Every so often, I take a trip to New York for no reason whatsoever. Without a wedding or baby naming or conference to attend, I'm free to roam the streets of my former home off the clock, and with no particular destination in mind. I wake up early, lace up the sneaks, and head downtown in search of the cravable. I've got Sam Sifton's app loaded on my iPhone, a couple Chowhound threads open in safari, and an appetite. On days like these, I've discovered Joe the Art of Coffee, Doughnut Plant, Thelewala, Ippudo, and more.
It happens less and less, as schedules have grown busier and there's nary a day with nothing to do. But the last time it did, which was over a year ago, I ate my way through the Bowery. Only this time, I was so single-minded about a particular destination that I basically skipped the exploring and made a B-line for Peels, the beautiful bakery where Shuna Fish Lydon works her magic. And I mean magic.
I've been following Shuna's blog, Eggbeater, for a long time. Many of her recipes are beloved in my kitchen - especially her leeks (aren't they beautiful?). She's doing amazing work at Peels; if you haven't been, go. And when you do go, get the house muffin: a combination of buckwheat, lemon marmalade, and rosemary, it's the inspiration for the recipe I'm sharing with you today, and it's unforgettable.
I'll come at you honestly, with a bit of a confession: I couldn't get either the loaf or the muffins to be as weightless and fluffy as Shuna's house muffins are. I really don't know how she does it. And people, I've tried to find out, I have. I tweeted with her about it a while back. She suggested I write Bon Appetit and ask them to get the recipe, which I did to no avail. Still, it isn't all bad news today. Left to my own devices, I poked around online and experimented quite a bit, and I think I've found a buckwheat cake recipe that's pretty delicious in its own rite. The template comes from the lovely Glutton For Life, whom I encountered via (yet again...) Food52. Her name is Laura Chavez Silverman, and among her recipes are many, many winners. She tried to recreate Shuna's Peels muffins, and her recipe looked promising, so I used it as a template for my own experiments.
Two choices when making this recipe. Muffins: breakfast, party food. Or, a loaf: great in the lunch bag, sliced for tea, whatever. Cooking times are different, but that's it. Perhaps the best thing about the final product? It's blue. Legit blue. Good buckwheat is tinted a beautiful shade of blue, which I definitely thought would fade as the stuff bakes. But nope. This just shows there is such a thing as (non-blueberry) blue food after all.
To contrast with the blue, I chose orange. Specifically, I employed kumquats in two forms: a quick marmalade, and sliced raw. You get the amazing aromatic kumquat essence from the marmalade, and the tang and freshness from the raw slices. I think it's a winner - but hopefully, you'll make it and let me know what you think.
Buckwheat Kumquat Muffins or LoafAdapted from Glutton for Life and Garrett McCord, via Epicurious
For the quick kumquat marmalade: 1/3 cup sliced kumquats 1/4 cup water 3 tablespoons sugar
For the cake: 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour 3/4 cup buckwheat flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 cup thinly sliced kumquats 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons greek yogurt 1 egg Kumquat marmalade (recipe above) 1 teaspoon vanilla 4 tablespoons butter
First, make the marmalade: place kumquats, water, and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and thickened (it will thicken more as it cools). Set aside.
Next, brown the butter: In another small saucepan (or the same one, but rinsed), melt butter over medium heat. It will foam, then the foam will subside. Then you'll start to smell the nutty notes. Pay close attention - nothing burns faster than butter browning unattended. As soon as the milk solids (the little bits in the bottom of the pan) are deep brown and the butter is toasty colored, remove from the heat. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or line with parchment paper either a loaf pan or a muffin tin.
Now, make the cake or muffins: In a medium bowl, combine flour, buckwheat, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, and sliced kumquats. In a separate bowl, combine yogurt, egg, all but 1 tablespoon of the marmalade, and the vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then add the butter and fold into the cake batter.
Scoop the batter into the greased or lined pan or tins. Use a brush to brush the top of the loaf or muffins with the remaining marmalade. Bake loaf for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Bake muffins for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
The cake/muffins are best the day they're made, preferably warm. Still, muffins or cake slices are also quite good toasted, and they'll keep about a week at room temp. If you're worried about them, just stick them in the fridge.