Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Ah, the fall. It’s finally getting chilly, the leaves are falling, and I can wear a jacket out without immediately suffering from heatstroke. I’m excited about the weather and upcoming holidays, among other fall things.

The best part about the fall, though, is that the best fruits and vegetables are now in season! Of course I’m talking apples. Technically, they’re always in season but apples are in their prime in the fall. I’m dying to go apple picking one day. I’d make apple EVERYTHING. Yeah, right; I’d probably eat more than half the apples straight up! Anyway, I planned on making a bunch of apple things this fall and may have a couple more recipes up my sleeve, but let’s start with these muffins.

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I’ve discussed a few times on here how much of a muffin fiend my dad is. While he believes the corn muffin is the “one true muffin,” he can’t really say no to anything apple related. Apple cinnamon is one of his favorite combos for pastries. I’m talking turnovers, danishes, pies, whatever. Out of all of those things, I’ve only attempted one and did not get his seal of approval. Sad, but I’m working on it!

I decided on muffins for my first apple entry this year because of my dad, and because I wanted to switch things up a bit. Last year, I made an apple cake (from one of my favorite bloggers) that went over really well. I wanted to remake that success but in miniature form. The muffins themselves are actually pretty simple, which almost guarantees its deliciousness.

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Before I get into the muffins themselves, let me wax poetic about these liners. If you’ve been following me since last fall, you know how I feel about muffins in cupcake liners. They’re a no go for me. Now, the recipe states to use these things and then grease them. WHO DOES THAT?! How do you even grease a cupcake liner? I don’t know but that doesn’t make sense to me AT ALL. I went to Target (holy grail) a couple months ago and bought these liners, in preparation for some cupcakes I had planned. I didn’t use them to make the cupcakes (go figure) but considered them for these muffins. I had a mini internal debate right before it but I went ahead and used them. Since they’re parchment, I skipped the greasing (still a weird concept to me but okay).

Can I just say these things are the biggest blessing to my non-cupcake-liners-for-muffins heart? OMG NOTHING STUCK TO THESE LINERS. N O T H I N G. I was amazed, thrilled, and surprised with the result. I mean, see for yourself. The muffins came clean off the liner. I got to enjoy the ENTIRE muffin, without a single crumb sticking to the liner. Very impressive, Target. Four for you.

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Back to the muffins. They were awesome. Just the right amount of cinnamon and apples. I should’ve cut the chunks a tad smaller, but will keep that in mind for the next recipe. The cinnamon sugar topping goes perfectly well with these muffins, considering the muffin itself isn’t that sweet. It was fluffy and moist too, thanks to the buttermilk. Besides the fact that the muffins were delicious, I was way too impressed with the functionality of these liners. I’m still impressed, actually.

For my first apple recipe this season, I think it went pretty well. I can’t wait to see what else I can come up with!

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Apple Cinnamon Muffins – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes 12-16 muffins

  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, divided (1/2 cup + 1/4 cup)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken (not stirred)
  • 1 cup whole wheat Flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups peeled, cored, and chopped apples (about 2 large apples, about 3/4 pound whole apples)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease and flour a 12-cup muffin pan, or line with magical parchment cupcake liners and skip the greasing all together. No magical liners? Grease regular paper liners instead. 

  2. Mix together the butter, granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar, beating until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well, stopping once to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.

  3. Gently mix in the buttermilk. At this point, the batter will look curdled and gross. It’s supposed to, so keep going!

  4. Stir in the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Fold in the chopped apples.

  5. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar on top. Bake the muffins for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

  6. Remove the muffins from the oven, cool them for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn them out onto a rack to finish cooling completely.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Get those magical liners. Worth every penny!
  • I tossed my apple chunks in a bit of cinnamon and flour before folding them into the batter. The cinnamon was for extra flavor but the flour was so the apples wouldn’t sink to the bottom of the muffin. 
  • Top the muffins with the sugar topping a tad sparingly. Melted sugar is a pain to get off the pan, just saying. 
  • Use a disher or ice cream scoop to help evenly distribute the batter among the pans. Helps get consistent muffins, and ensures they’ll all be done at the same time. 
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Granola Bars

