Not whole muffins, just the tops. The idea was first conceptualized by Elaine Benes, a fictional character on the American television sitcom Seinfeld, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I was not a Seinfeld fan and rarely even watched the show but the series lasted for nine years so obviously many did. It centered around four single friends dealing with the absurdities of everyday life in New York City, USA. Something as simple as soup or muffins became the focal point of the show but with a unique twist that only the actors on the show could make funny and memorable.
In a 1997 episode, The Muffin Tops, Elaine helps her old boss open his own business where they only sell the tops of muffins. ‘It’s the best part (nobody likes the stumps), it’s crunchy, it’s where the muffin breaks free of the pan and sort of does its own thing’.
Nowadays we have specific baking pans made just for making muffin tops and I think most food stores sell them. Muffins are an item I’ve certainly made my fair share of over the years in the food industry. But I have to say, I love the whole thing, especially if its soft and cakey.
This time of year is usually filled with pumpkin and sweet potato dishes and treats. These muffin tops are quite special with a slight sweet potato flavor packed with plenty of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and an added bonus of some pepita seeds.
Sweet Potato Muffin Tops
In a small bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon & salt. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add pepita seeds, mix & set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a MUFFIN TOP PAN or line with paper cups. (This recipe makes 10 muffin tops the size shown in the blog picture). Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt & spices. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk the brown sugar & eggs together; add sweet potatoes, oil, milk & orange zest (or vanilla) & whisk again. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients & stir until JUST combined. Do not overmix the batter.
Scoop batter into muffin top pan; Sprinkle with streusel topping.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
It’s become that time of year. Our warm summer nights have slowly given way to crisp air. Layers have started to enter our daily fashion. Food preparation starts to gravitate towards warmth and comfort food. Pears of all shapes and colors, are waiting for us to pull out our oven mitts and get cooking. And, like so many fruits, there is the right variety for every job.
Here, sweet cinnamon bread meets juicy pears and the savory bite of Gruyere cheese. You want a pear variety that will hold its shape and won’t exude too much moisture as the bread pudding bakes, such as Anjou.
The nutty flavor of Gruyere compliments the pears and the cinnamon bread base. Its all bathed in a milk and egg mixture and left to sit in the fridge overnight. The next morning, simply bake and enjoy with the addition of something salty like you guessed it …. bacon!!
In 2015, ‘The Taste of a Memory’, a memorabilia/cookbook I wrote as a tribute to my wonderful parents, was published. It contained a compilation of stories, articles, recipes and reflections that evoke an intimate memory, a special time period and fond emotion brought about by the aroma and taste of food. Writing them down not only put them in print but allowed me to take a mental journey back to a gentler time.
This bread pudding recipe comes out of the low calorie section of that book. Who says bread pudding can’t be diet food !!
Pear & Gruyere Bread Pudding
Cinnamon Swirl Bread
In a small bowl, whisk together yeast, 1 tsp sugar & lukewarm water. Set aside until mixture begins to form a frothy foam, about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, dry milk powder & salt. Add yeast mixture, melted butter, vanilla, raisins (if using) & beaten egg. Combine until dough comes together in a ball & no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. In a small dish combine 1/4 cup sugar with 1 Tbsp cinnamon.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough into a 9 x 24-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with egg wash mixture & sprinkle with cinnamon /sugar mixture. Starting with a short end, roll the dough into a tight log & place seam-side down into greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
Allow to rise, covered, for 40-60 minutes until loaf has crested 1/2-inch over the rim of the pan. Preheat oven to 350 F. while the bread is rising. Brush the loaf with egg wash & bake for 45-60 minutes, until golden. Cool the loaf in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
In a large bowl, combine pears, butter & 1 Tbsp sugar; toss gently. Butter a 9 x 9-inch glass baking dish & arrange half of the bread in it. Spoon pear mixture evenly over bread & top with shredded cheese. Arrange remaining bread over cheese.
In a bowl, whisk together remaining 5 Tbsp sugar, milk, egg substitute & cinnamon. Pour milk mixture over bread pudding, pressing down lightly to submerge. Cover & chill 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Uncover, sprinkle with 1 Tbsp sugar evenly over pudding. Bake for 55 minutes or until golden & set. Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.
- If you are making the cinnamon swirl bread, it helps to do this the day before making the bread pudding.
- Alternately you could make your life easier & just purchase the cinnamon loaf at a good bakery.
Cheese, generally speaking, is not a tough sell. Even so, it is hard sometimes to convince someone to stray from the usual cheesy standbys and try something new. Comte is a creamy, nutty tasting French cheese that absolutely deserves to be checked out.
A fairly firm cheese that can be sliced, cubed or grated. Besides being versatile for uses in both sweet and savory cooking, Comte has a good shelf life. If you buy a wedge and it doesn’t get entirely used up, it can sit in the fridge for a week or three and it will be fine.
Cheese and dessert pairings are almost better than cheese and wine pairings. If you have the right cheese and dessert, the contrasting flavors complement each other so well you’ll never eat one without the other again. Your probably quite familiar with apple pie and cheddar cheese. The nutty, earthy flavor of the Comte cheese in these little pie bites definitely kicks that ‘sweet-savory’ appeal up a notch.
Comte Apple Pie Bites
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar & salt. Cube butter & cut into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until butter is about pea size & mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add cold water, 1 Tbsp at a time, mixing with a fork ONLY until dough starts to pull together. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface & shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic & chill for an hour.
Place the chopped apples, cinnamon, sugar & lemon juice into a skillet over medium high heat. Cook, stirring often, until all the liquid has completely evaporated & the apples have softened, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat & place in a small bowl; add flour. Stir to combine. Cool completely before using. If apples are too wet, drain away any excess liquid.
Prepare egg wash. Remove pastry from fridge & roll out to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 4-inch cookie cutter, cut into 18 rounds.
On each round place a heaping teaspoon of apple filling & sprinkle with a bit of Comte cheese. Fold in half & seal with a fork or alternately use a perogy cutter to cut , fold & seal.
Place the mini turnovers on a parchment lined baking sheet & keep in the fridge or freezer while you continue to make the rest of the pastries.
Brush egg was all over the pastry crusts. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of coarse sugar. Bake for about 14 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese & place pastries on a wire rack to cool.
Apple season is upon us, so its a good time to make some of those ‘homey’ kind of desserts. During the summer we have an endless array of fresh fruit available in the grocery stores. Apples are often taken for granted because their kind of a staple fruit you could say. We have countless varieties to choose from for fresh eating or cooking. One that is well known is called the Granny Smith apple. Its acidity and strong flavor makes it a frequent choice for both baking and fresh eating. Consistently rated among the top ten apples in popularity, its hard to believe it wasn’t part of the North American experience until the 1970’s.
It turns out there really was a ‘Granny Smith’. As the story goes, Maria Ann (Granny) Smith was cooking with French crab apples and discarded the remains in a compost pile near a creek flowing behind her farmhouse outside Sydney, Australia. From the pile sprouted a seedling unlike any apple she had ever encountered. She was so taken with its bright flavor and versatility, she decided to propagate the trees herself.
In the season from September through November, Granny Smith apples have become a staple of fall baking. Used extensively in seasonal pies, cakes, cobblers and crisps, it all began with a happy accident discovered by its namesake halfway around the world.
Apple Crumble w/ Vanilla Cardamom Cream
Peel, core & slice apples. Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a small bowl, toss the apple slices with lemon zest & juice, sugar, cinnamon & salt. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, oats & salt with a fork until uniform. In a glass pie dish, melt the butter in the microwave until about half melts. Pour the butter into the flour mixture & incorporate with a fork. Leaving the excess butter in the pie pan, arrange the apple slices in the pan. Top with the flour-oat mixture.
Bake until apples are cooked through and the topping is golden, about 45 minutes.
Vanilla Cardamom Cream
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk together 'cream' ingredients. Simmer over a medium-low heat, stirring constantly until cooked & custard will coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat & cover with plastic wrap, making sure to lightly press it over the custard to avoid a 'skin' forming. Serve over or with crumble.
Its getting to be late summer/early fall and its ‘plum season’. Plums are easy to forget it seems. They’re not the most popular of summer fruits. Plums aren’t exotic as the fig or small and cute like blueberries. Plums are just plums and we should not overlook this humble fruit. They are actually quite special …. sweet & tart, not too big and not too small.
This particular dessert uses ‘plum butter’ which is simply a concentrated plum spread made by cooking plums down to a spreadable paste. These ‘cookies’ are using ready made puff pastry to keep life simple.
Puff pastry isn’t just for croissants. Arguably, its the foundation of many, many pastries as we know them today. Its a technique that lets you enjoy warm, flaky layers of dough instead of literally everything being a ‘biscuit’.
Using this spicy filling in the puff pastry dough really added a whole new dimension.
Plum Blossom Pastries
Spiced Plum Butter
In a large saucepan, combine juice & plums. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat & simmer 30 minutes or until tender. Place plum mixture in a food processor & process until smooth. Press pureed mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids.
Combine plum mixture, sugar & spices in pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered until mixture becomes a thick paste. Cool. Any extra not used for these cookies can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months.
Assembly & Baking
Thaw pastry. Preheat oven to 400 F. From parchment paper, cut 9 pieces each about 4-inch square. In a small dish, whisk together egg & water to make egg wash.
Using a sharp knife, cut pastry into 9 squares. Taking one square at a time, place on parchment paper squares. Brush edges with egg wash.
Place about 1 tsp of the spiced plum butter in the middle of the pastry square. Bring the 4 corners together, then repeat for the sides.
Shape pastry into a ball then flip. Lightly press the ball with your fingers. With a sharp knife, cut each piece into 12 equal parts from the center towards the outside edge. Leave the center part intact. Each part will become a pedal. Twist petals 45 degrees, all to the same side. The filling should be showing.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until pastry is golden. Remove from oven & allow to cool. Dust with powdered sugar if you prefer.
- Making the plum butter ahead of time definitely speeds up the cookie prep.
- Alternately, you can probably find a nice jar of plum butter at a deli store & just add your own spices to it. Works too!
Although there are many variations of this dish, Austria’s apricot growing tradition has made apricot dumplings (marillenknodel) an emblematic dish of Austrian cuisine. Each spring, some 100,000 apricot trees transform Wachau Valley into a fragrant pink-white sea of blossoms.
There are two types of dough that can be used to make apricot dumplings …. potato dough (made with cooked & mashed potatoes) and cheese dough. Topfen is the Austrian cheese traditionally used as its ‘sour’ taste gives the dough a nice ‘tang’. Other alternatives would be either Quark or cream cheese.
To prepare the apricots you need to slice them in half and remove the pit, then place a cube of sugar in the cavity. A few other alternatives for the centers of the apricots would be chocolate or a nougat cube.
Once the dough has been chilled, it is divided into balls and stuffed with the filled apricots. These dumplings are then boiled in salted water and while they are still hot, coated in cinnamon-flavored, buttered breadcrumbs.
Apricot dumplings are most often served just sprinkled with powdered sugar. Soft apricots provide enough liquid so they don’t taste too dry. If you wish, you could serve them with: vanilla ice cream, apricot coulis, whipped cream, vanilla or chocolate sauce.
Austrian Apricot Dumplings
In a bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, vanilla & salt; add the egg & cheese & whisk until combined. Add flour; stir until combined. Don't overmix, the dough should be slightly sticky but not dry. Form into a disk & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Slice each apricot in half & remove the pit. Place a sugar cube in the cavity & press the two apricot halves together until the apricot closes. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine milk, sugar, salt, cornstarch & vanilla; stir well until combined. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly. Lower heat & continue to cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens & coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat; cover with plastic wrap & chill. When sauce is cool, whisk it until it becomes smooth.
Cook & Coat Dumplings
Cook dumplings in a large amount of salted water, half of them at a time. Cook for about 12 minutes from the moment you've put them in the water. Reduce the heat to medium-low as the water should only simmer. Do not allow the dumplings to stick to the bottom. Take cooked dumplings out of the water with a slotted spoon, drain well.
Place the hot dumplings in the breadcrumb topping. Roll the dumplings around to coat completely, the place on a platter.
At serving time you can place them atop some vanilla sauce or just simply sprinkle with powdered sugar (or any of the other suggestions listed in the main article).
- Other fruit alternatives for the dumplings would be: plums, cherries or strawberries.
In a time when people chatted over the fence rather than the internet, backyards had rhubarb patches. The big, old-fashioned plant with its huge ruffled green leaves is easy to grow and its extremely hardy. The same roots can produce rhubarb for up to 15 years. Pioneer women smuggled rhubarb cuttings across the plains, even though they were not supposed to take anything worth less than a dollar a pound because of the crowded covered wagon conditions.
Most often we cloak rhubarb in sugar for cake, cheesecake or pies. This recipe shifts rhubarb to the savory side, a chutney that is fabulous in pulled turkey pizza. This pizza concept changes up the usual tomato sauce base with a spiced rhubarb chutney. Chutney is good with pretty much everything and takes on unexpected flavors when paired with different foods.
This pizza was an experiment that turned out to be amazing with the combination of salty and sweet. The addition of a potato crust and some caramelized onions, what’s not to like?! Of course, you have to start with being a rhubarb lover.
Pulled Turkey Pizza w/ Rhubarb Chutney
- 250 gm pulled turkey Either slow roast some turkey thighs or pick up at a deli counter already cooked
In a large heavy pot, combine sugar, vinegar, ginger, cumin, cinnamon & pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb & onion; increase heat to medium high & cook until rhubarb is tender & mixture thickens. Cool completely. (I prefer to make this a day ahead).
In a skillet, heat oil until hot. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture has evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Add brown sugar, stirring until caramel brown in color. Remove from heat & cool. ( I prefer to make these a day ahead as well).
Potato Pizza Crust
Cook potato in microwave, peel, mash & cool.
Combine yeast with lukewarm water & allow to sit about 3 minutes until foamy. Add butter, salt, sour cream & potato; mix well.
Stir in flour until completely blended. Turn onto lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until elastic & smooth. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Turkey & Cheese
If you are slow roasting your turkey thighs its best to have done this a day ahead so you had ample time to 'pull' the meat. Shred the cheese & set aside.
On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press potato dough into a 16-inch circle. Transfer dough (& paper) to a 14-inch pizza pan.
Carefully spread 1 1/3 cups rhubarb chutney over bottom of pizza crust. Sprinkle with a bit of grated cheese.
Layer with the pulled turkey meat & caramelized onions. Top with remaining grated cheese & bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is baked & cheese is melted. Remove from oven; cool slightly & slice.
- When I slow roasted my turkey thighs for this pizza I used a covered roasting pan. To give them a nice flavor I poured a bottle of Zesty Italian Dressing over them. They were super tender & so flavorful, perfect for this pizza.
- Alternatively, you can purchase the meat (either turkey or pork) as well as a pre-made pizza crust if time is of the essence.
- We have also tried this pizza with pulled pork.
- Any extra rhubarb chutney will come in handy for another kind of meal.
CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY!
Honoring your father on Father’s Day doesn’t require his physical presence. I feel what is more important, is just the act of doing it.
It seems as we get older, reminiscing becomes part of our lives. It is an important psychological process called ‘life cycle review’. Father’s Day, for Brion & I, is a day that brings back many fond memories. My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. There is never a week that goes by that we don’t reminisce about something we remember about one or the other. Both of our Dad’s loved to talk and tell you stories from their lives. I think back to when I was just a kid and my Dad would recount the same story more than once. At the time, it all seemed a bit boring but now I realize how the benefits of storytelling and review are greatly underestimated. I would give anything to retrace those years once again.
A father’s love and influence is never fully appreciated until he is no longer with you. It is so important to make the most of every day they are in your life.
For my Father’s Day blog recipe, I am doing a barbecue meal I think they both would have enjoyed.
Using apple butter not only in the turkey burgers but also in the caramelized onion is so unique tasting. Apple butter is in its own class of spreads, its not really a jam or jelly and it doesn’t have the thin texture of apple sauce. It is thicker, silkier and a highly concentrated paste produced by slow cooking. The apples caramelize turning the apple butter a deep brown.
Contrary to what the name suggests, there’s zero actual butter in apple butter. The name is derived from the fact that it is a dense spread.
These ‘gourmet’ burgers have a great apple butter flavor that pairs perfectly with smoked gouda cheese and caramelized onions. It seems apple butter, as ordinary as it is, cannot be found in every grocery store and when you find it, the price is amazingly high. I made a small batch from ‘scratch’ that worked out good in this recipe.
Apple Butter Onion Turkey Burgers
Preheat oven to 350 F. Peel, core & cut apples into wedges; place in a baking dish.
Cover the pan tightly & bake for 30-45 minutes or until apples are cooked & soft. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
Place the cooked apples to a food processor; add spices, honey & apple cider vinegar. Pulse until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan & simmer mixture over low heat to reduce down. Stir the mixture occasionally as it cooks. This process reduces the liquid in the apple butter & will take 30-90 minutes all depending on how much moisture was in the apples. When finished cooking, cool slightly before adding it to your burger mixture.
In a bowl, add ground turkey, panko crumbs, apple butter, cilantro, cumin, smoked paprika, salt & pepper. Combine well & shape into 6 slider or 4 full-size burgers. Set aside in fridge until onions are made.
Apple Butter Onions
Remove the papery skin from the onion & trim off top & bottom. Cut in half & thinly slice.
In a large skillet add olive oil & set over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add onions, salt & pepper. Cook for 20 minutes or until the onions are soft & caramelized. Add the apple butter & stir to combine. Keep warm while burgers cook.
Preheat barbecue grill to medium heat. Grill burgers 8-10 minutes depending on size. Top each burger with cheese & allow to melt. Toast buns if you wish, top with burgers, apple butter onions & tomatoes.
Bumbleberry…. an interesting word used to describe a Canadian mixed berry combination originating from the Maritime provinces. Since there is no such thing as a ‘bumbleberry’, as the name suggests, it is simply a mixture of berries that are in season (ones that you might ‘bumble’ upon).
Berries commonly used in this pie may include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. Other choices often used are apples, rhubarb, cherries, plums or fresh cranberries.
The bumbleberry concept has been used in various recipes such as cakes, crisps, soufflés or even in tiramisu. The most well known being the bumbleberry pie.
To make use of some bumbleberry filling I had leftover from a previous dessert, I made some quick little puff pastries …. worked out good!
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine fruit. In another bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, cornstarch & cinnamon. Gently toss into fruit mixture along with lemon juice.
Cut thawed, cold puff pastry sheets into circles or squares (your choice). Put a spoonful of filling in the center of each & bring the corners together enclosing the filling. Place pastries on baking sheet & sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & allow to cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet then transfer to a wire cooling rack.
- This amount of filling is enough for a large deep dish 9-inch pie. It can be easily halved for a small amount of pastries if you wish.