Beef & Barley Stew

Being the farmer’s daughter has its perks. My dad raises grass fed beef, so my freezer is often loaded with the best ground beef, roasts, and even a few steaks (if I can get my hands on a filet mignon, I’m a happy gal). I grilled every chance I got this past summer. That, combined with the fact that I haven’t been back home to Kansas in a few months (sorry family!) means that my meat supply is seriously dwindling.

When I did my regularly scheduled freezer search to plan dinners for the week, I found the short ribs, roasts, and cubed stew meat that I had been squirreling away for when the weather turned chilly. Since it basically snowed the entire last week of October, I felt like a slow-cooked barley stew was totally deserved.

Although I hadn’t ever attempted to put barley in the slow cooker, this came together super easily. It only took a few hours for the grains to soften and the meat to be perfectly cooked, tender but not shred-y. I used my old trick of adding honey along with the crushed tomatoes to help minimize the flavor of canned-ness (you know what I mean). With all the hearty flavors involved, this stew really benefits from the splash of red wine vinegar and fresh parsley at the end—so don’t skip ’em!

Beef & Barley Stew Recipe

Makes about 6 servings


  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil (use only if following oven method)
  • 1 lb. cubed beef stew meat
  • 1 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 2 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 small yellow or white onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 (15 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 8 cups vegetable stock (or water)
  • Salt & pepper, to season
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • Chopped parsley, to garnish


To make in a slow cooker:

  1. Add stew meat*, barley, vegetables, garlic, canned tomatoes, paprika, herbs, and honey to slow cooker. Pour stock over and season generously with salt & pepper. Stir to combine.
  2. Cook until barley is softened and stew meat is tender, about 2 to 3 hours on high or 5 to 6 hours on low.
  3. Finish the stew with a small splash of red wine vinegar (this helps brighten up all the flavors). Season to taste with salt & pepper and serve with a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley.

To make in the oven:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Heat canola oil in a Dutch oven or large oven-safe pot over medium-high heat. Add stew meat in an single layer (cook in batches if needed to avoid overcrowding) and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per side.
  2. Remove stew meat from pot and set on a plate. Add vegetables and garlic and saute until beginning to soften and brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add barley, tomatoes, honey, paprika, herbs, and stock. Season generously with salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring to combine.
  4. Cover pot and place in oven. Cook until barley is softened and meat is tender, about 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Finish the stew with a small splash of red wine vinegar. Season to taste with salt & pepper and serve with a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley.


*For extra flavor, sear the stew meat as directed in Step 1 of the oven method before adding to the slow cooker.

This recipe is also published on, where my family sells all natural grass fed beef.

Pumpkin Juice | Based on Harry Potter

One of my favorite Harry Potter-inspired recipes I’ve ever made is pumpkin juice. I know! It’s not one of the all-stars that comes to mind when you think of wizarding treats, but it always stuck out to me. In the books, it was commonplace—it was on the table of every meal and served ice cold, similar to how we drink apple or orange juice. But how in the world is it even made? Can you actually juice a pumpkin?

Okay, I didn’t even try to juice a pumpkin. As I discussed in the pumpkin pasties post, I don’t really think fresh pumpkin is the way to go when we’re looking for concentrated flavor. So I turned again to canned pumpkin puree… plus a secret ingredient that not only bumps up the color but also adds earthy sweetness. Can you guess it? It’s carrot juice! Don’t knock it till you try it. Even the pre-bottled stuff from the cooler of the produce section adds a vegetal freshness that significantly brightens up the canned puree and complements the squash flavors.

The carrot and pumpkin, combined with apple cider, get all mingled and infused as it sits together in the fridge for a few days. Then, unless you like a thick drink, it’s a quick strain before you can pour your very own goblet of bright orange pumpkin juice.

For me, this version is a surprisingly perfect match for what I’ve always imagined. I’m truly shocked that no other recipes I’ve seen online use carrot juice. Most seemed to be “copycats” for the Universal version, which uses apple juice, apricot puree, sugar, and spice flavorings. Since the books describe pumpkin juice as a year-round drink, I forewent adding any autumnal spices like cinnamon and allspice. If you want those flavors, use a spiced cider or sprinkle in a pumpkin pie spice blend to taste at the beginning so that it gets nice and infused too.

Pumpkin Juice Recipe

Makes about 4 cups (approximately 5 to 6 servings)


  • 2 1/2 cups apple cider
  • 1 1/2 cup carrot juice
  • 3/4 to 1 cup canned pumpkin puree*


  1. Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and stir to incorporate. Refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days to infuse juice with pumpkin flavor.
  2. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve or a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Pour into a clean pitcher or bottle and chill until ready to serve. Juice will settle after sitting, so shake or stir before pouring.


*There’s about 1 3/4 cup pumpkin puree in a 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree. This recipe, along with Curried & Sweet Pumpkin Pasties, uses up a whole can. If you don’t want to make pasties (I get it), you can double this recipe or use the remaining in one of these great suggestions from The Kitchn.

Note: I in no way condone J.K. Rowling or her hurtful anti-trans sentiments. I believe in the power of stories and that books belong to their community of readers. I have made a commitment never to purchase merchandise, materials, or access to experiences (like Harry Potter World) that may financially benefit J.K. Rowling in anyway.

Pumpkin Pasties Two Ways: Curried & Sweet | Based on Harry Potter

At this point, it feels almost redundant to say that I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I mean, most of my generation is—we grew up reading the series, going to midnight premieres, and living in a worldwide obsession of the wizarding world. As I get older—and way less in favor of the series creator herself—I still find so much comfort and meaning in reading the books and interacting with the enduring fan communities, like that of Harry Potter & The Sacred Text.

I’m rereading the series for the umpteenth time. Of course, I always get extra excited about all the magical food and drinks. A few years ago, I hosted a dinner with friends and made a few inspired treats, intermingled with some British staples of a Sunday roast.

But… I didn’t write any recipes down. I can recall just a few details of a pumpkin juice that tasted exactly like what I imagined or the aspects I wanted to change about the treacle tart. Since I can’t just wave a wand and make all of it appear again, I’ve decided to recreate my versions of the fictional favorites from Harry Potter—starting with how to make pumpkin pasties.

Curried Pumpkin Pasties

Last time I made pumpkin pasties, I came across a post from Bijoux & Bits where she made a sweet variety along with a savory one. The idea stuck with me, and I started thinking about what kind of flavors would be used in a snack like this one. It came to me almost immediately: curry. England has a reputation for their curry houses and tikka masala love—it makes sense that if pumpkin pasties were savory, they’d probably be spiced with an Indian-style curry blend.

So I started with a pie pumpkin (also called sugar pumpkins), which are meant for baking as opposed to the gigantic squashes that we carve up for jack-o’-lanterns. You could absolutely use sweet potatoes or butternut/acorn squash if pie pumpkins aren’t available. It should be roasted just until it’s soft and can be cubed, but not so much that it turns to mush when it’s mixed with sauteed onions and toasted curry powder. After baking, these pasties totally resembled baked samosas, with their super buttery crust and the warm, spiced squash filling. Perfect autumn snack!

I have to be totally honest though: I don’t actually think pumpkin pasties are savory. Although I’d love to think that the kids in the books had a savory, salty snack thrown in with all the treats, it seems like most of the witches and wizards in the books have major sweet tooths. So I made a sweet version as well.

Sweet Pumpkin Pasties

Okay, let me come clean. This recipe uses half of a pumpkin for the curried pasties and a portion of a can of pumpkin puree for the sweet. It’s a crime, I know—now there’s this leftover pumpkin that you have to deal with. Why did I commit this atrocity, you may ask? It came down to my stubborn imagination of a realistic shelf-stable sweet pasty. Pastries with diced veggies in them just aren’t going to stay fresh and edible for as long as ones with pureed fillings potentially could.

