Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bacon-Cheddar-Chive Scones

I served these scones from King Arthur Flour for breakfast on Saturday.  Ordinarily I like a sweet scone, and had gone to the KAF recipe website to search for something to serve with a little butter and jam, but these looked so good with bacon and cheese that I couldn't resist.

Usually at the first whiff of bacon frying, Ole Sweetie-Pi is wide awake and at my side, relieving me of the "granny" fork and taking over the bacon.  This time, he slept through and I had everything in the oven, smelling wonderfully savory and delicious, when he came downstairs.  "WhatamI smellin'," he asked, still half asleep.  "Scones," I said.  I scrambled some eggs and by the time they were done, the timer was going off for the oven.  I served up the eggs and gave him a scone, and he glumly sat down at the table.

Wordlessly, he ate the eggs, and the scone was pushed about on his plate, as he desperately tried to ignore its presence.  I was nearly done eating, when he split is scone open and buttered it and put it away.  "Do you want the rest of mine," he offered, dejectedly.  "No," I said.  "Don't you like it?"


"Well just leave it.  I'm surprised you don't like them."

"What's in them?"

"Half a pound of bacon, cheddar cheese, some chives from the herb garden." (Herb garden is a huge overstatement, but it makes me happy to say it.  I only have chives and mint, grins.)

He visibly brightened and took another bite.  "You know, I do like these.  Why don't you save the rest and I'll work on those, too. I thought maybe you put dates or something in these."

I suppose this is a lesson to me as I'm often putting new foods  into something I think he'll like and won't discover the hidden ingredient.  (He is most anxious about the sauerkraut and anchovy paste that he found when he last helped me unpack the groceries and checks the pantry to see if they're still on the shelf.)  However, I just don't understand how he can confuse the flavor of bacon with dates.  And that's all I'm going to say.

These scones are delicious. We had them for breakfast, but they would be equally good with a nice soup and salad.  Whatever time of day you try these, I hope you like them, too.

Bacon-Cheddar-Chive Scones

2 cups  all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt **
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold  butter, diced
1 cup very coarsely grated or diced cheddar cheese
1/3 cup  snipped fresh chives

1/2 pound bacon, cooked, cooled, and crumbled (about 1 cup) **
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons  heavy cream or whipping cream, or enough to make the dough cohesive**

 Preheat your oven to 425*F.  Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper; set aside until needed.

In a good-sized bowl, add the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar, and mix to combine the ingredients well.  

Add the butter to the dry ingredients using your fingers to rub the butter into the flour, or use a pastry blender, or two knives to cut in the butter.  The mixture will be rough and crumbly.  

Add the cheese, chives and bacon, mixing well to distribute.

Add 3/4 cup of cream to the mixture, stirring to combine.  Squeeze the mixture together, to see if it stays together in a ball.  If not, add additional cream, in small amounts until the dough comes together.**

Transfer the dough to a well-floured surface and pat into a 7" round disc.** about 3/4 inch thick.  Transfer disc to prepared baking sheet.

Cut the disc into 4th's and then cut the 4th's in half, making 8 wedges. Using a spatula, separate the wedges from each other, allowing enough space between the wedges for the dough to spread and rise.  (I made two rows of 4 wedges.)

Brush the scones with a bit of cream to help them brown while baking.  Bake for approximately 22-24 minutes** or until golden brown.  Remove from oven.  Allow to cool on the pan.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

**The original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of salt. I reduced the salt to 1/2 teaspoon and found it to be adequate. There's a lot of salt in this recipe from the cheddar cheese and bacon, plus the butter I used was salted.More than than would have been too salty for us.

**One-half pound of cooked bacon yielded somewhere between 3/4 and 1 cup cooked.

**I needed to add additional cream to make the dough cohesive.  As I mentioned, take care to add the cream in small amounts because it's easy to add too much.

**I found that the inside of my dinner plate was 7 inches in diameter.  I molded the dough on my dinner plate to obtain an nice symmetrical disc and then transferred it to my baking sheet.

**The cream really does aid in browning nicely.  At the end of 22 minutes, the minimum suggested cooking time, I felt that the scones looked too brown, however.  I think I would check the scones for doneness and color starting at perhaps 18 minutes or so.  It's easier to add time because I certainly haven't figured out how to take it away.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Easy, No Knead, French Peasant Bread

I was in between paychecks and out of bread.  Two unexpected kitty visits to the veterinarian's took care of any "extra" cash I might have had. The good news is the kitties are back frolicking about but I was still out of bread.

I checked the pantry and I had all the ingredients to make my own, so I went to my cookbooks, but nothing caught my eye.  Besides, I had been having a run of bad luck with the last few recipes I tried from my a couple of my favorite books.  I metaphorically tightened my belt and resigned to waiting for payday.

Then I saw Lara's post for French Peasant Bread on her blog, Recipe Shoebox The minute I saw it and read how much she loved it (she said she made it four times in a week and a half!), I knew it was meant for me, too.  Five ingredients, just stir,  no kneading, no shaping,  and you have delicious, chewy, crusty, soft on the inside, French bread.  This recipe is a definite keeper with me. Just look at all the delicious nooks and crannies.  Do I have to tell you that Ole Sweetie Pi and I filled them up with melted butter?

French Peasant Bread
(From Laura's Blog, Recipe Shoebox)

1 tablespoon quick rising (instant) yeast
2 cups warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all purpose flour

olive oil (for greasing the pan)
cornmeal (for sprinkling on the pan)
1/4 cup butter melted (to put on dough before and after baking)

Place yeast, water, sugar, and salt in warm bowl and stir until dissolved.

Add flour and stir until blended, but do not knead.  Cover and let rise one hour or until double in size.

The dough is quite sticky, so grease or flour your hands and remove dough from the bowl.  Divide the dough into two equal rounds on place on an oiled cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Leave plenty of space between them so that the doughs have plenty of room to rise, or use two small cookie sheets.  Let rise an additional hour.

Brush the tops and sides of the rounds with melted butter and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and cook an additional 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove from oven and brush tops and sides of rounds again with melted butter.  Serve warm.

Laura, thanks again for posting your recipe so that we also may enjoy this wonderful, rustic bread.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Blackberry Jam Almond Braid

When I think about a sweet pastry for breakfast, I usually think of a yeast product, but my mind has been changed forever.  I was visiting Kathleen's blog, Gonna Want Seconds, and she had posted this recipe from Willow Bird Baking on her Make Soon List.  Well, naturally, the minute I sat that tempting photo I had to click on the link and see what it was all about.

Oh me, oh-my-oh. One look and it was on my Make Soon List as well. 
This looks as nice as anything you've seen from a bakery;  tender, flaky crust (almost like a puff pastry, it's so flaky)  and the flavor is just a bit tangy from the cream cheese, with the sweetness of the almond extract.  And the filling is whatever jam or preserve you choose.  I was thinking maybe even a little sweetened mascarpone with the jam.  How good does that sound!

Think you don't have time to make this?  With a food processor, this took little to no time to make.  From beginning to end, this probably took me about an hour, and it will take even less time when I make it again because I won't have to stop and read the directions. We really liked this with blackberry jam as that's what I had on hand, but next time, I'm thinking maybe strawberry, or blueberry, or raspberry or.....

This is a keeper!  Kathleen, thanks for sharing such a wonderful find.  And many many thanks to Willow Bird Baking for posting her recipe so that we might all benefit and delight in this delectable treat.

Blackberry Jam Almond Braid
 (from Willow Bird Baking; see blog for a nice tutorial)

Dough Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, diced
3 ounces cream cheese, diced
1/2 cup milk, minus 1/2 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup your favorite preserves for filling

Icing Ingredients
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 425* F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the cream cheese and butter into the flour mixture and pulse to cut the fat into the flour (about 6 pulses). Add the milk and almond extract and blend into a loose dough.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently for 4-5 strokes.  The dough will still look rough but that's okay, it's supposed to.  Overworking the dough will make it tough and you will loose the flakiness.

Tear off two sheets of waxed paper and place the dough between the two sheets. Roll the dough to an 8"x12" rectangle.

Turn dough out onto a lightly greased baking sheet and remove the waxed paper.

Measure and mark the dough lengthwise into thirds. Spread preserves down the middle third of the dough, keeping it about ½ inch from the mark on both sides.

Make 2¾-inch slight diagonal cuts at 1-inch intervals on each the long sides. Do not cut into the center jam-filled area.  (I just used the width of my ruler to cut the strips.)   Fold strips, first one from one side and then one from the other side in a rotating fashion, over the filling. It will now resemble a braid.

Bake in a 425*F  oven for 12-15 minutes, until the dough is cooked through and the top is lightly browned.

For the glaze, combine all glaze  ingredients into a one cup measuring cup that has a pouring spout.  Drizzle over the top of the braid, and add the almonds if you are using them.  Serve warm.  

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wicked Easy Hot Pockets

I've been trying to catch up on all my fellow bloggers' posts, working in alphabetical order in my reader (grins), trying not to miss a single delicious post. It's taking me a while and I'm about halfway down my reader. In the meantime, when I see something that looks too good to resist, I have to linger and ogle and aaah over it, and before you know it, depending where I am at in my day and what I have in the fridge and pantry, I am in the kitchen whipping it up.