Granola bars, to me, are the perfect snack. Granted, I wouldn’t eat them alone as a snack but they go so well with a piece of fruit or alongside a sandwich for a quick lunch. When I started college, I made sure I always had something on me and granola bars were my go-to. I had my first energy cereal bar from the school store one day in class. I’ll never forget that because it was a bit of an experience. I sound like a crazy person even saying that I had an ~experience~ with a granola bar but entertain me for a minute. I never had one of those before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I even remember the flavor; chocolate brownie. For comparison’s sake, I imagined that it was supposed to taste like a brownie so that’s what I used to figure out if it was tasty or not. I loved it. It had all my favorite things; chocolate, oats, and sugar so what’s not to love? I went back to my school store several times after that to try the rest of the flavors. I even looked up their website to see what else they had to offer and went on the hunt for all the flavors at different stores.

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Now, I don’t think I’ve met a bar I didn’t like because I think I’ve tried all of the different brands and kinds of bars out there. Every single one that I’d come across, I’d look for them in stores and try them. Honestly, I still do that. I love trying different things like that, just to see what all the hype is about. Anything from cereal bars, meal replacement bars, and even protein bars have gone across my lips. The best part about trying all these bars, aside from the variety, was their portability. I needed to have one in my bag at all times in order to stop any impending hunger signs on the spot, even after graduation.

These days, I still carry some sort of bar in my bag; along with a giant bottle of water and maybe even an apple. I even buy my favorites in mass quantities so I have something to snack on while at work. However, since my folks are away and my stash is quickly depleting, I decided to make my own.

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Now, these were a long time coming. Even before I bought my last box of bars, I had been thinking about making my own. The only thing stopping me was that I couldn’t decide what to put in them! See, granola bars are a grab bag of stuff. Besides the required oats and nuts, it’s basically a free for all. I took what I had in my cupboard and went to town. These aren’t inherently healthy but I like to think that because they’re homemade, it cancels out. I tried my best to keep it sorta healthy but that factor is up to the eater to decide. I put all my favorites in here; oats (which are a given and required), raisins, cinnamon, chocolate chips, peanut butter, and nuts. I kind of cheated with the nuts because all I had were some nut clusters, which I chopped up and threw into the mix. Then I switched the butter for some melted coconut oil; one of the trendy fats that are really good for your body on the inside and outside. I also used agave; a sweeter and less viscous alternative to honey. And just for funsies, I used half brown and half white sugar.

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I wasn’t expecting these bars to be this delicious, in all honesty. Reminiscent of these things but baked and better! Mine got nice and toasty in the oven, which added some crunch and a touch of extra nuttiness. Swapping the butter for the coconut oil was genius too because there was just a slight coconut-y taste; it made me wish I had shredded coconut to add to it! The raisins added some much needed fruitiness and chew, while the nuts added another element of crunch, and the chocolate chips just added chocolate. After trying the first bite, I couldn’t stop thinking about other flavors and mix ins I could shake up this recipe with! They are seriously one of the best homemade bars I’ve had (and made), and I can’t wait to take them everywhere with me.

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Granola Bars – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup oat flour made from 1/3 cup finely ground rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups combines of dried fruits, nuts, and chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup natural, smooth and unsalted peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup agave
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.
  • Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, vanilla, melted oil, liquid sweeteners, and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry until the mixture is evenly moistened and crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan.
  • Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges. Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. Once cool, use a serrated knife,  bench knife, or really sharp chef’s knife to cut the bars into squares or bars. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Word to the wise, the bars get stiff in the fridge and may be hard to eat. If you have time, let them sit out for 10 minutes or so before eating.

Coconut Lime Scones

Summer has entered the building. I don’t know, I feel like we skipped a season. Spring was barely here, with all these weird cold fronts that happened when we were supposed to have cool weather. It’s like it went from winter to summer without any notice! While I can’t get spring back, might as well revel in the summer.

To me, summer equals refreshment. Not so much with the weather but with food. It’s the best time to enjoy seasonal offerings like fresh fruits and vegetables when they’re in their prime. While I patiently wait for my seasonal farmer’s market to come back for the season, I thought about making some scones.

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Normal people usually avoid turning on their ovens during the summer. I am (apparently) not normal. I love scones, and more in the summer. I got my first taste of scones at my local farmer’s market. One of the little booths is from a bakery, and they have a ton of freshly baked goods. Anything from fresh bread, muffins, and cookies, to fresh honey and jam. My sister and I used to get their giant peanut butter cookies, courtesy of my mom when she used to do the shopping. When my sister and I started going, we decided to try all the other things up for sale.

One of the first things we tried were her pumpkin scones. They were moist, flaky, and warm. It was weird having a fall offering in the middle of a sweltering July but it was so good! It had that essential scone taste. It’s weird to describe but good scones have this like, signature taste. It’s the one thing that identifies a good scone from a biscuit (because you knew scones and biscuits were related, right?) I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what the hell was the product of that ~taste~ and realized the common denominators in scone recipes: cream and butter.

The key to scones (and biscuits) is cold cream and butter. Super simple and super essential. Both of these fats need to be cold when incorporating because they’ll help create those flaky and delicious layers found in scones (and biscuits). Once I figured that out, I thought about what different kinds of flavors I can stuff in a basic recipe. Like a sign from the food blogger heavens, Deb (from Smitten Kitchen) posted this the other day. And just like that, I was making coconut lime scones.

Coconut and lime go SO WELL together. Like, you have no idea. Bonus if the coconut is toasted. Now, think about those flavors; enveloped in a neat package filled with butter and heavy cream, and iced with a coconut lime glaze. Close your eyes and imagine the flaky and buttery layers, hiding a tropical paradise in every bite. Can you taste the vacation in your mouth? Because that was me with these scones. The tart and nutty flavors of this scone made up for the fact that I actually had to turn on my oven to make them. While they may work better with a cup of coffee or something, I would not have minded a lovely cocktail to go with them (piña colada anyone?) I totally won’t judge you if you do 😉

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Coconut Lime Scones – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes about 16 scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter
  • 2 cups shredded sweetened coconut, toasted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup cold heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly; it’s OK for some larger chunks of butter to remain unincorporated. Stir in the cooled toasted coconut.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, lime zest and juice, vanilla, and cream. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together.
  3. Using a muffin scoop or a large spoon, scoop mounds of dough onto the prepped baking sheets. Bake the scones 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove them from the oven and let them sit for 4 to 5 minutes to firm before removing them from the pan. Glaze, if desired, once completely cooled.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Freeze the stick of butter for a couple hours and shred it into the dry ingredients. Super nifty tip that helps keep the butter super cold and requires less handiwork. 
  • For the glaze, I mixed about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, freshly squeezed lime juice, a touch of heavy cream, about 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract and three drops of coconut extract. It made enough to glaze about six scones. 
  • If the dough seems too wet or soft, freeze the scooped scones for about 10 minutes before baking; helps them keep their composure and aids in making them super flaky. 

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cupcakes

Before making this recipe, my sister decided she wanted to make it herself. I asked her if she would write a guest post and she accepted! Below is my sister Marilyn’s guest post! Enjoy!

Currently, Lucy is the resident baker at our apartment but there used to be a time where I was the baker. I could make brownies at the drop of a hat and I knew that recipe by heart, too (not anymore; something else has taken its place). Nowadays, she makes everything and if I’m craving anything in particular, I just ask her. Unless they’re plain blondies. She doesn’t really like making them for me without a million other ingredients (i.e. the “everything but the kitchen sink ” blondies she made a while ago) but sometimes I just need that brown sugary goodness without any extra fluff.

