Mixed Berry Scones

Berry Scones2

When I was growing up, fruit and vegetables had distinct seasons and everything we cooked or baked was dependent on that. Frozen foods were still in their infancy and while my mother was a wonderful cook and baker, if you can believe it, having a Swanson’s TV dinner was considered a BIG deal. With global markets food seasons are something of the past. Unless I am shopping farmers’ markets, I can get beautiful berries and flavorful tomatoes all year-long. However, even with changing weather patterns, winter is still winter, summer is still summer and spring, while totally unpredictable is still spring. Chicago’s spring has been chilly and damp on some days and summer-warm on others, but it is still spring and the trees have that new green and the first flowers are blooming. All of this makes me want to start using berries in everything. However, I have learned over the years, that if the berries are going to be mixed through a batter or dough that it is actually preferable to bake with frozen fruit, which also tends to be somewhat more consistent than fresh. The fruit will squish less, keeping the integrity of the berry. (I still buy and eat fresh berries every day and enjoy those fragile and delicious farmers’ market strawberries when I am lucky enough to find them.)

I wanted to make something that ticked all of my boxes and decided on these mixed berry scones.  The recipe comes from two recipes: Cook’s Country and the Pioneer Woman with a some tweaks from me. They will work for breakfast, brunch or afternoon “tea.” And while they may look heavy, they are actually remarkably light, not overly sweet and bursting with berries.

Mixed Berry Scones adapted from Cook’s Country and The Pioneer Woman

Yield: About 8 large scones

Ingredients

Scones

1 ¾ cups (8 3/4 ounces) frozen mixed berries

3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, chilled

1/3 cup (2 1/3 ounces) granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup heavy cream

1.5 Tablespoons berry jam

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 large egg

Glaze

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon honey

Directions

  1. FOR THE SCONES: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. If your berry mix contains strawberries, cut them in half or quarters. Toss berries with confectioners’ sugar in bowl; freeze until needed.
  2. Combine flour, 6 tablespoons butter, granulated sugar, baking powder, orange zest and salt in food processor and process until butter is fully incorporated, about 15 seconds. Add remaining 6 tablespoons butter and pulse until butter is reduced to pea-size pieces, 15 to 20 pulses. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Stir in berries.
  3. Beat milk, preserves and egg together in separate bowl. Make well in center of flour mixture and pour in milk mixture. Using rubber spatula, gently stir mixture, scraping from edges of bowl and folding inward until very shaggy dough forms and some bits of flour remain. Do not over mix.
  4. Turn out dough onto well-floured counter and, if necessary, knead briefly until dough just comes together, about 3 turns. Using your floured hands and bench scraper, shape dough into 12 by 4-inch rectangle, about 1 1/2 inches tall. Using knife or bench scraper, cut dough crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally into 2 triangles (you should have 8 large scones total). Transfer scones to prepared sheet.

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  5. Bake until scones are lightly golden on top, 16 to 18 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.
  6. FOR THE GLAZE: While scones bake, combine melted butter and honey in small bowl.
  7. Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Remove scones from oven and brush tops evenly with glaze mixture. Return scones to oven and continue to bake until golden brown on top, 5 to 8 minutes longer. Transfer scones to wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve as is or with Devonshire cream and more honey or jam. Berry Scones

Chewy Molasses Cookies

img_2600Sunday we had our first snow of the season which was my signal to start baking cookies. As a kid I loved to bake cookies and my father and brother loved to eat them as fast as I could make them. As I grew older, I preferred to make cakes, breads and pies. Cookies seemed like so much effort and they were gone so quickly. But I do so love a really good molasses cookie and this simple recipe satisfies my craving. It’s fairly instant gratification, taking under an hour from start to finish. I used Grandma’s Unsulphured Original Molasses. I mean what’s the point of making a molasses cookie if you aren’t going to go for the full flavor experience? In my oven, these were perfect after 9 minutes. Now I have to admit that while these are a wonderful chewy molasses cookie, I personally really prefer a crisper, even slightly leathery molasses cookie. So I will be on the hunt for a recipe that meets those criteria and hopefully will have it to share in the next couple of weeks since I know that this is prime cookie baking season.

