Thursday, March 04, 2010

Mini Goat Cheese Biscuits with Lavender

I recently had friends over for Sunday brunch. Since I love making breakfast food, it was the perfect opportunity to go a little overboard. When it's just Mike and I, I need to restrain myself. We can't eat a frittata, a sweet quick bread, a savory quick bread and crepes all by ourselves. But throw a party and suddenly that menu is totally acceptable.

Dreaming up various complimentary combinations of biscuits, muffins and scones was half the fun. Since I actually have other things to do besides bake breakfast breads, I ended up relying on a lovely friend who contributed some delicious banana bread, and whipped up these mini biscuits myself the night before. I froze the unbaked, cut biscuits overnight, then slid them into the oven just before the guests were scheduled to arrive. That left me plenty of time to wrangle a fantastic potato frittata, and make the house smell all nice and brunchy.

These are cute and irresistible--who can turn down a mini biscuit? The flavors of the cheese and herbs are subtle enough not to put off traditionalist, although you could increase the amount of cheese by an ounce and up the quantity of herbs if you want to. Dried lavender buds are on the large side, and I didn't want people getting chewy pieces of herbs stuck in their teeth, so Mike crushed them in our mortar, along with the thyme. The biscuits were great with our brunch spread and equally tasty when we ate the leftovers with curried carrot soup the next day. And finally, two words: honey butter.

Mini Goat Cheese Biscuits with Lavender
If you can't find dried lavender (get it online here), substitute other herbs like marjoram, mint or rosemary. Fresh herbs will also work--chop finely and double (at least) the quantity. I'd try fresh mint, thyme or chives.

Makes about 20

1/2 tsp dried lavender
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (210 g)
1/2 cup medium stone ground cornmeal (66 g)
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp coarse salt
6 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled (keep chilled until ready to use)
1 egg, for egg wash (optional)
1 tsp milk, for egg wash (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently crush the lavender and thyme in a mortar (or place in a Ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin). Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and a crushed herbs together in a large bowl. Add the butter and toss to coat it with flour. Using a pastry blender, a fork or your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until you have a coarse meal with visible chunks of butter. Take care not to over mix.

Add the buttermilk and mix gently with a spatula until most of the flour is moistened. Fold in the goat cheese, stirring just until all the flour is moistened (take care not to over mix). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle lightly with more flour. Flatten dough with your hand and roll it out into a 1/2-inch thick disk. Flour a small (about 2-inch diameter) biscuit cutter and stamp out as many biscuits as you can, pushing firmly into the dough and flouring the biscuit cutter each time. Transfer biscuits to prepared baking sheet. Quickly re-roll the dough scraps and make more biscuits until you've used it all up. If using egg wash to create a shiny surface, beat the egg and milk together in a small bowl. With a pastry brush, lightly coat the top of each biscuit.

Bake 8 to 12 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown on the bottom. Serve right away.

To make ahead: After you’ve applied the egg wash (if using), slide the baking sheet into the freezer. Leave overnight, bake directly from the freezer (do not defrost), and add an extra minute or two to baking time. To store up to one month, wait until biscuits are completely frozen and transfer to a zip top bag.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Whole-Wheat Banana Pecan Pancakes

Get ready for the weekend, folks. We have a new pancake recipe threatening to supplant our favorite blueberry-cornmeal pancakes. This one is great for several reasons: it comes together quickly; it's healthy (whole wheat flour, not much fat or sugar); it's cook-friendly--not a single pancake had a burnt side or raw center; and the texture is light and tender.

What I like most about it, though, are the sweet, caramelized bananas. I did this years ago with different banana pancakes I made from a mix, but when it came time to cook these babies, I wasn't convinced the extra step was worth. Mike, in his culinary wisdom, insisted that we do it, and he was so right.

If you've studied banana pancake recipes (and, yes, I have), then you've noticed most call for chopping or mashing the bananas and stirring them into the batter. Instead of incorporating the slices, we add them to the skillet first, giving them a minute or so to brown BEFORE pouring the batter over them. Thanks to that direct contact with the heat, they have the chance to brown while their natural sugars intensify. And when it's finished cooking and flipped onto the plate, you have one very nice-looking banana pancake!

Brown the banana slices first.

Then pour the batter over and cook until bubbly; flip to finish.

Banana Pecan Pancakes
Walnuts would be a good substitute for the pecans. Another idea is to replace the nuts AND the melted butter with ¼ cup of chunky peanut butter. I haven’t tried it yet, but I would microwave it to loosen the consistency and add it to the liquid ingredients in place of the butter. Finally, this is mostly a note to myself, but you might find it helpful in a pinch: Since I was about ¼ cup short of buttermilk, I supplemented it with ¼ cup of reduced fat milk to no ill effect. I wouldn’t replace more than ½ cup of the buttermilk with regular milk, however, since buttermilk helps make the pancakes tender and reacts with the baking soda for leavening.

Makes about 10 4-inch pancakes

1/3 cup pecans (28 g)
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (150 g) (all-purpose may be substituted)
1/3 cup medium stone ground cornmeal (44 g)
1 Tbs sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 to 2 ripe bananas, sliced
Pure maple syrup for serving.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread pecans on a baking sheet and roast 5 to 8 minutes, stirring once, until browned and fragrant. Cool slightly and chop.

Meanwhile, add the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon to a large bowl and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Add the buttermilk and melted butter and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just moistened. Fold in the chopped pecans.

Heat a large skillet to medium-high and coat with nonstick cooking spray (oil or butter is fine too). Place 4 to 6 banana slices in the skillet and cook about 45-60 seconds. Scoop 1/4 to 1/3 cup batter over the bananas and spread to uniform thickness if needed. Cook until air bubbles form in the center, or until the bottom of the pancake is deep golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook until second side is browned, 1 to 2 minutes more. Watch carefully to prevent overcooking, adjusting the heat level as necessary (Of course, you can cook more than one at a time, or many, if you have a griddle.). Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with maple syrup.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Scones

Here's something different for A Mingling of Tastes: chocolate for breakfast! I love chocolate. Love it. In fact, I generally eat some kind of chocolate candy every day. But not for breakfast. Chocolate pancakes, muffins, breakfast bars and pastries just don't appeal to me. The only exception I can think of are Dunkin' Donuts cake donuts with chocolate icing, and it's been an awfully long time. When I saw this scone recipe on Peanut Butter Boy (which is full of health-conscious, yet tempting, PB-centric recipes), however, I knew it was time for one more exception to my no chocolate breakfasts thing.

Despite sounding more like a cookie, these scones are packed with enough nutritious ingredients to qualify as actual food. Reading over the recipe convinced me that it may be possible to have a peanut butter and chocolate scone that wouldn't leave me feeling like a total slug. The peanut butter replaces the dairy butter you'd normally use in a scone recipe, and a mashed banana contributes not just subtle flavor, but moisture too. I tweaked PB Boy's recipe a bit, adding more oats, less peanut butter and cinnamon. The only change I'd try for next time is using my beloved Jif chunky rather than smooth.

Considering the scent emanating from the kitchen while these baked, I expected lots of peanut butter flavor, but it turned out to be rather mild. Not a complaint, just saying. The dough is definitely on the wet side, but otherwise these go together like your standard scone. And like your standard scone, they don't have much added sugar, so the light sweetness comes mostly from the banana, peanut butter and chocolate. To sum up, they taste like an awesome breakfast cookie. And Mike, the authority on all things peanut butter and chocolate, says he really likes them.

I'm curious: do you regularly eat sweets for breakfast? Do you stick to things like buttermilk pancakes and blueberry muffins, but draw the line at chocolate? Do you exclusively consume savory foods in the morning, or the opposite? Does your heart belong to cold cereal (that's one breakfast food I never eat!)?

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Scones
Adapted from Peanut Butter Boy
I used smooth peanut butter, but next time I'll probably try chunky. I think the bits of nuts would make the peanut butter flavor more prominent.

Makes 8-10 scones

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (180 grams)
1 cup quick-cooking oats (80 grams)
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips, or any finely chopped chocolate of your choice
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 ripe medium banana, mashed well
1/2 cup smooth or chunky peanut butter (128 grams)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line 1 large or 2 smaller baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the chocolate.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and milk. Add the mashed banana and whisk to combine.

Add the peanut butter to the flour mixture and mix with a pastry blender or your fingers until you have a coarse, sandy texture. Add the egg mixture and stir until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Dough will be quite wet. Sprinkle lightly with flour and knead into a ball. Flatten the ball and shape into a disk, about 8 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. With a large, floured chef's knife, cut dough into 8 or 10 wedges, depending on the size scone you want (the size you see in the pictures are from a 10-scone batch).

Keep flouring your knife and slide it under the wedges like a spatula, then carefully lift them onto the prepared baking sheets. Again, the dough will be wet--just pat any misshapen scones back together with your fingers. Bake 15 to 16 minutes, or until scones are lightly browned and a cake tester comes out clean. If you using 2 baking sheets, swap their positions halfway through. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Blueberry Oat Bran Muffins

After a few months without much variance in my breakfast routine, I'm happily into scones and muffins again. If my last effort wasn't exactly your cup of tea, maybe you'll like these blueberry muffins.

They are everything you can hope for in a healthy muffin. The texture is tender and moist, the lightly sweet oat bran flavor is mellow and nutty and the tops have a crackly coating of coarse sugar. I shouldn't be surprised at how good they are considering the original source.

I also have to mention that I tried a new brand of frozen blueberries--Stahlbush Island Farms, found at Whole Foods Market. They're so noticeably sweet and flavorful compared to others I've tried. I made pancakes using some of these berries mixed with my grocery store's brand of organic wild blueberries, and the difference in taste was huge--by that I mean, the Stahlbush fruit actually tasted like blueberries. They sell a whole array of frozen fruit, and I think these muffins would be awesome with the berry blend.

If you don't come across this brand where you live, don't dismay. Just try as many different ones as you can since quality seems to vary. These are also one of the more expensive options in the freezer case, and I think you tend to get what you pay for with frozen berries.

Blueberry Oat Bran Muffins

Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini

This is simply a good muffin that also happens to be low-calorie and lowfat. I'd like to try it with other frozen berries, or a mixture. I didn't toss my berries with flour, but think doing so will prevent them from clumping together and sinking so much, as they did in the muffin above--this change is reflected below. If you use fresh berries, you may skip this step. Whole wheat pastry flour keeps the crumb light and tender while adding nutrients, but you can substitute all-purpose flour if you like.

Makes 12

120 grams oat bran (1 cup plus 3 Tbs)
120 grams whole wheat pastry flour (1 cup), plus extra for dusting berries
100 grams sugar (scant 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs buttermilk
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 heaping cup frozen blueberries (do not thaw)
Coarse sugar (such as turbinado or demerara) for sprinkling (substitute granulated if necessary)

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a standard muffin pan with 12 paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oat bran, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate medium bowl, beat the eggs. Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla; whisk to combine. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Spread frozen blueberries on a large cutting board or other work surface and lightly sprinkle with flour. Toss gently to coat berries with flour. Pick up the berries, shaking off as much excess flour as possible and add to the batter; fold gently to combine.

Pour batter evenly into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to finish cooling. Serve warm or at room temperature. Muffins may be frozen and thawed at room temperature, or in the microwave on low power.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Cranberry-Orange Cornmeal Scones

It's been ages since I've made one of my favorite things--scones. I finally resolved to do it yesterday and use up a little bit of buttermilk biding its time in the refrigerator. So within an hour of getting up this morning, I had a warm batch of cranberry-orange scones with a golden color and crunchy texture thanks to a little bit of cornmeal in the dough.

I can't believe it's well into the second week of the new year, and I haven't had anything blog-worthy to post until now. I've made Hoppin' John(no ham hock this time, but plenty of leftover baked ham added at the end), for New Year's of course, and this soup.

My favorite things I've cooked lately have been simple, but absolutely wonderful vegetable dishes, like braised red cabbage, which I'm adding to my permanent repertoire (I used this recipe, minus the bacon, plus dried thyme and chile flakes). Although I've cooked Brussels sprouts multiple ways, I hadn't done a high-heat roasted version with plenty of coarse salt before--the result was so good, it doesn't feel like you could possibly be eating a vegetable. Here are a few recipes to consider if you want to try it.

So now that I've posted these blog-worthy scones, I hope you enjoy them. They're big and satisfying, but not-too-decadent treats made with whole grains, so you can keep any New Year's resolutions you may be working on. Happy New Year and thank you for reading my blog in 2009!

Cranberry-Orange Cornmeal Scones
You can substitute all-purpose or white whole wheat flour for the whole wheat pastry flour. A topping is optional for these scones, but I like a sprinkling of coarse sugar for texture and a little extra sweetness.

Makes 8

1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (234 g)
3/4 cup medium stone ground cornmeal (123 g)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
Zest of 1 medium orange (preferably organic), finely grated
6 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
1/3 cup dried cranberries (40 g)
1 egg, for egg wash (optional)
Turbinado or other coarse sugar (such as sanding sugar), for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg and orange zest.

Add the chilled butter cubes to the dry ingredients, toss with your hands briefly to coat the butter and mix with a pastry blender (you can also use your hands or a fork) until the large chunks of butter are broken up and you have a sandy mixture with pea-sized chunks of butter remaining. Pour in the buttermilk mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the cranberries.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and quickly knead into a ball. Flatten slightly with your palm to form a thick disk. Sprinkle dough with flour and use a rolling pin to roll the dough into an 8-inch circle, about 1-inch thick. Dust a large knife with flour and cut the dough into 8 wedges. Transfer wedges to the prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. If using, beat the egg with 1 tablespoon water. With a pastry brush, lightly coat tops of scones with egg. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake 20 to 24 minutes or until bottoms are light golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cornmeal Buttermilk Waffles

My last post was all about the trouble with cooking for one. While going out of your way to feed just yourself has both irritations and rewards, there is another problem with having only one mouth to feed: You simply can't justify a whole batch of waffles made from scratch.

I guess you could do a half recipe or freeze the extras to be reheated later. But this could lead to halving eggs and doing complicated math (before your morning coffee). And while some people like to pull leftover waffles and pancakes out of the freezer, I do not fall into that camp. In my opinion, some foods must be shared, and these waffles are one of them.

Fortunately, Mike is always around on weekend mornings when the desire for a sweet, starchy breakfast tends to arise. I love waffles and pancakes, but I only need them every once in a while. We're so hung up on my blueberry cornmeal pancakes, that I haven't made waffles in ages. As I was measuring out the ingredients, I realized that this recipe has a lot in common with those cornmeal pancakes, not to mention my skillet cornbread. Although we both love things with cornmeal, I was hoping for something a bit different from my old favorites.

