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  • Written by Amiee White
  • Category: Food Je t'Aimee

Gingerbread Muffins with Brown Butter Frosting

Christmas may seem a long way off for some of you, but with Baker Street's holiday series in full swing, it certainly smelled like Christmas around my kitchen this weekend!

Anuradha offered us a basic Gingerbread recipe, giving us plenty of room for creativity, so I'm excited to see what the other Muffin Monday bakers have devised this week.

Every week, MM participants tell funny stories about how the people in their households have begun to expect and anticipate the new week's muffin. Well, F. was asking me for Muffin Monday muffins by Wednesday of last week. When I told him I'd need Muffin ESP in order to do that, since we don't get the recipe until later in the week, he was pretty disappointed - in both the outcome and my inability to read An's thoughts. Poor boy had to wait.

Gingerbread Muffins with Brown Butter Frosting

Generally speaking, when I try to come up with twists for my muffins, I look for words like 'glaze,' 'streusel,' and the ever-ambiguous 'topping,' in an effort to keep the muffins muffin-like, and not to confuse them with their sweeter, cupcake cousin. I failed in that effort this week, but I'm more than ok with that.

My knee-jerk response, initially, was to drizzle these with my go-to cream cheese glaze. Maybe with a hint of citrus. In the interest of not becoming too predictable, however, and in forsaking my beloved cream cheese, I opted for a brown butter frosting. It's a first in my kitchen and - ohhh my - certainly not a last. (I can always make them with cream cheese next time, because I do think it'd be a gorgeous combination.)

The gingerbread turned out a little drier than I would have liked, so the generous heap of buttery goodness was a welcome feature and helped to balance that dryness out. Also, it should be added, I'm not so well-versed in the ways of frosting and decorating, so pardon the disheveled appearance of my muffins. I can never seem to get frosting to stick or sit smoothly. This is a skill I'm really interested in working on and experimenting with in the coming months. In the meantime, tips are most welcome!

Gingerbread Muffins with Brown Butter Frosting

Too early for Christmas muffin wrappers?

No?

Good.

Gingerbread Muffins with Brown Butter Frosting

with Brown Butter Frosting

Adapted from Betty Crocker

1/4cup packed brown sugar
1/2cup molasses
1/3cup milk
1/3cup olive oil
1egg
2cups all-purpose flour
1teaspoon baking powder
1teaspoon ground ginger
1/2teaspoon salt
1/2teaspoon baking soda
1/2teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4teaspoon ground allspice


Frosting
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon whole milk


Heat oven to 400°F. Grease bottoms only of 12 regular-size muffin cups with shortening, or place paper baking cup in each muffin cup.In large bowl, beat brown sugar, molasses, milk, oil and egg with spoon. Stir in remaining ingredients, just until flour is moistened. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes, before frosting.

For the frosting, melt the butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat, roughly 6-8 minutes, until nutty brown and aromatic. Strain the butter through a fine-mesh sieve (you don't want any of the dark brown bits in your frosting) into a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth.

Gingerbread Muffins with Brown Butter Frosting
Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.

I really encourage you to stop by Baker Street to check out all the Muffin Monday bakers and their Gingerbread Muffins, as well as Anuradha's Muffin 101 and her latest installment of 6 quick bread recipes. Her website is a great resource for baking!


Wishing you a great week!

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  • Written by Amiee White
  • Category: Food Je t'Aimee

Food, Wine, Art for a Cause

I have no recipes or photos for you today. Instead, I'm helping to raise awareness around two very honourable and worthwhile events taking place this month. Both are doing wonderful things to help people in need, and both could use your support!

I. ADSUM HOUSE: MYSTERY ART SHOW & SALE


I mentioned this first event briefly last week and promised more details. Here they are!
On November 26th, Adsum House will be hosting their annual Mystery Art Show at FRED in Halifax;  the mystery being that you don't know who the artist or photographer is until you successfully purchase the piece! There will be both well-known and up-and-coming local artists featured. With Christmas coming, I'm sure you can find a beautiful new piece for someone you love, or even fill that blank wall you've been meaning to do something with. Each piece, regardless of artist, is going for $100, so you're really getting an amazing deal! The pieces will be on display the entire week beforehand, as well, so you can drop by to scope out potential purchases before the event.