Chewy Molasses Cookies by Alison Roman in December 2013 Bon Appetit

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Ingredients

Yield: 2½ DOZEN

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¾ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

⅓ cup granulated sugar

⅓ cup mild-flavored (light) or robust-flavored (dark) molasses (I used robust-flavored)

¼ cup (packed) dark brown sugar

Coarse sanding or raw sugar (for rolling)

Directions

  1. Place racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 375°. Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and salt in a small bowl. spicesWhisk egg, butter, granulated sugar, molasses, and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Mix in dry ingredients just to combine.
  2. Place sanding sugar in a shallow bowl. Scoop out dough by the tablespoonful and roll into balls (if dough is sticky, chill 20 minutes). Roll in sugar and place on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2” apart. img_2590
  3. Bake cookies, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until cookies are puffed, cracked, and just set around edges (over baked cookies won’t be chewy), 8–10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.

DO AHEAD: Cookie dough can be made and rolled into balls 2 weeks ahead. Freeze on a baking sheet; transfer to resealable plastic bags. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes before rolling in sugar.

Linzer Torte with a Rich Tart Pastry

img_2523I had two favorite cookies growing up – the famous “Black and White” Cookies and the linzer torte cookie, sometimes referred to as “Lunettes.” I still haven’t replicated the Black and White cookies and many that you can buy today are sickeningly sweet, but I have developed my version of a Linzer Torte. Because making cookies can be tedious, I prefer to make this as an actual torte. The only part that I make from scratch is the rich pastry dough, so the quality of the remaining ingredients that you purchase is everything. If you prefer to make a cookie, you can still use this dough recipe. I made this for my pre-Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends and it was a big hit. It also is great since it can be made a day ahead and any leftovers will keep for several days. The crust may soften a bit, but the taste is uncompromised.

Lisa’s Linzer Torte

Yield: One 9-inch Torte

Ingredients

For Rich Pastry Dough (Makes enough dough for two 9-inch pastry shells)

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup frozen butter, cut into 1 Tablespoon-size pieces

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

3 hard-cooked large egg yolks

1 large egg

Zest of 1 large lemon

3 Tablespoons cold water

For the filling

1o ounces of Raspberry Curd (If you want to make  your own, more power to you. I buy a good commercial brand. Since what is available can vary so much, just look for what is available and check the ingredients. The main ingredients should be fruit, eggs, butter and sugar.)

10 ounces of Raspberry Jam (Again, there are so many fine commercial or artisanal jams out there, that this is not something I personally would spend time on making. Whether you choose with seeds or without is purely personal taste. With seeds is more traditional, but it is your choice.)

7 ounces almond paste (I used Odense brand. I like the quality and it rolls out well which is what you need for this recipe.

1 egg yolk plus 1 teaspoon milk or cream

Casting Sugar or Confectioner’s Sugar (Optional)

Directions

For the pastry dough 

I like to make this in a food processor, but you could make this by hand.

  1. Using the metal blade, add the flour, butter, sugar, egg, egg yolks, lemon zest, salt and water to the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Pulse for 15 seconds and then turn on, processing just until a ball of dough starts to form on the blades. Since all flour is different, if you must add a bit more water for this to come together, add a 1/2 Tablespoon at a time and use as little as you can get away with.
  3. Divide into two dough disks and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Assembling the Torte

  1. Roll out one dough disk to fit a 9-inch fluted flan pan with a removable bottom. (If you don’t own one of these, you can use a 9-inch pie plate, but I highly encourage you to purchase this pan.) Leave a 1-inch overhang and trim off any excess dough. Fold the overhand under and smooth the top.
  2. Roll out the almond paste to fit the inside of the pan, not quite coming to the top of the sides. You might need to trim this a bit. Fit the rolled out almond paste into the ie shell. Ideally you will refrigerate the pie shell at this point, but when I made it, I had neither the time nor the space in my fridge to do this step and it was fine.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. When you are ready to bake the torte, fill the shell first with the raspberry curd and then cover that with the jam. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect and there is some mixing going on of curd and jam.
  5. Roll out the second disk of pastry into a rectangle and trim it so the ends are straight and even. Using a pastry wheel (straight or fluted) or a knife, cut 1/2 inch strips of dough. You will probably need 8 to 10 strips. Any leftover dough can be made into a simple but delicious cookie.
  6. Weave the strips into a lattice pattern (YouTube it) on top of a piece of cardboard. Once you have the pattern, you will carefully slide it onto the top of the torte. You can also weave it directly on the torte, but it is difficult to not get jam all over the dough that way. (I am admittedly still working on perfecting my weaving technique which is why I am advising you to YouTube it.) Carefully tuck the ends of the strips, trimming where necessary, under the edges of the bottom crust. Mine isn’t perfect but it was still wonderful so don’t be intimidated! Pinch the two doughs together and smooth it with your fingers.
  7. Whisk the egg yolk with the cream or milk and carefully brush the strips and outer rim of the torte with the mixture. You probably won’t use it all on this recipe. If you are using casting or sanding sugar, sprinkle it over the strips. Don’t be too anal about this. And if you prefer you can sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on top just before serving, which is a bit more traditional.
  8. Bake for 23 minutes and then turn the torte. Continue baking until the pastry is golden brown. The jams will be a bit liquidy at this point but will thicken as the torte cools. This took about another 22 minutes in my oven, but ovens vary. Allow to cool completely and then remove from the flan ring and using a thin spatula, carefully remove the bottom. It should slide right off, so don’t use any big or abrupt moves or you will see your torte go flying! img_2506

