Fresh Blueberry Scones

I picked up some fresh blueberries at the megamart and woke Sunday morning with a hankering for scones. Baking with fresh fruit is always a little different from their dried cousins (such as the dried cranberries in these scones), plus I had no heavy cream, so I improvised.

Fresh Blueberry Scones
Servings: 4 (2 scones each)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon (I used Ceylon)
  • 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. half and half, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • extra sugar for sprinking before baking

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a 9″ round baking dish with parchment and coat the sides of the pan with baking spray.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Add the butter to dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender to work the butter into the dry goods. After 3-4 minutes or so the butter should be well cut into the dry goods and the dry goods should look grainy.
  4. Add 3/4 cup half and half and the egg to the dry ingredients. Use a wide rubber spatula to gently mix the dough until it just comes together. A bit of flour in the bowl isn’t a problem.
  5. Add the blueberries and carefully combine them with the dough.
  6. Empty the dough into the prepared pan. Press the dough into a 9″ round circle within the pan. Cut the dough into 8 wedges (I use a bench scraper).
  7. Brush the dough with the remaining half + half and sprinkle generously with sugar.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking. The scones are done when an instant-read thermometer reads 205°F when inserted.
  9. Move the pan to a cooling rack and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the scones. Place a plate on top of the pan and up-end the pan/plate to remove the scones. Remove the parchment and return the scones to the cooling rack for another 5-10 minutes.
  10. Serve warm, with a bit of butter or jam. Or allow to cool completely and wrap individual scones in a double layer of plastic wrap to keep for 3-5 days.

Notes:
I think baking these in the pan helped them have a slightly better rise than the free form scones I have made. The fresh berries definitely benefited from the extra sugar.

Most scone recipes tell you to blend the butter and dry ingredients until it resembles small peas. No amount of blending has given me that result. When the butter is no longer sticking to your pastry blender feel free to move on to the next step.

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Crown Roast of Pork

[Crown Roast of Pork]

Crown Roast of Pork with Wild Rice, Apple and Dried Cranberry Stuffing.

This year we splurged on our Christmas Eve main course and had a local market put together a crown roast of pork. Their minimum size was larger than we needed however it made for an impressive center piece on our holiday table.

The crown roast is formed from two regular bone-in pork loins. The butcher removed the chine bone, cleans up the tips of the ribs and formed the crown with butcher twine. I chose to roast it without stuffing, adding a separately baked stuffing once the roast was sitting on the serving platter.

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Achiote Grilled Chicken Thighs

We were introduced to achiote via chef Daisy Martinez‘s cooking show, Daisy Cooks!. Achiote (also called annatto) seeds provide an earthy flavor. One of the more common ways to use them is to make a flavored oil that will impart a yellow-orange color to the dishes it is used in (think yellow rice).

Achiote Grilled Chicken Thighs
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 2 hours
Total time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 5 Tbsp. achiote (annatto) seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. whole cloves
  • 8 whole allspice berries
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 Tbsp. fine salt
  • 5 lemons, juiced
  • 4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Directions:

  1. Combine the annatto, peppercorns, cumin seeds, cloves and allspice berries in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder. Grind to a fine powder.
  2. In a blender jar combine the spice blend you just ground with all the other ingredients except the lemon and chicken. Blend until smooth.
  3. Add the lemon juice; pulse to combine. This is your marinade. Set aside.
  4. Trim the excess fat off of your chicken thighs. Transfer thighs to a large resealable plastic bag. Add the marinade. Squeeze out as much air as possible and seal. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
  5. About 45 minutes before you want to eat light your gas grill, setting all burners on high and close the lid. Allow to heat for 15 minutes.
  6. Scrape any residue from past grilling off the grill and lubricate with 4 or 5 passes of vegetable oil on a paper towel.
  7. Place chicken thighs on the grill, skin(less) side down. Close the lid and cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Flip the chicken and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes. Remove when the internal temperature of a thigh is 160°F. An instant read thermometer is very helpful here.
  9. Serve as is or cut into pieces to use for chicken tacos.

Notes:
Throw out the marinade after putting the chicken on the grill. It’s tainted with raw chicken nastiness.

If the marinade is a bit grainy you can brush off the excess spice mix before grilling. We didn’t bother and it didn’t affect the results as best we can tell.

I found achiote (annatto) seeds in my grocery store in the baking aisle along with the other spices. We’ve also purchased them in the past from Penzeys.

I combined the ideas from a couple of online recipes to come up with this one. Check out this one or this one for inspiration.

Applesauce Spice Cake

This recipe comes from an tattered paperback copy of the Betty Crocker’s Cookbook I received ~20 years ago when I moved out on my own. The recipe language is rather sparse and yet I turn to this book time and again for some very delicious things. This cake is certainly among them.

