Cranberry Carrot-Cake Muffins

So, the best thing I purchased in quarantine was the cold brew maker that lives in my fridge now, but the second best thing I picked up was Joshua McFadden’s cookbook Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables. It’s a rare cookbook where I want to make literally every recipe in it, and I’ve already given it to more than a few friends as gifts. I’m a big fan of McFadden’s approach to cooking (the book is veggie-focused, but not strictly vegetarian – there’s a killer lamb stew with eggplant, among other meat-y recipes), and I’m eagerly awaiting his second book out this fall on cooking/baking with whole grains.

All of this to say that I checked out a recipe he developed for All-Clad last month and it was a disappointment. I don’t put the blame entirely with him – this probably passed through editors and assistants and somewhere along the way, a bunch of the helpful information I expect from a recipe went missing (and I had 18 muffins worth of batter for a recipe that said it would make 12). I’m a skilled enough baker to have survived this Bake-Off Technical Challenge-level starkness in the recipe, but I wanted to make it better for the bakers that came after me. Here’s my take on how this should go.

Cranberry Carrot-Cake Muffins

B-Side
adapted from Joshua McFadden's recipe for All-Clad
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Servings 18 muffins

Ingredients
  

  • cups all-purpose flour (300 g)
  • ½ cup brown sugar (107 g)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar (150 g)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup grated carrots (99 g)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (99 g)
  • ½ cup crystallized ginger (92 g)
  • 12 oz cream cheese softened
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp honey

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your oven to 400 F. Grease a 12-well muffin tin with butter or cooking spray.
  • In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, vanilla, and honey until smooth. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, both sugars, baking soda, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  • In another small bowl, whisk together the eggs, water, and olive oil.
  • Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients in the large bowl and add your wet ingredients. Mix together until dry ingredients are fully moistened and no dry spots remain.
  • Fold in the carrots, cranberries, and crystalized ginger.
  • Fill each well of the muffin tin with about 3 Tbsp of batter, then top with a large spoonful of cream cheese mixture on the center.
  • Bake, checking around the 18-22 minute mark with a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean, they are done. Cool on a rack and enjoy.

Cornmeal Lime Cookies

These are a recipe from Flour, a local bakery.  I make them better because the cookie is smaller and the glaze has more lime juice so there’s more of an interplay between sweet and sour.

Flour often makes two of these into an oreo/moon pie sort of a deal with some creme in the middle.  You could do that too, if you wanted.

This makes 28-32 cookies

Ingredients:

for the cookies:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp (175 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest (about 4 limes)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) medium-coarse yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

for the glaze:

  • 1 cup (140 grams) powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp finely grated lime zest (1-2 limes)

Steps:

  1. Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350F
  2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), cream together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes (10 minutes with a handheld mixer).  Yes, that’s a long time, you want this to get super light and fluffy.  Stop the mixer a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle to release any clinging butter and sugar.
  3. Add the lime zest and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute to release the lime flavor.  Add the eggs and vanilla and continue to beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined.  Scrape the bowl and paddle again to ensure the eggs are fully incorporated.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.  With your mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and then mix until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed.
  5. Drop the dough into 2 Tbsp portions (I use a medium-sized cookie scoop for this) onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.  Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand.
  6. Bake for about 17-18 minutes, or until the cookies are pale brown on the edges and just firm to the touch in the center.  Be sure not to overbake the cookies until the tops are browned.
  7. Let cool on the baking sheet for 15-20 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool to room temperature for glazing.  If the cookies are too warm, your glaze won’t stick.
  8. Make the glaze: while the cookies are cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, lime juice, and lime zest until smooth.  You should have about 1/2 cup of glaze.
  9. Brush the cookies with a thin layer of the glaze, then allow to set for 10 minutes before serving or storing.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.  The unbaked dough can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies

These are a riff on a Cherry Cheesecake cookie America’s Test Kitchen featured in a Holiday Cookies issue.  If you really want to make these fancy, pick up a few cans of pie filling like the original recipe asks for and put 2-3 in a well in the center of each cookie.

This makes ~4 dozen cookies – I’ve typically made a batch and a half for Hunt.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 1/2 sticks butter (20 tablespoons), softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of Oreo crumbs
    (I typically extract all the creme from half a package of oreos, then pulverize the wafers.  You could also probably get those Nabisco chocolate cookies that are basically just the outsides of an Oreo, I won’t tell anyone)

Steps:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer (or with an electric hand mixer), beat cream cheese, butter and sugar on medium-high for 2 minutes.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix until just combined.  Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add flour mixture.  Divide dough in half, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls, then coat completely in Oreo crumbs.  Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet and gently flatten.
  5. Bake until cookies are cracked and set, about 12-13 minutes.
  6. Cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Peppernuts

This is a family recipe that I was given under the strict promise to not give it to anyone.  In response to that, I have given it to everyone who’s asked.

DO NOT DOUBLE THIS BATCH, this makes enough teeny-tiny licorice-flavored cookies to fill a 9×13 gladware container.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 8 cups flour (yes.)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 1/2 tsp anise oil (needs to be the oil, not extract)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Instructions

  1. With either a stand mixer or a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.
  2. Add corn syrup and sour cream and combine.
  3. Add 4 cups flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, soda, and anise oil.
  4. Move to a counter or silicone baking mat and knead in other 4c flour.
  5. Roll out segments of the dough into rolls that are roughly the diameter of your index finger. Chill until firm.
  6. Slice and bake at 375 until golden brown, roughly 11-14 minutes.

Is Mr. Music Okay?

I needed a project to stop from doomscrolling, so next year’s Halloween costume idea got bumped up to “let’s make this in 2020 anyways”.  I need a quality fake moustache yet, but et voila:

Anatomy of a Mr Music costume I had better get to wear to Actual Halloween Parties in 2021, should you want to make one post-quarantine:

  • Jacket: This was surprisingly easy!  This is a Ro Rox Men’s Parade Jacket Gothic Tailcoat in black
  • Xylophone bits: you could totally get a bunch of colored felt at Michael’s in the correct colors for under $20 bucks.  However, if you’re insane like me and want to affix 2 pounds of medal to your jacket, you will need two of these from Amazon.  They are surprisingly easy to dismantle if you have a decent pair of pliers and need something to do with your hands other than doomscroll Twitter on your phone.  As far as attaching things, I used a roll of Fabric Fusion tape, but you could sew things on to get all the strings the actual jacket has.
  • Patches: ETSY.  Etsy is a goldmine for patches and iron-ons.  I bought a few sizes of treble clef, and various music note configurations, all in gold.  The MUSIC shoulder patches appear to be some kind of easily findable template as well.
  • Shirt: Disgusting sateen-y gold thing.  Amazon has tons of these. I went this this one.  I hate it and it’s perfect.  I put some music notes-y Washi tape at Michael’s that is barely holding on to this slippery-ass fabric.
  • Pants: after not finding ANYTHING that looked like the Mr. Music pants from the Sack Lunch Bunch, when I put the jacket and glockenspiels in my Amazon cart, Amazon asked if I wanted to buy this BTS-ass suit which has what appear to be the pants?  Reader, I did it.  I did not think I was assembling this in full this year, so I split the purchases for this over a couple months

anyways I feel very proud about this, please notice this John Mulaney.