melted
1-1/3 C flour

1. In a small bowl, combine milk and oats. Soak 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the crumb topping. Whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl.  Stir in the melted butter. Then, stir in the flour and mix well. Set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 400°.  Line one 12-muffin pan with paper muffin cups and set aside.

4. In a large bowl, beat together egg and oil until mixed. 
Stir in oatmeal mixture.

5. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, spices and salt.

6. Fold flour mixture into batter until combined and then fold in the diced apples.

7. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups. Crumble topping over each. You can pack the crumble on, but you may have a little topping left over. 

8. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned and domed. Muffin should spring back when gently touched with your finger. 

9. Cool 15-45 minutes (whatever you can handle!) and munch away!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Best Ever Carrot Cake

What a whirlwind October was. It was so busy that here we are one week into November and I'm still recovering!

The best way I know to recover from anything is by baking up something delicious and filled with love. (Also related: this blog's current name!)

This recipe has been handed down and modified several times along the way. Personally, it's at its very best right now. Spicy, dense and the perfect amount of crunchy & soft, this carrot cake will delight any and all.

Let me know what you think. Here goes!



Best Ever Carrot Cake
Makes one three-layer 9" cake

Dry ingredients:
2 C flour
2 t cinnamon
1 t ginger
1 t nutmeg
1 t allspice
2 t baking soda

Wet ingredients:
1 C oil
2 C sugar
4 eggs
2 t vanilla

Ingredients to fold in last:
3 C shredded carrots
1 8 oz can crushed pineapple, including juices

Cream Cheese Icing:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 C butter, softened
4-1/2 C powdered sugar, sifted for best texture
1 t vanilla

1 C shopped, toasted walnuts

Here's what we do:
1. Preheat your oven to 350.

2. Butter and flour three 9" cake pans.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside.

4. Using a hand or stand mixer, blend wet ingredients until thoroughly combined.

5. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix on medium speed until blended - maybe 2 minutes, max.

6. Fold in the carrots and pineapple (including juices) until the batter comes together.

7. Pour evenly into your three prepared pans and bake for 30-40 minutes or until each layer is slightly browned and set.

8. Let cakes cool and whip up the icing.

9. Blend butter and cream cheese until thoroughly combined. Add in half the powdered sugar and blend until mixed in. Add the rest of the sugar and beat on medium-high until it reaches a creamy, soft texture. Add in the vanilla and mix quickly to incorporate.

10. Toast the walnuts on a baking sheet 5-8 minutes at 350. Let cool completely.

11. Once the cake is cooled, frost using the cream cheese icing. Your filling layers will be a bit sparse but, trust me, you don't need more than this amount of frosting or it'll be sweet overload.

12. Using your clean hands, gently press the walnuts into the sides of the cake. You can chop them as fine as you like or as coarse as you like, depending upon your preference.

13. Lucky thirteen. Slice and EAT!

Monday, October 12, 2015

It's All In the Name

A year and a half ago, when I sat down at my sister-in-law's table to name this blog (we were still a wee bit homeless then), I thought about what baking means to me. It occurred to me that of all the great loves in my life, baking is the throughline. When I love, I bake. When I grieve, I bake. When I'm bored, excited, happy, sad, lonely, filled get the idea.

I named my blog Baking, a Love Story because it felt like a poetic way to say what I felt about this craft that sustains me and is one of my truest expressions. (I mean, do you see how dramatic I am about baking?) It felt right.

About 2 months into blogging, I searched "baking a love story" to see if my blog would come up in the results. It was third on the list, but lo and behold, at the top of the list was this beautiful blog with a similar name that was all about food and family. Aaaack! The writer at Dinner, a Love Story was well-established, in the process of writing a cook book, and had over 15,000 followers on various social media outlets. omg, I wanted to melt into the floor from the embarrassment of accidentally stealing her brilliant naming idea. How did I not know about Dinner, a Love Story? How was my head buried that deep in the sand?

The moniker Baking, a Love Story has never been the same for me since that day. Sure, I keep on keeping on. BUT, it's time to come up with something else to call this pet project of mine. And yet, I find myself rather inconveniently blocked and unable to come up with anything I like better. Or as well. Or at all!

Any suggestions?

Help! Pleeeaaaase!



Monday, October 5, 2015

Paleo Pumpkin Muffins

Ahh, fall. Thank you, autumn, for your beautiful cooler weather. For falling leaves. For apple picking season. Oh, wait, that doesn't really happen in San Diego, does it?

I was made to be an east coast girl. As much as I LOVE my home state, I belong in a place where September means jeans & boots. Where you pack on a few extra pounds because it's cold outside. Where a short drive leads to apple orchards and the leaves burn auburn and orange before gently whispering toward the ground. Doesn't that sound romantic?

Those of you who, like me, adore fall probably already know that with autumn comes baking with ingredients like apples and pumpkins. This recipe is no exception. Well, except that it's Paleo! Using nuts, eggs, coconut oil and a wee bit of maple syrup, this recipe lets the pumpkin and spices shine through more so than the typical pumpkin muffin recipe. Low in sugars, rich in protein and vitamins, it's deliciously healthy for anyone. Don't take my word for it, though. Try it!



Danielle Walker's Paleo Pumpkin Muffins

2 C blanched almond flour
3 T coconut flour (I didn't have this so I used all almond flour)
1 t baking soda
2 t cinnamon
3/4 t nutmeg
1/2 t ginger
1/4 t cardamom
1/4 t cloves
1/4 t sea salt
3/4 C pumpkin puree
1/3 C maple syrup or honey
2 eggs at room temp
2 T coconut oil, melted
1 t vanilla
2 T chopped pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line your muffin tin with papers.

3. Whisk together the almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

4. Place the remaining wet ingredients (minus the pepitas) in a bowl and mix until combined.

5. Slowly fold the dry ingredients into the wet until combined.

6. Pour the batter into the tins about 2/3 full and top with pepitas.

7. Bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

8. Eat. Try to stop yourself from eating a second. And then a third. No, really, stop there. Okay, one more, then, but we're stopping at 4!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Chocolate Almond Fairy Cakes

In all fairness to Ms. Zoe Nathan, who wrote this recipe, she calls these "muffins" in her gorgeous cook book that happens to be named after her incredible restaurant/bake shop Huckleberry in Santa Monica, CA. To me, though, this is dessert-only fare. Besides, these rich, luscious beauties are more cake-like. Something you eat at tea time with girlfriends. Something you revel in. Something to delight the senses and fulfill any sweets craving. You know, a fairy cake!

This cake is decadent and faintly fragrant with almond. If you're thinking Almond Joy candy bars, these are not that. These "fairy cakes" are a rich cake, fortified by a nut paste that gives them a deep melt-in-your-mouth quality.

I mean, just LOOK at the chocolate. The melty, indulgent chocolate! Just try not to fall over with culinary joy. I dare you!

Thank you, Zoe Nathan, for the BEST dessert experience I've had since the chocolate tarte that is my favorite thing in the world. And a special thank you to Stacy for so kindly buying me this gorgeous cook book. I'm going to make every single recipe!



Chocolate Almond Fairy Cakes
Makes 16 cupcakes
3/4 C almond paste
1 C sugar
1 t kosher salt
1/3 C cocoa (I used Valrhona. I highly recommend using the best quality you can get your hands on)
1 C + 1 T butter, at room temp
6 eggs
2 t vanilla
1 C + 1-1/2 T flour
2-1/4 t baking powder (I only had roughly 1-1/2 t which is why my cakes look a little lacklustre)
2 C chocolate chips or chopped chocolate with about 3 T reserved

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line 2 cupcake tins with 16 cupcake papers and set aside.

3. In your stand mixer, blend the almond paste, sugar, salt and cocoa until the paste is no longer clumpy. If you taste at this point, the texture will be a bit like cornmeal.

4. Add the butter and mix until thoroughly incorporated.

5. Add the eggs, 2 at a time, beating well after each addition. I scraped the bowl after each addition, but that's not in the book.

6. Add the flour, baking powder and chocolate chips and mix on low speed until incorporated. You can finish mixing with your spatula, if need be.

7. Fill your muffin cups to the top and sprinkle a few more chocolate chips or chunks on top.

8. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until the tops spring back when gently touched.

9. Cool completely and eat!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Lemon Cream Tartlets

You know how you have those friends - the ones you clicked with the first time? Those rare and beautiful people who seem to seamlessly join you wherever you are in life and it seems like they've always been there? My friend Toya is like that for me.

Toya is a kindred soul. She loves to bake, too, and because she wouldn't be comfortable in front of a crowd, even one as small as my readership (thank you for being here!), she texts me photos of her front-window-worthy muffins, cakes and other delights.

What I really love about Toya is her earth-mother-ness. She is the high priestess in the tarot: the eternal mother, a gentle soul with fierce protective powers. She's thoughtful, quiet. She can never, ever leave a party because she is always, always listening attentively to people trying to chat her up. Add to all this the most beautiful lips on a face you've ever seen, and that's Toya. 

Recently, Toya had a very big birthday and a few of us revelers crashed her suite in a hotel. Because one does not show up empty-handed to this sort of affair, J & I brought wine, margaritas & these sweet little tartlets in Toya's favorite flavor - lemon. The difference between these tasties and, say, a lemon bar, is that they're made with a rich, decadent lemon cream a la Tartine Bakery. As complex as they are, though, they are light and lovable, all at once. Kind of like our birthday girl.

