January 3rd, 2012
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January is a good month for waffles. Just the word ‘January’ in the Midwest conjures images of bracing wind, snow whipped sidewalks, scarves and thick mittens. It’s the aftermath of December, a holiday-less month of Winter. Nothing but winter. It needs something to lighten it up a bit, to warm us against the long dark months ahead.
My most favorite Buttermilk Cornmeal Waffle was born in January, bringing it’s crunchy warmth to a bitterly cold sub-zero day, just about 2 years ago. I’ve relied on that waffle recipe without question, reaching for it time and again to stir myself to face Winter’s white bite, to fill me with the gumption to dress for a day that rattles the windows like an angry giant. Our December was so uncharacteristic for Minnesota; unseasonable warmth, no snow and mild temperatures. We celebrated Christmas without a trace of snowflakes, then came New Years Eve, and rain began to fall, quickly changing over to the fattest, wettest flakes I’ve seen in ages, and by the time the sun rose on 2012, it looked a bit more like January should, and it felt like it too. Waffles needed to bridge the gap between the past year, and the start of this one. But not just any old waffle.
That burnished beauty isn’t exactly showing off it’s best in the photo, but that plain looking waffle is hiding a rich, spicy secret; cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg, mingling with tiny chunks of tender sweet potato. A bit of inspiration, and an urge to start off the New Year with more than just the same old waffle, I reached for a container of cooked squash, opened the spice cabinet and crossed my fingers. The scent rising from the steaming waffle iron was heady and enticing; the first bite, amazing. Tangy with buttermilk, hearty with wheat flour and altogether a knock-out way to start 2012, this will definitely be on ‘Repeat’ for the remainder of Winter, whether it chooses to snow like crazy as it did last year, or remain mercilessly un-winter-like, there is one thing for sure; bellies will need filling, and this is the key that slips perfectly in to place.
Spiced Sweet Potato Waffles
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. AP flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. ground cardamom
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1 T. sugar (or honey would work too)
1-1/2 c. buttermilk (I like to use vanilla soymilk, and add two tablespoon vanilla yogurt for tang)
1/3 c. neutral flavored oil, such as rapeseed or canola
1 c. cooked mashed sweet potato or other cooked squash
In a large bowl, whisk together the wheat flour, AP flour, powder, soda, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. If using honey, add that to the wet ingredients.
In a separate medium sized bowl, add the buttermilk, eggs, oil and squash. Whisk until smooth. Add to the dry ingredients and gently fold together using a rubber spatula. Be sure to scrape across the bottom of the bowl to mix thoroughly. Do not overmix the batter. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. You’ll see bubbles form on the batter. Don’t stir it anymore.
Bake waffles according to your individual waffle maker. Mine makes 8″ round waffles, and I used 1/3 c. batter per waffle. This recipe made 6-8 waffles.
The original recipe used for this batter comes from The Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham.
October 28th, 2011
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Yes. Another cake. Don’t be surprised if I share even more cake with you over time, as I do love a good moist and tender cake.
And I’m partial to a Bundt cake, for nostalgia reasons. It’s pretty easy to work with, that shape. You get a nice substantial cake that is easy to slice and portion out and with the wealth of lovely artistic bundt pans available, you can make something that looks masterful with nary a hint of extra effort.
And besides, bundt cakes make me think of my Mom. And she would have loved this Nutmeg Cake.
Nutmeg Cake. Not Spice Cake, although that would be appropriate, but no, the predominant flavor of this cake is Nutmeg, also known as Myristica fragrans, a spice that elicited so much adoration and excitement that bloody wars were executed over it to protect it’s production, and Emperor Henry VI had the streets of Rome fumigated with it during his coronation. In the 14th Century, a half a kilogram of nutmeg cost as much as three sheep, or one cow. The Nutmeg tree belongs to the Evergreen family, and as everyone knows, it consists of not one but two spices, as the feathery outer layer is ground up for Mace, while the seed itself is the Nutmeg.
The fruit is light yellow with red and green markings, resembling an apricot or a large plum. As the fruit matures, the outer fleshy covering (which is candied or pickled as snacks in Malaysia) bursts to reveal the seed. The seed is covered with red membranes called an aril, the mace portion of the nutmeg. The nut is then dried for up to 2 months until the inner nut rattles inside the shell. It is then shelled to reveal the valuable egg-shaped nutmeat which is the edible nutmeg. Second-rate nuts are pressed for the oil, which is used in perfumes and in the food industry.
Nutmeg is easily ground from it’s whole form, using a microplane, and purists argue that this is the best and only way in which it should be used. Pre-ground Nutmeg can easily lose it’s flavor, and when you need only a small dose of the spice, grating it fresh is simple; a few passes over the microplane and you’re done. But this recipe calls for 5 teaspoons of Nutmeg. I’d be standing with that microplane in hand for an eternity if I tried to freshly grate all that spice. And for me, Penzey’s West Indies Ground Nutmeg is perfect to keep on hand.
I came across this recipe in a recent issue of Saveur magazine and immediately snipped it out. Although I do know that Nutmeg is not a universally liked spice, for me it’s been a favorite since I was a kid, sprinkling my applesauce with cinnamon and nutmeg. I love it’s quick warm bite, the flick of flavor on my tongue that resonates around.
And it isn’t just for desserts, really. A few pinches of fresh ground nutmeg makes a wonderful addition to any dish with squash in it. It’s necessary for Spaetzle and can elevate a simple cream sauce on pasta to ultra-gastronomic levels. Add a dash of nutmeg to a fruit crisp, sprinkle it in smoothies, grate some on top of your oatmeal or other hot cereal (especially if you add blueberries- there is something so delightful about blueberries and nutmeg together) and of course, with cinnamon, cloves and allspice you get none other than perfect pumpkin pie flavor.
This cake made two appearances in my life in the exact same week. Two cakes, for two occasions. The first one was just the old standard “I Found A Recipe That I Can’t Wait To Try” deal, and the fact that it turned out so incredibly moist and oh so tender, and it was so darn easy to make that I quickly hit ‘Repeat’ and made another one for a ladies only gathering at our lake home. To be able to take a cake recipe and feed it to eight discriminating palates knowing that every one of them would adore it is a big feather in my cap. I loved watching their faces as they took that first bite. These ladies know their food.
And I know my nutmeg. So tell me …. do YOU like nutmeg??
3 cups flour
5 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a standard bundt pan with cooking spray. You can also use a 9×13 baking pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, nutmeg, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Cut the butter into cubes and add to the dry mixture. With a pastry blender (or two forks, or for a load of fun, your hands) cut the butter in to the flour mixture until it’s about the size of peas or smaller. Add the brown sugar and walnuts (if using) and blend with a fork.
In a large measuring cup, whisk together the sour cream, milk and eggs until very creamy. Add to the flour/butter mixture and gently fold together with a rubber spatula, carefully scraping the bottom of the bowl, until the batter is smooth and completely blended. It will be fairly thick. Pour batter into prepared pan. Run a knife through the batter to remove any air pockets, or you can gently drop the pan on the counter a few times for the same result.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes for a bundt pan, 25-35 for a 9×13. Allow to cool for 20-30 minutes in the pan (if using a bundt pan) then run a knife around the edges to loosen and turn over on to a plate.
This cake is phenomenal when served warm.
original recipe from Saveur magazine, here with modifications.