espresso + black walnut madeleines

madeleines
Have you ever eaten a black walnut? More exotic than their cultivated cousin – the English walnut commonly found in grocery stores – black walnuts bring the words medicinal, bitter, and mature-tasting to mind. There’s something about them that is a bit baffling, a bit mysterious, and probably also a bit detested by children who taste them. Perhaps I’m not selling these well, but the message I mean to convey is that the black walnut’s flavor is something to contemplate and (hopefully subsequently) appreciate.

It was high time I crafted a batch of madeleines. Finding the time to bake is a bit of a luxury, given our preponderance of weekend trips. This year it’s all been about biking. Still, I was able to weasel myself a good block of time last Friday to try out some new-to-me flavor pairings. Combining espresso with toasted black walnuts did something magical, that I can’t quite explain. The finished cakelet hinted strongly at maple syrup, which was a bit unexpected, but I can see how the melange of espresso and nuts created something caramely and rich and better than the sum of its parts.

Give these a go if you are looking for a sophisticated dessert, which is fully-flavored and not overly sweet. Or, add some more sugar and make it sweeter, it’s up to you. As for me? My life is sweet enough, as I try to constantly remind myself. It’s amazing I still have my teeth, I’m that much of a sugar fiend. I need to lay off the sugar and chill. But in the meantime, how about some little cakes?

black walnutsmadeleines

Espresso + Black Walnut Madeleines {recipe by myself}

Makes 24

++Ingredients:++

1/2 c. butter + 1 tbsp for madeleine tins
2 tsp espresso powder
1/2 c. + 3 tbsp black walnuts
3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt

For the glaze:

1/2 c. powdered sugar
A few tsp of milk
2 tsp espresso powder

++Directions:++

Melt 1 tbsp of butter and brush into madeleine tins. Cool one minute, then sprinkle a small amount of flour into each mold. Tap in each direction to evenly coat surface, then tap out extra. Set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat (or in the microwave), add in espresso powder, and cool. In a saute pan over low heat, toast the black walnuts until they give off an aroma, stirring frequently. After several minutes, remove from heat, and grind to a fine consistency in a nut grinder or food processor. Add nuts to butter mixture.

In a large bowl, whisk 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, then butter mixture. Switch to a spatula, and fold in the remaining flour mixture.

Spoon or pipe batter into tins – 2/3 to 3/4 full should be plenty, don’t overfill. Chill tins in the fridge for two hours.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake tins for 9 – 16minutes, rotating once. Nonstick pans should take 9-11 minutes to bake, and tin tins should take 13-16 minutes. 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.

Let cool 5 minutes. Make the glaze: combine powdered sugar, espresso powder, and milk. Add 1 teaspoon of milk at a time, mixing in additional teaspoons of milk until desired consistency is reached. Cover madeleines with glaze, let sit at least 10 minutes to harden. These are best eaten the day they are made, as they grow sticky with time. Store well-wrapped.

madeleines

So, delicious cakes aside, here are a few scattered images of my fall.

1. The Amish go shopping on a rainy day. 2. Balsam fir grows to an impressive size in northern Maine after only 28 years, when allowed to grow unhindered. 3. My sweet cat is the cutest thing in the world (sorry One Direction and well-tailored jeans). 4. Apples quickly become delicious cider, thanks to some good friends and the homemade cider press they’ve built. 5. Autumn is fading fast.

amishfir kittyciderfall road

cranberry and cadbury mini egg energy bites

If you’re like me, you still have some Easter candy floating around aimlessly in your kitchen, your living room, maybe also in your pockets and in your car. This Easter candy is begging to be finished, but there is just so much of it that it is difficult to finish. Especially when there are other delicious things like Gushers getting in the way during afternoon snack time.

So last weekend, on a whim when prepping foodstuffs for an epic end-of-winter hike, I decided to turn some already delicious raw energy balls into not-raw, much deliciouser energy balls, or bites, as I’ll classily refer to them here. I make many versions of these, often with cocoa powder, often with various dried fruits, and always with a base of dates and nuts.

cranberry and cadbury mini egg energy bites

The addition of Cadbury Mini Eggs is a genius move, because it gives the energy bites a crunchy crackly texture that is terribly fun to eat – I imagine that to be the energy flowing straight into me, and down towards my legs to give them strength for the last few miles of the day.  What’s more, Cadbury recently unveiled ‘Royal Dark’ Mini Eggs, which are leaps and bounds more delicious than the original milk chocolate variety. That is what I used here, and I highly recommend it.

If you happen to have various other Easter candies looking for a home, I think many things would work well in these. Jordan almonds would work. Malted milk balls would work. Fun-sized Easter candy bars would work. Perhaps even jelly beans would work! …although that’s a bit too wacky for me.

gulf hagas

I referred to our hike as epic. It was only 9.7 miles, but the going was rrrrrrrough. First off, let me say that I don’t yet own waterproof boots. As a forester, that is probably something that I shouldn’t admit – ask me next week, and I’ll probably be able to saw “Pshaw I have waterproof boots!” and then I’ll quietly mumble something about “purchasingthemlastweekend.”

Luckily, someone had been on a good portion of the trail at some point over the winter, so the snow that is often still above-my-knees deep was reduced to the perfect depth for trodding upon. The trail we hiked was at Gulf Hagas, known as the Grand Canyon of Maine. Take that as you will – – it was definitely no Grand canyon, but it was a Lovely canyon and a Stunning canyon nonetheless. Given the canyon nature of the hike, there was a quite a bit of micro-rocky terrain, which turned out to be covered in sheer ice during our visit. It’s safe to say I did my share of slipping and sliding.

The loop hike that we did took us on a section of the Appalachian Trail as well, which we realized we hadn’t set foot on since 2011, at Grayson Highlands in Virginia. The AT hadn’t seen any footprints all winter other than moose and deer, so while being just a short section, it was sort of tiring. Remember that part about the not-waterproof boots? Remember that other part about the snow above-my-knees deep? Connect those two dots right thurr.

But jeebus, what a beautiful hike. I can’t wait for the snow to fully recede, and for weekend after weekend of glorious hiking adventures this summer. Bring it on, I say (nay, I plead)!

KI roadgulf hagasgulf hagascar camping

Perfect for bringing along on hikes, this recipe will give you a boost with healthy walnuts, hazelnuts, and dates, as well as a peppy sugar rush from the chocolate. Use up that Easter candy!

Cranberry and Cadbury Mini Egg Energy Bites

{recipe by myself – very approximate, but very adaptable}

Makes 12-15

++Ingredients:++

3 handfuls walnuts (or your nut of choice)
1 handful hazelnuts
2 handfuls dates
pinch of salt
1 handful dried cranberries
2 handfuls Cadbury Royal Dark Mini Eggs
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp maple syrup

++Directions:++

In the bowl of a food processor, combine all ingredients, and pulse until mixed. If the mixture is overly wet, add another handful of nuts. If the mixture is dry, add some more maple syrup, or a teaspoon of water. Shape mixture into balls, and place on a tray. Freeze for at least an hour. Enjoy chilled if possible.

cranberry and cadbury mini egg energy bites

malted walnut blondies

I spent last week doing some nifty things.

I kicked the crap out of my fellow wizards on Pottermore for at least five hours during a sick day. As a unique individual prone to bouts of oddness (so says Pottermore), I was a clear pick for Ravenclaw. Luna would be so proud of me, if only because I deleted my initial boring Pottermore username to create a new one that mentioned those cute li’l treasure-seeking Nifflers.

I worked on catching up with Gossip Girl. Enough said.

After seeing a Facebook link for the Spice Girls’ Mama video, I mentioned that the video always makes me tear up. I then proceeded to watch the video and cry my way through it. To lighten things up a bit, I next watched the videos for 2 Become 1 and Viva Forever, and cried my way through those, too. I really love the Spice Girls.

I collected logs for a special project I’ll talk about here sometime. I spotted the first flower of the year, a Pulmonaria, in my yard. And I caught my cat in two cute places: on top of a new/used sofa that has yet to be un-verticaled, and next to my favorite on-display Barry Manilow playing card.

I also racked my brain [trying to explain, all the things that you do to me – bei mir mist du schön, you’ve heard it all before but let me try to explain] as to how to use some ‘Malted Milk Crisp’ topping that we purchased impulsively when hungry. I think the recipe I’ve come up with here is the answer.

Toasted walnuts, malt powder, and some single malt Scotch were added to a no-brainer blondie recipe. I decided to throw the Scotch in because it had malt in its name, too. Well, sort of – actually, both the powder and the Scotch are made out of malted barley, so it is an appropriate pairing.

I topped the blondies with a melted TCHO chocolate bar that had been mixed with a bit of milk, and followed that with a sprinkling of the malted milk crisp topping that started this whole affair.

Malted Walnut Blondies {original recipe}

Makes 16. Best served with a cold glass of malted milk.

++Ingredients:++

1/2 c. butter (1 stick), plus more for pan
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. ground walnuts, toasted
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp malt powder
1 tbsp single malt Scotch
1/8 tsp salt
1 c. flour

3 oz dark chocolate
Milk
Malted milk crisp topping

++Directions:++

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8 x 8″ pan. In a large bowl, melt 1/2 c. of butter. Add brown sugar, and mix well. Mix in toasted walnuts. Incorporate egg, vanilla, malt powder and Scotch.

Add up to 1/8 tsp of salt to taste, then add flour. Mix well.

Transfer to the prepared pan and smooth out. Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on how well-cooked you prefer your blondies to be. With a few minutes’ baking time left, melt chocolate and mix in several splashes of milk. Remove blondies from oven, and cut into 16 squares. Spread with melted chocolate, and top with malted milk crisp topping (or crushed malted milk balls, if you have them).

Chill in fridge until chocolate is set. Re-cut, and transfer to serving plate.

By the way, I was working my way through a 42-song list of Spice Girls videos while writing this post. Sure enough, when Mama came on, my eyes were soon brimming with emotion. Hormones, I’m onto you. You’re unique and prone to bouts of oddness.

Anyway, you’ll enjoy the video if you’re a girl and you like 90’s music. Otherwise… check back next time.