Pipe Dream #282: To Be a Hugger – Cherry Almond Muffins + a Chocolate Version

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Got a new roommate–those are all her pretty things.

Tried to make her a welcome muffin–because warm muffins are like, the most welcoming thing. Besides, you know, open arms and a smile, I guess. But we talk food on this blog, and I don’t know her well enough to hug her.

I just imagined this one-sided convo that is everything that I would think and that would likely lead to a one-sided hug, probably:

“Wait, are you a hugger? Because I’m not really. But like, I would hug you, if that is what it would take for you to feel at home in your new home where I already live. You seem like you wouldn’t smell bad, based on the tasteful home decor items you dropped off a few days ago. But really, decorating taste is no indication of hygiene habits, so I really can’t say. Welp, I guess we can hug. Ok. That wasn’t so bad. Welcome. Here is a muffin.”

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And nothing goes with cherries more classically than almonds.

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True life: I was rushing when I made these and encountered two problems. One: I overmixed the batter, which can make for a denser batter, when I wanted light and fluffy. Two: I used self-rising flour that is so old that it kind of has chunks in it that I can’t get out because I have no sifter, which made the flour incorporate unevenly. This was especially obvious in the chocolate version. I could see little white specks, and texture was definitely off. It could be the recipe, too–I thought there wasn’t enough liquid in the batter.

Luckily, because these muffins have fresh cherries in them, they really softened up overnight. By  morning, the texture was much more moist, if not less dense. And if all else fails, just top with hot fudge sauce. Because that stuff makes anything into a sundae.

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Sew many problems, but maybe you should try it. For an ultra-quick muffin recipe, this can’t be beat. The almond flavor is good. Plus, when eaten fresh from the oven, even an average muffin is a winner.

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For all you huggers, I would hug you, maybe,


Cherry Almond Muffins + Chocolate Cherry Muffins

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

2 3/4 cups self-rising flour* (for a chocolate version, replace about 1/3 cup flour with 1/3 cup cocoa)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup milk or buttermilk (or half and half)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon almond extract (for chocolate version, replace with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)1 to 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cherries
sliced almonds or hot fudge sauce, for drizzling

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

Whisk together the flour and sugar (and cocoa, if this is the chocolate version). In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, eggs, and extract. Add to the dry ingredients, stirring until the flour is moistened; it will be a bit lumpy. Gently stir in the cherries, being careful not to overmix.

Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full and sprinkle muffins with sliced almonds. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove the muffins from the oven and let cool for 3 to 5 minutes in the pan. Remove from the pan and serve warm or at room temperature. Wrap airtight and store at room temperature for several days. The fresh fruit will make these soften up over time. I found that the texture had improved the following morning, but if your flour is in better shape than mine, this may not be an issue for you.

*Don’t have self-rising flour? Here’s how to make your own from scratch.


I Got It Right: Brown Butter Hazelnut Cake with Blackberry Sauce

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Once I thought I had this novel idea about hazelnuts. For some reason, I really wanted to try and make a hazelnut mousse. Not, like, a chocolate hazelnut mousse like Nutella, but just straight up hazelnut. Imagine the flavor of hazelnut in a fluffy, creamy mousse. Omheavens.

Anyway, I haven’t done it yet. I thought I was being so original, the only person in this world to separate chocolate and hazelnut. And then I heard about this cake. And for over a year, I have deliriously desired to make it.

Hazelnut. And brown butter. And no chocolate added. It is my dream come true.

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I put off my dream for an age because I was loathe to buy that amount of hazelnuts. They so expensif. BUT THEN. I found hazelnuts at HomeGoods, which were cheaper than buying nuts at the regular grocery store. And already peeled, imagine that. So I had no excuse. And at that point, I didn’t even want an excuse anymore. I’m sick of all my lame excuses to not make the best cake ever conceived.

Oh wait, one more lame excuse + lame story. Once I ate a whole hazelnut out of my mum’s drink at Applebee’s of all places, must’ve been around 11, and my throat swelled up, and I thought I was allergic for a number of years. Somehow by my own might and willpower have overcome this detrimental health condition. But even if I hadn’t, I would still make and eat this cake.

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I also found this special vanilla bean/extract at HomeGoods. Not sure if you can really taste the rainbow difference, but it adds a few pretty vanilla specks to the batter and made me feel fancy, sooo impulse buy.

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This cake requires some technique, and I really took my time and enjoyed the process. Not your standard one-bowl affair. And the result is worth every minute you spent meticulously folding in the dry ingredients. You know how I feel about folding. (Not great, but I do it out of necessity. I have to really want it. And I really want hazelnut brown butter. So.)

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And guys, I actually spent some time plating it. With salvia, not the drug kind. And also blackberry sauce, which made it all the prettier, and was a very nice complement.

I was worried that the cake would be dry–I baked it a full 20-30 minutes less than the recipe recommended–and I thought the sauce would make up for any mishaps. Upon tasting, the cake was dense but light, if that makes sense. So the sauce, while appreciated and recommended, is unnecessary, which makes this an all seasons type ‘o cake.

Enjoy with my best,


Brown Butter Hazelnut Cake with Blackberry Sauce

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques via smitten kitchen

5 ounces  hazelnuts, toasted with dark skins removed
1/2 pound unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting the cake
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 large egg whites
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan. Spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray, line with parchment, then spray generously again.

Place the butter in a medium saucepan and cook the butter over medium heat until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). Frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Set aside to cool. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Grind the hazelnuts with the confectioners’ sugar in a food processor (or Magic Bullet, if you’re me) until finely ground. Transfer to a large bowl, then whisk in the flour.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the granulated sugar and mix on high speed 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture forms very stiff peaks. When you turn the whisk upside down, the peaks should hold.

Alternate folding the dry ingredients and the brown butter into the egg whites, a third at a time. Scrape all the brown bits out of the bottom of the butter pan–it adds so much flavor.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 30-40 minutes. Mine was done at 30, though the original recipe suggests 50-60 minutes! Cool on a rack 30 minutes (my cake shrunk fairly significantly during this time). Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan, and invert the cake onto a plate. Peel off the paper, and turn the cake back over onto a serving platter. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar and blackberry sauce (recipe follows).

Blackberry Sauce

6 ounces blackberries (if frozen, defrost slightly in the microwave)

squeeze of lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

Process all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove blackberry seeds. Let chill in the fridge for a bit to thicken.

Pipe Dream #281: To Fleck – Cardamom Pound Cake

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Look at these fleckkkkks. So pretty. If you’ve never tried cardamom, please do soon. I’ve heard it described both as like Coke and like nutmeg, so I don’t even know what to tell you about it. It’s a warm spice. Like in the cinnamon/chai/fall spices category.

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Traditional pound cake is supposed to be butter, sugar, eggs, flour, but this recipe included sour cream for moistness. As with many sour cream recipes I do, I am once again subbing greek yogurt for the cream.

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My vision was to serve this with whipped cream (or creme fraiche) and strawberry rhubarb compote, but I only got as far as raspberry jam. I wasn’t sorry about it. Poundcakes freeze well, so perhaps I’ll make another and save it until I can compote. ‘Compote’ isn’t a verb, but do you get me??

If you’re interested, here are some other great flavors to pair with cardamom, to get your brain working. Another pairing list I found:

Apples, bananas, beans, caramel, cinnamon, citrus, coconut, coffee, coriander, curry, dates, ginger, grains, grains of paradise, nuts, pepper, pumpkin, sugar, squash, yeast breads

No idea what “grains of paradise” is, but sounds like heaven. Haha. I’ve written like five blog posts today, and I’m at the point where my bad jokes are actually making me laugh.

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Ever your


Cardamom Pound Cake

Adapted from Bon Appetit

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cardamom
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
1 cup white sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour

Place a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°. Spray a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with non stick spray, then flour, or line with parchment. I used Baker’s Joy spray. It has flour in it already, which is awesome.
Whisk baking powder, cardamom, salt, and 2 cups flour in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk milk and sour cream or greek yogurt in a small bowl.
Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat sugar and ¾ cup butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula. Then add vanilla and almond extracts.
Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients; beat just until combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top with a spatula.
Bake cake, rotating halfway through, until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. (Tent with foil if browning too quickly.)
Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, then gently remove cake from pan and transfer to rack; let cool.

For Thursday, A Minneapolis Classic

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…that I hadn’t seen in real life until this year. Cha-check it off the list.

It isn’t this pink in real life, I promise.


Pipe Dream #280: To Fix You/Love You – Almond Cookies (GF)

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If you’re looking for an almond fix, please look no further. I’ve done the work for you. These cookies are thrice almond. Paste, extract, slices.

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I actually didn’t like this recipe very much. The cookies were far too spread-y because I tried to use 7 ounces of almond paste instead of 10 ounces. Go with the original recipe linked below. And add dark chocolate chips. Because I just think that sounds amazing, yeah?

But if you do make it my way, you can try slicing up the cookies into squares and layering them in glasses with whipped cream before sticking them in the fridge for an hour or two. It made a lovely miniature meringue cake for a gluten-free neighbor.

Trying to love and fix my neighbor,


Almond Cookies

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

7 ounces almond paste (from a can, or learn how to make your own from scratch here)
scant 1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon gluten-free almond extract
sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets, or line them with parchment.

Blend the almond paste, sugar, and salt until the mixture becomes uniformly crumbly; this is best done in a stand mixer. Add the egg whites gradually, while mixing, to make a smooth paste. Stir in the flavorings.

Scoop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared pans, leaving a few inches in between each, as they will spread quite a bit. Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Bake the cookies for 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden around the edges. Remove them from the oven, and let them cool on the pan. Once cool, you can slice into prettier squares. I made a dessert for a gluten-free friend by whipping some heavy cream, then layering the cookies and cream. After a few hours in the fridge, it was just like an icebox cake.


Favorite Shots: Sparkle Ye From Puerto Rico to MN


Happy 4th of July, wherever ye reside! Light a sparkler or two. Eat some cookies, preferably state-shaped. I also just tried to say “state-shaped” a few times in a row, and I was bad at it. Anyway, enjoy all things, on this, the best pyrotechnical holiday of the year.


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Pipe Dream #279: To Chop ‘Em Off – Sparkler Vehicles

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This post is less about the recipe, and more about creating a cutesy vehicle to get more party in your life. The nut graf of this blog post is: Make more cupcakes so you can light more sparklers. It don’t matter if they’re fancy.

But to sum up:

You can find the recipe for the glazed muffins here. Chocolate peanut butter banana based on my roomie’s no-fail banana bread recipe.

For the cupcakes, I used some leftover batter from a layer cake I made using this recipe. As cupcakes, this batter wasn’t great. While this cake is amaze  as a layer cake (so dense, so moist), the cupcake version didn’t have pretty, domed tops. So I cut them off. The tops.

Haha, so many applications for this strategy of life that I just thought of. Hair frizzing out? Shave it all off. Toenails no longer prettily polished? Chop ‘em.  Woops, sorry. A little seck for a Tuesday.

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The fudge frosting was a small batch of this rich Hershey’s recipe, which I discovered in college.

The peanut butter frosting was from AllRecipes. I swapped in half and half for the milk, and the frosting split. I couldn’t get it to come back together, and I was too lazy to try for very long. It tasted like the best peanut butter frosting you ever had that wasn’t this frosting, which is the actual best peanut butter frosting, though.

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These cupcakes (or these, remember?) would be perfect for Fourth of July, no? Especially with sprinkles and sparklers. Sprinkles and Sparklers should be the new name of this blog.

Party on. Excellent.


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