BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Stud Muffins

More than mere eye-candy, these fine specimens are potential suitors with real substance. Undeniably dark and handsome, it’s hard not to fall for their good looks even at a glance, but there’s so much more to love in each tempting crumb.

Want a partner who won’t insult your intelligence? These fellas are a smart choice, made of high-fiber coffee flour and bolstered by whole wheat, staying with you all morning when so many flaky pastries will let you down. Seeking a bit of adventure in the everyday? Subtly fruity, nutty, and lightly scented with rich cinnamon, each bite provided a flavorful departure from the typical breakfast baked good.

Prepare to meet your perfect match, at least when it comes to sweet muffin romance.

Coffee Flour Crumb Muffins

2 Cups White Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup Coffee Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
3/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Pitted and Chopped Dates
1/4 Cup Toasted and Chopped Pecans

Crumb Topping:

2 Tablespoons White Whole Wheat Flour
2 Tablespoons Coffee Flour
3 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
2 Tablespoons Toasted and Chopped Pecans
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 1/2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease 12 muffin tins.

In a large bowl, sift the white whole wheat flour, coffee flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to combine and thoroughly distribute all of the dry goods throughout the mixture.

Separately, mix together the non-dairy milk of your choice, brown sugar, vinegar, and oil. Pour the liquids into the bowl of dry ingredients, stirring lightly just to bring the batter together. Add the dates and pecans last, folding them in gently. A few errant lumps in the dough are perfectly fine.

For the crumb topping, simply stir together all of the ingredients with a fork until the mixture clumps together in large pieces, approximately the size of peas.

Distribute the muffin batter between your prepared tins, mounding them generously towards the center. Sprinkle the crumb topping over each one as evenly and equally as possible.

Bake for 20 – 24 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center pulls out clean. Let cool completely before enjoying!

Makes 12 Muffins

Printable Recipe

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Flipping Over Pancakes

The greatest traditions of excess are born from their polar opposites, of fasts or famines, celebrating, repenting, or simply surviving. Shrove Tuesday carries that torch with unmatched enthusiasm, having evolved into an unrestrained eating and drinking bender, theoretically in preparation for the 40-day Lenten fast ahead. Pancakes are the star of the menu because historically, the fresh eggs and milk already on hand would spoil during that time of abstention, so the only reasonable thing to do would be to make massive amounts of flapjacks and throw a huge party, naturally. How this simple predisposition to thriftiness evolved into the revelry and debauchery of modern day Mardi Gras is a whole ‘nother story.

Those same concerns of preventing food waste certainly aren’t of primary concern for current festivities, but the universal love of pancakes has kept the practice alive. A simple sort of decadence, pancakes are as easy and uncomplicated as they come, making themselves right at home on the fanciest and unfussiest of tables alike. Regardless, it always feels like a special occasion when diving into a fluffy short stack, buttery and sticky with maple syrup. Despite their humble nature, countless cooks still find the prospect of flipping the perfect pancake rather daunting- Myself included. My own personal pancake disasters are too numerous to recount, but particularly infamous misadventures include scrambled pancakes, pancakes that are both raw and burnt at the same time, and pancakes flipped perfectly… Outside of the pan and literally into the fire.

For this Pancake Tuesday, I decided to seek advice from a master. Sitting myself down at Saturn Cafe with full view of the open kitchen, a few key elements for pancake perfection became clear.

1. Consistency matters. This means two things, actually: The viscosity of the batter is essential for the right texture. Too runny and you’ll get crepes. Too thick and you’ll get doorstops. Your best bet is a ratio of approximately equal parts liquid to flour by weight. The other component to this concept is that you should be consistent in your delivery. Use a ladle or measuring cup to dose out the same amount of batter every time, and space them an equal distance apart. Don’t forget to allow sufficient space to flip!

2. Take it slow. Pancakes already cook quickly so there’s no need to rush things. Keep the heat closer to medium-low to prevent them from burning on the outside before cooked all the way through. Look for the surface to be covered in ruptured bubbles before proceeding.

3. Add in, don’t mix in. Goodies like nuts, fruits, and chocolate chips are often the spotlight ingredients of truly decadent pancakes, but like any celebrities, they should arrive fashionably late to the party. Mix-ins stirred directly into the batter with sink to the bottom, creating some scantily clad pancakes. Wait until they’re about halfway done cooking before sprinkling your starlets on top, keeping them evenly distributed and at the center of attention.

