The Best Blueberry Scones

I’m not certain whose fault the modern scone is. Should we blame the British for inventing this dry lump of heavy, overly sweet, doughy ickiness? Or did Americans take what once was a delicious sweet biscuit and turn it into a sugary hockey puck? Whoever’s at fault, this recipe will forever change your notions about scones. These scones are flaky, buttery, and not at all heavy. This recipe, which is from Cooks Illustrated, is so wonderful, I will wake up on a weekend morning and spend the first hour of it making these. Glenn and I, who are absolutely ravenous by the time they are ready, are perfectly willing to wait for them. They are that good. 

This recipe calls for grating the butter and then mixing it into the dry ingredients. I know, it seems like overkill, but please trust me. The butter is so perfectly distributed this way, and it ends up leaving little pockets of buttery goodness throughout the scone, which is just, well, hard to describe in words.

Then you roll out the dough like this… 

…fold it like a letter, like this… 

…and fold the edges in like this (using a pastry scraper makes this task a ton easier)

After letting it sit in the freezer for five minutes (allowing the dough to firm so it is easier to work with), roll it out once more, add the blueberries on top, and then roll it up like a sleeping bag. Awww, it’s cute.

Then, cut the log (log?) into four parts and cut those four parts diagonally. Put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush some butter (yes, more butter) on top, and sprinkle (generously) with sugar. If you don’t want to wait that long (or if you’d like to spend your Sunday morning doing something else), just mix together the dry ingredients the night before. It goes much faster that way. And yes, I know blueberries aren’t in season right now, but I cannot go a whole year waiting for blueberries to come back–and I happened to have some frozen from the summer. Yay me!
Tell your family to relax, have another cup of coffee, blame the British for their bad scones, and hang on for a little while. These are worth it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scones Cooling

The Best Blueberry Scones 

(adapted from Cooks Illustrated

10 Tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) butter, chilled 

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries 

1/2 cup whole milk (I usually don’t have whole milk in my refrigerator, so I combine 1/4 cup half and half and 1/4 cup skim) 

1/2 cup whole milk yogurt (I use Fage Greek Yogurt) 

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for work surface 

1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling 

2 teaspoons baking powder 

1/4 teaspoon baking soda 

1/2 heaping teaspoon salt 

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. 

Grate one stick of butter using the large holes of a box grater (the faster you can do this, the less messy it will be). Put the bowl o’ grated butter in the freezer. 

Whisk together milk and yogurt in medium bowl; refrigerate until needed. Whisk flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Add frozen butter to mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated. 

Add milk mixture to flour mixture; fold with spatula until just combined. With rubber spatula, transfer dough to liberally floured work surface. Dust surface of dough with flour; with floured hands, knead dough 6-8 times, until in just holds together in ragged ball, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking. 

Roll dough into approximate 12-inch square. Fold dough into thirds like a business letter, using bench scraper or metal spatula to release dough if it sticks to countertop. Lift short ends of dough and fold into thirds again to form approximate 4-inch square. Transfer dough to plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in freezer for 5 minutes. 

Transfer dough to floured work surface and roll into approximate 12-inch square again. Sprinkle blueberries evenly over surface of dough, then press down so they are slighly embedded in dough. Using bench scraper or thin metal spatula, loosen dough from work surface. Roll dough, pressing to form tight log. Lay seam-side down and press log into 4 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. 

Brush tops with the remaining butter (melted) and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18-25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 10 minutes before serving (or until you can’t wait any longer, which is usually about 30 seconds for me).

Apple Streusel Muffins

Apple Streusel Muffins CoolingA friend of mine told me she made apple streusel muffins and won a prize at her local fair. She posted a photograph on Facebook of a beautiful plump muffin covered with sweet streusel topping next to a blue ribbon. I kept thinking about that muffin. Oh yes, it entered my consciousness and made me think of nothing else. I dreamt that the muffin and I ran off together and got married. I kept thinking I’d get the recipe from her, but I never got a chance to ask her was too lazy. Then, one morning, I woke up and HAD TO HAVE THEM. I had apples, I had flour, I had sugar and butter, but I did not have the recipe. Desperate, I looked up any ol’ apple streusel muffin recipe I could find–and came up with an Emeril Lagasse recipe from the Food Network. I made it. It was fine. It was nothing special really. It wasn’t a recipe I’d take home to meet my mom.

