Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pumpkin Nut Crunch Muffins

I love to bake so much, that sometimes I will wake up early in the morning and throw something together before I leave for work. Some may say I'm crazy- why would you want to wake up when it's still dark out, to bake?  For me, it's the best start for a day. I get in my "fix" ( if I don't come home after work and bake some more) and my day is always better when it begins with baking. 

Listen, everyone has a little "thing"- this one is mine.

So, early this morning I was going through my routine of checking mail, FB (tried to stop but that didn't work), Pinterest- and somewhere, can't remember where, I came across this recipe by Jennifer at Once Upon a Chef.  Looked like my kind of recipe so I dove right in, put it together in 45 minutes (including the baking) and took them to school hot- right out of the oven. 

I think my colleagues were pleased, at least it appeared that way! Hey, if I can bring a smile to someones face with my baking, then I've achieved my goal! Many have asked for the recipe so- here you go guys- have fun!

Make these- now. You won't be sorry. 

Then, make them again.

Pumpkin Nut Crunch Muffins
(adapted from

Makes about 18 standard muffins

What you need
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup demerara sugar
½ cup chopped pecans  or walnuts
¼ teaspoon cinnamon


2 cups all-purpose flour (280 grams)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1½ cups granulated sugar (300 grams)
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened (170 grams)
2 large eggs
1 15-ounce can 100% pure pumpkin

What to do

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Spray two standard muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray.

For Topping: Combine flour, butter, demerara sugar, chopped pecans or walnuts and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.

For Muffins: Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl and mix well (I use a whisk). Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar at low speed until just blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; continue beating at medium speed until very light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add pumpkin and beat until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Turn speed down to low and mix in flour mixture until just combined. Use an ice cream scoop to transfer batter to muffin pans, filling each muffin tin about ¾ full. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter. Bake for about 30 minutes. Let cool on rack for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely (use a butter knife to lift them out of pan).

I also made some without the nuts for anyone who either doesn't like nuts or has an allergy.

These are easy and quick to make, taste amazing right out of the oven or later if you can wait. Perfect for freezing and pulling out whenever you get the craving!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fall and Halloween

I haven't done any cookie decorating in a long time. I miss it. I love doing it. So why don't I do it more? A little thing called time. Lack of it, that is. But lately I have come to the conclusion that to do what I enjoy I have to reset my priorities. Make the time. Let other things go that are not as important- to me at least. 

So here is my first batch in my months. Fall is just starting to understand that it's time to arrive where I live. We have fall for , well, maybe a week if we're lucky, then comes our version of winter. Nothing like what I grew up with, but still different -cooler( thank you, thank you, thank you!)than the unbearable summer here. 

I'm already working on the next set- a celebration of a very special little girl. That to come next week.
In the meantime- it's good to be back!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

I miss the fall; autumn that is. Growing up in Upstate New York, the four seasons were very evident- each season having it's own characteristics, each with it's own personality. The gradual change from summer to fall has always been my favorite. That first gentle hint of cool air, the colors around you changing before your eyes. With the change of seasons comes change of habits- light t-shirts and shorts go into storage and the sweaters and long pants are brought down. Foods change- from ice cream, watermelon and light salads to soups, breads and things that make you feel warm inside. I miss that. A lot. 

So you ask- what are you doing living in the Middle East, where the season goes from hot to hotter and muggy to muggier. Once in a while the temperature drops so at night you may have to bring along a light sweater, just in case. As for rain- the whole country stops when a few drops fall from the sky-traffic jams, flooding (they don't know the meaning of the word flooding), news bulletins. 

I see the stores filled with winter clothing and I mean real winter clothing. Who can wear that stuff in 75 degree weather? OK, so I suffer from the heat and just the thought of a heavy winter coat makes me sweat! But even so..... As far as the question goes why I live in such a hot climate- that's a tale for another time.

The little desk teapot was a fun find at an outdoor flea market in Amsterdam!

Which brings me back to missing the fall. Certain foods represent the fall season, pumpkin being one of the most evident- you know, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas not long to follow.
These pumpkin cheesecake bars are not to be missed. For some reason I was skeptical about the sweet pastry crust- I thought a graham cracker type crust would be better, but I followed the directions "as is" and was very pleasantly surprised. Actually, I must tell the truth- "as is" is completely accurate. It calls for making homemade pumpkin puree, and though I am a big (OMG!) The homemade puree will come at another time but for now the canned version certainly did the trick. The recipe for these delicious bars can be found at Baked Sundays Mornings or in the book Baked Elements by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.

Happy Fall!