Cherry Vanilla Scones

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and one taste of these and I knew they would make a perfect addition to a romantic breakfast in bed. We loved them! I made them with a couple of other dishes for Sunday brunch and the meal was proclaimed a big success by all four of my critics. I’m planning to post two additional recipes to add to your Valentine’s breakfast. Hope you enjoy!

These are best the first day but you can definitely enjoy them the next morning.

CHERRY VANILLA SCONES
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3 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
2  1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. cold butter
1 c. vanilla yogurt or plain yogurt with 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 1 Tb. of agave nectar
1/4 c. milk
1 c. tart dried cherries, roughly chopped
2/3 c. vanilla chips or white chocolate chips

milk for brushing the top
sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and soda in a large bowl. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Combine yogurt and milk. Stir into the flour mixture until moistened. Gently knead in the cherries and vanilla chips.

Pat the dough about 1/2-3/4 inches thick. Cut into desired shaped and place on a baking sheet. Brush tops with additional milk and sprinkle with a little sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Best served warm!

 

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Off the Shelf: February Magazines

Fine Cooking (Stephanie) – I enjoy looking through the pages of Fine Cooking in part because each issue offers a particular dish with recipe alternatives. The February/March issue includes meatloaf variations with aromatics, meats, mix-ins and herbs and spices ideas so you can create your own recipe. This issue also features several recipes using the banana, including Thai-Style Halibut Banana Curry with Peanuts and Banana Split Brownies.

I chose to try the Lemon-Glazed Banana Scones with Crystallized Ginger. I have to admit the flavor combination sounded strange, but nevertheless, intriguing. Also for true confession, I used powdered ginger because I wasn’t willing to send $8 on a jar of crystallized ginger for this recipe (conversion: 1/8 tsp of powdered ginger added in with the dry ingredients), so the ginger flavor is most likely less aggressive than the original recipe. Regardless, these are fantastic! I was amazed by the way the banana and lemon complemented each other.

(For any of you gluten-free readers, I successfully made these gf, but substituting my gf all-purpose flour mix of choice and adding 1 tsp of xanthan gum.)

LEMON-GLAZED BANANA SCONES WITH CRYSTALLIZED GINGER
(from Fine Cooking, Feb./Mar. 2011)
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FOR THE SCONES
9 oz (2 c.) unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed
1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
3/8 tsp salt
2 3/4 oz (5 1/2 Tbsp) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 small ripe (but not mushy) banana, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1/2 c.)
1 Tbsp minced crystallized ginger
3/4 c. + 2 Tbsp heavy cream; more for brushing
coarse white sanding sugar, optional

FOR THE GLAZE
3 oz (3/4 c.) confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz (1 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
pinch of salt

Position the rack in the top third of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Stack two rimmed baking sheets and line the top one with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt. With your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until a few pea-size lumps remain. Stir in the banana and the ginger. Add the cream; with a fork, gradually stir until the mixture just comes together.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat gently into a 7-inch circle about 1-inch thick. Using a knife, cut the dough into 8 wedges. Transfer to the baking sheet, spacing the wedges 1-2 inches apart. Brush the tops with heavy cream and sprinkle liberally with sanding sugar (optional).

Bake until the tops are golden, 19-25 minutes, rotating halfway through baking for even browning. Transfer the scones to a wire rack and cool slightly, 3-4 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, butter, and salt until smooth. Drizzle the warm scones with the glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saveur (Stephanie) – I perused the 135th issue of Saveur magazine online, the Jan./Feb. issue is the chef’s edition. I have to admit that many of the recipes didn’t appeal to me as they were ingredients I don’t typically use in my kitchen. But there were several different deviled egg recipes I found interesting. I tried the Bacon-and-Cheddar Deviled Eggs; how could they not be delicious?! 🙂

BACON-AND-CHEDDAR DEVILED EGGS
(from Saveur Magazine, Jan./Feb. 2011)
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MAKES 12

6 eggs
1/4 cup finely grated sharp cheddar, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 slices bacon, cooked and chopped, plus 2 tsp. rendered bacon fat reserved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Hot sauce, such as Sriracha, to garnish

Put eggs into a 4-qt. pot of water and bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit 15 minutes. Drain eggs and crack each shell slightly. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water and let cool. Peel eggs. Halve each egg; using a small spoon, transfer yolks to a medium bowl. Using a fork, mash yolks. Add cheddar, mayonnaise, 3/4 of the chopped bacon, and bacon fat; season with salt and pepper. Stir vigorously with spatula until smooth.