Anyway, this time I decided to try my hand at baking again and because I tend to live dangerously (not really), I decided to make sticky toffee pudding cupcakes with a caramel sauce. You can blame the recipe I found in an old issue of Runner’s World.

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The cupcakes looked delicious and I was totally game to try their recipe until I read it completely (rookie mistake!) and saw I needed pastry flour. Normally, I wouldn’t mind buying the special flour but when you’re trying to save money (and space), it’s better to use what you have. So off I went to look for a more accommodating recipe.

After a little research, I found this cake recipe from King Arthur Flour. Now, this recipe also includes the caramel sauce but if you have any dietary restrictions like me (I’m lactose intolerant), then you have to go on the search for alternatives. I found a recipe for a vegan caramel sauce that used coconut milk instead of regular cream and it’s adaptable enough that if you want to add butter, you totally could (personally anything that doesn’t contain much dairy, is a godsend for me. And Lucy. I’ll leave the reason why, to her).

This recipe used only figs but I had some dates hanging around so I decided to use both. I used small to medium sized dried figs and chopped about eight to nine of them to get half a cup and for the dates, which were roughly the same size as the figs, I chopped up about seven to eight. Their size totally depends on your haul of the dried fruit, just aim for half a cup of each if you decide to do it like I did. The recipe also suggests their brand of cake flour (duh) but I had another kind lying around and the cakes came out pretty awesome anyway.

After chopping up the dates and figs, I put them in boiling water and let them sit for about 15 minutes while I got everything else ready. The recipe uses custard cups or ramekins as the baking receptacles and it yields about six, but I used a cupcake pan instead and got nine cupcakes using a ¼ cup sized ice cream scoop to portion them out.

If you plan on trying this vegan caramel recipe, be warned that while it reduces, it will pop and bubble all over the pot. It can be a little scary and you’ll want to stir it while it reduces to control the sputtering but trust me, just let it do its thing for twenty minutes (no matter how scary). Once time is up, you can stir and it will turn from a bubbly looking mess to a smooth caramel sauce. I only made half of the recipe since Lucy and I are the only ones that were going to eat it, and it was enough for all nine cupcakes.

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The cakes were delicious. They were perfectly moist and spongy. You could taste a little bitterness from the molasses but the figs were definitely front and center. The sauce was sticky and delicious. Personally, I found them delicious both separate and together but Lucy found them a little too sweet with the caramel sauce, and thought the coconut was  a little overpowering (whatever, Kyle).

For this first foray into baking after such a long hiatus, it was fun. BUT! I spent a good chunk of time freaking out while making this recipe because Lucy was watching me the entire time. She had me all frazzled and running all over the place because she took it upon herself to question my every move, and quizzed me on the recipe (I had no idea baking had an oral exam portion). It was a miracle you couldn’t taste my nerves and fears in them.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cupcakes – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes six small puddings, or nine standard cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup dried mission figs, chopped; about 8-9 figs
  • 1/2 cup dried dates, chopped; about 7-8 dates
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • ¼ cup soft butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons dark molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake flour, sifted before measuring
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter six ¾-cup silicone baking cups, oven-safe custard cups, or line nine wells of a muffin pan. Combine the figs, dates and boiling water and let it sit for 15 minutes.
  2. After the 15 minutes, puree the figs, dates and boiling water until smooth. Set aside.
  3. For the batter, beat the 1/4 cup butter, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder until fluffy.
  4. Add in the egg, then the molasses and vanilla.  Slowly incorporate the flour, taking care not to overmix.
  5. Add in the puree and baking soda, and stir into the batter.
  6. Pour into the prepared baking cups or lined muffin pan. If using molds, place them on a baking sheet.
  7. Bake the cakes for 18 to 22 minutes, until a cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center. Remove from the oven, and cool in the molds or cups.

