Corn Muffins

For the last month, possibly more, we have been on the go. We have been going at an active, non-stop pace. We had my parents visiting, we celebrated a big anniversary, we took a trip from Amsterdam to Copenhagen, and once we were back in the states it was time for me to change the menu at work. So needless to say things have been just a tad bit busy. I woke up yesterday morning with a desire to do nothing! It was my day off - do you blame me? I was in a mood to do nothing more than watch back to back episodes of anything airing on the Investigate & Discovery Chanel. That is, nothing other than make a quick breakfast to munch on while I binge watch TV. I had a craving for corn muffins, and as I was whisking the ingredients together I realized I never shared a recipe for them on here. So that Is how I ended up here today.

muffins
muffins

In my opinion a great corn muffin uses real corn meal. No box mix or corn flour in this recipe; and yes, most corn meals are a bit gritty. That is why it is important for these muffins you use a finely ground corn meal. It imparts a great flavor without feeling mealy or harsh. The third of a cup of sugar in this recipe enhances the corn’s natural sweetness too. Plus, the balance of milk and butter in these muffins keep the texture of these muffins moist and light, without being heavy or dense. A perfect corn muffin.

So, while we lounged watching rerun episodes of Dateline, we enjoyed warm corn muffins. It was so indulgent and enjoyable. I sipped tea while spreading butter and jam across my corn muffin as we tried to guess who was guilty or had motive in each of the episodes, and munch some more. It was glorious! Corn Muffin perfection and real life crime stories. Maybe the TV shows are not for everyone, but I am sure these muffins are.

IMG_0016
IMG_0016

Corn Muffins (Makes 12)

1 cup corn meal (finely ground)

1 cup flour

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 tbsp baking powder

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup milk

3 oz butter, melted (plus more for the pan)

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. With a bit of extra butter, brush the inside of your muffing tin. You will need to butter at least a dozen of them.

Next, in a bowl place your flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk it together and set it aside. In another bowl, whisk together your egg, melted butter, vanilla, and milk until smooth. Add your dry ingredients. Lightly whisk it together until blended well. (You do not want to over mix this batter.)

Then, fill the buttered muffin pan evenly and place in the center of the oven. You are looking to bake your muffins about 20 - 25 minutes. You are looking for the muffins to be slightly golden, and lets a toothpick test cleanly when pierced.

Finally, remove from the oven and allow to cool at least 15 minutes before removing from pan. Serve and enjoy. (These are best when served warm.)

Almond Poppyseed Loaf

Let me be upfront here. Yes, I am a pastry chef. So, yes, I do spend my days melting chocolate, baking off cookies, crafting desserts, and producing sweet sauces; but I am not always baking and making sweets at home. Although, if you do look at my last few blog posts it may seem as though that is all I have been doing. Bananas Foster, Grapefruit Bunt Cake, Calas … Trust me there have been lots of savory natured things in between all of these. Yet, once again this post is of the sweet persuasion; but not tooth achingly sweet. This is just the right amount of sugary - almond - cake - loaf goodness. An Almond Poppyseed Loaf, to be exact. I was inspired to make this because of our most recent trip to New Jersey. While we were there I had this huge craving for a poppyseed cake. It is a very eastern european item and while growing up in Garfield, N.J. there were two different Polish bakeries we frequented that made them. The bakery version is more like a very sweet bread-like item that beholds a very moist poppy seed / almond flavored filling. One of the bakeries made it in a swirl, and the other made it like a stuffed loaf. I always loved it, and I can recall many evenings as a child sitting with my family snacking on this cake with tea while the adults talked.

Almond Poppyseed Loaf
Almond Poppyseed Loaf

When I was last in New Jersey I went to four different bakeries in search of a Poppyseed Cake. The first bakery was closed! The next bakery said they didn’t make any that day. The bakery after that one was closed too! (It was a Monday.) So I went into the Polish market around the corner from my parents home…no luck there either! I even wandered the isles looking for some sort of poppy seed / almond flavored like ingredients. My thought was if I could get my hands on anything like the filling I could attempt to make it on my own. I could not find any, just walked out of there with some kielbasa for my father-in-law and a beet salad for my husband and I to share. As we walked out I walked next door to a tiny bakery with only two cases. And there it was! Happily I purchased the cake and took it to my in-law’s home to share.

Low and behold this cake was a big disappointment! It was dense, had bits of candied citrus in it, and it possessed a very dry texture. It was totally missing the light and airy sweet bread with that moist gush of poppyseed and almond goodness. I nearly teared when I ate my slice. I was leaving the following day, there would be no poppyseed cake until my next visit back - but only if I am luckier than I was on this trip! While I was back home in Seattle I kept thinking about the flavors of that cake. I have to do a bit of research still on a recipe to master anything like the cake of my memory, but in the present I will have to settle on the Almond Poppyseed Loaf I created. The flavor profile hit very close to home, and the loaf had the loveliest texture and chew to it. I will admit I had two slices and another one the next day. I am grateful that Brian brought the remainder of this loaf in for his coworkers to try or I could have easily sat down and finished it while watching a Netflix marathon of any kind! I will report back in the future on a Poppyseed Cake, in the meantime this Almond Poppyseed Loaf will behold my heart.

IMG_0739
IMG_0739

Almond Poppyseed Loaf (Makes one 8 inch loaf)

8 oz butter, cut into small cubes, plus extra for greasing your pan

3 large eggs plus 3 large yolks

2 tsp Vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup flour, plus extra for flouring pan

1/2  tsp sea salt

2 tbsp poppyseed

1 1/4 cup sugar

7 oz almond paste, broken up into chunks

1/4-1/3 cup sliced almonds, optional

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease you loaf pan well and line it with parchment paper (I like to lay a long enough sheet of parchment paper into the pan so it covers the bottom of the pan, the sides, and has a bit of an overhang. This will help you lift the loaf out of the pan easily once it is cooled.) Flour the sides of the pan that is exposed.

Next, in the base of a food processor place your sugar and your almond paste and pulse until the almond paste is broken down and evenly distributed amongst the sugar.You want to be sure the almond paste is no longer in clumps, and as finely broken down as the sugar is. Also in a bowl whisk together your flour, sea salt, and poppyseed.

Then, in the bowl of a mixer place your butter along with your almond sugar mixture. Mix this until it is well combined and fluffy. Add the eggs and the yolk one at a time. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl while doing so. Once it is mixed cohesively and smooth, gently stir in the flour mixture. Mix until it is blended - but no further.

Finally, pour the batter into your prepared pan. Sprinkle the sliced almonds evenly over the top if using. Place on a sheet tray and then place in the center of your oven. Bake about an hour, rotating it half way though. Be sure to test the cake after an hour. This is a very rich and dense loaf, so you want to be sure that a tooth pick comes out clean once it is inserted for testing. Mine baked for about an hour and fifteen minutes, but it can vary from oven to oven. Remove from oven and let cool an hour before removing it from the pan. Slice and serve once cool but at room temperature. (Will store at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, for up to four days.)

Lemon and Vanilla Bean Eclairs - A special dessert for Brian.

Every year Brian and I celebrate the anniversary of our first date. Over the years it has become a somewhat of a tradition that I try to make him a special treat, meal, or dessert; this year I contemplated over what that thing should be. When you are with someone as long as we have been (twenty two years) this never gets easier. I always want it to be new…or different than the item I made in the years past. Brian enjoying a dinner out recently.This year I was off my game. I will admit that from the start. I knew I wanted to make him a dessert. I systematically debated in my head what and how it should be. I tossed around ideas on flavor combos.  Thought of how I could play around with the texture of a few more traditional desserts. I even contemplated what and how these items will be eaten and served. My mind may never be at rest when it comes to food, but that is just me. Finally, to end the rambling consideration in my head I turned to Brian and I asked: “What do you really look for when it comes to a dessert? What favor do you hear and say, Yes That is what I want to eat!!!” He responded with he usual: dark chocolate, creaminess, and I like things tart too! There it was, he said it and it struck a cord: creamy and tart.

I instantly envisioned an eclair cut length wise, with a layer of lemony tartness and topped with another layer of thick vanilla bean pastry cream. I would brush the tops of them with a light lemon sugar glaze. But these eclairs would be made miniature. Any dessert you can make is more fun and exciting to eat when it is made in miniature. It makes for more interaction and conversation to take place too.

Miniture Lemon and Vanilla Bean Eclairs, ready to be enjoyed.So the other day when I came home from work I whipped up some mini eclairs, about 4 dozen to be exact. While the pate choux (eclair batter) baked I stood over the stove and stirred my lemon curd and pastry cream, I patiently waited for them to thicken, before I strained and chilled them both. I had them both in the refrigerator chilling when Brian came home and saw the eclair shells on the dinning table. He asked what they were, and I could tell he was trying to resist popping one in his mouth. When I explained it was a surprise for after dinner he grinned. We sat and ate our dinner and cleaned up the kitchen.  When we were done we sat down with cups of tea and I started to fill the little eclairs and glaze them. He observed and asked why the special treat? As always I told him as many years we have been together - you and we deserve a special treat. And we feasted! Popping the little eclairs in our mouths in between sips of tea. We chatted about our day, our jobs, our dogs, and the planning of a future vacation. These little eclairs were zesty with tartness, and the vanilla bean pastry cream mellowed it out just a tad. Having made these in miniature it was a perfect balance of flavor and texture because you got a little bit of everything about this dessert in each bite.

As for twenty two years with Brian? It has been an adventure so far. We have lived together and separately in four different states - in two big cities - lived in separate states for months at a time - numerous apartments - owned a home - owned and ran two businesses - traveled abroad - taken road trips - and yes we are still together! We have taken many roads to get where we are, but that suits us just fine. Twenty two years is a long time, time well spent. We have just done it thus far with especially tasty food and desserts to accompany it all. Personally I think the layers of flavors in this dessert are much like the life we have experiences thus far. They are different but blend well for a delicious outcome.

Latte (our Lab) was admiring the eclairs, and wanted to they one with us.Zesty Lemon and Vanilla Bean Eclairs (yields 3 - 4 dozen)

***NOTE - the recipe for the Pate Choux make 3 - 4 dozen. The lemon curd and the pastry cream make way more then is needed in this recipe. You can cut those recipes in half if you like, but I like to do the full amount and store the remainder in my refrigerator and find other uses for them in the next couple of days. I always store the extra in air tight sealed containers.

Pate Choux (Eclair Dough)

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup of water

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup flour

4 eggs, plus one egg white

First, bring butter, sugar, salt, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat. Using a spoon or spatula, quickly stir in flour. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture pulls away from sides and a film forms on bottom of pan, about 3 minutes. It will make a sizzling noise, that is expected. But you are looking for the mixture to be all hydrated and in the form of ball or blob of dough.

Next, transfer the dough to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until slightly cooled, about 2 minutes or until you no longer see steam rising from the bowl and the bowl itself is cool to the touch. Raise speed to medium; add your whole eggs, 1 at a time, until a soft peak forms when batter is touched with your finger. If peak does not form, lightly beat remaining egg white, and mix it into batter a little at a time until it does.

Finally, have a pastry bag fitted with a tip no bigger than 1/2 in in diameter.  Have three baking sheets lined with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Fill the bag with the batter and pipe batter in strait lines no bigger than 2 - 2 1/2 inches long. Space them at least 2 inches apart. Place them in the oven and bake roughly 20 - 25 minutes depending on your oven. Your pate choux should have expanded and at least doubled or more in hight. Once it is golden brown and feels crisp it is ready to be pulled form the oven and cooled.

Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream (Makes about 1 quart)

2 1/4 cup whole milk

6 egg yolks

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup corn starch

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

First, In medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup milk, egg yolks, 1/3 cup sugar, and cornstarch.

Next, in a 4 quart pot place the remaining 1 3/4 cups milk along with the scraped seeds from vanilla bean; as well as the pod. Sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup sugar over, letting sugar sink undisturbed to bottom. Place the pan over moderate heat and bring to simmer without stirring.

Then, once the milk and vanilla bean mixture is at a simmer remove from the burner. Temper some of the hot milk mixture gradually into your yolk mixture - whisking it. Combine it all to your hot milk in the pot, and place over moderate heat. Cook it; whisking or stirring it (always to be sure you are touching the bottom of the pot with your whisk or spoon) constantly, until pastry cream simmers and thickens, about 1 minute.

Finally, remove you pot from heat, and strain into a bowl though a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps. Discard vanilla pod, and whisk cream until smooth. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of you pastry cream and refrigerate until chilled completely cold, about 4 hours. (Pastry cream can be made ahead and refrigerated, wrapped well with plastic wrap on surface, up to 5 days.)

Lemon Curd (about 1 quart)

1 1/4 fresh lemon juice

12 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

pinch of salt

8 oz unsalted butter, cold and cut up into 1 inch pieces

zest of 3 lemons

2 tbsp heavy cream

First, in a saute pan place your egg yolks and sugar and wis together. Add in the lemon juice and salt and whisk again. Place the butter in the pan and place the pan over medium low heat.

Next, while constantly stirring your mixture with a silicone spatula you will notice your butter begin to melt and mix into your lemon curd. It should begin to thicken not long after the butter melts.

Then, once your mixture is thick and coats the back of your spatula it is done cooking. It should be quite thick and no longer liquid like. Remove the pan from the heat pour the mixture and though a fine mesh strainer and into a bowl. Stir in the lemon zest and the heavy cream.

Finally, place plastic wrap directly over the curd and refrigerate until completely chilled (about 2 hours). Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Lemon Glaze

1 1/2 cup powder sugar

1/4 - 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

In a bowl place your powdered sugar, and with a fork stir in a little bit of lemon juice at a time. It will start out really thick and as you add more lemon juice it will losses up.

You are looking for the glaze to be thick enough that you can spread it on the eclair without dripping off. If you feel it is too thick and you used all the lemon juice you can sub in a teaspoon of water at a time until you reach your desired consistency.

Once the desired consistency is reached you can stir in the lemon zest. It is best to use this mixture immediately as it thickens as it sits.

Eclair Assembly

1. With a sharp knife, slice your eclair shells (Pate Choux) in half length wise, be sure you still have a flat bottom on one half.

2. Fill some of your lemon curd and your pastry cream in separate pastry bags and set aside.

3. Line your bottom half of your eclair shells on a tray. With your lemon curd, pipe a bit of curd to fill the bottom half.

4. Repeat this with your pastry cream, piping it over the top of the lemon curd. You are looking for both the curd and the pastry cream to be in two even layers.

5. Spread the tops of each eclair shell with the lemon glaze and rest the tops over the filled bottom halves. Chill until ready to eat, and best is made no longer than 6 - 4 hours before serving…they will get soggy the longer they sit prepared. Best to keep chilled until ready to eat!

Banana Buckwheat Muffins with Pecans

Our dog Latte woke me up early last Sunday. Her ear was itchy and it needed to be cleaned. She decided to let me know by pacing, panting, continually scratch, and shake her hear right next to my pillow. So I dragged my but out of bed, cleaned her ear while still half a sleep, and instead of going back to bed I camped out on the couch with her and turned on the TV. To my surprise a Mad Men marathon was on AMC. It no longer bothered me that I was up so early on a day off. Now I was a very happy girl; I sat in my PJ’s with Latte and indulged in one of the greatest time period television series ever. I have written on here before about my love for the show and making a “1960’s themed” dinner to celebrate the show with. Why do I love the show you might ask? There are so many reasons. It could be that it is simply beautifully written. It takes you back in time without really feeling “fictional” and it make you love such a flawed character like Don, the leading man. That is when you know there is good writing involved. I have not loved a character or writing like this since the Sopranos or Breaking Bad.

Mad Men, Muffins, and tea...a great Sunday morning.

While indulging myself in some Mad Men marathon time, my stomach started to growl. By now, I had walked the dogs during a commercial break and Brian was awake and zoned in on the marathon as well. I asked him what he would like to eat: waffles, pancakes, muffins? Brian’s response: Muffins!?! This was the perfect opportunity for some banana muffins made with buckwheat flour. I whipped up the muffins as fast as I could…I did not want to miss a moment of the marathon.

Muffins cooling, fresh out of the oven.

While the muffins were baking I heated our tea kettle, muffins and tea are perfect for a lazy Sunday morning. The apartment smelled wonderful as they baked and even more enticing as they cooled. As the series marathon was on its last episode of the morning we watched and nibbled on our warm moist muffins. We sipped our tea and basked in how good a lazy Sunday can be. Im so happy my Latte woke me up. If she didn’t I might have missed out on my Mad Men fix and not have had muffins!

Banana Buckwheat Muffin with Pecans - ready to be devoured.

Banana Buckwheat Muffins with Pecans (makes 16 muffins)

1 cup Buckwheat flour

1 cup AP flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

4 oz butter, melted

1 egg

1 cup of milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large bananas, very ripe & mashed

1 cup chopped toasted pecans

1 tbsp sugar (optional)

cupcake wrappers

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line your cupcake pan with your cupcake wrappers. In a bowl whisk together both your sugars, melted butter, egg, and vanilla until smooth.

Next, in a separate bowl add your flours, baking powder, and sea salt. Stir it all together. Gently mix the four into your sugar mixture. mix it all until well combined.

Then, fold in your banana and pecans. Once it is all well combined you can fill your cupcake wrappers up to 3/4 full. If you like you can sprinkle the top the the muffins with the reserved tablespoon of sugar.

Finally, place the muffins in the oven and bake about 18 - 25 minutes. You are looking for the muffin tops to be firm yet springy when tapped. Let them cool about 10 minuted before serving and enjoying. Will keep for up to four days at room temperature wrapped in plastic.

Double Chocolate Muffins with Fresh Cherries

Cherries are back in season.  Excuse me as I bow down to the cherry gods to give thanks for these perfect, little orbs of deliciousness. I wait all year for the cherries to show up at the local markets, and come down in price. As tempting as they may seem at first sight, the prices can be a bit crazy. So as soon as they come down to a somewhat moderate level I jump at the chance to bring them home and enjoy them. I picked up a few handfuls of cherries two weeks ago at the farmer’s market. Unfortunately, I ran short on time for what I had planned with them. When I came home from work ready to bake with them – Brian said he had tossed them in the compost that morning. They were as he explained: mushy and moldy. I am the only one to blame, but I was disappointed. I was planning on making muffins with them. Not just any muffin, but a double chocolate one with the cherries chopped and folded in.

Double Chocolate Muffins with Fresh Cherries

So the next day I went off to the market, and I picked up more cherries. I was determined. I was going to make those muffins! And I did! I melted down some chocolate with butter and buttermilk. The buttermilk was used to keep these muffins extra moist, and with just the right amount of chocolate these muffins were chocolaty without being overly sweet.  The contrast the fresh cherries bring an element of brightness along with a sweet sourness to the moist chocolate muffins.

After baking these up I must say, there were delicious, and impressive. Brian went back for seconds! I packed up the remainder and sent them to work with Brian, and when he came home he said they were a big hit. I can see why, I had to hold myself back after just one. I could have easily eaten three. These are a lightly sweet, and I can see them enjoyed with tea or coffee any time of day, but I really think they would be perfect gracing the table of a brunch. It would be the perfect little gratification to a menu of more breakfast like / savory items. I am so glad we will have at least a month or two of these perfect little fruits to enjoy. I’m sure you can find me making these again.

These muffins were delicious, and the fresh cherries were warm and extra tasty in them.

Double Chocolate Muffins with Fresh Cherries (makes 12)

*Note: this recipe will make 12 regular sized muffins. They make look a bit short in the picture, but that is only because I only had large muffin wrappers.

3 oz butter

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp of vanilla extract

7 oz bittersweet chocolate (70 %), chopped small

2 eggs

1 1/3 cup of AP flour

½ cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¾ tsp sea salt

1 ½ cup of cherries, pitted and chopped into quarters

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Using cupcake liners or wrappers, place them inside the cups of a muffin / cupcake pan and set aside.

Next, in a small sauce pan place your butter, buttermilk, vanilla, and 3 oz of your chocolate in the pan over medium heat. Stirring it constantly until the chocolate and butter have melted and are smooth. Remove from the heat, and let it cool slightly. Once cool whisk in eggs and set aside.

Then, in a bowl place your flour, cocoa, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Whisk it all together and then slowly add in your chocolate mixture until it is just combined. (Do not over mix, it will make the muffins tough and / or dry.) Once combined fold in the remainder of the chocolate (4 oz) and the chopped cherries until they are just barely mixed in.

Finally, divide the batter evenly among the lined pan and bake about 20 minutes, rotating it half way through. Test to be sure the muffins are done by inserting a sharp knife into the center of one or two. The knife should remove cleanly but a bit moist. Let the muffins cool about 10 minutes before removing from the pan and serving. Can be made a day ahead but best enjoyed within the day they are baked.

Savory Scones (with Goat Cheese, Dill, and Pistachios)

I am currently sitting in the airport, awaiting my flight. Unfortunately, I have been waiting quite a while. Runway construction at our destination is limiting the amount of aircrafts to land at the moment leaving us all to sit and wait….and wait. I have exhausted my Facebook scanning, Instagram picture looking, and reading the news. I don’t really want to crack into the magazines I have brought with me, because what will I read on my flight? Then I remembered I had a recipe to share on here. Recently, again time had gotten away from me to let me sit down and write- but this is as good a time as any. Freshly baked Savory Scones cooling on my window sill before dinner.

I was making dinner the other night and in an effort to keep it light and make use of what I had in the refrigerator I decided to make a savory scone along with a salad. The salad was just greens and carrots, simply dressed; but it was the savory scone I felt was worthy of telling you all about. I had buttermilk and goat cheese I wanted to make use of before they expired so a scone seemed like a logical way to go. I know I could have made a buttermilk dressing and crumbled goat cheese over the top of the salad, but where it the fun in that? One of the things I enjoy most is opening up the refrigerator and pantry and figuring out the challenge that waits me.

Scones after being brushed with buttermilk, awaiting their baking.

According to Brian, I make damn good scones and biscuits. There really is not much difference between a scone and a biscuit. Yes, there are a variety of recipes out there so to some I can see how you might disagree in that statement. I have seen recipes use anything from baking leavners, yeast, and starters. There are different grades of flour, liquids, and fats that can be used. In all the varieties the base of the recipe is always the same- you cut your fat into your flour and then moisten it with a liquid. In my opinion it is how you treat them while doing this that will result you in having a terrific final product. I find that keeping you fat (in this case butter) ice cold and using a food processor to cut it through your flour is best. Placing it all in a bowl and tossing with your hands while adding in your liquid is best. It is this way the mixture can be handled as delicately as you wish along with being sure it all gets hydrated with your liquid evenly. After mixing it by hand I sprinkled the crumbled goat cheese over it all along with some chopped fresh dill, and pistachios. My savory scones were just about on their way.

After patting out the dough, cutting them into their desired size and shapes they were almost done. I brush the tops of them with some buttermilk and placed them in the oven to bake. As they baked the wonderful aroma filled our apartment of butter and dill. Once they were done we sat down with our salad and savory scones. The bits of goat cheese had melted and settled nicely among the light layers of the scones. It was a delicate flavor and the bits of cheese, dill, and pistachios were a nice compliment to the salad. I will admit that I indulged in one with some quince preserve spread across it as well. These scones were so delicious I was afraid I would eat them all. So Brian and I packed up the majority of the leftovers and took them to work with us to share. They were devoured and enjoyed by others and that makes me happy. Feeding others something as delicious as these makes me smile and my waistline happy. Otherwise they would have all ended up in my mouth over time.

Savory Scone...dinner is served!

Savory Scone (about 16 - 18 scones)

*Note: the amount of scones you make can vary depending on the sizing that you cut them into shape. You can easily make these smaller or thinner for your liking, although you will have to adjust your cooking time accordingly.

1 pound of butter, cold and cut into small pieces

4 ½ cps AP flour

1 tsp sea salt

2 tbsp baking powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp sugar

1 ½ cups buttermilk

¼ cup chopped fresh dill

4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

½ cup pistachios, roughly chopped

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In the bowl of a food processors (fitted with a dough blade if you have one) place your flour, sea salt, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar. Over the top of you ingredients place you cold butter and pulse the mixture until you butter is cut up amongst the flour mixture and no bigger than the size of a pea.

Next, place all the contents from the food processor into a large bowl. Pour about a third of your buttermilk into the mixture. With your hand, gently toss it all together. Repeat this with the remaining buttermilk, a bit at a time. You are looking for the mixture to be crumbly and moist. The mixture should hold together when squeezed with your hand. If not you can add a bit more of buttermilk to moisten it all. But remember, you are not looking for very wet dough, just something that would hold together when squeezed.

Then; over your mixture sprinkle your goat cheese, dill, and pistachios and toss it again lightly. On a floured work space place your dough and lightly sprinkle it with a bit more flour. Pat it down with your hands and fold the dough onto itself twice. Then gently shape your dough into one long rectangle. Patting it down and lightly working it with your hands making sure the dough is even in height. You are looking for it to be about 1 inch in hieght. With a knife or a bench scraper cut your dough evenly into squares or rectangles (about 4 by 4 inches), and then again across each one on the diagonal, making triangles.

Finally, place your cut dough onto a lined baking sheet and brush the tops of your scones with a bit of buttermilk. Place in the center of your oven for about 30 minutes, rotating it half way through. When they are slightly golden and firm to the touch they are ready to come out. Let cool about 15 minutes before eating.

Whole Wheat Waffles with Flax Seed are great for dinner.

So much to do, and so little time to get it done in. That is how the past couple of weeks seemed to be going for me. I did however squeeze in time to finish two of the books I have had waiting for me and I so enjoyed the time I spent with them. It was glorious. I didn’t get to the ironing like I had wanted to but there are priorities. We also finally finished the 2,000 piece puzzle that had been consuming our dining room table. It was daunting, but Brian worked so hard on it. Many hours were spent hovering over those tiny puzzle pieces and gazing at that copy of the painting Starry Night figuring out what goes where and how. After it was finished I had a hard time taking it a part to put it away. Brian worked really hard at it and somehow it became a part of us. Not to mention it was pretty to look at.

Finally completed 2,000 piece Starry Night puzzle.

But we did. I came home from work on the weekend to see the puzzle packed up and put away. I had a gloomy moment looking at my blank dining table, and then I realized that I can finally dust the table top. Not being able to clean to top of the table with the puzzle on it was getting to me (I might have small obsessive compulsive moments, but I admit it…and that makes it okay.) Since Brian had packed up the puzzle and cleaned the table top I went into the kitchen to start making dinner. I picked up some mustard greens at the farmers market and the only thing I really wanted to do when I saw them was make waffles.

Whole wheat waffles with flax seed – trying to keep with our mindful eating this year, a whole wheat waffle was a perfect accompaniment. I sautéed the mustard greens with garlic and crushed red pepper in some olive oil while I gathered the ingredients for the waffles. After I mixed the waffles and had them cooking in the waffle iron I scrambled up some eggs and put some bacon in the oven (yes, tempeh bacon for me) and dinner was just about ready. When the waffles were ready and came off the iron all crispy we placed them on our plates with the mustard greens, scrambled eggs, bacon, and real maple syrup of course! Whole wheat waffle perfection, on a newly cleaned and freshly cleared table. An ideal meal even with being busy.

Whole Wheat Waffle with Flaxseed

Whole Wheat Waffles with Flax Seed (makes about 4 – 6 waffles)

1 cup of AP flour

1 cup of whole wheat flour

½ tsp of sea salt

2 tbsp of sugar

2 tbsp of flax seed

1 tsp of baking soda

1 ½ cup of buttermilk

2 eggs, separated

4 tbsp of butter, melted (plus extra for serving)

1 tsp of vanilla extract

Real maple syrup, for serving

First, preheat your waffle iron according to its own instructions. Then in a bowl whisk together your flour, whole wheat flour, sea salt, sugar, baking soda, and flax seed and set aside.

Next, in a small bowl place your buttermilk and egg yolks. Whisk them together and then slowly add your melted butter while whisking until it is emulsified.

Meanwhile, in a bowl of an electric mixer add your two egg whites and mix on high with the whisk attachment until they reach a stiff peak and set aside.

Then, stir your buttermilk mixture into your flour mixture. Be sure that all the mixture is moistened and not lumpy. When you are done mixing that together gently fold your whipped egg whites into the batter until light, fluffy, and well mixed.

Finally, when your waffle iron is heated through pour your batter into the iron and precede with your waffle irons instructions. When your waffles are done remove from the iron and serve immediately.

Bran and Flaxseed Muffins

I will be the first to admit that for a long time I did not see the appeal of a Bran Muffin. Sure it has numerous health benefits with great nutritional value, but I was always left lack luster about them. I always found them dense, dry, and sometimes; they have too many flavors going on. When I was living in Phoenix I was often asked if I had a healthier alternative for a breakfast item. Often I would offer low fat Greek yogurt and granola, but there needed to be another option. That is when I consumed myself with coming up with the best bran muffin I could think of. After trials with my mixer and oven I found my answer. I mixed up the muffins with all natural sugar, honey, flaxseed, and a berry (usually blueberry). Once they are fresh and warm out of the oven I dowse them in a mixture of freshly squeezed orange juice & honey. It adds another layer of flavor to the muffin without overpowering it. Not to mention it also keeps the muffins moist…You will never look at a bran muffin the same after trying these, even I am a convert.

Bran and Flaxseed Muffins

Bran and Flaxseed Muffins (make 12)

Muffin

1 cup of AP Flour

2 tsp of Baking Powder

¾ tsp of Salt

1 cup of Wheat Bran

¾ cup of Flaxseed

½ cup of Sugar

2 oz of Butter

2 tbsp of Honey

2 tbsp of Molasses

2 eggs

½ cup of Milk

1 – 1 ½ cups of Blueberries (or other fruit)

Glaze

3/4 cup of Orange Juice (freshly squeezed)

½ cup of Honey

¼ cup of Sugar

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Take your muffin pan and grease and flour the cups and set aside. In a bowl whisk together your flour, baking powder, salt, wheat bran, and flaxseed; then set aside.

Next, mix your butter and sugar until it is light and airy. Add the honey and molasses to the butter mixture and incorporate it well. Once all combined add in your eggs; one at a time and mix well.

With your wheat bran mixture, fold it into your butter mixture until it is mixed well and then stir in your milk. Mix until your milk had been absorbed into the batter well. Gently, mix in your blueberries (or other fruit) into your batter without breaking them.

Then, divide your mixture among the muffin pan evenly. Place your muffin pan in the center of the oven and bake for about 30 – 40 minutes until your muffins are set in the center. (I find that timing of the baking of the muffins varies depending on the blueberries and how much moisture they give off while baking.)

Meanwhile; whisk together your orange juice, honey, and sugar into a smooth mixture. Set aside when done.

Finally; when your bran and flaxseed muffins come out of the oven (about 10 minutes), and are still really hot, spoon your orange juice mixture evenly over your muffins. Let the mixture seep into the muffins, about 20 minutes, before removing from the pan and serving.

Peach with Gingered Shortcakes and Mascarpone Whipped Cream

While I was in Phoenix my friend took me into the back of the kitchen of their restaurant to show me the mill they have been using. They are working with a local family run farm that grows their own wheat. They have been experimenting with ancient grains of wheat for their breads, pasta, and pizza dough. He insisted that I walk away with three different kinds of flour and a t-shirt; asking me to experiment on my own and see what I come up with. Some of the flour my friend  gave me.

I was toying around with what I should do…I was thinking of whole wheat pasta, or a naturally yeasted bread of some kind. I just could not decide. I was in downtown, apartment hunting, when I made a stop at Pike Place Market for a bite to eat. I was walking past a fruit stand when I saw that the first peaches of the season are in. The sales man offered me a taste and I was in heaven when the peach touched my tongue. It was bright, juicy, sweet, and a tad tart. It was absolutely lovely and I nearly melted as I told the vendor it was (pardon the expression) an “Oh My God!!!” Worthy Peach! He was laughing at me and quickly wrapped up six of them gently (they were so ripe he was afraid of them bruising) for me to take home.

I knew just what I was going to do with the peaches. I would let their natural beauty shine and pair them with a gingered shortcake and a mascarpone whipped cream.  Peaches and cream are great, add a nice and light gingery biscuit to it and you have reached euphoria! And what better time to try out some the new flour my friend had given me. I used pretty much the same recipe basics of my strawberry and chocolate chunk scones I have written about before. Omitting the fruit and the chocolate; adding in crystallized ginger, replaced part of the AP flour the original recipe called for with some 00 flour. I also didn’t roll out the dough like I have done in the past. I just patted it down by hand, folded it, and patted it down again. (Like I learned from that tSplendid Table segmen I wrote about not too long ago.) A buttery, flaky shortcake was the result - flecked with bits of crystalized ginger. I am so happy that the peaches were perfect to give this a try. I am so lucky to have a friend share his flour with me. It is one of the best gifts I have ever gotten!

Peach with Gingered Shortcakes and Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Peach with Gingered Shortcakes and Mascarpone Whipped Cream (serves 6)

4-6 peaches (depending on size)

1 cup of AP flour

1 ¼ cup of 00 flour

½ tsp of sea salt

1/2 tsp of baking soda

1 ½ tsp of baking powder

3 Tbsp of sugar (2 for biscuits and 1 for whipped cream), plus extra for sprinkling

4 oz of butter, cold and cut into small pieces

2 cups of heavy cream (1/2 for biscuits; and ½ for whipping)

1/3 cup of crystalized ginger, finely chopped

¼ cup of mascarpone

1 tsp vanilla extract

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl add in youth flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda and 2 tbsp of sugar. Mix it all together well. With a fork, or a pastry cutter add in your cold butter. Work it all tighter until your butter is in small pea size pieces.

Next, add in your crystallized ginger and stir it all together. Pour in 1 cup of heavy cream and mix together and until it all begins to form and hold together. Lightly flour your work space and place youth mixture out on it. Pat it down with floured hands, fold it up, and pat it all down again. (You will need extra flour when doing this) You want to pat it down until it is about ¾ an inch thick. You can then cut your dough into 6 square like, or round biscuits.

Then, brush them with a bit of cream and dust them with a bit of sugar. (I have on occasion dusted them with sugar in the raw.) I like the golden color it lends.) Place them spaced apart on a baking sheet and bake about 25 – 30 minutes until firm and golden. Cool about 1 hour before slicing and serving.

Meanwhile, place 1 cup of cream in the bowl of a standing mixer and whip on high speed until you cream starts to build a volume. Add in your vanilla and slowly add in your 1 tbsp of sugar. Whip on high until it doubles in size. Add in your mascarpone and using your whisk fold it all together until it is thick and uniform.

Finally; peel and slice your peaches. Slice your gingered biscuits horizontally and fan out your peach slices. Top it with some of your whipped mascarpone cream, and place the top of your gingered biscuit over it all. Eat while fresh, and enjoy.

Cream Cheese Biscuits and Green Onion

For about three to four years now I have had a bit of an infatuation with biscuits. I love them all and I have been trying just about every & any recipe I can. I have tried a variety of recipes: drop ones, rolled out ones, different flours, assorted fats, not to mention a multitude of ways to moisten the dough. It seems to be a never ending quest. A few weeks ago I missed my weekly dose of Splendid Table. When I arrived home Brian filled me in on it all, and guess what one of the topics was? Yes! Biscuits! But the show was not just on any kind of biscuit… it was about Southern Biscuits to be exact. Brian went on to explain how they discussed the type of flour they use is considered a winter wheat. This means that the wheat is harvested in the winter time and milled resulting in sweeter flavored wheat. He also told me that in a traditional southern biscuit they combine their flour, cut in their fat, and just pat the dough down. Only to fold the dough onto itself, and pat it down again; then they cut their biscuits out. He said there was no leavener needed?!?

I honestly could not believe what Brian was telling me. Of course I went to the web site and read it for myself. Yes, they didn’t use a leavener. I was talking about this at work when my co-worker told me that she watched Alton Brown do a show on his grandmother’s biscuits. She said that in the episode he said he tried absolutely everything to get his biscuits like hers, but it was a fail. Then he came to the realization that his grandmother has arthritis. Her touch and handle on her biscuit was much more delicate and gentile then his own. Finally his biscuits turned out well, and patting the dough down made complete sense.

After a few tries, I was making better biscuits myself. Yay for me (and Brian)! It made me think about a recipe I tried quite a few times that never followed though the way I had hoped. They were made with cream cheese; and I was always hoping for these flakey, tangy, flavorful biscuits. Instead, try after try resulted in a biscuits that were flavorful but a bit dense and in no way flaky enough for my standards! I retrieved that recipe and went to work on it being as gentle as I could. Patted it down, folded it up, and patted it down again. What was the outcome you might want to know? The biscuits were light, flakey, and tender, with a slight cream cheese tang. I am so happy that my quest after all this time has finally resulted in something so great. You will have to try it and see for yourself.

Cream Cheese Biscuits with Green Onion

Cream Cheese Bisuits and Green Onion (make 10 – 12)

3 cups of cake flour

2 tsp of baking powder

¼ tsp of baking soda

1 ½ tsp of kosher salt

1 tbsp of sugar

1 heaping cup of green onion, chopped very small

4 oz of butter, cold and cut up small

4 oz of cream cheese, cold and cut up small

½ cup of buttermilk

¾ cup of heavy cream

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Place your cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, sugar, and chives in a bowl. Mix it well then add to it your butter and cream cheese. Using a pastry cutter, fork, or two knives cut the butter and cream cheese into your flour mixture. You want to break them down into the size no bigger than a pea. Be sure you do not smear the butter and cream cheese into the flour mixture.

Biscuit Dough, mixed together.

Next, with a fork gently pour in your buttermilk and cream and stir until all of mixture is damp and moistened. Do not break down your butter and cream cheese lumps in this process. Sprinkle your work space liberally with flour and remove the biscuit batter from your bowl. With floured hands pat your dough gently into anything closely resembling a rectangle in form.

First patting down of the biscuits.

Then, using a bench scraper; lift your dough to fold it into threes upon itself. With floured hands, pat down the dough gently again into a rectangular shape again. Using your bench scraper trim your edges and cut the dough into 10 – 12 squares.

The dough folded in three, before second patting down.

Finally, on a parchment lined baking sheet place your biscuits spacing them about one inch and a half apart from one another. Place in the oven and bake for 20 – 30 minutes; until your biscuits are golden on the edges and firm in the center. Let cool about 5 minutes before serving. Can be stored at room temperature wrapped in foil for up to 2 days.

Cream Cheese Biscuits fresh out of the oven.