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Earl Grey Chocolate Lavender Banana Muffins with Caramel Gloss

  I've just finished up the latest series of the Great British Bake Off and having watched the last episode today after getting virtually no sleep last night, I gotta say--I bawled like a baby. Every single one of them was so endearing to me and even though I was vying for someone else most of the time (don't worry, no spoilers here!), the winner really did earn their spot. God I love that show.

  It was only fitting that I had a proper cup of Early Grey tea to cry into, along with 3 or 4 (who's counting?) of these decadent little muffins. They're an easy enough treat in themselves, but with a little extra finesse when it comes to flavoring and glossing. Yep, not glazing, glossing. I made that up for these specifically because all I wanted was the barest sheen of dark, dark caramel.

  Paul Hollywood keeps talking about flavors, so I obviously couldn't make just muffins.

 The batter for this starts off strong by steeping some coconut milk (or cow's, your preference) with lavender for about 10 minutes. Then in go the Earl Grey tea bags for about 5 minutes, then you cool it all down before adding to your banana muffin batter. I recommend preparing the caramel while these bake so you can get the right consistency to gloss these muffins (i.e. it needs to cool a bit, caramel is hot!). 

  These are some slightly more involved muffins, so feel free to cut out the caramel gloss if you're not feeling too ambitious, these are still delicious without it!

  So, grab yourself a cuppa and a muffin and have a smashing week <3

Earl Grey Chocolate Lavender Banana Muffins with Caramel Gloss
Yield: a dozen muffins

For the muffins:
  • 3/4 cup coconut or cow's milk
  • 1/2 tbsp. dried culinary lavender
  • 3 Earl Grey tea bags
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 large bananas, either roasted or extremely ripe
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped (or dark chocolate chips) 

For the gloss:
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. coconut or cow's milk

In a small saucepan, heat milk and lavender over high heat until it just begins to bubble. Reduce heat to the lowest you can and allow to gently simmer/steam for 10-15 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve to remove lavender and place the milk back into the pan. Heat again until just bubbling then remove pan from heat and add tea bags. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags, squeezing excess liquid back into the pan. Return pan to medium heat, add butter and heat until butter is melted. Allow tea mixture to cool to room temperature. 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper or foil muffin liners. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Remove bananas from peels and place in a small bowl. Mash bananas well, leaving very few chunks. Add tea mixture and egg. Whisk to combine. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined. Mix in chocolate chunks. Portion batter into prepared muffin tins, filling a little over 3/4 full. 

Bake 25 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until a toothpick comes out clean. While the muffins bake, prepare your caramel gloss.

In a medium saucepan, cook the sugar over medium heat, swirling the pan every so often to make sure that the sugar is melting evenly, until the sugar is a deep golden brown color. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter until melted. Whisking constantly--gradually add the milk. Pour the caramel into a heat proof container to cool down to room temperature.

Transfer muffins to a wire rack set over a parchment-lined baking sheet to cool. Poke a few holes in the muffins with a toothpick/skewer/small blade (this lets the caramel seep in a bit), and begin to spoon about 1 teaspoon or so of the caramel mixture onto the muffins, spreading it as you go.

Consume as you so desire!

Sources: adapted from The Whole Bite and Food Faith Fitness


Simple Mini Ice Cream Cake

For a long time in high school I prided myself on making just about everything I could from scratch. Whether it was pizza dough, ice cream, or even freaking chicken alfredo (noodles and all), I was pretty determined.

 Alas, adulthood is a cruel thing. Once you're removed from your parents' resources and handy kitchen supplies, making everything isn't always feasible. Much of me still believes in making what I can when I can, but there's also a large part of me that loves nothing more than a frozen corn dog or some instant pad thai. Another guilty pleasure I've had for such a long time is Dairy Queen's ice cream cake. I've wanted to make one for some time, but I wanted to put my own twist on it.

 A couple weeks ago I finally got my chance to throw together a somewhat hodge-podge, but still very heartfelt birthday cake for my boo. In an effort to keep it somewhat real, I made a from-scratch vanilla cake to hide amongst the various layers of very much pre-made ingredients.

  Each layer is vanilla cake and cookie dough ice cream topped with a mixture of crushed Oreos and Magic Shell to mimic those magic "crunchies" that DQ does so well. Everything is frosted with Cool Whip, because homemade whipped cream is dank but doesn't hold up too well to long periods of freezing. And the whole thing is a three layer 6-inch cake cuz I don't need 8 inches of this in my freezer staring at my every darn day.

  Also, in keeping with the laid-back theme, all of these photos were taken on my phone. When you split your home life into two different apartments sometimes your DSLR is tucked away in a drawer somewhere else...so you just gotta make do.

  It definitely does the job, even if (and possibly because) it's not entirelyyyy from scratch. Nomz.

Mini Ice Cream Cake
Yield: one 6-inch cake

Ingredients for the cake:
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tbsp whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Other Ingredients:
  • one pint of your favorite ice cream, softened (I used Ben & Jerry's cookie dough ice cream)
  • about 15-20 Oreo cookies
  • Magic Shell
  • Cool Whip, to frost
  • Sprinkles/other decorations as desired

For the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line a 6-inch cake pan with parchment paper.
Beat butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Combine milk and vinegar. Add half of the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix on low speed, until just combined. Add half of the milk/vinegar mixture, until just combined. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients, and then the rest of the milk.

Pour into prepared pan, and bake on a small sheet pan in the oven for 37-39 minutes. Until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning it out of the pan to cool completely. Once the cake is cool, slice into three equal layers with a cake separator or serrated bread knife. Wrap well in plastic wrap and place in freezer overnight (or at least 2 hours).

When ready, soften your ice cream at room temperature for about 30-45 minutes. Once softened (not melted), place into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer so it is spreadable. With a plastic bag and rolling pin or a food processor, crush your Oreos. Then pour into a bowl and mix in about 1 bottle of Magic Shell, so the crumbs are all well-moistened. Remove your cake layers from the freezer, and working quickly, spread about 1/2 of your softened ice cream onto the bottom layer and top with some Oreo crumbs. Repeat for the next layer. Place your top layer on top and immediately wrap the sides of the cake in plastic wrap to keep ice cream from leaking out too much, and place in the freezer to firm up for at least 4 hours.

When you're ready to frost, use an offset spatula to make a crumb coat of whipped cream on your cake. Freeze for 15 minutes and add your final layer of whipped cream. Decorate as desired, and freeze until ready to slice and eat!

Inspirations: vanilla cake adapted from Dessert for Two, otherwise an Indigo Scones original y'all


Mascarpone Tart with Cranberry Cider Compote & Pecan Crust

  This Thanksgiving is a little strange. Back in the day, I'd be going to one of my grandparents' house and feasting with my family and crazy sisters. But now there's only one set of grandparents, and this year half of my family isn't even going there/doing anything for the holiday. I could be making the trek, but instead I'm going to my significant's Thanksgiving...

  I guess that's the thing you do when you've been dating for a spell, but it's my first holiday away from "home", if you will.

  I'm torn between feeling nostalgic, wanting to impress people with a tasty dish, and doing my best to get into the holiday spirit.

  A couple years ago we had our family Christmas Eve in our then mobile home while my parents were building a new house. I made this tart for it. It's a good memory, everyone sitting in the living room admiring presents while I was in the kitchen slathering homemade cranberry sauce onto a chilled mascarpone tart.

  Annalise of Completely Delicious (great blog, been following it for years) calls this a lovely alternative to the classic Pumpkin Pie for a Thanksgiving dessert, or perhaps an nice accompaniment.  I think it does well on both the Thanksgiving and Christmas table, the mascarpone and berries are a complimentary refreshment after a particularly heavy meal.

  The process for me (with some speed chillings in the freezer) took about 3 hours, but if you can I really recommend doing this over the period of a couple days so you don't spend so much time waiting on it and get the best tart you can. I'm a busy bee these days and got a rare Wednesday off to fiddle around with this, so I did a more compact recipe-making (along with 8 zillion loads of hand-washed dishes).

That being said, I made this the day before Thanksgiving with a head cold, so it's not a difficult recipe by any means.

  If you were to divide it up, I'd say do the cranberry sauce and bake off the pecan crust on one day (so they have time to cool and be set), then make the filling and sugared cranberries (if you're feeling so decoratively inclined, they're optional) the next.

  The sauce smells amazing while it simmers, and it's packed with spices, brown sugar, orange zest, and apple cider (do local if you can!).


  My tart pan was a little smaller than what Annalise was using, so I ended up going a little heavier on the pecan crust than I intended to. But, it will still taste amazing. The crust comes together quickly in a food processor, make sure your toasted pecans are cooled off enough so they don't melt your butter.

  And because I'm extra, I made sugared cranberries and additional toasted pecans for garnish. They're not hard to make at all, they just take a bit to dry before you can toss them in sugar. But since I was waiting on 2 other things to chill, I had a bit of down time to play with. Even regular cranberries are also a nice topper. If you're interested in trying your hand at them, check out Everyday Annie for her succinct and thorough tutorial.

  I'll miss my family tomorrow, but I'm happy to be bringing a little piece of the Brandts with me in this conveniently aesthetically-pleasing tart. Happy Thanksgiving all <3

Mascarpone Tart with Cranberry Cider Compote & Pecan Crust
Yield: one large tart (if using anything smaller than an 11-inch tart pan, note that you'll have some leftover crust/filling)

Ingredients for the compote:
  • 1 (12-oz bag, 340 grams) cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup apple cider
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • A few grates of nutmeg
  • 1 cinnamon stick (I didn't have time to get whole spices, ground will do in a pinch)
  • Dash of ground ginger

Ingredients for the crust:
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted (be sure they're cool!)
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2-3 tablespoons ice cold water

Ingredients for the filling:
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese, chilled
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

To make the compote, in a medium saucepan combine cranberries, brown sugar, apple cider, orange zest, nutmeg and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have burst and sauce is thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Let cool completely. (be sure to remove the cinnamon stick before topping the tart)

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg and pecans. Add the butter and pulse a few times until the pieces of butter are broken up. Combine the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of ice water and add to the food processor while it is running. Pulse until the mixture starts to come together (the processor will make a loud sound).
Press the mixture into a large greased tart pan. Chill in freezer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line chilled crust with greased foil and fill with pie weights or dried rice or beans. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove weights and foil and bake until barely golden brown, about 20 minutes more. Let cool completely.

In a medium bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the mascarpone cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth and creamy. In a large bowl, beat heavy cream to soft peaks (if your handheld mixer comes with a whisk attachment, use it). With mixer on low, slowly spoon mascarpone cream mixture into whipped cream until incorporated and smooth. Spread onto cooled crust.

Top with cranberry compote (you'll likely have extra, save it to serve on the side). Garnish as desired. Keep in fridge.

Sources: adapted from Completely Delicious