Blueberry Oat Crumble Muffins

I spent the last week fitting my one bedroom apartment into boxes. Sealed with packing tape and stacked into tall, quivering towers, they fill a small 10" by 10" storage unit, awaiting next month's big move. I am displaced until then, spending time with family and traveling in the interim. With a job offer to teach in another location, it is time to leave the small town life for a bustling city. This change, however, is more bittersweet than expected. Though I resisted it madly in the beginning, this small town of minepopulation 3,000grew on me.  

We put down roots whether or not we mean to; we find a way to feel like we belong.

Blueberry Oat Crumble Muffins

Blueberry Oat Crumble Muffins

I will miss many things about this place. The two minute commute to work each morning. The two minute commute to anywhere in town. The honor system farmer's market (a table of fresh vegetables sits alone in a vacant parking lot, with a box to collect payment. If only everywhere could be so honest). The smells emanating from the food factory in the center of town (some days, the pervasive scent of dog foodblechbut on the rare days it smells like chocolate or gumdrops, it feels as if Willy Wonka's factory is just down the street). The realization that living in a small town does not mean you live a small life. 

But, most of all, I will miss the people. The welcoming, caring, animated souls who made this place home for the last two years.

Blueberry Oat Crumble Muffins

When I first arrived to this town, I nervously baked up a batch of granola bars, wondering if I had made the right decision in moving here. Oats were (and are) a comfort food to me, familiarity in a world that was both strange and new. It seemed fitting that the last pan to come out of my small apartment kitchen were these oat-filled muffins. They are a means to say goodbye and turn the page on a new chapter in my life.

Blueberry Oat Crumble Muffins

Blueberry Oat Crumble Muffins are bursting with blueberries and a bright aroma. Oats, which are grounded down to a flour, give a hearty flavor to the final product. Topped with a cinnamon crumble, the muffins are complete. Serve with a spread of butter or simply eat them plain, both methods will do just fine.

One Year Ago: Mango Margarita, Chocolate Cacao Nib Banana Bread, and Chocolate Espresso Custard
Two Years Ago: Rhubarb Vanilla Pound CakeBoozy Margarita Lime Cake, Double Chocolate Muffins, and Rhubarb Ginger Bars
Three Years Ago: Toffee Chocolate Chip CookiesCoconut Nutmeg Pudding, Lavender Lemonade, Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes, and Cherry Almond Granola
Four Years Ago: Honey Peach Boba Tea, Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies, Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Bread, and Cinnamon Raisin Baked French Toast
Five Years Ago: Bittersweet Chocolate Sherbet, Rhubarb Jam, and Tapioca Pudding

Blueberry Oat Crumble Muffins

Yields 1 dozen muffins

Blueberry Oat Muffins
1/4 cup (50 grams) coconut oil, liquid state
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (68 grams) oat flour *
3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (177 ml) milk
6 ounces (170 grams) fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the coconut oil and sugars until uniform. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients (cinnamon, baking powder, salt, oat flour, all-purpose flour) alternatively with the milk until smooth. Stir in the fresh blueberries. Set aside.

Oat Crumble Topping
2 tablespoons coconut oil, liquid state
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup (30 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (45 grams) old fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a small bowl, mix together all crumble ingredients until uniform.

Fill each muffin liner 3/4 full of batter. Sprinkle approximately 1 tablespoon of crumble topping on each and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

* To make oat flour, place old fashioned oats in a food processor and process until oats are a fine powder.

Strawberry Layer Cake

Pastry Affair turned five years old earlier this week—an unimaginable milestone when I started this blog so long ago. Originally a place to let out a little creative energy, it has grown and flourished into so much more. This space stayed a constant when my life was going through the many and tumultuous changes of growing up and finding a place in this world. I hope it continues to be one for plenty of years to come. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey, dear friend, and following along wherever it may lead.

I celebrated this anniversary earlier this spring by upgrading my camera from an entry level DSLR to a professional model. I am still learning how to use it (the purpose of many of the buttons remains a mystery), but it is my new summer project. During Pastry Affair's 4th anniversary, I shared that I had been struggling with blogging, losing the motivation to continue in light of my new career as a high school teacher. It took a few months of healing and letting go of my ideas of perfection, but Pastry Affair found its way back into my heart. It feels right.