Luckily, the worries were unfounded. These waffles are great. They're crisp on the outside and soft, light and airy inside. They are 100% whole grain, provided you use whole wheat pastry flour. So even though they may not be the most well-rounded breakfast, you're at least getting some fiber and nutrients along with your maple syrup.

Cornmeal Buttermilk Waffles

I based this recipe very loosely on this one I found on epicurious. You can substitute all-purpose flour for the whole wheat pastry flour. Wheat germ may be substituted for the oat bran. If you have neither, I would suggest replacing the oat bran with 1/4 cup of whatever flour you are using, although I haven't tried this myself. To measure the flour, lightly spoon it into the cup (don't pack it down by shaking the cup) and level with the straight edge of a knife.

Makes 7 to 8 (8-inch round) waffles

1 cup minus 1 Tbs. whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup medium stone ground cornmeal
1/4 cup oat bran
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
3 large eggs
2 cups well-shaken lowfat buttermilk
4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Cooking spray
Maple syrup and/or jam for serving

Whisk together the first 6 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in the buttermilk and butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Heat up your waffle iron. Coat with cooking spray and proceed to make waffles according to manufacturer's directions. I spray my iron before each waffle. You can keep the waffles warm as you make them in a 200 degree oven, uncovered, on a baking sheet, but we eat them as we go. Serve with maple syrup and jam if you like.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oat Bran-Banana Muffins with Raisins

Another Thanksgiving weekend is behind us. I hope yours was as much fun as mine! I got to spend it in Connecticut with a big bunch of family and tons of great food. The cranberry sauce with pears and ginger I posted last week turned out great. The pumpkin-cranberry bundt cake I made for the 2nd year running was also would be a good one throughout the holiday season.

Fortunately my holiday travel was a breeze, and I’m back in Fort Lauderdale. Besides going to the gym and doing laundry today, I haven’t done much. But I did make these muffins.

I planned it all out last week. You see, I spotted this recipe on Cheaty Kitchen when I was just clicking around some food blogs, and immediately realized it was the perfect answer to a problem. I had exactly 3 too-ripe-to-eat bananas, and as time passed I feared they would go to waste. When I realized I not only had the 3 bananas the muffins called for, but also every other ingredient, I got baking!

I liked them so much, I bought more bananas before I took off for the holiday so they would get nice and black while I was away. If you’re in the same boat after your Thanksgiving travels (or just bought too many bananas), give these a try. They’re really quick, so it’s no problem to do them in the morning. They are also very healthy, full of whole grains and no processed sugars. But don’t even worry about that—they’re just really tasty. The bananas and canola oil make them moist and the just-right level of sweetness comes from raisins and maple syrup. The whole grains make them hearty and dense. If you use non-dairy milk, they are vegan. If you’re feeling like me, a healthy homemade goodie should be just perfect right now.

Oat Bran-Banana Muffins with Raisins
Adapted from Cheaty Kitchen. Original recipe from Nutrilicious by Edith Rothschild

These are vegan if you use soy, rice or almond milk. Once these muffins are completely cool, they freeze very well. Defrost at room temperature for an hour and a half or so.

Makes 12 muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oat bran
2 Tbs. ground flax
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup raisins
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup milk (regular or soy)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
sunflower seed, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fill a standard muffin pan with 12 paper liners, or coat with butter or cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oat bran, flax, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the raisins.

In another bowl, whisk together the bananas milk, canola oil and syrup. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until no more dry bits remain. Scoop batter into the muffin pan, and sprinkle sunflower seeds over muffins. Bake 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and sides of muffins are golden. Cool in pan for a few minutes, then transfer muffins to a rack and cool completely.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Favorite Things: Blueberry-Cornmeal Pancakes

These are my favorite pancakes. While plain-jane buttermilk pancakes are okay, I really love them with just about any embellishment--fruit, whole grains, ricotta, citrus. But these are the absolute best. The recipe is simple, with buttermilk, stone ground cornmeal, whole wheat flour, lemon zest and a smattering of blueberries. Maple syrup is a must.

Like I said, this is a simple recipe. It's your basic buttermilk pancake formula, so to make sure they're as exceptional as they should be, use good stone ground cornmeal, like Bob's Red Mill. The medium grind is just right (this is the stuff I use for cornbread and biscuits, even cake, so buy a bag--it's versatile). Also use buttermilk rather than regular milk or milk soured with lemon juice. The buttermilk has a unique consistency and makes these pancakes, moist, tender and light, not heavy and dense.

Yet another great thing is that you can use frozen blueberries that have been thawed and patted dry. Of course you can use fresh ones too, but I love making these any time of year. Those are all the tips I can possibly offer--the rest is easy!

I did celebrate my birthday last weekend, by the way, but I decided to forgo a big, gooey cake and save myself for next weekend. We're going to celebrate my 30th with a little trip to New York City and do some serious festing. Skipping the cake worked out well because that left room for pancakes!

Cornmeal-Blueberry Pancakes
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated magazine
I prefer medium ground cornmeal for these pancakes. Whole wheat pastry flour helps with their light texture, but white whole wheat or all-purpose also work well. You can use fresh blueberries when they're in season.

Makes about 16 4-inch pancakes

2 cups frozen blueberries
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups stone ground cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 lemon
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup water
Cooking spray

Rinse the blueberries in a colander to help them thaw. Spread on a paper towel, pat dry, and set aside to finish drying.

Melt the butter and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg. Finely grate the zest from about three-quarters of the lemon and add to the egg (reserve lemon for another use). Whisk buttermilk, water and melted butter into the egg mixture. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Gently stir until just combined. If mixture is very thick, add 2 to 4 additional tablespoons of water.

Preheat a large skillet on medium-low to medium heat. Coat generously with cooking spray. Pour 1/4-cup portions of batter into skillet, spreading slightly if needed. Dot pancakes with blueberries. Cook until bubbles begin to appear in batter and bottoms of pancakes are golden brown. Flip and cook until opposite sides are golden and pancakes are cooked through. Coat with additional cooking spray for each batch. Serve right away with maple syrup.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How to Make Scones

First off, welcome to anyone who's visiting for the first time from NPR's website. Hopefully, you'll stay and snoop around the archives. Well, I took my first shot at cooking on camera! I've been wanting to try this out for awhile now, and doing a story on quick breads for's Kitchen Window column finally motivated me to do it.

Technique is important when it comes to a simple recipe like this one for healthy oat scones with fruit and nuts. Without gobs of butter and heaps of sugar to soften the focus on any baking errors, good technique is what ensures great taste and pleasing texture. Working gently and quickly is the key, and that's what I demonstrate in the clip.

Go to to get the recipe for Oat Scones with Dried Cherries and Walnuts and read my article titled, Breakfast Baking: Better Fast Food, which also includes recipes for Banana-Raspberry Muffins with Almonds and Mango Colada muffins. I love all the recipes (good thing since I have a freezer full of test batches), but I have to confess that the Mango muffins are my current favorite.

And finally, I must give credit and huge thanks to my husband, Mike, who shot this clip. Please don't tell him that this video has gotten over 300 views on YouTube as of 2pm EST or I think I'm going to have the next Gus Van Sant on my hands (not Good Will Hunting Van Sant, but Paranoid Park Van Sant). Really though, I could not have made it without his patience and organization. Wow, that turned into a bad Oscar speech...cue the orchestra and enjoy the clip!

