Chamomile Apple Streusel Muffins
Soothing and sweet, chamomile has a faintly apple flavor. Chamomile is used in traditional medicine to soothe an upset stomach, so these muffins are particularly good on a post-party morning with a spot of tea and a good book or your morning paper. Makes 12.
1/3 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar*
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chamomile tea
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 apple (preferably green and large), grated
Though light brown sugar is more common, I personally prefer dark brown sugar for its rich moist qualities. You can use either.
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with pretty liners.
2. To prepare the streusel topping, stir to combine flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt in a big bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, mix egg, tea vanilla, and oil with a fork to break up the egg and homogenize the mixture a bit. Stir these liquids into the dry ingredients until just combined (don’t overmix). Stir in grated apples.
4. Fill the muffin cups two-thirds full and generously sprinkle with streusel topping. Bake about 20 minutes or until the streusel is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out mostly clean. Let the pan of muffins cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes if you can wait that long.
Don’t bother breaking out the mixer for this recipe—you won’t need it!
Variation: Make-Ahead Muffins
If you are planning to have these after a night’s indulgence or just aren’t a morning person, I’ll save you a moment in the morning trying to measure. Mix the batter the night before and put it in a covered quart container. Mix up the streusel and put it in a plastic baggie. When morning comes, all you have to do is turn the oven on, fill the muffin cups, and wait.
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2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons chamomile flowers
Pour boiling water over chamomile flowers, cover, and steep 5 minutes before drinking or straining and using in a recipe. Makes about 2 cups.
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Borage Basil Simple Syrup
Perfect for cocktails, this simple syrup has a crisp, lightly cucumber-y basil flavor.
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup borage flowers
1/4 cup basil leaves (about 2 sprigs)
Bring the sugar and water to a fast simmer until the sugar dissolves completely. Pour over the flowers and leaves. Let the mix steep for at least 2 hours before straining. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
From May through the summer’s end, borage grows like a weed, readily reseeding itself. But it does prefer rich soil and full sun. It blooms at the same time as its relative in taste, the cucumber. Take advantage and boost your cucumber flavor profile with these flowers. Also try borage with radishes for a colorful salad partner.
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Elderflower Ice Cream
Wonderfully creamy, with a subtle elderflower flavor, this ice cream is great on its own but works equally well melting over a tart or cobbler or topping a cool bowl of fruit or slice of pound cake. Makes 1 quart.
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
¹/₂ cup sugar
¹/₂ cup elderflower petals
4 egg yolks
Zest and juice of 1 lime
¹/₃ cup elderflower simple syrup
1. Warm cream and milk in a saucepan over medium heat until the liquid comes to a bare simmer. Stir in sugar and elderflower petals and cook without boiling, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves.
2. In a medium bowl, use a fork to break up egg yolks and mix them with lime juice.
3. When sugar is dissolved, temper yolks. Add a bit of the steamy milk mixture to the yolks while stirring. Continue until about half the milk mixture has been added and then swap and begin pouring the yolk/cream mixture back into the pot, stirring all the while. When all the yolk/cream mixture is in the pot, begin to heat it, stirring until it thickens and reaches about 165°F on a candy thermometer. Add elderflower simple syrup and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a 1-quart container.
4. Refrigerate ice-cream base for at least 6 hours. (I like to chill it overnight to make sure it’s really cold.) Process ice cream according to the instructions for your ice-cream maker.
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Chive Blossom Vinegar
2 cups chive blossoms (about 24 to 30 flowers)
1¹/₂ cups white wine vinegar
Put chive blossoms in a clean jar with a tight fitting lid. Warm vinegar in a small saucepan. Pour it over the chive blossoms. Put the lid on and leave chive vinegar in a place where it can capture sunlight for 2 weeks. Then pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer and keep the vinegar; if you’d like, you can compost the chives. Makes 3/4 cup.
Don’t limit yourself to chive vinaigrette. Flower vinaigrettes of all kinds are a great way to add punch to your salads, greens, and grains.
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Lavender Sea Salt Caramels
I love to play with all the different facets of caramel. One of my favorite things to do is sneak in an unexpected flavor. With lavender and honey, you can capture the essence of the garden even in winter. Fresh lavender is brilliant in summer, but dried works equally well. Paired with local honey, the flavors are sublime. Makes one 8-inch square pan (or about 60 caramels).
¹/₂ cup honey
1¹/₂ cups sugar
2 teaspoons lavender buds
1/4 cup (1 stick) [Miche: which one is correct?] unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream, lukewarm
¹/₂ teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
1. Line one 8-inch square pan with parchment paper and coat the parchment with nonstick spray.
2. Melt honey and sugar in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add lavender buds and keep cooking for another 15 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 220°F on a candy thermometer.
3. Carefully—the hot mixture may bubble up—add butter and cream. Keep stirring until mixture is smooth and no traces of butter remain. Cook, without stirring, for about 10 minutes more, or until temperature reaches 245°F.
4. Pour caramel into the prepared pan, cover, and let it set for about 6 hours.
5. To cut caramels, have strips of parchment paper—or better yet, cello candy wrappers—at the ready. Cut the caramels into desired lengths and shapes (I like 1-inch cubes or 1/2-by-2-inch strips) and wrap. Caramels last for about 1 month, but good luck not eating them or giving them away before then.
Parchment paper comes in handy for wrapping confections and even lining cake and cupcake pans, but cello candy wrappers and other materials can be fun for packaging edible gifts.
How to Select Honey
Honeys range dramatically in flavor. If you made this recipe with ten different varieties, you would get ten different flavors. I feel strongly about supporting my local beekeepers and eating local honey. My favorite beekeeper has three different varieties corresponding to the seasons—early, mid, and late. I love to have early season honey in my tea, late season honey on my toast, and mid season honey in my baked goods.
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Watermelon and Feta Hollyhock Salad
Proving that opposites attract, watermelon and feta work well together, with watermelon lending its juice to the dry cheese and feta tempering the sweetness of the melon. Lettucelike hollyhock petals provide texture and a pop of color. Serves 6.
4 cups watermelon chunks
1 cup feta, crumbled
Petals of 4 hollyhock flowers, cut in long, thing strips
¹/₄ cup lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
This recipe couldn’t be simpler. When you are ready to eat, fill a bowl with watermelon, feta, and hollyhock flowers. Sprinkle lime juice and olive oil over the top and season with pepper to taste. Toss and serve.
How to Chiffonade
Chiffonade might sound fancy—the term is French—but it’s really a simple method of cutting things in long, thin strips. Stack petals or leaves, and then roll them into a tight cigarlike roll. Cut across the roll with a sharp knife. This technique is a time-saver that minimizes bruising that can happen when cutting flower petals and herbs.