Sometimes, even the most bad-ass mamba jambas of us, need a little soothing and comfort.
There’s some crazy ass uber-shitty shit going down right now in my little universe and while I won’t subject you to the details (yet), I will say this: The past few days have left me feeling in need of some serious food therapy. Or retail therapy. Or just plain therapy therapy.
So on Saturday I showered (big day, big day), put on a nice dress and even straightened my hair. I painted my toenails black. Because I’m emo like that. And then I took myself out on a day date.
I take a certain comfort in being alone in public. Like the city is a blanket for sorrow or catalyst for joy. The anticipation that the day – and the people you meet along the way – can take you anywhere is incredibly delicious. Especially when you score some wicked snazzy new red glasses (hello, sex pot!). Stay tuned for those.
Of course, shopping for eye candy (eye-wear, not Jeff Goldblum lookalikes) can leave a girl feeling famished. So I lunched on the most amazing organic grass-fed beef burger with smoky b-b-q sauce, smothered in a mushroom, sweet onion and beer compote, smoked gouda, crisp pancetta and lots of crispy fried jalapeno’s atop a brioche bun with house made beer mustard, organic watercress and sweet onions, chased back with 2 craft beer. It wasn’t terrible at all.
Like usual though, after I mow down on ridiculously tasty carbs, I felt the need to sequester myself in a dark room. Usually that also involves a light breeze, some floofy bed covers, a hot water bottle and more pillows than are necessary. But my desire to be around people won out: A movie it was. There’s nothing like cozying up to the likes of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon to make me feel better about my day. Or my looks for that matter. And if you like food – and let’s assume you do because you’re here – The Trip to Italy is just that. Food. Italy. Uncomfortable hilarity.
It was a good day. I chased it all up with a partial re-read of a good book that’s being released as a movie soon and a drink with a good friend on a patio in front of the ocean, then dinner with the boyfriend at a spectacular area Italian spot. Which, btw, has convinced me to go forward with a whole other plan. But we’ll get to that another day.
I make for one killer date, if I do say so myself. If it weren’t for the cloud of tragedy hanging over my washed & styled little head, I couldn’t have asked for a better time. Good food? Good films? Good company? Yes. Yes. Yes. So what does all this have to do with chai black pepper strawberry muffins? Not much. Except that they’re incredibly soothing, nourishing and delicious. Kind of like my day.
I think we all deal with things in different ways. Some of us spend 2 days in bed in tears. Some of us distract ourselves with everything we love. Some of us lash out. Some of us withdraw. And some of us just deal. For those of us who eat, there are chai black pepper strawberry muffins. Paired with a really good cup of coffee and maybe a good friend (even if that’s only yourself), these will do just fine.
Chai Black Pepper Strawberry Muffins
Yield 8 muffins
For the Muffins:
- 1 C All-Purpose Flour
- 3/4 Tsp Baking Powder
- 1/4 Tsp Baking Soda
- 1/2 Tsp Salt
- 1 Tbsp Chai Spice (equal parts ground cardamom, ground all-spice, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground ginger, fresh grated nutmeg)
- 1/3 C Organic Cane Sugar
- 4 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
- 1 Large Pastured Egg, room temperature
- 1/2 C Buttermilk
- 1 Tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
For the Sauce:
- 2 C Fresh Strawberries
- 1 Vanilla Pod
- 1 Tbsp Organic Local Honey
- Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
- 1/2 C Organic Cane Sugar
- Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a muffin pan with butter and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spice mixture, and sugar. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Butter will begin to crackle and pop as it melts. That’s the water melting out of the butter. Once the water has evaporated the butter will quiet down and begin to brown. Keep an eye on it, it browns quickly and you don't want it to burn. Once the butter begins to smell nutty, remove from heat and immediately transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.
- In a small bowl whisk together egg, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Spoon 2 tablespoons of browned butter into egg/milk/vanilla bowl and whisk to blend.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir together until no flour bits remain and all of the ingredients are just well combined. Do not over mix or you'll end up with rubbery muffins, not plushy comfy ones.
- Ladle the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling each one 2/3rds full.
- Place in the oven and bake for 10 - 12 minutes. They're done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan a few minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- As they cool, make the sauce. Slice the vanilla pod in half and scrape out the seeds with a back of a spoon. Save the pod for another project but place the seeds, strawberries, honey and a tablespoon or two of water into a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Stir well and bring to a light simmer. Turn the heat to medium-low and allow the strawberries to break down and become oozy and gorgeous. Stir often to avoid burning. Once cooked, chuck you can optionally toss in a blender or food processor to make smooth or serve slightly chunky. Allow to cool slightly before piping sauce inside (or just chuck it all on a plate. It's still delicious).
- When you're about ready to chow down, place serving sugar and as much black pepper as you can handle into a shallow bowl.
- Barrel into each muffin with a chopstick to create a little enclave inside. Spoon cooled sauce into a piping bag and carefully pipe into the center of each muffin.
- Re-heat the last 2 Tbsp of melted butter until warm. Lightly dip muffins, one at a time, into the melted butter and then dredge in the sugar/pepper bowl. Serve on a big platter with fresh coffee and extra sauce.
If piping seems like too much work or you don't have a piping bag, just serve sauce on the side. They're ridiculously tasty either way.
Adapted from Joy the Baker via http://joythebaker.com/2013/09/brown-butter-baked-doughnuts/
How do you deal? Have you seen The Trip To Italy? What makes you feel better when something goes horribly wrong?