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Category Archives: Sweet treats

Blueberry Scones fit for dessert.

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When last Sunday turned cool and blustery, I turned to my stove to make one of my favorite breakfast treats for an evening snack.  Blueberry scones.  I happened to have organic blueberries on hand, some heavy cream left over from a pasta dish I had made earlier, and plenty of butter, flour and sugar stashed away in my cupboards, just waiting for an opportunity to turn themselves into something delicious.   In less time than it would have taken me to walk to and from my favorite bakery I had 8 perfectly golden, perfectly scrumptious scones.  And I now have a wonderful breakfast to look forward to for the rest of the week.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 5 TBSP butter (really cold – stick it in the freezer for 20-30 min ahead of time)
  • 1 cup heavy cream (again, really cold), plus a little extra for brushing the scones before baking
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 2 TBSP turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl, and transfer into a food processor.  Cut the butter up into small pieces (halve the stick of butter lengthwise, then flip it and halve it again, and then cut it 6-8 times across) and toss it, along with the lemon zest, into the food processor with the dry ingredients.  Pulse until well blended (pieces will look like dry sand).  Transfer mixture back into large mixing bowl, and to that, gently mix in blueberries.

Make a well in the center, and pour the heavy cream into the middle.  Slowly blend everything together, being careful not to break the blueberries.  When mostly mixed, (it’s okay if there are a still some bits that are still flour-y, and some that are wetter), move the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball.  Work quickly so the butter doesn’t get too warm.  Roll, or press out into a 3/4″ thick rectangle – around 10″ x 7″.  Cut the rectangle into quarters, and then cut the quarters into even triangles – making 8 even pieces.

Place the 8 pieces onto an ungreased cookie sheet, brush with extra heavy cream, and sprinkle on the turbinado sugar.  Bake on the middle rack of your oven for 15-18 minutes.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack and just TRY to wait until they’re cooled to dig in.  I give you five minutes before you break down and nibble off one of the corners 🙂

Happy Eating!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

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Growing up, I can clearly remember summer days at my grandparents’ house.  I would sneak a handful of sugar from the kitchen and then dart into the garden to find the perfect stalks of rhubarb to crunch on.  Once I made my choice, I’d break off the end, crushing it into my sugar-filled hand. And then, my first bite — sweet, sour, crunchy, juicy.  To me, that was the taste of summer.  Well, that and my grandmother’s spectacular strawberry rhubarb pie. No dessert could come close to it!  So when I spotted the loveliest quart of strawberries and beautifully blushed rhubarb at Allandale Farm a few weeks ago, I couldn’t resist grabbing both.

The Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble I decided to make is much less labor intensive than my grandmother’s homemade pie, but every bit as scrumptious.

Topping:

  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar in the raw (cane sugar)
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups rhubarb, (about 3 stalks), chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 1 quart strawberries, plus some extra (don’t have to be precise)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3-4 TBSP cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

To prepare the topping simply combine the flour, baking powder, both sugars, lemon zest and melted butter.  Mix until crumbly.  Mixture should be fairly dry.  Toss it into the fridge to keep cool until the filling is ready.

Next, wash, core and halve the strawberries.  (Depending on the size of the berries, you may want to quarter them.)  Then clean and trim the rhubarb, cutting into 1″ pieces.

Toss together with the lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and salt.  Pour filling into 8″ square baking pan with high sides.

Cover the filling with the topping, (rap the pan on the counter a few times to make sure everything settles), and place onto a foil-lined baking sheet before putting into the oven.  This will help tremendously if the crumble bubbles over.  Without it, the oven would be a smokey mess!

Bake for 45 min or until lightly browned on top and bubbly on the sides.  It’s seriously good enough to eat on its own but I would never discourage topping it with some vanilla ice cream.

Happy eating!

Banana Butterscotch Pudding Cake

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It’s been a while since I’ve written about my adventures in the kitchen.  (Chalk it up to day-job overload…ugh.)  Which means I’ve been coming home (late) and quickly throwing something together without giving it much thought.  Well enough is enough!

Today I decided to make a recipe from Rachel Allen’s PBS program, Rachel’s Favorite Food at Home.  If you’ve never seen her show – make a date (or set your DVR) to watch an episode.  First off, everything is shot in her beautiful country home in Cork, Ireland, providing you – as only PBS can – with a 30-minute escape to a simpler, slower life.  Secondly, she makes food that you WANT to eat.  It’s not complicated for the sake of being fancy, and all the ingredients she uses are wholesome and in-season.  On top of that, throughout the program you feel like you’re in the kitchen of your best friend who also happens to be an incredible chef.  As she cooks, she provides really helpful tips on things people actually want to know, but aren’t able to ask – like why to use the type of oil she’s suggesting, or how to test if your jam is “set”.

The particular recipe I’ve chosen is actually not hers, but a take on a very famous dessert by Bill Granger – Banana Butterscotch Pudding.  I’ve decided to call it Banana Butterscotch Pudding Cake because that’s really more representative of what it is – at least to me!

It’s really fairly simple, and takes about a half hour to prepare and about 40 minutes in the oven.  I chose to make it for breakfast – come on, you all know you like cake for breakfast – but I think it would be lovely served after a hearty stew or roast.

Ingredients (translated into US measurements from a UK recipe)
For the pudding:
1/2 cup + 1 TBSP plain flour
3 level tsp baking powder
1/2 cup + 1 TBSP sugar

1 egg, beaten
1 banana, mashed

1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
7 TBSP butter, melted

For the topping:
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
2 TBSP light corn syrup
1/2 cup + 2 TBSP boiling water

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Mix the wet ingredients (egg, butter, mashed banana, milk + vanilla) into one bowl.  In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar + baking powder).  Incorporate the wet mixture into the dry.

Pur into a well-greased baking dish – I used a 9″ round pie dish with 2″ sides.  (Note – the 2″ sides are important.  If you use a 1 1/2″ side pie dish the mixture will boil over and spill out into your oven.)

To make the topping, in a small saucepan, bring the brown sugar, corn syrup and water to a boil.  Pour immediately (and carefully!) over the pudding/cake batter, distributing evenly in a figure 8 motion.  Don’t worry when the “topping” inevitably sinks to the bottom.  Bits of it will rise to the top while it’s baking and will form a nice crust.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through when tested with a skewer.  Let cool for at least 15-20 minutes before serving to allow everything to set properly.

Top it with vanilla ice cream or fresh, lightly sweetened whipped cream.  It’s delicious on its own, too 🙂

Happy eating!

Salted Caramel Ice Cream + Caramelized Onion Dip

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In anticipation for the Pats/Jets game last night, I wanted to whip up a couple of things that could represent what I believed would be the outcome of the game (naturally believing the Pats would CREAM the Jets)… how wrong I was.  But how right I was in my selection of dishes: Caramelized Onion Dip + Salted Caramel Ice Cream.

First, for the dip…

I started with about 2 cups of raw onions, sliced relatively thin.

I seasoned the onions with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and about 1/4 tsp of dill and garlic powder, and let them cook in about 2 TBSP olive oil for about 30 minutes in a large skillet (stirring frequently), until they turned a nice golden brown and could literally melt in your mouth.

While they were cooking, I took out a mini 3 oz container of cream cheese to let come to room temperature for easy mixing.  (One thing I love most about this dip recipe is that it calls for no mayonnaise – a condiment I particularly abhor – anyone with me?!)

Once the onions were cooled, I mixed them together with the 3 oz cream cheese and 8 oz of sour cream.  After fully incorporating the onions, I tasted, and realized it needed more salt + pepper, so I added another 1/2 tsp of each.

The result – an “oh-my-God-I want-more-of-that” dip.  Serve with ruffled chips, pretzels and veggies.

For the ice cream (since I know that’s really what all of you want to read about anyway!) I started by bringing 2 cups of heavy cream + 2 tsp really good vanilla just to a boil in a large saucepan.  After it boiled, I immediately took it off the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes.  Then I strained the cream into a bowl to remove all the skin and chunky bits.  I rinsed the saucepan and wiped it clean, and then transferred the strained and smooth cream mixture back into it.

As the mixture cooled, I whipped together 4 egg yolks with 1/4 cup plus a couple TBSP of granulated sugar until it became light, yellow and fluffy (took me about 3 minutes at a pretty good whisking clip).

After I strained the cream (keep in mind, it’s still really warm at this point) I poured about 1/2 cup into the egg yolk/sugar mixture, and stirred it all together.  This tempers the egg yolks so that when it’s all transferred into the hotter mixture (and eventually brought to a simmer) the egg doesn’t cook.  Once fully incorporated, I added the egg mixture into the rest of the cream and slowly brought it back to a simmer.  Note – during this reheating process it’s VERY important that you continue stirring the whole time… no one likes lumpy ice cream.

The mixture began to thicken, and I knew it was ready to be taken off the heat when the sauce stuck to the back of a spoon and held its form when I ran my finger through it.

Next, I transferred the mixture to a glass bowl (you can use any other bowl you have that’s freezer-friendly) and placed in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to let cool.  If you live in New England you could also put it on your windowsill since it’s THAT COLD HERE!

After 30 minutes, I took the mixture out of the fridge, whipped it together again for about a minute and then placed it (uncovered) in the freezer.  At this point, you have the start to vanilla ice cream… from here, you can pretty much do what you want.  For my Salted Caramel version, I removed it from the freezer after an hour, whipped it together again, and then drizzle melted caramel (I  used store-bought from whole foods – i know, lazy!)  throughout.

After another hour went by, I took it back out and sprinkled about 1/2 tsp of Fleur de Sel over the top.  I just knew that the gorgeously delicate flakes of tasty salt were JUST what this ice cream needed to cut through the inevitable sweetness that rich and creamy vanilla ice cream and buttery caramel will deliver. Note – at this point, I covered the ice cream.  Ice crystals are not welcome here!

I broke it open the next day and YUM is all I can say.  It was heaven in a bowl.  Rich, smooth, and creamy, with just a hint of chewy caramel, and the bit of salt on top was juuuuust right.  See ya later Haagen Dazs 😉 I think I’ll make my own from now on…

Happy eating!