Apple Losing SkinThen, this morning I woke up again–apples in the fridge–and had a major, bigtime craving for these babies. Now, I had the recipe, but did not have the correct ingredients. At 7:00 in the morning, I wasn’t about to go to the grocery store. So, deciding I didn’t want to use the Emeril recipe again, I morphed several recipes into a new creation, and here’s what I came up with. Now, this may not win me a blue ribbon at the local fair, but it was quite lovely for a fall Saturday morning and, yes, I would take it home to my mom (cause she’d scarf it down just like me!).  

Apple without Skin

I used gala apples, which are very sweet and stand up well this recipe. Also, I added some shredded coconut. I have gotten into a habit of adding coconut to a lot of my muffin recipes. I don’t know why, but I really love the extra texture and sweetness. And I guess I’m just out of my mind cRaZY and will apparently do just about anything!

Apple Streusel Muffins in BowlAlso, a lot of recipes say to shred the apple. But why? Why would you do that? It makes no sense to me why you wouldn’t want some nice apple chunks in there. I mean, they can’t be too large so that the muffin wouldn’t hold together, but a small, even dice should do. Do not settle for an inferior muffin when you can wait for the muffin of your dreams!

Apple Streusel Muffins Ready to Bake

So, here you have it. It is my soul muffin, and it may be yours as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apple Streusel MuffinsApple Streusel Muffin and Coffee

1 cup milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 large egg

2 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 apple, diced

1/4 cup shredded, sweetened coconut

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 medium muffin cups.

Prepare streusel topping; set aside

Whisk milk, oil, vanilla and egg in large bowl. Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt all at once just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Fold in apples and coconut. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle each with about 2 Tablespoons of topping.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from pan to wire rack.

Steusel Topping

2 Tablespoons chilled butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Cut butter into flour, brown sugar and cinnamon using pastry blender or crisscrossing two knives until crumbly.

Butternut Squash Bread

Butternut Squash bread baked

Do you know what I’m waiting for? Sure, I’m waiting for the stuff everyone else is waiting for: peace in the middle east, health care reform, cars that can fly, etc… But what I really really really can’t wait for is for someone to invent the replicator. You know, from Star Trek? Oh, how many times I have wanted to walk up to my replicator window and order up a cup of earl grey tea, hot, just like Patrick Stewart, and have it instantly! And the thing I imagine about the replicator is that whatever you order would be perfect. Your filet would be exactly medium rare, just like you want it. Your hot chocolate would be not-too-hot to drink and not-too-cool you have to throw it in the microwave. Your pizza would have the exact right amount of crispiness around the edges. And your butternut squash bread? Well, the replicator would bake it *all the way* and not take it out five minutes too soon like a mere human such as myself.

Butternut Squash Bread in the Mixer

What has stood between me and bread perfection time and time again? Impatience…about 5 minutes worth, to be exact. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken bread, cake, or cookies out of the oven too early. Sometimes it works in my favor–who doesn’t love an ooey gooey chocolate chip cookie or brownie? But with things like bread, you just have to be patient. Let the peak of the bread solidify before you take it out even when you think the edges look brown and ready (Kelsey!).

Other than that little problem, this bread was excellent. The cool thing about butternut squash is that it is practically indistinguishable from pumpkin, so you can substitute it for any recipe you have that calls for pumpkin. I used my mom’s extraordinarily simple and delicious pumpkin bread recipe.

Butternut Squash Bread Baking

This recipe is really no-nonsense: just mix everything up together, pour in the bread pan, and bake. Done. You can add raisins or cranberries, walnuts or pecans, coconut or chocolate chips. Eat it with a slab o’ cream cheese if you want to. Just, please, please, whatever you do…don’t take it out of the oven too early (Kelsey!).

Until my replicator is installed (you know, next to my holodeck and transporter), this will be one of my favorite recipes.

Butternut Squash bread Butternut Squash Bread

makes 2 loaves

3 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 to 1.5 pounds cooked butternut squash-pureed or at least mushed up really well.

