apple butter gingerbread rolls with browned butter icing

apple butter gingerbread rolls

Remember back when I started this blog and wrote a halfhearted 2-second blog tagline which ended up staying permanently? Books(?), I thought. I sometimes still read. Sort of. Maybe I’ll write about books. Let’s put books(?) to be safe.

Today it’s only gotten worse. I read one novel in 2020 (plus one graphic novel)- it was perfect for the early pandemic days when I had the massive privilege of being able to stay home, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, about a man under house arrest in peri-revolution Russia.

Recently I confided that I had not read anything in 2021 over the phone with my cousin (The Cousin, in fact). Reading is second nature for The Cousin so understandably she gasped in abject horror.

apple butter gingerbread rolls
apple butter gingerbread rolls
apple butter gingerbread rolls
apple butter gingerbread rolls

But! I finally read something this year (The Cousin, I know you’ll read this eventually so… LOOK! I read!). Helen Oyeyemi has been one of my favourite authors since I first chanced across her novel Mr. Fox in high school. Most recently, she wrote Peaces in which a couple alights, due to some slight coercion, aboard a mysterious train for their not-honeymoon honeymoon. The train has a sauna carriage, a portrait gallery and a holding cell (of course), and three other passenger-residents plus or minus a few others.

It was an effortlessly engaging read, in a way that I had forgotten novels can be. With Oyeyemi, I think it’s always how she builds the balance and juxtaposition inherent in magical realism. There are fantastical situations and as equally fantastical characters, but in their interaction they are all the more real: half-grounded, half-positively buoyant. And in Peaces, it is the way stories are nested within stories within stories; they unfurl amongst anecdotes and dialogues and letters and then telescope back to the present. And it’s the way that everything is so carefully, deliberately connected. (In summary, unequivocal recommendations from me!)

apple butter gingerbread rolls

And, for fall, here are some buns. A lightly spiced gingerbread molasses bun, with the heft of the flavour carried by the tart apple butter filling and browned butter icing. As much as I like to avoid frostings, there really is something about a frosted bun – so the buns themselves are minimally sweetened to balance the frosting, which itself is surprisingly browned buttery.

apple butter gingerbread rolls

apple butter gingerbread rolls with browned butter icing

Icing vaguely based on Striped Spatula’s brown butter glaze.

gingerbread dough

  • 175g whole wheat flour
  • 50g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp star anise
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 120g milk at room temperature
  • 40g molasses
  • 32g egg
  • 50g soft butter

filling

  • 200g apple butter (recipe below)
  • 25g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

browned butter icing

  • 40g butter
  • 55g icing sugar
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp cream

For the dough, in a bowl, combine the flours, yeast, spices and salt. Add the milk, molasses and egg. Stir with a wooden spoon until a dough is formed. Knead on a lightly floured counter until smooth, then knead in a chunk of the butter at a time until all the butter is incorporated.

Place the dough in a container and let rise in the fridge overnight.

For the filling, combine all the ingredients. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

The next day, butter an 8″ square pan and line with a parchment paper sling. Take the dough from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured countertop until it is rectangle about 12×14″. Spread with the filling, aside from a strip of dough along one long edge where you will seal the roll. Brush this bare bit of dough with a bit of water to help the log seal.

Starting from the other long edge, roll up the dough into a log and pinch to seal. Use floss to cut into 9 pieces.

Arrange the pieces in the pan and cover. Let rise 1 1/2-2 hours or until puffed.

Near the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 375F.

Bake the risen buns for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

For the icing, place the butter in a small pan and cook, stirring, until the butter solids are browned. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in the powdered sugar and then the cream. As the butter cools, the frosting will thicken.