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Lemon Buttermilk Scones with Currants

I found a great scone recipe last week. I had a craving for lemon scones, or more specifically for that bright, fruity flavor you get when you pack a scone or a pancake with citrus zest. I had buttermilk on hand from making yet another batch of these whole wheat-cornmeal biscuits (mentioned in this post), which I'm absolutely addicted to. I often find myself throwing away buttermilk that's past it's expiration date, so if I can at least make two recipes with it before it spoils, I'm happy.

I set out to find a lemon scone recipe with buttermilk (as opposed to cream or regular milk), and this one, previously published in Sunset magazine perfectly fit the bill. Plus it called for dried currants which I really like and also had on hand. You could just as easily use raisins since currants can be hard to find outside the holiday season. I also think these scones would be wonderful with dried blueberries. And what about doing an orange-cranberry version?

The texture of the scones is moist and dense (which I like) and not too sweet (which I also like). The lemon glaze is a little tart, but so good. As usual, I made a few changes to the original recipe, mainly substituting whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose. I also hear that the various white whole wheat flours now available (King Arthur and Eagle brand make versions) do really well in scone and cookie recipes, though I haven't tried them myself.

One last note on flour: I love to measure my flour by weight using a kitchen scale. It's so fast and easy, plus there's no futzing with measuring cups. However, I've had a few not-so-great experiences with too-flat cookies and scones lately, and the source of the problem finally dawned on me--most recipes are tested by spooning flour into a measuring cup and leveling it with a knife. This method results in a greater quantity of flour than if you measure by weight according to the label on the package where 1/4 cup equals 30 grams. When I went back to spooning and leveling for this recipe and another cookie recipe I tested last week, I had excellent results. The lesson is that you have to prepare a recipe the same way that it was made during testing. But, so I don't have to throw out my beloved scale, I'm going to take the weight of a spooned and leveled cup of flour and use that from now on.

Lemon Buttermilk Scones with Currants
Adapted from this recipe, originally published in Sunset magazine

A note on equipment: When I make cookies, I like using insulated or "double layer" baking sheets, which allow are to circulate below the cooking surface, between the two layers (one brand name is "Air Bake"), so the bottoms of cookies don't brown too quickly. BUT, when it comes to scones, a regular, heavy baking sheet works best and allows for even browning and baking. If you don't have whole wheat pastry flour, substitute all-purpose. Regular whole wheat flour will result in a strong wheaty flavor and heavier scone, so I'd advise against using it.

2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks and chilled
3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1/3 cup dried currants
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda to the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to blend. Add the cold butter chunks and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a few larger chunks. You can also do this in a large mixing bowl with a pastry blender and/or your hands.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg, buttermilk and lemon zest until blended. Add the flour mixture and the currants to the egg mixture and stir just until thoroughly moistened. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a ball. Pat or roll the dough out into an 8-inch circle, about 1-inch thick. With a sharp, floured knife (flouring the knife before each cut prevents smashing the flaky layers when cutting), cut the dough into 8 wedges and place on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes, or until scones are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

Let scones cool on pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Place parchment paper under cooling rack to catch icing drips. Combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice to make a glaze. Drizzle over scones with a spoon while still warm. Allow icing to set and serve. These scones freeze very well; defrost, covered, at room temperature.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Buckwheat Crepes of Brittany

I know the last post was on pancakes, but this is a breakfast recipe I've been wanting to post for a little while now. Plus, it would be a great dinner too, so there you go.

These crepes are made with buckwheat flour and served in the style of Brittany where they are a local favorite. There was a big, beautifully photographed story (can't seem to find it online) in the April 2007 issue of Saveur on the sweet and savory crepes of this northwestern corner of France which inspired me to finally try this delicious take on the savory crepe. I'm sure they're amazing with flour made from buckwheat grown in Brittany, but they are also awesome with the stuff from Whole Foods (Bob's Red Mill brand, to be exact).

Mike and I have made these a couple times now, and we really like them. It took some fooling with the recipe, but now we've gotten a feel for it. We try to make thin, but soft crepes that we fold over ham, shredded Gruyere cheese and an egg over easy. Good Gruyere, a hard cow's milk cheese from Switzerland, should be easy to find at stores with a decent cheese selection (again, Whole Foods to the rescue). It's one of my favorite cheeses -- good with eggs, on any sandwich, in gougeres, for grilled cheese.

This is one traditional way to serve crepes in France, but you can fill them with anything. And if you don't want to use buckwheat flour, you can make simple white flour crepes or experiment with all sorts of other grains, like whole wheat, barley or quinoa flours. I haven't tried them, but if you do - or if you have your own interesting crepe recipe - let me know how it works.

Buckwheat Crepes with Ham, Eggs and Gruyère (Crêpes de Blé Noir)
Adapted from Saveur magazine

The filled crepes are called crêpes complètes if you're lucky enough to have one in Brittany. There, they separate the yolks and discard the whites so they can cook the yolk inside the crepe along with the cheese and ham. We think it's easier to cook the egg separately - plus we can eat the white too.

Makes 8 to 10 crepes

For crepes:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups reduced fat milk
1 1/4 cups buckwheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt

For filling:
thinly sliced deli ham, cut into pieces
shredded Gruyere

Whisk the melted butter with the milk, flours and salt. You can proceed with the recipe now or cover and chill (lay plastic wrap directly over the surface of the batter) for anywhere from one to 24 hours.

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Ladle about 1/4 cup batter into skillet and quickly tilt to spread into a round. If the batter is too thick to spread, whisk in some water, a little at a time, until you have a consistency you can work with. Cook for about 2 minutes until light golden on the bottom; flip and spread some ham and shredded cheese over one side of crepe. When crepe is cooked through, slide onto a plate, top with a fried egg, fold in half and serve.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Orange-Ricotta Pancakes with Almonds

The weekend is near (not a moment too soon!). Time for relaxing and cooking wonderful things for breakfast. And you don’t have to eat it before noon to consider it breakfast – take it from me.

I really like pancakes. Mike does not. As a food, he sees very little value in them. A lot of people probably feel this way because of countless rubbery, foamy, tasteless and ill-made pancakes that are sadly served everyday in all kinds of places. I don’t like those either. I like lots of flavor and knowing there is some nutritional value in my pancakes so I won’t get a sugar high and want to eat again in an hour.

These orange-ricotta pancakes did the trick, and on top of that, Mike liked them too. Though I wouldn’t force a plain, no-frills buttermilk pancake on him because it’s just not his thing, I think he really objects to crummy pancakes, not pancakes in general.

I’ve never made ricotta pancakes before, and I was surprised that the flavor wasn’t more dominant; rather it leaves only a slight cheesy tang. The real flavor comes from the orange. I used a lot of zest, some juice, and the flavor was unmistakable. The pancakes rely on beaten egg whites for much of their structure—there isn’t much flour in the recipe at all—so they’re all lightness and soft texture. I suspected they could use a little something to make them heartier, so I toasted slivered almonds and underscored that flavor with almond extract in the batter. You could use only vanilla extract so you don’t have to purchase the almond flavoring just for these pancakes. I used whole wheat pastry flour, but you can use all-purpose too.

So, that’s something for you to look forward to this Sunday morning, maybe? Even if you don’t make these pancakes, spend some time enjoying breakfast (I go back and forth, but it may be my favorite meal), and let me know what YOU like to make on relaxed weekend mornings.

