Mmmmmm…warm, melty chocolate chip cookies. The quintessential after-school snack. Or a luring weekend treat. My mother always stuck to the recipe off the back of the Toll House bag: flour, sugar, eggs, butter, chocolate chips plus vanilla, salt, baking powder and soda. Dependable and straightforward.
The chocolate chip cookie has been interpreted a myriad of ways since its inception almost 85 years ago—thin and crispy, thick and chewy, triple chocolate, pumpkin chocolate chip…Sally’s Baking Addiction alone shares over 25 of her own variations on the chocolate chip cookie.
And now here’s another. I just couldn’t help myself. I’ve fallen in love with quinoa flour. It’s my all-time favorite gluten-free flour, in part because of the goodness it delivers—high fiber, protein, and essential amino acids—but I’m also particularly fond of its earthy flavor. I wanted a recipe that combines good fats (almond butter, coconut oil) with healthy grains (quinoa, oats) but doesn’t forfeit flavor.
And these cookies are just that. Surprisingly, quinoa flour works really well in baking. The result is usually a fairly light end product. Even though this recipe calls for less sugar than a traditional one usually does, the cookies still have a tender, almost chewy center without being cakey. The coffee and oats give them a satisfying texture that is complemented by the soft chips—it’s a winning combination.
While these may not be your classic chocolate chip cookie, they certainly satisfy a craving for one, especially with the knowledge that they’re a little healthier—but without sacrifice. A batch of these will certainly satisfy any smart cookie’s sweet tooth.
Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Coffee Quinoa Cookies
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar,
2 large eggs
1⁄3 cup almond butter
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups quinoa flour (see below)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons ground coffee beans
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons ground coffee beans
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Put the coconut oil, brown sugar, eggs, almond butter and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until well combined.
2. Add the quinoa flour, baking soda and powder, and salt. Mix again until combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides as needed.
3. Next, stir in the oats, chocolate chips and ground coffee. Using a tablespoon measure, scoop mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes. The cookies may look underbaked but they will firm up as they cool. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.
DIY Quinoa Flour
You can simply grind quinoa grains to make flour, so if you’re in a rush, don’t hesitate to do so. A few minutes of toasting though mellows the flavor and makes a finer flour when ground.
1-3/4 cups quinoa
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the quinoa in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Use two sheets if necessary. Toast the quinoa in the oven for about 15 minutes. Do not let it brown.
2. Remove the quinoa from the oven and allow it to cool. Place it in the blender jar or food processor and start on low then turn to high for 30 to 60 seconds or until the grains are finely ground into a powder. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 2-1/2 cups.
Just over three years ago, our house was overflowing with sugared goodies. I was finishing up a dessert cookbook, and there was no cake, pie or cookie in the book that each member of my family hadn’t taste-tested at least several times, if not more.
We started feeling the effects of too much sugar. Sure, everything in moderation is seemingly okay, but this was not moderation! I started wondering if I could make the same desserts but with a slightly healthier bent—whole wheat and nut flours instead of refined ones, less sugar, more fruits and vegetables for fiber. While I have managed to overhaul quite a few recipes, like the spiced squash snack cake from my last post, the quest opened up a whole new world of ingredients—ones that I had never considered for substitutions, like quinoa flour and flax seed among many others.
Around the same time I was looking to make desserts somewhat more virtuous I bought a Vitamix, which made the pursuit of more wholesome foods a breeze, mainly because of the speed and efficiency at which it works.
With the aid of a blender, it’s astonishing how easy it is to make your own flours. Within minutes I can have freshly ground grains and nuts. Vitamins and minerals deteriorate quickly once grains are ground, so when you make your own flours, you reap Mother Nature’s goodness packed into seed grains instead of it perishing on store shelves.
Specialty flours like rice and coconut can also be pricey and hard to find. Grinding your own makes gluten-free options easily accessible at a fraction of retail cost.
The same goes for nut milks—when you make them yourself you’re guaranteed fresh product with zero preservatives at a budget-friendly price tag. You also greatly expand your options for dairy-free alternatives to cow’s milk: hemp milk, rice milk, coconut milk. And don’t reserve these milks just for smoothies: Use them for savory sauces and sweets baking, too.
So began our shift. While our pantry was not loaded with processed foods, there was definite room for improvement. I started really looking at what we were eating. How could I make it better? The blender has aided me along the way. I share many of my discoveries in my new cookbook, The Ultimate Blender Cookbook, but you’ll also find many of my inspirations here on the blog. My pantry has had a makeover of sorts in the past few years. Pastas and crackers, for example, while preservative free are still void of much nutrition and have been replaced with seeds, nuts, and whole grains.
It has taken some trial and error. Quinoa pasta was not a big hit, and my first adventures with coconut flour were not successful. Several years back I saw it on the store shelf and thought, Hmmm, let me see what I can make with this . Well, I made a brick. Little did I know coconut flour is nowhere near a one-to-one substitute for grain-based flours. You may notice that many of the baked goods recipes calling for it contain a large number of eggs. This is because the flour is extremely absorbent; the eggs also help give structure to baked goods due to the lack of gluten. The flour, made from dried coconut milk pulp, is high in fiber and makes a good gluten-free option. Try the Raspberry Swirl Cupcake recipe I posted on Babycenter for a gluten-free dessert made with coconut flour.
In order to make coconut flour though, you need to make the milk first, which is only an added benefit. This flour is more involved than other homemade flours. If you find it too time consuming, perhaps oat or quinoa may be a better starter flour.
Homemade Coconut Milk
makes about 4-1/2 cups
2 cups unsweetened coconut or coconut flakes
4 cups spring water or filtered tap water
Soak the coconut in the water for 2 hours. Place the coconut and the water in the blender jar and process on high for 2 minutes or until smooth. Strain the coconut through a nut bag, squeezing out all the milk into a bowl. When you’ve squeezed out all you can, transfer the milk to a storage container and reserve the pulp to make coconut flour, recipe follows. Chill and serve.
Homemade Coconut Flour
makes about 1 cup
About 1-1/4 cups pulp from 1 Coconut Milk recipe (above)
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the coconut pulp out in a thin layer, breaking up any clumps. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until the pulp is completely dry. Put the dried pulp in the blender and process on high for 1 to 2 minutes or until finely ground. Store in an airtight container.
Over the past few weeks, more baking has taken place in our house than usual. Perhaps it’s the snow days (when cupcake-making is a compulsory activity according to my kids) or just the desire to feel cozy and warm.
One of the indulgences on our baking binge—spiced snack cake. The pleasingly rich, honey brown color, the familiar soft texture, and the fragrant, spice-infused aroma evoke just the sense of hominess I crave. One whiff of that cake baking and I feel toasty inside, no matter how many icicles hang from the windows.
This time, however, I didn’t reach for my trusted gingerbread recipe. Inspired by the most delicious acorn squash we’d been getting from our local produce stand, truly one of the sweetest squash I’d ever eaten, I wondered how the addition of a little golden mash would be to my favorite spice cake.
Since I was experimenting, I figured I’d boost the nutritional goodness. I replaced white flour with white whole wheat, and replaced the white sugar with maple syrup. I promise you won’t notice the flour replacement in this recipe. White whole wheat flour is the same as whole wheat flour in the sense that it’s ground from the entire wheat kernel—unlike all-purpose white flour, which is bleached and the bran and germ removed. White whole wheat is just ground from a lighter berry, which gives it a milder taste. The benefit: You’re getting the nutritional value of whole wheat but the lighter taste of white. I often use King Arthur white whole wheat flour.
The result was a delightfully moist cake with the fresh zip of ginger, made even tastier with the addition of squash. To linger over a piece of warm squash cake with ginger-infused whipped cream while snow gently falls outside is like a scene from a storybook, one with a truly sweet ending.
NOTE: You can use any type of fall squash in this cake: acorn, butternut, buttercup, etc.
Spiced Squash Snack Cake
2-1/4 cups cups whole wheat white flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ cup very hot water
1 cup cooked fall squash, mashed
½ cup coconut oil or butter, melted
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup unsulphured dark molasses
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
fresh whipped cream and crystallized ginger for topping, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round springform or paper pan with butter or coconut oil. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper.
3. In another small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the very hot water. Set aside.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the squash and oil or butter.
5. Add the maple syrup and molasses and mix thoroughly. Add the egg, continuing to mix on medium until fully incorporated. Stir in the fresh ginger. Slowly add the flour mixture and beat on low until fully incorporated, about 40 seconds. Add the baking soda–water mixture. Pulse the mixer a few times on low speed so the water doesn’t splash all over, then run at low speed until completely incorporated.
6.Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
7. Let cool completely in the pan. Gently run a knife between the edge of the cake and pan before opening.
8. If desired, place the confectioners’ sugar in a sifter and sprinkle over the cake and serve with fresh whipped cream and pieces of diced crystallized ginger. For ginger-inufsed whipped cream, add 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger per pint of whipping cream.
My heart leapt yesterday when I walked in Barnes & Noble and saw my new cookbook on display. The Ultimate Blender Cookbook’s official pub date was this Monday, 1/5/2015.
“A blender cookbook? What’s that?” so many have asked since I first started writing this book. Most assume it’s a compilation of smoothie recipes, with perhaps some soups thrown in. But this book is so much more. It includes recipes for wholesome, delicious, and satisfying meals—from chia seed pancakes to salmon burgers—that can be made entirely in the blender. This capable machine isn’t just for mixing up frosty beverages (although most college students would argue that!)—and clean up’s a snap.
From the third grade the blender was the one appliance that I didn’t have to ask permission to use. I was free to create as I pleased. And so I did and have continued to do so for almost 30 years. It may sound corny, but if you don’t blend regularly, it’s exciting to work with an appliance that has so much power and versatility. Do you know that the blades of a Vitamix go so fast they create enough friction to actually heat soup in under five minutes? You can also make homemade flours and nut butters in minutes.
Incorporating blender recipes into your daily meal plan really will make your life easier—things mix up in seconds—and you’ll feel happy and satisfied from all the healthy goodness you’re putting in your body. It’s up to you to fill the blender jar with lots of nutrient-rich produce, nuts, seeds, and even meats. Here’s a behind-the-scenes shot showing the magnitude of ingredients you can use in a blender. (To my left is very talented photographer Justin Lanier, who made every image in the book a gorgeous one. Thanks Justin!)
You can boost your nutritional intake by adding greens and superfoods to your diet on a daily basis by using a blender to mix them into sauces and smoothies.
The key to successful blending is fresh, wholesome ingredients. You can replace store-bought foods like muffins and soups with homemade, chemical-free equivalents and swap syrupy bottled salad dressing for sugarless blends.
There is one caveat for many of the recipes: a power blender is key. I have a Ninja and a Vitamix, and the latter is truly the Bentley of blenders (as is the very comparable Blendtec). I did have some recipe testers using non-power blenders, and while they found success with some recipes, others like burgers and dessert bars proved more difficult.
My hope with this book is that some of the recipes become part of your daily repertoire, essentials you love and go back to again and again like fresh pineapple mango salsa, chopped kale salad, lemon tarragon chicken, and fiber-rich fudgy gluten-free brownies (which you’ll never believe have black beans in them!).
I’m sharing one of my family’s favorite recipes in the book, French Lentil Salad with Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette, which can be made in any type of blender (or even a food processor). Leftovers (if there are any) make a tasty lunch. So you ready to start whirring away? If you want more blender recipes, the Ultimate Blender Cookbook is available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and on Indiebound.
Slow-roasted tomatoes are sweet and addictive. You may want to double the amount you roast so you can have extras to snack on. The fragrant smell of the roasting onions and tomatoes always gets my kids in the kitchen asking, “What are you cooking Mom?” They usually stay pretty close by until the salad is tossed up.
French Lentil Salad with Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
½ large red onion, sliced (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon organic cane sugar
1 cup green lentils, rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 carrot, washed and cut into 2-inch chunks
3 cups arugula
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
For the Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Place the tomatoes and onion in a bowl and toss with the oil, balsamic and sugar. Spread them evenly on the pan, flat side down, and bake for 25 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, put the lentils, bay leaf, garlic clove and carrot in a saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
3. To make the vinaigrette: While the lentils are cooking, place ¼ cup of the roasted tomatoes in the blender with the oil, vinegar and salt. Blend on high for 30 seconds or until thoroughly combined.
4. Drain any excess water from the lentils, remove the bay leaf, carrot and garlic and put in a bowl with the remaining ¾ cup of tomatoes, roasted onion, arugula and feta.
5. Toss with the vinaigrette and serve.
My Grandmother has made her cranberry roll for every Christmas dinner I can remember. The moist, steamed dessert is not a roll at all, but a dense molded cake (like a British pudding), laden with tangy cranberries and served with a thick, very sweet hard sauce.
Because my grandmother started making these pudding cakes in multiples at the holidays, she used tin cans instead of pudding molds to steam them, which made the shape became cylindrical. She then started calling these cakes “rolls.”
This dessert is extremely rich and decadent so I save making it for this time of year. It brings such an emotional memory to holidays, many good times shared. While the buttery sauce may seem considerably sweet, it’s how my grandmother made it (although I do add some brandy, which she never did), and I continue to do so.
Maybe one of these year’s I’ll try to reduce the sugar, but for now, I revel in the memories that the taste of the deep-colored fragrant cake, studded with bright red berries, evokes. Another plus: It freezes beautifully, and can be made ahead—way ahead. This recipe may be doubled, keeping a few cakes tucked in the freezer for unexpected guests.
Christmas Day Steamed Cranberry Roll
2 cups fresh cranberries, cut in half
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/3 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup light molasses
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups half-and-half
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons brandy
1. Make the cranberry rolls: Grease 3 number-2 size tin cans (a 20-ounce can that holds about 2-1/2 cups) or a 6-cup steamer mold with baking spray.
2. In a small bowl, toss the cranberries with 1/3 cup of the flour. In another small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water. Stir in the salt.
3. Mix the egg, sugar, and molasses together in a large bowl. Add the baking soda mixture and stir thoroughly. Gently fold in the remaining 1 cup flour. Mix until just blended. Stir in the orange zest and vanilla extract. Fold in the floured cranberries.
4. Fill the cans or steamer mold three-quarters full. Close the steamer mold or, if using cans, cover the tops with aluminum foil, securing them with rubber bands.
5. Place the mold or cans in a large stockpot filled with water to just below the tops of the cans (be careful not to get any water in the cans) or mold. Bring the water to a boil, then turn the heat down to keep it at a simmer, cover the stockpot, and steam for 1 hour, 30 minutes. Check the pudding cake with a toothpick, which should come out clean. Let cool for 20 minutes, then unmold.
6. Meanwhile, make the hard sauce: Put all the ingredients in a saucepan. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until the sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes.
7. Serve the hard sauce warm over individual slices of cake.
“Sugar and me? We go way back. I love sugar. LOOOOVVVVVE it. I love everything about it: how it makes little occasions special and special occasions fabulous.”
When I read these first few lines of Eve Schaub’s recently released book Year of No Sugar: A Memoir (Sourcebooks, 2014) I felt an immediate kinship. After all, in my cookbook Sweet Home I claim that “dessert is in my DNA.” I grew up with access to some homemade foil-covered treat in kitchen at all times and sweets were a part of every celebration.
It seems Eve, like me, believed home-baked goods are a form of love. In her book, Eve relays a time when a fellow mom asked about the ingredients of her cupcakes. Eve rattled off the ingredients, which included vanilla. “Oh, vanilla…Ariella can’t have vanilla. It has corn syrup in it. It makes her crazy,” the mom replied.
Eve was silently skeptical, “After all, this [her cupcakes] was not some Day-Glo impostor from the ‘bakery’ aisle at the supermarket; this was home baked! Made with love! As far as I was concerned, homemade food was health food. Period. Wasn’t that what Michael Pollen had effectively said?”
A year ago I would have nodded my head enthusiastically in agreement, “Yup, absolutely Eve. What is wrong with a little vanilla?”