Spread the frosting over the buns while they are still slightly warm. Best eaten day of!

apple butter

To make the apple butter, place a few of cups of unsweetened applesauce (recipe here) in a saucepan. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until the applesauce thickens in a thick, jam-like consistency, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a jar and cool. Store in the fridge.

houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons

houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons
houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons
houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons

This ice cream has been a work in progress for a few years so I am glad to finally post it! I had initially envisioned it as a persimmon houjicha ice cream with hachiya persimmon pureed into the ice cream base. In try #1, I had let the ice cream base sit for a couple days before churning and it took on a the fermented flavour of very over-ripened persimmon. A year later, when persimmon season returned, a second try did not taste much better, even when churning the ice cream right away – though in part it might be because I am a bit oversensitive to the taste of overripe fruit. To avoid any over-ripeness issue, once persimmon season swung around once more the following year, I tried roasting fuyu persimmons (which do not need to be fully ripened to eat) and then pureed that. The roasting merely dried out and toughen the persimmons, which yielded a “puree” of coarsely chopped fibres that could have been a particularly orange hairball. I couldn’t bear to put that in the ice cream (ate it over oatmeal instead) so I tried churning the houjicha base on its own – and loved it.

I still wanted the persimmons in there somehow though, so I also prepared some caramelized fuyu persimmon slices to go alongside. It’s a wonderfully mellow and autumnal combination. Sometimes I guess it doesn’t all need to be crammed into the ice cream itself!

houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons
houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons
houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons
houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons

This ice cream base is made with a long and slow cold infusion using looseleaf houjicha (roasted green tea). I’ve been really tending towards the long cold infusions lately as a way to get lots of flavour. While sometimes tea can get a bit bitter, the roasting of the houjicha helps it remain mellow despite a long infusion – strong flavour without the bitterness – and goes it so well with a milky ice cream base!

That and warm caramelized persimmons spooned overtop… sometimes it’s not too bad when your initial plans go awry.

houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons
houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons
houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons

houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons

  • Servings: 2 cups ice cream base
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houjicha ice cream

  • 280g heavy cream
  • 5g loose leaf houjicha
  • 240g milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar, or to taste

caramelized persimmons

  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 fuyu persimmons, peeled and sliced
  • butter
  • salt

houjicha ice cream

Combine the cream and houjicha in a container. Cover and let steep for 48 hours in the fridge. Press through a sieve to extract the cream. 

Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Place the milk in a saucepan and heat until steaming. Slowly pour the hot milk into the yolks while whisking constantly to temper, then return the milk mixture to the saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until the temperature reaches 160-180F or the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and hold a line drawn in it. Immediately transfer to a bowl or container. 

Stir in the infused cream (and taste for sweetness – add more sugar if desired!) and chill the ice cream base completely. Churn in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions.

caramelized persimmons

This makes enough for about 4 servings. Scale up or down depending on how much ice cream and many people you’re serving. 

Begin by making a caramel syrup. Place the sugar in a small saucepan and add enough water to dissolve the sugar. Bring the water to a boil until the sugar is dissolved (if you stir, make sure you swirl the pan to pick up and dissolve any granules of sugar along the sides!), and then continue to boil until the sugar syrup caramelizes, reaching a deep amber colour. Whisk in the 2 tbsp of water. Be careful while adding the water as the caramel may sputter a bit. If parts of the caramel harden, return to the heat, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool until needed.

Melt 1 tsp of butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced persimmons and saute until softened. Spoon in 2-3 tbsp of the caramel syrup and stir until the persimmon slices are coated in syrup and it has formed a smooth sauce.

Take the ice cream out from the freezer about 10-15 minutes before serving. Scoop and serve with the caramelized persimmons.  

houjicha ice cream with caramelized persimmons

beet morning glory muffins

beet morning glory muffins
beet morning glory muffins

The muffin spectrum holds un-iced cakes on one end, early bird dessert masquerading in a more casual form, while the other side houses the muffin traditionalists, hefty with whole grains, nuts, fruits or vegetables. I think both ends are equally wonderful but today we come from I think of as the penultimate muffin-muffin: the morning glory. It’s the have-it-all muffin – have the carrots and spices from the carrot muffin, plus the apple from the apple muffin and the raisins from the bran muffin and the coconut, pecan and orange zest from the who-knows-what muffins. In other words, it’s a muffin with ambitions!

I had my first (of a total of two, aside from this batch) morning glory muffins a couple of years ago at a random cafe in downtown Toronto. I was really just looking for something to eat to tide myself over for the next few hours but I was surprised by how much I loved the – to put it inarticulately – muffin-like flavour. And as I was thinking about it, morning glory muffins, have so many flavours that go so well with beets – apple, spices, nuts and citrus. That, and I had a lot of beets.

beet morning glory muffins
beet morning glory muffins
beet morning glory muffins
beet morning glory muffins
beet morning glory muffins
beet morning glory muffins

These are a very classic morning glory muffin, just made with beets instead. While consulting some recipes, I found that they all seemed to follow the same basic ratios – about 2 cups of flour, 3 eggs, 2 cups of carrots and 1 apple. It was in the ratio of oil to other liquids that things varied – this allrecipes one, at the height of decadence, called for 1 cup of oil, down to Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe which used only 1/3 of a cup, the rest replaced with orange juice and applesauce. I decided to go middle of the road most closely following King Arthur Flour with about 2/3 cup of oil and some additional milk. I’ve also used 100% whole wheat flour because, of course.

The batter seems impossibly meager and thoroughly incapable of containing all the firey sunset-hued beet strands, not to mention the apple, nuts, raisins…. but somehow in the oven it enfolds the coarse spaghetti-like mess into its body. and out comes a muffin. It will also appear like way too much per muffin – but pile each muffin cup a bit high and after a stint in the oven, this will reward you with dangerously domed tops and one of the heftiest muffins I’ve ever held.

One last thing – I find raw beets are quite hard to grate by hand (even harder than carrots) so I recommend using the grating attachment on a food processor if you have it.

beet morning glory muffins
beet morning glory muffins

beet morning glory muffins

  • Servings: 12 muffins
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Adapted from King Arthur Flour and Sally’s Baking Addiction.

  • 250g (2 cups) whole wheat flour
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice (or nutmeg)
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 37g (1/2 cup) unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 80g (generous 1/2 cup) chopped pecans
  • 3 large eggs
  • 133g neutral oil
  • 60g whole milk (or orange juice)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 orange, finely grated
  • 200g (2 packed cups) peeled and shredded raw beets
  • 1 large apple, cored and shredded
  • 80g (slightly generous 1/2 cup) raisins, soaked in hot tea to plump, and then drained

Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a standard 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, brown sugar, baking soda, spices, salt, coconut and pecans.

In a medium-large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, milk, vanilla and orange zest until smooth. Then stir in the shredded beets, shredded apple and drained raisins.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir together with a wooden spoon until you no longer see streaks of dry flour and all the flour is moistened. Distribute the batter amongst the 12 muffin cups – you’ll need to pile up the batter a bit.

Place in the oven for 5 minutes at 425F, then lower the temperature to 350F. Bake another 15 minutes or so, rotating partway through baking. Check doneness by poking a thin wooden skewer into the centre of a muffin and look for there only to be a few crumbs clinging or for it to be clean.

spiced apple sourdough semlor

spiced apple semlor
spiced apple semlor
spiced apple semlor

Shrove Tuesday has passed, but semlor are still in season! Semlor are Swedish buns (though analogues exist in other Nordic countries) typically filled with torn crumbs of bread and sticky almond paste, creamed with a bit of milk into a soft filling. Topped with whipped cream and powdered sugar, they’re just the sort of comforting and Scandinavian (cardamom-perfumed of course!) baked good I came to love after pouring through the pages of the classic The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas.

I adore the classic filling of bread crumbs and almond paste, but in these ones I’ve combined the almond paste with spiced apples instead; it is just lovely – spiced and sweet and very moist and a bit less bread-y than the original. I actually first made these five years ago, but the recipe needed a bit of a spiff up. And perhaps more than that, I also just wanted to make apple semlor again!

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saffron poached pear & pistachio tart

saffron-poached pear and pistachio tart

Recently I was discussing music preferences – something I always struggle to describe. For one, I’m terrible at recognizing genres and I still don’t understand what makes pop pop or rock rock or alternative alternative. (That last one especially…but being confused by genres may not be as silly as I think!)

“Okay, well, what songs do you listen to?” my friend asked as a second resort. I paused, pondered why I often forget song titles, and settled for mentioning a few artists that I listen to instead. In retrospect, and perhaps rather obviously, the easiest unit with which to describe what I listen to is albums. Definitely a bit more encompassing than a single song, and more specific than an artist – particularly as when it comes to an artist with varying style, I may like the style from one album more than another.

saffron-poached pear and pistachio tart
saffron-poached pear and pistachio tart
saffron-poached pear and pistachio tart
saffron-poached pear and pistachio tart

This all to say, we’re still fairly fresh into the new year which means that various 2020 listicles still make sense – right?! So this time: my favourite albums that I started listening to over the past year, though I never keep up with music so these are not particularly recent releases.

1. the ballad of the runaway girl (2018) – elisapie

This is no surprise since I already wrote a whole blog post on this album! My favourite album so far from Elisapie Isaac – and it makes me excited to see what she does next.

favourite tracks: una, wolves don’t live by the rules, rodeo

2. omoiyari (2019) – kishi bashi

Omoiyari was written about the Japanese Internment in the United States. For a reflection on a dark time, it sounds strange to say that this album is also charming, hopeful and a pleasure to listen to. But it is – and perhaps the ambiance of the album is best encapsulated by omoiyari which, as Kishi Bashi explains, “refers to the idea of creating compassion towards other people by thinking about them. I think the idea of omoiyari is the single biggest thing that can help us overcome aggression and conflict.” (Quote from Bandcamp album description.)

favourite tracks: penny rabbit and summer bear, summer of ’42

3. carrie & lowell (2015) – sufjan stevens

For the last several years, all I’ve listened of Sufjan Steven’s discography has been Illinois. I’m so glad I finally tried to listen to more – he’s dabbled in a variety of styles, and this album is beautiful, melancholy in parts, heartbreaking in others.

favourite tracks (slightly arbitrary as I love every single song): fourth of july, eugene, no shade in the shadow of the cross

4. dark arc (2014) – saintseneca

Even though saintseneca is new to me, this album would have especially fit right into the music I listened to 5-10 years ago – it sounds a bit like Chad van Gaalen’s Diaper Island with vocals that remind me of Neutral Milk Hotel, but in crisp focus.

favourite tracks: fed up with hunger, uppercutter

5. run river north (2014) – run river north

Run River North’s debut album plays like a cross between early Of Monsters and Men with the country-folk vibes of Head and the Heart. I have a weakness for lush tracks with expansive instrumentals and catchy lyrics sung in chorus…of which this album has plenty.

favourite tracks: beetle, foxbeard

saffron-poached pear and pistachio tart
saffron-poached pear and pistachio tart
saffron-poached pear and pistachio tart

This tart has saffron and cardamom poached pears baked over pistachio orange blossom frangipane. The pears are tender, the frangipane cakey and sweet, and the aromatic flavours are predictably wonderful – in particular, I love the orange blossom pistachio frangipane, a combination inspired by pistachio maamoul filling.

It’s essentially a riff on a classic pear and almond frangipane tart, but I love this particular combo enough that I’ve made this tart a few times now. Depending on the size of your pears, you’ll be able to fit more or less into the tart. I do prefer how it looks with smaller pears – but it will work with whatever you have!

