Happy First Day of Fall! Whipping Up a Batch of Butterscotch Pecan Cookie Bars

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Happy first day of fall, everyone!  Well, for those of you who enjoy four seasons that is.  The tree leaves have been changing to reds and oranges, it’s chillier, I’ve started shopping for new sweaters (my selection of cardigans is rather sad), and my craving for fall comfort food is just getting started.  So, how did I celebrate the first day of fall, my favourite season?  By sleeping in (I can’t even remember the last time I slept in until 10:45) and then hauling out my baking bags of goodies and electric mixer for some good old fashioned fall baking!  I’m already thinking well ahead into the holiday season but before I got too ahead of myself, I thought it would be nice to bake another batch of cookie bars and what better way to ring in the new season with a batch of yummy butterscotch pecan cookie bars? 

I’ve been so inspired by fall food that I’ve been doing a ton of research on restaurant items around the city including searches for apple menu items (both sweet and savoury), pumpkin, butternut squash, and pecan.  I think I’m covered on the pumpkin and butternut squash for the time being, but I’m still searching high and low for some standout pecan dishes.  Pecan pie is wonderful and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into some, but aside from that, all I’m really finding is salads with candied pecans and while that’s nice, it’s hardly what I’d consider out of the ordinary, you know?  I’m going to keep digging around, but in the meantime, here’s some fab butterscotch pecan cookie bars to celebrate our first taste of fall!

Recipe for Butterscotch Pecan Cookie Bars (adapted from Chocolate-Chip-Pecan Cookie Bars recipe from March 2011 issue of Food & Wine magazine).  

Makes 12 big squares or 24 smaller rectangular bars.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (1/2 a stick)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil 
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (*Deb’s Note: the original recipe called for whole wheat pastry flour but I didn’t have any and also didn’t feel like buying any so I just used regular all-purpose flour!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips (*Deb’s Note: the original recipe called for semisweet chocolate chips)

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.  Spread the pecans in a pie plate and toast for about 8 minutes until golden.  Chop the pecans and let cool.  (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t toast my pecans and went straight to coarsely chopping them as they were.  It’s entirely up to you if you want them toasty or not!)
  • In the bowl of a standing electric mixer (*Deb’s Note: I used a hand-held electric mixer and a plain old mixing bowl), beat the butter and oil with the granulated sugar and brown sugar until creamy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth.  In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda and salt; beat the dry ingredients into the wet mixture at low speed.  Add the butterscotch chips (or chocolate chips if you’re following the original recipe) and pecans; beat just until incorporated (*Deb Note: I didn’t use my mixer for this step, I just mixed it all with my hands).
  • Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press into an even layer.  Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned and nearly set in the center (*Deb’s Note: I baked mine for 18 minutes).  Let cool completely.  Using parchment paper “handles”, lift out and cut into squares or bars.

I sprinkled mine with cinnamon just before I popped the baking pan into the oven because I felt like it, but you could also drizzle some melted white chocolate over top after they’ve finished baking and cooled to jazz things up.  These would so good with some vanilla ice cream too!  For next time though, I would adjust the bake time.  I know the original recipe called for a 20 minute bake time, but I never follow it to a tee because my oven runs hot so I normally knock 2 minutes off.  I would even do for around 16 minutes the next time, just so they can be a little gooeier on the insides and a little more chewy.  I loved using the butterscotch chips though because the squares tasted like a cross between rich caramel and butterscotch brittle.

*****

Recipe adpated from Food & Wine magazine.  “Dessert Redux: Chef Recipes Made Easy”.  Food & Wine March 2011: 86.

Raising the Baking Bar – New Recipes, New Loves & *NEW* Cranberry Chocolcate Pecan Oat Squares!

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I’m on cloud nine.  I just had one of the best baking experiences EVER over the weekend and I’m so excited to share the goods with you all!  Ate by Ate has been starving for some baking love for a few months now and while I’ve been collecting recipes and thinking of new ideas, I haven’t put on oven mitts in goodness knows how long.  And if I have, it’s only been to open and shut my beloved George Foreman grill!  It feels SO good to bake.  I’ve missed it and even though it’s really only been a few months, it feels like an eternity to me.  And it felt so fabulous trying something new! 

