This morning, a breakfast cake

blueberriescousinsan every day cake

Everyone needs a go-to cake. This is mine.

Blueberry lemon cake

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Pretty much any berry can be subbed in for the blueberries. When I have a lot (8-10 oz) of berries on the ripe side, I cook them down into a skillet jam and then fold them in at the end, after combining the liquid and dry ingredients. Even better, though, is replacing the berries with 2/3 cup mini bittersweet chocolate chips, and replacing the lemon juice and zest with that of a blood orange. A tart pan is essential in my house (it fits best under our cake dome), but an 8 x 8 square pan will also do.

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2 cups white spelt flour
3/4 cup natural cane sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch fine grain salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup blueberries

1/2 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190 C. Line the bottom of a 10-inch round tart pan with parchment, and lightly oil the sides.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest together. Add the berries and toss gently to coat. In a small bowl, whisk the liquid ingredients together. Add liquid ingredients to dry, and fold gently to combine. The batter will be thick, like biscuit dough. If it seems to dry, add a splash of almond milk.

Once the cake is in the oven, lower the heat to 350. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before serving.

Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 35 minutes

autumn + a simple apple crumble

What autumn means to me, so far this year:

  • dahlias that thrive from the union of cool, misty mornings and sun-dappled afternoons;
  • becoming a soccer mom;
  • taking Nina to her first college football game, a real nail-biter that was a blur of pompoms and cacophony of cheering;
  • apples, ergo the quest to perfect baked apple cider doughnuts;
  • and this lovely apple crumble.

What a lovely start to my favorite season.

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Apple crumble with muscovado and rye

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I’ve been on a dark rye + muscovado kick lately, and when my neighbors gifted me several pounds of apples, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. This recipe is a marriage of an apple crumble filling from Nigel Slater, and a rye crumble topping from Kim Boyce. A mixture of apple varieties is best in my opinion, so that some bits are tart, some are sweet, some melt into a slush and some remain slightly firm. The thing about Slater’s recipe I love most is that the apples are tossed with sugar then quickly browned before baking, giving the finished dish undertones of toffee or caramel. I think this tastes best without the addition of any spices, although I wouldn’t object to tucking a couple of bruised sage leaves into the dish just before baking. Another grain that pairs well with muscovado sugar is buckwheat, which also happens to be gluten free.

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Filling:
2 1/2 to 3 pounds apples, preferably a mix of tart and sweet
Juice from half a lemon
1/3 cup muscovado sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons coconut oil, used in two teaspoon increments

Crumble:
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup dark rye flour (or buckwheat to make this gluten free)
1/3 cup almond meal
6 tablespoons turbinado sugar
Large pinch of fine grain sea salt
3 to 5 tablespoons melted coconut oil

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 F / 180 C. Lightly oil a 1.5 quart casserole dish and set aside.

Peel, core, and chop the apples into 3/4-inch chunks. In a large bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice and sugar; stir to combine.

In a heavy bottomed pot, melt two teaspoons of the coconut oil. When the oil is nice and hot, arrange a layer of the apples on the bottom of the pan. Resist the urge to nudge the apple pieces around; the goal here is for them to begin to caramelize. After three to four minutes the apples will begin to brown in spots; transfer them to the casserole dish. Repeat the process until all of the apples have had their turn in the pot. If there are any sticky bits in the pot, add a splash of water, loosen them up, and add them to the casserole dish.

To make the crumble, combine all of the dry ingredients (everything except the coconut oil) in a food processor and pulse a few times until the oats are coarsely ground. Transfer to a bowl and add three tablespoons of the melted coconut oil. Using your hands, stir to combine, squeezing as you stir to create small crumbly bits. If the mixture falls apart when squeezed, add another tablespoon of coconut oil. You want the crumble topping to have a dusty texture, similar to breadcrumbs.

Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the apples. Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is crisp and golden brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Prep time: 30 minutes | Cook time: 30 minutes

law school

It’s difficult, and exhilarating, and everything I expected it to be.

I was going to regale you with exciting tales of the Socratic method, of color-coded note taking and bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils, of my love affair with briefing cases, and the new-to-me world of legal podcasts.

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Instead, I’ll report on the sliver of my life that hasn’t changed. I’m still obsessively tending my little farm, creating chaos in the kitchen, and finding an excuse to bake something every day.

A couple of weekends ago, I picked tomatoes.

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And then I made a tart.

