Espresso Coffee Cake Muffins

Espresso Coffee Cake Muffins | The Baker's Pantry
Espresso Coffee Cake Muffins | The Baker’s Pantry

On any given morning, I struggle to extract myself from the warm covers only to emerge into the frigid unforgiving air. Chilled to the bone, it takes everything in me to slowly guide myself along the path to the kitchen where I face my beloved coffee maker and come head to head with my fuel for the day. In only a moment, the entire house is entwined within an alluring aroma that in itself, gives me an instant jolt and purpose to my day. Not a single day transpires that I abandon this habit. On the contrary, mid-morning most days inevitably presents itself with hunger rumblings as I realize I’ve completely forgotten to eat breakfast. How can I consistently lose sight of such an important introduction to my day? After all, the thought of neglecting my caffeine ritual is unimaginable! If only I could behold breakfast as much I do my coffee. This consequently is how this amazing muffin came to life. Espresso, cinnamon and walnuts intertwined harmoniously into a muffin…surely I can get on board with that…right? Yes I can and yes I have.

Espresso Coffee Cake Muffins | The Baker's Pantry
Espresso Coffee Cake Muffins | The Baker’s Pantry

Imagine my surprise when I found out that the month of March is “Caffeine” month (shouldn’t every month be deemed this?)! An entire guilt-free month dedicated to my most prized addiction. What better time to embrace this new caffeine-induced breakfast tradition?

Espresso Coffee Cake Muffins | The Baker's Pantry
Espresso Coffee Cake Muffins | The Baker’s Pantry

Honestly, this might just be the best muffin I’ve ever eaten. First of all, the texture is sublime. It is so incredibly moist and the crumble on top provides an unexpected crunch that is down-right addictive. The almond and coconut flour in combination with the almond butter creates this fabulous texture as well as a notable nutty flavor. Second, it is Paleo and Gluten-Free which means that it contains no refined sugars or flours and uses no dairy. They’re practically good for you. Third and perhaps most importantly, this is a perfectly sweet, but not overly sweet muffin so you can enjoy it anytime of the day without guilt. It pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee and even better enjoyed with that cup of coffee in a nice quiet house (one can dream).

Espresso Coffee Cake Muffins | The Baker's Pantry
Espresso Coffee Cake Muffins | The Baker’s Pantry

 

Espresso Coffee Cake Muffins (Paleo, GF)          {Print Recipe}
Yields: 12 standard sized muffins
For the filling:

¼ cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp natural cocoa powder
¼ cup walnuts, chopped

For the crumb topping:

½ cup almond flour (not almond meal)
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp coconut butter
2 Tbsp maple syrup
¼ cup walnuts, chopped

For the muffins:

¾ cup almond flour (not almond meal)
½ cup coconut flour
1 tsp baking soda (-1/8 tsp for high altitude)
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 large eggs
½ cup honey
1 Tbsp vanilla
½ cup coconut cream
2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 ½ tsp espresso powder
1 ½ Tbsp warm water
¾ cup almond butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees for high altitude). Line a 12 cupcake pan with paper liners. Note: At high altitude, you don’t want to fill the muffin cups more than halfway full as the batter expands more quickly and tends to collapse if the cup is filled too full. To help combat this, I use tall muffin liners (Paper Chef brand Tulip cups) as they allow the batter more room to expand.
To make the filling:
Mix the maple syrup, cinnamon and cocoa powder in a small bowl with a whisk. Set aside.

To make the crumb topping:
Mix the almond flour, cinnamon, coconut butter and maple syrup with a fork in a medium bowl to make a coarse crumb texture and then mix in the chopped walnuts. Set this mixture aside.
To make the muffins:
In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon with a whisk. Set the bowl aside. In a small bowl, combine the espresso powder and warm water. In the bowl of a mixer, combine the eggs, honey, vanilla, espresso, coconut cream, and melted coconut oil and mix on medium speed until just combined. Add the almond butter to the bowl and mix until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
Spoon 2 Tbsp. of the batter into each muffin cup. Sprinkle about a Tbsp. of chopped walnuts onto the batter. Next spoon 1 tsp of the filling on top of the walnuts into each of the muffin cups. Lastly, spoon 1 Tbsp. of the remaining batter on top of the filling in each muffin cup. Add a heaping Tbsp. of the crumble on top of the batter in each muffin cup. I suggest being liberal with the crumb topping…it is delicious.
Bake muffins for 25-30 minutes. Cool muffins in pan for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire cooling rack.
Store these muffins in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days (they won’t last that long…trust me) or they can be double wrapped and frozen for up to 6 months.

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Spiced Sugar Cookies

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I have a confession to make.  I’m caught in the midst of a love affair…no not of the traditional variety, but rather the sweet kind.  Sugar cookies.  Sugar cookies of all kinds…vanilla,  lemon,  almond,  chocolate.  The list is ever evolving and I have no intention of ceasing my indulgences.  You might not believe this, but I have a surprising amount of willpower when it comes to most desserts, keeping my portions at bay (relatively speaking).  But when it comes to sugar cookies, I’m afraid I simply can’t resist. Thin, crisp and subtly sweet with a delicately crunchy icing that adds just the right amount of sweetness and texture.  I adore making these cookies because…well…let’s face it, everyone loves a good sugar cookie.  I also cherish them because of the accuracy that comes along with the task.  Don’t get me wrong, sugar cookies are simple to make, but achieving the desired shape and finished product comes with precision, lots of patience and plenty of challenges.  In an effort to create the perfectly crafted sugar cookie, I attempt them often and find myself tweaking my recipe a little each and every time that I make them.   Living in the “Mile High” City of Denver, high altitude undoubtedly plays a large part in the end result as it presents numerous baking challenges.  The dough rises too quickly and the cookie spreads too much, all but eliminating the details of the shape that you’ve worked so hard to create.  The center of the cookie is under baked while the edges of the cookie quickly become too dark and last but not least, the texture of the cookie reveals tiny bothersome bubbles throughout ruining the anticipated flawlessness.  After many years and a lot of tries, I’ve finally discovered my choice recipe and methods to creating sugar cookie perfection.  You may remember my post for “Sugar Cookies” from a couple of years back.  These cookies have the delicious flavor of almond infused in both the cookie itself as well as the icing…soooo good.  The chocolate sugar cookies from the “Chocolate Mint Sandwich Cookies” (another post from the past) are incredibly rich and chocolate-y and display the magnificent versatility that a simple sugar cookie can uphold.

Now that I’ve successfully surmounted the sugar cookie hurdle, I ask myself, “how can I further explore this beloved cookie?”  Sugar cookies are a chameleon of sorts, quite versatile, revealing endless possibilities.  The dough is a pleasure to work with and can accept many flavors to transform it from a humble sugar cookie to a cookie with more complex form and flavor.  After much contemplation, I concluded that in the spirit of this fall season and with the holidays quickly approaching, what better flavor addition than to infuse the cookies with the warm spices and flavors that this season embodies?

These lightly spiced cookies are really really good.  By altering my sugar cookie recipe slightly, I discovered such a lovely flavor combination.  These cookies warm your senses with the aromatic flavors of spice.  They truly embody the essence of fall, yet the cookie still maintains the admired qualities of a sugar cookie.  They are a perfect cross between a sugar cookie and either an English Biscoff or Dutch Speculaas.  Never heard of Speculaas cookies?  They are essentially a shortbread biscuit derived from the Netherlands, and are common particularly during the Christmas season.  Both varieties are a delicately thin and crisp cookie infused with holiday spices.  Whatever you call them, they’re delicious.

These spiced sugar cookies are lovely all on their own, but the royal icing and sanding sugar offer a contrasting sweetness and crunch that takes them over the top.  I think that you’ll find that these cookies become part of your beloved cookie repertoire as they did for me and you just might find yourself caught in the midst of a love affair.

