Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spice-kissed turtle shells.

If you want to use this recipe and avoid honey, go ahead and use your favorite sweetener. Agave nectar, pure maple syrup, or brown rice syrup should all work fine. Get creative! Baking, in my humblest of opinions, is not so much a science as everyone else seems to think.

So now that that's out of the way, let's get the party started. Save these muffins for one of those dreary rainy days, or for a day when you're feeling homesick. The warm ginger and peanut butter will make you feel right at home.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups dark brewed tea (I used cinnamon apple spice)

Preheat the oven to 325. Brew the spiced tea of your choice, add 1/2 teaspoon honey and set aside to steep. Mix dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Add peanut butter and mix until crumbly. Take the remaining honey and drizzle it over the mixture. Do not overmix. You want this to be more of a ribbon than anything else. While the tea is still warm (but not boiling), add to the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Grease or line a muffin pan and fill to about 2/3 (this is the one situation where you actually WANT a muffin top!).

Because I used a mini-muffin pan, I only baked these for about fifteen minutes. Bake longer if you're using a larger pan. When all else fails, revert to the age old trick of sticking a toothpick in your muffins. When the toothpick is batter-free, you're good to go!

Making the peanut butter glaze is a bit less exact. Warm some peanut butter until it is slightly thicker than a syrup. Add honey, cinnamon and ginger to taste. It should be the consistency of molasses. This is a really essential part of the recipe because without the glaze, the muffins are a bit dry.

To assemble: dip the cooled muffins in the glaze and set aside until the glaze thickens. A carob drizzle adds a nice visual touch, and gives the muffins an extra kick of warmth!

Apples and cinnamon peanut butter really make me think of home. What sorts of things remind you of home?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Petit Fours

I'm coming clean, here. I love tiny desserts. When I go to bakeries, I spent a good ten minutes eying the colorful suckers before I finally settle on a loaf of bread.

So, naturally, when I heard that a friend was having a birthday, I jumped at the chance to make single-serving cakes. I had a box of seedless mandarins sitting around, begging to be used, so I decided to attempt to whip up some sort of spiced orange cake.

What I came up with was this: layers of alternating cakes - one featuring candied mandarins, and one earl gray spiked and syrup soaked. For the filling, I used raspberry preserves and raspberry buttercream frosting.

I decided to attempt to challenge myself, so I bought a candy thermometer and set about making my first batch of poured fondant frosting.

It ended up looking okay, but the taste was cloying and unpleasant and just left something to be desired. After trying it out on one cake, I used a bit as glue for raspberries, tossed the rest of the batch, and left the cakes basically naked and chocolate-drizzled.

I wasn't planning on posting this when I started out, so I eyeballed the whole thing and didn't write down any of the measurements. Next time someone has a party, though, I will definitely be writing this one out for you guys!