Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Walnut, Spice, and Everything Nice. (Muffin and Cake Recipe!)

Hey Guys! Based on my blog post the other day, it seems the consensus on gingerbread is that y'all love it no matter what time of year it is! :D I'm glad we all agree.

I was going to blog about this lovely cookie recipe I have been toying around with but, alas, I'm not done experimenting. I thought I was done, until I received some bad reviews by a couple of my testers of my final batch (which I liked the best). Hmmm. More testing!

I also took the time to update my recipes page. There's a bunch of new recipes listed on there, so check it out!

But since I'm not doing a post about those cookies, I'll do a post about the second best thing.

Well, make that two things. Both being baked goods using a good amount of walnuts (aka, packed with 'em). 

I've been obsessed with walnuts lately. Most recently I have been adding them into pesto,  putting them in chocolate chip cookies, and baking them into wonderful date breads. I've also been using them in the cookies I've been experimenting with that I mentioned above, but that's on the hush-hush for now.

For now you'll have to live with a recipe for a maple walnut tourlouche and pear muffins w/ walnut topping.

Hmmm which one to talk about first? 

I think I'll go with the tourlouche (which I guess means upside-down cake) because, let's be honest, we all want dessert first :D
 Love walnuts? I think...okay, I know, you'll love this cake too. Just look how many walnuts managed to make their way on top of that cake!

I landed upon this recipe over at Gingerbread Bagels but she got the recipe from the book A World of Cake. Usually, cakes like these don't have me dying to make them (read: they don't contain chocolate) but this one got bookmarked because 1) it contained lots of Greek yogurt, 2) low fat with only 2 tablespoons of butter, and 3) it contained maple syrup, walnuts, and spices! A winning combination if you ask me.
And when I say it contains maple syrup I mean a lot of maple syrup. A whole cup! Once you turn over the cake onto the platter the syrup soaks into the cake making it so moist and tasty (:
And when I say it contains spices, you guessed it, I mean a lot of spices :D Think cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Mmmm.

The recipe is available online here straight from the book. It also has variations like a peach-walnut topping or a cranberry topping (nixing the walnuts altogether). There's no need for me to repost the recipe because the only changes I made was used Greek yogurt instead of normal yogurt. Oh, I also used an 8-inch cake pan instead of a 9-inch and it worked just fine albeit a tad thicker. Baked up in the same amount of time, too.

This cake has all the flavors of breakfast but it's definitely a dessert. Its pretty sweet with a whole cup of maple syrup on top and 1/2 cup sugar in the cake itself. The sweetness in the actual cake was perfect but when paired with the super sweet topping it was almost a bit too much! Next time I'm going to try doing half water and half maple syrup in the topping (so the topping still soaks into the cake giving it moisture without all the sweetness). Any other suggestions??

Other than that small tiff, this cake was definitely enjoyed by all. Everyone had seconds. I couldn't get over how fluffy and flavorful it was! It reminds me of the holidays and just plain makes me happy (:
I might try to "healthify" this as a breakfast item. Besides subbing in the less-sweet topping (1/2 water and 1/2 maple syrup) and using whole wheat pastry flour instead of AP, this one doesn't need much tweaking! Topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt and I'm sold.
The other walnut obsessed recipe is for pear muffins with a lovely walnut topping. In fact, it is very similar to the walnut tourlouche! They both contain lovely spices like cinnamon but instead of cloves and nutmeg this one uses allspice. Allspice is an actual spice (not a premade blend of other spices) but the combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves can produce a similar taste. So basically both recipes have the same spice blend. 
Another similarity? Bunches of Greek yogurt! I love what Greek yogurt does to baked goods. It's basically just like when something calls for sour cream in things like muffins, cookies, and cakes. They both make the final product fluffier, lighter, moister, and more tender! (the plus side is that Greek yogurt is TONS healthier, and packed with protein.)
The other similarity between the two recipes? They both call for a scant amount of butter. This time, the recipe called for it to be melted so you can bet I went ahead and browned it! I do this with anything that calls for melted butter (cookies especially!). Just taking the little extra time to brown it makes the final product so much more tasty! It adds a wonderful nutty flavor (that worked perfectly with the plethora of walnuts on top).
I found the recipe on Recipe Girl but, just like the Walnut Tourlouche, the original recipe is from a book- The Foster's Market Cookbook. But since I made a lot of changes (and scaled down the recipe because it makes a lot) I'm going to post it on here.

Pear Muffins with Brown Sugar-Walnut Topping
Yeilds: 7 HUGE muffins
For the topping:
3/4 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
For the batter:
1 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg + 1 large egg white
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, browned and cooled
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract or dark rum
1 cup chopped ripe pear (the original recipe uses peaches, but I had pears on hand..anything works, really!)

To assemble the topping: In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Drop in the cold diced butter.  Using your hands, rub the butter into the flour mixture until crumbly.  Add in the walnuts and toss together.  Place in the refrigerator to keep it chilled.

To brown the butter: Place butter into small skillet or sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Melt and allow the solids to get to a light brown color without burning.  Remove from heat and let cool.

To assemble the muffin batter: 

-Preheat oven to 375 degree F.  Line 6 or 7 standard muffin cups with paper liners, and spray the top of the pan lightly with nonstick spray.
-In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, from flour to salt, and set aside.
-In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and the egg white, browned butter, Greek yogurt and vanilla (or rum).  Fold in the pears.
-Add the egg mixture to the dry mixture.  Stir just until moistened and blended.  Do not over mix.
-Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan with a large ice cream scoop (about 1/3 cup sized scoop).  The batter should come to the top of the paper liner.  Sprinkle with the topping and lightly press into the muffin batter.
-Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the pan.  Remove the muffins from the pan and allow to cool for about 20 minutes before serving.

 This recipe only makes 7 muffins but one is all you need in the morning because they are huge! There wasn't enough pear pieces in my muffins so I adjusted the recipe accordingly. 

You could use really any fruit except for maybe bananas (too mushy) and then some wouldn't work just because of the weird flavor combination (like mango and pineapple). I think the best fruits to add would be apples, peaches, pears, raspberries, or even raisins if you're a raisin type of girl...or boy. (I'm not)
I couldn't stop taking pictures! The muffins are so pretty :D
Just FYI, there's a lot of batter to fit into those muffin tins! The recipe was only supposed to make 6 muffins but there was no way I was going to be able to do that. You'll make a mess trying to get all of the topping on them but don't worry, the muffins rise beautifully and grab all of that wonderful topping. The walnuts get oh-so toasty and delicious and the brown sugar adds a good grainy crunch.
I loved how these muffins tasted incredible, looked like they came from a bakery, and completely whole wheat! I was worried that switching the recipe from all purpose to whole wheat would affect their rise, but as you can see, these guys are light and rose perfectly! They not super low fat, but the amount of butter in here is far less than most recipes (3 tablespoons total), and the walnuts contain healthy fat. I'd say they are pretty dang amazing! 

I only got to have one of this batch because my family snarfed the rest up before the next morning and I secretly wish I hid one somewhere. Usually I'm fine with only have a little of things I make (that's why I make small batches) but these ones where legit amazing!

It was love at first bite (:
....and second, and third, and well, you get the idea.

So go on. Go out and a buy a huge container of Greek yogurt (Fage preferred), a pound of walnuts, some whole wheat flour, butter, and get baking already!!

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