Everyone knows I love cookies and cupcakes, but for the first time in my life, I took a crack at baking squares and bars!  It sounds ridiculous, I know.  “You’ve never made brownies?!  You’ve never used a 9×13 pan?!”  Sad, but true.  But there’s a first time for many things in life and this is mine.  I used my brand new 9×13 pan to make cranberry chocolate pecan oat bars and squares and they turned out amazing! 

I got the recipe from Kraft Foods ‘What’s Cooking’ magazine (Festive 2007) and I fell in love with the recipe the second I saw it.  And for those of you who might be unfamiliar with Kraft’s magazine, ‘What’s Cooking’ is a quarterly publication available through subscription only.  Not to fret though because all of these magazine recipes are also available online on their website at kraftcanada.com.  There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of recipes of all kinds on their website (dinner ideas, sandwiches, desserts, pasta, meats, barbeque, you name it!) so if you’re interested in online recipe surfing, that’s your way to go.  But you know me – hard copy rules my heart!  

After making these, I am so in love with making bars and squares.  They are so incredibly easy to make and they’re almost like one of my favourite cookies, cranberry white & dark chocolate chip cookies, only in square form!  Beware if you’re allergic to nuts though; these have pecans in them so if you omit them you can substitute them with different dried fruit.  Or, you know, some more chocolate!  

Recipe for Chocolate, Cranberry & Oat Bars (makes 32 squares or 16 bars):

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (*Deb’s Note: I actually omitted the orange juice from the recipe because I ran out of it.  My brother, um, kind of drank it all.  So I didn’t use it!)
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 tsp. Magic Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (*Deb’s Note: I used butter because I prefer it over margarine and the squares turned out fabulous, so use whatever you feel most comfortable with.  3/4 cup butter equals 1-1/2 sticks of butter, just for reference.  And make sure it’s at room temperature!)
  • 1-1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 squares Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.  Combine cranberries and orange juice in microwaveable bowl.  Microwave on HIGH 30 sec.  Let stand 10 minutes.  (*Deb’s Note: remember, I didn’t use orange juice so if you find yourself in my shoes, just measure out the cranberries and put them aside for later).
  • Meanwhile, combine flour, oats, baking powder and salt; set aside.  Beat margarine and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.  (*Deb’s Note: I used a handheld mixer and I also used butter as opposed to margarine).
  • Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition.  Gradually add flour mixture, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in cranberries (and orange juice if you’re using), chocoate and pecans.
  • Spread dough firmly into 9×13-inch baking pan sprayed with cooking cooking spray (*Deb’s Note: I lined my baking pan with parchment paper and had “handles” hanging off the sides so it would be easy to lift out the giant baked bar after cooling).
  • Bake 20 to 22 min. or until centre is set.  Cool completely on wire rack before cutting to serve (*Deb’s Note: mine took 21 minutes and I left mine to cool for an hour before cutting.  Cooling is absolutely necessary because it will literally crumble if you try to take it out too soon).

*****

Recipe taken from Kraft Foods Canada ‘What’s Cooking’ magazine, Festive 2007, page 23.

The Oreo Anniversary Series – Crushing Oreos to Bake Inside Out Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies!

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Happy Passover and Easter, everyone!  I hope everyone has a little room left in their bellies for my cookie treat because I KNOW you guys will absolutely love and foam at the mouth over this one!  First off, how do you all like to eat your Oreo cookies?  Twisting them?  Dunking them in milk?  Shoving them in your mouth and closing your eyes as you float through cookie heaven?  Or do you prefer to have a dessert within a dessert, with your Oreos in a cupcake or cheesecake or cake?  How about a cookie…within a cookie?!  Introducing my beloved inside out Oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies!!  *Cue harps and angels singing* 

With all the crazy Oreo birthday madness going around and my constant cookie recipe brainstorming, I thought to myself, “how awesome would it be to have an Oreo stuffed cookie full of crushed Oreos!”  And so the crushed Oreo chocolate chip studded cookie was born.  I used crushed golden Oreos since that’s what I had on hand in my pantry, but think of all the delicious possibilities!  You could crush chocolate fudge ones, chocolate mint ones, and – wait for this – the brand spankin’ new birthday cake Oreos!  I tested this out with the cookie recipe base that I had been using for the last several recipes I posted on Ate by Ate (just substituting and switching around “add-on” ingredients” each time”) and I loved them!  My mum lifts the lid of our cookie box every day just to get a whiff of them and my dad said that after eating one, he wants a gazillion more because they’re delicious! 

Two facets of the food industry I really enjoy having fun with are the collectibles and hunting down fun flavours of things.  I am crazy about collectibles and special edition things, even though being Canadian sometimes has me stymied when it comes to special flavours that aren’t available on my side of the pond.  Lip glosses, Hello Kitty items, and food-related memorabilia rank at the top of my list of fun things to collect and I have cargo ship sized collections of all three to prove it!  My favourite sweets and snacks to chase down are M&M tins and collectibles, M&M flavours, flavoured Kit Kats (not regular ones, just flavoured ones), and of course, Oreo cookies! 

Which leads me to another one of my more recent happy moments: getting my hands on Oreo’s 100th birthday cake cookies!  Do you know what I did when my mum brought home a beautiful, shiny new bag of special 100th birthday and anniversary Oreos from the supermarket?  I grabbed it and I hugged it.  The same way Winnie the Pooh hugs his pot of honey.   

Recipe for Inside Out Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies (yields 4-5 dozen small cookies)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2½ sticks unsalted butter (10 ounces), at room temperature (make sure the butter is super soft and squishy!)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 20 crushed Oreo cookies (I just crushed them with my hands but you could also crush them with a mallet) 
  • 1 ½ cups of semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 ½ cups of white chocolate chips

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (*Deb’s Note: Depending on how big you make your cookie dough balls, you’ll need to reuse your cookie sheets a few times.  My oven runs hot, so I actually don’t bother putting anything on the bottom rack and only use the top rack, placing 2 baking sheets vertically side by side).
  • In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t use the mixer for this step, I just used a large spoon to mix everything together).
  • Beat the butter and both sugars at medium speed until creamy.  Add the egg followed by egg yolk and vanilla, beating well between additions and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary (*Deb’s Note: I don’t have a standing mixer so I used a handheld).
  • Beat in the dry ingredients, then add the crushed Oreo cookies, followed by the semisweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chips.  Using a large spoon or your clean hands, fold in until evenly distributed. 
  • Grab fistfuls of cookie dough and shape into golf ball sized balls.  Place cookie dough balls onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart.  Flatten them slightly with either the bottom of a spatula or the palm of your hand.  Bake 11-13 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown at the edges.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely (*Deb’s Note: I placed 15 dough balls on each baking sheet and took them out after 11 minutes for super soft cookies.  If you prefer crispier cookies, leave them in for 12 or 13 minutes).

*****

Recipe inspired by Food & Wine magazine.  Sampson, Sally.  “How Baking Can Change the World.” Food & Wine November 2011: 130.

Baking From the Pantry – Dried Apricots, Pecans, and White Chocolate for Nutty Apricots & Cream Cookies

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I did something a little bad today.  I bought two new cookie and cupcake magazine cookbooks because they were on mega sale and because only a fool would pass up a sale as good as the one I stumbled on today.  “Bad?  What’s so bad?” you ask.  “Sales are great, you love to bake, and two more magazines of recipes doesn’t sound so terrible” you say.  But it is.  Because I already have a stack of food magazines and paper inspiration almost up to knees.  I know I’m short, but the stack is UP TO MY KNEES.  I am an uncontrollable cookie monster!  If I’m not reading cookbooks and magazines and thinking about future scrapbook layouts, I’m thinking about the next batch of cookies I want to bake and creating new spin-off recipes in my head.  I’ve been putting stars next to all the ones I want to try in my Hannah Swensen foodie murder mysteries and I’m even mulling over different flavours of cookie sandwiches with frostings and fillings.  At this point, I’m surprised I’m not swimming in cookies and cake. 

I recently baked new cookies for my grandparents again (new ones for my grandpa to take with him during his dialysis trips and cookies for my grandma’s birthday!) and I am so happy the cookies make them happy because it totally and completely justifies the incessant urge to bake.  At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before my house looks like the one in Hansel & Gretel.  Only instead of the evil woman, I’m the cookie princess who wishes I could share my treats with the world instead of just photos.  Until I have that dream cookie bakery of mine though, the internet will have to do.  I have two new batches of cookies for you all and this is the first of the two, coming straight from my pantry!

We always have some form of dried fruit in our house now.  Ever since my mum and I started eating yogurt, cereal, and fruit and granola on a regular basis (and I do mean all three at once!), we’ve always had dried fruit and plenty of nuts on hand.  Dried apple rings, dried cranberries, almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, you name it.  Baking straight out of my cupboards, I came up with this yummy combination: dried apricots with pecans and white chocolate to create nutty apricots and cream cookies!  I love dried apricots and I love using white chocolate and oatmeal in everything so I wanted to see how the all of them would work out in a cookie.  At first, I was only thinking of doing an apricots and cream one (kind of like peaches and cream), but then I realized we had way too many pecans and figured I would give them a shot too.

The cookies turned out fab!  Aside from making them bigger and using the drop method as oppose to the dough ball method, I wouldn’t change a thing.  The pecans give the cookies such an amazing crunch and aroma and the white chocolate and apricots cut through the slight taste of toasty savouriness from the pecans to keep them sweet.  The cookie experiment was a success!

Recipe for Nutty Apricots & Cream Cookies (yields 3-4 dozen cookies)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2½ sticks unsalted butter (10 ounces), at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups of dried apricots, chopped (measure after chopping) 
  • 1 ½ cups of pecans, chopped (measure after chopping)
  • 1 ½ cups of white chocolate chips

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (*Deb’s Note: (*Deb’s Note: Depending on how big you make your cookie dough balls or spoonfuls, you’ll need to reuse your cookie sheets a few times.  My oven runs hot, so I actually don’t bother putting anything on the bottom rack and only use the top rack, placing 2 baking sheets vertically side by side).
  • In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t use the mixer for this step, I just used a large spoon to mix everything together).
  • In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter and both sugars at medium speed until creamy.  Add the egg followed by egg yolk and vanilla, beating well between additions and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary (*Deb’s Note: I don’t have a standing mixer so I used a handheld).
  • Beat in the dry ingredients, then add the chopped apricots and pecans, followed by the white chocolate chips.  Using a large spoon or your clean hands, fold in until evenly distributed. 
  • Spoon heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart.  Bake 12 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown at the edges.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely (*Deb’s Note: I rolled my cookie dough into golf ball size balls to create bon bon size cookies.  Use the drop method if you want them bigger and flatter.  As well, I placed 15 on each baking sheet).

*****

Recipe inspired by Food & Wine magazine.  Sampson, Sally.  “How Baking Can Change the World.” Food & Wine November 2011: 130.

The Winter Cookie Party, Part II – Lemon Coconut Almond Cookies and Why Cookie Baking Means So Much

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It’s a cookie party in the Ate by Ate kitchen!  You all know how much I love baking cookies (and how much I love eating them!), but these days, I love baking them even more than usual because it gives me a renewed sense of joy and purpose: I bake cookies to make my grandma and grandpa happy.  I’m lucky to still have my grandpa.  A number of years ago my grandpa had kidney failure and because of the nurses and doctors who saved him that day, he was given many more years of life.  And cookies!

Here’s the story: when I started baking a few years ago, I would bake extras for my grandparents when I knew I was seeing them that day.  I’d bake little tea muffins or cupcakes without frosting, put them in a tupperware container, and carry them with me in the car like a prized possession.  I eventually began baking cookies with a venegeance and little by little, muffins and cupcakes were squeezed out in favour of cookies.  And my grandparents loved them.

My grandpa loved them so much he ended up bringing one or two with him every time he went to the hospital for his dialysis appointments.  For anyone who has a family member, loved one, or friend who visits the hospital on a regular basis, you know just how draining it can be.  My cookies not only gave him the little sugar boost he needed after his appointments (which would make him feel a bit weak and tired afterward), but they also gave him a little part of me and my joy.  So now, I bake more cookies so my grandpa has something happy and yummy to enjoy during those dreary hospital visits.

This past weekend, I saw my grandma and grandpa for Chinese New Year and I gave them a fresh batch of new cookies to enjoy because I knew it would make them happy.  My grandpa pulled me aside and said to me, in Chinese, “when Debra is here, grandpa feels rich”.  On top of the happiness I feel when I bake, this is all the validation I need to keep doing what I’m doing.

Recipe for Lemon Coconut Almond Cookies (yields 4 dozen cookies)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2½ sticks unsalted butter (10 ounces), at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon extract
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon 
  • 2 cups unsweetened shredded or desiccated coconut
  • 2 cups sliced almonds

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (*Deb’s Note: Depending on how big you make your cookie dough balls, you’ll need to reuse your cookie sheets a few times.  My oven runs hot, so I actually don’t bother putting anything on the bottom rack and only use the top rack, placing 2 baking sheets vertically side by side).
  • In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t use the mixer for this step, I just used a large spoon to mix everything together).
  • Beat the butter and both sugars at medium speed until creamy.  Add the egg followed by the egg yolk, vanilla extract, lemon extract, and lemon juice, beating well between additions and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary.
  • Beat in the dry ingredients, then add the lemon zest, shredded coconut, and sliced almonds, folding them into the cookie dough mixture (*Deb’s Note: alternatively, you can roll your cookie dough balls in the coconut if you want after the next step).
  • Using your hands, grab handfuls of cookie dough and shape into balls, about 1 inch in diameter.
  • Place cookie dough balls onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart.  Bake 12-15 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown at the edges.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely (*Deb’s Note: I placed 15 on each baking sheet, but it all depends on how big your want you cookies.  If you roll them into bigger balls, only place 12 on each sheet.  Mine took about 14 minutes in the oven).

*****

Recipe inspired by Food & Wine magazine.  Sampson, Sally.  “How Baking Can Change the World.” Food & Wine November 2011: 130.

Dark Brown Sugar, Meet Butterscotch – Butterscotch Brittles and a Winter Cookie Party, Part I

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Remember the butterscotch chip cookies I baked during the holidays in December?  The ones I photographed with cute snowmen in the background and the ones my mum went all cookie crazy over because she admitted she had a weakness for butterscotch?  Okay, so imagine those cookies, but crunchier in texture, richer in flavour and aroma, with more beautiful crackling, and just as delicious if not more!  It was cookie baking day in my house on Saturday and I was prepared to bake two kinds of cookies: another batch of butterscotch chip and a new lemon coconut almond cookie I was trying out.

I was so excited to bake cookies (like there’s ever a time when I’m not!) I literally went out during a snowstorm to buy extra butterscotch chips because another store I had visited earlier in the week had run out.  My mum thought I was crazy.  I call it determined.  And maybe a little stubborn.  But if the cookies we baked were any indication, walking around town with snowflakes hitting me in the eye was worth it.

I couldn’t believe how fabulous these cookies turned out!  You must be thinking though, “why were you surprised?  You baked these cookies before!”  That is true.  But there’s an important difference between these cookies and the ones I baked during Christmas: these ones have dark brown sugar in them, not light or golden.  The darker the sugar, the more molasses it has in it and you can clearly see and taste the difference.  I knew the amount of molasses in brown sugar would make a difference in baking, I just didn’t know how obvious the difference would be.

The ones I baked in December were chewier and lighter in colour while the ones I baked on Saturday turned out incredibly golden, like my cookies had been sunbathing on their parchment paper beach towels on the cookie sheet beach.  Not only was there a difference in appearance (check out the crackling!), but there was also a change in texture and taste.  These cookies were crunchier and the flavour was so incredibly rich!  It was like a cross between rich butterscotch fudge and brittle.  Hence, butterscotch brittles!