It'll be a fabulous night with drinks and appetizers (courtesy of FRED - so you know you're in for a treat!), which makes it a fun excuse to round up some friends, support a good cause, and scope out some beautiful, local artwork. What's not to like? (You might even see a photo or two of mine laying around!)


If you are unfamiliar with what Adsum House does, you can visit their website here: http://www.adsumforwomen.org/. The women who work at Adsum work tirelessly - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - to keep this safe haven open and ready to take women and children out of abusive and/or dire circumstances.  They are some of the most humble, talented, and dedicated women I've ever met, so I'm absolutely honoured to be volunteering with them and supporting them in any way that I can.

Tickets are $25. You can buy them at the door or you can let me know if you'd like them in advance. There is more information on the flyer below. I hope you'll join us!

Food, Wine, Art for a Cause

II. BLOGGERS UNITE FOR AFRICA

The next event is one I imagine to be near and dear to many people's hearts. Saying it best is Jackie - author of the food blog La Casa De Sweets - so here are some of her own, heartfelt words to tell you more about the fundraiser:
As I'm sure you are all aware, there is a crisis going on right now in the Horn of Africa. Over 13 million people have already been affected by the drought, ensuing famine, and starvation. About 30,000 children have died in the past 3 months, and an estimated 600,000 are in danger of starvation. We've all heard the numbers, and now it's time to act!

The fact that thousands of children are dying is just too much for me to handle, without doing anything about it. As a mother of two young children, and as a former student of international child health, I have to do something. My blog encourages people to donate to child hunger organizations all the time, but this is an emergency situation, and thus requires larger action. So, I am calling upon the blogging community to help.

I guess I should introduce myself. I'm Jackie, and I'm the recipe creator, photographer, and writer behind La Casa de Sweets. I focus on classic American, Spanish and international desserts, and sometimes I delve into the land of savory yumminess, too! After baking, my other passion is children. I'm a teacher, taking a break to raise my two little daughters (ages 2 and 8 months). I love kids, so it's almost unbearable for me to think about children suffering, especially from hunger. That's why I focus on encouraging my readers to donate to charities that try to end childhood hunger. That's why I find the images and stories from Somalia and surrounding areas so utterly heartbreaking. I have to act. We have to act.

And, so, I've created a fundraiser through Global Giving to help do just that. I thought long and hard about how to raise money, and I believe this is the best way. I've spoken to on-the-ground organizations and journalists in the area, and they have assured me that the money we raise will help save lives. I've chosen a few crucial projects for our readers to donate to through Global Giving, in the hopes that we can all help save children from starvation.


I really admire and respect Jackie's tenacity and her commitment to this cause. Be sure to check out her site, because there are dozens of giveaways and prizes to be won! Unfortunately, the prizes are only available to US residents, but that's good news for about half of the people who read this blog. Prize or no prize, every dollar helps, so if you have a little extra to give, please consider contributing to Jackie's Global Giving campaign!

Thank you! ...

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  • Written by Amiee White
  • Category: Food Je t'Aimee

Apple Buttermilk Muffins with Coconut Crumble

This week's Muffin Monday assignment is bursting with all my favourite, seasonal flavours of autumn. Who could turn down a muffin recipe that calls for a can of apple pie apples? Really?


Once again, I was dying to know how these tasted, so I didn't change much. I did add more of the pie spices to the crumble, and I used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. Also, I wound up with a lot of extra batter, so I filled an extra 6-cup pan with the excess. I knew that little pan would come in handy some day! For those extra 6 muffins, I added a sprinkle of butterscotch chips to the top before adding the crumble, inspired by this recipe I made a few times last month.

I absolutely loved the combination of spiced apples and the crispy coconut on the top. I don't recall ever having this combination before, but it's definitely one I'll try again. The end result was a moist, crumbly muffin that was full of flavour.