Applesauce Spice Cake
Servings: 15
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. table salt
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon (I used Ceylon Cinnamon from Penzeys)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cups currants
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup dried tart cherries

Directions:

  1. Place rack in the medium position of your oven. Preheat to 350°F. Spray a 13″x9″ baking pan with non-stick spray and line with a sheet of parchment paper to form a sling along the long sides.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Combine sugar, shortening and applesauce in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on low for 30 seconds until it forms a paste. Add the water and eggs; beat on low for another 30 seconds to combine.
  4. Add the dry ingredients, beat on low until just combined and then raise speed to medium high for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the dried fruit and beat on medium for ~30 seconds until well combined.
  6. Scrap the batter into the prepared pan and distribute evenly. A couple of short drops of the filled pan onto the counter will help even out the batter and remove any air pockets that may exist (at least that’s what my mother told me).
  7. Bake for 60 minutes, rotating the pan for halfway through baking. Check doneness with a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake. It should come out clean with no damp batter sticking to it.
  8. Allow cake to cool, in the pan, for 15 minutes, on a cooling rack. Slide a knife along the non-parchment sides of the pan to loosen the cake and then remove the cake using the sling. Carefully remove the parchment from the bottom of the cake and allow to cool completely.
  9. Dust with powdered sugar, drizzle with glaze or frost with something flavorful and tasty. Or just eat it as is ’cause it’s pretty darn tasty by itself.

Notes:
You could use 1 type of dried fruit, such as 1 cup of currants or dried cranberries rather than a mix.

The original recipe also called for 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts. I left those out since this was for a potluck event and you never know who will have an allergy.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Our sister-in-law asks for this every Thanksgiving and it is delicious. The original recipe came from an early 2000’s issue of Cook’s Illustrated. While the active in the kitchen time is probably 45 minutes be sure to set aside at least 6 hours before you want go somewhere (like to bed). You’ll need that much between baking and cooling time.

[Pumpkin Cheesecake]

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Servings: 12
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 2 hours active, 6 hours before you can put it in the fridge (24 hours after overnight refrigeration).

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger, divided
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves, divided
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 9 whole graham crackers, broken into large pieces
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
  • 3 8 oz. bricks cream cheese (1.5 lbs. total), cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl combine 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon each of ginger and cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon clove. Set aside.
  2. Put a kettle or large pot of water on to boil. You’ll use it for the water-bath later in the recipe.
  3. Line a baking sheet or cutting board with a triple layer of paper towels. Spread the canned pumpkin over the paper towels. Top with another triple layer of paper towles and press until towels are saturated with liquid. Remove the top layer of towel and discard. Fold the bottom layer of towels in thirds, like in a letter, so that the pumpkin is left in the center of the towel. Set aside.
  4. Adjust the oven racks so that one is in the center of the oven and a second rack is located below that. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9″ springform pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  5. Combine the cracker pieces and sugar/spice mixture in the bowl of a food processor. Processor for about 30 seconds in multi-second pulses. You should end up with a fairly fine powder. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with melted butter. Mix thoroughly with a rubber spatula.
  6. Dump crumb mixture into the springfold pan and spread evenly. Using a ramenkin or measuring cup press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan. Place a sheet pan on the lower rack and bake the crust on the middle rack for ~15 minutes, until fragrant. Cool on a baking rack while making the filling.
  7. Beat the cream cheese in the bowl of stand mixer at a medium speed for about 90 seconds. Combine the remaining sugar, ginger, cinnamon, clove along with the nutmeg and allspice. Add about half the sugar mixture to the mixer, stop and scrap the bowl, add the remaining sugar mixture, beat for 1 minute.
  8. Add the dried pumpkin and vanilla; beat for 1 minute. Stop and scrap the bowl.
  9. Add 2 eggs, beat for 1 minute. Stop and scrap the bowl.
  10. Add remaining eggs; beat for 1 minute. Stop and scrap the bowl.
  11. Add the heavy cream; beat on low for about 30 seconds. Stop mixer, scrap bowl thoroughly and give a final stir by hand.
  12. Wrap the bottom and sides of the springform pan with aluminum foil. Place the springform pan a roasting pan and fill the springform pan with the cheesecake mixture. Shake the springform pan gently to settle the mixture and smooth the top.
  13. Transfer the roasting pan to the oven. Carefully pour the hot water you boiled earlier around the springform pan so that it comes about halfway up the side of the springform pan.
  14. Bake for 85 minutes and check the temp. of the center of cheesecake. Once the temp. reaches 145 to 150°F remove it from the oven to a cooling rack. If not at temp. then bake another 5 minutes and check again.
  15. Immediately after removing from the oven run a small knife around the inside of the springform pan to loosen the cake from the side of pan.
  16. Rest cake in roasting pan until the water has cooled substantially, about 45 minutes. Remove the springform pan from the roasting pan, discard the aluminum foil and set the cake on a cooling rack. Cool for at least 3 more hours before wrapping in plastic wrap and refrigerating overnight.
  17. Before removing the side of the springform pan run a knife along the inside edge once more. Remove the side and slide a thin metal spatula, such as a frosting knife, between the crust and the pan bottom. Transfer cheesecake to a serving plate. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Notes:
Make sure to remove the cream cheese and eggs from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you start making the recipe.

All springform pans, even the best, will allow a small amount of fat to escape while baking the crust. The baking sheet should catch any drips and save you from a smoky oven (and shrieking fire alarm). Likewise the double layer of aluminum foil should keep the water bath from reaching your tasty creation.

You can enjoy the cheesecake after a 4 hour rest in the fridge however it will taste better if you allow it to rest overnight. Trust me.

Zucchini Quick Bread

It’s summer time and the gift of excess produce is in full swing. This past week a co-worker sent me home from work with 4 abnormally long cucumbers, 2 large zucchinis and a crock neck yellow squash. Since were heading to a get together later today I thought I’d make zucchini bread to bring along.

In the back of my head is the thought that one of the hosts is vegan. So I did a little web crawling and combined a few dairy and egg free recipes with my favorite zucchini bread recipe and came up with the following. Enjoy.

Zucchini Quick Bread
Servings: 2 loaves
Prep time: 45 minutes (see notes)
Total time: 2 hours (plus cooling)

Ingredients:

  • 1 zucchini, approx. 2 lbs.
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Trim the bloosom end off of the zucchini. Coarsely grate it on a box grater. Transfer to a salad spinner and fluff to aerate. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. Spin vigorously to remove excess moisture. Empty liquid and repeat until no liquid accumulates in the bottom of the bowl. Set aside.
  2. While grated zucchini drains you can preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease the bottom of 2 loaf pans (mine are about 9″x5″.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and spices) in a bowl and whisk until the spices are well distributed.
  4. In a large bowl mix together the applesauce, sugars, oil and vanilla until well combined.
  5. Add 2 1/2 cups of grated, drained, zucchini to the wet mixture and stir to combine. Then add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. A few bits of dry flour is OK.
  6. Divide batter between the 2 prepared loaf pans. Bake for 65 minutes, rotating the pans 180° half way through cooking.
  7. Transfer to a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Notes:
The long prep time is to allow the excess liquid to drain from the grated zucchini. Getting rid of some of the liquid in the zucchini helps to lighten the final product .

Since this quick bread has no eggs it will be denser than other quick breads. Of course the zucchini by itself will often make this a dense bread.

We keep two types of cinnamon in the house, both from Penzey’s. We tend to use Ceylon in most quick baked goods (quick bread, cakes, cookies, etc.) while the Vietnamese is used in savory things or yeast breads.

Hermits

Hermits were a regular part of the snack rotation of my childhood. I suspect, like so many recipes from that time, it came from the back of a box or can of something. My guess is the corn syrup, or maybe the flour. In any event they are delicious and remind me of simpler times.

This recipe is based on one from The Way We Cook by Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven. I’ve tweaked the ingredient list a bit and written up the instructions in my own words. Enjoy.

title
Servings: 15-20 bars
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes (plus cooling time)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups currants

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray the bottom and sides of a 13″x9″ baking pan with vegetable spray. (see notes)
  2. Combine the dry ingredients (the first 6) in a large bowl and stir with a whisk to combine.
  3. Add the oil, molasses, corn syrup, water, milk and eggs in the bowl of stand mixer. Beat until well combined. Add the sugar and beat until mixed.
  4. Add the flour in 3 installments, mixing until just incorporated after each addition. Remove from the mixer, scrap the sides of the bowl with a spatula and stir in the raisins.
  5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared 13″x9″ pan. Allow it to settle into the pan in a (fairly) even layer.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for 5 minutes.
  7. Cut the hermits while still warm. Store leftovers (ha) in a ziptop bag.

Notes:
I made a sling of sorts in the pan with a piece of pre-cut parchment paper that is sized for a half sheet pan. I sprayed the bottom and sides of the pan then laid the parchment into the pan to form an U. The spray on the bottom helps the parchment to stay in place while you spread the batter. When the cake was ready for serving I ran a knife along the edges not covered with parchment and lifted the entire cake from the pan with no fuss.

The original recipe called for “dark” raisins, whatever those are. We prefer currants over raisins anyway so it was an easy substitution.