Somewhere inside me, and not really very far in, is a bright & shiny morning caterer waiting to launch. Honestly, I'm not that interested in making salmon pinwheels or chicken satay-on-a-stick. But muffins? Coffee cake? Waffles? Frittata squares? Yum, yum, fun. Bring me your bagels, your bialys, your Nova, capers, and a schmear yearning to be free!
I got my chance to do this out of PQ Castle last weekend, when the Ecological Farming Association (of Eco-Farm Conference fame) came to Oakland for a meeting. Mostly the EFA meets somewhere down near Santa Cruz, so it was a Big Deal for folks to come to the big bad city on this side of the Bay.
I find meetings in fluorescent-lit conference rooms only bearable if a lot of strong coffee and tasty treats are nearby, so I offered PQ's catering services in support of the good work EFA does. It was also a chance to show off what we can get at our local farmers' markets--all of the organic produce was bought at the Grand Lake farmers' market, plus gorgeous marigold-yellow eggs from Danny and Becky's backyard chickens in Rockridge.
So, on the menu: wheat-free Morning Joy muffins; savory cheddar-herb biscuits; asparagus frittata; strawberries and tangerines; PQ's Strawberry Beautiful preserves; a lovely donation of Marshall Farm's Fairmont honey, from the 4 hives they've got up on the roof of the swanky Fairmont Hotel now; and, since it was Purim on Sunday, a little plateful of apricot and prune hamantaschen.
The Morning Joy muffins were a spin on Nantucket Morning Glory muffins, which usually have pineapple and coconut in them. Wanting to stay local, I doctored up the Carrot Spice Muffins recipe from the excellent Streamliner Diner Cookbook (named for an adorable restaurant on Bainbridge Island near Seattle), adding grated apple, ginger, and cloves, reducing the amount of honey, and substituting rice and oat flours for regular white flour.
Now, normally I wouldn't put in what I consider a cupcake-worthy amount of butter into a morning muffin. But, I was baking these for strangers, and I also wasn't exactly sure if the oat & rice flours might bake up denser than usual. In the interest of not serving little hockey pucks, I used a full stick (4 oz, 8 tbsp) of butter, and I have to say, they were quite nice and not greasy at all. You could probably reduce the amount of butter quite easily to suit your own taste.
The biscuits came from a brunch recipe I picked up during a weekend cooking class I took at The Apple Farm in the Anderson Valley, about 3 hours from SF. A lovely, lovely place, and well worth a trip, especially during spring apple-blossom season. Made silver-dollar-size, these biscuits make a perfect cocktail snack or pre-dinner nibble.
Wheat-Free Morning Joy Muffins
Makes 10-12 muffins
1 cup oat flour
1 cup rice flour or barley flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1 stick (4 oz or 8 tbsp) butter, melted
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup, or a combination
1 1/2 cups grated carrot
1 large apple, peeled and grated
1/2 cup raisins
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan, or line with paper liners.
2. Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, melted butter, and honey together.
3. Stir egg mixture gently into flour. Add carrots, apple, and raisins, and stir until mixture is just combined.
4. Spoon into muffin cups (you may not use all the cups) and fill about 3/4 full. Bake until just golden, checking to make sure a toothpick comes out clean.
5. Cool on a rack. Serve warm.
Apple Farm Cheddar Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose white (you can also use whole-wheat pastry flour)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup cold butter (5 1/3 tbsp)
plenty of freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary (do not use dried! substitute fresh chives or parsley instead if you can't get fresh rosemary)
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup milk, light cream, or half-and-half
1. Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment.
2. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Cut in butter until pebbly. Toss in pepper, rosemary, and cheese. Drizzle in milk, tossing and mixing lightly to make a very moist dough.
3. Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet--each biscuit should be a nice peaky, rocky lump. Bake 15 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm.