I first had stroopwafels in Amsterdam– I wish I could say that I bought them from a street vendor and savored them, still warm, as I strolled the moonlit streets taking in the sights and sounds of the city… but in reality I bought a pre-packaged stroopwafel and ate it on the train as I went back to my hostel for the night. It was still really, really good, though.
Sadly, packaged stroopwafels in the US aren’t quite as good as the ones in Amsterdam, and are much more expensive. I hadn’t quite given up on the dream of having one fresh from the waffle iron, so I decided to enlist the help of my trusty pizzelle iron to try and make my own!
I saw a few different types of recipes– some with melted butter, some with only softened butter; some with yeast and some with baking powder; some with more eggs and some with fewer. And there were a bunch of different recipes for the “stroop” (syrup) filling, involving brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup, and “pancake syrup” in various proportions. Eventually I settled on a recipe and went full steam ahead!
This past holiday season I found myself in need of a treat to make for our neighbors, who were doing us the favor of cat-sitting while we were away in California. The only problem was that I’d already denuded my refrigerator of standard ingredients for baked goods– no butter, no eggs, and I didn’t even have much chocolate in the house! What to do?
Enter the molasses cookie. Spicy and subtly sweet, it sounded like a perfect holiday-themed treat. I found a recipe that eschewed eggs and used oil instead of butter, which also kept the cookies moist and chewy rather than cakey. (seriously, they stayed moist for over a week!) A hefty dose of ginger, both powdered and crystallized, paired with the dark molasses to keep the flavor profile interesting.
You know how sometimes you wake up in the morning, with a long day of doing nothing in front of you, and you feel like having an indulgent breakfast? It doesn’t happen very often for me (at least not the “doing nothing” part), but recently I found myself with just such a day, and decided to take advantage of it. But what to make? Pancakes weren’t special enough, I didn’t have any good bread to make french toast, and we didn’t have any good omelette fillings in the fridge. I scrolled through my list of bookmarked breakfast ideas when I came across a recipe for “breakfast puffs.”
Breakfast puffs (also referred to as “french breakfast puffs” or “doughnut muffins”) are basically nutmeg-scented muffins, dipped in melted butter and rolled in cinnamon-sugar while still warm. They supposedly taste just like warm doughnuts, but without the frying. Sounded perfect.
Last weekend I woke up before everyone else in the house (except for the cats, they were bugging me for food), and decided on a whim that I wanted to bake something for breakfast. Biscuits seemed just the thing, but they sounded kind of boring, so I tried to figure out a way to spice things up a bit. I considered jam– in college I used to whip up a jam scone-type thing that was always well-received– but didn’t have enough of any one flavor of jam in the refrigerator to make it worthwhile.
Instead I decided to go with cinnamon sugar, and to evoke the classic cinnamon roll I ended up doing a cinnamon swirl rather than just a topping. At the last minute, I added one small apple, chopped, which I think added both flavor and textural interest. All in all, a pretty decent result that took less than an hour from start to finish, though in all honestly it wasn’t so incredibly delicious that I’ll be crowing about it to all of my friends. Will I make it again? Perhaps, if I’m ever in the mood for something sweet at breakfast and have limited time to make it in.
My first try at pickled grapes was a few years ago– I’d come across a recipe from (you guessed it) Deb at Smitten Kitchen and was determined to give it a shot. I’d never tried pickling anything before, so it seemed like as good a reason as any to start! They turned out to be absolutely amazing– sweet, tangy, and refreshing, with a hint of spice to tweak the palate from being dessert-ish to savory cheese plate-ish. I vowed to make them again at some point… and promptly forgot about them.
Still, some vestige of memory must have remained, because when I volunteered to bring a cheese plate to a gathering of my best foodie friends, a little bell in my head went “ding!” and I knew I’d have to try making these again.
Instead of hosting a Christmas party this year, we decided that it would be simpler and therefore more fun to host a post-Christmas brunch. For some reason a brunch just seems less stressful than a full evening party– maybe it’s the fact that the foods are easier to prepare, maybe it just seems more casual… in any case, that’s what we decided to do. Of course, “casual” doesn’t mean “starving,” so of course I had to come up with an appropriate selection of sweet and savory goodies. And one of the first things I knew I’d be making was monkey bread.
I’ve been making these muffins for years now, and they are invariably hailed by my friends as “the best muffins ever.” They’re moist, tender, with plenty of flavor from the pumpkin and spices, and studded with white chocolate chips and pecans as nice surprises in the middle. I tend to make them in fall (our freezer always has a batch ready to defrost for snacks at this time of year) but have been known to make them on a whim out-of-season– they’re that good! Make them yourself if you don’t believe me, and you will be converted!
I will note that the recipe below makes 12 muffins, but if you don’t want to find yourself with half a can of leftover pumpkin and half a bag of leftover chocolate chips, you may as well make a double-batch. You won’t regret it!