In my world breakfast doesn’t begin until coffee is present and accounted for. More often than not it’s thick, black espresso, lovingly nicknamed “jet fuel” made on the stove top in an old fashioned percolator. If I’m not at home, it’s a coffee shop Americano, but either way I want it to be strong, dark and bold. I don’t add cream or sugar to my coffee, but I do enjoy coffee in sweets like my Coffee and Cream Cake or warm coffee over vanilla bean ice cream for a classic affogato. Bittersweet is a flavor profile I really love. Coffee and cinnamon both fall into this category and I find them quite remarkable together, so these Cinnamon Espresso Oats were a somewhat obvious breakfast hybrid for me. They are simple to prepare – this is barely a recipe – but they make up for it in the complexity of their nuanced flavor. I’ve dressed them up here with some creamy slices of banana and crunchy green pumpkin seeds because I find oats to be at their best when they are part of a textural landscape with a variety of things going on. All alone they can be a bit, well, stodgy, but add a crunchy crisp something or a soft fruit and they get infinitely more exciting.
Tag: Winter recipe
We’ve talked before about how poorly I keep journals? How I have great intentions and find fresh stationery thrilling, but never follow through? Yeah, seems that I’m the same way with keeping a calendar too. When I’m at work, I live and die by my calendar – I am almost always early for meetings and I faithfully record everything so I’m on time, well prepared and everything is accounted for. As soon as I leave the office, all that goes out the window. Somehow I have managed to be a busy person with lots of ideas, places to be, people to see, all by essentially winging it. How is it possible that I’m ever in the right place at the right time? And possibly more important: What does this have to do with Hollandaise Sauce (and Salmon Eggs Benedict)? (more…)
This recipe came about as the result of a conversation concerning a certain muffin (I actually think they call them ‘baby cakes’) from local Vancouver mini-chain, Terra Breads. The confection in question is something that can only be described as a symphony of apple and cardamom. Baked in charming brown paper sleeves and delicately perfumed with the alluring musk of cardamom, they are a real treat.
If you aren’t familiar with cardamom, here it is:
It’s sort of an ugly little pod, but quite delicious. It’s related to the ginger family and has a somewhat similar pungency to it. Wikipedia has a lot to say about it here. You can easily find both green or black (shown here) varieties. I am less familiar with the black cardamom so I thought I’d try it this time. In hindsight, I’d say that the two are very, very similar, but the black variety is less floral, and more smoky. It’s one of those flavours that once you have it, you won’t forget it, but it’s almost impossible to describe. Either way, it is the perfect match for the soft pears in this cake and of course, the almost magical muffins from Terra Breads.
So why not just go get one? Well, you certainly could. I certainly could have, but I enjoy the challenge of recreating and reinventing recipes. The reinvention here is threefold: 1) It’s a cake, not muffins 2) I used pear not apple 3) I used a trio of spices, one of which was cardamom, so this is less of a punch to the face in terms of cardamom flavour. All that said, this is a quick and easy cake to make (I didn’t even pull out the mixer! Mixed by hand, imagine that!) and requires no frosting or adornment besides a pretty dusting of powdered sugar — but you’d be forgiven if you plopped a cloud of whipped cream on it, or even a drizzle of caramel.
I won’t tell. Your secrets are safe with me.
Pear & Cardamom Bundt Cake
Inspired by the Apple and Cardamom Baby-Cake from Terra Breads
preheat your oven to 350 degrees
Core and chop 3 large, ripe pears (about 3 cups of fruit)
2 Cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cardamom
In a second bowl, cream together
2/3 C. butter – softened to room temperature
1 1/2 C. sugar
Once creamed, beat in
2 whole eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. milk
Add the dry ingredients to the butter, egg and sugar mix.
Stir in the chopped pear.
Scrape (the batter will be thick) into a greased and floured bundt pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until risen brown and a skewer or toothpick inserted into it comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Invert the pan onto the rack and the cake should drop out. Allow to cool fully before cutting.
Has anyone noticed that something has happened to muffins over time? In many cases they have turned into cakes. I’m not an absolute purist when it comes to things like this, but to me there should be more of a difference between a muffin and a cupcake than the frosting. Am I wrong?
These muffins deliver on many levels: taste, texture, and nutrition. The fibre in these is off the charts and they have a minimum of sugar and fat, so we can all feel good about that. What they are not, is bland or boring. They have a decidedly homemade texture to them, and the yogurt and fruit keeps them moist while the tops get crunchy. It’s a win-win. Did I mention that they come together in about 15 minutes and only bake for 30? That means you are less than an hour away from a warm-from-the-oven snack or breakfast. Worth using up your last bag of frozen berries from last summer? Absolutely.
Bran Muffins with Oats and Berries
preheat your oven to 375 and grease (or paper) a 12 cup muffin tin
1 cup of oats (the quick oats will do, but the slow cook oats will give better texture)
1 cup of bran cereal (bran buds or all-bran)
1 1/2 cups of plain yogurt
2 cups of whole wheat flour
1/4 cup of sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg (lightly beaten)
1 tbsp vanilla
2 cups frozen mixed berries (you can use any fruit – apple and pear is delicious, but if it isn’t frozen, keep an eye on them in the oven and reduce the baking time a bit.)
Combine the oats and bran cereal. Use a very large bowl because in the end all the batter will end up here.
Add the yogurt and stir well. Set this mixture aside for about 10 minutes while you mix the other components of the muffins.
Combine the flour, baking powder and soda, salt and sugar in a bowl. Set aside.
Combine the egg, milk, oil and vanilla in a bowl. Once the cereals and yogurt have had a few minutes together to soften, add the egg and milk mix into the cereals, stirring well.
Now add the dry ingredients. Pour them on top of the wet and stir quickly but only until everything is just barely combined. Don’t over mix.
Add your berries, (or other fruit).
Stir to combine, but again, don’t over mix.
Load up 12 well greased or papered muffin cups. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes (less if the fruit wasn’t frozen). They are done when they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into their middles comes out clean.
I have read and heard French onion soup referred to recently as a “French bistro classic”, which I presume it is. Having never been to France, I will have to take that description at face value, however, I can easily imagine tucking into a bowl of this steaming hot soup at a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant with crisp white linen napkins somewhere in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. But, I’m a romantic, so such imaginings are easy for me. If you are less of a dreamer, or possibly adverse to onions or the texture of soggy bread, you may not think this soup is for you, but I would urge you to try it. Not only is it a classic, it is so much more complex and interesting than you would expect. By the time the cheese has melted and the bread has absorbed some of the broth and it is placed in front of you, the onions will have sweetened and softened into the butter, the thyme and sherry will have co-mingled and contributed a gentle citrus flavour as well as a sweet low note that strikes a deep chord that hums “savoury”, “special” and “home”.
French Onion Soup
Loosely adapted from Paris in a Basket by Nicolle Aimee Meyer and Amanda Pilar Smith
This recipe, as I have made it here, feeds 8 hungry people as “dinner” and could easily be enough for 12 as a starter.
8 large onions, peeled and sliced thinly (about 12 cups)
8 tablespoons of salted butter
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 shots (ounces) sherry (I used Harvey’s Bristol Cream because it’s the only sherry I had on hand and frankly the only one I’m very familiar with. It worked out deliciously.)
12 cups beef stock
1 lb Gruyere cheese, grated
1 baguette, cut into 16 -1 inch slices
Fresh ground pepper to taste
This recipe calls for individual French Onion Soup tureens so that the traditional bread and cheese can be broiled atop the soup. If you don’t have the specific tureens, use oven proof bowls, or simply serve it from the pot with the cheese sprinkled in and the bread on the side for dipping.
Begin by peeling the onions. Slice them very thinly. Set aside. Dry your eyes.
In a large heavy bottomed pot, over medium heat, melt the 8 tablespoons of butter.
Once it is melted, add a full sprig of fresh thyme.
Add in the onion. It will seem like an impossibly huge amount of onion, but will cook down beautifully.
Cook the onions in the butter with the thyme, stirring frequently for about 35-40 minutes, until they have reduced to about 25% their original volume and have lightly caramelized. If you find that the onions are browning, reduce the heat and stir more often. The onions should not become dark or dry. Aim for an all over golden colour and soft, sweet onion strings. Fish out the thyme stem, it will have lost all its leaves.
Once you have achieved the pale caramel colour and the onions are softened, add 2 shots of sherry and stir well to combine.
Add in the beef stock and increase the heat to medium high until the soup boils, then reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered for 30 minutes, allowing the soup to reduce and concentrate slightly.
While the soup finishes, grate the Gruyere and slice the baguette; set aside. Preheat your soup tureens (if using) in a 200 degree oven for 10 minutes. When you take them out to fill them, switch the oven to broil mode.
Sprinkle the bottom of each bowl with a pinch of the grated Gruyere cheese before you add the soup. Fill each preheated tureen with 1-1/2 cups of soup, ensuring that all 8 get equal onion and broth.
Set the baguette slices on the surface of the soup, cut side up. Depending on the size of your bowls and the circumference of your baguette you may need 1 or 2 slices. Whatever you don’t need in the bowl, you can dunk in the soup later.
Top the bread with cheese, ensuring that each bowl has a generous portion. Place on a baking sheet or in a shallow, wide casserole to transport the bowls to the oven.
Leave the soups under the broiler, watching them carefully, until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown. To serve, sprinkle with thyme leaves from the remaining sprig of time and garnish with fresh ground pepper.