Strawberry Layer Cake

Strawberry Layer Cake

The past week was not only a big week for Pastry Affair, but it was also the start of summer vacation (!) and my own 27th birthday (!!). Unlike my 25th birthday, when I despaired that my childhood was over, I felt ready to embrace this new age. I have never been more of an adult than I have in this past year, both in mannerisms and responsibilities, but I still feel as if I have a hold on youth. There is a quote that I adore from Leo Rosten that expresses this well:

O, to be sure, we laugh less and play less and wear uncomfortable disguises like adults, but beneath the costume is the child we always are, whose needs are simple, whose daily life is still best described by fairy tales. 

With summer upon me (and three glorious months to call my own), perhaps this disguise will disappear for a moment while I take on a few new adventures of my own.

Strawberry Layer Cake

Strawberry Layer Cake

It is well documented that my personal favorite celebration cake is a Berry Topped Angel Food Cake. With this particular cake and culinary spirit in mind, I fashioned this strawberry layer cake for Pastry Affair's special day. A simple vanilla cake is surrounded by a strawberry infused swiss meringue buttercream, but the taste is something straight from heaven. The "naked" cake is one of my favorite trends because it is so easy to recreate. The frosting is not supposed to be perfect or fully cover the sides, which means that there are very few ways to get this wrong. If you are a bit inexperienced at cake decoration, this style is definitely for you. 

The recipe is designed to create a full-sized three layer cake, so save this for a memorable event when you have eager mouths to please.

Strawberry Layer Cake

Strawberry Layer Cake expands on the idea of strawberries and cream by turning it into a multi-layer masterpiece. My classic vanilla cake recipe has been rewritten for a tall three layer cake. The cake is surrounded with a vanilla swiss meringue buttercream interspersed with fresh strawberries. The recipe may appear extensive at first glance, but do not let this deter you. If you have made cake and frosting before, this cake will be no more difficult nor take you a greater length of time.

One Year Ago: Berry Topped Angel Food Cake
Two Years Ago: White Chocolate Espresso CakePineapple Jam, and Vanilla Chia Pudding
Three Years Ago: Mocha Granola, Multigrain Bread, Blueberry Lemon Crumble, and Vanilla Cupcakes
Four Years Ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Lemonade, Citrus Roasted Rhubarb, and Roasted Cherry Brownies
Five Years Ago: Chocolate Coconut Granola, Sour Cream Sugar Cookies, and Lemon Tarts

Strawberry Layer Cake

Yields 3 layer 8 or 9-inch cake*

Vanilla Cake
3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups (560 grams) granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 cup (240 grams) sour cream (or plain, non-fat yogurt)
2/3 cup (150 grams) olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
5 1/3 cups (600 grams) cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups (480 ml) milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease 8 or 9-inch cake pans and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream, olive oil, and vanilla extract. Gradually add in the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in three additions, alternating with the milk, stirring until batter is uniform and smooth.

Divide batter evenly between cake pans. Keep in mind that the cake layers will be relatively tall. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool to room temperature before frosting. 

Vanilla Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Heavily adapted from Sweetapolita

5 large egg whites (150 g)
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups (340 grams) butter
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (225 grams) fresh strawberries, cored and sliced

Using a sharp knife, cube the butter and set aside. While making the frosting, the butter will warm up slightly, but should still be cool to the touch when using it. 

Wipe a large bowl with a paper towel soaked in a small amount of lemon juice or vinegar to remove traces of grease. Add egg whites and sugar and, over a double boiler, whisk constantly over hot water until the sugar dissolves. When rubbed between your fingers, the egg whites should feel hot and smooth (approximately a temperature of 140 degrees F/60 degrees C). This will generally take 3-5 minutes.

Using a mixer, whip the egg whites until thick, glossy peaks form. This may take anywhere from 8-10 minutes. The bottom of the bowl should feel neutral to the touch before moving on to the next step.

Place the mixer on low speed and add the cool butter cubes one at a time, mixing until smooth. The frosting should reach a silky texture. Beat in the vanilla bean seeds. If the butter is too warm and the frosting is too runny, place in the refrigerator for approximately 15 minutes to firm up the butter before mixing again. If the mixture curdles, continue mixing until it comes back together.

To assemble, reserve approximately 1 1/2 cups of frosting to use later. Mix a majority of the sliced strawberries in the remaining frosting, reserving a handful for decoration. 

Place the bottom cake layer on a serving plate. Place approximately 2 cups of strawberry filled frosting on the cake and smooth evenly. Add the second layer of cake and repeat. Place the final layer on top and, using the reserved frosting, smooth frosting onto the top and sides of the cake to fill in any gaps. If there are bare areas showing between the cake layers, push reserved strawberry slices into the frosting and smooth out with an uneven spatula.

Top with halved strawberries and serve.

* A 3 layer 8-inch cake will not use all of the batter so you will have enough leftover batter to create a few cupcakes. If baking 9-inch cakes, you will likely use all of the batter in the creation of the cake.

Blackberry Coconut Scones

In my early days of baking, there was a steep learning curve to overcome. A combination of inexperience and failure to read the directions caused many items to go straight from the oven and into the trash. It was the scones, however, that left me dumbfounded. Pan after pan came out dry or bitter or flavorless; they were inedible, in every possible way. It was almost absurd that I was not able to recreate this simple pastry in my own kitchen. I say almost because nothing is laughable about throwing that much butter in the bin.

It wasn't until I got a job in a bakery—and was tasked with baking dozens of scones on a daily basis—that I found my knack for this particular pastry.

Blackberry Coconut Scones

Blackberry Coconut Scones

In truth, scones are no more difficult to create than a biscuit. Fat is cut into flour, liquid is added to bring it together, and the servings are cut from the dough. Perhaps it was a lack of confidence that held me back long ago, but now I feel I could create a scone with my eyes closed, even years after working behind the pastry case. 

Blackberries are often discounted at my local market. Emerging from my winter cocoon, these berries feel like a bite of spring; I fill my basket each time I spot the red sale sign. With an excess of berries last Sunday, I added them to a basic coconut oil scone recipe to create a complement to brunch. Coconut oil has quickly become my favorite fat for scones because it results in a tender, delicate crumb. These (vegan!) scones may be simple, but the taste is lovely.

Blackberry Coconut Scones

Blackberry Coconut Scones

Blackberry Coconut Scones combine the fresh berry with coconut in three of its forms—coconut milk, coconut oil, and coconut flakes. The result is a tender, flaky scone that foils the tart berry against the sweetness of the pastry. A light coconut glaze is drizzled over the top for an extra touch. While it could be omitted, I find it worth the extra effort.

One Year Ago:  Peanut Butter Chocolate Frosted Cake and Orange Coconut Pull-Apart Bread
Two Years Ago: Lemon Pudding Cake, Grapefruit Margaritas,  Chocolate Oatmeal Flaxseed Muffins, and Chocolate Chip Raisin Oatmeal Cookies
Three Years Ago: Cinnamon Sugar Muffins, Basic Caramel Sauce, Rum Raisin Ice Cream, and Butternut Squash & Spinach Tart
Four Years Ago: Yeasted Chocolate Coffee Cake, Meyer Lemon Curd, Lemon Chocolate Tart, and Peanut Butter Swirled Brownies

Coconut Scones with Coconut Glaze

Yields 6-8 scones

Coconut Scones 
1  1/2 cups ( grams) all-purpose flour 
1/4 cup (56 grams) granulated sugar 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/3 cup coconut oil (solid state) 
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes 
6 ounces (170 grams) fresh blackberries
3/4 cup (175 ml) coconut milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the solid coconut oil with a pastry blender (or your fingers) until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Gently fold in the coconut flakes, fresh blackberries, and coconut milk until the mixture comes together.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a disk roughly 1-inch thick. Cut the dough into 6-8 pie shaped wedges and move to a baking sheet. For extra sweetness, sprinkle granulated sugar over the top of the scones. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until the edges take on a light color. Allow scones to cool completely before glazing.

Coconut Glaze 
1/2 cup (62 grams) powdered sugar 
1 tablespoon coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients. Using a spoon, drizzle glaze over cooled scones. Allow at least 15 minutes for the glaze to set before serving.

S'mores Tart

Campfires and s'mores compose many of my childhood summer memories. As a Girl Scout growing up, s'mores were our reward after a long day of hiking, canoeing, and cooking dinner over flames at camp. We would sing silly songs—with laughter as our melody—and toast marshmallows, stretching out these perfect moments with a just one more, please. I hold these memories particularly close when settling into the summer season.

It is fitting then, especially considering my own experience, that s'mores originated with the Girl Scouts. The first recipe for this dessert appeared in the handbook Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts in 1927. The folklore says that when a girl had eaten one she would always ask for "some more." Over time, the popularity of the treat grew until it became the summer phenomena it is today. The dessert still holds ties to its roots, however. A s'more made over a roaring campfire will always be superior to any counterpart. The smoke, night sky, and good company are irreplaceable ingredients.

S'mores Tart

S'mores Tart

S'mores Tart

S'mores are not often thought of as an elegant dessert (as anyone with a crumb-filled lap and a sticky marshmallow face and fingers would agree). With these s'mores tarts, I wanted to find a little more of that sophistication while keeping the traditional flavors intact. Thus, a thin crust holds in a rich chocolate filling and is topped with an airy marshmallow topping. 

While I still adore a classic campfire s'more, I find them too sweet to eat more than one. With the tarts, I was able to cut back on the sugar by using dark chocolate and covering the tarts partially with the marshmallow topping. Of course, if the classic sweetness is your preference, please use your favorite milk chocolate and drown these tarts in as much toasted marshmallow as you desire. 

S'mores Tart

S'mores Tart

S'mores Tarts feature a rich chocolate filling surrounded by a cookie crust and topped with a vanilla flavored marshmallow topping. The marshmallow topping can be toasted using an oven broiler, but flame torches yield much more control with the finished product. I personally find kitchen torches to be small, disappointing, and overpriced. If you are up for a bit of adventure, acquaint yourself with your pyromaniac side, and pull out a full-size blow torch for these tarts. You'll be glad you did. 

One Year Ago: Mixed Berry Quinoa Crumble
Two Years Ago: Rhubarb Oatmeal, Dill Dinner Rolls, Sparkling Lemon Drop, and Berry Cheesecake Tarts
Three Years Ago: Vegan Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Cherry Cream Cheese Muffins, Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa, Vegan Brownies, and Banana Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie
Four Years Ago: Chocolate Almond Oat Bars, Tropical Vacation Cocktail, Blueberry Granola, and Bizcochitos
Five Years Ago: Blueberry & Raspberry Mini Tarts

S'mores Tarts

Yields 6 small tarts

Tart Dough
8 tablespoons (115 grams) butter, room temperature
1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cup (210 grams) all-purpose flour

In a medium mixing bowl, place the butter and sugar. Beat until lighter in color and texture. Add the egg, vanilla, and salt and continue mixing until uniform, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the flour, mixing until the dough comes together and begins to gather in the bowl. A food processor can also be used to speed up the process, if available.

Remove dough and shape into a cylinder. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). 

Unwrap dough and slice cylinder into 6 even pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each slice into a circle 2-inches larger than the tart pan. Gently place dough into pan, pressing it along the edges. If necessary, additional dough can be used to cover up cracks or tears. Using a rolling pin, roll it along the top of the pan to cut off excess dough. Puncture a couple dozen holes into the bottom of the tart using a fork; this will prevent the dough from rising.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until they are dry in appearance and touch. Cool to room temperature.

Chocolate Filling
6 ounces (170 grams) milk, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate, finely chopped (as per preference)
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream *

Place chopped chocolate in a bowl. Set aside.

On the stovetop or in the microwave, heat the cream until near boiling. Pour over the chopped chocolate and allow to sit for 5 minutes to melt the chocolate. Stir until smooth.

Divide chocolate filling evenly between the cooled tart shells, using an offset spatula to smooth the top of each tart.

Marshmallow Topping **
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wipe a large bowl with a paper towel soaked in a small amount of lemon juice or vinegar to remove traces of grease. Add egg whites and sugar and, over a double boiler, whisk constantly over hot water until the sugar dissolves. When rubbed between your fingers, the egg whites should feel hot and smooth (approximately a temperature of 140 degrees F/60 degrees C). This will generally take 3-8 minutes, depending on the temperature of the water.

Using a mixer, whip the egg whites until thick, glossy peaks form. This may take anywhere from 8-10 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Using a pastry bag, pipe topping over each tart. The tarts may be covered partially (as shown) or fully covered. Alternatively, an offset spatula can be used to spread topping over the tarts. 

For a toasted look, use a kitchen torch (or a full-sized blow torch, as I did) to add the toasted look to the topping. I recommend practicing on leftover topping before starting on the tarts. Alternatively, an oven set to broil can be used to toast the topping. This is a little less precise, but will also yield a toasted appearance.