2/3 cup water

3 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

I added about a cup of raisins

Beat all ingredients together. Grease pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour (or until the peaks are solid–no jiggling!)

Goat Cheese-Stuffed Red Peppers

Red Peppers

These beauties are called Lipstick Peppers. They are sexy, aren’t they? Red, lucious, puckered and ready for a mammoth, sumptuous smootch. And I am, indeed, completely head-over-heels in love with them.  My husband often brings these home from the farm along with a similar variety called Carmen Peppers. Both have more sweet flavor than a basic red bell pepper, though you could easily use bell peppers for this recipe instead.

Just like any person you love, the first thing you’ll want to do to these peppers is change them. (Insert sarcastic emoticon here.) To make these peppers even better than they ever thought they could be, stuff them with the uber-lucious cheese of all cheeses–goat cheese–and serve them alongside a juicy, medium-rare cheeseburger. The goat cheese and peppers are alternately creamy, tangy, and sweet and go perfectly with a savory burger. I love this combination so much, I’ve actually thought of putting the stuffed peppers right on top of the hamburger. Maybe next time. Let’s not go overboard, okay? We’ll want to keep some excitement in the relationship for when things get a little boring later on.

 

 Stuffed peppers before cooking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuffed Peppers with Hamburger 3

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

These peppers would go perfectly with any beef dish, or just eat them by themselves for a great vegetarian meal that is quite filling on its own. Either way, the combination of goat cheese, bread crumbs, garlic, and olive oil makes any relationship palatable.

 

Goat Cheese Stuffed Red Peppers

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

1.5-2 oz goat cheese (I love Belle Chevre)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 medium red peppers (I use Carmen or Lipstick peppers, but you could use any type of red peppers for this. Just remember that larger red bell peppers will require about twice the filling)

 

Slice peppers in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and ribs.

Mix the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl.

Stuff each pepper not too tightly, but not too loosely (I usually heap the stuffing a bit).

Place stuffing side up on a parchment- or aluminum-lined cookie sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes on 375 degrees, or until the stuffing starts to brown.

Banana Coconut Ricotta Muffins

Banana Ricotta Coconut Muffins

My husband told me the other day about peanuts and Coke. Apparently there are people in this world who dump peanuts into Coke and drink it like that. Am I the last one to hear about this? Am I just too young? Or too Yankee? Isn’t there something in the Bible about not mixing salted legumes with a syrupy carbonated beverage? Yeah, I think it’s in Leviticus. Glenn the blasphemer says it’s delicious and is completely unrepentant about how much of it he drank as a cherubic little blonde southern boy. I can just hear him now saying “Yes ma’am!” and “I’m fixin’ to drink this Coke with peanuts!” He says the saltiness of the peanuts mixes with the sweetness of the Coke, and two things just don’t seem to fit together end up making something that might make a little tow-headed Glenn slap his grandma! And you can’t get more Southern than peanuts + Coke, by the way.

Southerners seem to be really good at this–putting stuff together that just doesn’t seem to fit–and making it taste wonderful. Have you ever heard of mayonnaise cake? It’s sounds downright nasty at first; but if you think about it, mayonnaise has the tanginess and creamy consistency of sour cream. I know I’ve put sour cream in cakes before…haven’t you? So, maybe it’s not such a stretch.  

Mixing Banana Coconut Ricotta Muffins

Last week I had some homemade ricotta cheese left over…just enough to feel guilty about throwing away, but not enough to do much with. So, I decided to try it in muffins. With a little maneuvering to make sure the ricotta was balanced out by a wetter dairy product (um, that would be milk, and “wetter” is not a good word), this recipe came out great. The muffins are so moist and have a slight tang–as if I had added buttermilk or sour cream. The sweetened coconut is an excellent contrast and adds texture. A sprinkle of turbinado sugar (or just regular granulated sugar) creates a nice sweet crunch on top. 

Yes, those are my feet.

 Yes, those are my feet.

 

I don’t care how hot it is outside, these are absolutely worth the 18-20 minutes your oven is on.

   Banana Coconut Ricotta Muffins Side Shot

 

 Even peanuts + Coke couldn’t compete.