Coconut Caramel Sauce – adapted from A Full Measure of Happiness

Makes about 1 cup of sauce

  • about 1/2 a can of full fat coconut milk (from a 14 oz can)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter (optional, for vegans and those with special tummies like me!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Add the coconut milk, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt to a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring this mixture to a boil, and let it cook until thickened and bubbly; about 20 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and let stand one minute. Add in the butter (if using) and vanilla extract, and stir. Use immediately or store the cooled sauce in a jar or airtight container in the fridge.

Marilyn’s Tips:

  • Make sure your dried fruit is completely soft to make pureeing easy.

Pumpkin Scones

Since making my own pumpkin puree a couple days ago, I have been brainstorming a bunch of different pumpkin recipes. I’m thinking about pumpkin everything; muffins, bread, cookies, cupcakes, etc. I want to make it all! I feel kind of late to the pumpkin party, though. Many people have already moved on to Christmas flavors like gingerbread and peppermint. I’m not ready for Christmas anything yet, and refuse to skip the rest of the fall. I mean, it is still fall, so technically it’s still pumpkin season and I’m definitely going to take advantage of that.

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After wracking my brain, recipe cards, and Evernote for anything pumpkin, I settled on making scones. In case anyone doesn’t remember, my first try at making scones was barely a success. My dough was way too wet, and they spread out into cookies instead of staying tall and flaky. Yes, they were delicious but they were hardly scones. I went to my favorite recipe fallback, King Arthur Flour, and decided to give their recipe a go.

There isn’t much liquid in this recipe anyway, so I wasn’t too worried about extra moisture. I was smart about the cutting in of the butter, and used two forks instead of doing it with my hands. I think the heat from my hands may have played a part in the production of my first flat, cookie like scones.

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Everything came together beautifully, even though I thought they were a tad on the small side before baking. The result was a tall and golden brown triangle of flakyness, with fluffy layers of buttery goodness. The pumpkin taste is subtle but present, especially with the warmth from the homemade pumpkin pie spice. The soft and fluffy interior, against the crunchy crackle of the cinnamon turbinado sprinkled top is what fall days are made of.

These scones solidified why I am not ready to move on to Christmas, and still won’t, as the fall still has many more flavorful things in store.

Pumpkin Scones – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes 12 scones

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons homemade pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 2/3 cup canned or fresh pumpkin puree
  • 1 extra large egg
  • Splash of vanilla extract

Cinnamon Turbinado Topping

  • 1/4 cup of turbinado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.
  2. Work in the butter with two forks or a pastry cutter,  just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly. Large chunks of butter are a-okay.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, splash of vanilla, and eggs till smooth.
  4. Add the pumpkin/egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment; if you don’t have parchment, just use it without greasing it. Sprinkle a bit of flour atop the parchment or pan.
  6.  Scrape the dough onto the floured parchment or pan, and divide it in half. Round each half into a 5″ circle that should be about 3/4″ thick.
  7. Brush each circle with milk. Combine the turbinado sugar and the cinnamon, and sprinkle onto the scones.
  8. Using a knife or bench knife that you’ve run under cold water, slice each circle into 6 wedges. Carefully pull the wedges away from the center to separate them just a bit; there should be about 1/2″ space between them, at their outer edges.
  9. For best texture and highest rise, place the pan of scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered. While the scones are chilling, preheat the oven to 425°F.
  10. Bake the scones for 22 to 25 minutes, or until they’re golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean, with no wet crumbs.
  11. Remove the scones from the oven, and serve warm. Wrap any leftovers airtight, and store at room temperature.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used brown sugar, the original recipe calls for regular, white sugar. Feel free to use either. 
  • Please DO NOT skip freezing the scones. It really does help them rise, and also keeps them flakier. 
  • I forgot to brush them with milk before sprinkling the sugar, don’t fret if you do too. 
  • The original recipe also included mix-ins like candied ginger, cinnamon chips, or chocolate chips. You can add 1-2 cups to this recipe, but you may need to add another egg or up the pumpkin to a full cup.
  • I also used pumpkin pie spice, in lieu of the individual spices.  

Pizza Two Ways

Ah, pizza. One of my favorite ways to get my carb fix.  I haven’t had pizza in forever, so I was definitely due. My sister and I used to regularly indulge in a slice from our local pizzeria, where they’d heat up and fold our slices into a brown paper bag. We would pull out the slices and proceed to eat the folded piece of cheesy dough, cold tips first. After deciding to get healthy a few years back, pizza was on my imaginary ‘do not consume’ list. Pizza, along with all fast food, was immediately shunned because of its high calorie count and lack of nutrients. While I am still living a healthier life, it was time to reintroduce my favorite ‘unhealthy’ foods back into my life, but with a huge change.

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Over the years, I have become one of those people that believes that everything tastes better if it’s homemade. Anything can really be made at home, with a little search and effort. Not only will it taste lightyears better, but you will get some extra satisfaction upon realizing how easy it was and because you did it yourself.

As a New Yorker, I have a set of standards for the ‘perfect’ pizza. Every New Yorker compares every single slice of pizza to the one they used to eat as a kid; which undoubtedly becomes their ‘standard’. Now, New York style pizza traditionally has a super thin crust that can be crisp, a thin layer of greasy mozzarella cheese, and is mostly foldable. My friends and I used to open up our slices blot the extra, unnecessary grease before digging in. I knew I wanted something similar to what I used to get from my pizzeria but with a healthier twist.

First round of pizzas in the oven! Non dairy cheese on the left, mozzarella and turkey ham on the right

First round of pizzas in the oven! Non dairy cheese on the left, mozzarella and turkey ham on the right

This pizza dough is exactly what it’s name states. The recipe, from King Arthur Flour, is indeed “The Easiest Pizza You’ll Ever Make.” It was a cinch to make, and came out ridiculously delicious. In an effort to make the crust relatively healthy, I switched out about half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. I also added some vegetables to mine because everything is automatically healthier if it’s loaded with veggies; bonus if there’s vegetables on your vegetable. The result was a super crispy but slightly chewy crust. I rolled it out as thin as I could go, in an effort to imitate the pizza slices of my past. I was pleased at its stability when picked up, and it held on to my multitude of topping pretty well. Now, the crust didn’t fold but that didn’t even matter anymore. And the best part? NO GREASE! My family and I enjoyed this pizza, so this recipe will definitely be made again.

During my pizza crust recipe search,I also came across one of the trendiest ways to eat pizza without the guilt a regular, carby slice might bring. In an effort to have a healthier pizza, and after seeing it everywhere on the internet, it was time for me to try the famous cauliflower crust. I had to try this crust because it was already deemed healthy eats, solely on the fact that it was made with cauliflower. I admit I was a bit skeptical but I love trying new things, and anything that gets more veggies in me is an automatic win. I held out hope for this crust and was pleasantly surprised. It’s not your traditional pizza, like the one above, but it is still a nice substitution; especially if you’re doing the low-carb thing. You kind of have to eat this with a fork and knife though, as it won’t support itself when picked up.

Pizza is one of those things that is infinitely adaptable, and these recipes were no different. A pizza night with either of these recipes is sure to be a hit!

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The Easiest Pizza You’ll Ever Make – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Yield: 3 or 4 pizzas, 6 to 8 servings

