hazelnut sugar cookie cereal

i come from a family of toast people, hole in the middle people, and leftover pizza for breakfast people. breakfast growing up was always a hot meal, save for the few bites of cold pizza that you'd eat while you waited for the rest of the slice to heat up in the microwave. the hot breakfast rule obviously extended to weekend bagels, too: if they weren't still warm from the bagel store, they got promptly toasted and served alongside whatever coffee cake or buckle that mum baked before the sun came up.

i think that for the few times when we had cereal in the house, it was probably a result of stoopie or me feeling like we *should* have it, on account of we were kids and the cookie crisp commercials during zoog disney were super catchy, and we, too, wanted to have part of that *complete breakfast*, and duh we needed the prizes that came in the box. i can remember really foaming at the mouth for peanut butter cap'n crunch, before mum got her peanut allergy, but other than that i'm pretty sure that boxes of cereal were bought on a whim, cracked into once or twice, and then left to get a little stale while we got down with scrambled eggs.

occasionally i'd have cereal in the afternoons at my friend gracie's house, which was exciting because cereal in the afternoon feels a little naughty, and her kitchen was like a cereal buffet at all times. but i always felt obligated to drink the room temperature milk at the bottom of the bowl because she did and, errrm, 😝.

since then i've used cereal in various recipes (puppy chow, rice krispies treats), but, goodness, the last time i had a bowl of cereal was probably like 20 years ago.

about a year and a half ago however, a really sweet reader emailed with the idea to make homemade cereal. "I love a bowl of homemade granola as much as the next girl but I'm thinking good old Kellogg's style breakfast cereal," she said. i loved that idea so much! partly because i'd never seen it done and partly because it'd mean i'd get to make millions of miniature baked things, and you know how i feel about miniature baked things. so for a year and a half i sat on this thought, and then around the holidays when dominique ansel had his super adorable christmas morning cereal for sale, i decided it was time to make a valentine's day cereal.

this recipe is essentially cookies. lots and lots of little crispy hazelnut cookies, hanging out with mini almond meringues that kind of turn the milk pink, and some chocolate chips and coconut. and i threw in some dried fruit for chewiness and hazelnuts to have it be something that remotely resembled a nutritious start to the day. of course, take whatever liberties you'd like with this, because you're basically making a sweet trail mix. change up the nuts, fruits, cookie shapes, and add any more goodies you'd like. the cookies take forrrever to stamp out (i used a 3/4" heart cookie cutter from michael's, but i think i need one of these cookie cutter sheets), and the meringues took kinda a while to pipe. but throw on the la la land soundtrack, hang out with your roomba daughter, and it's all very meditative and therapeutic. i recommend eating this in small quantities since it's best when it's crispy, not soggy...errr but i guess that's part of the charm in cereal? i don't know. but make a big batch, put it in cute jars, and give it as valentine's/galentine's gifts to all of your friends. and if you're a real overachiever, gift it with a bottle of homemade nut milk or fresh milk from bessy your cute pet cow.


hazelnut sugar cookie cereal

makes about 18 servings

ingredients

1 batch mini sugar cookie hearts, recipe below

1 batch mini meringues, recipe below

1 c chocolate chips

1 c toasted coconut flakes

1 c toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

1 c dried cherries or cranberries

milk, for serving

clues

gently combine all of the ingredients. (I ended up only using about 2/3 of the meringues because i liked that cookie:meringue ratio. the remaining meringues were kept aside for noshing and cake decorating!)

serve in a bowl with milk!

keep in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. cereal should keep for a couple of weeks.


mini sugar cookie hearts

ingredients

1/2 c toasted hazelnuts

1 3/4 c all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/2 c unsalted butter, softened

3/4 c sugar

3/4 tsp vanilla

1 large egg

clues

preheat the oven to 350ºf. line two baking sheets with parchment.

in a food processor, grind the toasted hazelnuts until they are finely ground. add the flour and salt and pulse to combine.

using an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugar until it is pale and fluffy. add the vanilla and egg and beat well to combine. with the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, beating until combined.

turn the cookie dough out onto a lightly-floured surface. using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out until it's 1/4" thick, use a cookie cutter to cut out tiny hearts. place the hearts on the baking sheets (they can be pretty close together), and bake until they're lightly browned on the bottom, about 10 minutes.

once all of the cookies are baked, reduce the oven to 250ºf and bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes to really crisp them up. let cool on the pans.


ingredients

120 grams (or about 1/2 c + 3 tb) sugar

2 large eggs whites

1/4 tsp almond extract

a tiny drop of red food coloring

clues

preheat oven to 400ºf. distribute the sugar in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes, until the edges are starting to brown. while sugar is baking, crack your egg whites into a stand mixer. 

once the sugar has been in the oven for a few minutes, begin beating the egg whites in a stand mixer on high until they're foamy. reduce the mixer and gradually sprinkle in the warm sugar. once all of it has been added, add the almond extract and the food coloring. beat on high for a few minutes, until the meringue is stiff, glossy, and cold.

reduce the oven to 225ºf.

prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment. fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/8" or 1/4" round tip with your egg white mixture. Pipe tiny dollops onto the parchment and bake for about 20 minutes, until the mini meringues are no longer shiny and they're crispy all the way through. let cool on the pans.


