Tarts are for dreamers: Blueberry nectarine tarts

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I think most people, buried in the to-do lists of their day-to-day lives, probably have some sort of pipe dream, an “I’ll do this someday when life slows down and the timing is right” sort of thing, that they keep coming back to when day jobs get too busy, overwhelming or stressful, and they just feel like throwing in the towel and running in a totally different direction. For Jared and I, that pipe dream involves moving to some sleepy coastal town and opening a great little coffee shop/bakery/bookstore/art gallery, where we spend our days covered in flour (me), drinking copious amounts of coffee (him) and chatting with customers about Hemingway, Dickens and the latest local artist whose work adorns our walls.

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I’ll admit, on a lot of days, that dream sounds pretty awesome. Peaceful. Slower. Quiet. But of course, there are dreams, and there is real life. There are real jobs to do, real bills to pay, real needs to fill. Oh, and there are those pesky student loans, too. Student loans for educations that, though certainly fueled and arguably achieved through mountains of coffee and books, have very little to do with running a small business that caters to such things. So for now, we keep dreaming. And that’s probably a good thing.

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So we can’t have the pipe dream now. But you know what? I have a fridge full of fruit that needs to be eaten and enough butter, flour and sugar to guarantee a happy day. So I bake. There’s something about making tarts, especially simple, rustic fruit tarts, that makes me feel a lot closer to that someday dream. I don’t know that I want to roll cookies out all day or wait for yeasty dough to rise, but tarts? Tarts I could spend every morning on. I love the simple dough, I love the flexibility in the filling, and I love that no matter how or what you squish inside that little mold, it comes out looking delicious, beautiful and intentional. I only made four for this recipe, and I would have happily made 50. In fact, maybe I should further specify that highly specific dream of ours: coffee shop/bakery/bookstore/art gallery/destination tart shop. Yep, that sounds perfect.

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This recipe is pretty forgiving, so feel free to experiment with the fruit filling. Just add a tablespoon or so more flour if your fruit is especially juicy. And for the crust, you can easily sub out almond extract for the vanilla or switch up the oils (the original recipe recommends ¼ cup canola oil and ¼ cup olive oil). Just top the finished product with a good-sized dollop of whipped cream, and you’ll be in good shape.

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Blueberry Nectarine Tarts
Adapted from Amanda Hesser, Food52.com

• 1 ½ 
cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• ¾ teaspoons kosher salt
• ¾
 cups plus 1 teaspoon sugar
• ½ cup canola oil
• 2 tablespoons whole milk
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 
tablespoons cold unsalted butter
• 4 small ripe nectarines
• a handful of fresh blueberries

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 ½ cups flour, ½ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar. In a small bowl, whisk together the canola oil, milk and vanilla. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture, and mix gently with a fork, just enough to dampen (you don’t want to overwork the dough!).

Divide the dough among your small tart pans (I used four 4-inch pans and had a little more dough than I needed; six 3-inch pans would probably be perfect. You could also use one 11-inch tart pan). Use your hands to pat out the dough so it covers the bottom of the pans, pushing it up the sides until it reaches the top. It should be about 1/8-inch thick all around. Trim away the excess dough.

In another bowl, combine ¾ cup sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, ¼ teaspoon salt and the butter. Use your fingers to pinch the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly.

Starting on the outside, arrange the nectarines overlapping in a concentric circle over the crust, and fill in the extra space however you like to snuggly fit in as many slices as you can. Squeeze the blueberries in next to the nectarines, dividing them evenly among the tarts.

Sprinkle the crumbly butter mixture over top (it will seem like a lot), and bake the tarts for 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is starting to brown and the fruit is bubbly. (A larger tart will likely take a five to 10 minutes longer). Cool tarts on a rack. Serve them warm or room temperature with lots and lots of whipped cream.

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XO,
Katrina

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Sundays and sunshine: Lemon donut muffins

Lemon Donut Muffins

I always forget how much I love spring until it comes back again. The weather here has been amazing lately, and we’ve been soaking up some serious outside time (hence my frequent sneezes and ridiculously itchy eyes. Oh, allergies, you rascals!). I’m convinced that few things are better for a kid — particularly a high-energy toddler — than time spent outdoors, where they can jump, climb and run around as fast as their little legs can carry them. Beany could run laps around the apartment all day and still not end up with the same kind of happy exhaustion she gets from an hour or two outside. It must be the fresh air. Or the sunshine. Whatever it is, you can’t bottle it. But it’s there for the taking.

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Early Sunday morning, we packed up the kids and walked to one of our favorite bakeries nearby for something delicious to ring in the day. This place has the best lattes in town, which is a happy thing for the coffee drinkers in our bunch, and Beany gets a kick out of picking something yummy from behind the glass counter. I do, too. After all, what’s a latte without something sweet to go with it, right?

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So lattes and lemon donut muffins in hand, we headed back home, where we opened all the windows and let the springtime breeze roll in. I don’t know if it was the walk, the fresh air, the sunshine or the muffins, but it was a really great morning.

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If one could, in fact, bottle sunshine and fresh air and general outside loveliness, it would come in the form of a lemon donut muffin. So although the rest of the week is never as easy breezy as our weekends, I thought I’d try my hand at recreating a piece of our magical morning to last us until Saturday comes around again. Oh, happy day, it was a success! Bright, rich and the perfect blend of sweet and zing, these lemon donut muffins will erase the Monday (or Tuesday or Wednesday) woes and remind you that blue skies are ahead. The calendar might say Monday, but we’re still feeling very Sunday here.

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Lemon Donut Muffins

• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
• ½ cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• zest from 1 lemon
• 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1 ½ cups flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• ¼ cup milk
• ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
• 6 tablespoons salted butter, melted
• ½ cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease a muffin pan with butter (you’ll need 9 spots buttered and ready to go). In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the unsalted butter and ½ cup sugar until creamy. Add the egg and lemon zest, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and lemon juice, and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the milk and cream. Slowly add the flour and milk/cream mixtures to the standing mixer, alternating between the two and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined.

Fill the greased muffin tins about 2/3 full, and bake until the donut muffins are barely golden around the edges, about 20 to 22 minutes (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean). Remove the muffins from the tins right away using a butter knife to loosen the edges.

Working as quickly as you can, dip the tops and sides of each muffin into the melted salted butter, and then roll them in sugar.

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XO,
Katrina

 

The world according to Beany: Chocolate banana muffins

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Anyone who lives with a 2-year-old knows that they are incredibly adept at rattling off every last detail they know about any little thing at any given moment of the day. This makes for wonderful bedtime distractions:

“Goodnight, Beany.”
“Mama, wait! Water! Bunny! Books! My wall! An elephant! It’s dark! More water! Please, Mama! Dada? Dada!”

Lunchtime works this way, too:

Upon seeing her sandwich cut in a snazzy new fashion:
“Yay! Triangles! I like my triangles! Apples? Yay, apples! Oh no! A napkin! Red, blue, orange, yellow, whiiiiiite!”

And then, there’s the grocery store. Oh, the grocery store:

“Mama! Dada, look! Apples! Orange! Eggs? Eggs! Cheese! Yo[gurt]! Nana? Nana! Nana! Nanaaaaaa!”

That’s how we end up leaving with bananas every time. It’s not that we make it a habit of giving into every toddler whim (there are plenty of sugar-filled grocery store requests that go unanswered), but when she’s excited about the produce aisle, we generally try to encourage it. Of course, 2-year-olds are also notoriously picky eaters, so no matter how enthusiastic she is about those bananas at the store, it’s anyone’s guess whether that elation translates to home. Half the time, she devours them faster than we can keep up. The other half of the time, she eats one the first day and then leaves the rest to freckle and brown. That means that half the time, asking for bananas at the store means banana baked goods at home. Wait a minute! Maybe she does know what she’s doing!

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I typically make banana tea muffins with overripe bananas because they aren’t super sweet, but these chocolate banana muffins were a fun and delicious replacement. I don’t know why I don’t combine chocolate and bananas more often. It’s amazing! You don’t have to sprinkle the flakey sea salt on top if it’s not your thing, but that salty sweet top is probably my favorite part of the whole dessert. Beany was a fan, too:

“Cocoa nana? Yay! Mmm! I like cocoa nana! Nana! Nana! Good girl, Ella.” (Toddler thought streams are not always linear.)

