Post Holiday Chocolate Fix - Double Chocolate Rye Muffins

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Guilt-free breakfast.

When you need a chocolate fix but you're feeling somewhat guilty after a weekend of holiday indulgence, these muffins are just the thing! Baked with rye and spelt flours, maple syrup, and coconut milk, they give a nod to the health-conscious while keeping their wink of decadence.  This was my first time baking with spelt, and I was delighted at the texture of these beauties as I took my first bite, still warm from the oven with the chocolate all gooey and melty over the top.

Next time around, I will increase the amount of chocolate and add several handfuls of dried cherries, as suggested by my friend Hazel from Singapore who takes every recipe and turns it into a Gold Medal. As it is, you won't be disappointed.

Double Chocolate Rye Muffins
(From Green Kitchen Stories)

Dry Ingredients
1 scant cup whole grain rye flour
1 cup fine spelt flour
6 tablespoons cacao powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon course sea salt

Wet Ingredients
3 eggs
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
2/3 cup maple syrup
2/3 cup cold-pressed olive oil
100 grams 75% dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with wrappers or spray with non-stick cooking spray. Sift dry ingredients together, saving half of sea salt for topping. Crack the eggs in a separate bowl and beat for one minute. Then add coconut milk, maple syrup and olive oil while stirring constantly. Add dry mixture to the wet mixture.  Add half the chopped chocolate, folding everything together carefully with a spatula until combined. Divide batter into muffin tins and top with the rest of the dark chocolate. Bake for 18 minutes for 12 jumbo muffins. (Note: I baked them in a large muffin tin to make 20 muffins and baked them for 14 minutes.) Sprinkle with sea salt and serve warm.

Thanksgiving Sticky Buns

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Day wake-up treat.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!  I am thankful for all you I have come to know and love in a beautiful way this year through my blog, Instagram. adventures in cooking and farm-to-table feasts. It has been a year of stepping into new adventures, both in cooking and writing, and I have loved the heartfelt encouragement I have received from many of you who have followed me through my dailies. May this day bring the warmth of friends and family as you celebrate, whether in America or beyond, the day set aside to count our blessings.

I treated my family this morning to these lovely sticky buns made from a recipe by Tieghan at Half Baked Harvest.  They are easy to make, using frozen puff pastry.  The hardest part was the clean-up of the pan, but a good soak in scalding hot water did the trick!

Cheat's Brown Butter and Salted Maple Pecan Sticky Buns


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray or butter.

In a medium sauce pot, combine the maple syrup, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 12 tablespoons butter. Cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the sauce bubbling, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Divide the pecans evenly among the bottom of 12 muffin cups. Now pour about 1 - 2 tablespoons of the sticky sauce over the pecans (reserving any remaining sauce for serving). The sticky sauce should come about 1/3 of the way up the muffin cup.

Add 6 tablespoons butter to saucepan. Allow the butter to brown lightly until it smells toasted, about 5 minutes. Stir often, butter will foam and then settle back down. Remove from the heat and let cool 10 minutes.

In a bowl, combine 2/3 cup brown sugar with the cinnamon.

Lightly flour a clean surface. Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the sheet with half of the brown butter and then evenly sprinkle with half of the cinnamon sugar. Repeat with the remaining puff pastry.

Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up tightly like you would a cinnamon roll, finishing the roll with the seam side down. cut about a 1/2-inch off the ends of each roll and discard. Slice each roll in 6 equal pieces. This should make 12 rolls. Place each roll, spiral side up, in the prepared muffins cups. Place the rolls snugly into the pecans/sticky sauce.

Place the muffin pan on a cookie sheet with sides (to catch drippings). Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top. allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto parchment paper lined serving plate (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon). Rewarm the remaining sticky sauce and drizzle it over the buns. Sprinkle the buns with salt and serve warm.

To see Half-Baked Harvest's step-by-step instructions, with photos, click here

Fraeulein Sonntag - The Beauty of Taking a Risk

Friday, November 13, 2015

"Join me for coffee, dear."

Simone Hawlisch tells magnificent stories.  Born in Lower Saxony, one of the sixteen federal states of Germany, this freelance photographer and visual storyteller who now lives in Berlin with husband, Heiko, carries the ability to concentrate beauty into a small frame, beckoning the mind to imagine the greater wonder outside the boundaries of confined space. An avid cook as well, Simone can often be found creating recipes in her tiny kitchen, working at her signature table made of rustic old scaffolding, or collaborating with other photographers and food bloggers throughout Europe and the UK.

Simone's journey towards a simpler, slower lifestyle began several years ago and she only recently gave up her job as Director of People Development for a global company in favor of living her dream as a full-time photographer and stylist for food, lifestyle and travel.  Her work has been featured in national and international online and print magazines such as Conde Nast Traveler and Life & Thyme, while her Instagram and Steller Stories boast a hefty following of fans and like-minded people inspired by her captivating narrative and stunning photographs.

