I have learned a few tips over the years relative to baking. I was never very good baking. My pastries were always dry. The whole process was depressing. Then I started watching cooking shows and then my sister-n-law Roxanne gave me the Baking Illustrated cookbook. The book opened my eyes to the chemistry involved. The temperature of the kitchen plus the precise temperature and measurement of ingredients. There is a scientific method that unless you are in the know you will never find in a typical recipe.
Learning the art of making scones could be the first stepping stone to conquering fluffy biscuits and dare I say pastry crust. The key to scones, biscuits and pie crust is using cold ingredients and to handle the dough as little as possible. To do this the dry ingredients are whisked thoroughly as well as the wet before combining the two. You also want to keep the butter and milk in the refrigerator until it is time to add them. Now get out there and bake up some scones. Like these Pumpkin and Date scones. Yum yum!
I was attracted to the pumpkin and date part. I used butternut squash and dates but I think I prefer pumpkin and raisins better. There are two pumpkin scone recipes in this post. The first is an adaptation of Belinda Jeffery’s Mix and Bake by Pittsburg Needs Eated. I enjoyed the simplicity of the scone. No fuss. Just delicious warmth. The second connects with my more wild side that needs flavor to build on top of flavor producing a carnival ride of scrumptious delight.
Source: adaptation by Pittsburg Needs Eated
3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
10 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup chopped pitted dates or dried cherries or cranberries
1 cup cold cooked mashed butternut squash or pumpkin
3/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly dust a sturdy baking sheet with flour or line with parchment paper; set aside.
Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, or rub the butter in using your fingers, until mixture resembles bread crumbs.
Add the dates tossing to coat with the flour mixture. Make a well in the middle. Whisk the pumpkin and buttermilk and pour into the well. Stir gently until just combined. This dough is sticky. If it is too sticky and you prefer using an ice cream scoop, place scoopfuls of mixture on prepared baking sheet 1-inch apart.
Otherwise, to cut the scones, tip mixture out onto a floured surface and dust lightly with flour. Gather dough together; pat into a 1 1/2 inch think round. Dip a scone cutter or a small tumbler into flour, then stamp out the scones, dipping the cutter into the flour between each one or cut the scones into triangles using a sharp knife dusted with flour.
Place the scones 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with cream, milk or egg wash (1 yolk to 2 tsp water).
Bake the scones for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Transfer to a large clean tea towel; wrapping them up in the towel to keep moist. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, serve the scones with butter.
Source: Morning Coffee and Tea
2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup pumpkin (if canned, be sure there are no spices or sugar added)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Sift together flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Cut cold butter into small pieces and cut into flour. Mixture should look like coarse crumbs. In a separate bowl mix together the pumpkin, buttermilk and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and mix until the dough comes together (don’t overmix).
Transfer to a lightly floured surface. Shape or pat dough into a circle about 1 1/2 inches thick. Slice in half, and then cut each half into 3 equal pie-shaped wedges. Brush with egg glaze (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk), and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.
Bake on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Makes 6 scones.
Optional: Add white chocolate chips and/or chopped pecans.
Pumpkin Spice Butter
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
Combine all and mix till creamy.
These harvest cornucopias are so much fun to make and eat. The kids will love them. They also might ask you for ice cream later to go with the ice cream cone…
In a bowl mix in your favorite snack foods from the list below:
Dried fruit: cranberries, Raisins, blueberries, fruit snacks
Sweets: yogurt covered raisins, M&M’s,
Nuts: almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans,
Snacks: fish, pretzels, cheerios, granola
**These suggestions are not limited. Just remember the sugar cones are not very wide.
The theme for our latest craft session is the Fall Harvest. If you have seen my previous posts on gardening you will know I have a black thumb so unfortunately there was nothing to actually harvest here. However, at the end of our street is a corn field and not too much farther from our home is a cotton field.
We made ears of corn by gluing bubble wrap, cut in the shape of a corn cob, to a piece of construction paper also in the shape of a corn cob. Here we used yellow but you may also use green. We painted the bubble wrap with yellow paint. After the paint dried we glued on the husks, using green construction paper. Glue the corn to a piece of paper or to skewers to display.
Use a toilet paper or paper towel roll for the trunk of the tree. I happened to have an empty wrapping paper tube which allowed us to make various sizes of apple trees. Next, cut 1-2 inches off the bottom of a paper plate. Color the paper plate using green paint or markers. We used a sponge cut into a 1-inch square piece and dabbed the paint on. For the apples we used a 1/4-inch square piece of sponge and red paint.Cut a slit in the top of the tube to slide the paper plate into when dry.