I know what you’re thinking: why not just puree the second half of that pumpkin we just roasted? I’ve got an answer for that too. Canned pureed pumpkin is actually made of closely related varieties of squash that have more concentrated sweetness and the “pumpkin” flavor that we’re familiar with, more so than the sugar pumpkins that you can find in stores. Sure, you could totally blend that other half and use it for your sweet pasties—but I strongly prefer the canned stuff when it comes to pumpkin puree. Don’t worry though! The other half of the roasted pumpkin is an excellent addition to cooked grains or pasta, chili, or a creamy pumpkin soup. The remainder of the canned puree can be used to make pumpkin juice or in any of these great suggestions.

For the spices in the sweet pasties, I didn’t want to just sprinkle in some pumpkin spice blend and call it good. I wanted these pasties to be lighter and brighter than the standard pumpkin pie filling. Yes, I did use cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, but the warmer flavors are balanced with zingy ginger and floral cardamom. Make sure you taste your filling—you can always add more of the spices to your taste!


Okay, so we’ve made our filling and you’ve already prepared your pie crust (of course!). Now comes the hard part: crimping. I did a lot of research on Cornish pasties for this recipe, and found that there are two crimping styles: the top crimp and the side crimp. I loved the way the top crimp looked, but I think side crimping might be a tad more tradish. I compromised and crimped the savory pasties on the top and the sweet pasties on the side. If crimping by hand isn’t your forte, try the top crimp first as I had an easier time with it. If it’s still not working out, go back to folding them on their side and press the edges with a fork to seal. Don’t stress—do what works best for you!

I’ll be honest, my kitchen was warm on the day I made my pumpkin pasties. I kept all of the pie dough chilled except for when I was working with portions of it. Still, when it came time for crimping, it felt like the dough was “melting” almost immediately. It made getting a good seal on the pasties more difficult and the final product didn’t look as cute as they could have on a cooler day. One small way to avoid getting the dough too warm while you prepare the pasties is to dip your hands in cold water and dry them thoroughly before working with the dough. On the plus side, I made King Arthur Flour’s recipe using my food processor and, even though conditions were less than ideal, they still came out so flaky and buttery. I can’t recommend that recipe enough!

Curried & Sweet Pumpkin Pasties Recipe

Makes 8 curried and 8 sweet pumpkin pasties (16 total)

Curried Pumpkin Pasty Filling


  • 1 small pie pumpkin, about 2 lbs
  • Oil, to drizzle
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 1 ½ tsp. yellow curry powder*
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • Salt & pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut the tough stem off of the pumpkin and cut it in half.
  2. Scoop out the seeds** and stringy “guts.” Place cleaned halves on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and flip cut-side down.
  3. Roast on the middle oven rack until a knife slides through the skin and flesh with slight give, about 30 minutes.
  4. Carefully flip pumpkin halves over to allow steam to escape and prevent continued cooking of the pumpkin flesh. Let sit until cool enough to handle.
  5. Remove the pumpkin skin (it should peel off easily when pulled). Cut 1 half of the pumpkin flesh into small cubes, about 1/2-inch (you should have about 2 cups). Reserve the remaining pumpkin half for other uses.
  6. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sweat until transparent and softened, about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring often.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and add curry powder. Toast until very aromatic, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in cubed pumpkin and honey.
  8. Season with salt & pepper to taste and let cool to room temperature.

Sweet Pumpkin Pasty Filling


  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg (or freshly grated on a microplane)
  • 1/16 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/16 tsp. ground allspice


  1. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk until smooth. Set aside.



  • 2 unrolled pie crust doughs (enough for a double crusted pie)
  • 2 eggs, beaten (for egg wash)


  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Split each dough into 8 portions (16 portions altogether) and form each portion into a ball. On a floured surface, roll one ball at a time into a 6-inch circle (don’t worry about them being perfectly round). Keep all the dough except the portion you’re working with chilled.
  3. For 8 of the circles, fill with 2 heaping tablespoons curried pumpkin filling. Brush edges of circle with beaten egg, fold, and crimp edges to seal. Keep any prepared pasties chilled until ready to bake.
  4. Repeat with remaining 8 circles, using 2 scant tablespoons of sweet pumpkin filling per pasty.
  5. Place prepared pasties on baking sheet and brush the outsides all over with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. These are best when eaten within a day, but you can store leftovers in the refrigerator and re-crisp in a warm oven.