Orange-Ricotta Pancakes with Almonds
I used this recipe as a base, but it rather took on a life of its own.
Some recipes recommend draining your ricotta, others don’t. Unless yours is very dry, err on the side of caution and set it over a sieve lined with a couple paper towels for an hour (or do it overnight in the fridge). If you’d rather not bother, I’d guess the pancakes will still turn out fine.

Makes about 8-10 (5-inch) pancakes; may be doubled

Dry ingredients:
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour or AP
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Wet ingredients:
3 eggs, separated
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese, drained if desired
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest, from one large navel orange
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh juice from same orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted, for serving

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk to blend. In another bowl, combine the egg YOLKS only and the remaining wet ingredients and whisk to blend.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer at high speed until you get stiff peaks.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring until just moistened. Fold one-third of the whites into the batter with a spatula, using as few strokes as possible. Fold in the remaining whites in two additions. A few white streaks should still be visible in the batter.

Heat a skillet or griddle to medium or medium-low, depending on how hot your equipment runs, and coat with cooking spray or oil. Ladle about 1/4-cup batter onto cooking surface and spread slightly. Cook until a few bubbles start to form and bottom is golden. Flip and finish cooking the opposite side. Serve with maple syrup and toasted almonds. bloggers really like ricotta pancakes:

Ricotta Hotcakes for Tom Brady on Food Blogga
Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Sauteed Apples on Smitten Kitchen
Bill Granger's Ricotta Pancakes from Cream Puffs in Venice
Amanda Hesser's Lemon-Ricotta-Hazelnut Pancakes on The Wednesday Chef
Blueberry-Ricotta Pancakes on Culinary in the Country (love the nutmeg and WW flour in those!)


Friday, February 29, 2008

Hot Cross Buns

Even though I was Catholic growing up, I probably never would have eaten a hot cross bun if it weren't for that cute little song (see the lyrics here), which I probably learned in pre-school or someplace like that. With such a catchy tune running through my head, I naturally wanted to eat a hot cross bun. Luckily, a bakery near our house made them during lent, and I remember liking the sweet little yeast rolls studded with bits of fruit and spices.

What we know as a hot cross bun became popular in Tudor England in the 1500s, but the pagan inhabitants of the British Isles probably made similar bread marked with a cross to honor Eostre, their goddess of light for whom Easter was named, according to the Oxford Companion to Food. This tradition of offering bread to the gods goes back to the Greeks and Romans and even further to the Egyptians who took a great leap toward modern civilization when they traded blood sacrifices for far less messy offerings of bread.

Today, hot cross buns aren't really an offering, but a traditional holiday food eaten on Good Friday (also known as "the day of the cross") and throughout Lent to remind us of Jesus' cross.

When I decided to recreate this sweet little catholic-school-girl memory, I was surprised that there weren't many recipes to choose from when I looked to my cookbooks and searched online. There's a needlessly complex one here on epicurious, and you can probably turn up a few more from less reliable sources via google.

I found what looked like a good straightforward recipe on from Emeril of all people. Unfortunately, his recipe did not come off without a hitch. The dough was so slack and sticky that it wasn't "kneadable" until I added an extra 1/2 cup of flour. The dough took 2 hours instead of 1 to double in bulk, but I was happy that it rose at all.

Maybe I should have had more faith (bad joke, I know) because my buns turned out very well in the end. The flavor was just right with cardamom at the forefront. I couldn't resist adding a little ginger and allspice, two spices that are often included in hot cross buns. With those aromatic spices, the buns were perfect with the rose petal jam I was raving about in this post.

Here's the link to Emeril's recipe. My changes are as follows: 4 cups of flour instead of 3 1/2, but add more only if you need it; 1/3 cup of currants instead of 1/2 cup raisins (currants are more traditional); I used a generous 1/2 tsp of freshly ground cardamom and 1/4 tsp each of ginger and allspice; 2 hours for each rise. I got 19 buns and they took no more than 25 minutes to bake. If I made these again, I would reduce the milk to 1 cup. For the icing, I used just 1 tbs. of milk, otherwise it is too runny.

This is the type of thing I want to bake for breakfast, so after the second rise, I cover the buns well with a kitchen towel and put them in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning I let them come to room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, then bake. They're really good warm.

Here's another hot cross bun recipe from Levain Bakery, they of ginormous chocolate chip cookie fame. It seemed less traditional, so I opted for Emeril. Then, after all was said and done, I was flipping through Feast by Nigella Lawson looking for something totally unrelated and found her recipe for hot cross buns. Why the heck didn't I think of consulting her in the first place? If you have access to the book, give it a look.

If you have a favorite traditional Easter food, tell me about it in the comments!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cardamom Waffles with Rose Petals

I think cardamom is a sexy spice. The word even rolls off your tongue in a sexy way...despite having the word "mom" in it. This sweet, slightly botanical spice is highlighted in these simple waffles, with only a hint of vanilla to play up the intensely aromatic flavor of the cardamom.

This is a perfect breakfast to celebrate Valentine's Day. It is light, but indulgent; familiar, yet exotic. Since there is just one main flavor note, I like to make it count with freshly ground cardamom. I've become so smitten with this spice that grinding it in my mortar is an absolute pleasure. I like to leave the mortar on the counter instead of washing it right away so I can walk by and smell the scent of cardamom. I may as well just dive into the hyperbole pool here and call it...intoxicating.

This recipe came from the February issue of Gourmet. I wanted to make it as soon as I saw it, but there are only so many opportunities for sweet weekend breakfasts, and things can fall by the wayside. Then I realized that these waffles would be perfect with the rose petal jam I recently bought at Whole Foods Market. I tasted rose petal jam a long time ago when I went to Nice, France. We went to the factory where the jam was made, and I fell in love with the experience of eating something so fragrant you could swear you were simply putting a rose in your mouth. I brought a couple jars home, but I never found the jam again after that.

Doing my Christmas shopping this year, I discovered Zingerman's, the Ann Arbor deli and gourmet food store that carries some truly unique products. They had rose petal preserves, but sold out of it before I could order any for myself. When I saw it at Whole Foods I was thrilled and immediately tried to think of something I could bake to eat it with.

The rose preserves and the cardamom waffles were gorgeous together. I'm a maple syrup girl all the way, but I couldn't stop talking about how much I loved the spiced waffles simply dusted with powdered sugar and a dribble of jam. Gourmet recommended lingonberry preserves and Mike ate his waffles with strawberry (I generously offered him rose jam, but he found it to be a bit of an acquired taste). Any dark fruit preserve (you know, not apricot or peach) will be delicious. The rose preserves I bought are actually available through the company right!

I figure if you're planning a Valentine's breakfast, you'll be holding out for the weekend when you can relax and enjoy something fabulous. I was so in love with these waffles that it didn't occur to me that they would also be wonderful with you can take that under advisement.

Have a sweet Valentine's Day!

Cardamom Sour Cream Waffles
Adapted from this recipe from Gourmet magazine
You can use all AP flour if you want. If you're using regular table salt instead of coarse salt, reduce quantity to a generous 1/4 teaspoon.

Makes 8 waffles

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground green cardamom (from about 12 pods)
2 large eggs
1 cup lowfat milk
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Preserves and powdered sugar for serving

Preheat a waffle iron.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cardamom.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs slightly, then whisk in the milk, sour cream, vanilla, honey and butter. Whisk into the flour mixture until just combined.