I have grappled with the idea of sugar since the publication of my book—a collection of family dessert recipes—two years ago. As I passed out samples of chocolate Kahlúa pound cake and deep-fried rosettes at baking demos, more than just a few would pass and say “I’m cutting down on sugar.”
“But what’s a little bite,” I would think. After much reading and research though, I am beginning to understand, and Eve’s book confirms many of my thoughts: sugar is everywhere.
My awareness of sugar has grown exponentially in the past few years. Just try cutting it out. It’s not the sweet treats that are difficult, well at least in theory because they’re the obvious candidates for elimination, it’s the foods like bacon, the condiments like mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce, and are you ready, even the chicken salad at Panera. The unsuspecting Chicken Cobb Salad has sugar listed in the first 8 of more than 20 ingredients (and that doesn’t include the dressing!).
Throughout her book, Eve amusingly shares the trials and tribulations of eliminating sugar from her family’s daily diet. Her girls, ages 6 and 11 at the time of the “project,” promptly cried when she told them about her Year of No Sugar plan but they did come around to the idea and participated willingly.
There were some exceptions to the no-sugar rule, which eventually included the use of dextrose in baking. It took me a little while to get my head around this—why exactly was dextrose okay? I had the pleasure of speaking with Eve over the phone for a Babycenter interview (read more here) and she said there was no doubt that learning about sugar molecules got very scientific, and she tried to explain the concept to me again, “ dextrose and powdered dextrose are from corn, not fructose, which is the bad sugar that produces toxic by-products.”
What she said in her book, and was saying again, is that fructose, NOT dextrose, really is the culprit when it comes to sugar. Andrew Wilder, on his blog Eating Rules, does a really good job of explaining the six key types of dietary sugar molecules. He also cites a Time magazine article from 2009 that outlines how our body’s respond differently to glucose than fructose.
Okay, you ready? Take a deep breath. I’m going to try and give you the thirty-second explanation: sugar (sucrose) is made up roughly of half glucose and half fructose. Sucrose is found in sugar beets, sugar cane, corn, and other plants. When sucrose is extracted and refined, it makes table sugar (Skerrett, Harvard Health).
So the half of sucrose that is important is glucose, which is what provides our body with energy and is needed by every cell and organ in our body. Glucose comes from food we eat. It is broken down in our stomachs and absorbed into our bloodstream.
Fructose, on the other hand, is the bad half of sucrose. Fructose occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. Now this is where it gets slightly confusing because you may be wondering like I, “but aren’t those things good for you?”
Eating fruits with naturally occurring sugar is okay because the amount of fructose is so little, and the fiber and nutrients of the fruit itself are so beneficial.
However, when fructose is added to things like beverages and other processed foods, too much of it at once can overwhelm our body’s ability to process it and the liver starts to produce triglycerides (fat).
When the low-fat trend of eating took hold, sugar in many forms was added to foods to better their taste. It’s hidden, and has many different names, some which sound more appealing than others but really are all the same:
High-fructose corn syrup
Fruit Juice Concentrate
This list is just a very few of the dozens of names for sugar.
But what about dextrose? Where does that fit in? Well, biochemically glucose and dextrose are the same so dextrose can be considered a better sweetener based on how it’s processed in the body. It is usually derived from grains, most often corn in the US.
Now the question may arise how something made from corn can be better for you since high-fructose corn syrup is reputedly so bad for you? Naturally corn syrup does not have fructose in it. It’s when a particular enzyme is added that glucose-only corn syrup turns to fructose and becomes what is known as the evil high-fructose corn syrup.
Corn itself is not bad for you. In fact, an ear of corn has about the same calories as an apple and less than one-fourth the sugar. And don’t hesitate to pick up an ear of sweet corn in fears that it’s genetically modified. Only 3-4% of sweet corn grown in the US was GMO (Estabrook, Eating Well).
So after much research, Eve felt dextrose was safe to include in her diet. Ultimately, it was only fructose (the bad sugar) she was eliminating. After mulling her explanation over several times, I finally understood.
And now I understood why just a small piece of something sweet is an issue for some people and not for someone like my grandmother, who just turned 93 a month ago—and enjoyed dessert every night. Unlike many today, my grandmother does not buy processed foods. When raising her family, she prepared dinner every night: a protein, a starch and a vegetable—and dessert. She cooked with butter, and got many of her vegetables from the surrounding farms in her Wisconsin town. She even baked her own rolls.
My grandmother was a farm-to-table gal before farm to table became a buzzword—sugars weren’t hiding in the foods in her cabinet and fridge. The only sugar she ingested was what she knowingly put into baked goods. So for her, desserts worked. For our generation, perhaps not so much so. We’re getting sugar without even knowing it.
Eve Schaub has certainly heightened my awareness of sugar. After reading Year of No Sugar, I haven’t been able to walk in the grocery store without reading a label (which I always did, but now it’s really consuming). If you’re looking for an entertaining read, pick up a copy and see if you can’t help but avoiding the sweet stuff—even that can be addictive. Check out Eve’s Year of No Sugar blog too.
Weekend mornings spent at home call for big breakfasts. Still in our pajamas, my family and I take time to prepare dishes that weekday schedules prohibit: Belgian waffles, baked eggs, and muffins. We love muffins, and our favorites are the ones laden with sweet, ripe fruit—blueberries, bananas, raspberries, peaches. While I prefer this recipe with mango, you can substitute any of the aforementioned fruits. Although usually available year round, mangoes are at their best in spring and summer, which is when I bake these moist muffins that aren’t too dense and deliver the essence of mango.
Mangoes that are green and hard should ripen after a few days at room temperature. The feel and smell of the mango are much more important than the color. Never refrigerate unripe mangoes. If ripe mangoes aren’t available, look for jarred mango in the produce section or bags of mango chunks in the frozen food section, now available from Trader Joe’s and Dole. When mangoes are in season (and usually on sale), I buy them in bulk, cut the fruit into chunks, and freeze it in air-tight containers.
Do you struggle with cutting mangoes though?
It can be difficult getting close to the pit. Even when I make a bad cut though I never worry about mango going to waste in our house. My kids suck those pits clean, almost as good as licking batter off the spoon!
However, after I made these muffins for a friend staying with us, a week later I received an oddly-shaped package in the mail. You know the kind, a bulging paper envelope that’s slightly too small for its contents, ripped in a few spots with bubble wrap and newspaper peeking through. When I opened it, this is what I found inside:
A mango splitter. This cool little kitchen gadget is made by OXO. It was actually invented by a pastor about 10 years ago who couldn’t find any type of mango cutter on the market so he measured a bunch of pits, sought out a prototype builder, and had one made. I admire that kind of initiative…and I love that my friend sent such a thoughtful gift!
For those of you unfamiliar with this handy little tool, you simply press it down over the top of a mango and it cuts close to the pit leaving two halves ready to slice or cube. Really makes the process a cinch.
To cube the mango, make lengthwise and crosswise cuts into the flesh, creating a crosshatch pattern, without cutting through the peel. Then using the knife, gently slice the cubes off the peel.
Available from Amazon, Williams-Sonoma and Bed, Bath & Beyond, mango splitters sell for $13-15 dollars. If you’re in need of a gift this spring, how about a basket of these muffins paired with a mango splitter and copy of this recipe?
Sugared Mango Muffins
These muffins are best eaten the day they are baked.
Makes 16 to 18 muffins
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
2 to 3 mangoes, cut into 3/4-inch dice (about 1-1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons sparkling white sugar or coarse sugar crystals
NOTE: If using frozen mango, thaw it before adding to the batter.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place paper liners in 18 standard muffin cups.
2. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Put the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium for 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, blending each time until fully incorporated, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula. Stir in the vanilla extract.
4. With the mixer on low, slowly add half of the dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, stop and scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is moistened.
5. Add the sour cream and beat until just combined. With the mixer on low, add the rest of the dry ingredients until moistened, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl with the spatula. Do not overbeat. Stir in the mangoes using the spatula or a wooden spoon.
6. Using a tablespoon or ice cream scoop, fill the prepared muffin cups three-quarters full. Sprinkle each muffin with 1/4 teaspoon sparkling sugar.
7. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until pale golden and a toothpick.