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Banana Chocolate Muffins

Chocolate Banana Muffins
Adapted from Fork, Knife, Swoon

• 3 ripe bananas, mashed
• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 1 large egg
• ¼ cup canola oil
• 1/3 cup milk (I used 1%)
• 1/3 cup granulated sugar
• 1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips (bittersweet or semisweet)
• 1 tablespoon flakey sea salt, for sprinkling (I used Maldon.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and line 12 muffins cups with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl, use a fork to whisk together the mashed bananas, vanilla and egg until the mixture is completely combined. Add the oil and milk, and whisk to combine. Add the sugars, and whisk again.

Then use a spatula to stir in the cocoa powder, and mix until the cocoa is completely incorporated. Stir in the salt and baking soda, and then gently fold in the flour. Mix until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffins cups (cups will be about ¾ full). Sprinkle the tops with the chocolate chips, and then sprinkle on the flakey sea salt.

Bake the muffins for 14 to 17 minutes, until the muffin tops look set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan as soon as you’re able, and let them cool on a baking rack.

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Does anyone else have any good uses for all of those overripe bananas? Or stories of toddler shenanigans? I’d love to hear about it!

XO,
Katrina

Eat like a monkey: Ginger(monkey)bread

Monkey Gingerbread

The first time I ate monkey bread was for breakfast at a school friend’s sleepover when I was 12 years old. I remember watching, fascinated, as her mom cut Pillsbury Grands biscuits into six pieces each, rolled the dough into balls and then dunked them into a bath of butter and cinnamon sugar before layering them freely in a bundt pan. Forget the fact that it was premade dough, or that the bath of butter was actually a bath of margarine, or that I was much more of a pancakes-with-syrup-on-the-side kind of girl than a connoisseur of overly sweet morning concoctions; I convinced myself, while watching the magic unfold, that this would indeed be the greatest breakfast of my young life.

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Many moons later, and I honestly can’t remember how that monkey bread tasted. What I do remember, however, is crowding around a small kitchen island, a half dozen sleepy-eyed girls in mismatched pajamas and socks, happily pulling off balls of bread, one by one, until our tummies were content and our sugar spots filled. As much as I love baking for flavor, the recipes I savor the most, especially as our Beany grows older and more interested in the happenings of the kitchen, are the ones that bring with them an experience. Monkey bread, when eaten correctly, is an experience in itself. And if it tastes great, too? Well, then you really can’t go wrong.

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Ginger(monkey)bread

Adapted slightly from arielleclementine, Food52.com

1
 packet active dry yeast
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1/3 
cup warm water (110 degrees)
• 2
 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1
 cup whole milk
• ¼ cup molasses
• 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus ¼ cup, if needed
• 2
 teaspoons kosher salt
• 2
 rounded teaspoons ground ginger
• 1 rounded tablespoon ground cinnamon
• ½ rounded
 teaspoon ground cloves
• 2
 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1
 stick salted butter, melted
• 1
 cup packed light brown sugar

Quickly stir together yeast, the teaspoon of sugar and warm water in a small bowl. Set it aside for about 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes nice and foamy. In the meantime, heat 2 tablespoons butter, milk and molasses in a small saucepan, just until the butter is melted. Set it aside for a minute or two to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Attach the dough hook, and turn the mixer on low. Slowly add the molasses mixture, followed by the yeast mixture. Keep mixing until the dough comes together, about 7 minutes or until smooth. (This is pretty sticky dough compared to other breads — it will stick to the bottom of the bowl — but add a bit more flour, a tablespoon at a time, if it seems too wet.)

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for another minute to form a smooth ball. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn it to coat in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot to rise until it’s doubled in size, about 1 to 1.5 hours.

Butter the bundt pan generously with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Put the melted stick of butter in one small bowl and the brown sugar in another.

