One of the first blogs I discovered was Aran Goyoaga's cannelle et vanille. I fell in love with her space right away. It might have been because of her bright, floral set ups, or the way her foods were styled so carefully yet effortlessly. Maybe it was the feel of her images and the tone of her words. I just loved it. To me, it was pretty and lovely and everything that made my creative side happy. I bookmarked her blog (I didn't even know what RSS was). And I came back. Many times.
When I learned that her first cookbook was coming out, I was quite excited to take a peek inside. I expected the photography to be beautiful and inspiring (which it is), and the pages to be colored with bright produce (and it is). She divided her book conveniently by seasons, which I enjoy because it lets me focus on the flavors and offerings of the particular time of year we're in.
All the recipes in the book look delectable. Aran's cooking is very much influenced by her Northern Spanish background. That means lots of shellfish. Not very convenient for me (since shellfish isn't kosher), but I did find ways to adapt some of the recipes (like the soups). The baked sweets, on the other hand, are my favorite part of the book. I can't wait to make her chocolate brioche and brown butter and apple clafoutis.
The first thing I started with were the Spiced Pear & Brown Butter Muffins, after all it was fall when I made them (how did it turn to winter so quickly?) and I wanted the aroma of cinnamon and ginger in my home.
I promise that I say this without an inkling of exaggeration. They are the best muffins I have ever had. They turned out so incredibly moist. They had the deepest fall flavors, especially with the maple syrup and the browned butter that gave them a caramel-like taste. They were perfect in texture and even more perfect in flavors. I ate way more than I care to recall, and I think I cannot make them again since it would be a losing battle with my willpower. sigh.
It was my first time browning butter, and I think I'm hooked. The nutty aroma and the caramelized flavor will take any baked goodies to a whole new level of deliciousness. I promise.
Overall, Small Plates and Sweet Treats is a lovely cookbook
that I look forward to using and looking at. I see myself turning to it
for photographic inspiration as well as delicious treats. It reminds me
very much of Donna Hay's Seasons, which is another beautiful book that I peruse often, just for the pictures.
Spiced Pear Brown Butter Muffins
1 1/4 sticks (140g) unsalted butter
190g white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scarped (I used a teaspoon vanilla extract)
2 medium-sized Bartlett pears
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios, for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. In a small saucepan, cook the butter over medium heat until it starts to bubble and the milk solids start to brown on the bottom of the pan. It will take about 5 minutes and will smell like roasting nuts, Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the brown butter to a clean bowl to cool.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, and brown butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until combined.
5. Grate the pears using a box grater, skin and all. Fold the grated pears into the batter.
6. Line a muffin pan with paper liners and, using an ice creams coop, fill the liners with the batter about three-quarters of the way full. Sprinkle the tops with chopped pistachios.
7. Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the muffins to a cooling rack and let them cool completely.
note: I adapted the recipe to use wheat flour. Let me know if you would like the gluten free one.
Another small note: I really appreciate that Aran uses bot weight and volume
measurements for her recipes. It helps tremendously due to its accuracy,
especially in baking.