SAM_1627saffron-poached pear and pistachio tart

saffron poached pear & pistachio tart

  • Servings: one 14 by 4 1/2 inch tart (36 by 12cm)
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pastry

  • 205g flour, half all-purpose, half whole wheat
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • 113g cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 room temperature large egg

saffron and cardamom poached pears

  • 3 small-medium Bartlett pears
  • 1/8 tsp saffron
  • 5 large green cardamom pods
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

pistachio orange blossom cream

  • 56g soft butter
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 15g almond meal
  • 50g pistachios, finely ground
  • 1 large egg
  • 12g flour (~2 tbsp)
  • 1 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 

assembly

  • chopped pistachios

pastry

Place the flours, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and process until incorporated and the mixture has the texture of fine crumbs. Finally, add the egg and process until the dough comes together – it will take about 30 seconds. Pat into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill completely.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to around 1/8″ thick and into a rectangle larger than the tart pan. Drape the dough into the tart pan, press into all the corners and trim excess dough. Cover and chill completely.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Dock the bottom of the tart dough all over with a fork. Bake just for around 10 minutes or until the dough is dry. Cool.

poached pears

Peel, halve and core the pears. Place in a small saucepan with enough water to cover. Add the saffron, cardamom and sugar. Bring to a boil and set on a quiet simmer until the pears are just tender, around 15 minutes depending on the size of the pears.

pistachio orange blossom cream

Cream the butter with the sugar until light. Add the ground pistachios and almond.

Beat the egg in a small bowl. Add to the butter mixture in four additions, beating in each addition thoroughly before adding the next. Finally, mix in the flour, then the orange blossom water and vanilla extract. Store refrigerated.

assembly

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread the pistachio cream evenly in the partially baked and cooled tart shell. Slice the pear halves and arrange overtop of the cream – depending on the size of your pears, you will be able to fit 5 or 6 halves. Sprinkle any patches of frangipane not covered by pear with chopped pistachios. 

Bake for around 40-45 minutes or until any frangipane on the surface is golden brown. Let cool completely before slicing.

apple tatin brioche

apple tatin brioche
apple tatin brioche
apple tatin brioche

It would feel remiss to post and not to touch on the US election. While I’m not American, the intensity of Canadian news coverage of American elections always eclipses that of even our own elections – this year in particular for good reason. But most of all, I think we’re all wishing for our neighbours to have a peaceful, fair and democratic process to elect their new president, senate and congress. (Though, even the threat of current events aside, a legacy of voter suppression and gerrymandering continues to overly benefit Republicans.) These last few days have been emotional cartwheels for me – and I can’t imagine what it must be like for those in the states. Today has taken quite a hopeful turn, though some bitter truths and a conservative supreme court remains.

But because nothing around here happens without an irrelevant recipe, for such a stressful week here is one of my favourites. These apple tatin brioche have a burnished apple half and a thick core of vanilla-flecked custard sunk into a wispy brioche dough. This is how a bread-based dessert should be in my books: approximately half fruit and custard, covered with caramel and scented with vanilla.

I was inspired by Mari Bakery, which specializes in perfect roll cakes (which have motivated my own foray into roll cakes) and choux. I haven’t been in a long time, but I take a peek at their instagram page every so often, especially for roll cake inspiration. Last winter I came across their apple tatin brioche and immediately began pondering how I could try to make them myself.

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potato & cheddar danishes

potato cheddar danish
potato cheddar danish
potato cheddar danish

This dreadful idea came to me a few years ago while I was preparing for a university club bakesale: a danish filled with thin layers of potato and cheese. And, even worse, in the form of a neat square-shaped danish which necessitates a neatly cut square-shaped filling.

What a horrendous idea. Each time I make these, I survey a work surface covered in bechamel and swear I will never make them again. Though, given that I’ve made these finicky danishes four times, perhaps they are worth it.

Continue reading “potato & cheddar danishes”

invisible tosca cake

invisible toscakake
invisible toscakake
invisible toscakake

Gateau invisible is a deceptive cake – made nearly entirely of apples, it’s named for way the thin slices seem to “disappear” into the batter. Like a number of desserts, it’s one which seems to have gained more traction in Japan than in it’s native France.

The cake is often scattered with a topping of slivered almonds before baking, though, for a bit of fun, I’ve borrowed the crackly, caramelized almond topping from the Scandavian toscakake. Doing so echoes the beloved pairing of apple, caramel and nuts while providing textural contrast between clafoutis-like custardy cake and crisp top.

Continue reading “invisible tosca cake”