-yeh!

almond butter cake with chocolate frosting

i realize that tahini is my go-to alternative to peanut butter when mum or any other peanut-allergic human is around, but the last time that mum and i baked together and needed to quick whip up a cake, we used almond butter in the motr party trick cake because she always keeps almond butter around when eggboy visits since his other name is nutbutterboy. it was so good and easy that we made it again the next day. it tasted kind of earthy. 

i made it again for my contribution to the annual round robin holiday gift exchange with the extended eggfamily. (that’s the cake you see here.) i had so many random cookies and meringues lying around after a week of playing in the kitchen that i just stuck them all on. it’s half covered with leftover chrismukkah cookies, half valentine’s day cookies that i was in the middle of testing, i know, it's a bit of a mess, but i'm calling it a january cake since it’s smack in the middle of the holidays and valentine’s day. i am so excited for valentine’s day.

i also added a bit of ground mahlab because its nuttiness enhances almond flavor really nicely. if you're in a pinch and don't have any, you can omit it, but i highly recommend seeking some out if you have access to a specialty spice store or middle eastern grocery. it's expensive but you just need a little tiny bit.


almond butter cake with chocolate frosting

makes one, 4-layer 6-inch cake

ingredients

1 3/4 c sugar

2 1/4 c flour

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tb ground mahlab (optional)

2 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 tsp almond extract

1 c buttermilk

1/2 c flavorless oil

3/4 c water

1 c almond butter

for the frosting:

1 c unsalted butter

3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder

2 c powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

a pinch of kosher salt

clues

preheat the oven to 350ºf. grease four 6-inch, round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.

in a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and mahlab, if using. in a medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the egg, vanilla, buttermilk, oil, water, and almond butter. add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. pour into the pans.

bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. begin checking for doneness at 28 minutes.

cool in the pans for 10 minutes. remove to a rack to cool completely.

for the frosting:

beat together the butter with an electric mixer until creamy. beat in the cocoa powder, and then the powdered sugar. add vanilla and salt. taste and make adjustments as desired. 

assemble:

add frosting between the layers and stack the cake. frost all over with chocolate frosting. decorate with cookies, meringues, sprinkles, or whatever goodies you have in the kitchen! enjoy!


-yeh!

p.s. i’ve announced some more events! some are molly on the range-related, some are music-related! canada, louisville, berlin, tucson, sarasota, here i come! click here for more info.

hawaii

we went on a vacation! we left home when it was 20 below and arrived in the magical land of hawaii, where it was 100 degrees warmer. it was sunny the whole time, as if mother nature had just set the weather on auto pilot and fell asleep. it was perfect hiking weather, perfect papaya-for-breakfast weather (squeezed with calamansi!), perfect sitting-by-the-water-turning-off-my-phone-reading-a-book-and-not-looking-up-until-a-man-rode-by-with-a-mai-tai-delivery-bike weather. we listened to the la la land soundtrack, ate donuts before supper, and sat on the beach with moses and alana with buckets o’ poke from the little kahuku superette.

it was exactly hawaii.

i acquired a new favorite hobby, floating. i learned the joy of lying in the water and looking up at the sky with no thoughts and fears aside from the possibility of my bum getting nibbled by fishies. and eggboy discovered the wonders of shave ice and haleakala. we watched the sunrise each morning with coffee and the newspaper and observed a nightly bedtime of like 8pm. we made a chinchilla friend in moses's mom's garden. i miss the spam musubi and the pineapple. i came home with a musubi mold though so watch out, i’m going to musubi everything. 

on the road to hana, instead of stopping to turn around where the road “ended” we just kept on going, and let our jaws drop at maui showing off. our phones didn’t work on that road, and the lighting was different, i felt like we were on another planet or in another time. the world could have gone all brigadoon on us and, nope, we wouldn’t have known.

it was such a wonderful trip. i'm officially one of the tannest humans in grand forks and i'm ready to get back to work but also counting the days until we get to go back to hawaii :)


here were some of the places we loved most on this trip (to add to the list of places i loved on my last trip to maui and oahu):

koko head cafe // an adorable brunch spot with dumplings, bibimbap, congee, and a french toast that we didn’t get but it looked so epic that i’m regretting that we didn’t get it.

diamond head market // the site of eggboy’s first spam musubi! and, ugh, their scones are sofa-king good.

rainbow drive-in // nothing prepared me for how good their plate lunch would be. we got the mixed plate. i couldn’t stop eating it. even though i’d just had a malasada. even though i knew it’d probably give me a belly ache. so good. 

surfjack hotel // a super cute hotel in waikiki where we stayed for the first few nights! it is really hip but not painfully hip. just right. especially for an afternoon of playing jenga with alana and moses by the pool.

royal kitchen // jade brought us some of their manapua. sooo soft and doughy and good.

four seasons at ko’olina // a dream. we screamed when we walked into our room and saw the view. the beds were clouds, the service was flawless, the pools and laguna made me love going in the water. and all of the food was delicious, especially the pandan mochi donuts at la hiki. and there were poolside cake pops! i want to go here again and again and again. a huge mahalo to kim for making our stay there extra special!!! 

kahumana farm // an organic farm that employs homeless families and people with disabilities and supplies produce and eggies to a bunch of restaurants on oahu. so many things grew there that i’d never even heard of, and they had an awesome aquaponics setup. 

haleakala national park // eggboy and i did a lazy thing: instead of waking up at 3am to join the crowds for the sunrise, we slept in, drove up to the summit in the morning sun (what a pretty drive!), and then hiked the day away on the sliding sands trail. it was quiet and stunning and lovely and we weren’t exhausted like we’d have been if we woke up for the sunrise, so 10/10 would recommend this. on the way back down we stopped in the cute town of makawao for a smoothie. note to self: next time go on a day when komoda's bakery is open! 

paia flatbread company // we went here for pizza night and looooved the pesto pizza. the place reminded me of our town pizza parlor. quirky and fun! 

old lahaina luau // our first luau! we loved it. 

hana ranch burger truck // tasty burgers on the hana highway!

the road to hana // would definitely recommend. and i have some tips: the rental car company tried to get us to upgrade to a four-wheel drive for it but eggboy rolled his eyes and was like really? which made me a little nervous but it ended up being 100% fine in our two-wheel drive. eggboy's a good slow driver though, so it was a smooth ride, free of car sickness, and yeah, some of my favorite parts were after the highway ends. past that, it's gravel-y and narrow at times, but it's not too bad. they tell you to really load up on snacks and gas in paia before hitting the road, so we pretty much cleared out the mana market as if we were gearing up for the apocalypse. but in reality, we went through about 1/3 of a tank of gas and there were taco trucks, farm stands, and barbecue stops the entire way to hana lol. i'm not mad because you know how i feel about cute road snacks, but just so you know for future planning, you're not gonna die if you don't fill your backseat with bread before you leave. 


-yeh!

lemon poppyseed olive oil muffins

In my experience, muffins have the ability to be really really bad or really really good. The ratio of bad to good muffins in this world is something depressing, like 2:1, and their lack of nutritional value doesn’t ever work in their favor too. Like, if you’re going to eat that much junk for breakfast, why not go all the way, add a little more sugar and have a slice of cake, you know? I mostly avoid the risk of eating muffins except for when it comes to two equal and opposite specimens: the mini lemon poppyseed kind that come in clear plastic packages in the bakery section of the grocery store that I would devour by the dozen as a wee one, and the large triumphant muffins from Blue Sky Bakery in Park Slope which will be the last remaining muffins on earth once everyone realizes that most muffins blow hard. Both of these muffins transcend the universal muffin problem of what to do with the muffin bottom once you’ve ripped off, buttered, and eaten the lesser evil muffin top, for the grocery store lemon poppyseed muffin’s homogenous squishy texture from the outside in makes the top no different from the bottom, and Blue Sky’s oft filled muffin bottoms read like moist sour cream coffee cakes. 

And here’s a third muffin option that combines my lifelong love for lemon poppyseed with my tendency to root for the underdog: it’s a topless muffin. A stubby breakfast cake that’s moistened with olive oil, beefed up with almond meal, and is as good as a muffin top. It works because parchment muffin liners are nary seen in this recipe, therefore allowing the outer edges of the muffin to get caramelized and crusty, just like a top would be. So it’s kind of like this whole thing is a muffin top with a shape that’s easier to grab onto. And are they kind of just an unfrosted mini cake in disguise as a more socially accepted breakfast food? Yeah, that’s pretty much exactly what they are.

Jumbo muffin tins (7.1 ounce capacity) make these muffins the perfect size. (I don’t recommend making them in standard cupcake tins, as the small size doesn’t allow for the full effect. In a pinch, using a 9” cake pan will work, but plan for more baking time.) These muffins are just as good the next day so add these to your list of brunch things that can be made ahead of time. Serve them with a light dusting of powdered sugar, and perhaps some yogurt and berries for a sweet simple breakfast.


lemon poppyseed olive oil muffins

makes 12 jumbo muffins

ingredients

1 1/2 c sugar

2 c flour

3/4 c almond meal

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

4 tsp poppy seeds

4 tsp lemon zest

3 eggs

1 1/2 c olive oil

1/4 c lemon juice

3/4 c whole milk

1 tsp almond extract

Powdered sugar, for serving

clues

preheat the oven to 350ºF. coat 12 jumbo nonstick muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside.

in a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, almond meal, salt, baking soda, baking powder, poppy seeds, and lemon zest. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, lemon juice, milk, and almond extract. add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. distribute the batter evenly amongst the muffin tins and bake until the edges are deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. begin checking for doneness at 28 minutes. 

cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. run a small offset spatula around the edges and remove to the rack. serve warm or cool completely and then serve. dust with powdered sugar before serving.


-yeh!