Close

Scones

Proper baking is a form of cookery that requires some serious commitment and practice. Until this past year, if I needed to procure some muffins, cookies, or a birthday cake, I usually just bought some premade dough or a box mix from the grocery store. To my surprise, I have actually grown to enjoy baking’s finicky nature. It contrasts nicely with my ‘anything goes’ attitude with other types of cooking in general.

Rather than getting in over my head trying to perfect complex pastries or cakes, I decided to try baking something new this week: scones. I found an excellent resource from Southern Living that provided a consistent scone base to which a number of different sweet and savory adaptations can be made.

I have to admit that, as a novice, preparing the dough for baking was a bit unnerving. I soon as I had pulled out all of my ingredients and preheated the over, I realized that I had overlooked the need for a pastry blender in the recipe. I frantically called my mom asking for alternatives.

I used two forks instead of a pastry blender to cut in the butter.

I used two forks instead of a pastry blender to cut in the butter.

Although I had seen my mom’s pastry blender collecting dust in one of her kitchen drawers, I had never actually known what this goofy-looking utensil was called. The name seems a bit over-hyped, but maybe I am a product of my generation—immediately assuming that a blender of any kind involves super efficient electric-powered blades. I feel like the only place I’ve seen a pastry blender in action before was at summer camp in the pottery studio. But I digress…

The purpose of a pastry blender is to cut cold fat (in this case, butter) into the dough in order to form layers that turn flaky during baking. This “cut in” or “shortening method” of making dough is actually very important to the consistency of your final baked product, but it turns out that using two forks works just as well as a fancy pastry-blending contraption. According to Sara Phillips at Craftybaking.com:

To “cut in” in serves the function of distributing the fat particles into the dry ingredients, typically flour, and coating and lubricating flour granules. This method greatly reduces the ability of the gluten proteins [gliadin and glutenin] in the flour to create gluten when mixed later with a liquid, such as water or milk.1,2

Pretty neat, huh? Unless you anticipate making a lot of scones, biscuits, piecrusts, etc., then I don’t suggest running out to purchase yet another piece of kitchen equipment. (If you’re anything like me, it’s getting more and more difficult to find places to store everything!)

My first batch of apricot-ginger scones prior to going into the oven.

My first batch of apricot-ginger scones prior to going into the oven.

Another brief warning to you fellow scone novices as well: if your dough is crumbly, difficult to form and/or refuses to be neatly cut into wedges, do not fear! I nearly had a heart attack when making my first batch. They refused to stay in the prescribed triangular shape, and I was afraid that this week’s post would be a complete failure. My advice? Just try your best to shape them (without over-working the dough) and I promise they will turn out delicious and rustic-looking. My co-workers devoured all of the blog goodies I brought in again this week… And they even offered to provide testimonials!

Now that you’ve gotten your daily dose of food science and your baking pep-talk, here’s some background on scones:

Authenticity is a major issue that plagues these flaky treats. Even the pronunciation of “scone” is highly debated—usually between Brits and Americans (skahn vs. skohn). Regardless of how you pronounce it, your scone recipe is probably guaranteed to anger someone on either side of the pond.

The original scones are said to have developed in Scotland as rounds of oat and barley dough that were cooked atop hot griddles, and then cut into wedges.3 Much like today, these quick breads were cheap to make and contained ingredients that were usually on hand or easily accessible. As Julia Moskin states:

They were a simple combination of fat, flour and liquid, which became softer and lighter as wheat, butter and leaveners like baking soda and baking powder became widely available.3

Eventually, British scones were brought to the United States, where they underwent further transformation. With the addition and substitution of a few ingredients, decadent Southern biscuits were born. Chef Andre Geary states that there are a few main differences between British and Americanized scones: butter, sugar, and add-ins. Rather than upping the butter and sugar content in the dough, Brits prefer to eat their freshly baked scones with butter, jams, or clotted cream alongside their afternoon tea.4 As far as add-ins go, the Brits prefer to keep things simple there as well. Chef Geary mentions a few traditional lackluster options such as currants or raisins, but it’s Americans who tend to push the envelope with chocolate, nuts, and other treats mixed into their scones.

My wedges started coming together much easier on the last batch.

My wedges started coming together much easier on the last batch.

Below I have provided the basic scone recipe that I used for this week’s post and the two flavorful adaptations I tried: apricot-ginger and asiago-rosemary.

Best-Ever Scones

(From Southern Living)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cold butter, cut into half-inch cubes
  • 1 cup whipping cream, divided
  • Wax paper

Preheat the oven to 450°. Mix the first four ingredients in a large bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender (or two forks) until crumbly. Freeze for 5 minutes.

