oaty lemon + lavender madeleines

The last time I wrote of madeleines, my favorite wee cakelets in all the land, it was March. There was snow on the ground. I had just received my bound master’s thesis, and I made a promise to post a picture of my soon-to-be-planted purple carrots once they were harvested. I haven’t forgotten my promise (promise). I just haven’t harvested any carrots yet.

If you’ve spent any time here, you’ll know that I enjoy playing with flavor profiles, mixing up everyday recipes with unexpected, oftentimes foraged ingredients.

This is not one of those recipes. Lemon is to madeleine as vanilla is to bland analogies; I understand this. But lemon’s presence in these cakelets is amped up by lavender-infused butter. In addition, the flour component in the recipe is mostly replaced by nutty oats, that have been ground with the almonds into a coarse meal texture.

These are not just lemon madeleines. Well, I guess they are, technically. But they are so yummy, and they are an embodiment of fleeting summer days. They are bursting with deliciousness, and with thick, hearty oats. And, most enticingly, they have a hint of lavender without being in-your-face about it – important for those who think of lavender primarily as soap. This may just become my go-to recipe for these cakes; after all, lemon is appealing year-round, whereas something like Pumpkin Spice has a strictly seasonal allure.

And the absolute best way to serve these? With a hefty slathering of Spiced Salted Caramel Sauce, of course. That’s right, it’s back out of the freezer…

Speaking of seasonal allure, fall is here. I love autumn more than almost anything. A few weekends ago, friends of mine came up from New York City to visit and hike at Baxter State Park. Since it was Labor Day weekend and the park was filled to capacity with folks looking to conquer Katahdin, we opted to do the Traveler loop, which is a wonderful day hike (of just over 10 miles) with near-continuous scenic views.

The following photos show just how gorgeous it was in the park over that weekend.

  

Oaty Lemon + Lavender Madeleines {original recipe}

Makes 24

++Ingredients++

1/2 c. unsalted butter + 1 tbsp for madeleine tins
2 tsp lavender flowers
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 c. + 3 tbsp almonds
3/4 c. oats
1/3 c. flour
1/2 c. + 3 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla

++Directions++

Melt 1 tbsp of butter and brush into two regular-sized madeleine tins. Cool one minute, then sprinkle flour into each mold. Tap in each direction to evenly coat, then tap out extra. Set aside.

Melt butter in small bowl or saucepan with lemon zest and lavender. Cook on low heat for several minutes, to allow the flavors to infuse. Set aside, let cool.

In a food processor, grind almonds (note: I don’t blanche my almonds – I like them as is. If, however, you’d prefer blanched almonds, do that ahead of time). Add oats, and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. In a large bowl, whisk ground almonds and oats, flour, sugar and baking powder.

In another large bowl, whisk eggs and salt for two to three minutes until well-frothed. Whisk in half of flour mixture. Strain the butter mixture through a sieve so the lavender flowers and lemon zest do not get mixed into the batter. Add vanilla and lemon juice. Switch to a spatula, and fold in the remaining flour mixture.

Transfer batter into a pastry bag, making sure that the tip is large enough to allow almond chunks to pass through. Pipe batter into tins, making sure not to overfill: 2/3 to 3/4 full should be plenty. Alternatively, spoon batter into molds (this will guarantee you get to lick some, as you will probably make a mess).

Chill tins in the fridge for two hours.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake tins for 8 – 14 minutes, rotating once. My nonstick tin takes less time to bake than my tin tin: watch your madeleines bake carefully! It’s only a few minutes of your time, but these are important minutes. When the edges turn golden brown, and the center bumps appear cooked (the change is noticeable if you watch them bake), remove pan from the oven. Invert onto a cooling rack, or pry out with a spoon or knife.

Serve dusted with powdered sugar, or with the incomparable Spiced Salted Caramel Sauce.

cashew quinoa energy bars

Several moons ago, I began dabbling in the art of the Wayfaring Chocolate ‘raw balls‘ recipes. Never before had I harbored any sort of interest in raw food, let alone things labeled near-vegan or no-bake. But I found myself hooked by these simple recipes, and the endless possibilities out there for combining nuts, dates, and other such tasties.

More recently, I’ve been fascinated by the nutritional research and dietary changes made by my blog pal Sarah and her family. The idea that overconsumption of grains is unhealthy had never occurred to me, perhaps because I love to eat gigantic bowls of pasta every chance I get. But now (although I still eat plenty of grains), I’m trying to work more grain alternatives into my diet, such as quinoa and chia seeds. Thank you, Sarah, for changing my outlook on nutrition.

Most recently, I went for another hike in Baxter State Park. I didn’t bring my camera with me this time, but I brought an idea. The night before hiking, I woke from a dream in which I combined cashews and quinoa into some sort of delicious ‘raw ball’ treat. The idea stuck with me, and I made sure to stock up on dates and cashews so that I could experiment.

These are not raw. I ended up baking them because I wanted to go with a looser ‘dough,’ if you will, one that would benefit from a crisp-up in the oven. That way, they’re kind of like a grainless granola bar. They are crunchy, nutty, and make for a wonderful midday snack. I recommend keeping them in the fridge for extra crispness.

 

So, last weekend’s hike. It was a hot and sunny day, and the bugs were much less bothersome than last time around. Our hike du jour was a 7.3 mile jaunt along the Fowler Brook and Middle Fowler Pond Trails, plus a quick .6 up and down Barrel Ridge, and also a roughly 2-mile triangulated bushwhack up and down the trail-less Bald Mountain, making for a total of nearly ten miles.