Coat the waffle iron with oil or nonstick cooking spray and cook waffles according to manufacturer's directions. Sift powdered sugar over waffles and top with preserves.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Healthy, Easy Spanish Tortilla

I can't really say breakfast is my favorite meal because I love ALL good meals. But, I do enjoy making breakfast food. I like waffles and crepes, but we don't make them too often, so it's all the more fun when we do. I love quick breads, especially scones. I adore pancakes, though this is probably the breakfast item that gets the most abuse. Don't give up on pancakes, even if you've been served one too many that had the weight and texture of a flat tire. Light, thin cakes mixed with a light touch and topped with maple syrup are one of life's great breakfasts.

When it comes to egg-centric breakfast dishes, there's hardly anything I don't like. One of my standards is eggs over easy with runny yolks, buttered toast and a roasted vegetable, preferably asparagus or zucchini. When we want something that involves a little bit more ceremony, my favorite thing to make is a frittata. I've written about frittatas before, and they're a mainstay in my cooking repertoire because they're incredibly easy, good for any meal, not only breakfast, and adaptable to any ingredients you have on hand.

It wasn't until just recently, though, that I got a handle on the Spanish version of frittata, known as tortilla. The traditional version doesn't need anything more than eggs and sliced potatoes, but you'll also see them made with some onion and maybe peppers. Usually, the thinly sliced potatoes are pan-fried in a skillet using a considerable amount of olive oil. Not only is this less healthy, but it takes time and vigilance over your hot stove. I never bothered making tortilla because it seemed like a lot more work than a standard frittata.

When I had a bunch of leftover red potatoes one day, I decided I wanted to use them for a potato frittata. I would slice and roast them in the oven, then just proceed with my usual frittata method. It dawned on me that the finished product would ultimately be a Spanish tortilla, but a lot healthier and simpler--perfect!

I had half a jar of piquillo peppers, the hot-sweet pickled chiles that are a common Spanish ingredient. I cut those up and used them to add some color, and their kicky flavor turned out to be a nice match for the bland potatoes. Now, I use this method to make potato frittatas with any ingredients I want. The last one I did was with sauteed spinach, caramelized onions and feta. The potatoes turn the otherwise light frittata into a more substantial dish. If you have potatoes lying around along with the odd hunk of cheese and some vegetables in the fridge whose time is limited, you've the got the makings of a great frittata for any meal.

Spanish Tortilla or Potato Frittata
This, like any frittata recipe, is an approximation, not a scientific formula. You can add or take away an ingredient to suit your taste. You can make it with 6 eggs if your skillet is 8 to 10 inches, but I would not go with any less than that. Any type of potato will work here. If you can't find piquillo peppers, either leave them out, try roasted red peppers, or saute some thinly sliced fresh red bell pepper with the onion.

Serves 6

Nonstick cooking spray
3 or 4 small red potatoes, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
8 eggs
1/2 cup drained and chopped piquillo peppers
Parsley, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread the potatoes in single layer on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray. Lightly coat the potatoes with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10-15 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, add the oil to a 9- to 12-inch oven safe skillet, preferably nonstick or cast iron, over medium heat. Cook the onions until soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Add the onion mixture and the piquillo peppers. Preheat your oven's broiler to high and position a rack about 6 to 8 inches away from the heat source. Generously coat the empty skillet with nonstick spray or olive oil and heat to medium-low. Arrange the roasted potato slices in overlapping concentric circles. Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and cook until the eggs start to set around the edges. Tilt the skillet as you lift the edges of the tortilla with a spatula, letting the liquid egg run into the gaps. When most of the egg is set around the edges, transfer the skillet to the broiler. Cook until egg is just set in the center, about 2 to 5 minutes. It's fine if the tortilla browns a little on top, but watch closely because it can start to burn fast. Let tortilla rest for a few minutes, then serve sprinkled with fresh parsley.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Meyer Lemon Muffins

There is no shortage of sunshine in Florida this time of year, but there has been a sad lack of Meyer lemons. I may have been able to go to the beach and get a tan, but I was missing my little ray of culinary sunshine until now.

A few weeks ago, Whole Foods Market finally had a few Meyer lemons in stock, but they were sorry little specimens. The thin, sweet peels were so blemished they wouldn’t have been much use in a tart or scone recipe. Depressing as it was, I had to pass them up. Then a few days ago, we were shopping at Publix, the dominant Florida supermarket chain. Publix is a decent store, but I sometimes wonder if the lack of supermarket competition in these parts gives them an excuse to let things slide.

Apparently, that’s not the case. I’ve been known to curse the Publix, often vehemently, when they don’t have a certain ingredient or the well-traveled produce doesn’t look so great. When I saw a bin of beautiful Meyer lemons with smooth skin the color of egg yolks, I was singing the supermarket’s praises. They’ve also been delighting us with a lot of great regional beers lately, but that’s another story.

Anyway, I bought three lemons. This was a totally arbitrary number since I didn’t know what I would use them for. But you don’t just pass up the first perfect Meyer lemons of the year. You just don’t.

Being too busy to use them, I watched my lemons nervously for a couple days before I got it together and started googling for recipes. I found these tempting scones, a pudding cake and a soufflé, but it was this muffin recipe from the Los Angeles Times that called out to me. First off, it required exactly three Meyer lemons. Even better, and the thing I find unique, is that these muffins use the whole lemon. Just trim the stem, remove the seeds and chop it up roughly in a food processor or blender.

The flavor you get in the muffins is incredible. There’s no mistaking what’s in there—not pure lemon, but pure Meyer lemon. You can taste the special qualities of the fruit easily—less acidity and lemony sweetness. It’s a really simple recipe with a short ingredient list too. The dainty muffins are buttery, very moist, and dense so they’re quite satisfying. I love the look of the lemon baked on top. If you could ever describe a muffin as utterly juicy, this is it.

Meyer Lemon Muffins
Adapted from this recipe by Donna Deane for the Los Angeles Times
The original recipe instructed you to fill the muffin molds halfway to yield 18 muffins. I did not want my muffins to be so very tiny, and I only own one muffin pan. So, I filled the 12 molds about 3/4 full and discarded the leftover batter. I got normal-sized, but not large muffins, so I think it worked out well. I also thought the amount of sugar was a bit high, so I reduced it to 3/4 cup. This resulted in a mild sweetness level which was good, but I think next time I would go with the full cup of sugar. I also substituted whole wheat pastry flour for half of the AP flour, as I usually do, with good results.

Makes 12 to 18 muffins (see headnote)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup granulated sugar plus 2 tbs., divided
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 Meyer lemons, divided use
2 eggs
1 cup lowfat milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, 1 cup of the sugar, baking soda and salt.

Take 2 of the lemons, trim off the stem end and cut into 1-inch pieces, carefully removing the seeds as you go. Put the pieces in a food processor or blender and process until finely chopped, but not pureed.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the milk, butter and chopped lemon and whisk to combine. Pour the lemon mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until all the ingredients are moistened.

Coat 12 or 18 regular size muffin molds with nonstick spray, butter or paper liners. Fill them 3/4 full for 12 muffins (you’ll have leftover batter) or 1/2 full for 18 muffins. Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle over the muffins. Thinly slice the remaining lemon into 6 or 9 pieces and cut the pieces in half. Place one lemon slice on each muffin, pressing gently. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes for 12 muffins, 20 minutes for 18 muffins. Finished muffins should be light golden on the bottom and sides. Cool for 2 minutes in the pan, then run a butter knife around muffins to loosen and transfer to a rack to cool.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Asian Scrambled Eggs with Shrimp

Sake is a really good thing. I haven’t touched the stuff in four years because of one bottle that was so unpleasant I didn’t bother with it again until last night. For the past year or so, Mike and I have been feeling uneasy about our aversion to sake. We love Japanese food, and we were sure there had to be something good about an alcoholic beverage beloved by so many people around the world. It was silly to miss out on all the fun.

