We’re busy getting ready for the neighborhood flea market – which hadn’t been held for a few years (so we have a backlog…) Rich is packing books we have sorted as I speak. Now that I can reliably download ebooks from home (either purchased or, in some cases from the library) I no longer need the entire bookcase of light-reading mysteries I have bought over the years! I will keep the Peter Wimsey books, though. Continue reading →
Gluten Free Apple Spice Muffins, hearty with buckwheat flour, are a wonderful way to welcome the first chilly weather!
Two years ago, when I was very new to gluten free baking, I posted a recipe for Apple Cinnamon Muffins. I said in that post that I would use muffins to learn about the properties of various gluten free flours and how to use them, and that I was sure my baking would improve.
Looking back, both statements have come true – though honestly, that wasn’t a bad muffin… This one is better, though, with a very slight tweak because of my new knowledge, which I will now share with you.
First, I don’t care what everyone else uses, I don’t like rice flour in muffins. Even the finest can be gritty at the crisp edges – and sometimes even in the crumb. I think we use it so universally because it used to be the only game in town. I have read things from thirty or more years ago saying that it was the only grain someone with celiac disease could eat, and we now know that’s not true. For a long time, though, it was the only one most people could reliably get their hands on. We have options, now, though. (The jury is still out, for me, about rice flour in bread… the hydration makes a major difference. I really need to get back to the bread experiments I was doing a year ago.)
I reach first for millet flour. It behaves, and tastes, more like regular white AP wheat flour than any other I’ve found. I can usually get it without too much trouble, and it’s one of the least expensive gluten free flours, which matters, for me… It’s also a whole grain, though you’d hardly notice from the flavor. (I do notice, though, when it satisfies me the way whole grain does… White bread always left me missing something.)
Even millet flour can’t be substituted straight for wheat flour… and I don’t like the very bland taste. I find sorghum flour balances it well. Better taste, good texture… You can actually use all millet or all sorghum – I’ve done it in a pinch – but it never seems quite right to me, somehow.
Now the key lesson of the last two years… something to replace the stickiness of gluten. In quick breads you don’t need the structure you do in yeasted bread, so you do not need xanthan (or other) gum or psyllium. Still, something needs to hold it together enough to rise, and give a nice smooth crumb – I’ve eaten some very crumbly gluten free products. This is one of the several reasons that people are convinced that they need lots of added starch (another is to combat the grittiness of rice flour, but if I don’t use rice flour…) But then baked goods with the starch first are mushy, and then stale quickly – all caused by the added starch. I found early that masa harina helped with texture, and it has given me fine cornbread, but it never worked quite as well in other baked goods. (Still better than without it, but…)
Then I found buckwheat. First, making traditional buckwheat pancakes, I noticed that the batter was viscous – I’m onto something… but when I tried an all buckwheat muffin it was heavy. In small amounts, though? I’ve done a lot – you’ll see it all eventually – with small amounts of white, raw buckwheat flour, as in the Strawberry Muffins last spring (and the same batter used all summer, for other berries and stone fruit!) And you can absolutely use that mixture in this recipe – the apple and spice will sing out against the mild muffin.
But the season has changed, and I want something heartier, more assertive, with the cool weather. Time to play again with traditional toasted buckwheat flour, and make hearty apple spice muffins!
The technique hasn’t changed at all in two years. Preheat the oven. Grease a six cup muffin tin. Mix the wet ingredients – egg, milk, oil – in a mixing bowl. (I did not use vanilla in this – it didn’t hit the right flavor note for me. Maple flavoring might – I didn’t have any on hand. Clearly must get some!)
Weigh the flours into a small bowl. Two parts millet flour, two parts sorghum flour, one part buckwheat, by weight. Then the spice blend. Why yes, these muffins are the reason I needed an Apple Pie Spice Blend... if you haven’t mixed that up, you can just use cinnamon, but this is better, I think. A pinch of salt, and baking powder. (You may note that I use less than I did two years ago. I can, because of the buckwheat.) And if you are new to Inhabited Kitchen, no, I don’t add sugar. A reader asked if I’d forgotten to mention it, and I realized I should let you know. The apple provides enough sweetness for me.
Then peel and chop an apple, waiting until now so it doesn’t brown. (Which I forgot – you can see the apple in the picture… Oops. No big deal.) Toss it in the flour mixture to keep the pieces from sticking together. (I recently read an article sternly telling us that was silly, the technique doesn’t keep fruit from sinking to the bottom. Well, I never thought it did… a thick enough batter does.)
Now stir the dry flour/apple mixture into the liquid, and mix well. You’ll notice that it makes a surprisingly sticky, thick batter – almost shaggy. Don’t add more liquid, though you may want to, that just makes the muffins soggy. Fill the muffin tin, and bake at 425° for 25 minutes, or until done. (Do you know how to test that? Stick a table knife into a muffin – if it comes out moist, give them a few more minutes, if it comes clean, they’re done.) Let them rest a few minutes when they come out of the oven before trying to remove from the pan – they’re less apt to stick or fall apart.
You see how craggy they look! They’re heavier than the ones I’ve eaten all summer, and feel moist and rich. The flavor is assertive – you do taste the apple and spice, of course, but the buckwheat is as strong. I’ve eaten them as breakfast, so far, but I think they’ll be wonderful all winter with lentil soup, for instance, or baked beans. (I might skip the spice, in some cases.)
Welcome to New York. This is the week of the United Nations General Assembly, so those of us on the East Side of Manhattan are sheltering in place – traffic is horrible. (As it is this week every year.)
I did get back out to the spice store, to buy fresh spices for my Fall blends… I’d played a bit with the leftovers to make the first trial of the Apple Pie Spice I wrote about the other day, but fresh is always better, so of course I used fresh for the final product. Noticed for the first time that they have small packets of curing salts, too, if I ever want to venture into cured sausage! That’s well beyond the scope of this blog, (not to mention my current energy levels,) so no, you won’t see it any time soon (if ever.)
I guess I was thinking about sausage, though, because I made fresh breakfast sausage for the first time in a few years. I forgot that the reason I’d stopped was that the quality of the ground turkey I can get had declined sharply – it’s wet and mushy, now. The turkey itself was a substitute for the ground pork my store did not reliably have… In theory I could just go ahead and grind my own, but I’m not really up to that.
Or I should buy the commercial sausage, but… Here in the city, breakfast sausage is treated as a Value Added product. It can get expensive, and many stores only carry the Little Links, which are even more so than the bulk (which I prefer.) I was amazed, once, in a store in Western Pennsylvania, to find a whole case of various kinds of bulk sausage, at excellent prices! It’s funny how different things can be.
What I Ate
Last week I speculated about what would make me change back to hot coffee. Well – the over crowded refrigerator turned out to be the factor I had not considered. I may return to cold brewing the concentrate even to make hot coffee – it was certainly convenient – but while we’re bringing home cabbages and large squash (to fill up the crisper drawer) and plenty of leafy greens, I can use the room.
And we have had some cool mornings… So for breakfast, hot coffee, again. And corn muffins, and some of that sausage I made, and some (overcooked even by my standards) eggs… My timing is off, for fried eggs, I have to get back into the routine.
Still eating salad for lunch – and will, while I get two to three heads of lettuce a week! Not to mention bell peppers, and cucumbers and these were the cutest little round marble-like tomatoes… I’d finally gotten to the cheese shop again (it moved, and is less convenient) so Bulgarian feta – but some cheddar, too. And my brown rice cakes…
The greens have been getting ahead of me, so I cooked a massive pot of kale, for green muffins, and two bunches of chard. Then I sliced some potatoes, cubed some ham, and fried that all up together. And then, lo and behold, there was room on the bottom shelf for yesterday’s pick up! (I should roast a pan of beets later today… And apparently it’s a good year for spaghetti squash.)
Make your own Apple Pie Spice Blend, to celebrate apple season, and enjoy a different flavor in cereal, coffee, and baked goods!
It seems that it is already Pumpkin Spice Season. I see ads for spiced coffee drinks, people are making pumpkin spice muffins and pancakes, you can scent your home with Pumpkin Spice Candles. Originally, of course, this was pumpkin pie spice, blended for those home cooks who baked pies for Thanksgiving, but otherwise had no need for that assortment of spices. Then people realized it was a great spice blend for other recipes with pumpkin (I use it in soup, myself) and finally it lost the pumpkin altogether, and just became a lovely warm spice blend to put in your coffee. All very well. Continue reading →
I made a giant pot of soup last week, so of course it turned hot again… though only for a few days.
Heat waves in September always remind me of one many years ago, when the temperature soared over 100°F. (While that sort of heat is by no means unknown in New York City, it is unusual – particularly that late in the season.) A good work friend got married that weekend. I’d married the previous October, so we’d chatted about weddings… and he knew that one reason we’d chosen October was the guaranteed cooler weather. I was at our Best Man’s wedding (which is another story) so could not attend his.
The day my friend returned to work from his honeymoon, after all the general congratulations and questions were taken care of, he stopped at my desk, and said “October.” “October?” “You were right – October. The cake melted.”
It seems that transporting a tiered wedding cake, made with buttercream, from the bakery to the reception hall in your ancient (and un-airconditioned) car in temperatures over 100° is Not a Good Idea… the layers slid. (The caterer managed to put it more or less back together – it just looked a bit tipsy.)
I’m not sure why that story emerged so forcefully today – it was only in the low 90’s, this time – but I had to share…
What I Ate
At any rate – obviously I did not eat wedding cake, the other day…
I did eat tacos. I currently seem to be on a cheesy eggs kick, rolling them in my corn tortillas. I also have started to really look forward to my porridge… I mixed up a batch, to be ready! I wonder if I’ll switch first to hot cereal or hot coffee? I want to revisit my recipe for apple muffins, too – I know much more about gluten free baking than I did two years ago! And it’s apple season! The berries are gone, the last of the stone fruit is running down, but Greenmarket is full of apples and grapes – two major crops of the State of New York. (OK, so maybe I’ll try Concord Grape muffins next year…)
Salad for lunch. You may notice the Chipotle Tofu in it… Just as a benefit of writing a food blog is that I try new ideas and recipes all the time, a hazard is that old favorites drop along the way. When I wrote about packing lunch, I reviewed some old posts, and found a passing reference to preparing tofu this way. While I no longer eat as much tofu as I did four or five years ago, I never intended to stop it all together! And this salad is one reason – some tofu, a little cheese, one hard cooked egg – I think the variety works well. And of course, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes… Tortilla chips on the side.
I bought some garam masala from an Indian shop near me, and realized that, oddly, I had not purchased it there before. For a long time I passed the Penzey’s booth in Grand Central Terminal every few weeks, so that had been my source of spices – both convenient and good. Both it and my client are gone, now… Then I was up on Curry Hill (a nickname for the Murray Hill neighborhood, since it blossomed with Indian and Middle Eastern stores and restaurants) and then – we have so many sources of spices here in the city!
But when I have a new spice blend, I like to try it first with something simple, to get a feel for the flavor notes (and in some cases, the heat… though garam masala should not be particularly hot.) So I heated a little in some oil, browned pork chops in that, and then added broth to simmer. When they were cooked, I served with brown rice and fresh broccoli, pouring the spiced broth over them. Delicious! And so easy – just switching up the spice mix changes the whole meal.
I love playing with spice blends… Every source is a little different, and now I’ve even started making my own, sometimes. I should do more of that here. (I did share the Gingerbread Spice blend last year – I used that in everything!) What blends do you like?