Monday, July 21, 2014

Blue cornmeal pancakes

I have a thing about pancakes. I am not a great morning person and yet every morning I make a cooked breakfast, and half the time it is pancakes. Many might find it odd that an am grump could muster the energy and enthusiasm to bake. But to me, cold cereal is one of the few things that can make a morning worse than it already de facto is. You will know I am in a deep funk if you ever find me serving my kids Cheerios at 7am.

So I already have at least five different pancake recipes up - more for my own convenience than for hope that anyone else will be crazy enough to follow my morning lead - but I love these blue ones too so I had to copy it down here. The original recipe from joy of cooking calls for yellow cornmeal but I love using blue cornmeal for the fun slightly blue tinge it gives the pancakes. This recipe makes a lot of pancakes, enough for at least four adults. I make the full batch and freeze half. Don't be alarmed by the quantity of butter - use highest quality, you don't have to butter the pan before cooking, and also remember fat is now good for you. (

Blue cornmeal pancakes
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature. Serve with berries and syrup for breakfast, or cut out the sugar & vanilla and add in 3/4 cup corn kernels and serve them with sausages for dinner

1 1/4 cup blue cornmeal
3/4 white spelt flour (or all-purpose)
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl whisk together the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, and combine with just a few quick strokes of the whisk. Preheat a griddle or fry pan over medium or medium-low. Pour pancakes by 1/4 cupfuls, flip when bubbles form on the top then cook through in the other side. This batter is particularly sensitive to temperature changes, it might take a few batches for you to get the griddle temperature just right for the perfect pancake.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Buckwheat Brownies

I'm pretty sure I have at least two brownie recipes on this blog already (yup, one and two), and one already purports to be the "best." I am overfond of using hyperbolic phrases, but this time round, I swear to you, I have perfected the brownie. This is the best brownie ever.

Now, there is all kinds of debate about brownies and what qualities are best found in one. I am of the camp that believes brownies should be fudgy. Cakey brownies aren't really brownies - they're cake! (This was an especially troubling topic for me in England, where all the farmers market bakers have a "brownie" that they swear is amazing but is really just dry, flat cake. I would try to explain to them what a "real" brownie is but I think it was always lost in translation.)

We just returned from two weeks in Maine with my mother, and since I had a big kitchen to work with, the sea air as inspiration, and free babysitting, I baked almost every day. And it was in Maine that I finally baked the best brownies. All who have tasted agree, except my husband, who feels brownies should be cakey. (I feel he should reconsider ever saying that to me again.)

In addition to being the perfect, fudgey brownie, this is also a GLUTEN FREE brownie. I already knew that using cake flour was ideal, but this time round I felt like using what I had on hand. Buckwheat is just as fine a flour as cake flour so the texture is the same, plus it imparts a wonderful nutty flavor as well.

Only one caveat to this recipe. I think part of the success has to do with the ingredients. Definitely use Baker's brand chocolate, and use the highest quality butter and eggs you can find. I discovered Kate's butter while in Maine and it was a revolutionary, almost religious, experience. (My freezer is now stocked with it.) But Cabot makes a good butter too, and lots of other small-scale local businesses do too. And never use old butter. Butter has a way of picking up the odors of other things in your fridge, so freshest is best, or freeze until you need to use it.

Happy fudgey brownie baking!

Best Brownies (really)
based loosely on Baker's One-Bowl Brownie recipe

1 stick unsalted highest-quality butter
4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate (preferably Baker's)
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking pan (I prefer glass.)

Melt the butter and chocolate in a big glass bowl in 30-second intervals in the microwave. Stir in the sugar and vanilla and mixed until combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the flour and salt until just combined. Stir in the walnuts.

Pour batter into pan and smooth top. Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until they are just set. Do not overbake! They might still look under-done and a tester will NOT come out clean.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Spelt poppyseed muffins with lemon glaze

Maybe it's just because I'm pregnant and have reached the stage where baked goods are not only irresistible but positively essential to my mental health, but these muffins are the best I have made in as long as I can remember. I'm sure the copious scoopings of sour cream have something to do with it, and the lemon glaze absolutely factors into the irresistiblity equation. But I'd also like to think that the heavy proportion of very-very-good-for-you poppy seeds (think nutritionally-equivalent-to but not-as-hip-as chia seeds) has a lot to do with it.

Make these and see how long they last in your kitchen. Our batch of 16 large muffins lasted two days. Everyone, the toddler included, loved them.

Lemon-glazed Poppyseed Muffins
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and Williams-Sonoma Muffins

These muffins taste best the day after - the flavors have time to develop and the sour cream keeps them moist. Also, you'll need the zest of two lemons but the juice from only one. Make lemonade.

1 cup spelt flour (or all purpose)
1/2 cup whole grain spelt flour (or whole-wheat)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup Poppy seeds
Zest of one medium lemon

For glaze
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of one medium lemon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and butter standard muffin tins.

In a medium bowl stir and toss together the flour, poppyseeds, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. In a large bowl whisk together the sour cream, egg and sugars. Fold in the flour mixture till just combined.

Spoon 1/4 cupfuls into the prepared muffins tins. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out with moist crumbs, about 15 minutes.

While muffins bake, make glaze. Combine all glaze ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. When muffins have cooled 3 minutes in pan, remove to a wire rack and let cool completely, then apply glaze with a brush or the back of a spoon.