T, I love you so. Cheers to the big birthday and to all the little ones in between.



Tartine's Lemon Cream Tartlets
Makes 36 tartlets

1 C unsalted butter
1 C sugar
1/4 t kosher salt
2 large eggs, at room temp
3-1/2 C flour

Lemon Cream
1/2 C + 2 T lemon juice
3 large eggs, at room temp
1 large egg yolk, at room temp
3/4 C sugar
1/4 t kosher salt
1 C unsalted butter

Make your pastry.

1. Mix the butter, sugar, salt on medium until smooth.
2. Mix in one egg, then the other, blending completely after each.
3. Add the flour all at once and mix on low until incorporated.
4. Divide the pastry into quarters, wrap well in plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours.
5. Once chilled, remove 2 of your quarters from the fridge and freeze the rest.
6. Preheat your oven to 325.
7.Roll them to 1/4" thickness and, using a 3" biscuit cutter, cut out tartlet circles.
8. Gently press each tartlet pastry into mini-muffin pans (each mini muffin pan holds about 24 minis)
9. Bake at 325 for 6 minutes or so, just until the crust is set.
10. Remove from oven and gently press down with your thumb or a spoon so you can fill each pastry cup with cream.

Make your lemon cream.

Okay, you need a double boiler for this. Don't have one? You need a sauce pan that you can fill with about 1-2 inches water and a heat-safe bowl (preferably stainless steel, but, whatever) to place on top.

1. Boil about 1-2 inches water in a saucepan.
2. While the water is heating, blend the lemon juice, eggs, egg yolk, and sugar.
3. Once blended, place over the boiling water and stir constantly (listen, Toya is worth it. I hope you have a friend like this, too) until the mixture thickens and reaches 180 degrees (about 10-12 minutes, depending upon your boil and your stirring commitment).
4. Remove from heat and let cool to 140 degrees, stirring every minute or so to help the heat release.
5. Cut the butter into 1" cubes.
6. Pour the lemon egg mixture into your blender.
7. With the blender running, add the butter one cube at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
8. The cream will be light in color and is ready to use now or store for a few days and spoon into your creation.

Spoon the cream into the tartlet shells and place a dollop whipped cream on top. Add a blueberry or mint leaf and you're all ready to pop it into your mouth serve!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Paleo Peach Crisp

After my unintentional summer hiatus, a break that was caused mostly by a deep desire to escape the heat of my non-air-conditioned home, I'm thrilled to start sharing some of what I was willing to turn the oven on for with y'all.

First up is this gorgeous, pure crisp that happens to be Paleo-friendly. Not only is this recipe the bees knees, but it can also be made with all sorts of fall fruits like pears, apples, figs...whatever you like and is in season. In fact, the original recipe calls for pears and blueberries. Just sayin'.

I have not gone Paleo, but my mother has and it's having all kinds of positive affects on her person. Did I mention my mom has rheumatoid arthritis? That's the kind that effects pretty much every joint in your body and wreaks havoc on your energy level and immune system. Because there are so many irritants in our atmosphere and foods these days, eating a simple diet of foods that grow can reduce inflammation and seems to help with everything from allergies to arthritis.

When my mom visited over the summer, I was terrified to cook Paleo until she bought me Danielle Walker's Against All Grain. I was afraid I'd have to spend all day in the kitchen. Of spending a small fortune on food. Of feeling hungry and dissatisfied after each meal. Turns out that while I do love me some carbs, I discovered that Ms. Walker just plain makes great food. Whatever the diet, her recipes are incredible. Mom is back in Pasadena and I'm still cooking from this book all the time. I'm hoping for another of Ms. Walker's fine books for Christmas. Just putting that out there...

Anyhow, back to the crisp. Who knew that a simple recipe like this one - WITHOUT SUGAR - could be so yummy? I could totally eat this for breakfast with a dollop of yogurt on it, too (pretty sure yogurt's not Paleo!). Whether you serve this for dessert, breakfast or just try making it for an afternoon adventure, please do try it. It's pretty freaking tasty!



Paleo Peach Crisp
Serves 12

4 cups peeled, sliced peaches
1 T lemon juice
2 T coconut flour
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t allspice

2 T coconut oil, solid form
2/3 C almonds
2/3 C pecans
4 pitted Medjool dates
2 T shredded unsweetened coconut
1-1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt

1. Preheat your oven to 375.
2. Mix your fruit ingredients and place into your 9" x 13" baking dish.
3. Place your topping ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it resembles oats.
4. Sprinkle crisp over fruit and bake 35 minutes or until you see juices bubbling from the corners of the crisp.
5. Cool 30 minutes and serve!