When the dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and pat into an 8-inch square. Cut the dough into 64 pieces, and roll the pieces into balls. One by one, dip the balls in butter, roll in brown sugar and place them in the bundt pan (distributing them as evenly as possible).

Cover the bundt pan with plastic wrap, place it in a warm spot and allow the dough to rise for another hour. (Although I didn’t try it, reviews of this recipe suggest that you can put the dough in the refrigerator at this point — overnight if you wish — and bake it later. Just make sure to allow an hour for the dough to come to room temperature and finish rising before you bake it.) Once the balls have risen, they should be puffy and about an inch below the top of the pan.

Bake the monkey bread for 30 to 35 minutes in a 350-degree F oven, until the top is golden brown. Cool the cake in the pan for just 5 minutes, then invert it onto a cake stand and cool for another 5 to 10 minutes. Then gather the family, and enjoy! This monkey bread really does taste best when it’s warm from the oven, so don’t wait!

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I love how this recipe turned out, and though the process can be a bit time-consuming with all of the hands-on rolling and individual dipping, the bread itself actually comes together fairly easily. It tastes wonderfully gingerbready, and the gooey, carmely outer layer really takes it over the top. And just think how great it would be to stand around the kitchen counter with your nearest and dearest while you pull the bread apart and enjoy that surge of sugary goodness! I already have plans to bring it back for Thanksgiving and Christmas morning. Get ready, little sister! You’re helping me with all the rolling and dipping!

XO,
Katrina

Fall in New England: Apples, waffles and a hooray for new seasons

Apple Waffles

I’m sitting here at my desk with a 50-degree breeze coming through the window and feeling almost too chilly to be comfortable. It’s wonderful! It seems fall comes much earlier in New England, and I’m so, so happy for it. This transition to Boston has been tougher on me than I expected. It’s busy. It’s noisy. I miss the South and the Midwest more than I knew I could. But I’m glad to have a new chill in the air to remind me to count all of the good things. Family is always good. Fall is always good.

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We’re taking full advantage of the weather these days, especially on the weekends when Jared is home. After two consecutive years of missing apple picking in North Carolina (my non-farmer mind always figured you’d pick apples in late September, which makes for slim pickin’s down south), I was determined to not miss our chance again. So we planned a trip on one of the first chilly mornings of the season, headed out of the city and into a rural-ish town about 45 minutes away. It was beautiful and wonderful and such a perfect day.

Apple Picking

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We actually went on the first day that Honeycrisp apples (my favorite!) were ready for picking. Huzzah! Apparently they go fast, so we got there at just the right time.

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Beany had an absolute blast. She squealed on the hayride out to the orchard and then wore herself out running up and down the rows of apple trees. She slept the entire way home.

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And how great is it that the trip comes with a built-in snack break? Our girl is an apple fiend, and this one little apple kept her occupied for more than an hour. I told Jared that anyone who thinks kids won’t eat fruit needs to come apple picking. Every kid there, from the itty bitties to the teens, was going to town on just-picked-from-the-tree goodness. Basically, we should all have apple trees.

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We brought home 10 pounds of glorious apples, and we’ve been enjoying every last one of them. Lots have been eaten plain as can be because they’re just that good, but we’ve also been having fun with new recipes. These cinnamon-spice waffles with sautéed apples are a new family favorite and one I’m sure we’ll be making on many fall mornings to come. Although each element is good on its own, I really think the combination of the cinnamon waffles, maple syrup, plenty of butter and fresh sautéed apples is what makes it such a perfect breakfast. It sounds like a lot, but try it all together. You won’t be disappointed!

Seasons are meant to be enjoyed. So far, we’re really enjoying this one.

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Cinnamon-Spice Waffles
Recipe adapted from Alton Brown

• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 cup whole-wheat flour
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
• ½ rounded teaspoon ginger
• ¼ rounded teaspoon cloves
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 3 whole eggs, beaten
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• 2 cups milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla

Butter your waffle iron or spray it with cooking spray, and preheat according to manufacturer’s instructions. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs and milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir until combined. Slowly add melted butter to the mixture, and mix until just combined. Allow mixture to rest for about five minutes.

Ladle batter into the waffle maker, and bake according to the waffle iron’s instructions, until waffle is golden brown on each side. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200-degree F oven until ready to serve.

Sautéed Apples
• 2 tablespoons salted butter
• 3 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped (I like to use a tart variety to cut down on all that sweet.)
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, cinnamon and brown sugar, and toss until the apples are coated. Cook the apples for 8 to 10 minutes, until they’re tender but not mushy.

Top the waffles with a drizzle of melted salted butter, a bit of pure maple syrup and a healthy serving of the warmed apples. Then sit back and enjoy that happy fall weather!

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Has fall arrived where you live? What’s your favorite way to kick off the season? And has anyone else already downed at least a dozen pumpkin spice lattes already?!? Yay, fall!

XO,
Katrina

Of markets and merriment: Vintage breakfast puffs

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On Saturday morning, we rounded up the gang and headed to the Durham Farmers Market to pick up some fresh produce and enjoy some fresh air. It really was a perfect morning weather-wise: a breezy low 60s with plenty of sunshine. Beany loves to be outside, and we were all do for dose of open air. It’s so easy to get stuck behind the computer (or puzzles or LEGOS, as far as Beany is concerned). Sometimes we have to force ourselves out the door, particularly when it’s early on a Saturday morning, but we’re always so glad we went.

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The farmers market here is pretty great, with lots of farmers, crafters, food trucks and music. We picked up enough fruits and vegetables to last us well into next week, and Jared grabbed a breakfast sandwich from the Pie Pushers food truck, which he’s been jonesing to visit since we moved to Durham almost two years ago. I, however, opted for a donut muffin from Scratch, a local bakery that runs a stand at the market. For those of you who know me and my aversion to donuts, no, I haven’t changed my ways. A donut muffin, or breakfast puff, is exactly what its name implies: part donut, part muffin, all the best parts of each. I’ve learned that my real dislike of donuts applies only to those that are deep fried (I know, I’m an odd duck). Donut muffins are baked, not fried. Hence, they are glorious.

Little Bean

This wasn’t our first visit to Scratch. In fact, it was about a year ago to date that Jared’s grandma sent us a $20 bill in a card that said, “I read about a bakery in Durham called Scratch in Southern Living. Have a pie on me.” Who are we to argue with that? We headed downtown for a couple slices of pie (lemon for me, chocolate for Jared) and snapped this photo of our sweet Beany. I can’t believe how little she looks! And to think, she hardly knew how wonderful pie was then. I think her sweet tooth has grown as much as she has.

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Jared and Beany didn’t get to try my donut muffin (I’m so greeeeedy!), so I thought I’d try to recreate the recipe at home. You know, for the sake of my family.

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The Kitchy Kitchen posted a recipe for vintage French breakfast puffs  a while back that sounded pretty similar to what Scratch was serving up over the weekend, so that was my jumping-off point. Although they don’t look amazing when they emerge from the oven, a quick dip of butter (salted!) and a roll in cinnamon sugar makes for a super special breakfast treat that tastes nearly as good the next day. As Beany’s cinnamon-covered smile can attest, they disappear quickly. Next time, I’ll make a double batch.

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Vintage Breakfast Puffs

Vintage Breakfast Puffs
Adapted from The Kitchy Kitchen

Makes 8 puffs

• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
• ½ cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 ½ cups flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon cloves
• ½ teaspoon ginger
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• ½ cup whole milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 6 tablespoons salted butter, melted
• ½ cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the unsalted butter and ½ cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cloves, ginger and cinnamon. Slowly add the flour mixture and milk to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, alternating between the two. Add the vanilla, and mix to combine.

Fill greased muffin tins about 2/3 full, and bake until the puffs are barely golden, about 25 minutes. Remove the puffs from the tins right away using a butter knife to carefully loosen the edges.

Working as quickly as you can, dip the tops and sides of each puff into melted butter, and then roll them in a cinnamon sugar mix (1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon). Serve them hot, warm, cold, in a house or with a mouse. They are good anytime, anywhere.

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Have you made any trips to the farmers market lately? What’s the skinny on the bakeries near you? I’d love to hear about it!

XO,
Katrina

A reason for messes: 10-minute strawberry jam

Strawberry Jam4

I could talk on and on about the value of simplicity — simple ingredients, simple work, simple living — but sometimes, I can honestly say you just have to make a royal mess of things to appreciate a job well done. Last night, while I scrubbed a few dishes and Jared helped tend to a bubbling pot of fruit and sugar, I thought to myself how lovely and simple the evening felt compared to the past few weeks. The thought barely escaped my mind when, quite suddenly, that bubbling pot turned into a red hot spring of craziness, spewing very boiling and very staining liquid from one end of the kitchen to the other.

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Now I don’t know if it’s because I was watching 19 Kids and Counting at the time (the Duggars have a strangely calming effect on me) or because I slept a full eight hours the night before, but rather then send me into the typical stress-filled cleaning frenzy, this volcano of sticky preserves only fueled my satisfaction in the entire jam-making process. What is jam without the mess anyway? A sugary fruit mash at best. The real secret is in the chaos.

Strawberry Jam

Oh, and good croissants. The other secret is good croissants. Few things are more delicious than homemade jam on bakery-made pastry, and we’re fortunate to have an awesome German bakery nearby. Next time you’re cruising around Durham, be sure to check out Guglhupf. And order a few extra cherry Danish to take home because, well, you need no excuse.

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So back to the jam. This super simple recipe, which I happened upon while browsing one of my sister’s Pinterest boards (hey, gurl!), is a mere three ingredients long and takes little more than a bit of active stirring to get the job done. Yes, it might leave an impressive mess in its wake, but as noted earlier, that’s part of the process. It’s all worth it. Of course, it’s entirely possible that I was cooking with some exceptionally fervent strawberries, and perhaps the tamer varieties are less likely to bubble so enthusiastically. But I’m no scientist. Just a girl who’s a few splatters short of a clean kitchen.

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Simple Strawberry Jam
From Martha Stewart

• 1 ½ pounds hulled strawberries
• ½ cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Place the strawberries in a food processor, and pulse until they’re coarsely chopped. Transfer the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice to a large skillet, and stir until combined.

Cook the strawberries over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the jam is thickened and bubbles cover the surface, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the jam to a jar (or two small jars), and allow it to cool to room temperature. Jam may be kept sealed in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

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In case it helps put the flavor or texture into perspective, my mom says this strawberry goodness sounds a lot like the freezer jam my grandma used to make all the time. It’s sweet but not overly sweet like the store-bought stuff, and there’s plenty of zing from the generous bit of lemon juice. And we’re just jumping into strawberry season, so now’s the time to jam away! Just don’t forget those croissants!

XO,
Katrina

Timers? Sweets? Huzzah! Sour cherry maple muffins

Cherry Maple Muffins

Although I do from time to time dream of the day when I’ll set a grand table and serve a Norman Rockwell-inspired meal amidst oohs and ahs from family and friends, most of the dishes and desserts that come from our kitchen are served to a gracious though not unusually enthusiastic audience — until last week, that is, when Beany learned her latest trick.

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Last week, Beany (who has become quite the little cookie monster, cupcake monster, anything sweet monster as of late) made the all-important connection between the kitchen timer and desserts. All at once, the onset of beeping sets off a series of events in our little girl’s day: stop what you’re doing, say “uh oh” while running toward the kitchen, stand by the dishwasher (our designated “safe” zone just out of the oven’s reach) and yell “yay, yay, yay” as loud as you can while clapping as quickly as possible. Talk about a receptive audience.

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The greatest part is, it almost doesn’t matter what I bake or whether she gets to try it right away. She’s just excited to be a part of it. And by the time I reach my third batch of cookies, when I’m burnt out from baking, ready to hang up the oven mitts and call it a day, there’s that Beany, still two big eyes under happy claps and cheers. I bet she’d cheer for the laundry if I turned the buzzer on the dryer. She’s pretty much the greatest that way.