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Tomato chèvre galette with a cornmeal crust

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The tomatoes used in my galette pictured above were already roasted, because my cashew chèvre was quite tangy and I wanted my tomatoes extra sweet. However. The recipe is written for raw tomatoes, which are what I most often use. Be sure your layer of cheese underneath is nice and thick (to soak up any extra juice). If you go the roasted tomato route, the time it takes to preheat the oven and roast them is about the same amount of time it takes to chill the dough. Chilled coconut oil can be used in place of vegan butter, but it warms up more quickly so observe mise en place before you get started, to keep things moving along. Time spent from rolling out the dough to sliding the galette into the oven is under fifteen minutes. If the dough tears when you’re folding up the sides, just pinch it together and carry on; free form tarts are supposed to look rustic, not polished.

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1 1/4 cups whole spelt flour + additional flour for rolling out the dough
1/2 cup fine ground cornmeal (yellow or white)
1 teaspoon natural cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
6 tablespoons vegan butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup ice water

3/4 cup vegan chèvre-style cheese
2 handfuls cherry tomatoes, halved
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
pinch fine grain sea salt
2-3 grinds of white pepper
Soy (or other non-dairy) milk, for brushing the crust

In a food processor add the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt, and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse again, until it’s in pea-sized pieces. Add the olive oil and ice water and pulse a few more times until the dough comes together; it will be sticky. Turn the dough out onto the center of a large piece of parchment (the size of your baking tray) and shape it into a disk, adding a little spelt flour to the top of the disk to keep it from sticking to your hands. Carefully fold the parchment up around the disk, wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap (or zip inside a gallon-sized bag), and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Fifteen minutes before you want to put the galette into the oven, adjust a rack to the center position and preheat to 375 F / 190 C. Halve the tomatoes and set aside.

When the dough is ready to be rolled out, carefully unwrap the parchment paper. Roll the dough into a circle until it reaches the edge of the parchment – or is 1/4-inch thick – whichever comes first. Sprinkle with flour as you go along to prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin. Transfer the parchment/dough to the baking tray you’ll be using and put it into the freezer for a few minutes to firm the dough back up. When you pull it back out, leave the parchment on the baking tray while you finish putting the galette together. Carefully spread the cheese out from the center, leaving a two-inch border of dough. Arrange the tomatoes in an even layer over the cheese, cut side up. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, and thyme leaves over the tomatoes. Using a spatula if necessary to avoid sticking, lift up an edge of the dough and fold it up over the filling. Continue folding the dough, forming a pleated edge as you go along. Pinch any tears in the dough together with your fingers. Brush the dough with soy milk. Bake until the crust has browned, 35-40 minutes. Slide the galette onto a cooling rack and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting into wedges. This tastes good both warm from the oven and at room temperature.

Prep time (dough): 10 minutes | Prep time (galette): 15 minutes | Inactive resting time: 1 hour | Cook time: 40 minutes

Over sharing

I’ve been away from this space for far too long, and it’s making me twitchy. Almost every day I think about posting something, but then I realize I don’t have a photo, or wonder if it’s too easy/difficult/ordinary/bizarre to bother sending out into the ether, or I can’t read my notes; and then I get irritable and go into my kitchen and make something that I know someone else out there might appreciate, but I forget to take a picture (or it turns out really shitty because my house of windows is also a house of shade trees and gets almost no natural light), and it starts all over again. Bah!

I don’t aspire to be a fancy pants food blogger. I only think to check stats when I realize I made a big typo in an ingredient list and worry about how many people might have made the recipe. I’m too busy to finish my cookbook proposal. But when someone sends me an e-mail gushing about how much my recipe for something or other made their day, well, it makes my day, too. I use this site as my personal recipe repository – there are dozens of recipes that live in draft status, for the reasons I listed at the top of this post. Once I tweak a recipe to exactly how my family and I like it and I go to the trouble of transcribing it to this site, I guess I could just share it, right? And then maybe I won’t be so twitchy.

CMR-noted

In times of desperation I may simply post this. ^^

Because absolutely no one cares but I can’t stop thinking about it so I’m going to over share: a few things that make me twitchy. The word y’all. Andrea in The Walking Dead. The smell of anything fishy, including seaweed. Intentionally misspelled words. Noisy children. Not being able to tell Nina why I get choked up over certain characters in the Harry Potter series because we’re only midway through book four and oh, so many of them are going to die! Anyone who doesn’t recognize Stephen King as a genius storyteller based on his writing and not the genre.

CMR-before

Moving on!

So here’s the thing: I’m going to start putting more of my recipes out there. The boring ones, the really complicated why-would-anyone-bother ones, the accidentally genius-to-me ones. Even the one pot meals that I fear my family will have to subsist on once law school starts in a few weeks. If it’s good enough to make my personal recipe archive, it guess it might be good enough to share.

CMR-after

 

Cherry macaroon tart with muscovado and rye

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Muscovado, rye flour, and dark, heady fruit are one of my favorite combinations. I’ve made this tart with blackberries and plums in the past, depending on the season. The crust can easily be made gluten free by substituting buckwheat flour for the rye. I use a tapioca slurry in place of egg white for the macaroon topping, which gives it a nice sheen. Flax-thickened water made with whole seeds (which are strained out) also works well, if you have the extra time; you can add the strained seeds to the crust. I find that arrowroot gets too gummy, and cornstarch makes the topping dull.

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3/4 cup almond meal
3/4 cup rye flour (or buckwheat flour for gluten free)
3/4 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut
1/4 cup muscovado sugar, lightly packed
6 – 8 tablespoons natural cane sugar, depending on the sweetness of your berries
1/2 cup melted coconut oil

1 1/2 cups cherries, pitted and halved

1 1/2 cups unsweetened finely shredded coconut
1/2 cup natural cane sugar

2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1/2 cup water

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 F / 160 C. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish or tart pan with parchment.

Combine the almond meal, rye flour, shredded coconut, and sugars in a large bowl and whisk to incorporate, taking care to break up any lumps. Add the melted coconut oil and combine; the mixture should be damp and sandy, and stick together when pressed between your fingers. Transfer the mixture to your lined dish and distribute evenly. Set aside the bowl to use for the macaroon topping. Using a silicone spatula or dampened fingers, press the crust into the bottom of the dish. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 350F / 180C.

While the crust is baking, combine the additional shredded coconut and sugar for the macaroon topping in your bowl; set aside. In a small saucepan, whisk together the tapioca flour and water. Place over low heat and whisk until it just starts to thicken and turn glossy, one to two minutes. Remove from heat, whisk once more to make sure it’s smooth, and add to the macaroon ingredients, taking care to scrape out any last bit clinging to the sides of the pan. Mix the macaroon ingredients together until well combined; there should not be any dry coconut in the bowl.

Spread the cherries evenly over the crust. Add dollops of macaroon topping in between the spaces, around the edges, and over the top until used up. There should be bits of cherries poking up here and there. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, or the macaroon peaks are golden brown. Cool before slicing.

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 40-45 minutes, divided

Breakfast for dinner

 

Saturday morning drizzleEverything is better when lemon icing is involved, even a Saturday morning school make up day.

Nina’s love for the written word is at that stage where she’ll read anything within reach. Comic books, chapter books, the back of a cereal box, whatever I’ve downloaded on my Kindle.

It wasn’t long before she started reaching for my cookbooks, especially anything with ‘vegan’ in the title . A few weeks ago she shouted “Tonight, blueberry waffles!” from the living room, and just like that, she also took over menu planning.

The Readerpage three

Ni reads recipes with intent, quizzing me about ingredients (always fun when she mispronounces them), memorizing the steps, and preemptively chastising me if anything I’ve ever done in the history of our time in the kitchen together these past seven years contradicts a recipe’s Notes. This intensity means she has the energy to read through exactly one recipe most nights, usually from the first chapter of a book.

We had a lot of breakfast for dinner before I rearranged the cookbooks.

blueberry teff waffles

 

Blueberry teff sourdough waffles with lemon icing

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Any sourdough starter will work in this recipe, but teff is especially suited, flavor-wise, to blueberries. (Rye would be my second choice.) Also! My teff sourdough starter smells like apples, and this makes me want to put it in everything. I started it several months ago while testing recipes for Kittee’s Ethiopian cookbook, and it’s now the only sourdough starter in my refrigerator. Oh yeah, and it’s gluten free to boot. In case you don’t recognize the book Nina’s holding, she plucked this gem from Lauren Ulm’s Vegan Yum Yum.  As with most recipes in my cookbooks, I made it once as written, modified the heck out of it (which usually means making it from memory alone and letting instinct take over), and then scribbled all over the recipe page when I got it just so. The lemon icing is very sweet, the waffles not so much. Definitely use muscovado sugar if you have it;  turbinado is also quite good. To make these gluten free, substitute an all purpose gluten free flour blend for the white spelt and add 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum.

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For the waffles:
1 1/2 cups white spelt flour
2 tablespoons muscovado sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
6 ounces unsweetened plain coconut or soy yogurt
1 cup almond milk
1/4 cup teff sourdough starter
3 tablespoons coconut or sunflower oil
1 heaping cup fresh or frozen blueberries

For the icing:
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons almond milk, more if needed to thin

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the yogurt, almond milk, starter and oil. Whisk together until just incorporated, and then fold in the blueberries. Let the batter rest while you prepare the icing.

