Pear Bundt Cake

Spiced Pear Bundt Cake by Ayala Moriel
Spiced Pear Bundt Cake, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
After a long day of bad news from Israel and Gaza, I just had to do something relaxing and positive. I baked a bundt cake. Flipped it over on the cake stand. Buried my nose in the midst and indulged in the comforting steam of baked butter, honey, spice and caramelized Flemmish pears. I wish I could send some of this comfort to all my family and friends in the war zones.

Pears are a relatively new obsession of mine - poached, or in a brie sandwich, or better yet - in a frangipane tart - there is something utterly luxurious and elegant about this rather humble-looking, delicately flavoured and subtley textured fruit.

This cake is another way to enjoy pears, especially if you happen to be greedy like me when they are in season, and buy a few extra ones that got a little too soft for poaching or sandwiches... It requires making a home made caramelized pear sauce or puree - which sounds complicated, but is really a breeze. The original Martha Stewart recipe that this one is based on instructs you to peel the pears. But I felt that this took away a bit of the texture. So my recipe is my own little twist on the theme, and in my opinion feels more pear-y, which is what I'm after. You will need at least 5 pears for this recipe (6 pears if you are decorating it with the pear chips).

A little note about the bundt mold: Yes, you will need it. I'm not a fan of having a special piece of equipment for every type of cake under the sun. However, there are some exceptions (i.e.: Madeleine molds, heart cookie cutters...). But yes, even though I waited about a million years to get my bundt mold - it's totally worth the investment. It has opened up a whole world of recipes for simple yet elegant and impressive cakes right before my eyes. And now also yours. Do it!

For the Caramelized Pear Sauce:
1/3 cup evaporated cane sugar
5 pears, cored and cut into medium chunks (peeling optional)

- Spread the sugar evenly in a wide sauce pan and cook on medium heat until the sugar on the edges starts to brown.
- Stir just until all the sugar has melted, and immediately add the pears.
- Cook the pears while stirring occasionally. 
- Once the pears are soft, use a potato-masher to make a chunky pear puree.

For the batter:1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened in room temperature
1 cup evaporated cane sugar
4 large eggs, in room temperature
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tbs freshly grated ginger root 
2 cups spelt flour
1 cup (100gr) ground blanched almonds (aka almond meal)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

- Preheat the oven to 350F (180c).
- Sift together dry ingredients (flour, almond meal, spices, salt, baking powder and soda).
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter, honey and sugar in medium speed, until fully creamed and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time and continue beating for .
- Add the vanilla extract and continue beating for a few more seconds.
- Reduce to low speed and add about third of the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.
- Add the pear sauce and beat shortly.
- Add another third of the flour, and continue beating just until combined.
- Add the buttermilk and continue beating just for a few more seconds.
- Add the remaining flour, and beat briefly - just until the last bit of flour is incorporated into the batter.
- Butter a bundt pan and dust with more spelt flour. Tap out excess flour.
- Carefully pour the batter into the pan and spread until even.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake ring comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. While the cake is still warm, invert it on a cake tray or case, and allow to cool completely before decorating it with powdered sugar or the suggested decoration below. Only once cooled, you may cover it with a lid or a glass dome.

To decorate the cake:

A simple decoration for this cake would be a little dusting with powdered sugar, which is elegant and pretty and perfect if you're just making the cake for yourself and your family or casual entertaining. If this is for a special occasion - this cake can make an entrance that is in my humble opinion more impressive than some of the most sophisticated layer cakes I've ever made. And still quite simple to carry out.
For that, you will need to create a cream cheese icing, and candied pear chips (recipe below). The white icing looks regal and sensual set against the dark, caramel-coloured spiced cake. Add to that homemade candied pear chips - and you're up for a memorable fall cake that is reminiscent of fallen leaves on fresh snow. Delightful for both your eyes and taste buds!

For the Cream Cheese Glaze:
4oz cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbs milk, more if needed
1/2 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract, or the "seeds" scraped from half a vanilla pod. 
- Whisk the ingredients together with a wire whisk or with an electric mixer.
- Drizzle all over the cake once it is cooled, one tablespoonful at a time on the top - it will run down the streams created by the bundt mold and is sure to be pretty!

For the Candied Pear Chips:
1 unripe pear
1 cup granulated or evaporated cane sugar1 lemon, cut into half
1 cup Water

- Preheat the oven to 200F (95c). Line a baking sheet with parchament paper or Silpat.
- Shave the pear lengthwise using a mandolin (I tried it without a mandolin and it does not work - so here's another kitchen investment I had to make...). There is no need to remove the core of the seeds - they will add to the visual appeal of the pear chips, and during the baking process they will become easily edible.
- Rub half a lemon on each pear slice (to prevent it from browning).
- In a saucepan, combine water and sugar and bring to a boil. Cook until the sugar has completely dissolved, and keep it simmering.
- Put the pear slices in the pot and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the pot with a  slotted spoon, and drain on a sieve. 
- Spread the drained slices on the lined pan. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes - until crisp but not brown.
- Once cooled, place the slices atop the glazed bundt cake.  Doesn't it look spectacular?

The Rose Garden in Autumn

Rose Garden in Autumn by Ayala Moriel

Rose Garden in Autumn, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

Yesterday was a glorious golden autumn day. My morning walk on Coal Harbour seawall inevitably lead me to the Rose Garden in Stanley Park. Approaching the garden, I noticed two unusual things: the deep golden brown hues of the cherry trees just below the garden; and the unusual melding of the warm sweet scent of rotting fall leaves on the forest floor with the unexpected perfume of... Roses!

Rose Garden

Yes, the roses were still in bloom, although it's already November. We had a dry and rather sunny weather halfway through October; and even now the weather is rather mild by comparison to season's average. There were still so many buds and flowers I could even see them from afar. And as I approached, they looked still rather colourful - little curled buds with bright glazed-flower-petals appearance. Yet, I noticed that although they were trying to open up, the deadly threads of fall have caught onto them with wetness and cold nights and spores in the air. Up close the buds just froze in mid blooming and are beginning to curl up in silky fibres of fungus and mold...

Rose Fungi
And down the lawns the mushrooms were having a little party, growing in groups of orangey-brown slimy caps crowded together as if whispering secrets of spores and the underground... Mushrooms are considered the Queen of the Dead with their ability to decompose and transform any dead being into rich compost. Their role in the ecosystem is invaluable, as they can break down many toxins that we careless humans pollute the planet with. A robot sent to the ruins of Chernobyl detected no life forms whatsoever; yet mushrooms were able to survive there, breaking down transforming the world's most toxic waste; and surviving. There is still very much to be learned about mushrooms' role in the universe, or how their immensely mysterious intelligence operates (and this is a translation of the article from Hebrew). Another fascinating video about the importance of the mycological world is Paul Stamets: 6 ways mushrooms can save the world.

This all makes me wonder sometimes - how little do we know about ourselves too? And our role in the bigger scheme of things? Maybe the mushrooms, with their immense network of underground threads are the rulers of the world, and they are just using us to carry their spores and transfer ideas around... And maybe the Western self-centered attitude is all wrong, and we should think of humanity as more of a fabric that should work and stretch and mend itself as one, rather than go in many erratic selfish directions that seem (insofar) to bring much misery and self-destruction to isolated individuals; perhaps this is just another illusion and we would be much better off giving up the sense of "self" to something more sustainable and positive?

But these are all big questions that I'm never going to be able to answer, not on a morning walk and not otherwise either. They do cross my mind, fine-tune my attitude, and bring inspirations which strangely finds its way to this blog - and stranger still - to perfume.

Mushrooms are fragrant. There is no doubt about it. Some more so than others. But there is an unmistakable scent to mushrooms and fungi - some more pleasant and perfume-inspiring than others. The supermarket variety range from pale and versatile button-mushrooms, which when fresh have that crisp scent not unlike a mild brie cheese. Other mushrooms have a far more earthy or even animalic scent, such as portobella mushrooms, or porcini. And than, of course, there are truffles! Pungent, unmistakable and precious truffles...

However - in perfume, there is very little use for mushroom as far as I have been able to gather. Forms of fungi are crucial in the process of fermentation, which is important for alcohol production. And alcohol has many uses in perfume: as a diluent or carrier; and also as a solvent for making tinctures and absolutes of various raw materials: animal essences such as ambergris, various seeds (ambrette), fruit (citrus zest) and herbs (deer's tongue). But aside from that - do mushroom every get used as a note in perfumery? Not so much...

Cèpes (Boletus edulis) or Porcini Absolute
Variety of this absolute are quite two opposites: it can either smell like Marmite (a nutritional yeast spread that is popular in Greater Britain and Australia), hints of sour cocoa and bouillon cubes, which will inspire perhaps a wholesome brew of celery stalks, carrots and other hearty vegetables. I opt for the other type - those which smell richly chocolate-like, earthy and as nutty as pecans. Delicious through and through, and well balanced like a dish that has both savoury and sweet within it. This is hard to come across.
Perfume containing Cèpes are exclusively from the natural perfumers world: Cèpes and Tuberose (Aftelier) Colette (JoAnne Bassett), the original smoky chocolate version of Guilt (Ayala Moriel), Oud Luban and Sepia (Aftelier), Oudh Laquer (Soivohle), Vetiver Racinettes (Ayala Moriel) and Schizm (Ayala Moriel).

Cognac Absolute
An indirect mushroom scent can be find in cognac absolute. Cognac requires yeast and fungi to ferment the grapes (most notably botrytis), and from the sediments or lees, a cognac absolute is extracted. There are two varieties: green and white (frankly I don't find much difference between the two, but some claim the green is sweeter or fruitier). Either way, it has that boozy, fermented grape odour that is not easy to get away with and turn to your side (from a perfumer's point of view). Just like a cocktail - it's best cut down with a lot of citrus and green note.
Perfumes containing cognac as a prominent note: 7 Sinful Scents: Sloth  (Gendarme) Aramis Cool (Aramis), Arsenal and (Ayala Moriel), Botrytis (Ginestet), Cognac (Aftelier), Colette (JoAnne Bassett), Gaucho (Ayala Moriel), Michael Jordan, and the recently launched with the worst commercial ever (until No. 5 with Brad Pitt came along) - Encounter (Calvin Klein).

Is not strictly a "mushroom" note, but the essence forms only as a response to various bacteria and fungi that attack several species of tropical trees in the jungles of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Some trees are also cultivated in Assam region in India. Ouds scents are very varied, and some are more musty and fungus like than others; while some are intensely dark and animalic, or even containing raspberry-like sweet undertones. Oud has been a dominant presence in the past 3 years "niche" offering, spilling out to many semi-mainstream scents. Without any ambitions to list all oud fragrances, or all remarkable oud fragrances, I'll just mention a few that I find significant for either historic reasons or because they are well made or all natural:
The Montale oud line, which preceded the trend by many years, as did M7 (Yves Saint Laurent). Skipping forward - the very recent collections of Oud Stars and Keiko Mecheri's Bespoke both pretty much sum up the oud trend.
And from the all-natural ouds: Reflections Parfum (JoAnne Bassett), Oud Luban and Sepia (Aftelier), Oudh Laquer (Soivohle), Rose Boheme (Providence Perfume), Temple (Anay's Garden); and
Razala, Song of Songs, Megumi and Bon Zai (Ayala Moriel Parfums).

3-OctanolA natural isolate whose odour is reminiscent of fungi and mushrooms, with spicy hints of gasoline, and waxy, creamy dairy-like nuances. The sharpness in it is not unlike truffles.

TuberoseMost tuberose absolutes have a green, waxy, creamy nuances that are reminiscent of mushrooms and fungi. Very few perfumes play on that aspect though, and prefer to amp up the orange-blossom like qualities of tuberose (with added methyl anthranilate).

The culinary gold of only rare times of the year when a few shavings would cost you as much as a whole week's grocery list. These underground fungi are scouted by female pigs, who can identify the scent as it contains pheromones identical to that of the male pig. The scent is sharp, ripe, somewhat fruity, mineral and very hard to describe otherwise. There are two main varieties - white truffle, which grows in winter which is sharper-smelling, almost peppery and like over-fermented cheese; and black summer truffle which is fruitier, more deep and smooth and full-bodied (considered inferior or at least not as expensive, but is my personal favourite). Unfortunately, the aroma of neither black nor white truffle yields well to distillation, tincturing or oil infusion. As much as they'd like us to believe, "truffle oil" is simply olive oil (or other cheaper vegetable oils) "infused" with 2,4-dithiapentane  and perhaps some other lab-made organic compounds that are responsible for the truffle's sought-after aroma.
Therefore, as you've guessed, perfumes with "truffle" note must be containing synthetics. Examples:
Black Orcid (Tom Ford), Cumming (Alan Cumming), Exotic (Boadicea the Victorious), L.I.L.Y. (Stella McCartney),Oxford Street (Hugh Parsons), Une Rose (Frederic Malle) and Valentina (Valentino). Most of these are quite recent creations - so it could become a trend... Mark my word and watch for yourself - but you've seen it here first!

We have now pretty much exhausted the supplies of natural mushroom notes in perfumery. But there are several perfumes of interest that feature a mushroom or a mushroom-like note - be it natural or  synthetic. And in these coming weeks I will be writing my impressions of some of my favourites among them - or the ones I just find intriguing enough to inspire a post!

Autumn Fruit Open Sandwiches

Autumn Fruit Sandwiches by Ayala Moriel
Autumn Fruit Sandwiches, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
Fruit and cheese are a classic combination, though may seem unusual when you try it the first time.

Autumn harvest fruit make particularly good pairings: concord grapes, a seasonal symbol, go wonderfully well with the sharp decay of blue cheeses. Ripe crisp apples balance the earthy sharpness of aged cheddar, or even better - the smokiness of applewood smoked variety, which invoked burning leaves and wood-stoves. And of course you can't beat the classic ripe pear with Brie cheese, renown for its fresh mushroom-like nuances and elegant, neat round mushroom-like look.

For even more memorable versions of the sandwiches, here is my personal twist. Freshly baked sourdough bread are the best choice for open sandwiches; while whole wheat sliced tea-sandwich bread type that's pre-sliced with precision at the bakery for tea-time sandwiches. Crusts can be removed from (closed) tea sandwiches - or not - depending on how fancy you want this to be. I personally like the crusts more than any other part of the bread! The concept behind removing them is to make a finger-food snack that won't require cuttlery or messing up your fancy nobelty clothes (these were the only people who could afford an afternoon tea; which takes about 4 hours to prepare if you have servants; or more like 4 days if you don't). The crusts on most standard (aka non-sourdough) breads is rather thin and easy to bite through anyway... So I would save the extra bread bites if this is a lunch snack; and remove them only if you are serving a traditional afternoon tea menu.

Ingredients (for a small crowd of 12 - use less if it's for fewer people, and reserve the remaining ingredients for the next day).

FRUIT: 1 ripe yet firm pear (Bartlett or Spadonna are the best for this purpose; Bosc have too rough of a skin). Cut into half, core, removed the stem and slice into about 4mm thick slices.
BREAD*: These go best on a freshly baked baguette bread. I also like it on the cranberry semolina bread by A Bread Affair. You will need one loaf if you are feeding small crowd of 12 people or so.
CHEESE: 200gr Brie of a creamier nature, i.e.: St. Andre's. Slice as thin as you can without making a mess. Cheese knives are invented for these soft semi-gooey consistencies.
SPREAD: Cassis Dijon grainy mustard

50gr roasted whole hazelnuts, skins removed

- On each slice of bread, spread a thin layer of cassis mustard.
- Top with thin slices of brie cheese, just enough to cover the bread slice.
- Top with pear slices, neatly arranged.
- Sprinkle hazelnuts on top. If they keep rolling off you can gently press them onto the pear and cheese slices, which are rather yielding...

Suggested tea pairing: Cassis Noir from Soirette.

Ingredients (for a small crowd of 12 - use less if it's for fewer people, and reserve the remaining ingredients for the next day).
BREAD*: 1 loaf whole wheat bread (regular bakery variety, or wholewheat sourdough) sliced
SPREAD: 15gr or about 1 TBS Butter (at room temperature) or Mayonnaise
FRUIT: 1 Apple of choice - The sweeter Honey Crisp, Gala or Pink lady are a nice sweet contrast to the smoked cheeses; while the tanginess of Mutsu or Granny Smith balances the nutty earthiness of aged cheddar. Remember - they all make wonderful sandwiches as long as they are fresh and crisp! Core, quarter and cut the apples to about 2mm slices
CHEESE: 200gr Aged Cheddar cheese, or Applewood Smoked Cheddar Cheese - thinly sliced (about 2mm)
EMBELLISHMENT: 50gr raw walnuts, coarsely chopped

- Spread each slice with butter or mayonnaise
- Top with cheese slices
- Arrange apple slices
- Sprinkle with chopped walnuts
- If using regular bread, top with the other buttered slice, and cut into triangles. If using a wholewheat sourdough bread - leave open.

Suggested tea pairing: Cask-aged Ghorka Estate black tea from O5 Rare Tea Bar.

Bon appetit!

* If you are on a gluten-free diet, or simply want to cut down on bread - these two recipe go swimmingly well with rice cakes. The thinner ones are better, and are delicious as open sandwiches. I love them so much and eat them even more often than the "real" sandwiches.

The Many Colours of Fall

Fallen Leaves by Ayala Moriel
Fallen Leaves, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

As I was driving northbound on Blenheim street yesterday afternoon, I noticed the many colours that draped over the trees: there was a deep plum from the Japanese sour plum trees, ochre, mustard yellow, burnt orange, citrine, olive, and sprinkle of scorched crimson red and burgundy from the Japanese maples. And all that beauty set against the backdrop of the North Shore’s Coast Mountains. Breathtaking!

Fall’s glorious colours resonate with how I experience its subtle outdoors aromas: the cedar and fir mulch that lines gardens and the forest floor in the Pacific Northwest; ripe rosehips falling on the ground and becoming one with it; the robust fruit aromas and flavours; burning leaves from an unseen law-breaker; that crisp, brie-like fungi smell that permeates the air from the sprouting mushrooms after the rains; and all the traditional comforts of scents and flavours that are designed to warm one from within as the temperatures drop: spiced teas, wood smoke, warm cider, and aromatic fruit being poached and baked to much delight.

So, to make this fun and a little different from previous years’ autumn lists, here comes a colour coded one to wrap up fall (the moment after Halloween’s midnight, I already came across Christmas oldies on the radio – yikes! We still got Rememberance Day before we should get started on that!). So let’s celebrate whatever is left from summer’s bounty.

Citron, of course!
This is where fragrance and flavour are one this season, surrounding the theme of Etrog.
This fall I’ve been obsessed with the fruit in all manners possible: candying etrog fruit, making marmalades out fo them, tincturing for liquor and for the next batches of Etrog Oy de Cologne.
I’ve also just recently receive a sample of l’Etrog by Artquiste, which is utterly delightful though very much in the realm of fresh citrus. Reading the ad copy I was fascinated to find that Arquiste’s interpretation also alludes to dates (which is what I have incorporated with the balsam poplar buds absolute). And the myrtle note is rather inevitable, but still nice to see the recurrence in two creations that knew very little of one another. Although you could argue that

Sous la Vent, with it’s breezy, fresh and sunny personality with a dark edge, and is equally fougere and chypre. A man should be able to wear this without threat to his masculinity.
Flavour: The aromas of just-picked green olives, before they were pickled or pressed into an oil. Perhaps it’s too literal, but it’s exactly the

Fragrance: Golden osmanthus is in bloom in late October in Japan – so to me it’s always a seasonal symbol, echoing the sakura theme of the spring. I’ve been rotating between a few osmanthus fragrance for an upcoming theme on SmellyBlog. But admittedly, I’m rediscovering my own Kinmokusei in oil parfum form. It has a surprisingly honeyed base more so than the alcohol based eau de parfum. Which I have no explanation for except for concentration. And I’ve been enjoying the quite animalic interpretation by Artemisia which I will elaborate on in my upcoming osmanthus series (yes! Coming this week!). Last but not least in the osmanthus world is the beautiful, haunting incense that my friend Noriko brought me from Japan. Nothing natural about it, but it does smell just like the real fresh flowers I’ve met at Ineke’s garden this summer. Soapy, sweet and effervescent.
Flavour: Osmanthus green tea. Visually beautiful tea blend of grassy green tea from China, specked with fragrant golden osmanthus. And the liquor has a bright citrine colour and a flavour that is refreshing and mysterious – like a mixture of violet, apricots and green tea, of course.

Fragrance: Un Crime Exotique, with its soothing comfort – it is reminiscent of poached pears in star anise. The warmth and comfort I derive from this scent is only matched by how soothing I find the right shade of mustard yellow to be…
Flavour: Quince. Incidentally, there is also an Italian tradition of making quince mustard! The rosy nuances in fresh ripe quince’s aroma are sublime; and strangely enough, quince turns a beautiful pink once cooked. It’s quite magical!