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Spiced Sugar Cookies          {Print Recipe}

(recipe adapted from Susan Gold Purdy, Pie in the Sky)

Yields approx.: Four dozen 2” cookies

12 Tbsp (1- 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup  superfine sugar

¼ cup  dark brown sugar, lightly packed

2  large eggs, at room temperature

1 ½  tsp  vanilla extract

2 ¾ cups  all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out dough

1 tsp  baking powder (1/2 tsp at high altitude)

1 tsp  salt

2 tsp  cinnamon

½ tsp  nutmeg

¼ tsp  cloves

½ tsp  ground ginger

¼ tsp  black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and divide the oven racks into thirds.  Line the cookie sheets with baking parchment or a nonstick baking mat.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until well blended. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract, scraping down the bowl and beater as necessary.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, spices and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat on the lowest speed until well incorporated.  Remove from bowl and form the dough into a ball on a slightly floured surface. If it feels too sticky, add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of flour, until it is easier to handle. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes to an hour, or even overnight.

Work quickly with one-half of the dough at the time (keep the remaining dough in the refrigerator).  Lightly flour table surface and rolling pin and roll out dough to about a 1/16-1/8 inch thickness. Cut out shapes as quickly as possible.  The key here is to keep the dough as cold as possible (this helps to solve the bothersome bubble problem).  Transfer cookies onto prepared cookie sheet and place in the freezer for about 15-30 minutes (this helps the cookies to keep their intended shape).

Bake cookies for 12-14 minutes, or until they look slightly golden around the edges. Make sure to rotate pans halfway through baking time for even baking. Let the cookies cool on baking sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Let the cookies completely cool before icing.

Sugar Cookie Icing

(recipe adapted from allrecipes.com)

3 cups  confectioner’s sugar, sifted

2-3 Tbsp  milk

2 Tbsp  light corn syrup

¾ tsp  vanilla extract

Assorted food coloring

Assorted sanding sugars

In a mixer bowl on low speed, beat together the confectioner’s sugar and milk until smooth.  Increase the speed to medium and beat in the corn syrup and vanilla extract until icing is smooth and glossy.  If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup.

Divide the icing into separate bowls, if using multiple colors and add food coloring to the desired intensity.  Spread icing over completely cooled cookies.

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Homemade Graham Crackers

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First of all, it feels fantastic to be back to baking!  Now that we are a family of four, I find that there just isn’t enough time in the day, particularly uninterrupted time in the kitchen.  Sometimes however, a sweet tooth can drive your focus and become quite a powerful force to deal with.  These constant impulses and sweet cravings have once again captured my senses and brought me back into the kitchen emphatically.  With this said, my focus and attention are still guided by my little ones.  Therefore, I feel that I owe it to them to highlight a kid-friendly dessert for this post.

With the craziness of daily life, I feel that I’ve recently fallen victim to the vast array of convenience foods that I’ve relentlessly made such an effort to avoid in the past.  It’s so easy to grab a few prepared snacks for the kids; crackers, cookies, snack bars, etc.  In an effort to put myself at ease about this latest crutch of mine, why not at least attempt to make some of these oh-so-desired snacks from scratch??

These crackers are really more like a cookie and they are so simple yet incredibly versatile.  The ingredients come together quickly and the texture and taste are far superior to those of the store-bought variety.  They are perfectly satisfying on their own, particularly to the kids, but I find that awarding them a dip into warm homemade chocolate sauce and a good slathering of toasted marshmallow elevates them to new heights and captures the attention of the grown-ups as well.

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Graham Crackers          {Print Recipe}

Yields: 40 1 ½” x 3” graham crackers

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup + 2 Tbsp. whole wheat flour

1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed

1 tsp. baking soda

¾ tsp. kosher or coarse sea salt

7 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen

1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover

6 Tbsp. whole milk

2 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Topping

1 ½ Tbsp. granulated sugar

¾ tsp. ground cinnamon

To make the dough:

Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Pulse or mix on low to incorporate.  Add the butter and pulse on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla extract until well incorporated.  Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together.  The dough will be very soft and sticky.  Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and dust it lightly with flour.  Turn the dough out onto it and pat it into a rectangle about 1-inch thick.  Wrap it well, and then chill it until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

Roll out the crackers:

Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator.  Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface (you can be generous here as the dough is very sticky) and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8” thick.  Cut the edges of the dough to make a straight edged rectangle.  Working with a pastry cutter and straight edge, cut a strip down the long side of the rectangle 1 ½” – 2” wide and repeat all the way down.  Cut the strips along the short side of the rectangle 3”-4” wide and repeat all the way across.  You can cut the dough into squares or rectangles, or even use a cookie cutter if you prefer.  I cut my into 1 ½” x 3” rectangles and it was a perfect size. Traditional graham crackers are about 2” x 4”.

Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar topping.  Chill the dough until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes in the fridge or 15 to 20 minutes in the freezer.  Repeat with the second batch of dough.  Gather any remaining scraps together into a ball, chill until firm and re-roll.

Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Decorating the crackers:

Cut a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut all the way through the dough.  Using the blunt end of a wooden skewer, prick the dough to form two dots (or however many you want), each side of the dividing line.  You can be as creative as you want here.  It all depends on what size and shape you make your crackers.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.  Be careful as they go from browned to quite toasted in a matter of minutes (I learned this sad fate the hard way.  Fortunately the slightly over-browned cookies made an excellent crushed topping over amazing hot fudge sundaes!)

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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Chocolate Fudge Sauce          {Print Recipe}

Yields: 1 cup

3.5 oz. dark chocolate (70% cocoa content or higher), finely chopped

2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or dutch-processed)

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup powdered sugar

½ tsp. vanilla extract

Pinch fine grain sea salt

Place the chopped dark chocolate and cocoa powder in a heatproof bowl or double boiler over simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water) and heat until the chocolate has melted.

Once the chocolate has melted, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the light corn syrup, followed by the heavy cream, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt.

Transfer to a glass jar or heatproof container with a lid and serve immediately or cool to room temperature.  The syrup can be refrigerated for several days.  Simply reheat the jar for about 20 seconds in the microwave before serving.  You can reheat the chocolate sauce many times and the consistency will be perfect every time.

Recipe from The Sophisticated Gourmet

Toasted Marshmallow Dip          {PrintRecipe}

Yields: 1 cup

5 oz. (1/2 pkg.) large marshmallows

½ cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the marshmallows in a single layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until nice and toasty brown.  Make sure to keep a close eye on them though as the tops can burn quickly.  With a spatula, scoop the toasted marshmallows into a blender (they will be extremely sticky) and add the heavy whipping cream.  Blend until well incorporated.  Transfer marshmallow mixture into a glass jar or sealable container and refrigerate until the mixture becomes more of a marshmallow consistency.

Recipe from Baked Bree

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Ginger Peach Crisp

I can’t let summer pass without a post using our native Palisade, Colorado peaches.  They are so juicy and naturally sweet, they really could be considered dessert all on their own…but…

I recently came across the idea to bake in mason jars.  As always, I love the single serving concept for dessert:  Sometimes it’s just better for someone else to decide when you’re supposed to stop (It doesn’t mean that you can’t eat more than one though).  These peach crisps came to mind and they are so delicious!  The great thing about them is that once assembled, you can secure the lid on the jars and freeze them for longer storage.  It makes them perfect for a “ready ahead” dessert for a party.  Simply pull them out of the freezer, place on a cookie sheet & bake.

Marinating the peaches in amaretto is optional, however, it adds a fabulous sweetness and I find that I can’t leave this step out.  The topping really speaks for itself and makes the dessert if you ask me.  I love to serve these crisps with cinnamon ice cream…so good.

How can summer be over??

Ginger Peach Crisp            {Print Recipe}  

Yields: 8 4oz. jars

Filling:

4 cups                                  peaches, sliced (about 4 large)

¼ cup                                   amaretto

1 Tbsp                                   sugar

Topping:

1 cup                                      old fashioned oats

1 cup                                      gingersnaps, crushed

¾ cup + 2 Tbsp                (packed) dark brown sugar

½ cup                                   all-purpose flour

½ tsp                                     ground cinnamon

½ tsp                                     ground ginger

¼ tsp                                     salt

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks)          unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup                                   whole almonds, toasted & chopped

Make the Filling:

Combine the first three ingredients in a medium bowl, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.  While the peaches are marinating, make the topping.

Make the Topping:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray glass mason jars or ramekins with non-stick canola spray.  Place almonds on foil covered cookie sheet and toast in oven until golden brown and the kitchen starts to smell amazing, about 10 minutes.  Let the almonds cool completely and chop.  Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.

Mix the oats, crushed cookies, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon & salt together.  Cut the butter into ½” cubes and combine with the dry ingredients with your hands until the butter is well incorporated.  Add the almonds and stir until thoroughly mixed so that everyone will get lots of them.

Spoon the peaches evenly into the mason jars or ramekins and sprinkle with a generous serving of the topping.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

Serve warm with ice cream.

Enjoy!

Mexican Mocha Pudding with Kahlua Whipped Cream

Most of my friends will say that I possess addictive tendencies towards my relationship with coffee.  While my body demands a morning jolt of caffeine in its bloodstream, my afternoon coffee is purely indulgent.  There is nothing more satisfying than consuming a robust cup of coffee to revive my senses and defeat the sleepiness that looms over me in the afternoon.  This passion for the bean carries over equally to desserts and given the choice, I’d opt for a coffee-induced dessert every time.  Some warning signs that might indicate you too have an irrefutable dependence to coffee are: you have your own espresso machine at the office, Starbucks is the specified landmark for any and ALL directions given, your child shouts from the backseat at the mere site of a Starbucks, “Pull over Momma…you need a coffee” and finally, you can balance your child, purse, groceries and more while still managing to keep a firm grip on your coffee and not relinquish a single drop.

Am I alone here??  Anyone wanna go grab a coffee?

This amazing dessert is inspired to showcase the essence of a true Mexican coffee.  The flavors of this pudding are complex and are perfect for steadfast coffee lovers.  Steeping the cocoa nibs in milk adds a unique element of chocolate that creates an unexpected balance to the pudding.  The Kahlua whipped cream without doubt takes it over the top.  I like to serve this pudding in espresso cups (mostly for portion control) as it is quite effortless to become immersed in an entire bowl of this decadence without even realizing it.

Mexican Mocha Pudding          {Print Recipe}

Yield: 6-8 servings

2 cups whole milk

1 ¼ cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided

¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp cocoa nibs (can be found at most specialty stores)

2 1/2 Tbsp Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur, divided

½ cup (packed) golden brown sugar

3 Tbsp cornstarch

3 Tbsp instant espresso powder

½ tsp ground cinnamon

Make the pudding:

In a small saucepan, bring the whole milk, 1 cup of the heavy whipping cream, cocoa nibs and 1 ½ Tbsp of the Kahlua to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat, cover, and let the mixture steep for 20 minutes.

Strain the infused milk into a medium sized bowl, pressing the cocoa nibs with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the nibs.

In a medium heavy saucepan, whisk the brown sugar, cornstarch, espresso powder and cinnamon with about 1/3 cup of the infused milk and stir to form a smooth paste. Stir in the remainder of the milk to combine.  Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat whisking constantly for about 1 minute until slightly thickened.

Remove from the heat and pour into individual ramekins or espresso cups. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for about 4 hours, or until set.  Tip: Place plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding while chilling so that it doesn’t develop a film.

Make the whipped cream:

Combine the remaining ¼ cup of chilled heavy whipped cream and 1 Tbsp of Kahlua in a mixing bowl and beat until peaks form.  Spoon onto puddings and serve.

Enjoy! xo