Whole cloves are expensive at the grocery store. Instead shop your local dollar store or Big Lots. Push the cloves into the orange for a wonderful fall aroma. Make a design or completely cover the orange and display.
Photo by: Chow.com
When I make soups I use a product I buy at Costco called Better Than Bullion. Basically it is stock that has been boiled down into a concentrated paste. I like it better than bullion or canned broth but it does not compare to the real stuff. I made a pot roast the other day and saved the juices to make beef stew. It was ten times better than anything from a can. Stock can be made using the drippings from a roast pan or by boiling the leftover turkey or chicken carcasses.
To make turkey stock:
- De-bone the turkey by removing all the meat from the bones.
- Chop up the turkey to fit in a large pot. Cover with water about 1-inch or so above the turkey. Bring the water to a boil then turn down the heat to low; cover and simmer for 2-3 hours. Occasionally skim the foam from the top.
- Strain the broth into a large bowl or container using a thin kitchen cloth or cheese cloth placed on a strainer. Let cool. Skim the fat from the top. Freeze. This version does not have much flavor. It is best used in soups.
- Once the water has simmered for an hour add chopped onions, carrots, celery with the leaves, whole garlic cloves, parsnips, thyme, parsley and peppercorns. This version has flavor and can be used in soups, sauces or in anything else chicken or turkey stock is called for.
- Add the turkey neck and giblets to the pot with the turkey.
Should make about 3-4 quarts of stock.
A couple Friday’s ago Stephen brought home a pumpkin muffin with strussel topping. I was gracious for his thoughtfulness. Now, normally a pumpkin muffin would have sounded appetizing but I just was not that interested. You see last year I went pumpkin crazy. I finally found the much sought after Pumpkin Chip Cookie recipe. Then I went in search for the best Pumpkin Bread recipe. Along the way I found a couple recipes for Pumpkin Pound Cake. Then there was the traditional Pumpkin Roll and Pumpkin Pie on Thanksgiving in addition to a scrumptious Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie. I cannot forget the Pumpkin Whoopie Cookies and pumpkin pie bars, so divine. Lastly, this past spring I found an wonderful recipe for Pumpkin Apple Muffins. I suppose this is why I have been focusing so much on apples this fall.
Still, this recipe for Pumpkin Pistachio Cannoli has been nagging at me. “Please make me!” Cannoli shells can be found in the bakery section of the market . The recipe states that tortillas may be substituted. Tortillas are surprisingly versatile. Mascarpone cheese is a thick spreadable cheese similar to cream cheese. It comes in a small tub usually found in the deli with the gourmet cheese. So grab the kids and get messy making Pumpkin Pistachio Cannoli.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens
1/2 of an 8-ounce carton Mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup chopped roasted pistachio nuts or toasted pecans
1/2 cup whipping cream
12 purchased Cannoli shells*
Powdered sugar or granulated sugar
In a large bowl stir together Mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, pumpkin, ricotta, and pumpkin pie spice until smooth. Stir in 1/4 cup of the nuts. Set aside.
In a chilled mixing bowl beat cream with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold into pumpkin mixture. If desired, cover and chill up to 4 hours To serve, spoon pumpkin mixture into a self-sealing plastic bag. Snip a 3/4-inch hole in one corner. Pipe filling into cannoli shells so pumpkin filling extends from ends. Sprinkle cannoli ends with remaining nuts. Arrange on a serving platter; sprinkle with sugar. Makes 12 servings.
*Note: If purchased cannoli shells are not available, brush one side of sixteen 4-inch flour tortillas (trim larger tortillas if necessary) with cooking oil. Roll, forming a tube shape; secure with a wooden toothpick. Gently place a rolled piece of foil in the center for support. Place on a baking sheet; brush outside with oil and bake in a 375 degree F oven about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a wire rack to cool. Remove foil and toothpicks; fill with pumpkin mixture. Makes 16 shells (allows for breakage).
Wild rice pilaf evokes fall with the warmth of the pecans and mushrooms reminiscent of homemade Thanksgiving stuffing. I love the added protein from the garbanzo beans. They lend a chewy filler without the fat and extra calories associated with sausage. I like to boil the orzo in chicken broth to add more flavor. Wild rice pilaf can also be used to stuff a turkey or Cornish hens.
Orzo may resemble barley in shape but is technically a pasta. Still many refer to it as a rice and so when looking for the pasta you might want to try the rice isle first.
Source: Rachael Ray
3 ounces wild rice (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 pound orzo pasta
2 tbsp butter
2 garlic cloves
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup pecans, chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
Half of a 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, drained
Salt and pepper
Cook the wild rice according to package directions; transfer to a large bowl. Meanwhile, in a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the orzo until al dente; drain. Add to the wild rice.
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the pecans and sage and cook, stirring frequently, until the nuts are toasted and the mushrooms are tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the peas and chickpeas. Add the vegetable mixture to the orzo mixture; season with salt and pepper.
Makes 4 servings
I had a bake off this week in search of an easy yet tasty dinner roll recipe. I eliminated any recipe that called for evaporate or dry milk because dry milk is not a common pantry ingredient and is surprisingly expensive. The decision of which recipes to try was a difficult one for they all were similar. The ingredients list had slight variations such as 1 teaspoon of salt versus a 1/2 teaspoon of salt or 3 tablespoons sugar versus 1/2 cup. A couple called for buttermilk and butter versus water and oil. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words,” rang true in the quest for a tender delicious dinner roll champion. I burned my arm pulling the tray out of the oven because I did not expect them to be so heavy. These dinner rolls were just as delicious as any bakery would produce.
Now the crucial part when making breads is the yeast. Most recipes are based on the belief that we are all seasoned bakers and therefore do not tell us that the water must be warm (between 110 and 115 degrees) to activate the yeast. This can be achieved without a thermometer. My friend Juanita taught me the correct temperature is usually about as hot as you can stand to touch. If the water is too hot the yeast will die and you end up with squished soggy dense rock hard bread. Water that is too cold takes longer to rise or does not activate the yeast at all.
When forming the dough into loaves or balls always flatten the dough slightly then roll up. For a loaf of bread flatten the dough to twice the size of the width and slightly shorter than the length of the pan then roll up long side to long side, tucking the ends under before putting the loaf in the pan. For rolls, grab a piece of dough a little larger than a golf ball. Flatten slightly. Roll up width-wise and then lengthwise forming a ball.
Makes 35-45 rolls (2 1/2 – 3 inches)
Pinch of sugar
2 packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp salt
6-7 cups flour
1/4 cup butter, melted
Mix the sugar and water until dissolved. Sprinkle yeast over warm water; let sit 2 minutes then stir to dissolve. Let sit in a draft free place for about 5 minutes until the mixtures is foamy.
Meanwhile, whisk eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, oil, and salt together in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture; whisk to combine.
To measure flour, spoon flour into measuring cup leveling off with a knife. Stir in 3 cups of flour with a wooden spoon. Add more flour 1/2 cup at a time. When the dough becomes too stiff to stir, turn out onto a floured surface and knead by hand. Fold dough over. Using the heel of your hand push down and away. Repeat kneading for about 10 minutes, adding flour a little at time if dough is too sticky to work with. Place dough in a bowl coated with non-stick spray. Cover with a kitchen towel and set in a warm draft free place until double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down dough with your fist and gather into a ball. With floured hands, shape pieces of dough (slightly larger than a golf ball) into balls. Place about 1/2-inch apart on greased baking sheets (or non-stick baking sheets). Cover roll with a towel and let rise again until doubled in size about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Bake rolls 25-30 minutes, or until golden. Brush hot rolls with melted butter.
After brushing rolls with butter add any of the following toppings.
-Grated Parmesan cheese.
-Sage leaves, slivered.
-Garlic powder and salt.
It is not very often our five year old volunteers to help cook. This morning he was eager to take position as my assistant chef. He mashed the bananas, whisked the dry ingredients and then combined the two. This helpful streak of his has been going on all week. He has jumped in tackling tasks without being asked and even though it is not perfect it is a job completed. I love the words, “Can I Help?”.
Whole wheat baked goods often have a pungent after taste and are dense. Many bakers use honey to tone down the robust flavor. The King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Cookbook recommends adding orange juice. In this recipe for whole wheat banana pancakes use half wheat and half all-purpose flours. The pancakes are still light and fluffy and the bananas are not over powered by the wheat. For true whole wheat pancakes use 1 cup whole wheat flour omitting the all-purpose flour.
Make sure the griddle is not too hot or else they will burn.
Source: The Kitchen Witch
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt, room temperature
2 tbsp melted butter
1 large egg, room temperature
2 mashed bananas (about 3/4 cup)
Extra sliced bananas
In large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, sugar and salt. In separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk or yogurt, butter or oil, egg and bananas.
Make well in center of dry ingredients and add banana mixture. Stir with fork until barely moistened.
Heat nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray. Pour a 1/4 cup batter for each 4-inch pancake. When bubbles rise and break surface, turn over. Cook about 2 minutes, until nicely browned. Transfer to plate. Keep pancakes warm in preheated 200 degree oven.
To serve, top with sliced bananas, walnuts and maple syrup.
Makes 12 pancakes.
Apples and cranberries scream Autumn. Wrap the colorful goodness up in a pastry shell and you have got an apple and cranberry strudel. The warm aroma of cinnamon and apples permeate the house. Take a bite and taste the tart cranberries dancing on your taste buds.
The last time I made a strudel was not long after we moved to Santa Rosa. We had just moved into a lovely apartment three stories high, imagine moving in and out of that place. The strudel recipe came from the same cookbook as the sweet chili chicken recipe that became a household favorite. That was the day my Pampered Chef stone baking sheet cracked down the middle. I heard a loud bang from the oven and when I went to investigate there was the strudel straddling a gaping chasm of stone. I also discovered that our apartment had an ant infestation and German cockroaches. Not a good omen. But, the war was quickly won and the dream bubble not completely deflated. I never wanted to look at another strudel again that is until I found this recipe for apple cranberry strudel.
I picked up puffy pastry by accident and was happy with the outcome. The box contains two sheets of dough so I ended up with two nice sized strudels. The puffy pastry is a lot less work and there is no layering and repetitious brushing involved.
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup boiling water
1-1/4 pounds Fuji apples (about 2 apples), peeled, cored and chopped
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, plus more for dusting
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 sheets phyllo dough
Heat oven to 375°F. Line a large baking sheet with nonstick foil, or coat with nonstick cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine cranberries and water. Let stand 5 minutes, then drain.
In a large bowl, combine apples, softened cranberries, honey, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss until combined.
Unroll phyllo on work surface; cover with damp towel. Separate one sheet and place on clean surface. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray, and dust with a little ground cinnamon. Place another sheet on top; coat with spray and dust with cinnamon. Repeat 6 more times, coating each with spray and dusting with cinnamon.
Spoon filling along a long side of phyllo, 3 inches in from edge, leaving 1 inch at either end. Fold both short sides (ends) over filling. Fold 3-inch-wide long strip over filling; roll up, jelly-roll-style. Place, seam side down, on foil-lined baking sheet. Spray with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake at 375°F for 35 minutes, until nicely browned. Let cool on rack for at least 20 minutes. Slice with a serrated knife.
A couple of years ago I bought a recipe book for kids. You know the one that shows you how to transform food into edible art? Supposedly kids will gobble down sandwiches in the shape of a caterpillar or a bowl of soup with a roll in the shape of a pig. Maybe my kids are not in the norm. They will go for ants on a log (celery, peanut butter and raisins) but not the vegetable shark.
Tonight an interesting thing happened at dinner. Our oldest decided he was not going to eat the soup because it was green. We tried coming up with a clever title for the soup but he was not buying it.
I reminded him of our rules. You have to take at least one bite of something new. Eventually he survived the agony of slurping one spoonful of green stuff only to declare it “disgusting.” Soon the kids went outside to play while I started to clear the table. I was loading the dishwasher when I noticed Mason hiding by the table dipping a roll into the pot of soup and eating it.
I really enjoyed this version of a potato soup. The soup uses broth in the place of milk resulting in a lovely light yet filling soup. Serve with a nice green salad. Cheesy broccoli potato soup would also pair well with a main course of grilled fish.
Source: Adapted from an unknown magazine clipping
Serves 4 generously
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic broken into pieces
1 medium potato, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cups broccoli, chopped
3 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
-If using finely shredded cheese add a heaping cup full.
-Use the whole broccoli crown and stem. Peel the tough outer skin off before chopping.
-Can use broth, stock or bullion.
-If you like a little more texture do not puree the soup too much leaving plenty of bit sized potato pieces.
In a large stockpot, heat oil and saute the onion for 5-7 minutes over low to medium heat. Add potatoes, broccoli and stock; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered for 12-15 minutes or until broccoli and potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.
Remove the mixture from stove top; allow to cool a bit. Pour into a blender and puree or use a handheld blender mixing right in the pot.