These muffins, from the "Baked: New Frontiers in Baking" book are a great example of a minimal effort, maximum reward recipe. You can throw them together in 20 minutes and they take another 20 minutes or so to bake, and yet they are definitely something a little special. What clearly makes them unique and more sophisticated than the average muffin is the addition of the instant espresso powder. Pairing chocolate with coffee is obvious, but coffee and banana made me question this recipe briefly - but the coffee adds a nice depth to muffin, making it not too sweet. This recipe is from the original Baked book from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, owner of the Brooklyn bakery of the same name. When it came out a few years ago it seemed like the perfect Brooklyn hipster cookbook - baked goods styled with little plastic dears and such. It is the real deal though, the recipes are both recipes you really want to make and recipes that work really well. The most famous recipe from the book is the "baked brownie", which I have made many times and it is my go to brownie recipe. The brownies turn out glossy, rich, with the right balance between fudge-like consistency and depth of chocolate flavor. There are other gems in here that you should give a try in addition to these amazing, easy muffins (maple walnut scones, chocolate pie, brewers blondies, classic sugar coookies) and many more I want to make (green tea cupcakes, malted milk cake, sweet and salty cake, icebox towers., pumpkin whoopie pies..)
I couldn't resist making a second recipe from The Beekman Heirloom cookbook and this one pairs particularly well with the Pumpkin Cheese Bread. Here is a simple, hearty beef chili with the fall addition of fresh pumpkin. Any squash will do. I usually wing it when I make chili, rarely following a recipe and I usually use ground meat. This version uses stew beef and cooks slowly in the oven. It came out really tender and with a nice balance of spices. This has virtually no heat, however, so if you are looking for some heat, I would suggest adding some cayenne or a jalapeno. Rather than Texas Chili, I would call this the perfect New England chili and a great recipe as the days finally get a little cooler. With such great experience with these two recipes, I definitely consider The Beekman cookbook a "keeper" and will try to come back to it on a regular basis.
As you may have noticed, my blogging has gotten pathetically sporadic for the last year or so. I am not sure what has caused the malaise, but there is no doubt I have been uninspired. I have been reading plenty, but just have not been as inspired to make recipes from the books - sometimes it feels forced, and often the things I make for a book are not inspired by the seasons, which is how I usually like to cook. So I have been thinking a lot lately about how to jump start my creative juices so that I am excited and inspired by the blog again. I don't want to give up on the original bookcooker idea of reviewing books and making recipes inspired by those books, but I am going to focus on something else for a little while - the cookbook problem. Well, more specifically, my cookbook problem. As people who know me can attest to, I am a bit of a shopaholic, mostly clothing and shoes (and OK, bags too) but also books and really the worst of it is the cookbooks. I see a new cookbook and just get so excited that this one will have the perfect recipe, the one that will change my life! I don't spend too much time flipping through at the bookstore (or the Amazon page nowadays), I just flip flip a couple of pages and zip zip my credit card. Now that most cookbooks have Kindle additions, the cookbook addiction has become serious, and my love of cookbooks have become a problem. I have SO MANY. And even worse, I NEVER COOK OUT OF THEM. That isn't true for all of them (I always cook out of Barefoot Contessa books and my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook has many batter splattered pages), but for the most part, I buy em, flip through, then up on the shelf (or onto the kindle) they go... and stay. So, reflecting on the overwhelming number of cookbooks I seem to have and never use, I decided to start by counting them. So I have 176 cookbooks. Is this a lot? It sure feels like a lot for someone who is not in the business of cooking for a living. Add to that that I don't really use these cookbooks that much (I get so many recipes from the web), I realized I had a problem. A consumption problem - the thrill of the purchase without any of the follow through needed to really enjoy and learn from all these beautiful cookbooks. So, for the next little while on this blog I am going to attempt to work my way through all of the cookbooks, making at least one recipe from each.
I know I am very late for a September recipe, but this was a complicated one that took me a while to find time to make. I made it for a family holiday dinner, so it also became somewhat hard to photograph well. This is the best shot I had, pretty bad compared to my usuals, but this shot certainly captures the drama of the dessert. It covers the September cover of Southern Living and one part of the cake that did not make it into this photo was the apple cider glaze. I poured this on at the end an it unfortunately was the straw that made the cake start to collapse a little, like the leaning tower of Pisa. While this cake is not simple, it did come together easier than I thought it would and was a really tasty and special way to celebrate fall apples. If you are need of a pit of a project and a bit of a dessert stunner, this one's for you.
Dave Eggers' The Circle was probably my favorite book of the summer. The novel is set some time in the future - but not too far in the future, maybe a couple of years - where an internet company called the Circle is getting up to some pretty scary shenanigans. We learn about what the Circle is up to through Mae Holland, a somewhat directionless 20-something who gets an entry level job at the company through her much more successful friend Annie, who is a rising star at the Circle which is based in Northern California. The company as Eggers portrays it is like a lot of the companies that are part of our every day lives - Google, Facebook, Apple. It has a beautiful and playful campus in Northern California, lots of employee perks (unlimited food! visits by Bono!), a mythical creation story, an eccentric founder who wears hoodies and a ever increasing lack of respect for its customers personal privacy. We go along for the ride as Mae starts out awkwardly at the company, with a critical eye to some of its more cult like practices, and then rises in the ranks and becomes a true believer, enabling the company in fact to take more and more steps in the wrong direction. I found the novel addictive and a totally realistic prediction of how things could turn out for us if we keep going the way we are going. This veggie burrito was inspired by one of the healthy offerings in one of the many Circle cafeterias. I apologize for the lack of folding, but a picture of a rolled burrito is not very interesting is? More about the book and these simple burritos below.