It was a 6.5 hour endeavor, and due to the bushwhacking I accumulated 49 scrapes on my arms and legs, and one puncture wound from a perilously large branch. It was all in good fun, although, yes, we ran out of water again. This cycle of abuse needs to stop.

Here are a few photos from last year [although the computer claims they were taken on May 28th, 1956, at 1:36am] on the nearby Traveler loop. The Traveler is much higher in elevation than we were this past weekend, but it is adjacent to where we were hiking – to give you an idea of the scenic beauty near Baxter’s South Branch Pond campground.

On to that energy bar recipe – perfect to bring along on hikes, if you remember to wrap the semi-sticky bars in wax paper beforehand. Also perfect to eat mid-afternoon, after a day spent lazing about in the yard, getting sunburnt.

Cashew Quinoa Energy Bars

A recipe created by my brain during REM sleep

++Ingredients:++

1/2 c. cashews, soaked in water 1 hour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c. quinoa, cooked and cooled
1/2 c. cashews
1/2 c. almonds
1 2/3 c. dates
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla

++Directions:++

Preheat over to 350 F. In a food processor, pulse the softened cashews and salt. Add quinoa, additional cashews, almonds,  dates, honey and vanilla, and pulse until combined.

Butter or spray a loaf pan (I used a 9 x 5″ pan), and press mixture into pan. Bake for 15-22 minutes, until edges are crispy and center of pan appears to be somewhat thickened. Remove from oven. Score lines into the pan; I created 14 rectangles that were each roughly 1 x 2″. Cool, remove from pan, and store covered in the refrigerator.

Variations: Next time I will try not soaking the cashews, and will see if there is enough liquid without doing so to bind with the quinoa and make no-bake balls. I also may add a small amount of almond extract, in place of, or in addition to, the vanilla.

hiking the freezeout and frost pond trails in baxter

Last weekend, after constructing a raised garden bed (welcome to my yard, carrots and turnips!), we headed southwest to Baxter State Park. We camped for a night along the deceptively-pleasant shores of Grand Lake Matagamon, which quickly proved to be the breeding ground of roughly 6.66 million black flies. The following day we surprised ourselves by hiking a rather long trail in an impressively short amount of time, only in part speeding along to escape the aforementioned bloodsucking terrors.

I recently made a promise to document my Baxter hikes here, and this is the first installment of that promise.

We mixed the tequila in the above photo with some wonderful not-too-sweet Strawberry Lemonade I had made the day before. If you’re looking for another refreshing summery lemonade, try this one, which I hope to make next.

The hike was simple in theory and practice: 11.2 miles on relatively flat terrain, with only one small mountain to scale (if you can even call it a mountain). The only head scratcher came just past the finish line – the hike was not a loop. Instead, the trail emerged 5.6 miles down the park road from the starting point, and the car.

To remedy this quandary we stashed my lovely, recently-built, no longer pristine, kickass mountain bike at the trail’s end prior to starting the hike. In Baxter, mountain biking is not allowed, but bikes are permitted on main park roads. Problem solved.

A bear ate this sign. No, really, it did.

The Freezeout Trail began at the Trout Brook Farm Campground, which is near the Matagamon (North) Gate entrance to the park. From there, it was 4.3 miles to the intersection with the Frost Pond Trail. In one short stretch of the Freezeout Trail, I counted thirty three blooming lady’s slipper orchids, ranging in hue from white-cream to deep pink. Being the blunderbuss that I am, I couldn’t be bothered to take out my clunky camera with the broken lens cap to capture this beautiful sight. Rest assured, though, it was there.

At some point, the trail joined up with an old forest road. Coming across signs of long-ago human habitation may be my favorite part of adventuring in woods such as these – – who inhabited these parts before me, and what did they do? Why did they abandon their machinery, or let their telegraph wires remain long after their departure?

With long hikes, my mind meanders in wonderful ways. I spent much of this hike dreamily visualizing settlers and voyageurs from the days of yore, skillfully cloaked in the forest about me, Last of the Mohicans-style.

While still on the Freezeout Trail, we pondered the significance of a large area adjacent to the lake that had no vegetation, but merely a thick layer of ‘soil’ made up of wood shavings (above, top right). Mildly bewildered (was it a landing site for logs before they were put into the river? why has nothing grown in yet? how long ago did something happen here? why am I so interested in this?), we continued on, turning onto the Frost Pond Trail.

Shortly thereafter, we entered the Scientific Forest Management Area, an area in the park where active forestry is practiced and compared to unmanaged ‘benchmark’ reserves. Much of this stretch of trail, which traverses some wet areas, scales Wadleigh Mountain (although if the summit was marked, we didn’t see it), and touches on an a reserved area of old-growth forest, was only completed in 2004. It was a lovely hike that sped by, both temporally and geographically. It is also in an area of the park that sees relatively few visitors – we saw no one.

Despite the easiness of the hike, my feet were quite tired by the time we made it to the trail’s end. I hadn’t spent any time in my hiking boots – which I loathe – since last summer. However, like any crazy outdoors person, I pushed on happily.

As my boyfriend pedaled away on my bike back towards the car, taking with him all of our water, I raised my head to the hot summery sun beating down from above. It was around 2 pm, easily the hottest part of the day. With the scent of pines permeating the heavy air around me, I set my sights on the first bend in the road. And I began to run.

I ended up making it 3.6 additional miles before being picked up; during that stretch I was passed by four or five cars, the passengers in each gawking at me with looks of confusion. I suppose runners aren’t too common in the middle of nowhere.

Baxter State Park

64 Balsam Dr
Millinocket, Maine