Now I have 18 of these apple pie-inspired beauties on my hands. This Muffin Monday business is rough!


Apple Buttermilk Muffins with Coconut Crumble
One of the nicest crumbles I've ever made! In sight, taste, texture. A great recipe.

Apple Buttermilk Muffins with Coconut Crumble
Apple Buttermilk Muffins with Coconut Crumble

Apple Buttermilk Muffins with Coconut (& Butterscotch) Crumble

For the Muffins
2 1/2 cups self raising flour
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
410g can pie apples
1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk (I actually used it this time!)
1/2 cup coconut oil

For the Coconut Crumble
1/4 cup plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons caster sugar
1/2 cup flaked coocnut
20 grams butter

1/2 tsp. grouns cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1/8 tsp. all spice

1/4 cup butterscotch chips (optional)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400F / 200C
For the coconut crumble: Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and rub the butter using your fingertips till it is nice and crumbly. Set aside.
For the muffins: Grease or line a 12 cup muffin pan. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the apple. Do not over mix.
In a medium bowl, combine egg, buttermilk, and oil. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the apple mixture and mix gently. 
Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and top with coconut crumble. Bake in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.


Apple Buttermilk Muffins with Coconut Crumble
Always my favourite moment: the excuse of biting into a muffin so I can photograph the inside.

Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.

Be sure to check out how the other Muffin Monday bakers made out with this recipe here. They're a talented and creative group who never fail to inspire me - and make me laugh!

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  • Written by Amiee White
  • Category: Food Je t'Aimee

On Panettone, for Paolo

Chapter 1: A Story

It was early November 2006 and I was just two months into my quarter life crisis. I had finished the course work for my Masters program a few months previous and was half-heartedly working on my thesis, as well as working full-time. I was twenty-five, alive, and itching to skip town. I remember listening to Breakdown by Jack Johnson on repeat in my car, feeling positively stuck on a path I couldn't see a way off of. It wasn't a bad path, but I was feeling antsy, bored, and uninspired.

I hope this old train breaks down
Then I could take a walk around
And see what there is to see...

All the people in the street
That I'll never get to meet
If these tracks don't bend somehow

Belle (yeah, that's right, from Beauty and the Beast) knew where I was coming from when she sang: "I want adventure in the great wide somewhere / I want it more than I can tell." Even as a kid watching Disney movies, words like these resonated and stuck in my bones. My heart and mind were completely elsewhere. I was tired of being a spectator; I wanted to start participating in life. 

It was on one of those days in early November when a friend from my program, Laura, forwarded me an e-mail. "In the spirit of helping you put off your thesis," was the subject line. (I did eventually finish that thesis, by the way.)

It was a job posting for a junior consultancy (a partially funded and glorified internship) in Bonn, Germany. I didn't imagine for a second that I had a shot at it, but went ahead and applied anyway. Three weeks later, and having come down with a bad case of mono (of all things!), I was shipping off to Germany to begin my new life. Laura's e-mail changed everything. It turned my life upside down. It got me off of that train and into the life I so desperately wanted. (I still owe her a boat-load of lemon tarts for that.)

I had no one in Germany at first.  No friends, no support network. Instead, I had immigration offices. Visas. Foreign languages. Bank cards that don't work. People who don't understand your hand gestures as a means of communication, or your feeble first attempts at their language. Currencies that don't make any sense. Pocket dictionaries to help me understand my washing machine. I took photos of ordinary houses in my neighbourhood that, to me, were beautiful. I was an outsider. No, I was not in the middle of a desert or rainforest, but life was infinitely more different now I and had to develop a new set of life skills, fast.


Rather than feeling intimidated, however, I was absolutely romanced by the idea of starting fresh in a new place. In practice, it wasn't always that way: I do recall that first New Year's Eve being particularly lonely,  in my kitty cat pajamas, feeling friendless save for my 2 Euro bottle of wine. But all that did was make me determined to never find myself in that position again. Clearly I was ok with being alone, but clearly I was not ok with being alone on holidays. So I made friends. Really wonderful ones. Friends who I haven't seen in a long time now but who I miss dearly. Everyday. They're an important part of my personal history.

I found one of these friends in my supervisor at work, Paolo. No joke, and no blowing smoke up anyone's any thing, I was extremely fortunate to find myself working under the best supervisor in the best unit of the organization. It's just a fact. It was a great match.

Paolo was and is truly one of a kind. He started out as my supervisor, became my mentor, then my friend, and then a combination of all three. He gave me challenging, meaningful work I could feel proud of, when he easily could have had me making photocopies or taking on everyone's grunt work. He praised my skills and work in front of anyone who would listen. He had weekly, exclusive chats over tea with me to check in on how I was feeling. Was I being given gratifying work? Was anyone causing me problems or not taking me seriously? Where did I see myself in 3 months time? 3 years time?

Who does that?


After my very first day of work that November, Paolo took me out to a German Christmas market - the Weihnachtsmarkt - to show me the sights and sounds of German holiday fare, in both food and drink. It's easy to see this day and this period as a turning point in my relationship with food. It's certainly the first time I ever started taking pictures of food. I was completely enthralled with the stuff!

As time went by, I came to learn that Paolo had a bothersome, trouble-making sweet tooth. Trouble-making for me, I should add. Hailing from the Italian part of Switzerland, lean and fit, Paolo would sashay into work every day with chocolates, marzipan, pastries, and cakes. "Oh, but I just got this from Switzerland and it's gorgeous! Just try a little bit?"

One of my favourite things Paolo used to bring in was panettone: an eggy, Italian Christmas loaf full of raisins and citrus. The memories I have of it are tucked away and wrapped up in the same soft spot as my memories of those initial days and weeks of my life in Germany. Of all the sweets and treats I was privy to that year, there was something special about panettone that warmed my heart. The spongy texture, buttery flavour, and its subtle, citrusy sweetness was downright intoxicating. Comfort food. Paolo would sweep into work with it in those pretty boxes tied with ribbon, and I was powerless to resist.


I have Paolo to thank for a lot. I ended up staying in that position for almost a year, and it was this experience that set an important standard for me, professionally, in terms of what I expect from and want to contribute to my place of employment. It was also Paolo's excitement over food that sparked my own curiosity and sent my culinary journey into over-drive. 


---
Chapter 2: The Recipe
On Panettone, for Paolo

Panettone
Adapted from The International Collection: Home-Cooked Meals From Around the World

Sponge
1 pkg active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
2/3 cup warm (not hot) milk
1 cup all-purpose flour

Cake
1/4 cup Calvados
1/2 cup golden raisins
4 egg yolks
2 eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. orange zest (from 1 large orange)
1 Tbsp. lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
4 cups (approx.) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped candied, mixed peel

Topping
2 tsp butter, melted

Method
For the Sponge: In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over milk; cover and let stand until yeast starts to rise to surface, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour to make a sticky dough. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in warm, draft-free place until bubbly and doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

For the Dough Mixture: In the meantime, microwave Calvados on high until hot, about 20 seconds. Add raisins; cover and let stand until plump, about 1 hour. When finished, reserve the liquid, and drain the raisins, pressing to extract the liquid. Set aside separately.

In large bowl with electric mixer, beat yolks, eggs, sugar, orange zest, lemon zest, vanilla, salt and reserved Calvados until light and thickened. Beat in butter, 1 tbsp at a time, to form curdled-looking  mixture. Add sponge and 3 cups of the flour; mix by hand until a sticky dough forms. Transfer to a well-floured surface; knead, adding remaining flour as necessary, until smoth and rather buttery, about 8 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Press down dough. Knead in raisins and mixed peel. Place in greased bowl; cover with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours. Punch down dough. Turn out onto floured surface; form into a ball, pinching bottom to make the top smooth.

Grease a panettone mould (leave ungreased if using a store-bought paper mould) or a 2-lb (900g) coffee can. If using the can, line the bottom and sides with parchment paper, extending 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the rim. Place dough, seam side down, in mould. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours. (You can also let rise in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours; remove from refrigerator 1 hour before baking.)