4. Keep it on the down-low. When it comes time for the dreaded flip, don’t try anything fancy. Don’t expect to toss those little flapjacks in the air like pizza dough and don’t pretend that you can flick the pan forward to succeed without a spatula. Check to make sure that they’re ready by peeking underneath first. If the bottom is evenly golden brown, you’re good to go. Make sure the spatula is completely underneath and supporting the cake and keep it as close to the pan as possible when you turn it over. Be firm but gentle. Don’t slap it down forcefully, unless you’d like to redecorate your kitchen walls with raw batter.

If you have flour in the pantry, you could have pancakes for breakfast. The most basic formulas need little more than that to yield ambrosial breakfast treats, to dress up or down as your heart desires. There’s no reason to wait until Fat Tuesday rolls around to break out the skillet, but while we’re all throwing caution to the wind and pouring the syrup on thick, you might as well take advantage of the celebration to indulge.


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Silent Saturday: Early Bird Gets the…

Brunch (Brussels Sprout Sandwiches, Pea Soup, Salad, and Sweet Potato Gratin) at Bio

Breakfast of Champions (Tofu Scramble, Biscuits & Gravy, Hash Brown Potatoes, Salad) at Hella Vegan Eats

Croissant from Julien & Noé

Eggless Breakfast Tacos and Salsa at Home

Power Up Plate (Scrambled V-Eggs, Bac-Un, Roasted Potatoes, and Garlic Kale) at One Veg World

Palate Cleanser: Spoonful of Fresh Berries


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Flipping Over Pancakes

A hallowed date with many names, there is all but one antiquated nickname that I can fully endorse, even as a nonsecular participant. Sorry, but the title of “Fat Tuesday” no longer fits the bill for modern times, especially when the moniker of “Pancake Tuesday” can be readily swapped in for a far more appealing and accurate label. Born of religious traditions that involve gorging oneself before the leaner days of lent, the celebratory aspect is the only piece I’m interested in, quite frankly. That’s to say nothing of how the so-called fat pancakes of yore bear little resemblance to the eggless, dairy-free flapjacks that grace my skillet today, which could run circles around those early butter-laden diet bombs. It’s no wonder that revelers would feel compelled to repent after such a gut-busting day of indulgence.

It’s time to leave those feelings of guilt and regret in the past. Pancakes are the star of the day and deserve to shine with fresh flavors, just like this punchy little short stack right here. Fluffy, lightly sweetened pillows that are no pushovers, equal parts flour and cornmeal contribute a heartier texture in addition to a subtly savory cornbread flavor. Juicy raspberries and crisp jalapenos dot the surface of each disk, making every bite both sweet and spicy. Although you could certainly cut one or the other out of the picture to simplify, especially if catering to a strong sweet tooth or salt tooth, the combination is positively invigorating, no matter what time of day you prefer to celebrate your pancakes.

Raspberry-Jalapeno Cornbread Pancakes

2/3 Cup All-Purpose Flour
2/3 Cup Finely Ground Yellow Cornmeal
1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2/3 Cup Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/2 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 Cup Fresh or Frozen and Thawed* Raspberries
1 Fresh Jalapeno, Seeded and Finely Diced

Additional Fresh Raspberries and Maple Syrup to Serve (Optional)

*If using frozen and thawed raspberries, just bear in mind that your pancakes will take on more of a pink hue overall, due to the excess juices. Try to drain the berries as best you can to mitigate the effects.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt, mixing thoroughly to both aerate and combine the ingredients. Separately, mix the oil, non-dairy milk, and vinegar before adding all of the liquids into the bowl of dry goods. Introduce the berries and jalapeno at the same time, stirring with a wide spatula to incorporate everything into the batter. It’s perfectly fine to leave a few lumps remaining, as it’s much better than running the risk of over-mixing and creating tough pancakes.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and very lightly grease the bottom. When hot, spoon about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan for each pancake, leaving a good amount of space in between so that there’s ample room for flipping. Lightly smooth out the tops to further round the shapes and even out any central peaks. Cook until bubbles appear all over the surface and the underside is golden brown. Flip with a spatula, and cook until equally browned on the other side.

Serve hot, topped with fresh berries and/or syrup if desired.