Add ¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp. cream, and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened through.

The asiago- rosemary scone dough.

The asiago- rosemary scone dough.

Turn the dough out onto wax paper and gently press or pat it into a 7-inch round (mixture will be crumbly). Cut the round into eight equal wedges. Place the wedges 2 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush the tops with the remaining 2 Tbsp. cream just until moistened.

Bake at 450° for 13 to 15 minutes or until golden.

Variations

Sweet Apricot-ginger Scones:

Apricot-ginger scones after baking.

Apricot-ginger scones after baking.

Stir in ½ cup finely chopped dried apricots and 2 Tbsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger with the cream. (Don’t be afraid to add a little bit of extra apricot or ginger. The flavor is wonderful!)

Savory Rosemary, Pear, and Asiago Scones:

Omit sugar. Stir in ¾ cup finely chopped fresh pear, ½ cup grated Asiago cheese, and 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary with the cream. (I omitted the pear in this recipe, added a bit of extra grated cheese and chopped rosemary to the dough, and then sprinkled even more asiago on top to make a nice crust.)

So how do you like your scones? Lots of add-ins? Served with jam and butter?

 Sources
  1. Phillips, S. (2000). Mixing Method – Cut In or Cutting In. Crafty Baking. Retrieved from https://www.craftybaking.com/howto/mixing-method-cut-or-cutting
  2. Castro, J. (2013, September 17). What is Gluten? Live Science. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/39726-what-is-gluten.html
  3. Moskin, J. (2014, February 25). Biscuits and Scones Share Tender Secrets. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/26/dining/biscuits-and-scones-share-tender-secrets.html?_r=0
  4. The Difference Between British and American Scones: Test Cook Andrea Geary Explains. (2015) Cook’s Illustrated. Retrieved from http://www.cooksillustrated.com/features/8521-the-difference-between-british-and-american-scones-test-cook-andrea-geary-explains

The Dish

After a thoroughly busy week at work, I decided that I should try a new drink recipe tonight. Fortunately, with a little digging, I found a fairly simple recipe for white sangria that seemed promising. I had the citrus, basil (thanks, mom’s herb garden!), white wine, and orange juice on hand, and all I needed to procure was a bit of brandy. Even luckier for me, it turns out that my mom unknowingly had a dusty bottle of brandy hidden away in the very back corner of her liquor cabinet. Tonight’s end of the week treat was practically free! Well… sort of…

SANGRIAWhat really drew me to this recipe was the white wine base (I’m slowly warming up to reds), the citrus and herbal notes, and the lack of chunky, floating fruit pieces. Sliced fruit may give sangria some lovely flavor, but I’m not a fan of spending a bunch of money and time on fruit just to soak it in perfectly good wine. Also, trying to drink my booze through fruit salad isn’t really my jam.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy adult drink for a day by the pool or an afternoon on the beach, this recipe is perfection. Just be sure to have everything chilled and plenty of ice on hand to stave off the heat!

Here’s the link to the recipe: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/thai-basil-sangria

Earlier this week I had a kind of revelation. A little over a year ago, I happened upon a “healthier” pumpkin pancake recipe online that I figured I would be crazy about. The only catch was that it used chickpea flour instead of regular AP flour in order to boost the protein content. Chickpeas are one of my favorite foods (I’ll eat them straight out of the can any time), and I wait all year until it’s autumn and I can start savoring pumpkin-y goodness in all forms; therefore I figured this would be a new favorite.

Of course, I did a major no-no and made these pancakes for the very first time for a guest. My best friend had moved states away months before, but was back in town visiting briefly, and I promised her a fantastic pumpkin pancake feast before her flight home. To my horror, what I ended up serving her can only be described as “bean pancakes.” They were awful, but she never even hinted at the fact that they tasted as if I had literally mixed garbanzo beans and pumpkin, plopped them on the griddle, and served them to her with maple syrup. (This is one of the reasons why she is an incredible friend!) We laughed about it eventually, but I have had this sorry bag of leftover chick pea flour lingering in my pantry for over a year now. Until…

FullSizeRender-2The other night I had a serious craving for pizza, but no tomato sauce, yeast for dough, or mozzarella on hand. Rather than ordering out, I decided to try my hand at making a yeast-less pizza dough. After I found a decent-looking recipe, I figured I’d attempt to hide a bit of my useless chick pea flour in the dough by substituting it for about 1/3 of the AP flour that was called for. It was absolutely delicious!

Instead of the usual tomato-based pizza formula, I used some leftover pesto for sauce, and for toppings, I added some sliced garlic cloves, plenty of red pepper flakes, a couple of chopped kalamata olives, feta crumbles, and some grated Romano cheese. For an entirely experimental snack, this flatbread turned out surprisingly well. I can’t wait to try it again when I have real sauces and toppings available!

Do you have any cooking experiments that ended up being complete duds? What about unexpected hits?

That’s all for The Dish this week. Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

The Dish

I am sincerely loving my new job and being back home. Although I was nervous about this decision, the proximity to my mom and ability to reconnect with old friends has made my choice entirely worthwhile. One of the great perks of moving back home is that my mom is less than a five-minute drive away. Our schedules are a little different, so we’ll take turns dropping off odds and ends and groceries at each other’s places throughout the week when we’re in a pinch or need some company. It’s pretty much the best.

The herbs for this bouquet garni (and most, if not all other recipes) come from madre's little garden.

The herbs for this bouquet garni (and most, if not all other recipes) come from madre’s little garden.

My mom has a small balcony off of her kitchen on the second floor of her condo where she grows a few pots of herbs and a small key lime tree. On my way home from work last week, I decided to swing by and cut a few handfuls of fresh herbs for my osso buco rather than paying for old, wilted bundles at the grocery store. I didn’t think much of it at the time, especially since one of Florida’s notorious afternoon thunderstorms was quickly approaching, as I was trying to decide how much I needed off of which plant. I shoved my fragrant, green loot into a paper bag and somehow made it home without getting rained on.

A few days after cooking the osso buco and posting my recipe, my mom called me and asked if I had noticed anything going on with her parsley while I was pilfering her herb garden. I told her about how I was in such a hurry snipping sage, rosemary, chives, thyme, etc., that I hadn’t had time to notice much of anything other than the menacing black clouds drifting closer and closer to the porch.

The youngest caterpillars are dark with a white stripe. From afar, they look a bit like bird droppings...

The youngest caterpillars are dark with a white stripe. From afar, they look a bit like bird droppings…

“Well… I asked because I think the caterpillars are back,” she said.

Around this time last year, I wasn’t taking graduate courses over the summer and had decided to come home and intern for a few months. It just so happened that my mom’s miniature herb garden became covered in what appeared to be small bird droppings, but upon closer inspection they proved to be tiny caterpillars, or the larvae of the Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly. Each species of butterfly favors a particular kind of plant on which to lay their eggs, and the Eastern Black Swallowtail prefers plants in the carrot family. This includes dill, fennel, Queen Anne’s Lace, and, of course, parsley.

Last year I was able to see them absolutely decimate my mom’s once lush parsley plants, grow into huge, fat caterpillars, and then quietly inch away to form their chrysalises in solitude. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there to see the butterflies emerge and fly away, but I’m hoping that I get the chance this year, because they’re back!

Here you can see a few freshly formed chrysalises and one plump caterpillar still gorging itself on what is left of the parsley!

Here you can see a few freshly formed chrysalises and one plump caterpillar still gorging itself on what is left of the parsley!

This is only the second year that my mom and I have had our humble herb porch transformed into a butterfly nursery, but second to fresh herbs for roasting a chicken with, this is the best thing to come out of it so far.

I admit that this post isn’t directly food-related, but I consider it to be another prime example of the benefits of growing your own herbs and having them on hand whenever you need them. They are pretty much always in better shape than anything you can find at the store, and if you take care of them, most varieties will last quite a long time (so long as no butterflies decide your plants are the prime spot for spawning the next generation!)

This particular caterpillar migrated onto my mom's rosemary and has positioned itself to form its chrysalis.

This particular caterpillar migrated onto my mom’s rosemary and has positioned itself to form its chrysalis.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the butterflies’ progress. Have a splendid weekend, everyone!

Pork Pernil

Things are really coming together at my new place. Best of all, I finally have Internet! However, I spent most of my time with my mom at her place over the weekend. We had a blast cooking together for this week’s post, watching old movies, and enjoying a few mimosas during the process. I hope you all had a wonderful time with your mothers this weekend as well!

Now, I can’t speak for everyone out there, but pork is one of those culinary delicacies that I can never get enough of. Roasts, chops, sausages, tenderloins, bacon, prosciutto: you name it. Pork products are my tasty, tasty kryptonite. So, it seemed only proper to feature a glorious roasted pork recipe in one of my first posts.

Lilly and Dixie got to enjoy some of the pork bones after all our hard work was over!

