Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Granola

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaThe countdown to vacation is officially on! I am T-4 days away from driving up to Maine with my friends, VJ and Adam, and I. can’t. wait.

A lot of the appeal of this trip is that we can all be together while also doing our own things. VJ will be perfectly happy putting together puzzles all day long. I have big plans to spend at least a couple of days foraging and baking. This will be Adam’s first time to Swans Island, but I know he’ll settle in quickly. The great thing about this trip is that everyone can do exactly what they want to do—there are no definite plans or must-do activities. It’s positively blissful.

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaThe only thing that’s difficult about being on Swans Island is figuring out the menu. There are no large grocery stores on-island, so all groceries have to be carted over from a market on the mainland. This means that we spent last Saturday night gathered around Adam’s kitchen table planning out every single meal and snack so that we can shop efficiently and thoroughly. Easy enough, right?

WRONG. While Adam and I basically eat everything, VJ is a gluten-free vegan. Granted, she is the least difficult gluten-free vegan ever (ever ever ever), but it’s still a challenge to plan meals that we can all enjoy together. Honestly, it’s simpler to just make two grocery lists and hope for some ingredient overlap. Regardless, I’ve taken it upon myself to make one thing we can all share and enjoy equally. This Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Granola is the result, and it’s freaking fabulous.

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaLike most granola, Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Granola is super easy to make and infinitely more delicious than anything you’ll find in stores. It’s basically like crispy, crunchy Nutella-flavored magic…but gluten-free, vegan, and perfect for sharing with all my favorite people.

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaSalted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaSalted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaSalted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaOats and chopped raw hazelnuts are coated in a mixture of oil, maple syrup, dark brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla, before being baked until crisp. Once the granola isn’t searing hot anymore, four ounces of dark chocolate are mixed in. This creates some seriously amazing clusters 😍 You could certainly enjoy your granola like that, but I like to wait until it reaches room temperature and stir in a bit more chocolate—textural diversity for the win. Also, all that chocolate 😊😳🍫🍫🍫

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut GranolaI’ve already made two quarts of this granola for our trip. That may seem like a lot for three people, but between breakfasts and snacks, I know it’ll disappear quickly. And how couldn’t it? With crispy oats, toasty hazelnuts, a double dose of chocolate, and a big hit of salt to balance it all out, it’s guaranteed to keep all of us coming back for more.Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Granola

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Granola
makes about 5-6 cups

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats (I used certified gluten-free oats)
1 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) raw hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1/3 cup neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt
6 ounces chopped dark chocolate, divided

Preheat oven to 300F. Line a rimmed quarter sheet pan with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine oats and chopped hazelnuts. Set aside.

In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, combine oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and brown sugar. Use a fork to whisk in cocoa powder and salt until mixture is smooth. Pour liquid ingredients over oats and hazelnuts. Fold everything together with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon.

Transfer mixture to prepared pan and spread into one even layer. Bake 40 minutes, stirring at the 15 and 30 minute marks. Let cool in the pan on a rack for at least 20 minutes, until it’s warm but can be handled. Scatter 4 ounces of chopped chocolate over the top and stir in. Let cool completely. Stir in remaining 2 ounces of chopped chocolate.

Granola may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.

Sour Cherry Sweet Rolls

Sour Cherry Sweet RollsI wait all year long for sour cherries. I love their tart flavor and tiny size, and just look at the color! Does a more beautiful food exist?!

Sour Cherry Sweet RollsGetting your hands on sour cherries isn’t easy. Their season is only a few weeks long—blink and you’ll miss them! And you can’t find them just anywhere. I’ve seen them in a grocery store exactly once in the last five years and it was a super pricey specialty foods store. These are basically a farmers market-only find.

Sour Cherry Sweet RollsSour cherries are ideal for pie—I’m not sure I’ve seen them in any other application. Pie requires temperature control though, and the kitchen is the only room of my apartment that can’t be air conditioned 😢 Futzing with sticky pie dough while sweating and cursing whoever decided to put bars on a courtyard-facing second-story window is not my idea of a good time. Instead, I’m looking at the bright side and making something that needs a warm environment to work properly—Sour Cherry Sweet Rolls, y’all!

Sour Cherry Sweet RollsThese rolls are made with my favorite sweet yeast dough, and positively loaded with sour cherries! In fact, the filling is literally just sour cherries, sugar, butter, and a pinch of salt. I considered adding some spices to pep things up, but this perfect seasonal fruit simply doesn’t need any adornment.

Sour Cherry Sweet RollsThese rolls are delicious, but they can be a little tough to handle. Once the dough is rolled out and the filling is piled on, it’s time to roll everything up. This can be near impossible to do evenly, so please don’t stress yourself out about it.

Slicing requires a little more patience than most sweet roll recipes. Instead of slicing all the rolls at once, I recommend slicing them individually, using your free hand to keep them intact as you transfer each one to the pan. This may not go perfectly either, but just know that a rise will make any cosmetic issues disappear. If you have any cherries fall out, just nudge them back in the best you can—again, don’t let this stress you out. Everything is going to be fine. You can’t see it in these photos, but just know that these rolls were truly hideous after slicing. Post-rise and bake though, you’d never know it…

Sour Cherry Sweet RollsSour Cherry Sweet RollsSour Cherry Sweet Rolls…and even if you did, icing would fix it anyway. This quick, five-ingredient icing is the perfect accompaniment to the sour cherry filling. It’s flavored with vanilla and almond extracts, and formulated to be extra thick. Once it’s spread over the top, it melts down and mingles with the filling and it’s just…divine.

Sour Cherry Sweet RollsSour Cherry Sweet RollsSour Cherry Sweet RollsThese Sour Cherry Sweet Rolls are the best kind of mid-summer breakfast treat. Soft pastry, buttery, sweet-tart cherry filling, and delectable vanilla-almond icing—is there a better way to start the day?!

Sour Cherry Sweet RollsNow, run to the farmers market before the season is over! You don’t want to have to wait a year to make these.Sour Cherry Sweet Rolls

Sour Cherry Sweet Rolls
makes 12 rolls

Dough:
1 3/4-2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup bread flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast (I use Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Yeast)
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, beaten, room temperature

Filling:
2 1/2 cups sour cherries (fresh or frozen), pitted
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

Icing:
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
6-8 tablespoons heavy cream

Grease a 9×13-inch rimmed baking pan. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, bread flour, sugar, instant yeast, and salt. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat whole milk and butter until hot to the touch, about 115F. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in milk mixture, followed by egg and yolk. Add more all-purpose flour until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Knead 5-6 minutes before forming into a ball and placing in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.

Make the filling. In a small bowl, fold together sour cherries, sugar, and salt.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into an 8×14-inch rectangle. Use an offset icing knife to spread softened butter over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch perimeter on all sides. Scatter cherry mixture over the top, leaving and excess liquid behind in the bowl. Starting with the long edge furthest from your body, tightly roll filled dough toward you, smoothing any seams with your thumbs. Carefully slice dough into 12 rolls—this may be very messy. Place rolls close together in prepared pan. Loosely cover the pan with aluminum foil. Place covered pan in a warm, draft-free place for 60-90 minutes, until rolls have doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375F. Uncover rolls. Bake 25-30 minutes, recovering the rolls with foil if anything begins to brown too quickly. Let cool in the pan on a rack while you make the icing.

In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together confectioners sugar and salt. Whisk in extracts and 6 tablespoons of heavy cream. Mix until smooth, adding more heavy cream by the tablespoon until the desired consistency is reached.

Drop spoonfuls of icing over the warm rolls and spread around with the back of a spoon. Slice and serve.

Rolls are best the day they are made, but will keep covered at room temperature for a day or so.

Carrot-Zucchini Muffins

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsI’m such an optimist when it comes to meal planning. I start every week with the best of intentions, picking up a ton of fresh produce. Tomatoes and avocados go quickly around here, being tossed with pesto or mashed into guacamole or served on toast. Greens go with fried eggs or are made into a huge salad with any odds and ends I have in the fridge. But no matter what I do, something gets forgotten.

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsLast week, it was nearly a pound of carrots and a few zucchini. I made some into hash browns (recipe coming soon!), but I can only eat so many of those in a week. Instead of letting good produce sit in the fridge for another day or two, I turned to my go-to Zucchini Bread recipe.

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsIn addition to being delicious, these Carrot-Zucchini Muffins are a little more nutritious than your average breakfast pastry. For one, they’re made with shredded carrots and zucchini—there’s a full 1/4 cup of vegetables in every serving!

