PUMPKIN + BROWN BUTTER BREAKFAST PUFFS

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Well, summer is officially over. And I’m saying this because when I walked into Trader Joe’s the other day, I immediately noticed that the large containers that usually held big, beautiful watermelons were sadly replaced with pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. Although I welcome fall and everything it has to offer from cooler weather to Halloween and whatnot, I’m going to miss my precious watermelon! Ask Alex if you don’t believe me, but I ate watermelon every single day this summer. I guess I don’t care about saying goodbye to long beach days or sunsets at 8pm or wearing dresses… I only care about watermelon. See you next year, buddy!

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Now that pumpkin and pumpkin spice-flavored everything has quite literally taken over Trader Joe’s (there’s pumpkin bagels, pumpkin cream cheese spread, pumpkin crackers, etc.), I figured I’d follow suit and offer a recipe utilizing the most popular of the gourd family. While I’m not a fan of pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin-based dishes are something that I’ve come to really love. My pumpkin cheesecake, that I make every Thanksgiving, is something I look forward to baking (and eating) every year, and I am also a huge fan of pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin bread… and pumpkin ice cream. I don’t discriminate; I (mostly) love it all.

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So when I was thinking about doing another pumpkin recipe for the blog, I remembered a recipe that I’d made a couple of times before - breakfast puffs, also known as French breakfast puffs. They’re essentially sugared doughnuts in muffin form and, although they’re a bit too sweet for breakfast/brunch purposes, I won’t judge you if you have one (or two) of them with your morning coffee. Typical breakfast puffs do not have canned pumpkin in them, but I was able to figure out what ingredient to remove from the original recipe to replace with the pumpkin: the milk. I actually read online that you can replace the eggs or the oil/butter with pumpkin in certain recipes, but since this recipe only calls for one egg, and the fact that the butter is vital to this recipe (more on that later), getting rid of the milk was my best bet. And it worked out!

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Like the title of this post suggests, these pumpkin breakfast puffs also have brown butter in them, an ingredient that I save mostly for fall and winter desserts due to its decadent qualities. Adding brown butter to any recipe gives it a much more nutty and richer flavor, which I think works perfectly with the pumpkin and blend of spices. The last time I shared a recipe featuring brown butter was with my brown butter apple buckle, another perfect example of how well brown butter works with popular fall produce. Speaking of spices, I decided to make it simple and have you use “pumpkin pie” spice for this recipe - something that you can actually buy at the grocery store (I buy mine from Trader Joe’s). The pumpkin pie spice blend that I buy consists of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and cardamom, which are ingredients that most people already have in their pantry. So, if you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, simply make the blend yourself! Here’s a recipe I found, but I would suggest adding a 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom as well.

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Pumpkin and Brown Butter Breakfast Puffs

Yields 12 puffs

Recipe adapted from FIVEANDSPICE via Food52

Ingredients

For the puffs:

  • 1/3 cup (5 tbsp.) unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin, I prefer Libby’s brand

For the sugar coating:

  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Directions

  1. Make the brown butter: In a medium saucepan, melt 1/3 cup butter over medium-low heat. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam and turn to a golden color. Stir frequently and soon there will be a nutty smell and the butter will brown. Immediately take off the heat once browned and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer). Allow it to cool for about 10-15 minutes.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 12-cavity muffin/cupcake tin with butter or cooking spray and lightly coat with flour.

  3. To the slightly cooled brown butter, add both sugars and the egg and mix on medium speed for about 5 minutes.

  4. In a separate medium-sized bowl, add the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt, and whisk together.

  5. Add the pumpkin puree to the brown butter/sugar mixture and mix until incorporated. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated - don’t over mix!

  6. Using a spoon or a ice cream scoop, evenly distribute the batter between the 12 cavities in the pan - it may seem like not a lot of batter, but they will rise in the oven - and bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

  7. Allow the puffs to cool for a few minutes before using a knife to take them out of the pan and place them on a cooling rack.

  8. Coat the breakfast puffs: put the melted butter in one shallow bowl and combine the sugar and pumpkin pie spice together in a separate shallow bowl. One at a time, gently roll each puff through the melted butter, getting every section, and then roll it through the spice-y sugar. The puffs are best eaten straight from the oven but can be enjoyed for a couple more days when stored in an airtight container.

STRAWBERRY CREAM SCONES

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When I was working on this post earlier this week, I was worried that sharing another scone recipe so quickly after my first one wouldn’t make for ideal content, and that you guys would be bored. Little did I know that it’s been almost an entire YEAR since my cranberry-orange scones recipe went live, so apparently I don’t have the best sense of time! With that said, it’s a new year and it’s high time that I grace you all with another scone recipe.

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Unlike my previous scone post, these strawberry cream scones are different in a few ways: both visually and ingredient-wise (and I don’t mean the obvious central flavor components). For as long as I’ve been baking scones, I’d always formed them into the standard triangular shape that we are all accustomed with. But over the past year or so, I kept finding myself saving Instagram posts that featured scones baked in a round shape since I found them to look so appealing and different. So I finally gave it a shot using my 3” round cookie cutter and I couldn’t be happier with the results. I found the whole process very simple (think of it like cutting out sugar cookies), and I’ll most likely continue to shape my scones like this for the foreseeable future.

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As for the difference in flavor, I had always made my scones with butter, whether it was incorporated into the dough via tiny cubes or grated using a box grater, but these strawberry cream scones actually don’t have any butter in them! As I’m sure you’ve already guessed from the name of these scones, the fat in this recipe comes from the addition of heavy cream. I didn’t even know that butter-less scones existed (I guess I’m not so well-versed in the world of scones), so I was pretty hesitant of what the outcome would be like, both texture and taste wise, but they came out so incredibly tender and soft. And I found that making these scones is actually much easier because you don’t have to worry whether you properly incorporated the butter into the dough or not, or obsess over keeping the dough as cold as possible so that the butter in the dough doesn’t melt. Although I love my cranberry orange scones, these cream scones are reigning supreme in my kitchen at the moment.

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As always when making scones, you have to stick to the usual rule of avoiding over mixing the dough which could lead to tough scones. And if you ask anyone what a scone’s texture should be, the word “tough” hopefully should never leave their mouths. So when making the dough, work mindfully, especially when it comes to the step of adding the heavy cream. Although you may use a wooden spoon or a fork for this step, I actually believe that your own two hands are the best tools. This way, you can actually feel for the dry pockets in the dough and therefore will know if you need to add more heavy cream or not. It’s definitely messier using your hands but can make it more fun. Please just try not to have nail polish or jewelry on!

To finish the scones before popping them in the oven, you’ll give each one a brush of heavy cream and a generous sprinkling of raw/turbinado sugar. The scone dough by itself isn’t that sweet, as it shouldn’t be, and so the turbinado sugar on top not only provides an amazing crunchy texture, but a little welcomed sweetness that you’ll get with each bite. If you don’t have turbinado sugar, you can substitute with regular granulated sugar.

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Strawberry Cream Scones

Yields about 8 large scones

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 tbsp. baking powder

  • 1 tsp. kosher salt

  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest

  • 1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, plus more for brushing

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 1 cup chopped fresh strawberries

  • Turbinado sugar, for topping

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and lemon zest.

  2. Pour 1 1/3 cups of the heavy cream into a measuring cup and mix in the vanilla extract. Drizzle this mixture slowly over the dry ingredients while using wooden spoon to gently mix it together (I actually use my hands so I can get a good feel for the dough). The goal is to have no dry spots left in the dough, so you may need to add more heavy cream. Add in a tablespoon at a time until no more flour bits remain, but try to avoid making the dough too sticky. Carefully fold in the strawberries.

  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it a couple of times with your hands. Mold the dough into a disk and press it until the dough is about 3/4” thick. Using a 3” cookie/biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut out the scones - you will have to re-roll the dough once more in order to get 8-10 scones. Place the scones onto a plate and place them in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

  4. Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take the scones out of the freezer and place them on the baking sheet. Brush each scone with heavy cream and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar. Bake in the oven for 14-17 minutes, or until the scones are a light golden brown and baked through.

  5. Scones are best if they are eaten right out of the oven, but will keep for a couple of days when stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

MY FAVORITE BANANA BREAD

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April has been a pretty exciting and busy month so far, but the best has yet to come. This Friday, even though I’ve lived in southern California all my life (minus college time), I am finally visiting Joshua Tree for the first time ever! How I made it almost 30 years without venturing to one of the most popular and beautiful deserts in the state (and country!) is beyond me, but I tend to make up for all that lost time by exploring and hiking around as much as humanly possible. And then… Alex and I will be landing in Portland, Maine on the last day of this month, so I’m pretty much counting down every day with too much excitement.

Today I’m sharing another one of my favorite standby recipes which I’m surprised took me so long to post: banana bread. I have a funny (re: picky) relationship with bananas: I absolutely do not like to eat them by itself mostly due to its texture, but I add them to my daily smoothies and I could live off of banana bread if I had the choice. It’s strange, I know, but I think that my dislike of bananas should be a testament to how good my banana bread is! If I could hate plain bananas, but love banana bread… I must be doing something right with this recipe.

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I don’t think there’s anything better than the smell of banana bread baking in the oven. I know a lot of people talk up the smell of fresh chocolate chip cookies, but I gotta say that the scent of fresh banana bread is up there as one of my most cherished scent “memories”. Even though the scent makes you want to eat the bread as soon as it comes out of the oven, I strongly advise against this! I come from the mindset that banana bread is 100 times better the next day and the next day after that. The longer the bread sits, the banana flavor intensifies. And speaking of bananas, I want you to wait to use your bananas until they look like fruit flies are going to eat them. Sorry for the gross visual, but the riper the bananas are, the more flavor and sweetness we’ll get from the fruit. I feel like this wait period is what sets a good banana bread from an exceptional one.

It took me a while to find my favorite version of banana bread, but the one I’m giving today is by far the best one I’ve ever come across. We all have our personal preferences when it comes to the popular loaf cake: some believe that adding chocolate chips is a must; some believe that adding yogurt or sour cream will give it the best moist texture; and some think nuts aren’t necessary. I believe that the best banana bread doesn’t have chocolate (I feel like it overpowers the banana flavor too much), needs sour cream for flavor and texture, and pecans must be added for a much needed crunch in each bite. Besides that, I don’t have any other notes or suggestions for this recipe! It’s pretty straight-forward, but trust me, it’ll quickly become a staple in your household after inhaling an entire slice.

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My Personal Favorite Banana Bread

Yields (1) 9x5” Loaf Cake

Recipe adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients

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  • 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (ground will work as well)

  • 1 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature

  • 4 large ripe bananas (about 2 cups), peeled and mashed with a fork

  • 1/4 cup sour cream

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 1 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9x5” loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray (alternatively, you can butter and flour the pan). Set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to fully combine it.

  3. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, a couple minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each one is fully incorporated until adding the next. Add the mashed bananas, sour cream, and vanilla extract. Mix on medium speed until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the stand mixer bowl while on low speed. Mix until the ingredients are fully incorporated. Using a spatula, fold in the chopped pecans.

  5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top using a spatula. Bake in the oven for 60-65 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. When ready, the bread will be a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Allow the bread to cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Run a butter knife around the perimeter of the bread and carefully turn it out onto a plate or platter.