* There are so many curry powders. I stuck to a “standard” Indian-style blend (Spice Islands Yellow Curry Powder). Mine was pretty cumin-heavy, so I added 1/2 tsp. coriander and 1/8 tsp. ground ginger to the pumpkin mixture to brighten it up. Feel free to use your favorite bottled or homemade curry blend!
** To roast pumpkin seeds, rinse off all of the pulp and let them dry on a baking sheet. Drizzle them lightly with oil and salt or season as desired. Roast in a 375°F oven until they start to brown, about for 10 to 15 minutes (shaking the sheet every 5 minutes or so). Let cool and get snacking!

Note: I in no way condone J.K. Rowling or her hurtful anti-trans sentiments. I believe in the power of stories and that books belong to their community of readers. I have made a commitment never to purchase merchandise, materials, or access to experiences (like Harry Potter World) that may financially benefit J.K. Rowling in anyway.

My Go-To Grilled Bok Choy with Miso Lemon Dressing

I know: autumn is happening, folks. I’m the first one to light up a cider-scented candle and roast some delicata squash, but I’m also going to be rolling out the grill and planning cookouts with friends until we’re digging out the winter coats.

Getting together with people and sitting in a rotating list of backyards while we’ve got the grill loaded with whatever looked good at the grocery store or farmers market is my ideal warm-weather weekend plan. I’m game to go all out for these too: I’ll spend a few days prepping a couple of different dishes, maybe baking or marinating or fermenting. But if I haven’t had the time or if we need a last minute veg, you know I’ve got a go-to: grilled bok choy with a miso lemon dressing.

Yeah, it leans on eastern Asian flavors (it came out of many a gochujang-fueled menu), but it could easily pair up with a golden roasted chicken, braised beef, or flash-grilled pork chops. The dressing only takes a few minutes to pull together and could easily be made a week ahead of time. The bok choy then just needs few minutes on the grill right before dinnertime to char the leaves and soften the middle. Chop it into chunks before dressing or, if you’ve gotten the small ones, let people help themselves to a whole baby bok choy.

I always get requests for the recipe, and until now, I’ve always said to just “grate ginger and garlic until it feels like too much, then add in a big squeeze of lemon juice, mirin, and sesame seeds, plus a big heaping spoonful of miso.” You can totally do that, but if you need more structure—I got you. Here are the full deets:

Grilled Bok Choy with Miso Lemon Dressing

Recipe Inspiration: Fine Cooking’s Baby Bok Choy with Warm Miso Dressing
Makes 3 lb. bok choy, about 8 servings


  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp. grated ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. grated garlic (about 5 cloves)
  • ½ cup mirin
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. white or red miso
  • 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
  • Up to 3 lb. bok choy (any size works, but I prefer small baby bok choy)


  1. Combine canola oil, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic in a small pot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until very aromatic and just starting to brown, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add mirin, lemon juice, miso, and sesame seeds and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until thickened slightly, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use. Dressing can be made several days ahead.
  4. Preheat a grill for even, medium-high heat and oil grates. Add bok choy and cook until tips of leaves are beginning to char, about 2 minutes for small heads and 3 to 4 minutes for larger heads.
  5. Flip and continue cooking until other side is beginning to char on top and base of the bok choy is beginning to soften.
  6. Remove from grill, cut off base, and chop if desired. Drizzle with dressing and serve warm.

Golden brown apple muffins, covered in streusel and sitting in the muffin tin in their parchment paper liners

Apple Muffins with Browned Butter Oat Streusel

In the winter of 2018-2019, I moved cross-country to complete an internship at America’s Test Kitchen. As a final project, we were challenged to develop a muffin recipe and write a short article in the style of Cook’s Illustrated. Here’s mine!

Mastering “Coffee Shop” Muffins

Imagine this: a cool Sunday morning at a cafe, sipping a cup of your favorite tea or coffee. If you’re like me, you also have a muffin on the table—the kind that is piled high with streusel and filled with bits of fruit. Modern coffee shop-style muffins are wonderful things, but can often be excessive: dessert-like sweetness, cake-like fluffiness, and big enough to serve two (or three!).

I decided to bring the classic apple streusel muffin into the kitchen and make a pastry that’s both easy to whip up and worthy of your Sunday morning at home. To do so, I paid key attention to the texture, sweetness, streusel, and the all-important apple.

A Talk About Texture

What sets muffins and cupcakes apart (besides frosting, of course) is the texture or crumb. A good cupcake is light and airy on the inside, whereas muffins tend to have a tighter crumb. This distinction is accomplished largely through mixing. Cakes are often made using the creaming method, which works by beating butter and sugar together to create microscopic pockets of air in the batter, yielding a fluffy crumb.

By using the aptly named muffin method—whisking dry and wet ingredients separately, then gently stirring together—I ensured a muffin with a satisfying bite, fitting for a breakfast pastry. The batter is best when kept a little lumpy. By not mixing the batter until completely smooth, the gluten development is limited, thus guarding the muffins against getting tough or chewy.

Because this method uses a liquid fat—here, melted butter—it is important to make sure all the ingredients for the batter are at room temperature. If the eggs or yogurt are chilled from the refrigerator, they can re-solidify the butter and prevent the batter from fully hydrating.

Speaking of yogurt*, it also plays a key role in texture. It is a great option to create moist baked goods because it is made up of an emulsion of protein, water, and fat. Keeping the water bound with these other molecules helps to prevent drying out during baking, while the fat (even in low-fat yogurt) tenderizes and further adds moisture to the batter.

Lastly, yogurt also adds acidity which provides a trigger for the baking powder to provide the “lift” for these muffins, as well as a subtle tang to balance sweetness.

Sorting Out Sweetness

Another important distinction between cake and muffins is the ratio of sugar with other ingredients. I avoided an overly sweet muffin to let other flavors shine—and prevent the feeling of an impending 10 AM sugar crash. To do this, I kept the total amount of sugar below one cup in the batter and used both granulated and dark brown sugar. The extra molasses in dark brown sugar adds subtle notes of caramel and rounds out the saccharine edge. It keeps the muffins moist after baking through its hygroscopic characteristics (the tendency of sugar to attract and absorb moisture from the surrounding air).

By taking a few extra minutes to brown the butter, the muffins gain nuttiness that is complemented by the warm spice flavor of cinnamon and nutmeg. This adds comforting complexity to the autumnal flavors. Less sugar in the batter leaves the opportunity to have a sweeter “pop” of apple and more of everyone’s favorite part of the muffin: the streusel.

The Struggle for Streusel

Whereas many coffee shop-style muffins have a sandy crumble, I wanted to provide this version with a crisp bite and toffee-like flavor. The comforting taste, reminiscent of warm oatmeal cookies, came naturally with the combination of browned butter, brown sugar, and old-fashioned oats. Surprisingly, achieving the crunch in the clusters of streusel is what proved to be the challenge.

I tried various ratios of butter, flour, and sugar but none hit the mark. Streusel that formed moist clumps when mixed ended up with the butter melting down the sides of the muffin during baking and caused greasy bottoms. Streusel that had enough flour to fully soak up the butter ended up powdery and loose. The—seemingly counterintuitive—solution to a crunchy topping? Add water.

Adding the melted browned butter to the mixture first helps to coat the gluten strands in the flour and keep the streusel chewy on the inside, while stirring in water at the end allows for the formation of clumps that retained their shape throughout baking. A period of chilling allows the mixture to fully hydrate and further create distinct morsels. During cooking, the water in the mixture steams and evaporates, leaving a crispy streusel.

One last obstacle was the issue of how to build beautiful piles of crumble on top of each muffin—without having most of it end up on the flats of the muffin tin. By folding squares of parchment into muffin liners with tall, “lotus-style” sides, it allowed the muffins to bake tall and still hold a generous pinch of delicious streusel.

An Assortment of Apples

Even with all the talk of texture and streusel, the real star of these muffins are the apples. I tried five different sweet varieties: Gala, Golden Delicious, Cripps Pink, Braeburn, and dried apples.