Store and serve at room temperature. The marshmallow topping may "weep" slightly on the second day, but it does not affect the flavor or texture of the tarts.

* I have also used soy milk (dairy-free) to great effect.

** The recipe yields enough marshmallow topping to completely cover the tarts, if desired.

Chocolate Orange Cake

The feeling of spring is in the air, unusual for this time of year. Normally, the Upper Midwest is still buried in a thick layer of white, and spring is just a dream over the horizon. But now the snow has melted, and with unseasonally warm weather and longer daylight hours, I feel the anxiousness of  summer to arrive. To subdue my restlessness (and dread that winter will shortly reappear), I headed to the place where I feel calm.

With a few hours to spare, I decided on baking an everyday cake. With no occasion to celebrate or holiday to observe, a cake makes an ordinary weekend feel a little brighter.

Chocolate Orange Cake

Chocolate Orange Cake

Oftentimes, I feel that some cakesespecially cupcakesact entirely as acceptable vessels to consume frosting. When an average cake, perhaps slightly dry, is covered with a mound of buttercream, there is little complaint. Good buttercream frostings have this redeeming power (and thank goodness as it has rescued many a cake of mine).

With this particular cake, however, I prefered the cake itself to be the true star. To make the crumb tender, sour cream and buttermilk were used to soften the texture. Orange zest was rubbed into the sugar to release a vibrant orange scent and flavor. And, once the cakes were baked, the layers were brushed with fresh orange juice to give it a final touch.

As a lover of chocolate and orange flavors together, this cake managed the fusion with ease.

Chocolate Orange Cake

Chocolate Orange Cake

This Chocolate Orange Layer Cake is fresh and light. The cake is tender which balances the glaze that is thick and rich. I suggest a lighter touch of glaze than seen in the photographsjust enough to seal in the layersso it will meld with the cake instead of acting as a separate layer. For all the chocolate and orange lovers, this cake is for you.

One Year Ago:  Almond Cake 
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Pudding, Black Tea Cake with Honey Buttercream Blueberry Lemon Pancakes, and Lavender Lemon Shortbread
Three Years Ago: Cappuccino Pancakes with Mocha Syrup, Hot Cocoa Cookies, Rosemary Focaccia, and Swedish Visiting Cake
Four Years Ago: Chocolate Blueberry Ice Cream, Heart Shaped Cinnamon Rolls, Mexican Hot Cocoa Mix, and Brown Butter Crispy Rice Treats

Chocolate Orange Cake with Glaze

Yields 2 layer 8-inch cake or 3 layer 6-inch cake

Chocolate Orange Cake
1 3/4 cups (350 grams) granulated sugar 
Zest of 2 oranges
2 large eggs 
1/2 cup (118 ml) vegetable oil 
1/2 cup (115 grams) sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (220 grams) all-purpose flour 
3/4 cup (65 grams) cocoa powder 
2 teaspoons baking soda 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 cup (237 ml) buttermilk
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease baking pans.

In a large bowl, combine granulated sugar with orange zest, rubbing it between your fingers to release the oils. Beat in the eggs, vegetable oil, sour cream, and vanilla extract until well combined. 

Gradually mix in the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, alternating with splashes of buttermilk. Stir until batter is uniform.

Divide batter evenly between baking pans and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean with a few crumbs. While cakes are cooling, use a fork to poke a few holes in the top of the cake and evenly brush on the orange juice so it soaks in. Cool cakes to room temperature (or chill) before frosting.

Chocolate Orange Glaze
12 ounces (340 grams) semi-sweet chocolate
8 tablespoons (113 grams) butter
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup (115 grams) sour cream
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (optional)
Orange zest, for garnish (optional)

In a medium saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter on low until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in orange zest, sour cream, and orange liqueur. Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes to thicken.

To assemble, carefully place one layer of cake onto a serving platter, brushed side up. Spoon glaze onto surface until desired thickness. Arrange the second cake layer on top of the first and frost the cake with remaining glaze. I have found that a cold cake is easier to frost because the chocolate glaze will harden when it comes into contact with the cake. However, waiting until the frosting is thick and can hold its shape will also work and be easier to spread along the side. I also suggest a thinner layer of glaze than shown in the photographs to have a more even cake-to-frosting ratio.

Before serving, dust the top of the cake with orange zest.