Monday, October 29, 2012

Banana Bread & Hurricane Sandy

Today the DC area shut down for Hurricane Sandy. The TV stations are streaming continuous coverage of winds, waves, and water-bottle-less ailses at the grocery stores. Ironically, it was supposed to be "Pajama Day" at school today. Ms. Cassidy still wore her pajamas all day, just not in the classroom.

Have I told you that I have the best roommates? I have the best roommates. Look what we cooked up for lunch today. Moroccan stew, kale chips, and banana bread. Delish!

I eat so much better on hurricane days. Some of us already have cabin fever only after one day of Sandra Dee and are dancing around the apartment to the soundtrack of Grease. You heard it here first: "There are going to be a lot of babies born in 9 months." My favorite Sandy memes so far are:

Also, a good tip: have an apartment warming party two days before you are confined to the indoors for days on end. You will... stay warm... if the power goes out:

Our party had a costume option. I went as Jess from New Girl. I'm glad we got a little Halloween spirit in before the Frankenstorm.

The day off was a great opportunity to get some baking done, something that has become increasingly less frequent since becoming a teacher. I had bananas that I forgot to eat last week so banana bread seemed like a good choice.

Cozy spices of cinnamon and nutmeg along with a hint of vanilla satisfy your fall cravings. A cup of yogurt adds some tang (I used orange and ginger yogurt) and moisture to this otherwise hearty, yet cakey bread. I hope you enjoy and stay dry!

Banana Bread

yields one large loaf or multiple mini loaves

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup yogurt
3 bananas, mashed or pureed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare loaf pan(s) by greasing with butter and dusting with flour. In a large bowl, beat the butter until blended. Add the yogurt, bananas, eggs, and vanilla and beat until evenly combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for one hour before serving.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins & The Waterford Fair

Last weekend I went to the Waterford Fair in Waterford, Virginia. This quintessential colonial town turns into an artisanal crafts market for three days every year. Tents and barns filled with pottery, gourd art, jewelry, rugs, paintings, kettle corn, caramel, cookie cutters, flowers, wines, and ornaments are scattered about this picturesque setting. It recalls the beauty of a simpler time.

Just like the Waterford Fair, pumpkin muffins are perfect for a fall day. Browned butter, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon make these muffins taste like a slice of pumpkin pie that's socially acceptable to eat for breakfast. After a few minutes in the oven your house will smell like autumn. A wonderful way to enjoy this treat is with a healthy slathering of apple butter, but if you don't have any, no worries... these flavorful and moist muffins will satisfy the warmth needed from that first fall chill. Enjoy.

Pumpkin Muffins
adapted from Martha Stewart

yields 16 muffins 

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325 F. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until butter turns golden brown. Skim foam from top, and remove from heat. Pour into a bowl to stop the cooking, leaving any burned sediment behind and let cool.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, both sugars, eggs, and brown-butter mixture. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
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Monday, October 8, 2012

Homemade Apple Pie: It's been a while.

Hi. It's me, Meghan. It's been a while.

I'm sheepishly peering around the room, like a kid who ate the last cookie in the jar while no one was watching. I feel guilty for not having posted in so long. It's been a while.

Since we last spoke four months ago, I ran a science museum; road tripped with my favorite ally from Tucson to San Francisco and back; drove across the country from Arizona to D.C. with all of my stuff; moved into a condo on the 22nd floor with two wonderful friends surrounded by windows teeming natural light, delicate fall foliage, and a view of the National Cathedral; and began teaching middle school geography, physics, and robotics at a new charter school between the National Portrait Gallery and National Archives. It's been a while.

This week, for the first time, I took a moment and baked. I made an apple pie. Though a common classic, apple pie is anything but boring. My cozy apartment came to life with the smells of nutmeg and cloves as the piping hot steam danced in the afternoon glow. It was the most comforting dessert I could make: something so dependable and familiar after so much upheaval and change. I added my own personal touches - apple cider vinegar in the crust and little apple cutouts for the top, but this pie is like coming home again.



It's been a while. But you'll be seeing more of me. I'm back.

Homemade Apple Pie

yields one 9" apple pie

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into pieces
2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons ice cold water

5 or 6 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into cubes
1/8 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unbleached flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon milk or cream
1 teaspoon coarse sanding sugar

Crust: Pulse butter and flour in a food processor until it resembles coarse meal. Add the salt, vinegar, and water and pulse until dough begins to form. Remove from processor and divide into two equal parts. Roll each half into a ball, flatten into a disk, and wrap with plastic wrap. Let chill in refrigerator for an hour.

Filling: In a bowl with a wooden spoon, mix apple cubes, orange juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Assembly: Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove dough from refrigerator. Lightly flour surface. Roll one disk into an 11" round, then fit it into a 9" glass pie plate. Transfer filling to pastry bottom. Scatter 3 tablespoons of butter over fruit. Roll the remaining disk of dough out on the lightly floured surface into an 11" round, then cut out mini apples. Layer mini apple cutouts on top of filling to make top crust, fold edges of dough under, and crimp edges. Brush crust with 1 tablespoon of milk or cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake until pastry is deep golden (cover edges of crust with foil if browning too quickly), 60–70 minutes. Set pie aside to cool for several hours before serving.
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