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.

Maple-glazed Pork Roast

I’ve made this recipe several times using both pork tenderloin and pork roast. I think I prefer the pork roast; the meat to glaze ratio is higher so the sweetness of the glaze doesn’t overpower the meatiness of the dish.

If you want to make this with a pork tenderloin use 2 x 1 pound tenderloins and cook them for 15 minutes in the oven before checking the temperature.

Maple-glazed Pork Roast
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 lb. boneless pork roast
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp.ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • pinch each of ground cloves and cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. Place the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. While the oven heats up tie the pork roast in 3-5 places with butcher’s twine to make a more uniform “log” out of it. Sprinkle with the kosher salt and black pepper.
  3. Add the oil to a non-stick skillet and heat it over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes until it starts to smoke. Brown the roast on all sides, starting with the fattiest side, for 2-3 minutes each. Transfer the pork roast to a plate.
  4. Lower the heat to medium and drain off any excess oil. Return the skillet to the burner and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine and bring to boil. Cooks for 30 seconds.
  5. Return the roast to skillet and coat on all sides with the glaze. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook for 40-45 minutes. The center of the thickest part of the roast should register 140°F on an instant-read thermometer.
  6. Rest the pork for 5 minutes in the skillet and then transfer to the cutting board for an additional 10 minute rest.
  7. Slice into 1/4″ slices, streak with some of the remaining glazes and serve.

Notes:
If you spray your measuring cup with a bit of non-stick spray before adding the maple syrup with will pour our much more easily.

Dark Color, Robust Taste Maple Syrup (formerly know as Grade B Maple Syrup) works very well in this recipe.

Stovetop Spiced Pecans

I wanted a bit of sweet-salty crunch with the salad we made as part of our Christmas Eve dinner this year. After bouncing options off my husband I opted for a quick online search where I found this recipe that sounded promising. A bit of on-the-fly modification produced a tasty result.

Stovetop Spiced Pecans
Servings: 1 cup nuts
Prep time: nada
Total time: less than 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole pecans
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1/2 tsp. Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper for finishing

Directions:

  1. Place a non-stick skillet over medium heat and add the pecans. Toast for about 1 minute, swishing the nuts around the pan frequently. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the skillet, allow the sugar to melt and swirl to combine the spices.
  3. Return the nuts to the pan and toss to coat. Allow to cook for another minute until the nuts are well-coated with sugar and spice.
  4. Transfer nuts to a rimmed baking dish lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Spread the nuts out so they don’t touch. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
  5. Allow to cool for 30 minutes and then transfer to a sealable container.

Note:
Let these cool at least a minute or two before tasting; the sugary coating is lavatastic when it first comes out of the skillet.

Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Cake

We celebrated a birthday at a recent Saturday night gathering and, for me, birthdays need cake. The birthday boy’s mom mentioned chocolate chip pancakes as something the 8 year old was asking for so I set out to make a cake that might, in some small way, match the flavor of the griddle cooked treats.

I leveraged this recipe from Jen’s Favorite Cookies and then ended up improvising after I realized I had doubled the butter.

The birthday boy liked the cake well enough that I hastily scribbled down some notes in the hopes of being able to produce something similar in the future.

Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Cake
Servings: 12
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Total time: 1 hour plus time for the cake to cool (for 2 round pans)

Ingredients:

  • 405 grams (3 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (that’s 2 sticks), softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 12 oz. dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Greased the bottom and sides of 2 9″ cake pans. If you have parchment you can also place a parchment round in the bottom of the pan.
  2. Whisk together the flour, salt, soda, powder, and cinnamon in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Crack the eggs into a bowl, add the vanilla and whisk until the eggs and vanilla are well combined.
  4. Add butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Start out on low until the sugar is mushed into the butter then increase the speed to medium-high for 3 minutes until the butter has lightened in color.
  5. Add the egg/vanilla mixture to the creamed butter/sugar and mix well.
  6. Add a third of the dry ingredients to the mix followed by a third of the buttermilk. Mix on medium-low until combined then add the next third of both flour and buttermilk. Mix again and add the last of the flour and buttermilk.
  7. Remove the bowl from the mixer, scrape the paddle and set aside. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, add the chocolate chips and mix to combine.
  8. Split the batter between the prepared pans (a scale help). Use your spatula to spread the batter evenly across each pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pans half way through cooking.
  9. Before removing the pan make sure it is cooked through by either checking the temp. (it should be 210°F in the center) or, if you lack an instant read thermometer, the toothpick method (a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean).
  10. Move cake pans to a rack and cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife between the pan and the cake, remove each cake from it’s pan and return the cake to the rack until completely cool.
  11. Frost with your choice of frosting, icing or whipped topping. I made a chocolate version of my regular buttercream frosting.

Notes:
I finally had a chance to make this in a 13″x9″ pan. Bake time was between 65-70 minutes. My plan is to skip frosting, serve it in the pan and dust it with a couple of tablespoons powdered sugar after it cools.

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.

Tangerine Spice Cupcakes

Ted’s birthday came around once again and we settled on this tangerine scented spice goodie for dessert.

Tangerine Spice Cupcakes
Servings: 24 cupcakes
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon (I used Penzey’s Vietnamese cinnamon)
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. tangerine oil

Directions:

  1. Arrange oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 2 12-cup muffin trays with cupcake liners.
  2. In a bowl whisk together the flour, soda, powder, salt and spices. Set aside.
  3. Combine the butter, shortening and sugar in the bowl of stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat for ~2 minutes until combined and fluffy.
  4. Add the water, eggs, vanilla and tangerine oil to the mixer bowl. Beat on low until combined.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Remove bowl from mixer and scrap sides. Give the batter a final mix by hand to make sure any stray flour is incorporated.
  6. Use a disher to fill the cupcake liners.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes on the same oven rack, rotating the pans and swapping sides half way through backing. Test with a toothpick at the end of baking; it should come out clean if inserted in the center of a cupcake.

Notes:
Tangerine oil can be found online or as part of a set in specialty cooking gear stores such as Sur La Table. A little bit goes a long way.

This recipe is based on a sour cream spice cake from an old Betty Crocker cookbook I received when I first moved out on my own. I’ve tweaked the ingredient list, reordered it to match how I prepare the batter and rewritten the “dump everything and mix” instructions.

After cooling completely I covered these with my simple buttercream frosting.  I added 1/4 tsp. orange oil to the frosting.  I topped about half of them with Ted’s candied tangelo peel.

Peanut Butter Mascarpone Pie

The basis of this recipe comes from the Uncommon Gourmet’s All-Occasion Cookbook. I often turn to it for parties when something a bit different from the usual finger food.

I used an individual cheesecake pan to make these. I suspect a 9″ springform pan would work OK. The original recipe suggested using a deep-disk pie pan so you could always give that a go.

At least three of our guests raved about how good these were. All 12 were eaten; always a good sign.

Peanut Butter Mascarpone Pie
Servings: 12
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 2 1/2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, divided
  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 8-10 full crackers)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. Vietnamese cinnamon
  • 4 Tbsp. room temperature butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese, brought to room temperature
  • 1 /12 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

  1. To make the crusts start by preheating the oven to 350°F. Spray each of the pan openings with baking spray.
  2. Toast pecans in a skillet until lightly browned and aromatic. Roughly chop; set aside 1/4 cup.
  3. Pulse the remaining pecans in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the crumbs, sugar and cinnamon; pulse 3 or 4 times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until well mixed.
  4. Put about 2 tablespoons of crumb mixture into the bottom of each cup on the baking pan. Compact crumbs into the bottom of each opening. It’s OK if a bit comes up the sides.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes; rotating half way through baking. Transfer pan to a rack and allow to cool completely before filling.
  6. While crumb base cools you can take the mascarpone cheese out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
  7. To make the filling start by whipping the heavy cream in a stand mixture until stiff. Transfer to another bowl and set aside.
  8. Beat the remaining ingredients together using the stand mixer until fluffy. Manually fold in the whipped cream.
  9. Top the crumb bases with filling; fill to the top. Smooth the top with the back of a butter knife. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set; at least 2 hours or as much as overnight.
  10. When you are ready to serve run a thin knife along the outside edge of each cup. Push the bottom of the pie up, remove the metal plate and set on a serving plate. Garnish with the reserved pecans.

Notes:
I had leftover crumb mixture; probably because I made the individual pies rather than a single pie. You could try making two-thirds of the crumb mixture.