Cherry Maple Muffins5

Of course, I can’t expect the claps to continue forever and ever if I don’t reciprocate with cheer-worthy treats, and Beany was a happy camper with these cherry maple muffins. Sure, she gave them rave reviews before they even made it out of the oven, but the love continued well into the tasting phase.

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Cherry Maple Muffins2

Cherry Maple Muffins
Adapted from Rivka, Food52.com 

• ½ cup grade B maple syrup
• ¾ cups plain yogurt
• ¼ cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
• 3 eggs, lightly beaten
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• zest from 1 orange
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ½ cup canola oil
• 2 cups fresh or frozen cherries, pitted and halved (if using frozen, make sure they’re thawed completely)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 12 muffins tins with parchment liners.

Mix together the syrup, yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla and orange zest until well combined. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking power, cinnamon and salt. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir gently to incorporate. Add the oil, and gently fold it into the batter until it’s completely absorbed. Then gently fold in the cherries (Note: I like to reserve a few cherries to sprinkle on top of the batter once it’s poured into the parchment liners so the finished muffins have pretty cherry pieces right on top.)

Pour the batter into the muffin cups until they’re about ¾ cup full. Drop the last few cherry pieces on top (if you saved any), and then sprinkle the tops with a light dusting of sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are golden and a toothpick just comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan as soon as you’re able, and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.

Cherry Maple Muffins6

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Who’s your best kitchen cheerleader? Do you have a favorite recipe that always elicits happy squeals from the diners in your life? I’d love to hear about it!

XO,
Katrina

A tale of time and taste: Sour cherry cream cheese coffee cake

Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake4

Some recipes are wonderfully simple and can be whipped up in a flash. You don’t really have to plan for them (aside from having the ingredients), they’re easy enough to make while your mind juggles other matters, and you can mix them up in the time it takes for your toddler to pull out everything but the last two travel mugs from her favorite kitchen cabinet. Cookies, brownies and muffins all fall in that category for me: the anytime category. Sometimes timing is everything, and the timing you need is fast. But this is not one of those recipes.

Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake8

Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake7

This is one of those recipes for which you make the list ahead of time and have a baby wrangler on standby. But don’t let that scare you because it’s well worth the effort!

Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake5

Sometimes you just have to get your hands dirty, make a mess of a half dozen bowls and work those oft forgotten muscles that nothing but a good kneading seems able to reach. Sometimes you need to remind yourself that those lovely cakes lining the glass of the local bakery didn’t appear in an instant, that they were lovingly poured over by a hard-working baker, probably in the wee hours of the morning. This will also serve to remind you exactly why a slice of cake can run you $4 a pop. Oy!

Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake2

Again I have to say, please don’t be scared off by all of this effort. This cake, though time-consuming, is still relatively simple at its core, as is true with most baking. It’s just a matter of following instructions and enjoying the process. And maybe keeping the kiddos out of the kitchen for a pinch (though a bowl filled with plastic cookie cutters does work as 15 minutes’ worth of wonderful distraction).

Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake6

In the end, your efforts will be rewarded. Sour cherries and cream cheese make a winning combination, and when baked into a yeasted coffee cake, magical things happen. The cake is rich, sweet and gigantic, which really is ideal because all that time in the kitchen deserves at least a few extra slices.

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Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
Adapted just slightly from Martha Stewart

For the cake:
• ¼-ounce envelope (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
• ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons plus a pinch granulated sugar
• ¾ cup whole milk, warmed to 110 degrees F
• 1 egg
• 1 egg yolk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• zest of ½ lemon
• ½ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for bowl and parchment
• 1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream for egg wash
• 1 ½ cups pitted fresh of thawed frozen sour cherries

For the filling:
• 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
• 1 egg yolk
• ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

For the glaze:
• 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
• 2 tablespoons whole milk

To make the dough: Whisk the yeast and a pinch of sugar into the milk in a small bowl. Let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. In the meantime, whisk together the remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar, the egg, egg yolk and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the foamy yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flour, kosher salt and lemon zest. Add the egg mixture, and beat on low until it’s fully combined, about 30 seconds. Switch the paddle attachment for the dough hook, add the butter and beat at a low speed (I used speed 2 on my KitchenAid mixer) for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, soft and slightly sticky.

Butter a large bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead it a few times until it’s smooth. Place it in the buttered bowl, turn it so it gets coated with the butter, and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough stand in a warm place for 1 ½ to 2 hours until it has doubled in volume.

To make the filling: Stir together the cream cheese, egg yolk and confectioners’ sugar. Once the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and transfer it to a floured work surface. Let it stand for 5 minutes.

Roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 20 by 16 inches (about 1/8 inch thick). Brush the edges with egg wash. Spread the cream cheese filling over the dough, and top that with the cherries. Starting with one of the longer ends, tightly roll the dough like a jelly roll, and pinch the seam to seal. Roll the jelly roll into a snail shape on a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Brush the top with egg wash.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and let it stand in a warm place for about 30 minutes, until it has risen by half.

Remove the plastic wrap, and cut six ½-inch slits into the top of the dough. Bake the cake, rotating halfway through, for about 55 minutes, until it is golden. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Continue baking the cake until it is deeply golden, 15 to 20 more minutes (cover with foil if top gets too dark). Transfer pan to a wire rack, and let cake cool.

To make the glaze: Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and milk. Drizzle it over the cooled cake. Let it set for 5 minutes before serving, until the glaze has hardened a bit.

Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake3

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This cake officially joins the ranks of our company-approved menu items. Not only is it delicious, but it can also be made ahead and tastes just as good the next day. Make and bake it the night before, then save the glazing for the morning, right before serving. You might even get some oohs and ahs as you drizzle on those finishing touches. Or at the very least, feel free to ooh and ah yourself. Mm, good cake.

XO,
Katrina

Like living in a pancake: Maple yogurt pound cake

Maple Yogurt Pound Cake6

Imagine waking up to the smell of maple permeating from all corners of the room. It’s faint enough to not overwhelm you but strong enough to conceal the slow-cooked curry next door. As you roll out of bed and greet the morning (a bit bouncier than usual, of course, as maple is a wonderful incentive to start the day), you smile because you know good things are on the horizon. The sun seems shinier, the birds sound chirpier, and the whole day already feels sweeter. That’s life inside a pancake, my friends. And it is awesome.

Maple Yogurt Pound Cake7

“It’s like we’re living in a pancake.” Those were the exact words uttered in our house at that magical moment when the smell of what was baking escaped the oven and reached our senses. It’s been a while since I’ve been so excited to try something based on smell alone.

Maple Yogurt Pound Cake

But that’s how baking is supposed to be, right? It’s the smell that draws you in; it’s the flavor that makes you stay. Luckily, this maple yogurt pound cake lives up to its fragrant hype.

Maple Yogurt Pound Cake5

I suppose I should also note how super simple the recipe is. A bit of sifting and stirring is all it takes. And so long as you butter your loaf pan liberally to avoid any pesky stick-the-the-sideness, it’s sure to emerge golden and lovely.

Maple Yogurt Pound Cake4

And it’s so, so delicious. Actually, I baked this pound cake two days in a row last week, not because I botched the recipe the first time but because it’s totally true what they say: Once you’ve lived inside a pancake, it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else (or something like that).

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Maple Yogurt Pound Cake3

Maple Yogurt Pound Cake
Adapted just slightly from Rivka, Food52.com

• ½ cup grade B maple syrup
• ¾ cups plain yogurt (I used regular yogurt, but Greek would work, too.)
• ¼ cup sugar
• 3 eggs, lightly beaten
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• zest from ½ lemon or orange (I’ve tried both ways and honestly liked it equally.)
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ½ cup canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8 ½-by-4 ½-by-2 ½-inch metal loaf pan.

Mix together the syrup, yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla and lemon or orange zest until well combined. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking power, cinnamon and salt. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir gently to incorporate. Add the oil, and gently fold it into the batter until it’s completely absorbed.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan, place the pan on a baking sheet in the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center just comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully remove it from the pan and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack.

Maple Yogurt Pound Cake2

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What’s your favorite breakfast to wake up to? Are there any recipes that have won you over with their scent alone? Do tell!

XO,
Katrina

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