Preheat a waffle iron and brush or spray it with oil. Cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions – a heaping 1/2 cup batter in my iron makes a 7-inch waffle. Serve immediately, or keep warm in a 200 F / 93 C oven.

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 5-7 minutes per waffle | Yield: 5 7-inch waffles

Not a zombie apocalypse

Snow days are a rare occurrence in the Southeast. Sleet, ice, black ice, freezing rain, or about thirty seconds’ worth of snow that turns immediately into sleet, ice, or freezing rain (aka ‘wintry mix’) – pretty standard fare ’round here.

12504056255_ca75c1e4aa_bContrary to popular belief, writing in one’s book is not always a sign of boredom of hoodlumdom // no one is safe from the veganizer/deglutenizer, including Ms. Swanson

A bona fide snowfall that comes down so fast and heavy that my footprints from walking out to the pond are completely filled in by the time I make one loop and head back to the house? Until yesterday, I would have put my money on a zombie apocalypse happening first.

12504534764_86dec42a45_bNot zombie food

The possibility of losing power last night loomed large (and may very well happen tonight), so we took the usual precautions: charged all of our phones and various devices; filled up the cars with petrol; cooked giants pots of rice and beans and squash sauce; stocked up on bottled water, bread, chips and wine; and made a few favorite family treats, including these muffins.

For the record, I think all of these things would also come in handy for a zombie apocalypse.

12504056415_6959ac0800_bNary a blue streak // take the time to coat your berries in flour and you will not be disappointed

Blueberry millet muffins

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If you’ve never tasted millet before, it has a mild, sweet flavor not unlike cornmeal. I often grind it into flour for baking, but I really like the way the teensy seeds pop between my teeth when left whole. I used frozen wild blueberries in these muffins, but I imagine just about any berry would do. These are both gluten and gum free; I use whole flax seeds to bind and leaven. Maple syrup is my sweetener of choice, lending these a rich honeyed flavor.

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4 teaspoons whole flax seeds + 1/2 cup water
1 cup superfine brown rice flour (single-milled brown rice flour will also work)
3/4 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons potato starch
1/3 cup raw millet
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup plain coconut or soy yogurt
1/2 cup olive or sunflower oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
grated zest and juice from one lemon
1/2 cup blueberries (if using frozen, do not thaw)
1 tablespoon sorghum or brown rice flour to coat berries

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 F / 205 C. Line or lightly oil a 12-cup muffin tin.

First, prepare your flax eggs. Stovetop: Combine the flax seeds and water in a small saucepan and bring to a low simmer for five minutes. The water may or may not begin to thicken; this is okay. Remove the saucepan from heat and proceed with the rest of the recipe. Microwave: In a large heatproof bowl, combine 1/2 cup boiling water with the flax seeds; microwave on high for 40 seconds; set aside and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

In a small bowl, toss the berries in 1 tablespoon of flour; set aside.

Whisk together the flours, starches, millet, baking soda and powder, and salt. In another  bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, syrup, lemon zest and juice, and flax-water mixture. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just incorporated. Carefully fold in the berries and any excess flour. Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin cups; they should be filled 2/3-3/4 from the top.

Bake for 20 minutes, turning halfway to ensure even browning. The muffins are ready when they smell nutty and the tops are just starting to crack. Take the tins out of the oven and twist each muffin out of its cup, turning it on its side in the cup to cool.

These taste best if eaten the same day they are made, but will hold up well for up to two days stored in an airtight container.

Prep time: 15 minutes | Oven time: 20 minutes

pumpkin drop biscuits // book+film notes

My days have been bookended by two things lately: pumpkin drop biscuits before dawn, and tales of tragedy or woe at night’s end.

pumpkin db w.fg rawit was black as pitch when these came out of the oven the other morning, but lack of lighting (or a real camera) be damned, these are delicious // dusted liberally with fine grain raw sugar

I’ve a penchant for dark and lonely tales in general, but my favorite season/month/holidays all rolled up into a few short weeks amplify it a thousandfold. I’ve spend nearly every night huddled under blankets into the witching hour reading or viewing, followed by bleary-eyed mornings of biscuit making. Here’s a sliver of why it’s been worth it.

On the nightstand

Dr. Sleep: Have I mentioned King before? I’m sure I have. He’s hands down my favorite author, for reasons I won’t get into now (or this post will never end). What’s probably germain to my subjective adoration for Dr. Sleep, though, is a teensy bit of backstory. When I was a bored to tears, Dickens-reading fifth grader, I stumbled across The Shining – and it was love at first sight. Love for the genre, for the author, and most importantly, for the characters. I can actually say I have waited three-fourths of my life to find out what happened to them. And I was not disappointed.

The Snow Child: Beautiful, haunting, sad, magical, and well written. Oh, so well written. I can feel the frost creeping into my fingers and kissing the nape of my neck as I type this. More than once I put this  book down and curled up with my own little girl while pondering the one in this story.

On film

Jane Eyre (2011): There have been a few decent film versions of this novel, and in those instances it was (for me) a combination of direction, casting, locale, score, costume and set design, chemistry between main and/or supporting cast, or screenplay; never all of those things in any one film. This version? It has it all. As most adaptations, this film does not capture every single moment from Brontë’s story – but it is more true to the spirit of her novel and the times in which it was written than any other adaptation I’ve seen to date. The flashbacks to Jane’s childhood were heart wrenching in a way I’d forgotten since experiencing those same scenes on the page. Wasikowska and Fassbender were outstanding, as was the entire supporting cast. And the moors, oh, the moors! A lesser film could still be carried on the wings of location, set design and costuming. In this one, they were a beautiful canvas that melted into the background and allowed the story to seamlessly unfold.

Wuthering Heights (2011): Another outstanding adaptation – and the only film version of Wuthering Heights I’ve seen that remains true to the heart of another Brontë sister’s story. When I read the novel many many years ago, the descriptor that most came to mind was a well-intentioned but naively two dimensional cruel. I had not yet lived enough to really comprehend where Brontë was coming from; all of the critical analysis skills in the world didn’t provide the insight that I have now. When I watched this 2011 film version with a few more years of life behind me, the first descriptor that came to mind was feral. The film only covers the first half of the novel, but it gets to the beating heart of this story, rips it out and stomps on it. The first hour has almost no dialogue, instead subjecting viewers to the elements right along with Heathcliff and Catherine as they each endure their separate but equally harsh realities while also growing to care for one another. More time in this version is given to their childhood years than any other I’ve seen, and it makes the repercussions of their cleaving that much more resounding. Unfortunately, choices the director made in her treatment of animals prevent me from wanting to view any of her other works; I’ve heard great things about Fish Tank and Red Road, but have serious doubts I’ll watch them.

The Awakening: After experiencing two Brontë stories in a 48 hour period, I wanted to watch something that was still in the gothic vein, but nowhere as intense. Rebecca Hall in a creepyish-but-more-sad-than-scary ghost story filled that niche. Post WWI England, a drafty mansion that had been converted into a boys’ school, a female ghost debunker, hints of tragic love lost. The only thing that kept me from fully immersing myself in the story is that Rebecca Hall reminds me of Molly Wizenberg, and I kept wanting her to cook something. Needless to say, when this movie was over I made a tray of cookies and a pot of tea.

pumpkin db w.turbinadoa turbinado-topped biscuit is a great companion for culling my creepy postcard collection

Pumpkin drop biscuits

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This is a modification of my coconut cream drop biscuits, one I’ve made often enough now that it’s no longer a modification – it just is. I use half whole spelt and half white to add a little nuttiness to the biscuits without compromising the crumb, but all white spelt flour would be fine, too.  I don’t go overboard with the pumpkin or spices, because I hate when recipes do that – this isn’t a pie, you know? I’ve used both pumpkin and butternut squash in this, usually roasted the night before and then blitzed in my mini food processor just before mixing in; mashing it well with a fork works too. I don’t go overboard with the maple syrup in the batter, because 1. these would brown faster than I’d like, and 2. I want an excuse to add the sugar on top. It’s the most essential ingredient, according to Nina.

§ § §

1 cups whole spelt flour
1 cup white spelt flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/4 cup solid coconut cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup (grade A or B, baker’s choice)
1/4 cup pureed pumpkin or butternut squash
1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk (I always use almond)
Large pinches of natural cane or turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and position a rack in the center.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place in the refrigerator or freezer to chill while you mix up the dough.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Quickly rub the cream into the flour with your fingers until the pieces are the size of small pebbles; don’t worry if they aren’t uniform in size. Add the syrup, pumpkin puree and milk and stir until just incorporated; the dough will be sticky. Place the dough in the refrigerator to chill for at least 10 minutes, or longer if your oven is not yet preheated. Once the oven is ready, divide the dough into six portions, dropping them at least one inch apart on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the top of each biscuit liberally with sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, or until just beginning to brown around the edges and golden on top.

Yield: 6 biscuits

Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes