In the mood for a Good Night’s Sleep!

Isn’t is ironic that insomnia is so common in 40 something gals like me?   I have no exams to pull an all-nighter for, no babies to feed every 2 hours, absolutely no reason to be productive at 2 am, and yet I find myself wide awake at that ungodly hour.

I suppose I could try one of the popular sleep aids, or as The New York Times  called them last Sunday,  “mother’s little helper of the new millennium“.  But I am entirely convinced that I would be the one out of a thousand people who would fall victim to the dreaded SRED (sleep related eating disorder).  I can see it now…. my jeans start to feel tight so I hook up a web cam in the kitchen and am horrified to discover that every night I creep into the kitchen and stand at the open refrigerator in a trance, eating whole packages of cookie dough and chugging half and half from the carton.  When they invent a sleep aid that has the potential side effort of causing sleep-running on treadmills, I’ll be all over it.

 

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Let sleeping children lie….unless they might fall down the stairs.

 

 

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Running on empty…

 

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The Slumbering Superhero (note candy wrappers)

 

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The not-so-vigilant vigilante

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“You can make me go to bed but you can’t make me sleep!”

 

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

Another wonderful recipe from Glamour’s Gourmet on the Run.  It’s a collection that never fails me.  I usually end up with 11 muffins instead of 12 because I like to fill the cups at least 3/4 full.

1 cup boiling water
2/3 cup oatmeal (not instant)
4 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
 
Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 12 cup muffin tin or line tin with cupcake papers. In small bowl, stir together boiling water, oatmeal and butter.  Set aside and let stand for 20 minutes.  In a large bowl combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Add chocolate pieces and stir.  Beat eggs and vanilla into oatmeal.  Stir oatmeal mixture into dry ingredients just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy, do not over mix)  Spoon into muffin cups.  Bake 20 minutes or until tops are golden.

Meanwhile, maybe I’ll just use these photographs of my sweet children and their amazing capacity for peaceful slumber as inspiration.  On the other hand, I think I’ll just pop into the kitchen and get the ingredients together for these Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins….they will be a lovely treat to wake up to.

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In the mood for a Tea Party, Southern Style!

  Although you never need an excuse to have a tea party, this one has a special purpose.  The folks atFoodbuzz have joined forces with Kelly Confidential  to raise money for The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and are donating $50 for every tea party posted today.  And on Friday, these tea parties will be the subject of a Foodbuzz “Top 9 Takeover”!  Fun stuff… and all for a very important cause.  You too can help raise money by going to Kelly Confidential and simply voting for an outfit for Kelly to wear to her “virtual tea party”.
So welcome to my tea party….southern style!
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 A southern style tea party needs iced sweet tea, of course!
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Pimento Cheese, Tomato and Chive Finger Sandwiches

Two of the South’s favorite sandwiches in one.  How can something so simple be so sublime?  When I was little, I used to pick the slivers of red pimento out of my pimento cheese sandwich so I appreciated the version that my Aunt Caroline made in a blender.  My version uses mild yellow cheddar and those wonderful sweet fire roasted red peppers that you find in a jar.  And although I no longer have an aversion to colorful specks in my food, I still like to blend my pimento cheese.  It just seems to take that lovely pimento flavor all throughout the spread.
For the pimento cheese:
1/3 pound mild cheddar
2 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
several strips of roasted sweet red bell peppers (I use the equivalent of 1/2 of a med. red pepper)
Blend ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding more mayo if needed to get to a nice consistency for spreading.
For the sandwiches:
Very Thin White Sandwich Bread (I use Pepperidge Farm)
mayonnaise
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced very thinly
1 bunch fresh chives, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Stack the bread and trim it so that each piece is approximately 3×3 inches.  To construct a sandwich, spread one slice of bread with mayonnaise and top with one or two slices of tomato.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spread pimento cheese on second slice of bread and set that on top of the tomato.  Top with a third slice of bread and press slightly.  Wrap sandwich in plastic wrap until all sandwiches are assembled and you are ready to set your tray.
To serve:  Cut each sandwich twice on the diagonal to create 4 equal triangles.  Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise onto the long end, the “uncut” side, of the triangle and gently press this side into your minced fresh chives.  Repeat with remaining sandwiches and arrange on a platter.
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Brown Sugar Shortbreads with Smashed Blackberries and Sweet Cream

Slightly sweet flaky biscuits slathered with smashed fresh blackberries and whipped cream…a southern take on the traditional British scones with jam and clotted cream.
For the shortbread:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1 cup heavy cream, plus 2 tablespoons for brushing tops of biscuits
coarse brown sugar for sprinkling (such as Sugar in the Raw or Demerara Sugar)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder sugar and salt.  Cut cold butter into small pieces and toss into the flour.  Then, with a pastry knife, two table knives, or your fingers, blend butter into flour mixture until it is the consistency of coarse crumbs.  Add the cream and stir quickly with a fork until flour is just moistened (do not over work the dough) then turn it onto a lightly floured surface and pat it gently to a thickness of about 1/2 inch.  Use a 2 inch round cookie cutter to cut out shortbreads and place them 1 inch apart onto baking sheet.  Brush with additional heavy cream and sprinkle generously with coarse brown sugar.  Bake 12-14 minutes or until puffed and just lightly brown.  Remove from oven and cool.
For the berries and cream:
1 pint fresh blackberries
3/4 cup heavy cream
sugar to taste
Wash the blackberries (don’t dry) then toss them with a tablespoon of sugar (or more, to taste).  Using a table fork, smash berries, leaving some whole until you get a nice chunky jam-like consistency.
Whip cream with a couple of teaspoons of sugar (once again, you can use more if you like).  With this amount of cream, I prefer to whip it by hand with a whisk.  It only takes a few minutes and is good exercise…at least for one arm!
Serve and shortbreads with the smashed berries and cream.
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 Hush Puppy and Deviled Crab Bites

 There is nothing dainty about the flavor of this little treat.  Crispy hush puppies, hollowed out slightly and filled with a cool and creamy crab salad.
1 package frozen hush puppies  (I use Savannah Classics original recipe)
8 ounces jumbo lump crab meat, picked over for shell fragments
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon coarse grain Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley leaves for garnish
Prepare hush puppies according to directions on package.  Let cool slightly then cut top 1/3 off of each hush puppy and remove some of the interior to make room for a nice portion of crab meat.  You may also want to take a tiny sliver from the bottom of each hush puppy so that the finished product will stay level on a serving tray instead of rolling about.
In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and horseradish.  Gently stir in crab until it is well coated then taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, fill hush puppies with crab salad and top each with a fresh parsley leaf.

In the mood for Holiday Food Gifts!

I grew up in a household that was absolutely showered with food gifts during the holidays.  My father’s career in the food business guaranteed almost daily UPS and FedEx deliveries, many packed in dry ice, between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We received luscious desserts, most only available to restaurant clients, chocolates and fresh nuts, coffees and teas, huge beef rib roasts, breads and pastries, cured meats and cheeses, and our favorite, the Bryan Family Christmas Ham.

These days, the only corporate gift that comes to my door is a lone tin of ginger thins from a certain banking institution.  Unfortunately, it often sits undisturbed in the pantry, only to be replaced by an identical, albeit fresher tin exactly 12 months later.  No… the gifts that show up at my door during the holidays are of the warm and personal variety….homemade food gifts.  Wonderful pies to eat right away or freeze for later, flaky breakfast pastries, delicate cookies dusted with powdered sugar, glazed pecans and walnuts and homemade jams are just some of the treats that we have been blessed with in recent years.

Here are three food gifts that you might consider making this year.

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Toffee Sauce For Ice Cream

This is a great food gift for three reasons:
1.  You can multiply the recipe as needed to make big batches of sauce.
2.  The sauce will keep for a week in the refrigerator, and travels well.
3.  This is one of the best ice cream sauces you will ever taste.
Combine in a medium saucepan:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup evaporated milk (Pet or Carnation….not condensed milk!)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup light Karo syrup
dash of salt
Bring to a boil over low heat.  Boil one minute the remove from the heat and stir in:
1/2 cup chopped chocolate covered toffee bars (Heath or Skor Bars)
Let cool then refrigerate.
At this point, I like to add another handful of chopped candy to the sauce to add a bit of crunch since the candy you added earlier will have melted to become part of the sauce.  Or you could wait and sprinkle the extra candy over the ice cream when serving as shown below.  This recipe fills one medium sized jar, as shown in the photo above, and will easily serve 6-8.
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Cinnamon Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Toasted Pecan Filling

 
Possibly one of the best coffee cakes I’ve ever had and most definitely the best coffee cake that I have ever made.  A very special gift for someone during the holidays that will keep wrapped, at room temperature, for up to 5 days.  I’m copying and pasting the recipe straight from Fine Cooking because I didn’t change a thing and I don’t want to make a mistake in the precise baking measurements.  Note: If you don’t have superfine sugar, just make some by running sugar, before you measure of course, through the food processor until it is as fine as sand.
1 Tbs. softened unsalted butter
For the Streusel Topping
2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter
3 oz. (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
2 Tbs. light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. table salt
For the Filling
1 cup toasted pecans
3 Tbs. granulated sugar
3 Tbs. light brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. Dutch-processed or natural cocoa powder
For the Cake
11-1/4 oz. (3 cups) sifted cake flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. table salt
10 oz. (1-1/4 cups) unsalted butter, slightly softened
11-1/2 oz. (1-2/3 cups) superfine sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
16 oz. (2 cups) sour cream
 

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F (325°F if using a dark nonstick pan). Generously butter a 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom.
Make the topping: In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until almost melted. Remove from the heat and cool to tepid. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, pecans, both sugars, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt and stir with a fork. Add the flour mixture to the butter and stir until evenly moistened and crumbly.
Make the filling: In a food processor, pulse the pecans, both sugars, cinnamon, and cocoa 4 to 6 times to combine and chop the pecans.
Make the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sugar slowly, beating until combined. Scrape the bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending each one completely before adding the next. Scrape the bowl and blend in the vanilla. On low speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the sour cream, adding the flour in four parts and the sour cream in three parts, beginning and ending with the flour, and scraping the bowl as needed.
Layer and marble the batter and filling: Spoon 2 generous cups of the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth with the back of a soupspoonsoupspoon.
Top and bake the cake: Take a handful of the streusel crumbs and squeeze firmly to form a large mass. Break up the mass into smaller clumps, distributing the streusel evenly over the batter. Repeat with the remaining streusel. Press the streusel lightly into the surface of the cake. Bake until the top of the cake is golden brown, the sides are beginning to pull away from the pan, and a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 70 to 75 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least an hour before removing from the pan.

This cake keeps at room temperature, well wrapped or under a cake dome, for up to 5 days; you can freeze it for up to 3 months.

From Fine Cooking 96, pp. 70p
October 22, 2008
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Peppermint Pretzels 

You won’t really need a recipe for these addictive treats….like peppermint bark but with a salty crunchy bite.  Just buy more white chocolate than you think that you will need if you want to coat the pretzels as thickly as I did. (For example, it took 3 Ghiradelli bars to cover 12 large pretzels.)
All you need:
white chocolate
 shortening
hard peppermint candies or candy canes, finely crushed (food processor make quick work of this)
pretzels
wax paper
Melt the white chocolate slowly in a double boiler or as I do, in a stainless steel bowl set over a medium saucepan of simmering water.  Stir in just enough shortening to make the consistency thin enough for dipping.  (Start with one tablespoon and add more by teaspoons if necessary) Dip pretzels (I use a wooden or metal skewer to make dipping easier) and set on wax paper.  Sprinkle with crushed peppermints and let dry at room temperature until firm.  Although chocolate will firm up quicker in the refrigerator, I find that it makes the crushed candy sticky, so I recommend taking the time to let it set at room temp before storing.
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In the mood for Baking with Apples!

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“With an apple, I will astonish Paris!” Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) Still Life with Apples

 

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“There’s small choice in rotten apples.” The Taming of the Shrew William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

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“Comfort me with Apples, for I am sick of love.” Song of Solomon 2:5

 

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Apple Crumb Nut Muffins

This recipe comes from The Muffin Lady, Muffins, Cupcakes, and Quick Breads for the Happy Soul, by Linda Fisher.
Linda has an interesting story… divorced and struggling to provide for her young son, she adapted her mothers pancake recipe into a muffin batter and began baking muffins and selling them out of her red Radio Flyer wagon on the sidewalks of Westminster, Maryland.  But soon the Health Department intervened, telling her that would have to stop as she did not have a department approved commercial kitchen.  Fortunately, the local community came together to support “The Muffin Lady” and the fire department offered her the use of their government approved kitchen.
Concerning baking with apples, she says, “Apples have a flavor, but they need some seasoning when they are baked.  Cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves are key spices with apple, pumpkin, and other autumn fruits.  Summer fruits don’t need them because they tend to be pungent enough on their own.”
These muffins are a great example of this as the moist base is just softly flavored with the fresh apples and the sweet, spiced, crunchy topping provides the complimentary flavor and texture.
I think the flavor of these muffins improves with time so try to make them a bit ahead of time. They easily keep for several days.
 
Streusel Topping
 
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup flour
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
Mix all of the dry ingredients except the nuts.  Cut the butter into the mix using your hands to break into large chunks.  Mix by hand until small balls form,  Toss the nuts lightly into the mix.
For the muffins:
2 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored and small diced (about 3 cups)
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sift together the dry ingredients,  Make a well in the center.  Blend in the eggs, milk, butter, vanilla and oil.  Fold in the apples.  Spoon the batter into a wax paper lined muffin pan, filling cups almost to the top.  Top with streusel and bake until light golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.   Baking time will be 25-40 minutes depending on size of muffin tin.  Makes 12 (4-ounce muffins) or 6 (8-ounce muffins.)
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All American Apple Turnovers

I love making these turnovers.  It is best to use a combination of apples in your filling to create the best texture and flavor.  Try a combo of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious, Rome or Jonathans.  Just make sure they are of the firm, cooking apple variety.  These are amazing fresh out of the oven so for entertaining, get them all ready and keep them in the refrigerator, ready to bake.  They are still good the day after baking but you will find the pasty to be softer and less flaky.  The recipe comes from Gourmet Magazine.
 
First, make the dough and chill:
 
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch slices
4 ounces cold cream cheese, pinched into small pieces
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
3-4 tablespoons ice water
In a food processor, combine the 2 flours, sugar, and salt and process until blended.  Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse 10-12 times until the butter is coated with the flour and is the size of small peas.
Combine the egg yolk with 3 tablespoons of the ice water.  Pour this mixture through the feed tube and continue pulsing several times, until the dough just begins to clump together, but before it forms a ball on the blade.  (Use the remaining 1 tablespoon ice water if the dough seems too dry)
Using floured hands, pat the dough into a ball, then press it into a 4×6 inch rectangle, about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Dust the dough lightly with flour and wrap in wax paper.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
To make the turnovers:
 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large apples, peeled, cored and cut in 1/4 inch dice (3 cups)
1/2 cup apple cider, or unsweetened apple juice
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsweetened apple butter
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of ground allspice
cream cheese dough
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add 2 cups of the diced apples and cook, stirring frequently, until the begin to color, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the cider, sugar, lemon juice and salt. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook until the liquid is reduced and the apples appear almost dry but still retain their shape, about 5 minutes longer.  Remove the skillet from the heat and sir in the apple butter, lemon zest, cinnamon, cloves and allspice, along with the remaining cup of raw apples. Transfer the apple mixture to a medium bowl and refrigerate, uncovered, until cooled completely.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the cream cheese dough to an 18-20 inch rectangle, 1/16 inch thick.  Using a 6 inch plate or bowl as a guide, cut out eight rounds as close together as possible.  Gather and re-roll the dough then cut out 2 additional rounds.
Spoon the cooled apple filling on the lower half of each of the rounds.  Lightly moisten the edges of the rounds with water and fold the dough over the filling to form semicircular turnovers.  Press down on the edges to seal, first with your fingers and then with the times of a fork.  Using the back of a small knife, press into the sealed edges a 1/2 inch intervals to create a scalloped effect.   Transfer the turnovers to a heavy, parchment paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
Bake the turnovers in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes.  Move them to the upper rack and bake for 8-10 minutes longer, or until the pastry is a deep golden brown and he filling begins to bubble.  Let cool on a rack.
Drizzle with a confectioner’s sugar glaze if desired:
 
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanille
2 or more teaspoons water
Whisk together until glaze is a nice drizzling consistency  Transfer to a zip lock sandwich bag and snip off a tiny piece of one corner and use this to pipe the glaze onto the turnovers.
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Ina’s French Apple Tart with Cinnamon Ice Cream


Ina says that this just might be her favorite dessert and I just might agree.  I’ve made this a number of times and it is simply a perfect recipe.  You will find it in Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics. The only addition I made was to use a baking sheet with sides and wrap it in foil because the sugar and butter do burn on the pan , and sometimes in the oven, and create a bit of a mess to clean up.  I like to have this all ready and bake it during dinner because it is to die for warm out of the oven.  Amazing, it stays crisp and if there are leftovers, they usually disappear around breakfast time the next morning. (Wish I had gotten a photo of the whole tart but sometimes enjoyment cannot wait for photography!)


For the pastry
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
12 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup ice water
For the apples
4 Granny Smith Apples
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, small diced
1/2 cup apricot jelly or sieved apricot jam

2 tablespoons water

For the pastry, place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Pulse for a few seconds to combine,  Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas.  With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together.  Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the open to 400 degrees.  Wrap a jelly roll pan with foil then line with parchment paper. (this will help with the cleanup)

Roll the dough slightly larger than 10×14 inches.  Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges.  Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.

Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem.  Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baller.  Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4 inch thick slices.  Lay overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices.  Sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup sugar and dot with the butter.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking.  If the pastry puffs us in one area,cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out.  Don’t worry!  The apple juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine!  When that tart is done, heat the apricot jelly together with the water and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture.  Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so tit doesn’t stick to the paper.  Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Serve with cinnamon ice cream or gelato, or vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon.

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In the mood for Cinnamon!

10 reasons to eat cinnamon

(according to the website, Healthdiaries.com)

 
1.  It can help lower cholesterol
2.  It can help regulate blood sugar
3.  It can relieve arthritis
4.  It is a natural food preservative
5.  It can boost cognitive function and memory
6.  It has an anti clotting effect.
7.  It can cure yeast infections.
8.  It can fight e coli infection.
9.  It has been shown to fight leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.
10.  It is a good source of manganese, fiber, iron and calcium.
OK OK, I know that in the recipes below, I have mixed this miracle spice with a lot of other ingredients that may counteract some of these benefits but I prefer to focus on the positive and eat cinnamon as much as possible.
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Cinnamon Baked Fruit

This brilliant dessert is a bit like a cobbler. 
The ginger cookies not only made it quick and easy, they, along with the cinnamon, give it an amazing aroma and flavor.  Use the thick crunchy ginger cookies, not the super thin type.  Any fruit that bakes well would work in this recipe.  It was inspired by one published in the UK magazine, Delicious.
3 ripe peaches, roughly chopped
1 banana, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and quartered
3/4 cup coarsely broken ginger cookies, plus 2-3 more cookies finely crushed for garnish
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
butter for coating the baking dishes
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place the fruit, ginger cookies, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and mix together gently.  Butter 4 shallow baking dishes lightly, divide the fruit mixture among them and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until fruit is bubbling around the edges.  Cool slightly and serve warm with vanilla ice cream, dusted with cinnamon and a sprinkle of finely crushed ginger cookies.  
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Cinnamon Scones

This is probably my most requested recipe and yet I hesitate to post it.  Not because it is a closely guarded secret but rather because the cinnamon chips have recently become so darned hard to find.  I use the Hershey’s Cinnamon Chips and in the last year or two they have disappeared from the shelves.  You can order them online, of course, or there is a similar product available on the King Arthur Baking website.  Otherwise, keep yours eyes open…I found them this week at Sunset Foods in Lake Forest, IL.  
 
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups cinnamon chips
1 cup heavy cream
 
For glaze:  whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar with a light sprinkle of cinnamon and just enough milk (it will only take a tablespoon or two) to get a consistency that you can drizzle with a fork. 


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Cut in the cutter with a pastry knife until mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  (alternately, you can mix the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers)  Stir in the cinnamon chips and make a well in the center.  Stir in the heavy cream just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Take care not to overwork the dough and resist the urge to add more cream…it is OK if the dough is crumbly.  On a lightly floured surface, gently pat the dough into a rectangle about 12 by 3 inches.  Cut the rectangle in half, then cut those pieces in half again, which will give you 4 squares.  Cut each square twice diagonally to get 4 triangles from each.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or so, until edges are just turning golden.  Cool on a wire rack and use a table fork to glaze with confectioners sugar glaze.  Let glaze dry and serve.
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Snickerdoodles



One of my children once said, “It’s hard to be in a bad mood when there are Snickerdoodles in the house!” Like the best sugar cookie but with so much more personality.  I don’t usually like to cook with shortening but I make an exception for these cookies…it’s for the texture…crisp yet chewy.  This is a recipe from Baking Illustrated.  Hints for getting the best results: use parchment paper, try to make the cookies uniform in size, bake until just starting to brown around the edged and no more… the centers will be soft and puffy but will collapse back down and set as they are cooling.

2¼ cups (11¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool
¼ cup vegetable shortening
1½ cups (10½ ounces) granulated sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for rolling dough
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, for rolling dough
Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions.  Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt; set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening and 1½ cups sugar on medium speed until well combined, 1 to 1½ minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and beat again until combined, about 30 seconds.  Add in the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 20 seconds.
In a small, shallow bowl, combine the 3 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon for rolling the dough.  Stir well to combine.  Working with a heaping tablespoon of dough each time, roll the dough into 1 inch balls  Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place them on the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
Bake until the edges of the cookies are beginning to set and the center are soft and puffy, 9-11 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets 2-3 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

In the mood for Bananas!

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Individual Vanilla Bean Banana Puddings

serves 4
As much as I love banana pudding, I never served it until I figured out how to make it a bit more elegant.  Real vanilla beans and brown sugar take it to a new level and serving it in individual portions is key.  This is the perfect make-ahead dessert.
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold, unsalted butter
3 bananas (2 diced and 1 sliced)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
mini Nilla Wafers
Heat milk and vanilla bean in small saucepan.  As soon as it reaches a boil, remove from heat and set aside to let the vanilla bean infuse the milk.
     Whisk egg yolks and brown sugar together until fluffy.  Add cornstarch and whisk until smooth.  Remove vanilla bean from warm milk and discard.  Whisk 1/4 of the hot milk into egg mixture until incorporated.  Then whisk in the remaining milk.  Strain this mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until pudding is thick and starting to boil slowly.  Remove from heat and stir in the butter.
Dice 2 of the bananas (about 1/4 inch) and stir into the pudding.  Fill individual ramekins about half full then add a layer of mini Nilla Wafers.  Add pudding to reach the rim of the ramekin.  Cover each ramekin with plastic wrap, pressing wrap to make contact with pudding and refrigerate until cold.  Whip the cream with the confectioner’s sugar.  To serve, garnish puddings with banana slices, a dollop of whipped cream and a mini Nilla Wafer, if desired.
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Banana Muffins

 

I’ve made countless batches of banana muffins over the years and this one is my current favorite.  It is adapted from Sara Foster’s Banana Nut Muffin recipe in her book Fresh Every Day.  I like to put the pecans on top because they get nice and toasty and keep their crunch.  And, this also makes it easier if you want to make a batch of muffins, half with nuts and half without.
 
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 over ripe bananas
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecans, broken into pieces
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a muffin tin with paper liners and lightly grease the top of the pan.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, nutmeg and salt.  In a separate bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, bananas, sour cream and vanilla and stir until the flour is just incorporated…do not over mix.  Fill the muffin tins until batter is just below the top of the paper liner.  Cover batter with broken pecan pieces and bake 25-30 minutes.  To test for doneness, I gently touch the top center of a muffin…it should spring back lightly.
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Strawberry Banana Crunch

 

When I was trying to decide upon a third banana recipe to add to this post, I suddenly remembered a treat from long ago, when I was in school in Memphis, TN.  The Squash Blossom was a health food store that had soft serve frozen yogurt and this combination of strawberry frozen yogurt, fresh banana slices and granola was my absolute favorite.  This was frozen yogurt that tasted like yogurt…not like fake ice cream.  So I set out to recreate it and was not surprised to find that I still love it.  The frozen yogurt is tart, the bananas sweet and creamy, and the granola adds the perfect crunch. I’m sure that The Squash Blossom had a clever name for this treat but I can’t remember it and they closed years ago.  Here are recipes for an amazing strawberry frozen yogurt and a yummy, easy granola… but don’t forget the bananas!
Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
This is Jeni Britton’s recipe from Food and Wine magazine, June 2008
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
One 1/4-ounce package unflavored powdered gelatin
12 ounces strawberries, hulled
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1/2 cup heavy cream
 
Fill a large bowl with ice water. Pour the lemon juice into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin on top; let stand for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a blender, puree the strawberries until smooth; you should have about 1 cup of strawberry puree.
In a small saucepan, combine the strawberry puree with the sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat until the sugar dissolves completely, about 1 minute. Remove the strawberry mixture from the heat and stir in the lemon gelatin until it melts.
In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt with the lemon zest and the hot strawberry puree. Stir in the heavy cream. Set the bowl in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until the strawberry yogurt is cold, about 20 minutes.
Pour the strawberry yogurt into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Pack the frozen yogurt into a plastic container. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the frozen yogurt and close with an airtight lid. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.
 
 
Vanilla Scented Granola
This recipe was published in Bon Appetit in March of 2002.
 
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
4 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
 
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Lightly spray large baking sheet with nonstick spray.  Mix next 5 ingredients in large bowl. Combine oil, honey, and sugar in small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Pour hot liquid over oat mixture and stir well.  Using hands, toss mixture until thoroughly mixed.  Spread granola on baking sheet,  Bake until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.  Cool completely.  Store in airtight container at room temp.
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In the mood for Blueberries!

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Remember the book, Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey? “Little Sal picked three berries and dropped them in her little tin pail…kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk! She picked three more berries and ate them. Then she picked more berries and dropped one in the pail – kuplunk! And the rest she ate.” Well, that’s obviously the best way to enjoy fresh blueberries. But here are the three that tie for second place.

Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze

(makes 8 large or 16 small scones)

This is basically Tyler Florence’s recipe from his book Real Kitchen. I’ve made these so many times that I have just tweaked the mixing and shaping method a little bit and simplified the glaze. Once you get the hang of it, you can whip these up in just 15 minutes or so.

