One thing that really makes muffins and coffee cakes of all types extra special good is a sweet and crunchy streusel topping. These fluffy vanilla rhubarb cupcakes are topped with a swirl of cream cheese frosting, drizzled with poached rhubarb and then sprinkled with some crunchy, spicy, baked streusel.
The simple addition of Chinese 5-spice powder makes for a delicious aromatic streusel. Five spice powder combines Chinese cinnamon with anise, cloves, ginger and fennel in a delicious balance that complements rhubarb, coaxing out more of its natural aroma. Adding pepita seeds and baking the crumble separately, creates a special crunchier topping.
The basic streusel is very versatile in that it can be customized to your personal preferences or what you have on hand. Here are a few suggestions:
- Use 2 cups flour OR 1 cup rolled oats * 3/4 cup whole-grain flour * 3/4 cup cookie or cracker crumbs
- Use 3/4 cup sugar OR 3/4 cup brown sugar * 1/2 cup raw sugar * 1/2 cup maple syrup
- Use 1 cup butter OR 1 cup brown butter * 1/2 cup nut/seed butter * 1/4 cup coconut oil * 1/4 cup oil or sesame oil
- Add-Ins .. 1 cup coconut flakes or nuts * spices & zests * 1/2 cup toasted seeds * 1/2 cup cocoa powder or wheat germ
I realize, this is a lot of steps for just a cupcake, but I think you’ll love them.
Crunchy Streusel Rhubarb Cupcakes
Sour Cream Rhubarb Cupcakes
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line 9 muffin cups with large paper cups.
Wash rhubarb & trim ends. Cut rhubarb into a 1/4-inch dice. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt & cinnamon. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together sugars, eggs, sour cream, melted butter, vanilla & orange zest. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture. Stir until the flour is fully incorporated. Do not over-mix. Fold in rhubarb. The batter will be thick. Scoop the batter into 9 muffin cups, evenly distributing batter.
Bake for 7 minutes. After 7 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 350 F. & bake for another 12 - 15 minutes or until cupcakes test done. Remove from oven & cool completely on a wire rack.
Place rhubarb, water, sugar, food coloring (if using) & cardamom in a saucepan. Simmer very gently for about 3-5 minutes or until rhubarb is soft but NOT mushy! Put a strainer on top of a bowl. Pour mixture into strainer & put the rhubarb pieces in another dish to cool. Pour the liquid back into the saucepan & let simmer until slightly thickened, about 5-10 minutes. Pour into a bowl to let cool. Gently combine rhubarb & syrup.
Pepita 5-Spice Streusel
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir until incorporated. Using your fingers, form fine crumbs. Spread the crumbs on a small cookie sheet and bake on a rack in the middle of the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until light golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely to room temperature. Crumble with fingers.
Beat butter until pale. Add powdered sugar & beat until smooth & pale, about 1 minute. Add softened cream cheese & ginger; beat until smooth.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a large round nozzle with frosting. Top each cupcake with a dollop of frosting then using a spoon, create a well in each dollop. Spoon a bit of poached rhubarb inside of each well. Sprinkle with pepita streusel.
I always think of beets as a love-them-or-hate-them food. You’re either all in or all out! People have been using vegetables in baking for quite some time. Think about some of the classics: carrot cake, pumpkin pie, banana bread, and zucchini loaf. Beets add moisture to baked goods along with a natural sweetness.
In yeast breads, roasted beet puree makes for an incredibly tender crumb and moist interior thanks to the added hydration of the purée (similar to potato bread!) and a delicate crust, since the natural sugar in the beets creates more caramelization. Ultimately, the beets add a pleasantly earthy, subtly sweet flavor that enhances the rolls without overpowering them.
The best-known baked treat made with beets is probably the Red Velvet Cake, but beets can add their deliciousness to cookies, muffins, pies and other baked goods like cinnamon rolls.
The idea of using beets to bulk up bread dough is said to have originated in Paris or Vienna or Germany.
Today the nutrition-packed beet is considered a ‘super food’, credited with everything from lowering blood pressure and increasing energy to fighting inflammation and detoxifying the body.
With that in mind, it seems like a good reason to make some cinnamon beet rolls.
Cinnamon Beet Rolls
In a small bowl, add yeast, lukewarm water & 1 tsp sugar. Allow to sit about 10 minutes until frothy.
In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, 1/3 cup sugar, butter, salt, cinnamon, eggs & beet puree. Mix well. Add flour, one cup at a time, until well combined. Knead dough for about 8-10 minutes or until smooth & soft. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
In a small dish, combine filling ingredients, set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a rectangle about 13” x 20”. Spread softened butter on rectangle & sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture, leaving a 1/2 -inch border around the edges.
Roll up dough lengthwise into a tight roll, pinch seams shut & place roll seam side down. Cut into 12 pieces, rotating cuts on the diagonal. Press the handle of a wooden spoon firmly on the top & center of each roll to shape.
Place rolls at least 2-inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Lightly cover the rolls with buttered plastic wrap & a tea towel. Set aside in a warm place for 20 minutes to rise.
Brush with egg wash & sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.
- To Roast Beets: wrap individually in foil & place directly on the rack of a preheated 400 F. oven. Bake until they're fork tender but not mushy; the total time will vary depending on the size of the beets. Allow beets to cool in foil, then rub off all the skin & any rough exterior pieces. Puree beets in a food processor or with an immersion blender.
- Alternately, you can just boil, peel & puree if you are short on time.
Parsnips, traditionally used in savory dishes, can bring a subtle sweet tenderness to your baked goods. Actually, when roasted or sautéed, their sugars caramelize richly and are well complemented by a variety of seasonings such as orange or lemon zest, ginger and cardamom.
All summer long we grate zucchini and fold it into our batter for a moist and delicious loaf. September rolls around and we switch to apple or pumpkin. When we don’t have those ingredients on hand, we can always rely on carrot or banana bread to satisfy our craving for what is basically cake in disguise.
Root vegetable desserts aren’t exactly a new concept. Incorporating vegetables such as beets, asparagus, sweet potatoes and parsnips … yes, parsnips! That root vegetable that probably only makes an appearance at your table, maybe once or twice a year is actually perfect for moist, cake-y breads etc.
Parsnips look a lot like carrots and can be grated on a box grater the same way. They even share carrot’s subtle sweetness, but parsnips have an earthier, more interesting flavor that pairs perfectly with warm baking spices like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. That makes it easy to change up the flavor of your sweet bread, taking it in a distinctly fall/winter direction.
Seeded Parsnip Sweet Braid
Peel & chop parsnip into chunks; place in a pot & cover with water. Bring to a boil & cook until parsnip is fork tender. Remove parsnip from water & measure out 3/4 cup & set aside to cool to lukewarm. Puree parsnip until smooth & measure out 3/4 cup. Allow to cool until lukewarm.
In a bowl, combine yeast, lukewarm parsnip water & 1 tsp sugar. Allow to sit for about 3 minutes until frothy. Add 3/4 cup pureed parsnips & 2 Tbsp melted butter; combine.
Whisk together, flour, remaining sugar, spices, salt & seeds. Add to the parsnip/yeast mixture & mix until a dough forms. The dough should be a little sticky, but still workable. If the dough seems too wet, add in another 1/4 cup flour at a time, just till it is not overly sticky.
Place dough on a lightly floured work surface & knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough starts to look glossy & has an elastic quality to it. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with a towel & place in a draft free place for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
When dough has risen, place on a lightly floured work surface & roll the dough out into a rectangle roughly 12 x 16-inches. Cut the dough lengthwise into strips 3-inches wide with a pizza cutter or knife. You should have 4 strips.
Transfer the strips to a parchment lined baking sheet a couple of inches apart. Pinch the 4 strands together at the top & start to braid.
Take the left strand & move it over 2 strands (to the right) & under 1 strand back to the left. Switch to the other side: take the most right strand & lift it over 2 strands to the left & back under one strand to the right. Repeat, alternating from left side to right side until loaf is complete. Pinch ends together. Form the braid into a coil like a snail shell. The fuller, top of the braid should be the center, then keep wrapping around until you reach the end. Tuck the end under. It should be fairly snug. Cover with buttered plastic wrap & allow to sit in a warm, draft free place for about 30 minutes.
Before placing braid in the oven, brush with melted butter. Bake for roughly 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar & lemon juice; beat until smooth. Adjust glaze to consistency you prefer. When braid has cooled, brush with glaze. Sprinkle with whole anise seeds & candied ginger if you wish.
Strawberry-rhubarb … raspberry-peach … blackberry-plum … the possibilities for combining summer fruit in amazing ways are truly endless. I’ve recently became aware of the apricot, strawberry & rhubarb combination. This combo had never occurred to me, superseded as it is by the mighty strawberry/rhubarb duo.
Fruit tarts are stunning desserts that look like they should be in a French bakery window, but the truth is they can easily made at home. This super simple, mixed fruit tart with an oat pastry really celebrates the flavors of the season.
Apricot Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart
In a bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, spices & salt. Add melted butter & vanilla; stir to combine. Press 2/3 of mixture onto the bottom & up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan; set aside.
Prepare fruit & place in a mixing bowl; add the orange juice, vanilla, sugar & spices. Stir to coat & set aside.
Pour the fruit over crumble mixture; sprinkle the rest of the crumble around the outside of the fruit.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until crust turns golden brown. Serve warm or cold.
Who can turn down cake for breakfast? It says right there in the recipe that ‘Served warm, it makes a delicious breakfast bread’. Although, bread might be stretching the truth a bit too far. Its cake, let’s be honest.
Oats are like the chameleon of the breakfast table, occupying many forms and disguising themselves as a bevy of morning meal options. The baked oats trend has been converting skeptics in huge numbers these days.
This lightly sweetened, apricot oat cake is a breakfast cake that celebrates apricots. A combination of regular all-purpose flour with oat flour results in the perfect crumb and a lovely flavor. Because oat flour is surprisingly light and retains moisture makes it perfect for pairing as well with the coarser, grittier texture of cornmeal. The slightly sweeter taste of oat flour not only complements the corn flavor, it also lets you use a little bit less sugar.
There’s just something comforting about breakfast cake in the morning!
Apricot Oat Breakfast Cake
Spray an 8-inch round baking pan with cooking spray. Combine apricot halves and boiling water and let stand 15 minutes to soften. Drain apricots and arrange in bottom of pan.
In medium bowl, whisk together oat flour, white flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In separate bowl, stir together whole egg, egg whites, buttermilk, and olive oil. Make well in center of dry ingredients. Pour egg mixture into well, stirring just until moistened. Pour batter over apricots and smooth top.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar if desired.
- It’s super easy to make your own oat flour. You’ll need a food processor or a good blender, and oats, that’s it! You use raw oats, any type, and process for a few seconds until they turn into a fine powder.... oat flour!
- TO MAKE OAT FLOUR USE:
- 2 1/2 cups oats - use steel cut or rolled
- Put the oats in a food processor or high speed blender. Blend until the oats become a fine powder. This will only take a few seconds in a high speed blender, and a little bit longer in a food processor. Store the oat flour in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- 1 1/4 cup oats will yield approximately 1 cup flour.
Plantains aren’t meant for eating right out of the peel, but they are transformed into a gently sweet dessert when caramelized.
It’s easy to confuse a plantain with a banana because they look so much alike. Both fruits come from the same family of plants. Though they look alike, the biggest differences between bananas and plantains is in their flavor profile, size, skin thickness and how they’re used in the kitchen.
Like bananas, they start green and progress to yellow and then a dark brown-black as they ripen. The darker they are, the sweeter they’ll be. Plantains can be eaten at any stage of ripening, but you’ll need a knife to peel them.
Plantains are starchier and usually larger and tougher than bananas, with a much thicker skin. Very versatile in that they can be boiled, baked or fried.
We grew to like plantains after our extended stay in Ecuador some years ago. Every so often they are a nice treat to have again.
Plantain Ginger Cakes
Slice plantains into slices of equal thickness. In a small saucepan, combine butter & sugar; cook until butter has melted & sugar has dissolved. Cook until syrup has thickened; add sliced plantains. Gently stir to coat plantain well. In the bottom of 8 ramekin baking dishes, arrange overlapping slices. Divide any remaining syrup between them. Set aside.
In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices & salt.
In another bowl, beat the butter with sugar until light & fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time then the vanilla. Slowly add one third of the flour mixture & half a cup of the coconut milk. Mix until incorporated.
Add the second third of the flour mixture & the other half of the coconut milk. Finish with the final third of the flour mixture. Mix until all the ingredients are well combined. The batter is smooth & fluffy. Pour the batter over the caramelized plantains, dividing it evenly between the ramekins.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown & a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Transfer ramekins to a cooling rack & allow to cool for 10 minutes. Loosen the edges of the cake with a spatula & carefully turn each ramekin upside down onto serving plates.
- For something different, I decided to make my plantain cake in an oblong tart pan so I could cut it in 'fingers'. Use whatever baking dish you chose, the cake is very adaptable.
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.
These fruit and cereal balls are an old fashioned, unique idea originally called ‘skillet cookies’. The initial mixture is made on the stovetop before its cooled slightly and rolled into mini-spheres. They’re especially appealing during the winter holidays because they don’t need to be baked. That valuable space in the oven can be used for other types of holiday baking.
The cookies get a crunch from the crispy rice cereal and pepita seeds, while the apricots and dates add an amazing sweet spicy flavor.
It seems the skillet cookie nowadays, refers to a a giant, soft and chewy cookie, baked in a cast iron pan, cut into wedges and served warm with ice cream on top. Now I have to admit, it does sound pretty good but if you are just wanting a great little addition to a casual dessert tray in the upcoming holiday season the ‘vintage’ version is quick and easy.
Crispy Apricot Date Balls
In a small bowl, whisk eggs & brown sugar together thoroughly.
In a heavy skillet, over low heat, melt butter. Remove from heat & stir in egg mixture along with dates & apricots. Set back over low heat & cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes or until mixture pulls away from sides of skillet. Do NOT overcook. Remove from heat & stir in vanilla, spices & salt.
Place rice cereal in a large bowl; pour fruit mixture over cereal & blend well. Cool to lukewarm.
Chop pepita seeds finely & place in a shallow dish. Butter your hands lightly & shape mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in pepita seeds to coat. Store in refrigerator.
CELEBRATING CANADA DAY!
Every year Canada celebrates its birthday on July 1st with parades, fireworks and other fun events. This year, due to the pandemic and out of respect for Canada’s Indigenous people, celebrations here in our city of Edmonton, Alberta will be virtual or be on a smaller scale.
No matter which way you decide to celebrate the day, we know good food will be an important part of it. Gorgonzola has been a favorite of Brion & I for many years. It’s actually kind of surprising as neither of us care for ‘blue’ cheese or Roquefort.
Gorgonzola is one of those classic Italian ingredients that’s more famous than understood here in North America. The name itself, refers to the little town in Lombardy, near Milan, where the cheese was invented.
There are two kinds of gorgonzola, Dolce (sweet) and Piccante (spicy). In Italian these terms mean fresh verses aged cheeses. Because dolce is softer and creamier, its great for spreading on bread or used in salad dressing, pasta sauce, pizza or burgers. Piccante is harder and tends to crumble.
This turkey burger is made special with the combo of gorgonzola, bacon and guacamole. Just great for celebrating Canada Day!
Gorgonzola & Bacon Turkey Burgers
In a skillet, fry bacon until soft cooked. Remove from pan & blot on paper towel. Chop & set aside.
Using bacon drippings, saute finely chopped leeks & garlic until tender. Remove from skillet & cool.
In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, sauteed leeks & garlic, panko, salt, pepper, sugar, coriander, sage & ginger. Mix well.
Shape into (8) 1/2-inch thick patties. Place 1/8 (10 gm) of the crumbled Gorgonzola & 1/4 of chopped bacon on each of 4; top with another patty, pressing edges to seal, making (4) 1-inch thick patties.
Place on a preheated grill over medium heat. Close lid & grill, turning once, until meat is no longer pink inside, about 12-14 minutes.
Alternately, you can place them in a 375 F oven on a foil-lined tray & bake for about 20-25 minutes.
When burgers are almost done, top each with remaining Gorgonzola.
Serve in toasted ciabatta buns with your choice of toppings.