Transfer mixture to a plastic bag or a piping bag fitted with a smooth tip and pipe into egg whites. Garnish eggs with the remaining bacon, more cheddar, and hot sauce and serve cold or at room temperature.

Bon Appetit (Alaina) – This issue had some great looking recipes. They have a section an interesting section on honey as well as a variety of chili recipes. The Honey-Roasted Onion Tart, Roasted Beets & Citrus w/Feta, Sesame Cilantro Soup, Black Bean Chili w/Butternut Squash, and Fresh Pinapple Trifles w/Orange-Coconut Cream are just a few of the tempting recipes. However…

…Just look at the cover of this magazine. Yum. And with a boast of them being the best brownies ever and that you would want to eat the entire pan, well, I simply had to try them. Not that I needed them, mind you – it was all in the interest of kitchen research, of course. 🙂 The verdict: I DID want to eat the whole pan but I restrained myself. Despite my adding way too much flour, they turned out simply delicious. I think the combination of the browned butter, walnuts, and rich chocolatey goodness made them irresistable. [On a side note, I used dark chocolate cocoa powder.] These would be an excellent Valentine’s Dessert if you are cooking dinner for two. You could use a cookie cutter to cut them into hearts and serve them with ice cream or fresh whipped cream or all by themselves. Seriously good, folks. Make them. 

COCOA BROWNIES w/BROWNED BUTTER & WALNUTS 
(aka delicious and worth every calorie)
Bon Appetit, February 2011
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10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, chilled
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup walnut pieces

Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Stir in nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 brownies. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Magazine Review Extra: Southern Living

I’m chiming in a little late this month with my take on the holiday magazines. This year it is Southern Living that has given me the most inspiration. The magazine is filled with many beautiful pages of Christmas decorations and festive holiday houses. Then begin the recipes. I really feel like Southern Living’s forte is Christmas recipes, and it is no accident that they publish a yearly collection of Christmas recipes which I often check out of the library.

The article on party trays motivated me to create the tray pictured below for a family gathering. I served Rosemary Spiced Nuts, Cheese Straws, and olives. Everyone loved the presentation and the nuts were amazing.

My Christmas dinner is slated to include the Cherries Jubilee-Black Pepper Glazed Ham, and I really want to try the Tipsy Spiced Fruit Tart with Buttermilk Whipped Cream. Cherry-Pecan Brie is also on my list. There are entire articles on caramel dishes and peppermint hot chocolate drinks, and a myriad of side dishes, appetizers and desserts.

I had to try the Easy, Irresistible Scones and they turned out to be the best scones I have ever made. Southern Living offers four sweet and four savory variations.

All in all, it is an issue worth investing in.

I decided to change around the Southern Living recipe for spiced pecans because I wanted a certain flavor. I loved the outcome so much that I am including it here.

ROSEMARY SPICED PECANS
(greatly adapted from Southern Living December 2010)
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1 pound pecan halves
2 Tbsp packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 egg whites, beaten lightly

Toss the pecan with the egg whites. Dump in the remaining ingredients and mix to coat evenly. Bake the pecans at 350F for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until nuts are crisp, but not burnt!

About 4 cups.

Gluten-Free Goodness: Chocolate Chip Scones

This month we’re excited to bring you lots of baking ideas–from cookies, to candies, to scones–to inspire your holiday baking!

I’m going to kick off the baking season for you with a recipe for almond-flour scones. I first made these last spring. Jeremy and I were both delighted with them. They are easy to make, not to sweet, but nonetheless still a treat and perfect for breakfast, tea time, or a snack!

This past week when Alaina asked for some gluten-free baking ideas for a bridal shower brunch she was hosting, I passed along this recipe to her and while I wasn’t there, I did hear these tasty morsels were very well received.

The original recipe is from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam. Sometimes I make a blueberry variation and that’s purely from the Gluten-Free Experimentation Brain of Stephanie (which let’s be honest, doesn’t always work! But this time it did!). We love both versions.

CHOCOLATE CHIP SCONES
(from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook)
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2 1/2 c. blanched almond flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 c. grapeseed oil (I usually use canola oil)
1/4 c. agave nectar
2 large eggs
1 c. coarsely chopped dark chocolate (73% cacao)

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, salt, and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, agave nectar, and eggs. Stir the wet ingredients into the almond flour mixture until thoroughly combined, then fold in the chocolate. Drop the batter, in scant 1/4 cups 2-inches apart, onto the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 12-17 minutes, until golden brown or a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean. Let the scones cool for 30 minutes on the baking sheets, then serve. Makes 12-16 scones.

Variation: For blueberry scones, substitute fresh or frozen blueberries for the chocolate. Add 1/2 tsp lemon juice and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Prepare and bake as directed.

Off The Shelf: Good to the Grain

Every now and then foodies need a new frontier to explore. Mine, just now, seems to be the up-and-coming world of grains beyond wheat, oats and rice. When I found Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce, I realized I had the perfect roadmap in my hand to begin my exploration.

Good to the Grain delves into the history and uses of flours such as whole-wheat, amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, kamut, multigrain, oat, quinoa, rye, spelt, and teff. In this book, each grain has numerous recipes with mouth-watering photos meant to tempt you into branching out beyond your comfort zone and trying some of these lesser-known grains.

Some of the recipes include: wholewheat: gingersnaps, apple graham coffee cake, drop biscuits with strawberries and cream; amaranth: molasses bran muffins, honey hazelnut cookies, flatbread; barley: coconut cookies, barley crepes, maple pecan granola; buckwheat: figgy buckwheat scones, kasha pudding, poppy seed wafers; corn: rhubarb tarts, cornmeal blueberry cookies; kamut: sand cookies, pumpkin pancakes, chocolate babka; multigrain: five-grain cream waffles, spice muffins; oat: granola bars, oatmeal pancakes; quinoa: honeyed crepes, quinoa cookies; rye: apricot boysenberry tarts, soft rye pretzels, maple danish; spelt: currant scones, huckle buckle, focaccia; teff: date nut bread, brown butter scones.

As my family can testify,  cookbook after cookbook passes through this house en route to or from the library. This was one of the few books that made it to the shortlist for almost-instant purchase. I now own my own copy, thanks to Mother’s Day and my mom’s generosity. My mom was at my house the first time I made these strawberry-barley scones. Neither of us could stop raving about them, and the cookbook came with the request that I make the scones again soon. Believe me, I will!

STRAWBERRY BARLEY SCONES
(Good to the Grain)
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1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. barley flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

8 Tbsp. cold, unsalted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk (I used regular milk plus 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar)
1 egg

1/2 cup strawberry jam
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1 Tbsp. sugar

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F.  Rub a baking sheet lightly with butter. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.

Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces and add them to the dry mixture. Use your hands to rub the butter between your fingers, breaking it into smaller bits. Continue rubbing until the butter is in sizes ranging from rice grains to flattened peas. The more quickly you do this, the more the butter will stay solid, which is important for the success of this recipe.

in a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg until thoroughly combined. Scrape the buttermilk and egg into the dry mixture, and mix until barely combined.

Use a pastry scraper or a spatula to transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface. The dough may be too sticky to handle; if it is, dust it with flour and fold it together a few times. Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Flour your hands and pat each piece of dough into a disk about 3/4 inch thick and 7 inches in diameter.

Cover one disk with the jam. Top the spread with the other disk and press down gently so that the dough settles into the jam. Brush the dough lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Use a sharp knife to slice the circle into 8 triangular wedges, like a pie. Carefully place the wedges on the baking sheet, leaving a few inches between them.

Bake the scones for 22 to 26 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. The scones are ready when their tops are golden brown and some of the jam has bubbled over onto the pan. To keep the scones from sticking to the pan, slide a thin spatula underneath them while they’re still warm and move them to a baking rack. The scones are best eaten warm from the oven or later that same day.

Makes 8.

NOTE: I like to use parchment paper to line my baking sheet as it prevents the jam from making a mess, and it is easy to “unstick” the scones.

Weekend Fare: Easter Brunch

I love holidays and Easter is the one I most often host for my great big family! Planning the menu, setting the table, designing the favors/placecards, and then actually cooking are all so fun for me.


For the past couple of years, I have done an Easter brunch with ham as the centerpiece. I’m always looking for an excuse to serve brunch. Unfortunately, I’m not hosting this year since we are still living in a hotel from the smoke damage a couple of weeks ago. We are making the best of it and I will still be helping with some of the cooking at my parent’s house and I’m planning to do the favors. Anyway, here are a few recipes that we enjoy for a special brunch.

I often use asparagus and tomatoes with a balsamic vinaigrette so I’m posting two version of this recipe but only have one photo. These are both beautiful with lots of color!


MARINATED VEGETABLE SALAD
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1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch asparagus, blanched and sliced into 1 inch pieces
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
1 english (seedless) cucumber, sliced or diced
Italian dressing (you can buy this or make your own)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine all vegetables in a pretty serving dish. Season with salt & pepper. Dress with Italian dressing and toss. Allow salad to marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serves 8 or so.

TOMATO ASPARAGUS SALAD
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2 bunches asparagus, blanched and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 pints tomatoes (I use cut up campari or romas, cherry, and sometimes yellow pear)
salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Combine tomato and aspargus. Season with salt & pepper. Dress with twice as much olive oil as balsamic vinegar (or you can purchase a Balsamic Vinaigrette (Newman’s Own is excellent). Toss to coat. Makes 8 servings or so.

These tiered platters make fruit presentation gorgeous! For Easter, I would add strawberries even though it’s a little early for them, I love that they remind me of spring! You can use whatever seasonal fruits you want. Arrange them on a platter and serve with this simple dip.


GREEK YOGURT FRUIT DIP
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1 – 16 oz container plain greek yogurt
1/4. honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients. You can add more honey if you prefer it sweeter. Serve with fresh fruit.

I made these blueberry lemon scones and they were delicious! They are also beautiful! Lemon is another spring-y flavor to me. So these would be an excellent brunch addition.


BLUEBERRY LEMON SCONES

(adapted from food network)
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2 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tb. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tb. sugar
5 Tb. unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
1 c. heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones
1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
1 Tb. fresh lemon zest

Lemon Glaze
1/2 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 c. confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 lemon, zest finely grated
1 Tb. butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Sift together the dry ingredients. Using 2 knives or a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with the flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Stir in the lemon zest. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough. Fold the blueberries into the batter. Take care not to mash or bruise the blueberries because their strong color will bleed into the dough.

Press the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 12 by 3 by 1 1/4 inches. Cut the rectangle in 1/2 then cut the pieces in 1/2 again, giving you 4 (3-inch) squares. Cut the squares in 1/2 on a diagonal to give you the classic triangle shape. Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with a little heavy cream. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until beautiful and brown. Let the scones cool a bit before you apply the glaze.

For the glaze, combine the lemon juice, sugar, zest, and melted butter. Whisk to incorporate and remove any lumps. Drizzle on warm scones.

Tea Time: Orange Whole-Wheat Scones

This time of year is when we want something warm and comforting, but also healthy, having just come out of the abundance of the holiday season. Orange Whole-Wheat Scones fit the bill, providing the comfort of a warm scone with the assurance that the whole-wheat and honey are doing your body good, not evil. To make your tea-time even healthier, consider drinking an herbal tea such as Orange Spice, or perhaps some decaf Constant Comment.

ORANGE WHOLE-WHEAT SCONES
(originally from The Kitchen of Two Sisters)

2 ½ c. whole wheat pastry flour (preferrably ground fresh, but store-bought whole-wheat flour will do)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ c. butter
2 Tbsp. honey (or try agave nectar)
¼ c. orange juice
2 tsp. grated orange rind
¼ c. milk

Preheat oven to 400F. Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in butter and rub in with fingers until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine wet ingredients and add to flour mixture, mixing lightly to combine. If dough feels too wet, add just a bit more flour. Knead dough lightly and pat out on a flat surface. Cut rounds or triangles.

Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes.

Makes 12.