Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Buckwheat Muffins

by Maja Lukic


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It was only a matter of time before I got swept into the pumpkin spice madness of the season. Today, I am sharing a pumpkin muffin that would be a respectable addition to any holiday brunch or breakfast table. 

I have to confess that it took me a very long time to fully appreciate pumpkin puree and pumpkin-flavored treats. To be fair, up until a few years ago, my only associations with pumpkin were: a) the completely unnecessary Starbucks infusion of dairy, sugar, and artificial flavors known as the Pumpkin Spice Latte; and b) the trays of sugary, cracked pumpkin pies that regularly appeared at my local grocery stores around November 1 every year.

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But with age comes, I don't know, wisdom or at least something approximating wisdom. Having been exposed to some delicious pumpkin treats recently, I am now devoted to the sweet gourd. I do think that pumpkin benefits from a little chocolate (as do all things) so I often pair the two together. 

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And, so, this muffin -- the happy marriage of pumpkin, spices, walnuts, dark chocolate, and citrus makes for a perfect fall pastry. The walnuts lend a crunch, the chocolate chunks melt into rich, bittersweet ribbons throughout the batter, the spices are warm but not overwhelming, and it's all perfectly balanced with bright citrus notes. (The orange comes through nicely -- please don't leave it out). 

Do not let the long ingredient list put you off --  you probably have most of the ingredients at home and once you gather the various components, it moves fairly quickly. Also, you can substitute the individual spices with a few teaspoons of your favorite pumpkin pie spice mix. 

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As for texture, this will not yield a very crunchy muffin top, unfortunately. The crumb is soft and incredibly moist. I have a strong aversion to dry or overdone baked goods so I err on the side of underbaking everything. If you prefer a drier or more "done" pastry, simply extend the baking time by a few minutes.  

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Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Buckwheat Muffins

Adapted from Gluten-Free Apple Banana Nut Muffins

Makes 12 

1 1/4 cup almond flour

1/4 cup buckwheat flour (not buckwheat groats) 

1 tsp baking soda

3 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix/filling) 

1/2 cup organic maple syrup

1/8 cup unrefined coconut oil

1 orange (juice and zest)

1 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground allspice

pinch of ground clove

pinch of ground white pepper

1 cup raw walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks  

1 tbsp chia seeds

a pinch of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a standard-sized muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, buckwheat flour, baking soda, and a pinch of salt. (Whisking means you don't have to sift the flours!).

In a separate bowl, combine the liquid ingredients: canned pumpkin, coconut oil, maple syrup, three beaten eggs, the juice and zest of an orange, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, a pinch of ground clove, and a pinch of ground white pepper. (If you're using whole peppercorns, two to three grinds of the pepper mill should do it.). 

Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the liquid batter, taking care not to overmix. 

Stir in the walnuts, chocolate chunks, and 1 tablespoon of chia seeds. Allow the batter to rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes or so.  

Spoon the mixture evenly into the lined muffin pan, filling each liner to the top (they will not rise much).

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.

The muffins will stay fresh wrapped in plastic on the counter for a few days. For long-term storage, wrap the muffins individually and store in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Notes: Both the almond flour and the buckwheat flour should be stored in the fridge or freezer. Instead of the individual spices, you can substitute 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of your favorite pumpkin pie spice mix. For a less sweet muffin, decrease the chocolate chunks to 1/3 cup. It's a fairly soft, wet batter but if it seems too wet, add in some more almond flour. Conversely, if the batter seems too dry, add in a little bit of almond milk. Extend the baking time for a drier, crunchier muffin.


Gluten-Free Apple Banana Nut Muffins

by Maja Lukic


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Fall is officially here and it seems to have brought with it a succession of perfectly crisp, sunny days -- at least in New York. Even though I'm increasingly reaching for scarves and sweaters, I also know that this is the season of walks in the park under brightly colored leaves, morning yoga classes, almond milk lattes sprinkled with nutmeg, and quiet creative projects.

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The arrival of fall also marks the beginning of apple season at farmers market. Wooden crates of beautifully sweet and slightly tart apples are now everywhere and if you're an apple lover (and I am), this is an exciting development. Biting into them fresh is my preferred method of consumption but a freshly baked apple dessert or pastry is more than tolerable.

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I have to confess that I'm not the world's greatest baker. Baking is a very exact, very precise science, and I've always felt more at home with the improvisational, experimental nature of cooking. But I'm actually pretty adept at baking muffins -- a muffin savant. (One could argue that being only good at baking muffins is the very definition of an unskilled baker.). The only real muffin wisdom I've picked up over the years: always use oil instead of butter and do not overwork the batter.

All of this brings me to my current favorite muffin recipe. As someone who eats her fair share of gluten-free (GF) baked goods, I can say, without reservation, that these are the best GF muffins I have come across. (The muffins are also dairy free but not vegan due to the inclusion of eggs). Not only do they come out of the oven perfectly moist and soft, they remain so overnight and freeze/unfreeze well. They're fragrant, lightly spiced, and not too sweet. Mostly, they're a simple, delicious way to celebrate apple season.

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Gluten-Free Apple Banana Nut Muffins

Adapted from Food 52

Makes 12 muffins

2 1/4 cups almond flour (see Note)

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

3 bananas

2 organic apples, peeled

3/4 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

1/4 cup dried mangoes, chopped

2 tsp chia seeds

3 eggs

1/4 cup coconut palm sugar (or maple syrup)

1/8 cup coconut oil

1 tbsp organic raw apple cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin tin with paper liners.

In a bowl, whisk together the almond flour, baking soda, and salt. Roughly chop the walnuts and dried mangoes.

Peel and grate the apples using a coarse grater -- do not use a food processor -- and set aside while you prepare the wet ingredients.

Mash the bananas with a fork.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs to break them up and add the oil, apple cider vinegar, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and the mashed bananas. Stir everything well. (You can also do this in a blender). 

Gently incorporate the almond flour, walnuts, dried mangoes, and chia seeds into the banana mixture. 

Squeeze out the excess juice from the shredded apples and stir the apples into the batter. Try not to overwork it. The batter should be fairly wet at this point but if it's too wet, add in another 1/4 cup of almond flour.Allow the batter to rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes to allow the chia seeds to absorb the liquid.

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Spoon the mixture evenly into the lined muffin pan, filling each liner to the top (they do not rise much).

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.

They will stay fresh wrapped in plastic on the counter for a few days. For long-term storage, wrap the muffins individually and store in a freezer bag for up to 1 month.

Notes:  Leftover almond flour should be stored in the freezer. If mangoes or walnuts are unavailable, feel free to make substitutions (get creative!). If you do not have coconut oil, substitute other neutral tasting oils (or even olive oil) but not butter. This is a very soft batter so the paper liners are necessary - try not to omit them. For a moist texture, the key is to not over bake the muffins - start checking them at the 17- or 18-minute mark and make sure that they do not dry out.

 

Some new music you really should check out:

 

Celeriac and Potato Soup w/Mushroom, Walnut and Celery Leaf Salad

by Maja Lukic


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This is a cozy, smooth little soup to usher in a season I only fully appreciate in this city. As much as I'm a beach devotee, fall in New York is a stunning array of rich colors and sweet scents. Union Square Greenmarket in October when every stand is overflowing with sweet, crispy apples and pears (and the entire place smells like hot mulled apple cider and fried apple cider doughnuts) is everything.

Fall is when my mind turns to roasted dishes and earthy root vegetables - things from the ground. After a summer of salads and juices, my body, too, craves something warm, cooked, and comforting. This soup is it for me.

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I have never really worked with celeriac (or celery root) much in the past but I'm pretty sure my mom has made celeriac soup a few times over the years. Celeriac is a type of celery that is cultivated for its edible root, rather than its stalks and leaves, according to Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy. It is very low in carbohydrates and is a good substitute for potatoes, if you are following a low-carb diet. It is also a great source of vitamins B6 and C, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus. It will discolor when peeled and cut so immediately place pieces of celery root into some lemon water as you work.

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The only downside to celeriac is that it is not really feasible to use the whole plant. The root has a pleasant, mild flavor, and the root is what you want. The gorgeous stalks and leaves are reminiscent of celery but, unfortunately, taste far too aggressive to be used in large quantities. Deborah Madison suggests using the stalks and leaves "judiciously" in soup stocks or as seasonings in a dish. I tasted a leaf and found it a bit too strong for my liking but I am saving the stalks in the freezer for a possible vegetable stock. If you know of a great way to use them, please let us know in the comments.

Celery root has this clean flavor redolent of fresh celery stalks but, although it is a root, it does not taste as sweet as other root vegetables, like parsnips or carrots. Because of its delicate flavor, it works best with other similarly mild flavors, like apples and pears. And that, in my opinion, makes it the perfect fall vegetable. Celeriac is also delicious mashed with potatoes or other root vegetables or even served raw in a salad.

Because it is so well matched with potatoes, I took some liberties here with the original recipe, adding a few potatoes for a more substantial soup. Then I added some mushrooms and a Dijon vinaigrette to the salad component - once I open the door to one beloved ingredient, others are quickly incorporated, too, I guess.

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The mushroom-walnut salad is actually pretty delicious on its own and there are countless uses for it: serve it on grilled or toasted bread with a little bit of goat cheese, toss with greens and more vinaigrette, fold into an omelette, stir it into cooked quinoa, millet, farro, or wild rice, or serve on its own with a poached egg. The salad cleverly highlights celery leaves, which are deeply flavorful and yet so often tossed or disregarded. Here, they assume a starring role.

When the temperatures start to drop and you begin reaching for sweaters and scarves, keep this soup in mind.

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Celeriac and Potato Soup w/Mushroom Walnut & Celery Leaf Salad (v/gf) 

Adapted from Vegetable Literacy, p. 24

Serves 4

For the Soup: 

1 tbsp olive oil (or other cooking oil)

2 medium shallots, finely diced

2 celery roots

juice of 1-2 lemons

4-5 medium Carola or Yukon Gold potatoes (about 2 lbs), peeled

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup white wine

6 cups homemade or store-bought vegetable or chicken stock (or water) sea salt

For the Salad: 

1 tbsp olive oil

3/4 lbs cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped and lightly toasted

celery leaves from two bunches of celery (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 tbsp walnut oil (see Note below)

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

sea salt, black pepper

To Prepare the Soup:

Squeeze the juice of 1 to 2 lemons into a large bowl of cold water and keep it close by as you work with the celery root. To clean the celeriac, trim the leaves and the stalks (set them aside for another use, if you wish). Peel the rough, gnarly skin by cutting a slice off the top and the bottom (the way you would peel a melon or pineapple). Then, carefully slide your knife down the sides, taking the peel off as you go. Cut the celery root into 1/2-inch cubes and immerse the slices into the lemon water as you work.

Peel and dice the potatoes. Because the potatoes require slightly more time to cook than the celery root, be sure to cut the potatoes into roughly the same size or smaller. Chop the celery stalks into thin slices (and if they have leaves, trim and save the leaves for the salad below).

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Drain the celeriac (discard the lemon water) and then add the celery, celeriac, potatoes, shallots, and parsley to the soup pot. Cook, stirring from time to time, until the vegetables develop some color - about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, wine, and 1 teaspoon sea salt, and cook for a few more minutes until the wine has reduced. Add 6 cups of stock (or water) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Take the soup off the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a blender.

Blend or pulse the soup very briefly until smooth but leave a good amount of texture. Potatoes also tend to get gummy if blended too long.

To Prepare the Salad:

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard, and 2 tbsp walnut oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Trim celery leaves from two bunches of celery. Rinse and dry the leaves and then set them aside.Toast the walnuts lightly.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When the olive oil becomes fragrant, add the mushrooms and sautee for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until they become brown and begin to release some water. Add 1/4 tsp sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often, until the mushrooms are fully cooked through. Toss the mushrooms, walnuts, parsley, and celery leaves with the Dijon mustard vinaigrette.

Serve the soup warm and top each bowl with two heaping tablespoons of the salad. Both the soup and salad will keep in the fridge overnight. The soup may be safely stored in the fridge for up to three days.

Notes: If you don't have walnut oil, substitute truffle oil or just plain olive oil - no need to purchase a whole bottle of walnut oil for this one recipe. But if you do, it makes for some delicious vinaigrettes. 

I listen to melancholy music 95% of the time (it makes me happy, weirdly) and fall is no exception. In fact, this is when I am most likely to indulge in the saddest of the sad stuff. This week, it's vintage Bonobo: