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Orange Cranberry Scones

It’s been awhile since I have made scones. I don’t know why I don’t make them more often. They are easy, fairly quick, very tasty, and the freeze and reheat well. What’s not to like?

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In fact, for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Buttermilk Scones, I decided to double the recipe because I knew we would like them. Plus, I had a couple of organic oranges sitting around. To help make the cutting in of the butter easier, I enlisted the help of my trusty food processor.

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Then, I added a generous amount of dried cranberries because they go so well with citrus and are really tasty in a scone.

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I made twelve regular sized triangular scones and twenty-four small square shaped ones. I sprinkled them with coarse, raw sugar instead of the regular sugar that was called for in the recipe. I love how the cranberries look like jewels.

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We loved them. There were some wonderful layers and eaten just warm, they were soft and fluffy on the inside with a little crunch from the sugar on the outside. They make a great companion to tea or coffee breakfast or snack time. I’m thinking of making some more, but subbing the orange zest for lemon and using blueberries instead. Or chocolate.

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Really, I think you could add anything to these and they would still be good. They are perhaps not the best scones I have ever made, but it is one of those recipes that is simple, reliable, and just plain good. You can’t really go wrong here.

Orange Cranberry Scone
adapted from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan

3 cups (15 ounces) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (2.5 ounces) sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk, plus more if needed
Grated zest from one orange
1/2 cup dried cranberries

For topping:
3 Tablespoons melted butter
3 Tablespoons coarse or raw sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Combine flour, sugar baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest in a food processor bowl. Pulse a few times to mix the dry ingredients together. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the pieces are no larger than a pea, about 8-10 times. Pour into a large bowl.

Stir the cranberries into the flour. Then, add the buttermilk and toss with a spatula or fork until most of the flour is moistened. If it seems really dry and won’t hold together when you squeeze a bit of it with your fingers, then add extra buttermilk, a tablespoons at a time, until the dough starts to come together. There will still be some crumby bits in the bowl, though.

Dump out the dough onto your counter or pastry board and knead gently until the dough is more or less one shaggy mass. If you bowl is big enough, you can also do this inside the bowl and it will be less messy. Divide the dough in half. Pat each half into a 1/2 inch thick 7 inch diameter circle. Using a sharp knife, cut each dough circle into six wedges and transfer to your baking sheet with at least one inch of space between them.

If you want to make smaller scones, pat the entire amount of dough into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle, roughly 8 inches by 12 inches. Then, cut into twenty-four two inch squares.

Brush each scone with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake until slightly browned around the edges, about 13-15 minutes for large scones, 10-12 for small scones. Serve warm.

These will keep for a few days in a sealed bag, but should be toasted in the oven for a few minutes before eating to crisp them up. They can also be frozen, already baked for several months. Thaw and toast lightly before serving.

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Staycation, Part 3: Baking

During last week’s heat wave, I wondered what in the world people did/do with no air conditioning. Air conditioning is truly a wonderful thing, and I am ever so thankful to live in a house that has it. The air conditioning enables me to turn on the oven, even when it is over 100 degrees outside and still stay relatively comfy.

One day, I made brioche buns with raisins and candied citron. I love making little buns like this. They are just the right size to have with a cup of coffee or tea for breakfast. They are not too sweet and wonderfully soft and fluffy. They also make a pretty good base for peanut butter and jelly.

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I used the recipe for brioche from Nick Malgieri’s book, Bake!: Essential Techniques for Perfect Baking, but you can use any brioche recipe, including the one I posted a little while back.

The next day, I had to feed my sourdough starters, and was looking for something new to try with them. While perusing through my copy of The Bouchon Bakery, I found a recipe for english muffins that used a sourdough starter and a baking method instead of a cooking on a griddle method. That seemed like a good recipe to try.

Unlike some other english muffin recipes, this one makes a super soft, almost batter like dough. It has to be scooped into the rings with an ice cream scoop.

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They rise for a bit and then go in the oven.

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These are the highest/biggest english muffins I have ever made. They looked fantastic coming out of the oven.

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These are easily an inch high and are surprisingly easy to split with a fork.

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There are lots of nooks and crannies to soak up butter and jam. Our only complaint with these is that there is not enough salt in the batter. They taste rather bland without anything on top. They have a slightly different texture than english muffins you buy in the store. They are kind of a cross between an english muffin and a crumpet. When toasted, they get wonderfully crispy on the outside, but are still moist on the inside, which is nice because some english muffins out there turn into hard crackers when toasted. These have a nice springy texture. They are great as a breakfast sandwich, albeit a bit high.

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From start to finish, I made 22 english muffins in about 3 hours. It could have been shorter if I had another set of rings, which I am definitely going to get for next time. Most of that time is just waiting time, so it doesn’t feel too taxing. I will most certainly be making these again, but with more salt and maybe a helping of whole wheat flour to replace some of the white flour.

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Fruit Studded Not Flatbread

We are near mid winter. It is cold. Produce at the store is looking sadder and sadder and spoils more easily when you get it home. Last week, the husband went to the store and brought home some beautiful looking apricots. They were a nice warm orange with blushes of red. They were also from South America and kinda firm. Oh, how bad can they be if they look so good? It turns out, they can be pretty bad. Not bad as in spoiled. No, they were just so sour and hard that it was impossible not to spit them out. So, I was left with almost a dozen apricots that no one wanted to eat. What to do?

Well, make bread, of course. My original inspiration for this recipe is the recipe for blueberry schiacciata from Rustic Italian Food, but, in the end, the bread I made probably does not resemble the one in the book at all. Still, it provided the inspiration for me that I needed.

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I wanted something like a fruity foccacia bread that we could eat for breakfast; not too sweet like a sticky bun, but nice and substantial, you know, to start the day off right. The recipe starts wih a sponge, in which I used my sourdough discard from feeding my monsters. You could easily make this bread without it (directions below).

The great thing about this recipe is that from start to eating, it only took 3.5 hours, which is pretty quick for a yeast bread. The rising times are short, each less than an hour, but the oven spring of this dough is really and truly impressive.

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The dough looked like this when I put it in the oven. It barely comes over the top of the rim of the pan, so it’s maybe an inch thick.

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When the bread came out of the oven it looked like this. Whoa! What happened in that oven? I don’t know. What I do know is that this bread was fabulous. The juices from the berries bake into a nice slightly sticky glaze. The sugar that was generously sprinkled on top before baking was caramelized and slightly crunchy. The apricots remain a little firm, but tender enough to bite through easily and their sourness has turned into a pleasing tartness that is balanced by the sweet, crunchy sugar. It can only be called a flatbread in the sense that its width and length are greater than the thickness, but since we all had a tough time getting our mouths open big enough to take a bite, I think that other flatbreads might be a little offended if we called it that. That’s why we’ve named it Fruit Studded Not Flatbread.

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Fruit Studded Not Flatbread

This makes a huge loaf of bread: 12 by 18 by 2.5-3 inches high. You can make a smaller one by cutting the recipe in half and using a smaller pan. Be warned that the syrup may run over the sides of the pan and into your oven. For me, it just joins countless other little spots on the floor of the oven, but if you don’t want this, put a piece of foil under the pan to catch the drips.

Depending on the size of your portions, this could yield 12 humongous portions, 20 average sized portions, or 30 snack-type portions.

475g 100% hydration sourdough starter OR 250g water and 225g bread flour
25g water
195g eggs or 4 large
10g or 1 tablespoon osmotolerant instant yeast
80g sugar
200g bread flour
500g all purpose flour
12g or 2 teaspoons kosher salt
120g or 1stick unsalted butter, softened
Grated zest of one medium orange
Extra water, if needed
8-12 small apricots or other stone fruit, halved and pitted
1-2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries or other berries
Extra sugar for sprinking on top- I used about one half cup, but you’ll want to adjust according to the sweetness of your fruit

Equipment: spatula, stand mixer, rolling pin, 12 by 18 inch rimmed baking sheet

With a spatula, mix your sourdough starter (or the alternate ingredients) in a large mixing bowl with the water, eggs, yeast, 80g of sugar, and the 200g bread flour. It should be the consistency of pancake batter (see photo below). Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 30 minutes or until nice and bubbly.

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Add the all-purpose flour, salt, soft butter, and orange zest to the sponge and mix on low-medium until the dough is nice and smooth. It should be a soft dough. If the mixer sounds strained, it is too stiff. Add extra water, one tablespoon at a time and mix until the dough is soft and smooth, but not sticky. It might be tacky, but it should not stick to your hands when you touch it. The dough should have cleaned the sides of the bowl really well.

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Leave the dough in the bowl and place in your warm spot for 30-60 minutes. It should be well-expanded, but perhaps not quite doubled.

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Roll out your dough on a sheet of parchment paper that is about the same size as your half sheet pan. Place the dough, with its parchment onto your pan. Press the apricots into the dough firmly. Scatter the blueberries over the dough and, using your fingers, press those firmly into the dough as well. You want to get the fruit as close to the bottom of the pan as possible to discourage them from rolling off during the rising and baking process.

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Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise in your warm place for 45-60 minutes. Meanwhile, place a baking stone, if you have one, in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Before baking, sprinkle the fruit and dough generously with granulated sugar. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Check on the bread after 15 minutes. Turn the pan around to encourage even baking. If there is a lot of liquid pooling on the top of the dough and you happen to have a convection oven, lower the heat to 325 and turn on the convection fan for the last 15 minutes of baking. If not, try moving the pan to a higher rack in the oven to encourage the liquid to bake away.

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When you take the pan out of the oven, transfer the bread out of the pan and onto a cooling rack. Eat some immediately.

A Rare Morning

This morning I got up early and I felt actually awake.  This is a rare event for me as I am not a morning person.  I am usually stumbling around the kitchen like a zombie trying not to pour the cereal on the floor or drop the jam jars.  I have always envied people who were chipper enough in the morning to actually make a hot breakfast for their family.  We always have cereal and, a little later, we might have toast.

Today, however was different.  I woke up, couldn’t go back to sleep and strangely, felt wide awake.  After I checked my email, I decided to make something-yay!  There were three plums left on the counter, so I cut those up, tossed them with some sugar and threw them into a dish.

A little batter was made using a couple of eggs, milk, and a little flour.  I popped it into the oven and 40 minutes later we had clafouti.

What’s that, you ask?  Well, it’s kind of a cross between a popover and a pudding.  It’s kinda eggy and soft like a bread pudding, only it doesn’t have any bread in it.  It doesn’t poof up like a popover, but it has the custardy consistency reminiscent of the soft insides of a popover.  It’s yummy warm with a little powdered sugar.  All the photos I took in the early morning were blurry–not enough light, I guess.  Here’s the best one from the afternoon.

It’s still not a clear picture.  Hmm, I wonder if the powdered sugar is doing something to the focus?  Anyway, it was a great way to start the day.  I wish I had more days like this, though I may regret it later.  The boys loved it and I have to say that I was really tempted to eat the whole thing myself, but then my oldest threatened to tell his father on me.  It’s nice that he watches out for other people.

The recipe is from Flour by Joanne Chang.  I halved it, but otherwise followed the recipe.  It was super easy and possibly very doable even if one is half asleep.  I hope to do this again soon, awake or asleep.

Brunch May Never be the Same

Brunch is our favorite meal.  I would say breakfast, but, really only one of us in this family is up early enough to actually cook a breakfast and he has yet to learn how to cook.  Well, he might be able to manage scrambled eggs, but french toast, bacon, and coffee?  Not yet.  We’ll work on that.  In the meantime, every Sunday, after we come home from church we make a nice big brunch.

We always have eggs in some form and a carb.  The carb varies from week to week depending on my mood.  Sometimes, we have pancakes or waffles, other times if we have leftover bread there will be french toast, and if I am feeling really lazy, I make toast. Occasionally, when in an ambitious mood, I will make some boiled potatoes the night before and we’ll have hash and biscuits.  The husband is in charge of the eggs and the meat, which is almost always bacon.  Until last week.

Last week, we made our own breakfast sausage.  Yes, yes, we did.

We had to make some space in the big freezer for a big order of beef from the butcher, so I dragged out a very large piece of pork that we had in there from our last order.

This unsmoked, raw ham was probably about 10 pounds, with the bone.  I had the husband cut it up into chunks (throwing the bone back in the freezer for stock later), which he added to a tray full of seasonings that I had already prepared.  In the mix was garlic, chopped sage, lots of grated ginger, and a lot of dried apples from our fall adventure.

All this went into our food grinder, which comes out probably only once every five years.  It was a bit messy and I was glad I had the foresight to wear an apron!

After about 45 minutes, it was all ground and I poured in some hard pear cider and mixed it up.  We cooked a little to make sure it tasted ok.  It was a bit salty and the flavors did not seem blended yet, but we were not worried.   Ok, maybe I was worried a little.   The mix was really lean because we had not added any extra fat.  I hoped that everything would mellow out and blend together nicely as it aged because  that was sure a LOT of work to go through to not have some awesome sausage at the end.  We had about 9 pounds of sausage when we were all done and everything got packed into freezer bags and stowed into the freezer.

Yesterday, we took out the first one and sliced it up.

Then, I pan fried them in a little oil.

It was good; a little on the salty side, but tasty.  The flavors had melded nicely with its rest in the freezer.  The ginger gives it kind of an asian flavor and the dried apples made it subtly sweet.  Because the meat was so lean, it did not have a trace of greasiness, and it was a little firmer than other sausages.  Still, for a first try at making our own sausage, we are pretty pleased with it.  Next time, I will try to add some pork belly to give it some more fat.  The husband mentioned that this would be really good in a stuffing/dressing for Thanksgiving.  I think he’s right, but I’m not sure we will have any left by then!

p.s.  I used the breakfast sausage recipe from the book Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman.   I have had this book for awhile now and this is the first thing I have made with it.   I added the dried apples and substituted pear cider for the water called for in the recipe.