 

Lavender Mint Shortbread Cookies

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I tend to get seduced by recipes and so I have all of these special spices and herbs around the kitchen. When a colleague baked some lavender cookies, I, of course, went on a search for the best dried edible lavender. Growing up, lavender grew like a weed in our backyard and every year my mother and I would dry it and then sew sachets for gifts and to put in our drawers. I still remember the beautiful amber colored watered silk that we used to contrast with the pretty lavender colored ribbon that we tied around the sachet. While these cookies will most definitely NOT go in my lingerie drawer, they do evoke that wonderful childhood memory. However, they do not taste like potpourri or soap. They taste like Provence, the flavoring is actually quite subtle and they simply melt in your mouth. While not vegan, they do not have any egg. They could be made with vegan buttery sticks, but since butter is the star here, personally I would not go that route. Your choice.

Lavender Shortbread Cookies by Erica Leahy, The Artist Baker – Morristown, NJ and tweaked by me

Yield: About 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on cookies
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh lavender or 1.5 teaspoons dried lavender buds
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • Zest of one small lemon or a few drops of real lemon extract

Directions

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, and salt until thoroughly combined, about 3 minutes. In a separate bowl, sift together the all-purpose and cake flours. Mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between each addition. Add the lavender, lemon zest and mint and mix to just combine. The dough will appear crumbly but will come together when rolled in plastic wrap.
  2. Roll out the dough to a long roll about 2.5 inches in diameter, using the plastic wrap to form the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cut the dough into 1/2 inch thick disks and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the cookies until just golden at the edges, about 25 to 28 minutes. Ovens vary so watch them after 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with granulated or casting sugar. Let cool completely before serving. While these will be delicious with coffee or milk, the true, delicate floral notes will come out with a nice light tea or a dessert wine.

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Tehina Shortbread Cookies

Tehina (also sometimes spelled tahini) is a paste made from sesame seeds.

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It’s got great flavor to pair with meats or salads, but also, apparently, works well as an ingredient in dessert. These cookies remind me a bit of peanut butter cookies, although they’re lighter and, obviously, don’t pose the same risks to people with peanut allergies. More importantly, they’re delicious!

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Ingredients:

  • 1.75 sticks (7 ounces) of unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup tehina (the best brand is Soon)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Start by combining the room-temperature butter with the sugar in a stand mixer on medium speed, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, for about 2 minutes.

Add the tehina and keep mixing until you get a uniform consistency.

Preheat the oven to 350 Farenheit.

In another mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and a pinch of kosher salt. Whisk them together and then add to the tehina mixture. Beat the everything together until they’re just barely incorporated.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or even better, overnight.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a tablespoon, put the batter onto the parchment paper in small uniform heaps.

Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes on the sheets, then move to wire racks.

The cookies should last for at least 1 week at room temperature if stored in a sealed container. The dough can surive in the freezer for months.

Enjoy!

From Michael Solomonov’s Zahav

Ma’Amoul – Moroccan Stuffed Tartlets

IMG_1535 In Morocco, Israel, and most Sephardic communities, there’s an actual holiday to celebrate the end of Passover, called Mimouna. While I am of Ashkenazi origins, I have come to appreciate Sephardic cooking.

Mimouna was originally celebrated by Moroccan Jews, and like most timeless traditions, there are many theories behind its origin. Mimouna is not only a feast, but a symbolic and spiritual event that marks the beginning of spring–a time full of hope for wealth and abundance in the coming year.

Muslims took part in the celebration too, bringing milk and honey, hametz flours and couscous to their Jewish neighbors. Entire communities would come together, wishing for mutual productivity and prosperity for the coming year. People traveled from house to house, tasting sweets and celebrating with their neighbors.

One traditional treat that is served is ma’amoul, a delicious pastry stuffed with chopped nuts or dates. The cookies are perfumed with either rose water or orange blossom water and simply melt in your mouth. There is actually a special tool to use for decorating the ma’amoul, however, since I don’t have one, I used tweezers to make the traditional pattern that helps the confectioner’s sugar to adhere to the outside of the pastry. Stored in an airtight tin, the ma’amoul will keep for a long time – well, in theory they will. I challenge your family to not gobble them all up almost as quickly as you can serve them!