Fragrance: Cognoscenti No. 19 (Warm Carrot). It’s so unusual, refreshing in concept and execution, both with carrot seed being the main theme, and also the structure or how the notes are orchestrated. It’s up there with Bois des Iles in my opinion.
Flavour: Golden Curls tea from Yunnan region (imported directly from the farmer by O5 Rare Tea Bar). It has notes of roasted butternut squash, and smooth, delicately toasty and sweet.

l’Artisan's Tea for Two. Everytime I wear this I ask myself why I don’t wear it more often.
21 year old aged oolong (O5 Rare Tea Bar)

Forest Walk, by Sonoma Scent Studio, evokes that magical time of the year in the deep Pacific Northwest forests, where coniferous leaves begin to rot and the first rains bring out a spurt of wild mushrooms. The warmth of oak leaves, and the coolness of damp soil. And there is also an incredible labdanum incense by Airs, which my aunt gave me years ago and I can’t find anywyere. I’m down to my last 2 sticks.
Flavour: Freshly picked wild chanterelles and black trumpets. And cooking them too.

Omniscent 0.96 with its luscious, multi-layered festival of flowers, incense and fruits. It makes a bold statement like carrying an orange bag.
And there is also a candle to go with this colour: Harvest by Gabriel’s Aunt. Literally, the scent of a burning Jack O Lantern with hints of pumpkin pie. We are talking real pumpkin and spices, not that fake fragrance that takes over the dollar stores at this time of the year.
Flavour: Guavas, which occasionally make their way to the grocery stores are a tropical fruit that I will forever associate with fall and the time when my daughter was born. Their aroma has green aspects, as well as spicy, herbal and even woodsy notes, and an ever so slight reminiscence to strawberry and stinky socks.

Chinatown, with it’s strange juxtaposition of peonies, gardenias, 5 spice, juicy peach and modern woody-chypre base. It’s the warmth and quirkiness in it that makes it very suitable for fall. It can be a little too loud for most other seasons.
Flavour: Poached red Bartlett pears in star anise, vanilla and Zinfandel.

Mitsouko. There is no fall without it.
Flavour: Cask Aged Ghorka Estate black tea (O5 Rare Tea Bar). Full-bodied, with hints of baked apples. Do I need to say anything more?

Nuit de Noel, which I’ve been craving earlier than usual this year. It’s rosy without being rosy, and is reminiscent of roasted chestnuts.
Flavour: Plum & hazelnut coffee cake muffins. The nutty, caramelized aroma of roasting chestnuts on charcoals – a unique scene on Vancouver’s streets which begins in the fall and goes on through the colder months until the chestnuts run out.

What are your fall colours? And which scents and sensations make this season for you? Share your favourite fall flavours and fragrances, and enter to win a little sample set of some of my own favourites, teas included!
Lucky draw entries close on Friday, November 9th, at noon.

Plum & Hazelnut Coffee Cake Muffins

Frosted Prune Plums by Ayala Moriel
Frosted Prune Plums, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
These muffins are made coffee-cake style, with the fruit on top. Spelt flour gives it a nutty texture, which greatly complements the roasted hazelnut meal that is incorporated into the recipe. The result is a moist, melt-in-your-mouth muffin that's not too sweet and is delicious with your morning coffee, or with a slice of cheese on the side for a light lunch or snack. What I like doing is prepare all the ingredients the night before - keep the dry ingredients covered on the counter, and the wet ingredients refrigerated. When I wake up at 6:30am, all I need to do is preheat the oven, mix the ingredients and pop it in the oven. By the time everyone in the house is dressed up and ready to start their day (usually shortly after 7am), the muffins are out of the oven and breakfast can be served!
You may say it's only the kind of thing someone who works from home can muster, but I've been doing this when I was working at an office job in my early twenties that started at 7am. Of course then I would wake up at 5:30...

2 cups spelt flour*
1/2 cup ground roasted hazelnuts
1/4 cup grapeseed oil

2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon    
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs 
1tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
6 fresh and ripe Italian prune plums, pitted and cut into small chunks**

-Preheat oven to 375F.
- Beat eggs in a bowl. Add oil and buttermilk.
- Combine flour, ground hazeulnuts, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a bowl.- Gently fold the milk mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Avoid over-stirring.
- Spoonfuls of the mixture into greased or buttered muffin tins.
- Spread plum pieces on top and gently press them down.
- Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with cinnamon and sugar.
- Bake for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick or a cake tester comes out clean.

These muffins are best served warm. If you can't gobble up all 12 muffins you can keep them for up to 3 days, but I do recommend cutting them into half lengthwise and warming them up in the oven for 5 minutes before serving. 

* You can also use whole wheat or white flour, but of course the texture would be different. 
** you can also use frozen ones; I had mine for about a year in an airtight container and they were as good as fresh!
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