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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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Have a Heart

It’s V-day week! Somehow, since I have had kids, have been in the habit of making heart shaped cookies every year near Valentine’s Day. Usually, it is some sort of shortbread or sugar cookie recipe. This year, I was inspired and made up a new recipe that is well on its way to becoming a family favorite.

Chocolate Studded Orange Shortbread with Chocolate Sugar Sprinkle.

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Long name, I know, but I couldn’t come up with a fun name, so I went with the super literal version. At least you know what you are getting into when you read the title of the recipe instead of something vague like V-day cookies.

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This cookie starts with 7 ounces of your favorite dark chocolate. Chocolate chips will not really deliver the same amount of chocolate punch here and you also won’t get the chocolate dust that you need for the sprinkle, so it is worth it to dust off your food processor for this one or get out your knife and cutting board. Once the chocolate is chopped finely, it is sifted so that all the “dust” is filtered out and won’t discolor the cookie dough. The little chunks leftover will go in the shortbread and the “dust” is used for the sprinkle.

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Those little tiny chocolate chunks are the secret to delivering this cookie’s chocolate flavor while at the same time maintaining the cookie’s shortbread texture. Save your giant chocolate chunks for your giant chocolate cookies or for times when only straight chocolate will do. In this cookie, I wanted the sandy texture of shortbread to stay uninterrupted by huge chunks of chocolate. The orange zest adds a little brightness and compliments the chocolate nicely.

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If you absolutely must have pink or red for V-day, feel free to use colored sugar instead of the chocolate sugar sprinkle, but the cookie will not be as chocolatey and what would you do with that chocolate “dust”, anyway? Actually, we had a lot of chocolate dust leftover and it is very handy to have around. It’s great sprinkled on top of oatmeal or you can even make your own homemade hot chocolate with it. After all, what’s V-day week without chocolate?

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Chocolate Studded Orange Shortbread with Chocolate Sugar Sprinkle.

Makes about 3 dozen 3 inch cut out cookies. The exact number depends on the size of your cookie cutters.

7 ounces (2 regular sized bars) dark chocolate, pick one that you like to eat
7 ounces (1 cup) granulated sugar
16 ounces (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of 1 large orange
20 ounces (4 cups) unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 ounces (1/4 cup) extra sugar for chocolate sprinkle

Break up the chocolate with your hands and process in the bowl of a food processor for about 10 pulses. The chocolate should be ground into little bits no larger than 1/4 inch. There should be a fair amount of “dust”. Sift the chocolate through a strainer with holes that are not too small. I had about 5 1/2 ounces of chocolate pieces and 1 1/2 ounces of “dust” when I was done sifting. You can also chop the chocolate by hand.

Whisk together the flour, salt, and chocolate pieces in a large bowl.

Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until they are combined and smooth, but not fluffy. Mix in the vanilla extract and orange zest.

With the mixer running on low, slowly add the flour mixture. Mix until just combined. In a stand mixer, the dough should clean the sides of the bowl.

Take half of the dough and form into a rough disk with your hands. Roll between two sheets of wax or parchment paper to a 1/4 inch thickness. Place on a cookie sheet and freeze. Repeat with the remaining dough. The dough should be frozen for at least 15-20 minutes or can be held in the freezer for a few months. If the dough is totally frozen, take it out and let stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes before proceeding.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 or 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Peel off the top sheep of parchment and, using your cookie cutters, cut out as many shapes as you can from the cookie dough. Place them at least 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.

Stir the extra sugar into the chocolate dust until combined. Sprinkle one teaspoon of chocolate sugar over each cookie on the baking sheet.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until slightly browned at the edges. Cool on the pans. You may reroll and refreeze the remaining dough scraps once or twice more until you’ve used up all the dough.

Enjoy with your valentine.

A Cake Recipe, Finally!

It seems ages since I have made a cake. The last two months of the year were all about cookies and after that, all I made was bread. Lots of bread. My freezer is so chock full of bread that when I open the door, bread falls out. Not a terrible problem to have, but I decided that I had had enough of cookies and bread. What I need now in the new year is cake.

This particular cake is an adaptation of a recipe from Flo Braker’s Book, Baking for All Occasions. She calls for a tangerine, which I did not have on hand today and a different mixing method than the one I employ. Otherwise, the recipe is just about the same.

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The first time I made this cake, I had a lot of trouble getting the almond paste to break up into bits. I must have had a really dried out package. In any case, the resulting cake was filled with bits of dense almond paste and, while it wasn’t terrible, it was not the texture I was hoping for. Since then, whenever a recipe calls for almond paste, I always stick it into the food processor with any sugar that is called for in the recipe.

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It does a wonderful job of breaking up even the most stubborn bits of almond paste. and it also incorporates a little air which I think helps lighten the texture of the cake.

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The rest of the process follows your basic creaming method for making a cake batter.

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Once the cake is baked, a most yummy glaze is applied that gives it a beautiful appearance and helps to seal in the moisture of the cake.

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A slice of this cake with a cup of tea will brighten any cold wintry day. And, since this cake is of the pound cake category, it is an excellent keeper. It’s possible that it even tastes better a day or two later than it does on the first day.

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The combination of almonds with citrus is not a new one. They go together so well and, in this cake, neither outdoes the other. The cake is also not too sweet, which is a nice change from all the Christmas candy and treats we’ve been having around here lately.

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So, what do you think? Isn’t it time for some cake?

Orange Almond Tea Cake with Orange Glaze
makes one 9-10 inch tube cake to serve 8-12

for cake
2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (5 ounces) almond paste
2 teaspoons orange zest from 1 medium orange
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1/2 cup (4 ounces) milk at room temperature

for glaze
1 cup (3 ounces) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

to make cake:

Preheat oven to 350 or 325 if you are using a dark pan like mine. Using a baking spray with flour included spray a 9-10 inch bundt type pan with at least an 10 cup capacity. Set aside until the batter is ready.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt together.

In the bowl of a food processor, process the sugar and almond paste together until the almond paste is all broken up and the mixture has the appearance of fluffy sand. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a mixer. Add to the bowl the grated zest and the butter. Beat on medium speed until thoroughly mixed and fluffy.

With the mixer running on low, add the eggs, one at a time, waiting to add the next one until the previous one has been incorporated. You may need to scrape down the bowl a few times to get a uniform mixture.

Beginning and ending with the flour, alternate adding the flour and milk to the batter, mixing well and scraping if necessary between each addition. Before scraping the batter into the pan, give the batter a last mixing with a spatula by hand in order to make sure that all bits of the batter are incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the pan and make it level with a spatula. Bake for about 55 minutes or until the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan and a tester comes out clean. Put the pan on a rack to rest for 10 minutes while you prepare the glaze.

For the glaze:
Mix all glaze ingredients in a bowl with a whisk until evenly combined.

After ten minutes, turn the cake out onto a rack. Place a sheet of foil or wax paper under the rack to catch drips. Using a pastry brush, brush the glaze all over the cake. Let cool completely on the rack.

Orange Scented Lentil Soup

This is probably the most unattractive soup I have ever made. I didn’t think it looked too bad while it was cooking. You can see the chunks of carrots and celery. The lentils sink to the bottom of the pot while cooking.

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However, after the soup meets immersion blender, it is not pretty at all.

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Fortunately, it is quite tasty and easy, too. My lentils were tiny, so they took less han an hour to cook. Also, I used ground spices instead of whole because I was afraid the boat motor wouldn’t be able to grind up the whole ones sufficiently. Here is another view.

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The orange flavor was stronger than I expected, but it was good. We had it with spinach and chicken sausage, greek yogurt, and some focaccia from the freezer. It was a nice, light meal, if a little drab to look at. What else can I say? I guess if I am searching for more, it must mean that it is kind of boring. Well, let’s face it, it is, but life can’t be all fireworks and excitement.

This post is part of the French Fridays with Dorie group. You can find the recipe in her cookbook, Around My French Table.

Trio of Yumminess

This month I have really fallen behind on the French Fridays posting schedule. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I haven’t made the recipes. With the exception of today’s recipe, I have made them, they just haven’t been made on time. So, to distract you from the fact that I did not even attempt the coeur, I will catch you up on the two that I have made and show you a bonus one that I made yesterday for V-day that the group has not made yet.

Recipe #1: Brown Sugar Squash and Brussel Sprouts en Papillote

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I meant to follow the recipe and cook this in a package, really, but at the last minute, I changed my mind and ended up with just roasted veggies with no apples. It was tasty and I don’t regret it one bit. I knew I would miss the crispy browned bits. Maybe some other time I will try it all wrapped up.

Recipe #2: Fresh Orange Pork Tenderloin

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This recipe was liked by all. It was simple and it was a nice and light, a welcome change to heavy wintry foods. The husband said it tasted even better the next day when he had it for lunch. I liked the pairing of orange with pork very much and imagine that this dish would be equally good in the summertime with peaches.

Recipe #3: Gâteau Basque

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I struggled up until the last minute with what to serve for dessert on Valentine’s Day. This week’s ffwd recipe, coeur à la crème, was out because of that pesky lactose intolerance issue. I wasn’t about to make a dessert for us that I could not partake myself. My original idea was the make the orange-almond tart, but when I went to start, I discovered that I had no almond flour. As I was flipping through the rest of the cookbook, I came across the gâteau, and thought it would be perfect.

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And it was. As a bonus, it was easy to make, too. I used a jar of my precious sour cherry jam for the filling and tried to make a nice heart design on the top, which sorta worked out.

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We all agreed that it was delicious, kinda like filled shortbread, but better and really good with tea or coffee. It’s even better and more fun if you have a paper crown on your head, thanks to the husband for buying valentine’s day crackers. When this comes up in the regular ffwd rotation, I will be more than happy to make it again.