We are now completely settled in our new flat in London. The move this year was 100 times better than last year. Can I tell you how nice it is to have two bedrooms this year and to not be sleeping in our reception room, building a bed out of couch cushions each night? I have to laugh when I think about our situation last year. This flat is so comfortable; there are no holes in the floor, the tiles are firmly stuck to the walls (no more falling off on Trent in the shower), and there is no mold. Better yet, it looks so nice. I’m thrilled.
Fall is in full swing here in London. The other day little G and I were headed to a play group. One of the streets we walked down was carpeted with massive leaves bigger than my head that had fallen from the trees. I felt somewhat like a little kid again and wanted to push the buggie through them at a run, just to hear the leaves crinkle beneath my feet and the wheels.
I’d love to say that with all the leaves on the ground and the crisp Autumn air that I was in such a festive mood and decided to make these sweet potato muffins in honour of the changing seasons, but I can’t. The truth is that I made these a while ago, photographed them and the have been putting it off for a more appropriate time to post them on the blog. So now that it’s officially sweater … er … jumper weather, I’m sharing this warm, welcoming, muffin recipe with you. Make them and hunker down with a cup of cocoa, a blanket, and someone cute to snuggle with, because that’s what they’re meant for.
I adapted this recipe from this Williams and Sonoma recipe.
For the topping:
3 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
For the muffins:
2 orange fleshed sweet potatoes, (about 14 oz. total) peeled and cut into chunks
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour, (for a healthier muffin use 1 cup all purpose flour and 3/4 cups whole wheat flour)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup milk
butter for serving
For the topping: in a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
For the muffins: bring a saucepan of water to boil over med-high heat. Add the sweet potatoes and cook until tender, about 15-20 min. Remove from the heat and drain well. Mash with a fork or potato masher until fluffy. Scrape the sweet potatoes into a bowl and let cool to room temperature. This step can be done the night before or a day or two in advance.
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Grease 12 standard muffin cups with butter or butter flavoured nonstick spray.
In a bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, and milk and whisk vigorously for 1 minute. Add the mashed sweet potatoes and stir until well combined. Add the flour mixture and stir just until evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them three-fourths full. Sprinkle with the topping, dividing evenly. Bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm with butter.
Makes 12 muffins
I know, I know, the blog world is overrun with macarons right now and the fact that I haven’t perfected these makes me that much more hesitant to post, but I recently read a post from Bravetart.com that was titled Macarons Are For Eating (if you’re interested, she has loads of posts on perfecting the macaron. You could spend all day just reading her posts about making these dainty treats). I’m sure someone out there could take this and perfect it. Macarons are so finicky that if I wanted to, I could run through this a few more times and get them to turn out. So I’m posting it to share my little bit of inspiration and because whether or not they look perfect, they still tasted amazing. Which is the point, right?
Call me crazy, but just about whenever I see some sort of flour other than, say, traditional wheat flour, or almond flour, I almost always think, “could you make a macaron with that?” There have been a few times when I’ve seen coconut flour and asked myself that same question. A couple of weeks ago I was at Costco with my mom and we saw a bag of coconut flour. I asked this question. She responded, “I don’t know, let’s try it” and proceeded to put the bag in the cart. I love my mom. This is Costco, we’re talking about, so said bag of flour was not small.
Last week my mom decided to bust out the huge bag of coconut flour and try it out on pancakes. I’m so glad she did. They tasted great, but their texture was far from it, it almost felt like you replaced the flour with shredded coconut, not coconut flour. It had me seriously rethinking using it for macarons. But I figured she bought that bag because I asked if she thought we could make macarons with them, so I felt I should at least give it a go. If they didn’t turn out, at least they would most likely taste good, right?
If you’ve never made macarons before, I’ll let you in on a little secret. They can either be infuriating, or addicting. And I don’t mean just eating them, but the desire to make them. Right after finishing making these I was already thinking about trying a different flavor. If I could have, meaning little G wasn’t begging me to hold him throughout most of this process, I would have made a second batch right away. Be warned, these beauties, in all their high maintenance, have a strange power which makes the baker obsess over achieving perfection, which means practice. Lots of practice.
I know this batch had a few flaws. Here is what I’ve learned:
Tip #1 use a kitchen scale. I typically use one when making macarons, but mine was in London and I am in Utah, so I had to forgo it this time. I have found if you don’t want to invest in a scale just yet, this Martha Stewart recipe seems to be pretty good, but follow it exactly.
Tip #2 buy your own almond flour instead of grinding it with a food processor, unless you have incredible patience, or would like to develop this skill. I got so sick of sifting and regrinding when it was time to sift my flours with the powdered sugar, I semi bypassed this step.
Tip #3 don’t skip sifting the flours and powdered sugar together. This is where you will get rid of lumps.
Tip #4 you need to whip your egg whites just right. Too little and you don’t have a proper meringue, too much and you won’t have a smooth shell.
Tip #5 as hard as it may be, let your macarons age with the filling for a day. I know this May be difficult to do, but I promise, the wait is worth it. They get better filled, and left in the refrigerator. Mine were much better tasting and a better texture than they were right out of the oven.
(In case any of you care to know, we have a flat, once again! Thanks for all the prayers and good vibes sent our way. That is a huge stress off our chests. London, we’re ready for you!)
Recipe: I adapted mine from this Martha Stewart recipeIngredients for shells:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
2 large egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup superfine sugar
Pulse confectioners’ sugar, almond flour and coconut flour in a food processor until combined. Sift mixture 2 times.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add superfine sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth.
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip, and pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets, dragging pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks. Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 10 minutes. After each batch, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, heat for 5 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees. The macarons should release easily when they’re done. If the feet start to pull away from the caps, they need more time.
Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.
Sandwich 2 same-size macarons with 1 teaspoon filling. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for 24 hours or as long as you can handle. Devour with pleasure.
Ingredients for filling:
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup ground freeze dried pineapple or 1 teaspoon pineapple extract
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar and pineapple a cup at a time until smooth and creamy.
Summer is starting to wind down. School has started, the leaves are beginning to change colors and evenings are developing a crisp chill. But I’m hanging on to summer a little while longer. I’m still pulling out the grill.
Trent and I have always enjoyed making pizza together. Over the last few years we have developed, what we think, is the perfect barbecue chicken pizza. It has tangy BBQ sauce, succulent chicken, crispy bacon, and a little heat, brought to you by a Serrano Pepper. This summer we even figured out a way to improve this pizza, which we didn’t think was possible. We cooked it on the grill. The Kitchn has a great guide for grilling pizzas. If you’ve never grilled your pizza before, I suggest heading over and reading the article rather than winging it. After cooking this pizza on the grill, it just makes sense to do a BBQ chicken pizza that way.
Today was a bit hard. We thought we had found the flat. We were even in the signing contracts phase. Then we were hit with a big blow and discovered that we weren’t going to get it after all. Quite devastating, considering this place was beautiful: newly remodeled, two bedrooms (I did not think we would find that in our price range), a regular (British) sized refrigerator (last year we only had a mini fridge), and you guys, it even had a dishwasher! Like they say, if it sounds too good to be true… So cross those fingers and say those prayers for us one more time; little G and I are supposed to head out next week to join Trent.
Well, let’s just address the elephant in the room. I’ve moved my blog. I discovered that I could integrate it seamlessly with my website, so I just thought it made sense. If you’ve been a follower for a little while, thanks for sticking with me and I hope you like the change. If you’re new to the Gathering Table, thanks for coming. Now on to what you’re here for:
There’s a real novelty to homemade ice cream. Something about hand selecting your ingredients and dreaming up your own unique combinations. As a kid I remember being so excited about homemade ice cream. It was probably largely due to the fact that it was a rare occurrence. It still is something I get excited about.
Trent recently went back to London to find us a flat. Keep your fingers crossed for us, I’m hoping that we’ll have a flat before little G and I head out in a few weeks. The housing market out there nuts. We’re learning that if you find something you like, you have to jump on it or it will be gone.
The other week, we decided that we would go on a homemade ice cream kick. It started with a melon sorbet and ended with vanilla. (I know, I know, vanilla. But it was piled on top of scratch made brownies and hot fudge sauce.) In the middle we made this cherry chip ice cream. It was hands down the favorite of the week. What are your favorite ice cream flavors?
I’ve said before how much I love amaretto flavored sweets. I’ll say it again. I love amaretto flavored desserts, especially when paired with cherry. If you’re an almond and cherry combo fan then you’ll love this ice cream. It’s sweet and nutty with just a kick of chocolate. This ice cream is a Philadelphia style ice cream, which means there are no eggs. It’s simple; no cook, just sweeten, flavor, and churn. Minus additional freezer time for firmer ice cream, this bad boy can be whipped up in less than 45 minutes.
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
3/4 cup white sugar
1 TBS vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
1 tsp pure almond extract
1 1/2 cups frozen cherries, 1/2 cup roughly chopped
1/2 cup good quality chocolate chips or chunks
Combine cream, milk, sugar, vanilla, almond extract and 1 cup of the cherries in a blender. Blend until smooth and sugar is dissolved.
Put mixture in an ice cream maker and process according to manufacture’s directions, adding the remaining chopped cherries and chocolate during the last five minutes.
Put in an air tight container and freeze for at least two hours, or as long as you can stand to wait.