Apple Cheddar Scones

After today, I will be taking a short hiatus from posting (just a few days) as I go down to Philly to visit my grandmother.  Of course I’ll be bringing my computer, as I can’t be separated from it, and yes, she does have Internet, but sadly it’s a dial-up connection.  Tonal modem that cuts off the phone line and all.

I don’t even want to think about how long it would take to upload a photo onto her computer.  Let alone 5.  So, if I can find some magical bars of wireless somewhere, I’ll try and post, but if not, a few days isn’t so bad.

Hopefully these scones will tide you over.  I don’t know what it is about them, but they are the most delicious scones ever.  They are like crack scones.  They are seductive and enticing in all the right (or wrong) ways, and I had to freeze a large portion of them to keep myself from devouring the whole batch and depriving Luke of their amazingness.

Words truly are not sufficient to describe them; they are ineffable.  I’ve totally been waiting to use that word in a sentence.  Anyway, make these scones.  They will make your house smell great.  I would advise sharing them, otherwise you may fall victim to their spell and end up with scone crumbs all over the floor and a belly ache.

Apple Cheddar Scones

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 8 scones

2 firm tart apples
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons for sprinkling
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus additional for egg wash
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup sharp white cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs

Position a rack at the center of oven and preheat oven to 375 °F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper, or grease with cooking spray.

Peel and core apples, then cut them into one-sixteenths. (Chunks, not slivers.) Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake them until they take on a little color and feel dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. They will be about half-baked. Let them cool completely. (You can speed this up in the fridge.) Leave oven on.

Sift or whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together.  Cut in the cold butter with fingers or forks until the butter is pea-sized.  Cut the apples chunks into bite sized pieces, and add them, as well as the, cheese, cream and one egg, stirring until just combined with a wooden spoon.

Generously flour your counter top and place the scone dough on top of it. Sprinkle with flour. Use a rolling pin to gently roll (or use your hands to pat) the dough into a 1 1/4-inch thick, 6-inch circle. Cut circle into 8 wedges. Transfer them to a baking sheet that has either been greased or lined with a fresh sheet of parchment paper. Leave at least 2 inches between each scone.

Beat remaining egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with egg wash and sprinkle them with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. With a spatula, lift them to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remember, you’ve been warned.



Green Tea Financiers

I have something to confess.  I have a green tea powder (matcha) addiction.  I love the silky stuff and its earthy scent.  I love it in a teacup by itself, or in a plastic mug accompanied by tapioca pearls.  I love it in puddings, cakes, cookies; you name it, I’ve probably had it or would be very willing to try.

While I was in Japan, I had the pleasure of eating a green tea white chocolate bagel.  Note to self: figure out how to replicate it.  Unlike some sweets I burned myself out on while in Asia, like red bean paste or mochi, my love for green tea flavored baked goods has never wavered.

Maybe it’s because I invested in a one-pound bag of the powdery stuff, or maybe it’s because it is a timeless flavor that transcends cultural divides and is making its way into mainstream American baking culture.  At least, I think it is.

When I saw this recipe in Ready for Dessert, I was elated.  I am always hunting for more green tea recipes, more ways to incorporate that magic powder into my life and stomach.  Sadly, Luke is not really a green tea fan, so I have to limit myself.

These little cakes are perfect with tea, or as an afternoon snack or light dessert.  Or breakfast.  Or anytime really.

Green Tea Financiers

Adapted from Ready for Dessert

Makes 24 mini muffin sized cakes

2 teaspoons sesame seeds (white, or a mix of black and white)

1/8 teaspoon flaky sea salt

2/3 cup sliced almonds

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon white sesame seeds

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 ½ teaspoons green tea powder (matcha)

¼ teaspoon baking powder

big pinch of salt

grated zest of ½ lemon

4 large egg whites

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease a 24-cup mini muffin tin.

In a small bowl, mix together the first two ingredients and sprinkle the muffin cups with two-thirds of the mixture.  Set the rest aside.

Pulverize the almonds, sugar, 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, the flour, green tea, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in a food processor until the nuts are finely ground.  Add the egg whites and butter and pulse until the mixture is smooth, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed to ensure that the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared mini muffin tin, then sprinkle the tops with the remaining sesame salt mixture.  Rap the muffin tin on the counter once or twice to release any air pockets and level the batter.  Bake just until the financiers feel firm when gently pressed with a finger, about 12 minutes.

Let cool completely, then remove the financiers from the tin and enjoy!


Nutella Marshmallow Puffs

I probably jumped the gun in announcing the arrival of Izzy’s football apparel.  The minute I had the package in my hands, I was tearing it open and in her pen coaxing her over to inspect her new outfit.  She was surprisingly mellow and accommodating for an animal unaccustomed to regular clothing wear.

You’re probably wondering where all the pictures are.  Hey man, patience is a virtue.  While the shirt is amazingly adorable on her, I need to bust out my dusty sewing kit and do a few alterations.  Dog clothing is measure by length of back, and while Izzy and a Chihuahua might have the same size back…rabbit anatomy is a little different from a dog’s.

While dogs have more proportional front and hind legs to support their loping stride, rabbits don’t.  They hop, so they have little T-Rex like front legs compared to their massive kicking back legs.  We forgot about that.  Her tiny arms kinda got lost in the sleeves and ended up coming out all sorts of strange places, or getting stuck inside the shirt.  So I’m going to sew the sleeves up and make the shirt more or less sleeveless.  6th grade Home Ec don’t fail me now.

Moving on to the foods.  I bought a package of puff pastry on a whim one day, and had no idea what to do with it until I saw this recipe.  Apparently you can make it from scratch, but I am so not ready to handle that much butter at once.  Maybe some day.

Until then, I’ll keep buying it when I notice it’s on sale and wait for recipe inspiration like this.

Nutella Marshmallow Puffs

Adapted from Picky Palate

Makes 16 puffs

1 package puff pastry, 2 pastry sheets thawed

1 cup Nutella

1 cup mini marshmallows

1 egg white whisked with 1 tablespoon water

turbinado sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut each square of pastry into 4 equal size pieces, then halve each piece diagonally.  You should end up with 16 triangle shaped pieces.  Spread a couple tablespoons of Nutella spread onto the center of each pastry leaving 1/2 inch border around edges.  Top each with about 6 or 7 mini marshmallows and fold over to form a littler triangle.  Crimp edges firmly with the tines of a fork.  Brush with egg white wash then sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Bake for 22-25 minutes or until pastry just turns golden.  Remove and let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

So, muffin tops are great and all, but sometimes I want the real thing, the whole thing.  Especially if it’s a classic like lemon poppy seed.

When I was growing up, my mom made peach poppy seed muffins with peach baby food.  I’ll most likely give that recipe a try some day and substitute pureed peaches for the baby food.  Anyway, my brother and I used to inhale those muffins.  They were dense, moist, and peachy.  An ultimate comfort food during all the awkward stages of my adolescence.

These guys have that same great tender crumb and moistness, but with a burst of citrus rather than the subtle flavor of peach.  I had a craving for lemon poppy seed something, and these really hit the spot…but didn’t stop me from finding recipes for lemon poppy seed pound cake, donuts and cookies.

Lemons and poppy seeds are a great combination.  Almost as great as bunnies and toy dog football jerseys.  Oh yes, it came.  Get ready.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours

Makes 12 muffins

2/3 cup sugar

grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup sour cream

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffins pan.

In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of lemon is strong.  Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a small bowl, whisk the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter together until well blended.  Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with a whisk or rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend.  A few lumps are ok.  Stir in the poppy seeds.  Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife or toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and cool for 5-10 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.  Cool muffins completely on the rack.

Keema Chicken Curry

I cannot apologize enough for the poor quality of the photos in this post.  It was a tasty dish, really, even if the photos don’t convey that very well.  I am working really hard to make sure that I shoot in natural light, because my apartment’s lighting is horrible for taking photos.  Especially at night.

But that’s when you eat dinner, so I’ve had to make do.  I’m starting to make dinner while it’s still light out, shoot it, then reheat it when I’m actually hungry/Luke gets home.  This may work out well, since I don’t cook (or do anything) really well when I’m hungry.  Luke calls me “Hanna,” which stands for hungry Anna because my personality changes so much under the influence of hunger.

I hope you never meet Hanna.  Apparently she is not a very nice person.  Anyway, another new initiative I’ve started is keeping a spreadsheet of recipes I want to make from the various food magazines I get.  This way, I don’t dog-ear something and then completely forget about it.  Plus, I can make notes on the spreadsheet to remind myself of spicing changes, or just the overall outcome.

I’ve also done it for my cookbooks, and it’s been working well, since it’s much easier to search an electronic document for an ingredient than an index, especially when some of the recipes the index takes me to might contain other things I don’t like.  Plus I’m on my computer all the time anyway…so it works out.

Keema Chicken Curry

Adapted from Food & Wine January 2012 Issue

Makes 4-6 servings

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 pound ground chicken meat

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 ½ tablespoons curry powder

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 large Yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice

1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

One 14oz can unsweetened coconut milk

One 14oz can diced tomatoes, with their juices

In a large deep skillet, heat the oil.  Add the ground meat and cook over high heat, stirring to break up the lumps (my grandma recommended using a potato masher, which works well to get the big chunks apart, sadly I didn’t have this knowledge yet when I made this dish), until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Add the onion, ginger, garlic and curry powder and season with salt and pepper.

Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened, about 3 minutes.

Add the potato, broth, coconut milk, and the tomatoes and their juices and bring to a boil.  Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until potato is tender, about 15 minutes.  Serve over rice, with or without naan.

The Best Vanilla Ice Cream

Get ready for gratuitous rabbit shot (s) Wednesday!  Ok…maybe that won’t be a thing, but hey, don’t think about it, just look at this cute bunny.

Why are we divided into people who crave the dark sinfulness of chocolate, and those who prefer the light, clean taste of vanilla?  I was definitely one of those kids that liked the middle option on the soft serve machine of swirling the two together, which is ironic now given how dichotomous I am in most aspects of my personality.

Usually, I’m all about the black vs. white, the passionate, undying interest vs, the nonchalant passing glance of apathy.  But I guess when it comes to food, it’s all just undying interest, so I’m into everything.

You can see that I mixed in my failed attempt at cookie dough fudge.  It worked great in the ice cream!

I love vanilla ice cream…but I also love chocolate ice cream.  And mint chocolate chip…and cookie dough, and many many other flavors.  Still, nothing beats the elegant simplicity of vanilla, and this is the king of vanilla ice creams.

I love David Lebovitz’s cookbook Ready for Dessert.  I’d highly recommend picking it up if you have the means.  Or you can wait until I post about every recipe since I’m dying to make them all.  Your choice.

Vanilla Ice Cream

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert

1 cup whole milk

pinch of salt

¾ cup sugar

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

2 cups heavy cream

5 large egg yolks

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, warm the milk, salt and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the saucepan, then drop in the pod.  Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep for 30 minutes.

Pour the cream into a medium bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.  Reheat the milk mixture until it’s warm.  In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the warm milk mixture, whisking constantly as you pour.  Pour the warmed yolks back into the saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan with a heatproof spatula, until the custard is thick enough to coat the spatula.   Pour the custard through the mesh strainer into the heavy cream.  Rinse the vanilla pod and return it to the custard to continue steeping; stir in the vanilla extract.

Let the custard come to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 8 hours.  Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the chilled custard in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Apple Cider Bundt Cake

Enter the year of the dragon.  Last year was the year of the rabbit.  I’m glad we managed to get Izzy during that time frame.  Luke is a dragon, so now you all know.  And I’m a snake…which is the next year to come, just in case you were wondering.

During the celebration of western New Year, I made this cake with my mom.  Before going down to CT I had some egg yolks to use up for whatever reason, so I decided to make pastry cream.  Caramel pastry cream to be exact.

I brought it along for the journey with the explicit purpose of pairing it with an apple cake.  I originally had hopes for a caramel apple layer cake, but my mom didn’t have round cake pans.  I was crestfallen, but determined to use that pastry cream nonetheless.

Since she did have a bundt pan, we decided on an apple cider bundt cake.  We had after all, just visited the local orchard/market and had picked up a fresh half gallon.

This cake is down right tasty, with or without the pastry cream.  It also ended up being breakfast the next morning, I love how bundt cakes are versatile like that.

Apple Cider Bundt Cake

Adapted from Pixelated Crumb

2 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup apple cider, heated

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter and flour a 10 inch bundt pan, or spray with cooking spray.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth.  Add in eggs one at a time, beating after each, then add the vanilla extract.  Beat until incorporated.

Add in ¼ of the flour mixture and stir to combine.  Next, add in 1/3 of the buttermilk.  Continue to alternate adding the flour and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and beat until smooth.

Slowly add in heated apple cider.  Mix until just combined.  Wipe down sides of the bowl, then transfer batter to the prepared bundt pan.  Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45-50 or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool in pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.  Invert cake and let cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack.

Caramel Pastry Cream

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert

½ cup granulated sugar

1 cup whole milk

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

3 large egg yolks

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

Spread the ½ cup sugar in an even layer in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium heat without stirring until the sugar begins to melt around the edges.  Using a heatproof spatula, slowly drag the liquefied sugar to the center and stir gently until all the sugar is melted.  Continue to cook, stirring infrequently, until the caramel turns dark amber in color and begins to foam a bit.  Remove from heat and gradually stir in the milk.

The caramel will bubble up vigorously, then the bubbling will subside.  If the caramel seizes into a hardened mass, (like mine did) whisk the mixture over low heat until most of the caramel is dissolved.  Don’t worry about any small chunks; they’ll dissolve later.

Sift the flour into the caramel mixture, then whisk to break up any clumps.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened.  In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then gradually whisk in a small amount of the hot thickened caramel mixture.  Scrape the yolk mixture into the saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, and cook until thickened to the consistency of mayonnaise.  Press the pastry cream through a mesh strainer set over a large bowl, then whisk in vanilla and salt.  Let cool completely.  Cover remaining pastry cream and store in the fridge.