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Monday, September 8, 2014

Almond Pumpkin Muffins

Fall is the favorite season of Basic Bitches across the world. The turn of seasons allows every self-respecting Basic Bitch to proclaim that she "doesn't know why, but something about the autumn leaves makes her want to curl up in a cozy sweater with a good book and a mug of tea." After suffering through the long summer months, it is finally time for her to shed her Nasty Gal crop top and don her favorite 'Lulu' leggings and Uggs.

But lest we forget the most important part of the BBC (the Basic Bitch's Credo, not the British Broadcasting Corporation). The pillar upon which every Vera Bradley-wielding, Fifty Shades of Grey-reading girl has built her altar to Autumn. The Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Once Labor Day has come and gone, the inundation of snapchats, Instagrams, and tweets about their "favorite time of year ;)" begins. And I begin to bundle up. Not to brace myself against the dipping mercury, but rather to drown out all of the basic. I need something to get me through, and these are my answer. These muffins are the Pumpkin Spice Latte of the Basic Bitch's wilder cousin, the Bad Bitch.

Almond Pumpkin Muffins
Makes 12 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup caster sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 14-ounce can canned pumpkin
1/3 cup coconut oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup flaked almonds, toasted

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 12-inch muffin pan with paper muffin cups. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together canned pumpkin, coconut oil, eggs, and almond extract. Gently fold in dry ingredients until just incorporated. Divide evenly between muffin cups. In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over top of batter. Sprinkle flaked almonds on top. Bake for 30 minutes, until fragrant and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

More Pumpkin Recipes

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Earl Grey Tea Cake

No matter what else is going on in my life, there is one constant. I may be transitioning. I may have a lot on my plate. But I always have a cup of tea.
The season and my mood dictate the type I reach for. And my schedule may lead me to choose a bag of tea over a nicer loose leaf. No matter the variety, I can't actually remember the last day I went without a mug of tea. Or a cuppa, as the Brits call it.

Because I've been going pretty non-stop for the past few months, my body is run down. Travel, work, and settling into a new life in a new city have left me tired and a bit lackluster, so my usual cup a day has turned into mug after mug. I'll stop into the tea parlor down the road for a match a latte, having just downed a thermos full of Darjeeling at home.

I know it's not a cure-all, but it is comforting. And whatever else I put my poor body through (I am well aware that eating out and going out are not exactly easy on my system), I feel that tea helps me detoxify and decompress. And while I'm more than happy with a simple Genmaicha or Oolong, it is nice to have some accompaniment every now and again. And what goes better with tea than tea cake?

Earl Grey Tea Cake
Adapted from Paris Pastry Club
Makes 1 loaf

For the cake:
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Zest from two clementines
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea leaves
4 large eggs, at room temperature
Beans from one vanilla pod
2/3 cup creme fraiche
3 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted

For the clementine confit:
4 clementines, thinly sliced
1/2 cup water
1 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Beans from one vanilla pod

To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter one loaf pan and line with parchment paper. Butter parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and zest. In a large bowl, rub caster sugar and tea leaves together until it is a fine meal and fragrant. Add eggs and beans from vanilla pod and whisk until light in color, about 4 minutes. Gradually fold in flour mixture, careful not to overbeat. Fold in creme fraiche and butter. Pour into prepared baking pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack.

To make the clementine confit: Place clementines, water, caster sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla beans in a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes until clementines are soft and syrupy. Serve clementine confit over cooled, sliced tea cake.

More Tea Cakes

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bay Leaf Pound Cake

Or should I call it Bae Leaf Pound Cake? Anyone? No? Everyone else may be over the bae phenomenon, but I most certainly am not. I think the appearance of the word bae in our vernacular was, quite possibly, the single greatest linguistic advent in my lifetime.

Now this may seem like an exaggeration to you, but I find 'bae' slipping into my conversations at the very least a handful of times a day. It's my favorite of endearment. It's tender. It's sweet. And it suits all of my best baes perfectly. Just like this pound cake.

Bay leaf isn't usually the first flavor that comes to mind when you think sweets, but please don't relegate it to the realm of rag├╣ and lentil soup. It brings an earthy, herbal quality to this pound cake that indulges my penchant for desserts that taste like soap. The moist, tender crumb studded with vanilla beans becomes hearty and complex with the addition of bay leaves, and the richness is cut by the tart clementine glaze.

So I implore you. Make this cake now. And make it before bae (bay) leaves.

Bay Leaf Pound Cake
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Makes 1 loaf or small bundt cake

For the cake:
6 tablespoons salted butter
3 fresh bay leaves, plus more for decoration
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup mascarpone
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Finely grated zest of 2 clementines
Beans scraped from one vanilla pod

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
Juice from 2 clementines
1 teaspoon Grand Mariner

Preheat oven to 350. Thoroughly grease bundt pan or loaf pan, dust with flour, then tap out excess. In a small saucepan set over low, heat butter until melted. Place bay leaves in melted butter and leave to steep for one hour. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together mascarpone, eggs, zest, and vanilla beans. Once butter has steeped for an hour, whisk into mascarpone mixture. Make a well in dry ingredients and pour wet ingredients in. Gently stir in wet ingredients in a figure-8 motion, careful not to over-mix. Spread batter evenly in prepared baking dish. Lay extra bay leaves over top of the batter in any pattern you choose. Place in oven for 35-40 minutes, until top is golden brown and firm to the touch and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. While cake is cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, clementine juice, and Grand Mariner. Once cake has cooled, remove from pan and drizzle with glaze.

More Pound Cake