*****

The recipe for the butterscotch chip cookies can be found here.  For chewier, lighter cookies, follow the recipe as is.  For cookies like the ones I showed you all here, substitute the brown sugar with dark brown sugar.

Tutti Fruitti Breakfast Muffins – Flourless, Gluten-Free, Banana Almond With Dried Cranberries and Pineapple!

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Happy new year, everyone!  I hope everyone is well-rested from the outings, parties, and holiday madness in general.  I had myself a relaxing new year’s eve going out for frozen yogurt with my family, picking up some snazzy scrapbooking materials on mega sale, and stuffing myself with pesto pizza before settling in for some good old-fashioned new year’s eve tv watching.  Low key, but delicious, just the way I like it!  And here we are almost two days into 2012 with a whole year of fun things and opportunities ahead of us. 

Even though I’m looking forward to so many things in the next little while (I have a scrapbooking supply shopping trip in the works and some upcoming winter markets I’m excited about!), I’m really sad that Christmas and the holidays are over.  I know it’s because my holiday hoopla festivities got off to a late start this year and I feel like it passed by way too fast.  My Christmas and holiday clock is still ticking and I have an abundance of energy that I need to channel to the point where I still want to fill Christmas cookie boxes and buy Christmas scrapbook paper!  I was the one having fun Christmas shopping after Christmas!  If anything, I can tuck away all the Christmas ideas and things I didn’t get around to enjoying in 2011 and save them for 2012.

A new year means a fresh and clean slate and that means noshing on leftovers and using up some ingredients that need to be eaten pronto.  We had some super ripe bananas in the kitchen and because I accidentally bought one too many bags of ground almonds (which I told you all about here), it was the most opportune time to do some baking!  Enter a fresh batch of baked goods for the first day of 2012: flourless, gluten-free banana almond nutmeg breakfast muffins with dried cranberries and pineapple!  It’s the first time I’ve ever baked anything flourless and I was super excited to bake something entirely out of ground almonds.  Not to mention I was giddy over mashing bananas – it’s very therapeutic and fun! 

I had to convert almost all the measurements from the original recipe though because they were in grams as opposed to cups and spoon measurements and I improvised and changed things up a little when it came to the ingredients, but lucky for me, the muffins turned out AMAZING!  The original recipe doesn’t have much sugar in it and for good reason: the dried fruit is deliciously juicy and sweet in these muffins and the texture of the ground almond cake is wonderfully soft and moist.  It’s incredibly moist banana cake and they smell divine!  These muffins are definitely the kind you want to enjoy every morning with some almond milk or yogurt.  This was one yummy way to celebrate the first day of the new year!

Recipe for Flourless, Banana Almond Muffins With Dried Fruit and Nutmeg (yields 12 muffins)

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened at room temperature (3/4 of a stick)
  • 2 cups ground almonds
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit (I only had 1/4 cup, so I used chopped dried pineapple to fill in the rest)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • juice from 1 whole lemon
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (pure maple syrup does not have gluten in it, but check the label of your syrup just to be sure if you are making these for those who have celiac disease or who are gluten-intolerant)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (pure is best, but again, check the label to make sure there is no gluten)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • cinnamon sugar (optional; 1/8 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a 12-cup muffin/cupcake pan (or two 6-cup ones, whatever combination you have) with paper liners and set aside.
  •  Place the softened butter, maple syrup, and beaten eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Using an electric mixer, mix the ingredients together until butter is creamy and eggs and maple syrup are thoroughly incorporated.
  • Mix in the baking powder, then slowly add the ground almonds, occasionally scraping down the sides until everything is combined.
  • Add the lemon juice, nutmeg, and mashed bananas, mixing after each addition.
  • Using a large spoon, fold the cranberries, dried pineapple, or whatever dried fruit you are using, into the batter.  Spoon the batter into the paper-lined muffin tin, filling each cup to the top.  If you are using cinnamon sugar (like me!), sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on the tops.
  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.  When the muffins are cool enough to handle, transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.  Keep in a dry, airtight container.

*****

Recipe adapted from Banana, Cranberry, and Nutmeg Ground Almond Muffins on Calorie Count.