 

Muffins with Butter part 2

Pizza with Sungold Tomato Sauce, Three Cheeses, and Proscuitto

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Pizza is a giver when it comes to providing a delicious and healthy meal that can be changed up each and every time you make it. A lot of times, when people make homemade pizza they want it to taste like the traditional brick-oven or carryout pizza, and when it doesn’t, they are disappointed. I’ve learned that you cannot treat homemade pizza like brick-oven pizza (unless you have a brick oven, which I do not). Homemade pizza is its own creature, and Glenn and I have discovered that we like it better than most pizzas we get out. I make it many different ways depending on what we have, but I always start with a good crust.

Definitely take the time to make a homemade crust–it is absolutely worth it. I use my Kitchenaid stand mixer, which makes it easier, but of course you can do this with a hand mixer or spoon. Because the dough has to rise for an hour, I make the dough as soon as I get home from work (it takes about 10 minutes at the most), then while it’s rising, I prepare the toppings or do something else that I have to do. All you have to do then is roll out the dough onto a pizza stone or a small cookie sheet greased with olive oil. I like to sprinkle some uncooked corn grits onto the pan too, to give the dough a bit of texture, but it’s not necessary. Also, I double the recipe and freeze half the dough, so the next time all I have to do is remember to get it out of the freezer before I leave for work. Yeah, I admit that’s hard sometimes.

While your dough is rising, make the Sungold Tomato Sauce. Whenever my husband would come home with these tiny little Sungold tomatoes, the only thing I could think to do with them was to put them on salads. Booooring. I decided to try a tomato sauce with them. Can you guess what the problem with that is? Well, lots of tiny tomatoes come with lots of tiny skins, so you end up having a sauce that’s almost all skins. And am I going to sit around and peel 4 cups of tiny little Sungolds? Dang it, I’m just not.

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So, I decided to use one of my most favorite kitchen appliances to help me out. But… you’ll have to wait a minute for that. Stick with me here, folks.

In a medium saucepan, I sauteed an onion, carrot, stalk of celery, and garlic in olive oil, then added about 4 cups of the Sungolds and some basil from my garden. Really, you can guesstimate here…it doesn’t have to be exact. 

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Saute everything on medium heat for about 30 minutes–until the tomatoes have all softened and lost their shape. Add salt and pepper. Then, pour the sauce into a blender or food processor. Since my food processor died a couple of weeks ago, I used a blender and it worked great. Oh yeah, I love blenders. They are so powerful for such little appliances. And in this case, it totally took care of all those skins, just processing them into the yummy, tangy pulp that they turned into.

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Spread the sauce over the dough. I used about a 1/2 cup of sauce and froze the rest for later. On top of that, add about 8 oz of fresh mozzerella, about a 1/2 cup of homemade ricotta, and shavings of good parmesean–maybe about 10 shavings or so. Top with about 1/2 cup of Sungolds, sliced in half. Place about 2 slices of good proscuitto, torn apart, evenly on top. Add more if you like pork!

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Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the crust starts to brown around the edges and all the mozzerella has melted.

Pizza is great to experiment with, and it will hold almost any kind of topping you can think of. Pair sweet or tangy things (tomatoes) with salty ones (proscuitto). If you don’t have time to make sauce, just slice the tomatoes in half and place them on the dough with a little olive oil and cheese. You can’t go wrong…

 

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Basic Pizza Dough

Makes crust for one small pizza (this feeds two people)

1 2/3 cups flour (plus extra if you knead it by hand)

1 /2 teaspoon salt

1 package active dry yeast

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup warm water

Mix the dry ingredients, and add the wet ingredients and mix well. Knead for 10 minutes or use the dough hook on your stand mixer. Rub some olive oil over the dough, and place it in a bowl covered with a clean towel. Allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size.

 

Sungold Tomato Sauce (you can use pretty much any tomatoes for this)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

about 4 cups Sungold tomatoes (plus or minus)

a handful of basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and saute for a minute or two (don’t let the garlic brown). Add the tomatoes and basil.

Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until the tomatoes have lost their shape. Add salt and pepper.

Blend or process mixture for about a minute in a blender or food processor.