A basket of nice, sweet muffins is a wonderful addition to a breakfast or brunch table, and these almond-y bites are made really moist with the addition of almond paste. A bite-sized version of my Simple Moist Almond Cake. Nice tart cherry is a great pairing with almond – if you use big Bings, you might want to snip them into smaller pieces.
Almond Amaretto Cherry Muffins
¼ cup amaretto
4 ounces dried cherries
7 ounces almond paste
½ cup sugar
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Place the cherries in a small bowl and pour over the amaretto. Leave the cherries to soften, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
Beat the almond paste, sugar, melted butter and almond extract together with a mixer until well-blended, but with a few small lumps remaining. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until completely combined.
Stir the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bow, then beat into the almond mixture. Beat just until the mixture is combined and there is no flour visible. Stir in the cherries with the soaking liquid until evenly distributed.
Divide the batter between the prepared muffin tins and bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 15 – 18 minutes.
Makes 12 muffins
My love for biscuits is well documented (13 recipes on the site at last count), and my love of country ham equally evident when you peruse my recipes. I have always enjoyed a warm, buttery biscuit with a slice of salty country ham tucked inside, so the next logical step seemed to be incorporating the ham directly into the biscuit. And these are heavenly morsels of Southern flavor.
Cut into small biscuits, these little rounds make a wonderful brunch bite or party snack with their cheesy filling. But they are just good biscuits, so use them how you will. Cut them large and serve with butter or gravy for breakfast, or spread a little mustard instead of butter before you melt the cheese.
I buy already ground country ham, sometimes online and sometimes I find it at local markets. If you can’t find it, grind some country ham slices in a food processor until you have a crumbly mixture, but not a paste. To add the delicious, melty center, I use thick cut sandwich slices of sharp cheddar cheese for ease, but feel free to cut slices from a block.
Country Ham Biscuit Bites with Cheese
2 ½ cups soft wheat flour (such as White Lily)
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small cubes
4 ounces ground country ham
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup buttermilk
14 thick slices cheddar cheese
softened butter for spreading
Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray 2 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray.
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Shuffle the butter cubes into the flour, then crumble in the country ham. Beat on low speed until the butter and ham and mixed in and the mixture looks damp and crumbly. Add the mustard, and with the beater moving, slowly pour in the buttermilk. Beat just until the dough comes together. Knead the dough a few times in the bowl to get all the flour worked in. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to a round ½-inch thick. Press a 2-inch biscuit cutter into the dough and lift out. Do not twist or the biscuits won’t be as tall. Place the biscuits tightly together in the prepared pans.
Bake the biscuits for 10 – 12 minutes or just until firm to the touch. Remove to a wire rack until they are cool enough to handle. Lower the oven temperature to 325°. When the baking pans have cooled, spray them with cooking spray again.
Use the biscuit cutter to cut rounds of cheese the same size as you biscuits. When the biscuits are cool enough to handle, carefully slice them open and spread both sides with a little soft butter. Place a piece of cheese in the center, close the biscuit up and tuck back into the baking pans. Spread a little butter on the top of the biscuits. Cover the pans tightly with foil and place back in the oven for about 5 – 8 minutes, just until the cheese is melted.
Makes about 2 dozen 2- inch biscuits
To make these biscuits ahead, here are a couple of options. Freeze the dough rounds on a waxed paper lined baking sheet until hard, then transfer to ziptop bags. Bake from frozen, increasing the cooking time slightly. You can also bake the biscuits, add the butter and cheese, cover and refrigerate for several hours before the final baking, again increasing the cooking time slightly.
I doubt this a traditional Irish dish at all, but when I was whipping up a pot of Irish Stew, I wanted a nice, cheese-y accompaniment. Welsh Rarebit is the great British snack of a beer-laced cheese sauce on crusty bread, so I figured I give it a go with Guinness. These are perfect with the stew, but also make a nice treat on their own as a snack, or a light lunch or supper beside a big salad. And they’d be pretty good with Corned Beef and Cabbage Cooked in Beer.
½ cup Guinness or other stout beer
2 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ cup milk
¼ teaspoon English mustard powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
14 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese (preferably Irish), grated
8 slices crusty white bread
flaky sea salt, like Maldon
Pour the Guinness into your measuring jug and let the foam settle. You want ½ cup minus the foam.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then whisk in the flour until you have a smooth paste and it is pale in color. Whisk in the milk and Guinness and stir until thick, smooth and creamy. Stir in the mustard powder and Worcestershire. Add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring to melt completely after each addition. When all the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth, set it aside to cool down and firm up a little.
