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Sweet on Sweet Potatoes: A Muffin for All Seasons

27 Dec

Sweet potatoes, with their sunset-hue and irresistible buttery sweetness, were a Sunday dinner staple during my childhood. Dad was in charge of the cooking that day of the week, and while he stuffed us to the gills with mini-Thanksgivings of turkey, cranberry sauce, and green beans with ham hock, my mom’s contribution of either baked-until-silky or expertly candied sweet potatoes (with brown sugar, maple syrup and orange juice) was easily the most beloved (and first eaten).

Baked Sweet Potatoes (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

In light of my early fondness for this root vegetable, I was looking to create a muffin that wasn’t merely a  Thanksgiving pumpkin bread retread (with its tired ground spice quartet of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger). I was in search of a moist, tender and tending-toward cakey muffin that would satisfy my sweet tooth without landing me in cupcake territory.  I also wanted a muffin that didn’t scream “Holiday!” like the Material Girl.

What follows is the recipe that I tested and developed.

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Diary of a New England Thanksgiving

28 Nov RoastingCarrots, Sweet Potatoes and Apples

2011 was the first year that I cooked an entire Thanksgiving, soup to tart. For the last couple of years, I had been preparing side dishes and desserts, and my mother would contribute the protein (a.k.a. the main event), along with candied sweet potatoes and some other enticing accompaniment like corn bread stuffing with turkey sausage and dried cherries.

This Thanksgiving, I wasn’t traveling, but I was cooking in my new apartment in a new/old city. What was I going to do to make the holiday memorable? I decided I was going to try mostly new recipes, with a few old standbys thrown in. I also knew that I wasn’t going to cook turkey.

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Hi-Rise Bread Company: A Corner Bakery That is the Real Deal

14 Oct

Last night, I got off the train at Porter Square to do a few errands, and on my way back home, I stopped in my tracks. It was getting dark, but the light behind a storefront’s papered-over windows attracted my attention. And then I saw the letters that spelled out “Hi-Rise.” Could it be related to Hi-Rise Bread Company, I thought (rather excitedly)?

I inched closer, trying to read the writing on the wall (or rather, the windows) without looking like a stalker. I saw a figure or two exit a door to my right, and then, as I was lurking, I noticed someone start to tear down some of the butcher paper from one of the inside windows. Yep, this was definitely a bakery. The bakery.

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Waiting for Kugelhopf

22 Dec

The first time I made kugelhopf, it was like reenacting a scene from Little Shop of Horrors. I mixed everything, kneaded, let it rise the first time, and then placed the dough in my makeshift kugelhopf mold ( a 12-cup bundt pan). I thought I was doing well and had some time to spare for the second rise since the first took so long. So I went out, did an errand, and when I came back…“Suddenly Seymour!!!” This is what confronted me:

It was Audrey II alright. Begging me to feed it. Continue reading