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsThe batter can certainly be made with only all-purpose flour, but I like to use half whole wheat flour here. Where using all whole wheat flour has the potential to make things dry and crumbly if not handled properly, using it in a 50/50 ratio with all-purpose keeps everything nice and soft. The resulting muffins have a nutty whole grain flavor and fluffy interiors—the best of both worlds.  

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsCarrot-Zucchini Muffins are pretty low in sugar, coming in at less than a tablespoon per serving. While adding a few more tablespoons of sugar could certainly amp up the flavor, 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg basically do the same thing without adding to the calorie count.

Carrot-Zucchini MuffinsIf you’re looking to get some extra vegetables into your family this summer, this is one easy way to do it. These muffins have all that carrot and zucchini, a bit of whole grain, and with such minimal sugar, seconds are encouraged. Also, they freeze like a dream—just pop a frozen muffin in the microwave for 45 seconds or so. Served alongside a glass of Cold Brew, eating your vegetables has never been so delicious.Carrot-Zucchini Muffins

Carrot-Zucchini Muffins
makes 12 standard Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (or white whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup neutral-flavored oil (I use canola)
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots, not packed (about 3 medium carrots)
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini, not packed (about 2 medium zucchini)

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners, or grease well. Set aside.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oil and brown sugar. Add eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla. Whisk in dry ingredients in two installments, mixing just until combined. Fold in shredded carrots and zucchini. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Tap full pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles.

Bake 5 minutes before reducing the heat to 350F for another 12-14 minutes. Muffins are ready when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to five.

To freeze, place cooled muffins on a baking sheet and freeze for 2 hours. Transfer to a labeled freezer bag. Store in the freezer for up to three months. To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight or microwave for 45 seconds-1 minute.

High Rise Cinnamon Rolls

High Rise Cinnamon RollsEvery once in a while, it’s fun to break the rules. Take these High Rise Cinnamon Rolls, for instance. Generally speaking, sweet rolls are usually baked close together, producing a bunch of puffy rolls in one even layer. But if you change just a few things about those traditional recipes, you wind up with tall-spired cinnamon rolls with crispy edges and soft centers.

High Rise Cinnamon RollsHigh Rise Cinnamon Rolls are my take on the rolls at The Upper Crust Bakery in Austin, Texas. Whenever I visit my sister, Emily, down there, I just have to have one. Rather than being baked together, theirs are baked in muffin tins—crispy edges and soft centers, y’all! 

High Rise Cinnamon RollsGetting these cinnamon rolls to turn out like those that inspired them wasn’t as easy as just placing the rolls in muffin cups and letting them rise. Nope! I did that for round one and ended up with flat rolls. After doing a little more research, I set out to alter my usual method.

High Rise Cinnamon RollsHigh Rise Cinnamon RollsThe simplest (but ultimately, most dramatic) change is in the rolling. Once your yeast dough is made, risen once, flattened into a rectangle, and filled, it’s time to roll it up. Traditionally, the sheet of dough is rolled starting at a long edge. Here, we roll the dough from one of the short edges. This allows for each roll to have a longer spiral.

High Rise Cinnamon RollsOnce the dough is rolled into a cylinder, slice it into a dozen pieces. Working with one at a time, pick it up and gently press the bottom center upward before placing the roll in a greased muffin cup. This small amount of pressure encourages the rolls to expand up instead of out during their second rise.

High Rise Cinnamon RollsHigh Rise Cinnamon RollsAfter the rolls have spiraled upward, bake them for twenty minutes or so—they should be deeply golden. And look at those tall spires! Some of them may start to topple over a bit, but I kind of love that no two are exactly alike.

High Rise Cinnamon RollsHigh Rise Cinnamon RollsHigh Rise Cinnamon RollsWhile you could certainly top these High Rise Cinnamon Rolls with a quick glaze or cream cheese frosting, I take another note from Upper Crust here and dip each in butter and cinnamon-sugar! The contrast between the caramelized cinnamon filling and the crunchy granules on the outside is absolute heaven.

High Rise Cinnamon RollsYep, it’s good to break the rules every once in a while. Especially when it involves cinnamon rolls.High Rise Cinnamon Rolls

High Rise Cinnamon Rolls
makes 12 rolls

Dough:
3/4 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 3/4-2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup bread flour
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, beaten

Filling:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
4 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Coating:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Make the dough. In a small saucepan, heat whole milk and butter until hot to the touch, about 115F. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Stir in sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until the yeast is bubbly. If your yeast doesn’t bubble, it’s dead. Discard the mixture and start again with new yeast.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, bread flour, and salt. Once the yeast has bloomed, use a silicone spatula to stir in flour mixture. Stir in eggs. Add more flour in 2 tablespoon increments, just until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. I usually need 4-6 tablespoons more flour, but you may add up to 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) depending on your dough.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5-6 minutes, until smooth. Place dough ball in an oiled bowl and cover in plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free environment for 90 minutes-2 hours, until doubled in bulk.

Grease a 12-cup standard muffin tin. Set aside. 

Make the filling. In a small bowl, use a fork to mash butter, light brown sugar, and cinnamon into a paste.

Punch dough down. Turn it out onto a floured surface. Roll the dough out into an 11×17-inch rectangle. Spread the filling in an even layer over the top, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides. Starting with one of the short sides, tightly roll the dough into a cylinder. Smooth any seams with your thumbs. Slice into 12 rolls. Place the rolls in the muffin cups, lightly pushing up the middle of each roll. Loosely drape the pan with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free environment to rise for another 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove the plastic wrap from the pan. Bake rolls 20-25 minutes, until browned with lofty spiraled centers. Let rolls cool in the pan on a rack for 5-10 minutes. Remove rolls from the pan and let cool completely on the rack.

Prepare the coating. Melt butter in the microwave or in a pot on the stove. In a shallow dish, stir together sugar and cinnamon. Working with one roll at a time, dip each in butter and then roll or sprinkle them with cinnamon-sugar. Serve immediately.

Coated rolls will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days. Uncoated rolls may be frozen. Thaw and coat before serving.

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry MuffinsBlueberry Muffins always make me think of summer camp. I went from the time I was in first grade, and after sixteen years (twelve as a camper, four as a counselor/staff), my love of summer camp is just a part of who I am. I finished my last year at camp a mere eight days before I moved to New York–almost ten years ago!–but around this time every year, I still get the urge to pack a trunk and take up residence in a cabin in Granbury, Texas. I know I have many friends who would be happy to join me.

Blueberry MuffinsIt’s different now, but the food at camp was pretty terrible back in my day, save for a few crowd-favorite meals. The highlights of the week were grilled cheese and tomato soup and blueberry muffins. Yes, blueberry muffins were as good as camp breakfast got. I don’t know how exactly it got started, but we had a tradition during those breakfasts where we’d all occasionally chant-yodel “BLUE…BERRY MUFFINS!” I wish I could explain why we all thought it was so funny, but as anyone who has ever gone to camp can tell you, it’s just a camp thing.

Blueberry MuffinsThose summer camp blueberry muffins will always hold a place in my heart, but in all actuality, they weren’t very good–dry with a hard outer crust and gummy blueberries. They worked on those early mornings, but I know I wouldn’t want one now.

Blueberry MuffinsBlueberry MuffinsBlueberry MuffinsThe blueberry muffins I make these days are everything you could possibly want them to be. They’re soft and fluffy with domed tops, and positively bursting with blueberries–there are two whole cups in the recipe! The muffins themselves are flavored with a bit of vanilla and nearly-undetectable dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg. They stay moist for days thanks to buttermilk, a combination of melted butter and oil, and the blueberries, of course! Really, they are everything a blueberry muffin should be.

The only things that could make them better are a swipe of butter and sharing with a camp friend or two. Or sixty.Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins
makes 12 muffins

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
12 ounces fresh or frozen (not thawed) blueberries
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil (I used canola)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoon coarse sugar (like turbinado), for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a 12-cup standard muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Remove 2 tablespoons of the dry ingredients and place in a separate medium mixing bowl. Add fresh blueberries. Toss together with your hands until blueberries are coated in the dry ingredients. This will keep them from sinking in the batter. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg and yolk, vanilla, oil, and melted butter. Add dry ingredients in three installments, scraping down the bowl as you go. Mix just until combined. Fold in blueberries.

Divide batter among muffin cups–they will be almost completely full. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Carefully tap the pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 350F and bake for an additional 14-18 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for at least five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely before serving.

Leftovers will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to five.