baking without butter and wheat

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i've been trying something a little new . . . gluten-free and/or vegan baking. this is partly because, well, i moved back to california. but also because my main baked goods audience has shrunk to the very lovely people who work for the somm.

and they HAVE to like my baking! it's a win win win.

just kidding. 

i'd already gone down the gluten-free road for the yogi. and after having read about how terrible wheat is for you.

plus there are so many fun types of flour out there! i now own about 10 varieties taking up precious freezer space. right next to my highly glutenized leftover bagel dough. whee!

i do not yet have an opinion on what type of flours i like best. luckily, there are many wonderful bloggers who regularly share their wisdom. i've been spending time with gluten-free girl who has many great recipes and some really lovely writing on her blog. she has a great post on how to put together your own gluten-free flour blend. it doesn't require you to buy anything that sounds too crazy (xanthan gum? seriously? isn't avoiding words like that WHY we bake at home?). 

almond and coconut were my gateway flours. who doesn't like almonds and coconut?

also, chocolate?

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i pulled this recipe from the new york times, which also likes them some gluten-free girl. i skimped on the bananas – don't do that! add plenty of chocolate chips. almond, buckwheat and rice flour are the stars here, but next time i'd cut back on the buckwheat. you want something lighter to really let the chocolate and banana sing.

served warm out of the oven, these didn't immediately seem gluten-free.  want a close up of that tender crumb?

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pretty normal, right? 

but do NOT give them to your vegan friends. there are eggs and buttermilk in there, the sneakers. plus, we've got something else for them.

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there are a number of vegan alternatives for eggs. so much good learning, and i would especially like to thank the kind woman who saved me from myself in the tofu aisle at the food co-op.

yeah, i'll pause to let that sink in. caleeefornia!

the tofu you want, that tofu is not in the refrigerator section of the market. it's the shelf-stable stuff. but i went for the flax seed slurry substitution. 

slurry! almost as good as shelf-stable tofu. 

just mix one teaspoon ground flax or chia seeds with three tablespoons hot water for every egg you're replacing. let the slurry sit, then add to the batter.

ground flax seeds can be found in the oatmeal and hot cereals section, NOT with the various gluten-free flours and starches in the baking section.

are you writing this down?

also, skip the honey and use agave. skip the buttermilk or yogurt and use unsweetened vanilla almond milk. 

double the blueberries. whip yourself up some blackberry jam.

have yourself a muffin fest.

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Vegan & Gluten-Free Buckwheat Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins

Adapted to be vegan from the New York Times

  • 180 grams (1 1/4 cups, approximately) buckwheat flour
  • 100 grams (3/4 cup, approximately) gluten-free all-purpose flour mix or whole grain gluten-free mix*
  • 10 grams (2 teaspoons) baking powder
  • 5 grams (1 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 3.5 grams (1/2 rounded teaspoon) salt
  • 2 eggs or 2 teaspoon ground flax seeds mixed with 6 tablespoons hot water
  • 125 grams (1/3 cup) agave syrup
  • 360 grams (1 1/2 cups) unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 75 grams (1/3 cup) canola or grape seed oil
  • 5 grams (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 10 grams (1 tablespoon) poppy seeds (more to taste)

*For the gluten-free flour mix I used about 70 grams of a mix of teff, almond and rice flour and 30 grams of arrowroot starch.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the rack adjusted to the middle. Oil muffin tins. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Add any grainy bits remaining in the sifter to the bowl.

In a separate bowl combine ground flax seed and hot water. Stir and let sit for a minute. Beat in agave, almond milk, oil and vanilla extract. Whisk in the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Do not beat for too long; a few lumps are fine but make sure there is no flour sitting at the bottom of the bowl. Fold in the blueberries and poppy seeds.

Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, fill muffin cups to the top. Place in the oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned and well risen. Remove from the heat and if the muffins come out of the tins easily, remove from the tins and allow to cool on a rack. If they don’t release easily, allow to cool and then remove from the tins.

Best served with some sort of butter product (that means Earth Balance for you vegans) and jam.  

Yield: 12 muffins (1/3 cup muffin tins)

Advance preparation: These keep for a couple of days out of the refrigerator, for a few more days in the refrigerator, and for a few months in the freezer.


homemade bagels

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there was this great story on npr the other morning about the "ikea effect." conventional wisdom has generally been that people spend time on the things they love. the researchers being the ikea effect posit the thought that spending time on things is it's own active force in building that love and sense of emotional connection. 

the idea that the more effort you put into something, say building a slightly wonky bookcase, the more you care about that object. even if you were slightly overly aggressive with your new power drill and the screws came poking through the decorative finish.

whatevs. that totally didn't happen to me last night.

ps: my cooking magazines finally have a home! hurrah!