  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 packet active dry yeast; or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast or instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups 100% whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Dissolve the sugar, yeast, salt and olive oil  in the lukewarm water. Let stand for 10 minutes, to proof the yeast.
  2. Add the flour, starting with 5 1/2 cups and adding more as necessary to make a soft, smooth dough.
  3. Knead the dough with your hands, a mixer, or your bread machine set on the dough cycle, until it’s smooth and elastic, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or other container, cover it, and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into four pieces, for medium-crust pizza; or three pieces, for thicker crusts. Roll each piece, on a floured surface, with a floured rolling pin. To roll, work from the center to the outside like pie dough. Let the dough rest several times to relax it and make it more cooperative. Turn it over from time to time and roll the reverse side.
  6. Place the rounds on pizza pans; on baking sheets; or, if you have a pizza stone in your oven, on parchment.
  7. Preheat your oven to 450°F. While it’s heating, get out your toppings, which you’ve prepared ahead. Some possibilities include sliced pepperoni; sautéed mushrooms, onions, or peppers; cooked meats; olives; anchovies; and grated or shredded cheese.
  8. Spread pizza or spaghetti sauce lightly over the surface, and add your favorite toppings. Sprinkle the top with grated cheese.
  9. Bake the pizzas for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown, the toppings are hot and bubbly, and the cheese is melted. Remove the pizzas from the oven.
  10. Immediately transfer pizzas to a cooling rack, so the crust won’t get soggy. After about 10 minutes, to allow the toppings to set, slice and serve.
Cauliflower pizzas: dairy free cheese on the left, mozzarella and mushrooms on the right

Cauliflower pizzas: dairy free cheese on the left, mozzarella and mushrooms on the right

The Best Cauliflower Crust Pizza – adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Makes two servings

  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

  1. Place a pizza stone in the oven, or baking sheet if you don’t have a pizza stone. Preheat oven to 450ºF. On a cutting board, place a large piece of parchment paper.
  2. Wash and throughly dry a small head of cauliflower. Cut off the florets—you don’t need much stem, just stick with the florets. Pulse in your food processor for about 30 seconds, until you get powdery snow like cauliflower. You should end up with 2 to 3 cups cauliflower “snow”.
  3. Place the cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl, cover, and cook for 4 minutes. Dump cooked cauliflower onto a clean tea towel and allow to cool for a bit before attempting the next step.
  4. Once cauliflower is cool enough to handle, wrap it up in the dish towel and wring out the excess water, squeezing out as much as possible. This will ensure you get a chewy pizza like crust instead of a crumbly mess.
  5. Dumped the squeezed cauliflower into a bowl. Now add the mozzarella cheese, kosher salt, dried basil (crush up the leaves even more between your fingers before adding), dried oregano (crush up the leaves even more between your fingers before adding), garlic powder (not garlic salt), and a dash of red pepper if you want.  Add the egg and mix with your hands.
  6. Once mixed together, use your hands to form the dough into a crust on your parchment paper. Pat it down throughly, you want it nice and tightly formed together. Don’t make it too thick or thin either.
  7. Slide the parchment paper onto your hot pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 8-11 minutes, until it starts to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and add however much sauce, cheese, and toppings you want. Slide the parchment with topped pizza back in the hot oven and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and slightly golden.
  8. Allow the pizza to cool for one to two minutes. Use a pizza cutter and a spatula to serve up your delicious grain-free cauliflower crust pizza!

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used a combo of whole wheat flour and all-purpose for the King Arthur Flour recipe, but it can also be made with only all-purpose. 
  • For the cauliflower pizza, do not fret if you don’t have all the listed ingredients. Use what you have; I promise it will still be equally delicious. 
  • To quickly cool down the microwaved cauliflower ‘snow,’ spread out on a plate or baking sheet and place in the freezer for a couple of minutes. 
  • I think both of these recipes can be made vegan. For the cauliflower pizza, you can use dairy free cheese (like my sister does) and replace the egg with a flax egg. Let me know if you try this and how it turns out!
  • Take complete creative freedom when topping your pizzas. I added sliced mushrooms, sliced breakfast sausage, thin slices of bell peppers, and fresh, chopped spinach. The possibilities are truly endless!

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

There’s nothing like a little draft in the air to inspire me to bake. I’ve been having a little bit of a baking cold spell lately. I had a few things planned for the last couple of weeks but life got in the way. Since the summer heat has generally died down, I am ready to go full-on into fall baking.