2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into chunks
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
a couple of tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Using 2 forks, or a pastry knife, or even your fingers, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like coarse crumbs.
Add the blueberries and toss gently distribute them. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the cream. Now gently fold everything together to incorporate. This is important: don’t overwork the dough or crush the blueberries. You are just trying to moisten the flour mixture so that it will hold together a bit. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently press dough into an 8-inch square. Don’t be concerned if the dough is barely holding together. Use a large knife to cut the square into four smaller squares. Cut each of these on the diagonal, either once or twice, depending on whether you want 8 large or 16 small scones. Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Let cool for a bit before you apply the glaze…otherwise it will just melt off.

For the glaze: sift confectioners sugar into medium bowl and whisk in lemon juice a bit at a time until you get a nice consistency that you can use to drizzle over the scones. (A fork works nicely for glazing.) Let the glaze dry for a few minutes before serving.

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Photo shoot supervisor!

Little Lemon-Blueberry Tarts

(makes 24)

IMG_7920This is my own fancied up version of the Lemon Ice Box Pie that I grew up with in Mississippi.


1 package Pepperidge Farm Chessmen Shortbread cookies
3 Tablespoons melted butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 large egg yolks
4-5 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
I cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
72 big fat juicy fresh blueberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.To make the crusts: You will need a nonstick 24 count mini muffin pan. These come in several different shapes and sizes. I prefer the more wider and more shallow muffin tins but this recipe will work with whatever shaped pan you have. (However, a nonstick pan is a must.) Process shortbread cookies and melted butter in Cuisinart until finely ground. Press about one heaping teaspoon into each mini muffin well, (amount may vary based on the shape of your muffin tins) making sure to cover the bottom and bringing the crumbs at least halfway up the sides. You can use your fingers for this or the bottom of a little shot glass can help speed up this step.

For the filling: Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, the egg yolks and 4 Tablespoons of the lemon juice. Taste and add extra lemon juice if needed. Stir well. Fill tart shells with filling. Once again, the exact amount for each tart will vary depending on the size of your muffin tin. Just make sure that the filling just barely reaches the top of your crumb crusts. Bake for approximately 10 minutes. Look for the filling to be a bit puffed up and obviously hot throughout, but you are not waiting for the tops to be browned. Cool tarts for 15 minutes then put the whole pan, uncovered, into the refrigerator to cool thoroughly for several hours.

Whip the cream and the confectioners sugar until it can hold a gentle peak. Wash and dry the blueberries.

When the tarts are completely cold, use a little sharp knife to release the edges of each tart and then reach down with the tip of the knife to gently pop each tart out. Arrange tarts on a serving platter and finish each with a good dollop of whipped cream and three perfect blueberries.

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Blueberry Buckle

(Serves 6)

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This recipe is from Pure Flavor, by Kurt Beecher Dammeier. It is wonderfully moist coffee cake….perfect for breakfast, brunch or after school snack. You can store it in the fridge and warm slices in the microwave for 20-30 seconds.

TOPPING
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon grated lemon zest
pinch of table salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

BUCKLE

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoons table salt

2 cups fresh blueberries, (only if in season) or frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round baking pan.

Make the topping by combining the flour, sugar, lemon zest, and salt in a small bowl. Using a fork, cut the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, Set aside.
To make the buckle, use a hand held mixer or a stand mixer with the flat beater attachment. Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, scraping the bowl once or twice while mixing. Blend in the vanilla and lemon zest. Add the egg and mix on medium speed to combine, scraping the bowl once.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add the milk and the flour mixture alternately to the butter mixture, beating until smooth on medium to low speed after each addition. Pour the batter in to the prepared pan, top with the blueberries, and sprinkle with the topping.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the buckle.

The buckle will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. You can also wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it for up to 1 month.