Floral Spring Cocktails, featuring Royal Rose Syrups

Who needs a drink? I know I’ve been enjoying indulging in a little alcohol more often than usual (which is to say, I’ve been having a drink maybe four nights a week instead of rarely), and the weather is saying spring, so I thought I’d share some cocktails (and a mocktail) that I’ve whipped up using the syrups that Royal Rose Syrups* so kindly sent me. They sent me eight of their flavors and I’m focusing on the floral flavors for now because, well, spring. Stay tuned for later on when I share some gorgeous summer cocktails using more of their flavors.

(And note that their spring 20% off sale*, with the code SPRING20, ends today!)

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The Dearest Old Fashioned

This is a riff on an Old Fashioned, using saffron syrup and rosewater. The name is a play on words, both referring to my friend Nazanin of Tea Thoughts, who loves all these flavors, and whose name means dearest in Farsi, and also a reference to the fact that saffron has long been the “dearest” or most expensive spice in the world.

2 oz. bourbon

1 Tbsp. saffron syrup*

1/2-1 tsp. rosewater

Stir with ice and garnish with some dried rosebuds if desired. It’s also lovely topped with some sparkling water to make a less potent beverage. Sip slowly, perhaps while enjoying one of Nazanin’s coloring books.

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The Tudor Rose

This cocktail uses brandy, which always feels old-fashioned to me, and is based on a previous cocktail from a bar I used to frequent named “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition.” Because I’m not using port or a brandy named after a Spanish cardinal, I’ve decided to name this for the Tudor rose, as it combines the flavors of rose with sparkling wine, orange peel, and brandy, for a luxurious and historical feeling.

1 oz. brandy

1 Tbsp. rose syrup*

Sparkling wine

Strip of orange peel

Stir together the brandy and rose syrup with a little ice until combined and then strain into a cocktail or champagne glass. Top with champagne and twist the orange peel over the top before dropping it in. Sip while contemplating the fragility of your royal dynasty (or perhaps keeping up your official correspondence).

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Milady’s Boudoir

Lavender evokes my vanity, perhaps because it is one of my favorite fragrances, so I’ve named this drink both for the sanctuary of beauty where Milady might perform her toilette, and also for the ladies’ publication from P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories.

1 Tbsp. lavender lemon syrup*

glass of sparkling wine

lemon peel

Pour the syrup into a champagne flute or coupe and top with champagne. Twist a piece of lemon peel over the top and drop in. Sip as part of a luxurious evening routine.

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The Amiable Friend

This is another inspired by a friend. Rie of Tea Curious has created tea cocktails in the past, but does not drink herself, so I thought I would make my non-alcoholic offering in her honor, featuring some ice-brewed white tea, in honor of her unique brewing experiments, along with jasmine syrup. I only wish I had a fancier glass in which to serve it. This is called “amiable” after the Language of Flowers, which interprets jasmine’s meaning as “amiability.”

4 oz. ice-brewed Silver Needle white tea

1 Tbsp. jasmine syrup*

Sparkling water

Brew your Silver Needle by placing 5g of leaves over 120g of ice in a vessel and allowing it to infuse as the ice melts, over about X hours. Once it has infused, add it to a tall glass with ice, stir in 1 Tbsp. of jasmine syrup, and top with 4 oz. of sparkling water. Enjoy in the afternoons, perhaps while watching one of Rie’s live tea practices on Instagram.

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I hope you enjoyed this foray into floral flavored cocktails for the season, inspired by my friends and historical loves. I’m sure we could all use a nice drink these days, so let me know if you try one!

NB: I am an affiliate of Royal Rose Syrups and purchasing their syrups through my affiliate links provide income to my blog. Affiliate links are marked with an asterisk. For more information about my affiliate links, click here.

Autumn Tea Blend for Samhain

Blessed Samhain to my friends who celebrate! In this season of pumpkin spice, I sometimes find myself craving something a bit deeper, so I thought I’d share a little tea I blended up for myself today.

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I’ve long had a complicated relationship with traditional “pumpkin spice” blends, as I’m not often fond of cinnamon, except in very specific contexts. More often than not, I prefer to focus on other spices, such as the cardamom and allspice in my Regency-inspired drinking chocolate recipe. And allspice, to me, is that certain je ne sais quoi that defines autumn spice. So my blend keeps allspice, but eschews the rest.

But what it lacks in spice, it makes up for in a deep, rich roasted quality that brings to mind cool forests and evening fires. Dark roast hojicha from Hojicha.Co gives that deep, smoky campfire note, while wild rooibos from The Rare Tea Company marries with the hojicha in a beautiful and inseparable way. I spoke yesterday about my previous dislike of rooibos, but this wild rooibos tastes of earth and wood and reminds me more of a good whisky than the insipid and artificial caffeine-free flavored blends I’d had previously. Combined with hojicha and allspice, this blend tastes like autumn in a cup.

I’ve left this recipe relatively unadorned, but I imagine it might be delicious with some additions. Add a splash of apple cider or maple syrup if you prefer something sweeter. A cinnamon stick wouldn’t go amiss, if you’re into that kind of thing. The most important thing is to experiment and have fun.

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Dark Samhain Night Tea Blend

2.5g dark roast hojicha
2.5g wild rooibos
0.5g allspice berries

Add the ingredients to a teapot or infuser mug and pour 250ml of boiling water over them. Allow to steep for five minutes. Sweeten to taste, if desired, and enjoy. May be resteeped at least once with delightful results.

NB: All ingredients were purchased by me with no incentive to feature.

Tea and a Story: Stories of Hallowe’en and Samhain

Happy Hallowe’en and blessed Samhain! In honor of the holiday that marks the beginning of the dark quarter of the year, I thought I’d talk a bit about the stories and legends I’ve encountered that deal with this spooky time of year. Hallowe’en falls at a time that is approximately halfway between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, so it’s about halfway from an equinox to the longest night of the year. And, really, Hallowe’en is around that time of year where you really start noticing that the days are getting shorter. All of a sudden, the sun isn’t coming up until I’m on the train, with my morning commute well under way. In fact, it’s probably not a coincidence that we change our clocks to give us a bit more light in the mornings right around Hallowe’en.

In folklore and legend, Hallowe’en or Samhain is the time at which the boundary between light and dark becomes thinner and, in many traditions, the veil between the mortal world and the spirit world is more easily traversed. In neo-Pagan traditions, Samhain is a time to meditate on your ancestors. It’s also no surprise that this thinning of boundaries would bring spirits and ghosts into the world, hence the Hallowe’en imagery involving ghosts and other supernatural beings. Divination was also said to be more successful at this time, which is a part of a lot of old Hallowe’en traditions, and most of which center around determining when and whom one is to marry [1].

But I’m here for the stories, not the general descriptions of traditions. And one of the stories that has the most explicit link to Samhain is the story of the Kelpie in Celtic mythology [2]. The Kelpie is a water spirit that takes the shape of either a human or a horse, and lives in water. In the Celtic story of the Kelpie, the sons of the chiefs of the tribes of Ireland are lured onto the back of a Kelpie in his horse form and dragged into the water because they stick to the horse once they’ve touched him (similar to the story of the goose that lays golden eggs). One man escapes by cutting off the hand that touched the horse, and goes on a quest to try to free the princes. He encounters a magician who tells him that the princes have been taken to the Otherworld, which is the Celtic spirit world, and the only time they can be brought back is during the feast of Samhuinn, when the veil between worlds is thin. I would definitely suggest reading the original story (or at least listening to the Myth Podcast treatment of it) because I haven’t done the complexities of the plot justice here, but suffice to say, they are successful in rescuing the lost princes.

Another legend that I’ve come to associate with Hallowe’en is the traditional folk theme of the Wild Hunt. I first encountered the idea of the Wild Hunt in the book Dead Beat by Jim Butcher in his Dresden Files series. In the book, a wizard can summon the Wild Hunt on Hallowe’en because it is the best time for the spirits to come through. After reading the book, I looked up more legends and folktales of the Wild Hunt and found that it has a deeply-rooted tradition in Germanic and Celtic folklore [3]. In Germanic traditions, the Hunt is often led by Odin or Woden, as a god of both battle and the dead. In Celtic tradition, the hunt is led by legendary heroes, including King Arthur in some traditions. There are also varying derivative traditions that have the hunt being led by any of a litany of unpopular figures at the time of the particular story. In general, the stories of the Hunt have evolved to be a party of infernal or evil characters. There is even a story in the American wild west, immortalized in song by Stan Jones, of damned cowboys who hunt the Devil’s cattle across the sky [4]. They warn the cowboy who sees them that he will join them unless he changes his ways (presumably to become a better person, although it’s unclear why the cowboy is particularly in danger of becoming damned). In this version, the unseen “leader” of the Hunt would be the Devil himself, dooming the spirits of damned cowboys to chase his herds forever. While the story doesn’t explicitly take place on Hallowe’en, it seems as likely a “dark and windy day” as any for a visitation of damned spirits.

Finally, no Hallowe’en festivity is complete without a Jack o’Lantern. So I thought I’d talk a little about the folkloric story of “Jack o’ the Lantern.” In Irish folklore, there’s a story of “Stingy Jack,” who borrowed money from the devil and then tricked his way into not giving up his soul when the debt came due [5]. Through a series of annoying deceptions, Jack ended up being barred from hell by an exasperated devil, but because he wasn’t exactly a good person, he wasn’t allowed into heaven. Doomed to walk the earth as a spirit for eternity, Jack found himself possibly worse off than if he’d just gone to hell. The devil ended up taking a bit of pity on him and gave him a perpetually-glowing ember to help him light his way, which Jack put in a carved-out turnip. From then on, he was known as Jack o’ the Lantern and was something of a will o’ the wisp type of spirit. Originally, people on the British isles carved turnips before the tradition was taken to North America, where there were pumpkins.

So there you have three stories of the season. What’s your favorite Hallowe’en or Samhain story?

Sources:

1. http://www.americas-most-haunted.com/2016/09/21/halloween-and-the-lost-art-of-divination/

2. https://www.amazon.com/Mammoth-Book-Celtic-Myths-Legends-ebook/dp/B00OGV0KTU

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Hunt

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/(Ghost)_Riders_in_the_Sky:_A_Cowboy_Legend

5. https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/jack-olantern-history

It’s Supposed To Be Autumn

It’s 75 degrees (24 C) and humid today. I’m still wearing sleeveless chiffon blouses and a skirt with no stockings to work, and I still arrive after my walk in drenched in sweat. It’s muggy and the bugs are still out in full force.

It’s October. It’s not even very early October — we’re in the double-digits now. It’s supposed to be autumn. It’s supposed to be cool, maybe a little rainy, but it’s supposed to be sweater weather. Boot weather. Sipping-hot-cider weather.

Instead, I’m still in my summer holding pattern of sweating outside and then freezing when I walk into air-conditioned buildings. I even caught a cold, which felt more like a summer cold, since I was attempting to drink hot lemon tea while it was hot outside, which is nearly as uncomfortable as having a cold in the first place.

I would love to put on a pair of leggings and an oversized sweater and curl up with a soft blanket on the couch, sipping something hot, and thinking about what kind of warmly-spiced baked good I’d like to have in the oven. Maybe pumpkin bread. Or an apple pie. If it were proper autumn, I would put on a flannel shirt, jeans, and a pair of tall boots and walk around the lake until my cheeks were flushed with the chill in the air. Maybe I’d even need a hat (okay, it’s not usually that chilly by now, but still).

And it’s time for dark teas. We had some cooler, rainy weather last week and it reminded me how much I’d been missing black tea, deeply-roasted oolongs, and dark, rich, ripe pu-erhs since the spring and summer sent me into a whirl of white and green teas. Oh, I know I can drink any tea I like at any time of the year, but there’s something so fitting about pairing a rich tea with a crisp autumn day.

Have you gotten proper autumn weather yet? If not, what would you be doing if it were cool and lovely instead of still clinging to summer?

Summer’s Last Hurrah

Many act like Labor Day weekend is the end of the summer, and in a lot of ways it is. But the weather has reminded me that we still have a few weeks yet of summer. We’re in those last weeks, the sultry, steamy days of late summer, when the air hangs heavily, even in the morning before the sun has risen.

Waking before dawn, I can feel the air of my bedroom hanging expectantly, waiting for the air conditioner to cycle on. It’s dark, but already I can see the haziness outside. Stepping out of the house, into the darkness, already the air hits me, a wall of heat and humidity, beckoning me out into the sweaty commute that lies ahead, and urging me back into the house, back into the artificially-cooled oasis I’ve made.

Walking to work, I saw a magnolia tree laden with new buds, getting ready to bloom again, as if reminding me that summer has not truly passed this year. While it might not be the scorching one hundred degree days, the air still feels heavy and hot, weighting down clothes, hair, and spirits. My blouse clings to my chest and belly where the sweat has already started to glisten, coalesce, and bead on my skin, rolling down in streaks as I make my way through the morning heat. Eventually, I feel saturated with humidity, and it no longer matters how long I’m out.