Mike was traveling for work last week and enjoyed some lovely sake at a sushi restaurant with co-workers. That was it. We decided it was time for us to get over our fear of sake. And it gave us an excuse to make maki rolls which, incidentally, we hadn’t done since we bought that last bottle of bad sake about four years ago. We wanted a dry sake meant to be served cold, which we picked up at Whole Foods Market for $11. It was great! It was far from flavorless, yet very neutral like vodka without any harsh sting--sake usually has an alcohol content around 15% like a strong wine.

Our maki rolls, made with smoked salmon and cooked shrimp--nothing fancy--were great too. Unfortunately, I sort of burned some of our sushi rice, so were left with a bit of extra seafood. Before we even finished the maki rolls, I was dreaming up what I would do with the leftovers for breakfast.

Even though runny, fried eggs are my gold standard, I immediately thought of creamy scrambled eggs with Asian seasonings, shrimp and cilantro. Since I can’t even remember the last time I made scrambled eggs, I checked Mastering the Art of French Cooking for advice. Since I’ve gotten that book, I’ve used it on several occasions to find the best technique for basic recipes--all the recipes I’ve referenced are so well detailed with methods that work so well, I honestly wonder why everyone doesn’t do it Julia’s way.

The eggs were exactly what I was hoping for--soft and creamy with the subtle saltiness of tamari soy sauce (naturally fermented, wheat-free soy sauce) and a bit of fish sauce balanced by the richness of sesame oil--mere drops are all you need here. We had leftover Brussels sprouts from last night too that I sautéed with seasoned rice vinegar, sugar, fish sauce and tamari (there's no limit to the tastiness of Brussels sprouts). Fantastic breakfast! And it was all thanks to sake. Too bad there was none leftover--we had to settle for coffee instead.

Asian Scrambled Eggs with Shrimp
From Julia Child’s master scrambled egg recipe, I learned you mustn’t add anymore than one teaspoon of liquid for every 2 eggs. She, of course, uses cream, but I substituted Asian flavors for this dish. When it comes to shrimp, I’m a little snobby about never buying pre-cooked shrimp--they’re so easy to cook yourself--but pre-cooked would do fine in this recipe. Tamari, a naturally fermented, wheat-free soy sauce has mild flavor that is more than just pure salt. It’s available in many supermarkets now, and I definitely recommend it in this recipe where you want delicate flavor. I made this for breakfast, but I would love to eat it for dinner too.

Serves 2 (doubles easily)

4 eggs
1 tsp. low-sodium tamari soy sauce (I like the San-J brand)
1/2 tsp. fish sauce
1/2 tsp. water
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cooking spray
1/2 tbs. butter
3/4 cup cooked, medium shrimp, cut into 2 or 3 pieces each (or use a combination of shrimp and smoked salmon)
1/4 cup (packed) chopped cilantro
salt to taste
1/4 tsp. dark sesame oil

Add the eggs, soy sauce, fish sauce, water and black pepper to a large bowl and whisk for about 30 seconds.

Coat a large nonstick or cast iron skillet with cooking spray. Add the butter and place over moderately low heat.

Add the egg mixture to the skillet and stir with a rubber spatula. It might take 2 minutes or so for the eggs to heat. When the eggs start to form large curds, stir rapidly, scraping the bottom of the skillet as you go. After about 1-2 minute or when the mixture has thickened a bit, add the shrimp and cilantro. Continue stirring until shrimp is heated through and eggs are no longer liquid, but still soft and creamy. Taste and add a pinch of salt if necessary. When the eggs have just reached the consistency you want, immediately transfer to a plate. Drizzle with sesame oil and serve immediately.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cinnamon Oat Scones

Is everyone having a nice weekend? Good. I can't believe Christmas is nearly here. Christmas on Tuesday works out well--four day weekend! I've already done most of the baking I planned on, and I've bought and wrapped all the presents. Nothing left to do but hang out and have fun.

So, if you're just hanging out like me, here's a great scone recipe for you. I made these a couple weeks ago right after I saw Anna's post. I think I've mentioned that I love scones, and I really love testing new recipes hoping to find that magic combination of basic scone ingredients that makes the perfect moist, buttery treat. When Anna called this the best oat scone ever and said she wouldn't be looking further for oat scone recipes, I was very excited to try it. I don't think she speaks those words lightly. If you need more convincing, it's a Cook's Illustrated recipe, so that means it was tested every which way in the pursuit of oat scone perfection.

If you like scones with oats, this is definitely the ultimate. I can't eat one of these for breakfast without getting up from my computer (I love eating and reading blogs on weekday mornings), finding Mike and exclaiming, "Best scones ever!"

I guess the picture looks pretty basic, but the scones are anything but. Without an insane amount of butter, they are incredibly buttery and moist. I'll also say they're on the sweet side, especially if you use the cinnamon chips. The toasted oats don't make them seem "healthy," but add another dimension of texture and nutty flavor. Seriously, they're melt-in-your-mouth good. The flavor of the oats is also a nice match for whole wheat pastry flour if you like making whole grain scones. I didn't use any white flour, so these awesome scones were also really nutritious.

If you don't have or don't like cinnamon chips, use any add-in you want. There are some suggestions in the recipe headnotes. My grocery store only sells cinnamon chips around the holidays with the seasonal stuff (I have no clue why they're a seasonal item), so if yours is the same way, pick some up and try them in these scones, as well as plenty of other things. King Arthur also sells mini cinnamon chips year round if you're desperate.

You can see Anna's version here. I included the recipe below for convenience, and because I tweaked a few things, like using whole wheat pastry flour. I also cut the amount of butter by a tablespoon just because I ran out of unsalted butter--for shame! I can't think of any more ways to say how yummy these scones are, so I'll just thank Anna for posting about them!

Cinnamon Oat Scones

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated and Cookie Madness
If you don’t have cinnamon chips, use another add-in like raisins, dried currants or chocolate chips. This recipe is a great base for all of them, and would also be good plain. You also might want to switch the cinnamon for ginger or 1 tablespoon of citrus zest. Note that you’ll be raising the oven temperature after toasting the oats.
Makes 8 scones

1 1/2 cups oats, old fashioned or quick (not instant)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry or all-purpose flour, or a combination
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 9 chunks and chilled
1/2 cup half and half
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup cinnamon chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spread the oats on a cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes or until fragrant and lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Raise oven heat to 450 degrees F.

In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Pulse a few times to combine. Add butter chunks to flour mixture and pulse until mixture is the size of small peas.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, half and half, and vanilla. Spoon out 1 tablespoon and set aside to use for brushing tops.

Add the flour mixture and the oats to cream mixture and stir until almost mixed. Add the cinnamon chips (if using) and continue mixing just until mixture comes together in a ball.

On a lightly floured surface, shape the ball into a 7-inch circle (about 1 inch thick). With a floured knife, cut into 8 wedges, and place wedges 2 inches apart on a non-stick or parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with reserved cream mixture. Bake 14-18 minutes, rotating pan halfway through, until scones are lightly browned and cooked through.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Old Fashioned Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Today, I want you to talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic: coffee cake—discuss.

Finished? Good. Here’s my take: I wouldn’t bother with most coffee cakes. Give me a scone, a muffin, even a doughnut over coffee cake any day. My husband likes coffee cake and orders it occasionally at Starbucks. I never had the urge to make it myself until about two years ago. We had just moved into our condo, and a neighbor brought us a lovely, homemade, mini coffee cake. That was a good cake; nothing fancy, just moist, plain cake with a sugary crumb on top.

I was in no rush to duplicate the neighbor’s cake, but the seed was planted. In a baking mood, I batted around ideas yesterday to Mike. Rhubarb pudding cake? Italian Cream Cake? No dice. When I threw out coffee cake, Mike’s eyes lit up and the discussion was over.

I knew we wanted a plain, very moist cake with sour cream, topped with some kind of streusel or crumb. This is just the kind of recipe I knew I would find in my King Arthur Baker’s Companion book. The sweet recipes in this book can be a little heavy and rich, but they always turn out perfectly.

This cake may be even better than the neighbor’s. The batter is very thick, not pourable like a regular sheet cake. When baked, however, it is not too heavy, just incredibly moist and a little tangy due to the sour cream. I slightly cut the amount of flour and sugar in the crumb topping, and still had more than enough for a very sweet, crumbly cake. I also make this cake at night for breakfast today, and I think it does benefit from having ample time to cool and sit. So, it is the perfect sweet breakfast treat to make in advance. Easter brunch, perhaps?

So, now I am on the coffee cake bandwagon. Due to the intense sugar rush, I may not eat it as often as my beloved scones, but it is definitely a nice addition to my repertoire of breakfast treats.

Bloggers love coffee cake; there way too many great ones out there...

Alpineberry's Mini Cherry Walnut Streusel Coffee Cakes have a lovely pink tint.

Seriously Good's Apple-Ricotta Coffee Cake must be as good as it looks since it uses ricotta, an ingredient that's always in my fridge for spreading on toast.

Go take a gander at the gorgeous Apricot-Almond Coffee Cake at Cream Puffs in Venice.

The Dried Cranberry Coffee Cake from Tartelette is quick and simple and uses a secret ingredient--homemade eggnog!

In the archives of Baking Sheet (now Baking Bites) I found another old-fashioned sour cream coffee cake

I wish I had some fresh blueberries to make this Coffee Cake from Chocolate & Zucchini.

This apple coffee cake from Simply Recipes is easy and looks wonderful.

Old Fashioned Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Adapted from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion
I changed this recipe by using half whole wheat pastry flour in both the crumb and the cake. It works perfectly and is undetectable to the untrained eye. Use only all-purpose flour if you want. I suspect it would also be good with only whole wheat pastry flour. I would not use regular whole wheat flour which would change the flavor, texture and color too much for this tender, sweet cake.

Makes two 9-inch rounds or one 9 x 13-inch cake

Crumb Topping:
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 c. granulated sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
14 tbs. unsalted butter (7 ounces)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ tsp. almond extract

8 tbs. (4 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. sour cream (I used lowfat)
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round pans or one 9 x13 pan.

Make the crumb: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Melt the butter in the microwave and stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. Pour the butter over the flour mixture and stir to combine until the flour is uniformly moistened and you have a sandy, moist crumb. Set aside.

Make the cake batter: In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and sour cream, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Add flour mixture to the sour cream mixture and beat on low to medium or stir with a large spoon until evenly combined.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan(s). Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the batter with your fingers, covering the batter completely. Bake for 20-25 minutes for 9-inch rounds or 30-35 minutes for a 9 x 13 pan. Cake is done when a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean and the sides are light gold and slightly pulling away from the edge of the pan. Cool cakes in their pan(s) on a wire rack.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Honey Cornmeal Scones

Sometimes I think breakfast pastries make me even happier than dessert. After all, I can consider them an actual meal even though they tend to be mostly simple carbs. Then I eat a proper dessert like a chocolate mousse tart or really good tiramisu and know that no muffin or scone could ever match its creamy decadence.

Happily, I don’t have to choose between these two loves, although I try not to indulge in a sweet breakfast and a fabulous dessert on the same day (always moderation!). My favorite kind of baked breakfast item is the scone. The scone is a much maligned and misunderstood food, and I can understand why. Many, especially the big, American coffeehouse-style scones, are way too sweet and have a tendency to leave you with a leaden feeling in your stomach and butter oozing out of your pores. They are good for a few bites, but regret inevitably follows.

I generally like all kinds of scones from the light and dry English style to the dense, substantial types, loaded with fruit, nuts, oats and anything else that strikes your fancy. One thing I have discovered is that shocking amounts of butter and sugar are not required to make a good, moist scone.

I adapted the recipe for these honey-cornmeal lovelies from Once Upon a Tart, a cookbook from two New York City bakery owners who clearly have jumped on the heavy American scone bandwagon. There are over a dozen enticing scone recipes all loaded down with butter and sugar. I love butter (click here and scroll down for butter-related rant). I believe in its power, but this was too much. The original version of this scone has 16 tablespoons and I reduced it to 10. I cut the brown sugar from ½ cup to ¼ cup. I also replaced two cups of the AP flour with whole wheat pastry flour, and I swear, you would never know it.

The point of all this tinkering was not to make a healthier scone or a low-calorie scone; but, in my opinion, a better scone. I think I succeeded. Cutting the sugar allows the flavor of the honey to come forward, and the scone is still pleasingly sweet, like a denser version of cornbread covered in honey butter. As long as you use the right technique—mixing cold cubes of butter into the flour mixture just until it looks like coarse crumbs and quickly folding in the liquid until just combined—there is plenty of butter to give the scones ample moisture and richness. They may never measure up to your favorite dessert, but these scones make breakfast a treat.

Honey Cornmeal Scones
Adapted from Once Upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau

Makes 12 scones

2 large eggs
1 c. buttermilk
½ c. honey
1 scant tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 ½ c. yellow cornmeal (medium ground if you like a little crunch; fine ground if you don’t)
1 tbs. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ c. packed light brown sugar
10 tbs. unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled for at least 20 minutes before using
1 egg, beat with 1 tsp. water, for glazing (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the 2 eggs, buttermilk, honey and vanilla together in a large bowl. Set aside.

In another large bowl, whisk together the flours, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and brown sugar. Add the cold, cubed butter and mix it in with your fingers to create a very loose, sandy consistency. You want to smoosh and break up the butter cubes slightly with your fingers, as long as you don’t cause them to melt into the dough.

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and gently combine just until all the flour is moistened (if you over mix, you will get tough dough).

Use a half-cup size measuring cup to scoop the dough out onto the cookie sheet into 12 free-form scones. Use a pastry brush to dab the scones with the glaze. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until tops are golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on baking sheets for a couple of minutes, then move to wire racks to finish cooling.

More scones to try from other bloggers:
Scottish Scones from Orangette--I tried this recipe myself, and they make a delicious simple scone, not too heavy or light, with minimal butter and sugar.
Yogurt Scones from Chocolate and Zucchini--I've never used yogurt before; must give these a try!
Sweet Potato & Vidalia Onion Scones from Tartelette--Now I can eat scones for lunch and dinner too!
Lemon Poppy Seed Scones from The Wednesday Chef
Meyer Lemon Scones from Baking Sheet--Another way to use my favorite lemons!

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