Preheat the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Slice the bread into thick slices. Use a spoon to spread a thick layer of cheese sauce on each slice. Sprinkle the tops with salt and place on the baking sheet. Broil the rarebits until the cheese is bubbling and browned in spots, about 6 minutes. Watch very carefully.
Let the rarebits sit a few minutes, then slice each piece in half and serve.
It’s Mardi Gras time, and so it’s time for crawfish. Crawfish Cornbread is a recipe I have seen in many Louisiana community cookbooks over the years, and I’ve whipped up a batch or two in my time. I have no idea if this is a traditional Cajun recipe, or started it’s life on the back of corn bread mix box, but that doesn’t matter to me, because it is a sound idea that results in a delicious dish.
I’ve altered my version so it is packed with crawfish and has a nice level of spice. I use frozen crawfish tail meat, which is easy to find around here, but if you happen to have some fresh daddies around and want to pull out all that juicy flesh, please do so. This cornbread is lovely beside a bowl of Red Beans and Rice, but cut into small squares it makes a nice nibble. It is even hearty enough to serve with a nice green salad for a meal.
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon Creole seasoning
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
1 (12-ounce) bag frozen corn, thawed
2 pounds crawfish tail meat, finely chopped
1 (4-ounce) can diced jalapenos
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.
Stir the cornmeal, baking powder, salt and creole seasoning together in a very large bowl. Stir in the eggs and oil and mix thoroughly. Add the onion, cheese, corn, crawfish and jalapenos and stir until everything is completely mixed together and evenly distributed.
Spread the cornbread into the prepared pan, smoothing out the surface. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes until golden and firm and a tester comes out clean. Let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving warm.
Serves 8 – 10
During the winter soup season, it’s always nice to have a little bread-y bite next to your bowl. And I don’t think there can be an easy recipe than this one. Just a few ingredients and a thousand possible combinations and you have a nice, tangy little treat.
I generally make these plain, then roll them in seasoned butter, but you can add seasonings or even a little bit of grated cheese to the dough. Suit the seasoning to the soup you’re serving them with.
Yogurt Biscuit Bites
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided
Seasoning of your choice: ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning with ¼ teaspoon paprika or garlic salt. A ¼ teaspoon Creole seasoning or Old Bay. ½ teaspoon herbes de provence.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl with a fork. Stir in the yogurt and 2 Tablespoons of melted butter. Mix until thoroughly combined and you have a dough you can roll into balls with your hands.
Melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter in a shallow bowl. If you’d like, add some seasoning to the butter and stir well. Roll the dough into golf ball size biscuits, then roll each biscuit in the butter and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until the biscuits are cooked through.
Makes 9 biscuit bites
Melty cheese and crispy bread are the perfect pairing for soup, creamy or brothy. And this may be the ultimate soup sidecar. If you are fan of the classic croque monsieur, this is basically just the top. A creamy, cheesy béchamel sauce browned until bubbly on a good piece of bread. I like it plain, but feel free to alter it to suit your soup – before you melt in the cheese add finely chopped green onions, a dash of cayenne, a dollop of mustard, lots of cracked black pepper. The topping will keep covered in the fridge for two days, giving you a weekend of special soup meals,
Fontina Cheese Toasties
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1 ¼ cup milk
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup grated fontina cheese
8 thick slices country bread, like ciabatta or boule
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Melt the butter in a saucepan, then whisk in the flour. Continue whisking until it is smooth and pale, almost white. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook over medium-high heat until the sauce is thick and smooth. Whisk in the nutmeg. Whisk in the cheese, a bit at a time, stirring until melted before adding more cheese.
Chill the mixture in the refrigerator until it has firmed up. The topping will keep covered in the fridge for two days.
Preheat the broiler in your oven. Place the sliced bread on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or non-stick foil. Lightly toast the bread on one side, then remove it from the oven and spread a generous amount of the cheese sauce on the untoasted side. Make a nice thick layer, spread to the edges. Sprinkle a pinch of flaky salt over the toasties, then place under the broiler. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Watch very carefully and remove as soon as the brown spots appear.
Let the toasties cool for a minute, then serve them with a nice bowl of soup.
Makes 8 toasties, perfect to accompany 4 bowls of soup
Persimmons are the brightest spot in the barren winter fruit scape. Sure, citrus is there, but I miss the reds, pinks, peach, blues, plums, purples and greens of summer bounty. But then there are these bright beauties, orange and smooth and shiny, with their frilly green caps. I have a tendency to overbuy, because I am so excited about a fresh winter fruit. And I am not always sure what to do with them. Sometimes they sit happily on my counter, making me smile at their lovely color and sheen until I’ve missed their usable moment. But my simple, delicious answer is this slightly sweet, moist, persimmon rich bread.
Fuyus are the squat persimmons, and best for baking. Cut out the green stem end, cut into chunks and puree them in the blender or food processor. Persimmon bread is a particular treat slathered with Meyer Lemon Curd.
1 cup persimmon puree (from 3 – 4 ripe Fuyu persimmons)
2 Tablespoons water
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a standard loaf pan.
Cut out the stem of each persimmon and cut into chunks. Puree the persimmons in a food processor or blender with 2 Tablespoons water.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the persimmon puree and beat until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add flour mixture to batter and beat until smooth.
Pour into a loaf pan and bake at for 50- 60 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool well before slicing. Well wrapped, the bread will keep for a few days.
Makes 1 loaf
No self-respecting Southerner, I boldly say, would let New Year’s Day pass without at least one bite of black- eyed peas. They bring luck and good fortune for the New Year, and everyone can use a little bit of that. Hoppin’ John is traditional in many quarters, but peas slowly cooked with a piece of pork are the norm for many. I like to vary my black-eyed pea intake, from my classic recipe to a big bowl of Good Luck Gumbo. But no matter how you eat them, cornbread is the traditional accompaniment to black-eyes. So here’s a recipe that kills two birds with one stone, and is tasty to boot.
This recipe is very simple, though it has a couple of steps. It’s easily done while watching the football game, which I understand is a popular New Year’s Day activity, or while resting on the sofa after some late-night revelry. Season this to your own tastes, lots of spicy Creole seasoning or just a touch, tomatoes with green chile or without. I find country ham “biscuit slices” readily at most markets in vacuum packages, but whole slices are just fine. Chopped “seasoning pieces” are great for seasoning, but don’t make great eating, so avoid them. For some prosperity to go with your New Year luck, serve these with greens, like Foldin’ Money Cabbage.
Black-eyed Pea and Cornbread Skillet
For the Black-eyed Peas
4 ounces center cut country ham biscuit slices
Half of a small yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (I like Tony Chachere’s)
12 ounces frozen black-eyed peas
3 green onions, white and light green part only, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon flour
1 (14.5-ounce can) diced tomatoes with green chile (or plain diced tomatoes), drained
Salt to taste
For the Cornbread:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
For the Black-eyed Peas:
Cut the country ham into small cubes and put it in a saucepan with the halved onion, garlic and bay leaves. Pour over 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, skim off any scum that rises, lower the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and ½ teaspoon of the creole seasoning. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the peas are tender.
Drain the peas, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard the onion, garlic and bay leaves. Rinse out the bean pot and return it to the heat. Melt the butter in the pot, then add the chopped green onions and cook until soft and translucent, but do not brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until smooth and pale. Stir in 1 cup of the cooking liquid and cook until the sauce is thickened and reduced slightly, about 8 minutes. Season with the remaining ½ teaspoon Creole seasoning (or to taste). When the sauce has thickened, add the peas and ham and stir to coat. Stir in the drained tomatoes and cook until the sauce has reduced a bit more and just coats the peas, about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.
Brush a 10-inch cast iron skillet with oil. Scrape the cooked peas into the skillet and smooth the top. Set aside while you make the cornbread.
For the Cornbread:
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Stir the cornmeal, baking soda and salt together in a bowl using a fork. In a large measuring jug, measure the buttermilk, then add the egg andmelted butter and beat until combined. Pour the buttermilk into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Spread the cornbread batter over the top of the peas in the skillet. Carefully transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cornbread is puffed, golden and set.
Everyone is up earlier than any other day of the year to see what’s under the tree. Wrapping paper ripping, bows flying, boxes everywhere. And somewhere in there, folks get hungry. Just a nibble before the big celebration. Something special, but simple. There’s just too much going on to whip up a gourmet feast. And the cookies Santa left behind just won’t do.
I’ve been making versions of this type of muffin for years, and decided it was finally time to work out a Christmas version. Because these are the perfect treat for a crazy, busy morning. Make the batter a day or two ahead, then simply scoop them out in the morning and bake. The deep ginger and molasses flavor sings of Christmas and the tart, sweet cranberries add to the festive flavor. I love the added hit of candied ginger, but feel free to leave them out or substitute raisins or nuts. These muffins are delicious straight up, spread with a little plain butter or some cranberry jam if you happen to have any around. But add this nutmeg-y butter with the flavor of eggnog to add to the holiday spirit. Make it ahead too, even a double batch for toast or waffles.
Merry Morning Muffins with Eggnog Butter (Overnight Gingerbread and Cranberry Muffins)
For the Muffins:
½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup white sugar
½ cup molasses
1 ¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon warm water
1 cup dried cranberries
¼ cup crystallized ginger pieces
For the Butter:
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon nutmeg
For the Muffins:
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy using an electric mixer. Beat in the molasses, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined.
Sift the flour and spices together and beat into the batter, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the batter is just mixed. Dissolve the baking soda in the warm water in a small dish, then mix into the batter. Stir in the cranberries and ginger until they are distributed throughout.
At this point, the batter can be refrigerated for up to two days, tightly covered.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Grease 12 muffin cups and divide the batter among them equally. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool.
Makes 12 muffins
For the Butter:
Beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and nutmeg until combined and smooth. Scoop into a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until firm.
The butter can be made up to a week ahead.
Makes ½ cup
I do give thanks for biscuits. And I love a little biscuit bite in the Thanksgiving bread basket, particularly when they are made seasonal with the addition of sweet potato. These angel biscuits use yeast to get an extra rise, which is helpful when you add the dense potato purée. Make sure you potato is cooked through and soft to create the smoothest purée.
I like these biscuits in their purest form, but you could add a ½ teaspoon of cinnamon if you want to, or even some very finely chopped fresh sage. They are delicious with plain butter, but a little honey or sorghum stirred into that butter takes them up a level. And they make a great breakfast treat or party snack, stuffed with a sliver of ham or leftover turkey and a cranberry sauce. Feel free to cut them as nice big biscuits or little bite-size babies.
Sweet Potato Angel Biscuits
1 large sweet potato, about 12 ounces (to yield 1 cup purée)
½ cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ¼ teaspoon (1 package) active dry yeast
5 cups soft wheat flour (such as White Lilly)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup (1 stick) cold butter
1 ¼ cup cold buttermilk
¼ cup melted butter
Prick the sweet potato all over with a skewer or a thin knife. Microwave the potato on high for 12 to 15 minutes until it is very soft when squeezed. Alternately, you can bake the potato in the oven for about an hour. Holding the potato with a folded tea towel, cut it in half and scoop the flesh into a small bowl. Mash the flesh with a fork to a smooth purée. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 425°. Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans.
Stir the sugar and warm water (about 105°) together in a small measuring jug. Sprinkle over the yeast and leave for 10 minutes until it is foamy.
Stir the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in a large bowl of a stand mixer. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour. Using the paddle attachment, blend the butter and flour on low speed until the butter is the size of small BBs. You want some butter blended in, but the visible small pieces of butter help make the biscuits fluffy.
Stir 1 cup of the buttermilk into the potato purée, mixing vigorously to create a smooth liquid. Add this to the flour and butter, add the yeast mixture, and beat on medium speed, just until everything comes together. If the mixture is dry, add a little of the extra buttermilk until the dough comes together.
Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just a few times to pull everything together. Pat the dough out to a circle about an inch thick. Dip a cutter into flour and press it into the dough and pull up (don’t twist the cutter or the sides won’t rise). Place the cut biscuits in the prepared cake pans, fitting them in tight with the sides touching. Pat any scraps together and cut out more biscuits. Brush the tops with melted butter and bake for 10 – 12 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. If you want to brown the top of the biscuits, turn the broiler on, and watch carefully until they start to brown. You can brush the hot cooked biscuits with a little extra melted butter if you like.
If you’d like to make these biscuits ahead, you can refrigerate the unrolled dough tightly covered for up to 2 days, then proceed with the recipe. To make them further ahead, roll and cut your biscuits, place them on a baking tray and freeze for an hour or so until solid. Transfer to a ziptop bag with all the air squeezed out. Bake from frozen, increasing the cooking time as needed. If you don’t serve these fresh from the oven or have leftovers, wrap them in foil and warm in a low oven.
Makes 12 2-inch biscuits