In the early years of her life, Simone remembers cooking with her mother, learning favorite German dishes as they worked together in her mother's spotless kitchen, and also during times spent at her Aunt and Uncle's home in the country.  Now, she enjoys the freedom of creating a beautiful mess in her own kitchen while concentrating on the process of making a dish, experimenting with ingredients and later gathering with friends and family around a table where conversation flows freely.

"Life is so different for us since I work  as a freelancer. It feels like being reconnected and seeing what matters in life," reflects Fraeulein Sonntag (the name she uses on Instagram). And for her, this means more time for weekend adventures with Heiko, such as the recent hiking trip they took to South Tyrol in Italy or the cozy cabin they enjoyed in the mountains of Germany during another restful get-away.

For Simone, the deliberate choice to step into a slower pace and live the dream she longed for is best summed up in this favorite quote by Anais Nin:  "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."  

Simone in her element, meeting up with friends for coffee.

Photographing Clarchens Ball Room in Berlin, a magnificent treasure that survived the war.

Amsterdam on a rainy weekend for a cooking collaboration with friends.

The Loft - an interior exhibition in Amsterdam.

An upside down cake flavored with cardamom.

Lovely plums, waiting to be baked into something delicious.

Foraged mushrooms.

In Lisbon, where the sun reflects off cobblestones turning buildings into golden glory.

Starting the morning right with a good cup in Portugal.

"Sundays are for slowing down and enjoying a moment of stillness after a busy Saturday."

An early morning chasing the fog and catching the first rays of sun in Regent's Park, London.

A slow weekend of hiking in Germany's golden woods.

Walnuts at the Borough Market in London.

To follow Simone on Instagram:  @fraeuleinsonntag
Her blog, By Fraeulein Sonntag, will be available soon.

All photos courtesy of Simone Hawlisch and used with permission.


Rustic Rye & Hazelnut Biscuits
(Inspired by Nigel Slaters, Kitchen Diaries iii)

Makes about 15 biscuits

Ingredients (go for organic ingredients)

130g rye flour
30g light unrefined cane sugar
30ml dark maple syrup
65g salted butter
75g skinned and roasted hazelnuts
1/2 teaspoon baking powder


  • Grind the hazelnuts using an electric coffee grinder (my tip) or food processor leaving about 10g for later.
  • Whisk the butter and sugar until you get a smooth texture, finally adding syrup little by little.
  • Combine the flour, baking powder and ground hazelnuts and fold this mixture gently with the butter/sugar/maple syrup mix.
  • Roll the dough into a 4cm thick sausage, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for about one hour.
  • After 40 minutes into chilling the dough, preheat the oven to 160C.
  • Once you get the dough out of the fridge, remove the cling film and cut the dough into 15 slices, gently flatten them in the palm of your hand and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  • Chop the remaining hazelnuts in quarters and place 3 - 4 quarters on top of each biscuit.
  • Bake for 18 - 20 minutes and transfer to a baking rack to let them cool down for a bit. Enjoy!

Salted Bourbon Pecan Pumpkin Pie

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Salted Bourbon Pecan Pumpkin Pie

When a Saturday looks like an all-day drizzle and the last colorful leaves are shivering off dripping trees to join the heavy carpet of Autumn's colors on the ground below, I don my apron and get out my mama's baking pans for a happy day of cooking in my kitchen.  This lovely pie was the result of last weekend's baking endeavors on just such a day as raindrops streamed down the window panes while I rolled out pie dough with the scratchy tunes of Louis Armstrong for company.

Pumpkin pie is an all-time favorite of mine.  Whenever my mom would ask me what kind of pie I wanted her to make, my answer was always the same: "Pumpkin!"  Fall and Pumpkin go hand-in-hand, and I honestly can't imagine one without the other.  I ran across this variation of pumpkin pie on the lovely blog of Tieghan Gerard at Half Baked Harvest and couldn't wait to try it.  I must say, it's a new favorite and will be replacing my traditional pumpkin pie on my Thanksgiving table this year (gasp!).

So here's the recipe, with some slight adaptations.  Enjoy it!

Salted Bourbon Pecan Pumpkin Pie

(Fits a 9-inch old-fashioned deep dish pie pan)


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling (I used Golden Pastry Flour, an unbleached, unbromated organic flour)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup buttermilk (more if needed)

Pumpkin Pie

2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla

Pecan Pie

1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 1/2 cups raw or toasted pecans



Place the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and use your fingers or a pastry cutter to break the butter into the flour until mixture resembles small peas. Whisk egg yolk with 1/4 cup cold buttermilk in small bowl and then add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon, drizzling in more buttermilk as needed (no more than 1 tablespoon at a time), until dough just comes together (a few dry spots are okay). Gently knead dough on a lightly floured surface until no dry spots remain, about one minute. Divide dough in half. Shape each piece into a circular disk.

Grease a 9-inch pie pan.

Roll out 1 disk of dough onto a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch round (reserve the other round of dough for another crust, you do not need it for this recipe). Carefully transfer the crust to the prepared pie plate. Lift up the edges and allow the dough to sink down into the dish. Press firmly into bottom and sides of pan. Trim edges to even out crust, then prick the bottom of the dough gently with a fork a few times. Cover the pie plate and place in fridge for at least an hour and up to two days.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the pumpkin pie filling, mix together the pumpkin, heavy cream, brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, salt and vanilla in a mixing bowl until combined. Pour the mixture into the bottom of your chilled pie crust.

To make the pecan pie filling, cream together the sugar and butter until combined. Add one egg at a time, scraping down the sides if needed until the eggs are fully incorporated. Add the maple syrup, salt, vanilla and bourbon until combined. Stir in half of the pecans.

Carefully spoon the pecan pie filling over the pumpkin filling. Once you have added all of the pecan pie filling to the crust, sprinkle on the remaining pecans.  Add a sparse sprinkling of course sea salt.

Place the pie in the middle rack of oven and bake for 45 - 55 minutes or until the center has just a little jiggle to it. If the top of the pie is burning before center is done, cover with foil. Allow to cool completely before serving. Store in fridge and bring to room temperature before serving if desired.

Ploughgate Creamery - the Revival of a Dream

Friday, November 6, 2015

Marisa Mauro has had her hands in the dairy industry since her first job on a sheep farm at age 15. Now, at age 30, she is the proud owner of Bragg Farm in the beautiful Northeast Kingdom of Vermont where she has been establishing her business, Ploughgate Creamery for the past three years. While this seems like a grand accomplishment for a young  entrepreneur, even more impressive is the story that led to her acquisition of this incredibly scenic piece of real estate in the middle of Vermont's farming country.  It is the story of a gutsy and brave woman who did not let a tragic loss keep her from her goal, for Ploughgate Creamery is really the revival of a dream.

Marisa, inside the barn she is renovating.

Marisa's dream for making butter and cheese became a reality in 2008 when she started Ploughgate Creamery for the first time in the raw and wild countryside of Albany, Vermont.  She ran a successful business for three years until 2011 when a fire destroyed the creamery. Under-insured and left with a chunk of debt, she took a job managing a local wine bar to get back on her feet financially, because, as she ruefully notes, "You can't get out of debt milking cows."  Meanwhile, her dream of a creamery smoldered in the ashes of disappointment. But, having spent years of her life working on farms in Vermont, a goat dairy in California and a cattle ranch in Montana, owning a farm was in her blood and one day she heard of the perfect opportunity.

Morning mist hugs the valley as another day begins on the farm.

In nearby Waitsfield, the Vermont Land Trust, an organization dedicated to conserving Vermont's farm land for future generations and making it affordable for young farmers, was offering a 50-acre farm to applicants willing to use the land for farming. With thirty days to write a business plan, Marisa submitted her application, along with a plan to resurrect her beloved creamery.  Within days came the happy news that her proposal to use this picturesque parcel of land for Ploughgate Creamery was chosen and she was able to purchase Bragg Farm, a dairy that had been dormant since 1973, for a fraction of it's former value.

With the construction addition of a 36' x 40' creamery, the farm is now home to Ploughgate Creamery which supplies fresh, cultured butter to specialty stores and farmer's markets throughout the Northeast made with cream she purchases from farms across Vermont.  In looking towards the future and her plans for the farm, her goal is to acquire a herd of twenty-five dairy cows to graze the land and to supply some of her cream, but in the meantime, she rents the acreage to a local farmer while she is renovating the barn, a process she calls "brutal and slow."

Marisa has become stronger through the bitter disappointment and loss she endured and says "it all worked out better for me in the long run." Her word of advice for others wanting to follow a dream?  "It will all work out if you keep working hard enough." And for this brave young farmer, it truly has.

Fresh, local cream is cultured for 24 - 48 hours, after which it's churned into butter.  Here, it is kneaded by hand until it reaches a desired consistency.

Marisa begins the wrapping process of these balls of butter which have been weighed and shaped to uniform size.

Much of the work is done by hand at Ploughgate, from kneading the butter to forming the butter balls, to wrapping the finished product and securing it with a label.

And the choices today are salted, unsalted or sage honey.

Ploughgate butter is available at local farmer's markets in Waitsfield, Burlington and Stowe (for Vermont dwellers).

The barn during its renovation stage.  When completed, Marisa will be able to bring a herd of dairy cows onto the land.

New windows in the old barn provide a stunning view of the Mad River valley.

A peek at Marisa's bookshelf shows this gal is serious about making butter.

Hard-working hands have helped this product along every step of the way, from the beginning stage of cream to its final golden perfection,  beautifully wrapped and labeled.

What's better than freshly slathered butter bread?

With a view like this, who would ever want to leave?

Earlier this year, Bragg Farm was the setting for a long table dinner party by Outstanding in the Field, an organization that hosts farm-to-table dinners across the country.

Bragg Farm has been conserved for future generations of farmers by the Vermont Land Trust.

New England in the Fall is a stunning showcase of vibrant color.

For more information on Ploughgate Creamery, please visit their website here.

Photos courtesy of Emily Rak and Marisa Mauro.  Used with permission. 2015.