Lilly and Dixie got to enjoy some of the pork bones after all our hard work was over!

Although this slow-cooked dish takes a number of hours to marinate and roast, the recipe is fairly simple. Personally, I love things that I can prep ahead of time and then just pop in the oven. I adapted this pernil recipe from Cook’s Country, and it turned out fabulous. This would also be ideal for a summer get-together since it is affordable and easily feeds a crowd. Although the crowd that enjoyed this roast consisted only of my mother, myself, and our two spoiled Maltese pups.

Here is a bit of background on Pork Pernil:

Pernil is traditionally cooked using a fresh ham from the rear of the pig. However, this recipe (and most out there, it seems) calls for a pork picnic shoulder. The meat is marinated for at least 12 hours, cooked low and slow initially, and then at a higher temperature to crisp the skin. The bones, connective tissue, skin, and fat in this cut will all contribute to intensifying the decadent pork flavor of the meat and pan drippings. Essentially, using smaller and easier-to-find cuts of the hog helps you to replicate a full-blown outdoor pig roast in your oven.

I love the bright color of the sofrito marinade!

I love the bright color of the sofrito marinade!

Particularly popular as a Christmas dish in Puerto Rico, pork pernil is seasoned with traditional spice blends such as adobo and/or sofrito and served with rice and pigeon peas. Like any dish, preferred seasonings can vary widely from country to country, region to region, and family to family. Adobo is the Spanish term for a marinade or dressing that is comprised of herbs and spices—usually with a base of garlic, oregano, and black pepper.1 Sofrito is another popular staple in Spanish, Latin American, and Portuguese cooking. The ingredients in this flavorful base are typically lard or oil, onions, various kinds of peppers, cilantro, and sometimes tomatoes.2 Combining these two seasonings for marinating and braising the pork really IMG_4026imparts a lot of rich flavor.

I’m already getting hungry for leftovers again, so let’s get to the recipe!

Pork Pernil

(adapted from Cook’s Country at https://www.cookscountry.com/recipes/7453-pork-pernil)

  • 2 cups chopped cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 Spanish onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 12 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 heaping tablespoons fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • 1 cubanelle pepper, chopped with ribs and seeds removed
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped with ribs and seeds removed (optional)
  • 1 bone-in pork picnic shoulder with skin on
  • 1½ tablespoons lime zest
  • 2/3 cup of lime juice

To make your sofrito mixture, combine 1½ cups of cilantro, the onion, salt, olive oil, garlic, oregano, pepper, cumin, thyme, parsley, and cubanelle and jalapeno peppers in a food processor. Blend well until the sofrito is finely ground. Dry the pork shoulder with paper towels and then spread the sofrito over the entire roast. Marinate in the fridge overnight, or for at least 12 hours for best results.

This is just after removing the foil.

This is just after removing the foil.

Shortly before you are ready to begin cooking, remove the pork from the refrigerator just to take the chill off. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and pour 8 cups of water into a large roasting pan. Place the roast skin side down in the pan and cover it tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for 90 minutes. I suggest placing the roast in the lower third of the oven to prevent it from being too close to the heating element–especially in later steps when crisping the skin.

Remove the foil and decrease the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Roast for 2½ hours.

Remove the pan from the oven and prepare your V-rack with nonstick cooking spray. Carefully remove the roast from the pan in one piece (the skin may try to stick to the bottom) and transfer it to the V-rack with the skin side up. Pat the skin dry with paper towels to allow it to begin crisping. Place the V-rack inside the roasting pan with the juices and return to the oven for 1 hour. If the juices in the pan begin to run low, add water as needed.

Look at that crispy skin!

Look at that crispy skin!

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the pork and the V-rack to the baking sheet. Return the pork to the oven and increase the temperature to 450 degrees. Roast for 15-30 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through. When it is done, the skin should turn dark brown and make a hollow, crispy noise when tapped with a utensil.

Remove to a carving board and let the pork rest for 30-45 minutes. While the roast is resting, take the juices from the roasting pan and pour them into a fat separator. Let the juices settle for a few minutes and then pour the defatted liquid into a large bowl.

I could drink these juices with a straw.

I could drink these juices with a straw.

Add the remaining ½ cup of cilantro (leaves look prettiest added to the sauce) and the lime zest and juice.

Carefully remove the crispy skin from the pork in one piece, and scrape away any large globs of fat from the bottom of the skin. Chop the cracklin into bite-size pieces and set aside on a plate. (Do not let them steam in a bowl or they will get soggy!) Remove the meat from the bone, taking care to discard any excess fat. Chop roughly and add to just enough of the cilantro-lime pan juices to moisten and flavor the meat (about 1 cup). Toss and serve with the crunchy skin on the side. Garnish with wedges of lime.

The finished roast along with the cilantro-lime juices. (We over-cooked the skin just slightly)

The finished roast along with the cilantro-lime juices. (We over-cooked the skin just slightly)

  1. Collado, K. (2014, December 30). What is Adobo. The Daily Meal. Retrieved from http://www.thedailymeal.com/cook/what-adobo
  2. Rodriguez, H. (2015). Sofrito. Retrieved from http://latinfood.about.com/od/seasoningmarinade/p/What-Is-Sofrito.htm

Ginger Breeze

Once again, summer is just around the corner. Around this time each year, as the temperatures hover in the upper 80s, I begin to regret cursing the mild and intermittent chills that we Floridians call ‘winter’. In no time at all, it will be impossible to set foot outside for even a moment without breaking into a violent sweat.

There's nothing like perfecting recipes mid-move!

There’s nothing like perfecting recipes mid-move!

Thankfully, I just completed my big move before the dog days of the season. However, it was still sweltering and unpleasant enough to prompt me to try out a new concoction meant to help ward off the oppressive summer heat. Allow me to introduce the ginger breeze. Once I’m all unpacked, I want to do nothing else but lay on the beach sipping one of these until I start my new job in two weeks.

This drink uses ginger-infused vodka and thyme simple syrup to spruce up a tried and true iced tea and lemonade beverage. Some of you may know the nonalcoholic version as an Arnold Palmer or half and half. As refreshing as the original is, however, I feel that a summery beverage definitely calls for an extra kick. Although it may sound fancy, it’s actually quite easy to make.

The original Arnold Palmer beverage is, of course, named after the renowned golfer. With 92 overall victories, 4 Masters, two PGA Player of the Year Awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and many more accolades, Palmer’s legacy is far greater than a refreshing clubhouse mocktail.1 In that golf history vein, an alcoholic version of this citrusy tea drink may also be referred to as a John Daly. Another prominent golfer with a less pristine past, Daly has admitted to struggling with alcohol and gambling issues.2 The ginger breeze certainly is tasty, but hopefully it doesn’t cause anyone to start binge drinking or wearing obnoxiously loud golf pants.

I apologize for the shorter entry this week, but I am still mostly living out of boxes and without internet! If you try this recipe, I’m pretty sure you’ll forgive me:

Ginger Breeze

       Ginger-infused vodka

  • ½ cup fresh ginger root, chopped
  • 1.75 liter bottle of good vodka

       Thyme rich simple syrup

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 tea bags (black tea)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 ½ cups fresh squeezed lemon juice

For the ginger-infused vodka, pour entire bottle into a pitcher with a lid. Add the chopped fresh ginger and store in a cool, dark place. Allow the mixture to infuse for at least three days, and stir or shake it a few times per day. Once the vodka is done, strain out the ginger pieces.

To make the rich simple syrup, combine two cups of sugar and one cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture has thickened a bit. Remove from heat and add the sprigs of thyme. Let the syrup and herbs infuse for 10-15 minutes. Remove the thyme and store in a lidded container in the refrigerator.

Brew three cups of tea to your desired strength and let it cool. (I used Lipton original black tea*.) Combine the tea, lemon juice, 1½ cups of simple syrup, and two cups of vodka in a pitcher and serve chilled with a sprig of thyme or a slice of candied ginger.

*Note: I’m not really a tea person (aka a coffee addict) and actually over-steeped my tea and it was incredibly strong. To counteract the bitterness, I diluted my tea with water and used three cups of this mixture in the final recipe. Try not to steep your tea too long, but if you do, just try this simple fix.

Sources
  1. Arnold Palmer. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.arnoldpalmer.com/allarnie/index.aspx
  2. Murray, E. (2014, April 7). John Daly: I was young and dumb back in the 90s but I had a lot of fun. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/apr/07/john-daly-masters-golf-young-dumb-90s
Italian Home Kitchen Blog

Italian Home Kitchen Blog

Food Fellowship and Wine

A celebration of all things good

My Meals are on Wheels

Life and Cooking from a Wheelchair

Cooking Without Limits

Food Photography & Recipes

Round Two

"Life is better than we expected."

Cooking Up The Pantry

Feeding a hungry family!

Crafty Coin

Tips for how to budget and live frugally

Plant Based Protagonist

Protagonist: An advocate or champion for a particular cause or idea

%d bloggers like this: