Pears + honey + fall spices = Honey Pear Spice Muffins! by Nikki

It's Autum... and time for muffins!

It’s Autum… and time for muffins!

It is officially Autumn. The seasons have changed from warm Summer sunshine to crisp, cool Fall mornings. It is the time of year when the pumpkins and other squash varieties show up in the grocery store. The farmer’s market is full of deep, rich colors as the end-of-summer growing season has been recently harvested and is now available for our purchasing! When the daylight hours grow shorter and the rain begins to fall, I crave time in my kitchen, and I crave muffins. I LOVE muffins!  Experimenting with my basic muffin recipe brings my taste buds (and my friends) a lot of joy! A little flour, a few spices, one egg and a variety of “fillings”, and you have got yourself a tasty baked treat.

Thanks for the pears friends...

Thanks for the pears friends…

I have a new teaching colleague on our Kindergarten team this year. I am really enjoying working with and getting to know T… as well as her husband and family! In the first few weeks of school, T showed up in my classroom with a handful of pears that her husband, D had stopped to pick while on a bike ride with their daughter. I always appreciate good, fresh fruit… and these pears were gladly accepted! Combined with honey, fall spices and my favorite baking ingredient- buttermilk, these pears turned my standby honey spice muffin recipe into a pear-y good experience. And with only a 1/2 cup of sugar (and a whole lot of honey), these muffins were sweet with a hint of spice… and the verdict was they were  oh, so, nice!

Pear-y delicious

Honey Pear Spice Muffins

dry ingredients: 2 cups spelt flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon

wet ingredients: 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 egg, 1/4 cup butter (melted), 1/4 cup honey, 1 cup buttermilk

fruit: 1 cup pears (peeled and diced)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C or 375 degrees F and line a muffin tin with muffin papers, set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients then set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients until well blended.

Pour over the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon.

Gently fold in the pears.

Spoon batter into the muffin cups until each is 3/4 full.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the tops are golden brown or a knife comes out clean from the middle of the muffin.

Let cool for 5 minutes then serve warm with a pat of butter.

Store muffins in an air-tight tupperware for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months!

ENJOY!

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Another ABC – Autumn, Berlin, Chocolate Cake!

Pumpkins = Autumn

This week I visited Berlin, Germany- yet again! It has very quickly become one of my favorite cities in Europe. Berlin has a certain vibe to it that is rich in culture and uniqueness! It reminds me so much of Portland, Oregon- my home town.

Berlin + Outdoor Markets

There is an outdoor market in Prenzlaur Berg that I always visit if I am in Berlin on a Thursday or Saturday. Traveling with a friend from Portland, I wanted her to experience authentic Berlin… so to market we went!

My favorite Berlin market…

Located on Kollwitzplatz square, this market is an ideal place for buying fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, a variety of bread, tasty treats and many other beautiful, hand made creations.

A quiet market day…

The market was the quietest I have seen it-  not as many vendors as I remember from the last time I wandered through the market in late August. It was a drizzly, Thursday morning when were were wandering this Thursday, but I am sure the market would perk up later in the afternoon when the sun came out from behind the clouds!

I didn’t purchase anything this time although I was tempted by a jam vendor I have not seen there before… sometimes I just enjoy wandering through the market without a list, without the intention to buy anything. Instead I just wander and admire the colors, smells, and hustle and bustle of the people.

Because it is Autumn, there are certain foods, spices and smells that make Autumn heavenly for me… such as cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie and Chai spice. It was L’s birthday this week so I didn’t need ANY excuse to make this beloved Red Wine Chocolate Cake. I first made this cake one year ago today for dinner with friends during October holiday. Now, I find because of the red wine, cinnamon and chocolate combination it is a winner! The only thing I adapt in this recipe is the wine… sometimes I use what I have on hand, such as the Argentinian Malbec I used today; other times I vary it using a rich Merlot a Cabernet or even a Syrah… regardless, it is my GO-TO cake for birthdays, celebrations, game nights, dinner parties and chocolate lovers in general.. try it out!

Red Wine Chocolate Cake… rich and delicious!

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Notes and Adaptations: The wine does NOT fully bake out of this cake… which makes it oh so good! Also, I prefer to use a pie plate instead of lining a circular pan with parchment paper. I serve triangular slices with a big dollop of Marscapone cream… everyone LOVES it!

Cake
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (179 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) white granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
3/4 cup (177 ml) red wine, any kind you like
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 cup  (133 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (41 grams) Dutch cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Topping
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup (118 grams) chilled heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 325 Degrees F or 180 Degrees C. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and yolk and beat well, then add the red wine and vanilla. Don’t worry if the batter looks a little uneven. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together. Mix until 3/4 combined, then fold the rest together with a rubber spatula. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. The top of the cake should be shiny and smooth, like a puddle of chocolate. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes. This cake keeps well at room temperature or in the fridge. I like to dust it with powdered sugar.

For the topping: Whip mascarpone, cream, sugar and vanilla together until soft peaks form — don’t overwhip. Dollop generously on each slice of cake. It can also be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 hours.