After baking, diced Golden Delicious apples seemed to “melt” into the muffin. They exhibited a very soft texture and lackluster fruit flavor. Galas retained a decently firm texture, but again lost much of their flavor. Small pieces of dried apples completely absorbed moisture from the batter and caused the baked muffin to be chewy and dry. Braeburn and Cripps Pink apples were the clear winners, as they both provided pleasant bursts of sweet, ripe apple flavor while maintaining structural integrity. The Braeburn variety just edged out Cripps Pink with its superior apple flavor.

Even after all the testing, these muffins still had one more surprise in store for me: how incredible they were the next day. The harmony of browned butter, warm spice, and sweet apple develops even more overnight. So make your Sunday batch, but make sure to save one (or two) for Monday morning.

  • Apple muffins with dry, straggly streusel (attempt #1)
  • Apple muffins with spotty, melty streusel (attempt #2)
  • A row of apple muffins without parchment liners next to a row of muffins in parchment liners (attempt #3)
  • Golden brown apple muffins, covered in streusel and sitting in the muffin tin in their parchment paper liners

The slideshow includes a couple of shots from the development process. From my first batch, to streusel struggles, to the final muffin!

Apple Muffins with Browned Butter Oat Streusel

Crisp, sweet apples work best in these muffins. In tests, the Braeburn variety yielded the preferred soft-but-distinct texture and fruity apple flavor, but Cripps Pink apples (also called Pink Lady apples) are a good option as well. This recipe uses parchment squares to create tall muffin liners; they allow for the muffins to maintain height while baking and hold generous piles of streusel. Alternatively, lotus-style muffin liners can be purchased and used.

Makes 12 muffins

Brown Butter Oat Streusel:

  • ¾ cup (3.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup (2.25 ounces) old-fashioned oats
  • ½ cup (3.5 ounces) dark brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Apple Muffins:

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt, room temperature*
  • ½ cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup (1.75 ounces) dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces Braeburn apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces (1 ½ cups diced pieces)
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut 12 6-inch squares out of parchment paper. Gently press and crease paper squares into a standard 12-cup muffin tin to create muffin liners with tall, folded walls. Paper may not fully stay in cups until they are filled with muffin batter.
  2. FOR THE OAT STREUSEL: Stir flour, oats, sugar, and salt together in medium bowl.
  3. Melt butter in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until butter is lightly browned and aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes. Reserve ½ cup butter for muffin mixture and set aside to cool.
  4. Stir remaining 6 tablespoons browned butter into flour mixture until evenly combined. Add water and vanilla extract and stir until evenly moistened and mixture starts to clump. Chill mixture for at least 10 minutes, or until ready to use.
  5. FOR THE APPLE MUFFINS: Whisk flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt together in a large bowl.
  6. In a separate medium bowl, whisk eggs, yogurt, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until no lumps of brown sugar remain. Stir in reserved browned butter and vanilla until smooth, then fold in diced apples.
  7. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and use a rubber spatula to gently mix, just until no visible flour remains. Batter should be thick and slightly lumpy. Use a level ⅓-cup dry measurement to fill each prepared muffin cup. Use your hands to break apart streusel mixture and crumble evenly over each muffin, breaking up any clumps larger than a marble. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes, rotating muffin tin halfway through baking.
  8. Let cool in tin for at least 20 minutes. Cooled muffins can be stored in an airtight container or zipper lock bag at room temperature for up to 3 days.


*UPDATE 7/2/2020: This recipe also works when substituting buttermilk or acidulated milk (whole or 2% milk + a splash of white vinegar) for yogurt.

No-Knead Bread: An Exercise in Patience

I discovered magic last weekend. Okay, maybe not “magic” so much as the otherworldly combination of flour, water, yeast, and salt that is Mark Bittman’s No-Knead Bread. And maybe “discovered” isn’t quite right either. I’ve made this recipe before—I think it was in 2016. I vaguely remember liking it. It stuck around as a half-remembered Sunday cooking project, filed away in the maybe-I’ll-try-it-again-sometime drawer.

See, I didn’t know what I had happened upon that first time. This recipe requires a little, well, discipline. It took me a long time to come back to because it takes about 12 to 18 hours just for its first rise.

What person is on that kind of schedule?! 8 (or even 10) hours? Sure! I’ll make it in the morning and bake it in time for dinner. But 12 to 18 hours? I’ve done that math, and unless you’re an insomniac, that kind of resting period means you’ve gotta plan for this bread the day ahead. I don’t know about you, but on the weekends, I’m not trying to have that kind responsibility.

Or at least, that’s how I’ve always felt. When I made this bread the first time, I definitely did not give it its alone time. I figured, 6 hours is enough, right? I was younger then—impatient. But after seeing a miracle happen in my cast iron last weekend, I did a little research. Here’s why it’s important to let your bread dough have a good, long think:

  • Structure. With the long resting period, the formation of gas from the yeast and the movement of the resulting bubbles around the wet dough is what is essentially doing the “kneading” that you were being spared from. Score!
  • Flavor. You know why sourdough is so delicious? All those yeasty, malty, and yeah, sour flavors that develop from yeast that’s been doing it’s own thing (for a long while). When yeast is allowed to ferment at a slow rate for a long time. The easiest way to accomplish this is at cool temps. Which leads me to…

What changes I made to the recipe. I combined the 3 cups flour, 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast, and about 1 1/2 cups water (plus a tablespoon or two more when it looked a bit dry), just until a dough formed. I covered the bowl with a towel and gave it 10-ish hours at room temp. I made the dough around 8 a.m. though, and there was no way I was going to meet the deadline. I stuck that situation in the fridge overnight, and it worked out perfectly. Plus, I had fresh baked bread in the morning, so I basically killed it on all fronts.

After it’s cold-stint, I gently formed the dough into a ball and layed it, seam-side down, on a piece of plastic wrap sprinkled generously with cornmeal (I should’ve used the clean towel the recipe suggested). It took about 2 hours or so for the dough to come back up to room temperature and rise to the stage where it wasn’t readily springing back when (gently) poked.

At that point, I stuck the cast iron in the oven and preheated to 450°. The cast iron got 25 minutes to fully preheat, at which point I pulled it, added a drizzle of veg oil, and tried to gracefully flip the dough onto the skillet. The dough hit the skillet in a lopsided lump, but that didn’t stop either of us. After baking covered for 30 minutes and uncovered for 20 more minutes, it was a beautifully golden brown, only slightly lopsided, boule.

Fluffy slices of bread sitting on a wooden cutting board.

It was still slightly warm in the middle when I couldn’t wait any longer. I sliced into it to find a shatteringly crisp crust, a light and airy middle, and perfect crumb. It was delicious on its own, but spread with a thick smather of butter and strawberry jam—it was absolute heaven.

So… I’m not going to be postponing another year before I make this again. I can barely hold off a week. I can’t wait to try again, and take some of Kenji Lopez-Alt’s advice about an even longer bulk proof and better salting. Next time, I’ll add more water to start instead of struggling to incorporate more into a dry dough, use a clean tea towel (as recommended), and I’m definitely going to make a double/triple batch. I need this bread at the ready for me to bring to every dinner party, to give as gifts to everyone I know, and for every breakfast toast and mid-afternoon snack. It’s more responsibility than a single-day Sunday project, but I think I’m ready for the commitment.

9/27/19 UPDATE:

I have indeed made no-knead bread many, many times since writing this a few months ago. I’ve added different seeds and herbs, messed with the method, and even tried a gluten-free version (admittedly, not great). I made the Serious Eats version, but didn’t prefer it over the classic NYT/Mark Bittman recipe.

It’s become a nearly-every weekend project for eating at home and giving as casual gifts. While I do still chill it for a night or day in the fridge if something comes up, I usually just make the dough around 2pm, shape it the next morning, and bake it when it looks sufficiently puffed.

My biggest tip: after the dough’s first bulk rise, I’ve found that the easiest, best thing to do is to shape the boule, put it on some floured parchment paper, and set it back in the wiped-out proofing bowl. This helps the dough to get a higher vertical rise, since it’s not spreading on the counter horizontally as well. Then, just use the parchment sling to transfer the dough and set it directly into the hot Dutch oven, put the lid on, and bake. You’re welcome.