As the walk goes on, I can feel my body grow used to the heat, letting the sweat cool it off as I go. I feel the stark boundaries between the extra heat from the cars and the cool blasts of air from the briefly-opened doors of businesses as I make my way through a city on the verge of autumn, but not quite there. Eventually, I will smell wood smoke, cooler air, and dry leaves, but this morning, I smell the smells of the city, hanging in the humid air, unable to rise under the weight of the heat and haze. But it’s warm and familiar, and ready to dissipate, I hope.

Arriving at my office, I brace myself for the blast of icy air, feeling the sweat on my body chill, a shiver escaping for a moment, before I adjust to this, too. And when I get to my office and feel my body cool and the sweat dry, I put on a sweater against the chill of the air conditioning, looking forward to the promise of cool mornings and temperate days.

Tea Leaves and Tweed Tea Primer, Bonus Level: Cold-Brewed Tea

Update: I’ve decided to add this post to my Tea Leaves and Tweed Tea Primer, even though it predates the primer, so the style is a bit different. But it’s definitely a thorough treatment of cold-brewing tea and I don’t think it’s worth reinventing the wheel.

I’ve posted some images recently on my Instagram of my experiments in cold-brewing tea, and I’ve even teased on my YouTube channel that I would do a cold tea video sometime. But I’ve decided that to really do justice to my cold-brew adventures, I needed to devote a blog post to it. And stay tuned to the end, when I share a little recipe for one of my favorite summer iced tea drinks!

At its heart, cold-brewing tea is incredibly simple. You just put some tea leaves into some cold water, stick it in the fridge, and wait. I used this article from Serious Eats as my guide, specifically the author’s recommendation of about 10-12g of tea per quart of water. I tend to brew a pint of tea at a time, so that’s about 5-6g of tea per brewing.

Then I decided to go a little nuts and try brewing in sparkling water. I got some good-quality 500-ml bottles of sparkling mineral water from the store and experimented with green, black, and oolong teas. I haven’t tried white tea yet, but I imagine it would be pretty nice. Here’s what I’ve found so far.

Green Tea:

I started out with Rishi Sencha as my first experiment. I’d heard a lot about brewing Japanese green teas cold, and I thought it would be a good place to start. The Rishi sencha is a decent sencha, with a nicely balanced flavor profile of grassy and umami, but it’s also available in my local grocery store and not so expensive or difficult to get that I would worry about “wasting” it on an experiment. So I started there.

Cold-brewed, this sencha retains a lot of it’s interesting umami flavor, with a nice green undertone. It doesn’t have any bitterness or even really astringency, apart from a mild tartness that is quite pleasant. It’s very refreshing. It also shines in sparkling mineral water, as the minerality of the water offsets the umami. I could also see using this as the base in a gin-based tea cocktail, if I liked gin (or were indulging in hard liquor at the moment).

Black Tea:

I will admit, I only tried cold-brewing black tea because my husband made a nostalgic comment about Wawa peach iced tea and I wanted to see if I could make something better using cold-brew and homemade peach syrup (spoiler: I did; read on for the recipe at the end of this post). So I grabbed an old tin of Harney & Sons Darjeeling that my mother brought over for a tea party at my house. I chose the Darjeeling for two reasons. The first was the aforementioned rationale about not using teas I would miss if the experiment failed, and the other was that the Serious Eats article doesn’t seem to recommend cold-brewing black teas because their flavor profile is muted, so I thought if I went for a lighter black tea, rather than a big, punchy Assam, it might work better with the cold-brew method.

I was right about the tea. Despite the fact that I only brewed this to be sweetened, I tried a taste of it before adding sweetener and it’s fantastic. The infusion is a deceptively light color, but it has a lot of black tea flavor, without any dry-your-mouth-out tannins or unpleasant bitterness. It tastes like perfectly-steeped black tea. And it stands up quite well to the peach syrup, too. I also enjoyed it in sparkling water.

Oolong Tea:

Oolong is my favorite tea and one that seems well-suited to cold-brew, as it has a lot of complex flavors that seem like they would work well in a refreshing cold beverage. I only tried oolongs steeped in sparkling mineral water, though their charms would almost certainly translate to still water. The first one I tried was a Golden Lily oolong that is a “milk oolong” variety. I idly thought to make a sort of oolong cream soda. It worked well enough, but the green-ness of the tea made for a rather light cold-brew infusion.

But, wow, my next experiment did not disappoint. I found some old heavy-roast Tieguanyin in the back of my tea cabinet and thought, hey, why not chuck it in some fizzy water? I had thought to try it with my peach syrup. Well, the resulting brew was so lovely and complex — with notes of peaches, honey, flowers, and cream already — that I didn’t dare touch it with sweetener. This is my favorite yet and will likely become a new regular in my daily tea rotation. The absolute only thing I would ever add to it would be a shot of bourbon.

Cold-Brewed Peach Darjeeling Tea:

As promised, I’ve also come up with a recipe for peach iced tea using cold-brew. The first step is to steep 5g of Darjeeling tea in 16 oz. of water. Then, you’ll need to make the peach syrup by roughly chopping one fresh peach and putting it in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup of water. Let this simmer until the peach is soft enough to be mashed with a fork, about 15-20 minutes. Then, stir in 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and simmer until all the sugar crystals have dissolved. Strain the syrup into a jar and let cool.

To put together the drink, strain the tea leaves out of the tea, and add about 2 Tbsp. of peach syrup (or to taste) to the tea. Stir well and serve over ice with a slice of lemon and a couple slices of fresh peach. Makes two glasses of iced tea.

My husband’s review was that “it’s pretty good.” So there’s that. Happy steeping!

Blossom Viewing

Last week, I bemoaned the creeping entrance of spring and lack of flowering trees. This week, the local flora decided to prove that they were not entirely beaten. Sunday, our local cherry trees reached official “peak bloom” and Monday, after a gloomy morning gave way to a gloriously sunny afternoon, I decided to take a little walk and view the blossoms.

I made my way down to the sidewalk that winds around the Tidal Basin and watched as a relatively scant group of tourists took photos and just generally enjoyed the beautiful setting. All around me, trees had burst into bloom, with only subtle reminders of the departed early brethren who were lost in our late snowstorm. The remaining blossoms still made a lovely picture, and so I took a few.

The cherry blossoms against the blue-green of the water and the azure blue of the sky reminded me of old paintings. Gnarled branches punctuated with pink and white stood against their backdrop like impressionist almond blossoms .

Of course, I gave in to the temptation to take selfies in the blossoms, but the bright sunlight meant that few of them turned out well. I tended to have that little worried crinkle between my eyebrows as I tried to withstand the brightness of the day.

But all in all, the day left me warmed, relaxed, and with a renewed sense of peace after seeing the beautiful reminders that no matter how long the winter, spring will come eventually. And it has left me in the mood for cherry blossoms in everything. Perhaps I shall go on a quest later for some sakura sweets.

Signs of Spring

It has been a strange season this year. Winter was, for the most part, mild and uneventful, other than one or two exciting days. But we managed to have quite a few weeks of unseasonably mild temperature. Followed by a snowstorm the week that we thought we would be gearing up for springtime.

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In my city, we celebrate the cherry blossoms, and so the beginning of spring is always marked with glee by local merchants, and by the tourists who come every year to see the blossoms. But our teasing warm spell and subsequent snowstorm brought the blossoms out early, only to freeze them on the branch. So we lack the profusion of pink and white flowers to mark the celebration and need to make do with the cherry blossom decals that pop up all over town. It’s a bit of a forced cheery sight, but reminds one of spring.

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This year’s spring is going to be a bit more subtle, a bit of a slow crawl out of grey, chilly days and towards brighter, warmer ones. A hint of green as the leaves bud on the trees. A flash of pink or violet as small flowers that resisted the early warmth crawl out of garden beds and lawns. And it is looking for these tiny creeping steps towards spring that keeps my spirits up through grey days, freak snowstorms, and chilly evenings. I yearn to wear short, floral dresses, no stockings, and sandals, but I have to cover over everything to keep warm still.

You see, technically, spring came on Monday. But it still doesn’t feel like spring, either meteorologically or emotionally to me yet. I’ve found myself mired in the quagmire of winter thoughts, bundling myself up in blankets and resorting to comforting food whenever I have the chance. Piling on down at night, and even sleeping in socks when necessary. I need a warm day and some sunshine to pull me out of this funk. I need some real springtime.

And now, the signs are there. We just need the rest of spring to join them.

Quick Recipe: Apple Porridge for a Chilly Autumn Morning

Well, it’s certainly getting cold around here lately. Yesterday, we had sleet and rain all day. By the time I got home, I was soaked through and chilled to the bone. It was a nice evening for curling up under blankets with hot tea, hot cocoa, and hot food. Fiancé grabbed a heating pad to help with a sore muscle he had and TweedCat discovered that he was extra-cozy because of it, so he got the cat. But I had plenty of warmth with blankets, shawls, and warm things in my belly.

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This morning, the rain had passed, but it was still quite chilly. I always find myself gravitating towards porridge the instant the temperature dips below any semblance of warmth, so I put together one of my favorite quick breakfasts to take to work. I add diced fruit to my porridge before cooking it, which bulks it up, adds a bit of nutrition, and sweetens it lightly. I also added some warming spices, and topped the whole thing with nut butter for protein and fat. It preps in minutes, cooks in minutes, and is a lovely, hearty, warming breakfast for a chilly morning.

Apple Porridge

1/4 cup quick cooking steel cut oats
1/2 apple, diced
scant 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. each of ginger and allspice
3/4 cup of water

Add the ingredients to a tupperware or mason jar in the order given. It’s important to put the oats at the bottom to ensure they’re thoroughly hydrated. Seal up the container and take wherever you are going. When you are ready to cook them, give the container a little shake and empty the mixture into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 3 minutes on half power, then stir, and then microwave for another 2-1/2 minutes on half power, or until cooked. Top with butter, nut butter, sweetener, or whatever strikes your fancy. Makes one serving.

Autumnal Frolicking: Apple Picking and Apple Baking

This past weekend, a few of my coworkers and I decided to drive out to a farm a little ways out of town for an autumnal treat: apple picking. Sadly, it’s the very end of the season, so pickings were slim (or rather, split and attacked by birds), but it was still a lovely outing. We were treated to stunning views of the countryside in an area where the mountains start to roll a bit and the weather was sunny and yet crisp.

We arrived at the farm in the late morning to a bustling scene of fall fun. A few children and a few more dogs joined in as we gathered our peck bags and headed up the hill. The best apples were at the very top of the hill, so we were able to kill two birds with one stone and take in the views as well. After a little time scouring the trees for apples that were ripe but not overripe, we adjourned to the bins of harvested apples at the ends of the rows of trees to fill out our bags. As I knew most of my apples would be used for baking, I erred on the side of taking a few of the greener apples from the trees. And Fiancé had joined us as well, making it easier to get some of the higher-up apples.

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In addition to gathering apples, we also bonded socially, which is something I’ve lacked with my new coworkers, even after being almost a year into my new job. We carried our apples back down the hill and paid for them, along with some cider. After that, we took ourselves to a nearby town for a sandwich lunch and dessert at an adorable bakery. And then home again to consider our spoils.

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Back home, I found myself tired and busy, so I had limited time to bake this weekend. But I found myself awake on Sunday morning with a desire for something baked and no desire to go out. So I had Fiancé grate some apples and set to work baking a batch of Apple Pecan Muffins.

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Now, I always grate the apples in my apple muffins because I don’t like biting into big chunks of cooked apple and I find it gives them a nice apple flavor and a moist texture. You can feel free to dice them if you like, though you may need to add a bit more liquid to make up for the juices that won’t release.

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I added pecans to my muffins, as well as more spices than just cinnamon. I have a love-hate relationship with cinnamon. Fiancé likes to quote The Hangover and call me a tiger whenever the subject of cinnamon comes up, which is cute, sort of. But I find that the oft-neglected other fall spices add an almost savory-spice to the mixture. It’s a rather old-fashioned flavor and brings to mind spiced mixtures from the Middle Ages, at least to me.

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Finally, if you can find the If You Care muffin liners, try them. They are the only muffin liners I’ve found that the muffins truly release from, no spraying needed. They’re probably easier to find at a hippie natural foods store, which happens to be where I do most of my shopping, but they’re so worth it if you hate having a quarter of your muffin stick to the paper.

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Apple Pecan Muffins
(makes 12 muffins)

Ingredients:

The Dry:

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking steel-cut oats
1/2 cup or so of pecans, chopped
1/3 cup of dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. of baking powder
2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. of ground ginger
1/2 tsp. of ground allspice
A pinch of salt

The Wet:

1/2 stick of salted butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup of fresh sweet apple cider
1-2 apples, grated (I used one large and one small)

The Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C) and line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Spray the liners if you are not confident they will not stick. Or use my favorite liners.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients, making sure to break up any clumps of brown sugar.
  3. In a large measuring cup or a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, 1/2 a cup of the cider, and the eggs. Really whisk it together to form an emulsion between the cider and butter.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, along with the grated apple, and mix gently. If the batter is a little dry, add the rest of the cider until it’s a good consistency. Make sure you moisten all the little pockets of flour.
  5. Spoon into the muffin papers. Your cups will be rather full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until quite brown and springy. Cool as long as you can bear it in the pan and then eat, slathered in butter, preferably alongside a cup of tea or a mug of hot cider.