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i've been spending a fair amount of my time recently on fairly ridiculous diy projects. like baby quilts. there is no economy of scale to making them at home, friends, but the many many hours i've spent on them has made me pretty happy. and i hope when the new mommas see the puckers and imperfections, they love the quilt all the more for knowing it was made with love. 

my grandmother, as the napkin in the photo below can attest, had way better skillz than i. those are vintage, friends, and still immaculate. 

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turns out, making homemade bagels is pretty akin to other ambitious diy projects. particularly if you, like me, are not overly detail oriented. there are a lot of steps, people. things get both sticky and slippery, if you can believe it. rounds of dough may go flying.  

i tried to go for more of a pretzel bagel, under the somewhat shaky logic that i've previously succeeded in boil-and-bake efforts on that front. plus, i like a bagel with a nice chew, and a good firm skin. so, i added about four times the baking soda to the bagel bath. it gave them this lovely pretzel color.

still can't quite tell if that helped make them look more appealing?

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in any event, they tasted not too shabby in both the poppy seed and kosher salt varieties. slightly underbaked, the way i like them, so nice and moist in the middle even on day two. they ended up being monster sized. i froze some leftover dough that may become reasonably sized bagels for the new, lower carb manchego's kitchen of 2013.

i know. i can't believe i typed that either.

more shocking? i stopped drinking coffee. back in california less than 6 months and i'm already going granola on you. i spared you photos of my blueprint juice experiement, so just be grateful.

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low carb or not, i'm back at the baking with julia challenge. there are muffins and brownies and all sorts of terribly wonderful things headed this way. if you want to head down the bagel bunny hole, visit the tuesdays with dorie blog or heather's bytes.

pumpkin cranberry bread

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this fall felt so long and warm, i thought that winter would never really come to california. when the cold finally began to hit, it came as a bright surprise, a delicious reason to hunt for boot and socks and layers of long sleeves. for a mug of afternoon tea and slice of buttered toast.

you look like you could use a piece of toast too. and not just any piece of toast will do to drive away the now lingering chill in the air.

particularly if your work furnace, like mine, emits any number of lovely knocking sounds but not much actual heat.

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this isn't your typical pumpkin bread, dense and spicy. it's an airy yeast bread. the cranberries burst in your mouth with a tart contrast to the lightly sweet, faintly pumpkin bread and crunchy toasty walnuts.

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this is the perfect antidote to the post-holiday season food slump, offering comfort without excess.  it may not be quite as virtuous as salad with grilled chicken, but it's a far cry from a platter of christmas fudge.  

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i am so sadly off track with tuesdays with dorie. you don't want to know how long these photos have languished in my camera. but find out by going to tuesdays with dorie or this bountiful backyard to find the recipe and lots of blog coverage. 

cranberry orange muffins

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sometimes change is hard. sometimes change is really really hard. sometimes you're the one who gets to jump off the cliff, sometimes life gives you a nudge. or a shove.

finding a new favorite muffin recipe is not hard change. for close to ten years, i'd been a pretty strong proponent of a gem of a muffin recipe. really tender from sour cream, a sweet but not too sweet base that let pretty much any mix-in shine.

but i've been won away. by browned butter. and the best crumble topping. and you know how i feel about crumble.

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my new muffin base is from the joy the baker cookbook. which you should buy if you love to bake. she has some real gems in there.

luckily, the power of the internets will also bring you the original recipe for free, over on shutterbean.

i've made the original blueberry version with much success here. but it is fall. i had some leftover cranberries. i wanted that tart burst of flavor, and a hit of wintery citrus. 

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let's be honest, i wanted to try out a new cranberry technique from cooks illustrated. because cranberries, like change, can be hard to manage. they can be too puckery, too bitter. they need a bit of care, especially if you are using fresh berries, not to overwhelm a bite, to leave you with the right balance of tart and sweet and juicy.

the solution is to roughly chop them and let them sit for a minute with a sprinkle of salt to draw out the bitter and a bit of powdered sugar to tame the sour.

if only solving life's imbalances were so easy!

the result is a true cranberry flavor, evenly distributed through your muffin. a bit of nutty depth from the browned butter. bright orangey citrus. and that crumble. picture perfect. 

First day of work, breakfast of champions

 

Orange Cranberry Muffins

Adapted from Joy the Baker's Browned Butter Blueberry Muffins.  Makes about 12 muffins.

Muffins:

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt, plus a bit more
  • 1 orange worth of zest

Crumble Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Dash of salt

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and put liners into your muffin tin – this recipe will make around a dozen regular muffins. 

To brown the butter, melt it in a pot on the stove and then let it keep going until the white foam mostly goes away and the butter becomes a warm brown color with little black specks. Just keep a good eye on it because it will turn from brown to burned pretty quickly. It will smell nutty and fantastic once it's done, and then you need to take it off the heat and pour into a heat-safe bowl to keep it from continuing to cook.

Roughly chop your cranberries and place in a small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and powdered sugar, stir and leave to sit on counter while you get your batter together.

In a medium bowl, whisk your milk, eggs and vanilla.  Add the butter when it is a little cool, but hasn't hardened. Whisk to mix.  

In a larger bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Zest your orange and add that in. Add butter mixture, and gently stir just intil batter comes together. Add cranberries and fold gently to combine. Divide the batter among the muffin cups.

To make the crumble, combine all ingredients in a bowl and use your fingers to smush together. Don't worry about fully working butter into the dry ingredients, you want it crumbly!  Sprinkle a healthy serving of crumble over the muffins – it makes plenty!

Bake for 18-20 minutes until the edges start to turn golden and when you insert a skewer into the center, it comes out clean.

Delicious warm with salted butter, but they will keep for a couple of days in a tupperware container. They're so good, you think that they'll get gobbled up. But as someone who has sat at the bottom of the cliff with that tupperware container, I know you'll thank your lucky stars. 

whole wheat bread

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i took a few months off this year. to move. to breathe. to sleep. 

i learned a couple of things about myself. particularly, the importance of structure.

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for example. without a plan, a day can unspool, like a bobbin of thread running loose across the floor, every tug you give it just sends it further off, spinning, unwinding.

without an outside force to impose structure, you have to impose your own boundaries. some i'm terrible at, like turning the tv off after enjoying a little matt lauer with my morning coffee. some i can handle, like waiting to have that first glorious glass of crisp white wine until after exercising . . . to trying to restrain myself during the week. 

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setting your own boundaries is the real mark of adulthood, the respecting of responsibilities. when we're little, we think adulthood is nothing but eating cocoa puffs for dinner and staying up as late as you want. when you're actually an adult, you long for the self-will to eat broccoli, go to bed with a good book at 8:30.

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whole wheat bread is like that for me.

my desert island food is a loaf of chewy, crusty, fluffy-soft-centered, processed within an inch of itself, bread. crock of butter and jar of jam appreciated, but often optional. 

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i've found a multigrain, seedy loaf that i've enjoyed from time to time. particularly toasted with a smear of avocado, squeeze of lime, sprinkle of sea salt. but i don't crave it. i won't eat a whole loaf in the course of an afternoon, one torn, ragged piece at a time.

whole wheat sandwich bread is a sad stand-in for either type of carbohydrate glory. fresh, it can be seductive, soft and toothsome. but the follow-through is never there. as toast, it is mostly air. crisp and unsatisfyingly inhalable. it is otherwise merely a vehicle for sandwich contents, thick layers of crunchy peanut butter with jam or crystallizing honey soaking through the bread, dripping out the sides. tart dijon, creamy mayonnaise with the firm bite of cheddar and lunch meat. 

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homemade whole wheat comes much closer to being both adult and responsible as well as feeling indulgently out of bounds. baking bread offers lovely structure to the day, with set times for kneading and rising and shaping and baking. coming back to the kitchen to find your dough exploding from the bowl, streching slowly but relentlessly against the plastic wrap, now that is an accomplishment. and the day the loaf comes out of the oven, the crust is crisp and crackly, the interior light and spongy. 

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it's also kitten approved.

and the next day? i'd recommend french toast, giving the slices plenty of time to soak up the egg batter, fried in plenty of butter to give you a crisp exterior and custard-soft interior.

find the recipe and more great photos at tuesdays with dorie.

twd: baking with julia: summer fruit pie

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in my book, pie is a winter food, best left for graham cracker crusts and creamy pumpkin filling with the warmth of the oven and scent of nutmeg making a cheery end to a cold and dark evening.

 

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summer is why we have crisps and crumbles. the glorious lack of fuss of a crumble, the messy abundance of a crisp, puts the focus on the fruit, just as it should be. beyond which, crumbles are supremely easy, virtually impossible to mess up (evidenced by a happy discovery that boxed cake mix makes a fantastic substitution for flour, should your weekend cabin getaway come so stocked). a crumble topping is just so much more interesting. how can you argue with mounds of brown sugar and oats? why would you even wish to try?

summer desserts – particularly not summer fruits at their peak – are not meant to be weighed down with the onerous task of perfecting a flaky, tender and buttery crust. why waste a single bikini season calorie on anything less than sublime?

 

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i am aware that this is not a widely shared sentiment. there is a whole contingent of summer pie advocates, many of whom i am guessing are passionate tuesdays with dorie bakers who will not be amused by my anti-pie tirade.

i mean, i'm crazy in the kitchen, just not freezing my flour and my food processor blade crazy. pie crust isn't something i'm willing work for.

homemade ice cream?  that's a different story.

 

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in any event, i did my best to compromise. i endeavored greatly to produce a passable bottom crust for this luscious fruit filling, and then topped it with an epic mass of brown sugar, oats and other crumbly deliciousness.

victory.

 

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this pie was as wonderful warm out of the oven as it was cold from the fridge for breakfast.

 

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and now back to my original summer programming . . . lazy afternoons, evenings with chilled wine and moonlight and homemade mint chip ice cream, with nary a pie crust in sight!

here's the recipe from the wonderful baking with julia, which you can also find on my cohost's blog, that skinny chick can bake! to find more lovely blogs and photos, visit tuesdays with dorie.

 

Blueberry-Nectarine Pie

Pie Crust

  • 5 1/4 cups pastry flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 3/4 cups (11 oz) solid vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1 cup ice water

To make the dough by hand, mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and using a pastry blender (or your fingers, if you prefer), cut it into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Be patient – this takes a while. Break up the shortening and add it in bits to the bowl. Still working with the pastry blender (or your fingers), cut in the shortening until the mixture has small clumps and curds. Switch to a wooden spoon and add the ice water, stirring to incorporate it. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold it over on itself a few times – don't get carried away. The dough will be soft, but it will firm sufficiently in the refridgerator.  

To make the dough in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, put the flour and salt into the bowl and stir to mix. Add the butter and mix on low until it is cut into the dry ingredients and the mixture looks coarse and crumbly. Add the shortening in small bits and continue to mix on low. When the mixture is clumpy and curdy and holds together when a small bit is pressed between your fingers, add the water and mix only until it is incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold it over on itself two or three times, just to finish the mixing and to gather it together. 

To make the dough in a food processor, start with very cold ingredients and take care not to overwork them. Place the dry ingredients in the food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse just to mix. Take the top off, scatter the chilled cubed butter and shortening over the flour, cover, and pulse again, working only until the fats are cut in and the mixture resembles slightly moist cornmeal. Add a little of the liquid and pulse a few times, then add more liquid and pulse again. Continue until the mixture has curds and clumps and sticks together when pressed between your fingers. Don’t process until the dough forms a ball that rides on the blade – that’s overdoing it.

Chilling the dough: Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for as long as 5 days.

The Filling

  • 3 cups fresh blueberries (about 1 ½ pints)
  • 2 cups sliced nectarines (about 3 large)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Large pinch of grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons (approximately) fresh lemon juice

Put half of the fruit in a medium saucepan, keeping the remaining fruit close at hand. Add the sugar, flour and lemon zest and stir to mix. Bring the mixture to a soft boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. The fruits will release their juices and the liquid will thicken. Turn the mixture into a bowl and stir in the uncooked fruit. Taste a spoonful, paying particular attention to the saucy liquid, and add lemon juice as needed. Cool the filling to room temperature.

The Crust

  • ½ recipe Flaky Pie Dough (chilled)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water, for egg wash
  • Crystal or turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Lining the Pie Pan: Cut the dough in half and roll one half out on a lightly floured work surface into a circle about 11 inches across. Fit the crust into a 9-inch cake pan with 1-inch-high-sides. (Alternatively, you could use an 8-inch cake pan with 1 ½-inch-high sides.) Allow the excess dough to hang over the sides for the moment.

Roll the remaining piece of dough into a circle about 10 inches across. Place the pie pan in the center of the dough and, using the pan as a template, cut the bottom round of dough so that it is about ½ inch larger all around than the pan.

Filling the Pie Pan: Spoon the cooled filling into the pie shell and dot the top with the butter.

Top Crust: Trim the overhanging dough to about ½ inch. Lift the rolled-out circle of dough onto the pie (this is easily done by folding the dough into quarters, transferring it to the top of the pie, and then unfolding it), aligning the edges of the top crust with the bottom crust. If necessary, use a kitchen knife or scissors to trim any ragged edges.

Fold both layers of overhanging dough under to create a thick edge around the rim of the pan. Crimp the edges by pushing the thumb of one hand against the thumb and index finger of your other hand, creating scallops every 1 or 2 inches around the rim. Press the tines of a fork against the flat scallops to decorate. Paint the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with a little crystal or turbinado sugar.

Chilling the Pie: Using the point of a thin knife, cut 4 to 6 slits in the crust and chill for about 20 minutes. At this point, the pie can be frozen. Place it on a baking sheet and freeze until firm, then wrap airtight and freeze for up to a month. There’s no need to thaw the pie before baking, but you should apply another coat of egg wash and will have to bake the pie about 10 minutes longer.

Baking the Pie: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the pie on a parchment- or foil-lined jelly-roll pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the crust is golden and the fruit bubbling. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before you cut it so that the crusts, top and bottom, have a chance to set.

Storing: Pies are at their peak the day they’re made, but you can cover and chill leftovers for a day.

spring brunch

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did you have a good easter/passover/pagan spring celebration?

good. me too.

i ate too much, but it was glorious. i can't wait to show you the bunny cake. next week!

in the meantime. i offer you this delightful brunch menu.

first, start with mimosas. this might seem self-evident, but it bears repeating. start with mimosas. add a splash of st. germaine if you're feeling fancy.

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we may have started on the mimosas BEFORE the photographing. mmmmm.

second, serve a strata or  savory bread pudding that requires a night in the fridge to get good and settled. (is there a difference between a strata and a bread pudding? is is just all stuffing? gah.) why on earth would you want to wake up early to actually cook something? sanity requires that any party that begins before 3 pm on a sunday be as make-ahead as possible.

this dish is aptly named the "don't hold the anything" bread pudding. it was created for those among us who agonize over the sweet and savory options on the brunch menu. stuffed with sage, sausage and cream cheese, it is an eggy custardy delight of a savory bread pudding, with a sweet sugary crackly crust. let's get a close up.

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douse it in some real maple syrup and you won't be able to stop yourself from seconds.

or thirds.

you did start with the mimosas after all.

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third, don't forget the carbs. these blueberry beauties will hit the spot. never have i made muffins that so looked like the perfect crumb-laden berry-studded image in my brain.

plus? super yummy. brown butter. a tender crumb. sweet enough without being cloying. and lots, LOTS of exploding blueberry goodness. tis the season friends, tis the season.

i am a crazy lady and broke my own rule of baking the morning of to get these on the table because the somm was concerned there wasn't something sweet on the menu. (i mean, wha? challenge ACCEPTED.) 

but my guess is that you can make the batter and stir the blueberries in the morning of, and have them in the oven in just a few minutes.

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the scones? even easier. those can be premade, frozen and reheated with no one the wiser. squeeze a lemon into a bowl of powdered sugar, and you can even give them a quick sweet tart glaze.

i used this recipe because i wanted a nice, light scone to balance the richness of the bread pudding and (turns out) the sweetness of the muffins.

think of these as the dowager countess of scones. traditional in their flaky texture, they are not disguised slices of cake. the flavor is complex, but restrained. i added a strong hit of fresh and candied ginger for spice, and lemon zest for some tart. a little sugar for balance. but they will not send you into a food coma.

plus, you could probably eat them with white gloves. win!

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four, end with fruit salad. this is a purely defensive move on my own part, as i need a bowl of something relatively safe and healthful to pick at while we stretch brunch out, sitting, chatting, sipping mimosas and holding onto every lazy, sunny spring sunday moment.

ahh.

plus, this is the last of citrus season. show off your bad-ass knife skills by supreming the heck out of a bunch of oranges (ooo!  maybe i'll post a how-to for this). i've been on a cara cara kick for their beautiful pink color, but the humble naval oranges lately have been delightfully, drippingly sweet and seductive.

add berries, a squeeze of lemon juice, maybe some mint and sugar. a splash of grand marnier if you're looking to step it up a notch. done.

and yes, that was totally a somm sighting. he stuck around even though things got pretty real in the condo: we were visited by munchkins.

you'll be happy to know manchego survived the encounter. that poor cat has no idea what's in his future.

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Spring Brunch Link Love

Don't Hold the Anything Breakfast Bread Pudding from Food52: I've made this recipe twice now and it is pretty-much no fail. The recipe calls for maple sugar on top, but turbinado sugar worked really well for me.

Browned Butter Blueberry Muffins from Shutterbean: This is also from the Joy the Baker cookbook, which is on my wish list. Just putting that out there, internet gift fairies.

Ginger Lemon Scones from Smitten Kitchen: I may never be able to produce my own recipes because I seem to have a complete adversion to measuring anything. But I think I added a few tablespoons of chopped fresh ginger and a few tablespoons of chopped crystallized ginger.  And the zest of a lemon.  It worked out.