For the Topping: Cut 1/4-inch (5 mm) deep X shape in top; brush with butter.

Bake in bottom third of 350F (180C) oven until tester inserted in centre comes out clean, 90 to 105 minutes, covering with foil after 40 minutes or once the top is milk chocolate in colour. Let cool on rack for 1 hour. Pull the paper to remove from the can, if using. (Make ahead: Wrap and store for up to 1 day or overwrap with heavy-duty foil and freeze for up to 2 weeks.)

If using paper moulds, you can cut right into the paper to get your wedge of wonderful Christmas cake.

Makes 1 loaf (12 slices).

On Panettone, for Paolo

---
Chapter 3: Panettone & "Let's Make Christmas"

Panettone takes a long time to make. A really long time to make. The ingredients are not extravagant, however, and the method is quite straightforward, so it's worth a shot if you happen to be around the house for the day. I started making the sponge at 8:45AM last Saturday morning. The panettone went into the oven at 4:30PM, came out at 6:10PM, and by 8 o'clock at night I was eating my first piece in years. Eyes closed, stupid grin on face.

On Panettone, for Paolo
Panettone is a labour of love, if ever I've seen one, but what better way to show your appreciation for someone this Christmas than to spend an entire day working on their gift? I'm entering my panettone into Vanessa Kimbell's Let's Make Christmas event. Vanessa started this blogging event in order to help generate ideas for home- and hand-made Christmas gifts this year, rather than buying things that people don't really need. Homemade gifts are about so much more than saving money, too; they're meaningful gifts that truly come from the heart.
You can make every element of this panettone as a gift, including the baking mould and the wrapping. I think this makes it particularly well-suited for Let's Make Christmas. I bought my moulds online at Golda's Kitchen, but you can even make the paper moulds the panettone is baked in, as demonstrated here on this blog.
You can put the panettone in a...

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  • Written by Amiee White
  • Category: Food Je t'Aimee

Marble Streusel Muffins

Welcome to the first installment in Baker Street's Muffin Monday holiday series! I suppose this just means the muffins get more and more decadent from this point onward? An excellent start, then, with this Marble Streusel Muffin.

This week's recipe looked perfect just how it was. I didn't want to change anything. A batter made of two parts chocolate, one part cream cheese, all swirled together and then topped with a chocolate chip streusel? This  muffin sounded like a treat for the eyes as well as the tastebuds.

I really wanted to know what they tasted like, especially after learning that cream cheese was getting involved.  [Heavens part. Enter heavenly choir.]

Marble Streusel Muffins
 Marble Streusel MuffinsA beautiful, bright morning for muffins.  
Marble Streusel Muffins

  


Jasmine of CookThatBookouted she and myself as cream cheese fanatics a couple of Mondays ago, so I know she was as happy to see this recipe as I was! I also know Anuradha keeps us company in the addicts club, and I suspect Elena does, too. Anyone else going to come forward? Hmm? We're all friends here.

In any case, I am happy to report that this muffin is the perfect balance between muffin and cupcake: Sweet, but not too sweet. A treat without feeling like you're completely over-indulging. Just perfect.

Marble Streusel Muffins
from Recipe Digest

Ingredients

Streusel:
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Muffins:
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
110 g cream cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I didn't have any, so I used coconut oil)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method
Streusel:
- Combine the sugar, cinnamon and flour.
- Add the butter and work it with your finger tips until the mixture is crumbly and then stir in the chocolate chips.

Muffins:
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Line a 12 pan muffin tin.
- Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
- Remove half a cup of the flour mixture and set aside.
- Add cocoa powder in the remaining (first) mixture.
- Beat cream cheese, 1 egg and the reserved 1/2 cup of flour.
- In a third bowl, combine the egg, water, vanilla extract and oil.
- Add it to the cocoa mixture. Gently mix until incorporated.
- Spoon the batters side by side equally in the muffin cups. (I swirled the batter around a little with a knife.)
- Sprinkle the streusel on top and bake for 20 - 25 mins.

Marble Streusel Muffins

Marble Streusel Muffins
Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.
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