These can be made vegan by simply substituting the butter for vegan buttery sticks. Since I cannot choose which filling I prefer, I simply will make both. I will also make a dozen ma’amoul stuffed with mini-chocolate chips for my godchildren. It may not be authentic, but I’m sure that they will enjoy them. Not just for after Passover!

Ma’Amoul – Moroccan Stuffed Tartlets from A Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

Yield: About 40 ma’amoul

Ingredients

For Pastry

2.5 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 sticks (1/2 pound) of unsalted butter or vegan butter substitute at room temperature

1 Tablespoon orange blossom or rose water

3 to 4.5 Tablespoons milk or water

Date or Nut Filling

Sifted Confectioner’s Sugar

For Date Filling

1/2 pound of pitted Medjool dates (This assumes that you will make all 40 cookies with the date filling)

About 1/4 cup of water

For Nut Filling 

1 cup of finely chopped walnuts, pistachios or almonds (This assumes you will make all 40 cookies with the nut filling. Either filling can be halved if you wish to make both.) Any extra filling can be used up in other cookies, pastries etc.)

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon of rose water OR ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Prepare the fillings first. For the date filling, place the pitted dates in a saucepan with the water and cook over low heat, stirring until the dates have softened into a homogenous mass. If the dates don’t seem to be softening, add more water, one tablespoon at a time. You want the filling to be thick.
  2. For the nut filling, mix the chopped nuts with the sugar and then add the rose water if you are using pistachios or almonds and cinnamon if you are using walnuts. (I actually used orange sugared almonds from Nuts.com and so I added rose water but did not add any additional sugar to mine. I also do not like things sickeningly sweet and the ma’amoul are covered with confectioner’s sugar after all.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Using your fingers, work the butter into the flour until they are throughly combined. Add either the orange blossom water OR the rose water, followed by the milk OR water , and work the dough until it is soft and malleable and easy to shape.
  5. Take a walnut-sized (that means a walnut in the shell!) lump of dough and roll it into a ball. Using your thumb, hollow out the center so it looks as if you have a tiny bowl. Using your fingers, press the sides up to make a pot with firm but thin sides.
  6. Fill the hole with either of the fillings. Do not over-fill.You want to be able to cleanly and completely cover the filling.
  7. Then press and pinch the sides back over the filling making a little ball shape. Place the pastries on a baking sheet covered with either parchment or Silpat. Leave them about an inch apart as they don’t really spread during baking.
  8. Using a fork or tweezers, decorate the tops of the pastries, making little dents.
  9. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Do not allow the pastries to brown or they will become hard and not taste right. Leave them on the pan for about 2 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack. This will allow them to harden just enough to keep their shape. When they are almost totally cool, roll them in confectioner’s sugar.

 

Chocolate Chip Vegan Meringue Buttons for Passover

chocolate meringue platedThis cookie is a crispy, airy chocolatey delight that crumbles and melts in your mouth on contact. I admit that I have never been a huge meringue fan. I like the idea of meringue but the egg white is my least favorite part of the egg and let’s face it, that’s what meringue is. However, by making this vegan, most of that egg whitiness that I dislike just doesn’t seem to be there. Since aquafaba reacts like egg whites when making meringue, my feelings might just be purely psychological, but there you go. Give these a try for Passover.

Chocolate Chip Vegan Meringue Buttons for Passover adapted from Egg Farmers of Ontario

Yield:

Ingredients

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons potato starch

Aquafaba from one 15 ounce can of chickpeas that have been drained

1/2 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar or cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 Tablespoons unsweetened, Dutch process cocoa powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and potato starch and set aside
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the aquafaba on medium until foamy. Add in the vinegar OR cream of tartar and vanilla bean paste and continue beating on medium until soft peaks form. On high speed, add in sugar 1 Tablespoon at a time (I am serious – 1 T at a time) and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.
  4. Using a spatula, gently fold in the chocolate chips and cocoa powder, just until blended. The meringue will deflate some.
  5. Drop by tablespoonfuls, about 1 inch apart, onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes or until cookies are dry to the touch, rotating pans halfway through. Don’t try this on a humid day.
  6. Remove parchment and cookies from baking sheets and place on cooling racks. Cool completely and then carefully peel off of the parchment. Store in airtight containers. These would be great crumbled over ice cream or “fool.”