Makes About 4 Servings

Printable Recipe


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Another Iron in the Fire

Holiday shopping mania is predictably growing to a fever pitch yet again, making expeditions into any store a veritable mine field of aggressive sales pitches and tempting impulse buys. Shiny new toys beckon to both young and old, crowding out more rational thoughts of measured resistance. It’s easy to get sucked in, especially when deeper discounts promise “the best deals of the season!” no matter how many times the price is still sure to drop. Though I’m far from immune from this siren song, and probably the worst person to consult about saving vs. splurging, it’s simply become too much to stomach. Tired of watching every outing turn into yet another spending opportunity, I’m ready to swear off the stores and start shopping through my own dusty shelves instead.

There’s a whole trove of rarely used culinary treasures stashed away in kitchen cabinets and buried under the everyday staples. Move aside the gently warped sheet pans and cake tins flecked with faint patina, and once prized possessions suddenly come back into sharp focus. Humble, common, and yet so rarely employed, it’s the waffle maker that sits at the bottom of the stack, one of the oldest kitchen residents aside from the storage unit itself.

A victim of dish washing aversion, it’s not the usage, but the cleanup afterward that prevents me from plugging in and firing the iron up. Once silly excuses can be put aside, that small inconvenience is quickly forgotten by the ease of preparation. Putting it into perspective, such hassle is on par with managing mini muffin pans and their many crumb-filled crevasses that must be addressed. That’s a small price to pay for breakfast bliss, especially compared to the price tag of yet another superfluous gadget.

As for the waffles themselves, you truly can’t go wrong no matter what flavor adventure you embark upon. Basic batters tend to get a more appreciative reception around here, so I kept mix-ins to a minimum while infusing a pronounced pomegranate taste into every bite. If it were just me eating, I would toss in a generous handful of arils without a second thought, but that uniquely crunchy texture can be rather polarizing, as I’ve found with my typical panel of taste-testers. Regardless, the pomegranate molasses is not optional or replaceable, since nothing else will deliver the same deep, tangy, and slightly earthy punch.

Should that secret ingredient prove to be elusive, don’t let that become another excuse to let your waffle iron remain cold for another season! Consider the recipe below merely a template for crispy yet fluffy waffles of any flavor, given a few quick swaps. Use any fruit juice or even plain old water instead of pomegranate, lose the cinnamon or add more spices to the party, and consider maple syrup, agave nectar, or standard molasses instead of the pomegranate molasses. Once you start waffling again, you’ll wonder why you ever stopped in the first place.

Pomegranate Waffles

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Cup White Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
2 Cups 100% Pomegranate Juice
1/2 Cup Canola Oil
1/4 Cup Pomegranate Molasses

Begin by heating up your waffle iron so that it’s ready to go as soon as the batter is, too. Combine all the dry ingredients and then add in the wet. Stir to incorporate, but don’t over do it- A bit of lumpiness is just fine!

Once your iron is nice and hot, grease with cooking spray or margarine, and ladle a healthy portion of batter on top. It really depends on the size of your waffle iron, so don’t be discouraged if your first couple are a little bit funny looking. Cook for about 4 – 6 minutes or until golden brown all over and serve immediately.

If you’d like to save them for later, allow the waffles to cool for completely on a wire rack. Wrap them tightly in a clean plastic bag and stash them in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Yields about 4 – 6 large waffles, or 8 – 12 small, depending on the size of your waffle iron.

Printable Recipe


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Don’t Crepe Out!

Crepes, those seemingly innocent sheets of batter, endlessly versatile and much loved by eaters across the globe, have been my sworn enemies for as long as I’ve been tall enough to reach the stove top. Most culinary endeavors spur me on, encourage me to rise to the challenge and tackle whatever crazy concept has become embedded in my brain, but crepes? Crepes managed to elude me, through countless attempts and a hundred different recipes. There’s nothing fancy about the batter, resembling a watery pancake base and incorporating standard pantry staples at its most basic, but my hands always failed me once the pan hit the flame. A whole batch of batter would yield one, maybe two serviceable crepes after an hour or more of labor, dozens of other torn, gooey, sticky flapjack sheets landing in the trash, rather than the plate. It could all be chalked up to a lack of finesse at first, those fumbling memories becoming exacerbated by a lack of confidence. I needed help; a crepe intervention, if you will.

Help came in the form of Rachel Carr, a professional crepe wrangler and chef of Six Main in Chester, Connecticut. Offering a brunch class that featured my old nemesis as a star component, it was just the refresher course I needed. Wrapping up a seasonal melange of asparagus and mushrooms within, she highlighted their versatility, playing to their savory side but leaving options for a sweeter conversion. Packed full of tender green stalks and soft, toothsome sauteed shiitake, bursting with umami, the combination makes a strong case for using crepes beyond the dessert course.

Standing over the industrial stove, nimbly flipping one crepe after another without any drama, my own crepe compunctions no longer seemed quite so insurmountable. What’s more, these were gluten-free crepes, lacking the benefit of a wheat base to hold them together. If this formula was so cooperative, so sturdy, the process of turning the liquid mixture into a pliable wrap must be simply a matter of practice. With years of brunch service under her belt, Rachel could very well churn them out in her sleep.

Thus, I don’t yet have my own twist on them, only the inspiration to strike back out in the world of crepes, gluten-free recipe in hand. Rachel so kindly agreed to share her secret formula, ending years of struggle and hunger, effectively putting crepes back on the menu where they belong.

Asparagus and Mushroom Crepes
Reprinted with Permission from Rachel Carr of Six Main

Crepe Batter*:

1 Cup Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Water
1 Teaspoon Coconut Oil
1 Teaspoon Light Agave Nectar
Pinch Salt

Filling:

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Bunch (Approximately 3/4 Pound) Asparagus
6 – 8 Shiitake Mushroom Caps, Sliced into Strips
1/4 Large Red Onion, Diced
1 Clove Garlic, Minced
Salt and Pepper, to Taste

Hollandaise Sauce:

1/2 Pound Firm Tofu
1/2 Cup Water
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 – 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
2 1/2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/8 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/8 Teaspoon Paprika
1/8 Teaspoon Turmeric (Optional) for Color

To Finish:

Fresh Tarragon, Chives, Scallions, or Parsley, Chopped (Optional)

Whisk together all the ingredients for the crepe batter, until smooth, and set aside.

Prepare the filling by heating the oil in a saute pan over medium heat, and cook all the vegetables until aromatic and slightly soft; 8 – 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the pan from the heat but keep the filling warm.

The hollandaise sauce is made by tossing everything into the blender and pureeing until completely smooth. This can be prepared up to 5 days in advance if stored in the fridge.

Return your attention to the crepe batter, and add up to 1/4 cup of additional water if it has thickened further. It should be the consistency of loose pancake batter, thin enough to spread easily over your pan. Heat a crepe pan or medium skillet with a flat bottom over medium-low heat, and whip the surface very lightly with coconut or olive oil. You don’t need much to prevent it from sticking.

Ladle or pour about 1/4 – 1/3 cup of crepe batter into the pan and swirl it around until the bottom is completely covered. Cook until very lightly browned and the edges begin to curl. Flip the crepe, either using a snap of the wrist or a spatula, and cook the other side briefly, just one or two minutes longer. Slide the finished crepe out of the pan and onto a plate. Fill with the hot mushroom and asparagus mixture, spoon a dollop of the hollandaise on top, and either roll the crepe up or simply fold it in half. Top with an additional drizzle of hollandaise sauce and a sprinkle of fresh herbs, if desired. Repeat until the batter and filling have been used up.

Makes 4 – 6 Filled Crepes

*To convert these to sweet crepes, increase the agave to 2 tablespoons and, obviously, use a more dessert-like filling!

Printable Recipe


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A Sweet Start to Spring

There may be a fresh coat of snow on the ground, but here’s some news that will surely put a spring in your step: The spring 2013 issue of Allergic Living Magazine has been been unleashed! Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate with our calendar-assigned seasonal switch, a responsible publication will always follow the rules. Like clockwork, the latest quarterly will hit newsstands near you well before the flowers bloom.

It was my pleasure to work with the incomparable Alisa Fleming once more, illustrating her latest batch of tempting recipes. For this issue, it was all about bringing a bit of sweetness to the early hours of the day, all without any gluten or dairy, and easy options to accommodate any dietary restrictions.

Crisp on the outside but light and fluffy within, Strawberry Shortcake Waffles are sure to pull anyone out of even the deepest winter funk. Softly whipped coconut cream tops off each ridged breakfast cake, complete with gently macerated and fork-tender ripe strawberries. It’s the complete package for anyone who’s craving a bit of decadence first thing in the morning.

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes were clearly designed with the voracious sweet tooth in mind, satisfying that sugar craving without starting the day in a sugar coma. Luscious ripples of brown sugar and cinnamon are swirled throughout each and every flapjack, perfectly fitting their namesakes both in taste and appearance. The whole short stack wouldn’t be complete without a light drizzle of icing, of course.

Recipes this good really shouldn’t be relegated only to the morning’s first meals… Either of them are more than worthy of a dessert or after dinner treat, too!