2013-09-18 15.45.15

I plan a list of things I want to bake during the fall every year, but never seem to go through with it. Even in the winter, concerning the American tradition of making dozens and dozens of cookies for Christmas. I’ve never been one to make cookies anyway, but I digress.

One of the things that always appears on the list is bread. I’ve been on a bread kick as of late and it’s all I want to make. My last two attempts at bread loaves ended with lots of disappointment. They both came out flat and tasted off. I ate both loaves by myself over several weeks. I worked most of my meals around my flat and tangy bread failures. I couldn’t even make a proper sandwich! I knew what went wrong both times but hoped it wouldn’t matter. The culprits were the lack of bread flour and the size of my loaf pan. Accepting my failures, I caved for one of the two items; a smaller loaf pan. I was obviously unaware that the standard loaf pan size is 9″x5″. My first loaf pan, aka my Behemoth, is more like 12″x6″. After noticing that most (ahem, more like 99%) of bread recipes called for a 9″x5″, I gave in and bought one.

My family is a big fan of anything high in cinnamon and raisins. They usually buy those Pepperidge Farm loaves of cinnamon raisin swirl bread at Sam’s Club and gobble it up within days. I planned on breaking in my new pan with this cinnamon bread. Even after reading and re-reading the recipe several times, I neglected the fact that the original recipe called for two 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ pans. Thank goodness I had my Behemoth as backup because it suited this recipe perfectly. Despite reading the recipe reviews, laden with rise failures, I trekked on and hoped for the best.

Bread's ready for the oven, after rising in the pan for another hour

Bread’s ready for the oven, after rising in the pan for another hour

Everything worked perfectly fine, even with a few modifications. To combat the rising problems many of the reviewers had, I used my toaster oven as a proof box. I turned my toaster oven on while I kneaded and formed the dough after the first rise. Turn the oven off and let it cool down slightly, before placing the plastic covered loaf pan in there for its second rise. I made sure the oven was warm and not hot because I didn’t want the bread to bake prematurely.

The loaf came out tall, fragrant, and fluffy. It tastes exactly like the packaged stuff, if not better. Yeah, the swirl was missing but it doesn’t even matter when you have bread as easy and as fresh as this. It’s great warm out of the oven but tastes even better toasted the next day.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes one 12″x6″ loaf, or two 8 1/2″x4 1/2″ loaves

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
  • 1 heaping cup dark and/or golden raisins
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water, 110°F
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
  1. Combine and heat the milk and butter (on the stove or in the microwave) until just hot to the touch (about 120°F). Transfer to a large bowl and add the raisins or other fruit, oat flakes, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt and cinnamon; stir well and set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, dissolve the remaining tablespoon of brown sugar and active dry yeast in the water and let sit until bubbles appear. When the milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add the yeast mixture and mix well. Stir in the unbleached flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes by hand, adding additional flour only as necessary to prevent sticking. You can also do this whole process in the bowl of an electric mixer, kneading the dough for 5 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat it on all sides, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a cozy place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. Knock down the dough, knead briefly on a lightly floured surface. Divide dough if using two loaf pans, shape into loaves and place into your two lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until nicely browned. Near the end of the baking time, if the loaves are getting dark too quickly, cover them with a piece of aluminum foil, shiny-side up. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used half soy milk and half 2% milk, with good results. If you’re using alternate milks, please let me know what you use and how it turns out!
  • Chopped nuts, or other dried fruit can also be incorporated into the dough.
  • Make sure your water is not too hot for your yeast! The water should be warmer than body temperature (about 110F/45C) but not too hot to the touch. Use a food thermometer if you have one, and would like the reassurance that you won’t kill your yeast. 
  • If you don’t have a toaster oven to use as a mock proof box, use your regular stove oven. Preheat the oven and then shut it off before placing your bread in there for its second rise. Just make sure it isn’t too hot!