That's the way it was when I saw Lori's (Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness)  post for Wicked Easy Hot Pockets. It was lunchtime, I was starving, and these looked too good to resist.  I checked my sundries and had everything I needed and before I knew it, I was putting these into the oven.

One bite into these, and both Ole Sweetie-Pi and and I knew that these were a keeper.  The biscuit is tender, flaky, and good!  And the filling can be whatever you want it to be.  I  modeled my sandwich after a now-defunct local Italian restaurant's panini sandwich they called "Cement Shoes."  Their version was loaded with pepperoni, salami, turkey, cheese, onions and peppers, and you had to unhinge your jaw to eat it.  I knew there wouldn't be enough room in the hot pockets so I omitted the onions and peppers, but now wish I had found a way to add them or at least a little pizza sauce. I brushed the tops of mine with melted butter and added some grated Parmesan cheese.  Oh my!   These hot pockets are delicious and filling!

Wicked Easy Hot Pockets
(Discovered on Lori's blog, Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound (one stick) cold butter
2/3 cup buttermilk

Filling:  Whatever you like!

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray or oil a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, measure flour and add the baking powder, baking soda and salt to the flour;  combine thoroughly.  Dice the butter and add to the flour mixture. "Cut" in the butter using a pastry blender or two knives until you  have a coarse crumb texture.

Make a well in the flour mixture.  Pour in the buttermilk and stir until moistened and knead a few times to make a smooth dough being careful not to overwork the dough.

If you choose a round shape, use a large cookie cutter or drinking glass to cut out your shape Gather up the scraps and reroll the dough as necessary until you have an even number of circles.)

Roll the dough into a rectangle about  3/8" thick.  Slice the dough in half down the long way, and then cut across .(I had 8 rectangles, but actually these were kind of large so perhaps you'd like to make more, smaller, rectangles, just remember you need an equal number.)  After cutting,  using your fingers, slightly flatten the edges all the way around as you'll be doubling the layers.

Now here is where you can get creative.  What's your favorite hot pocket?  You can add pretty much whatever you want here, keeping in mind not to stuff it too much or you'll never be able to get the top layer of dough over and around the filling.  (I rerolled the top dough a little larger than the bottom so there would be "stretch room" as my pocket filling was pretty thick.) Keep the filling away from the edges of the dough as you want a tight seal of pastry..

Once you have your filling in place and the top layer of dough on, go around the edges with a fork and press the edges together.  Piece top layer with fork to vent steam.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden.

Lori, this will be joining our family favorites, a real keeper!  Thank you for sharing your discovery!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Old Fashioned Banana Cream Pie

There are certain foods that just say summertime fun to me, whether it's for a family picnic, 4th of July party,  barbecue or homecoming.  I like love fancy layered cakes, but to me there's still nothing homier than a pie.  And at the top of that list is a a beautiful cream pie, custardly good with gorgeous, perfectly ripe fruit flavoring every bite.  And to me, I have found the perfect banana cream pie.  Ole Sweetie-Pi loved this pie.  I loved this pie.  We loved this pie!  This is now my go-to banana cream pie recipe.

I also tried another pat-in-pan crust recipe, and this time I had much better success.  It's an oil crust and did a terrific job of holding its crispy-flaky shape after being blind baked.  It doesn't have the same desirable buttery flavor I like to associate with a pastry crust, but I'm so pleased with the way it turned out, that I will use this crust for future prebaked crust recipes. 

(Recipezaar #14979)

One prebaked pastry crust, cooled (recipe to follow)

3 cups whole milk
3/4 cups white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks, beaten
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 ripe bananas

In a large saucepan scald the milk.  Remove any milk solids that might develop.

In a separate saucepan, combine the sugar, flour and salt; gradually whisk in the scalded milk.  Over medium heat, stirring constantly, cook until thickened.  Cover, cook two minutes more, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, have the 3 egg yolks, slightly beaten, ready. Stir a small amount of the hot mixture into beaten yolks (tempering the yolks with the hot liquid so as not to curdle them).  When thoroughly combined, stir yolks into hot mixture.  Cook for minute more more, stirring constantly. Stir in the butter and vanilla. 

Let custard sit until lukewarm.

When ready, pour about a cup of the custard into the bottom of the prepared pie crust.  Slice 3 ripe bananas over the top and then pour the remainder of the custard over the bananas.

Wrap in plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming on the custard and refrigerate until cold and custard is set.

Serve with either a meringue made from the leftover egg whites or nice dollops of whipped cream.

No Roll Pie Crust
(Recipezaar #73041)

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar **
1/8 teaspoon vanilla**
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
3 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 375*F.

Put all ingredients into a 9-inch pie plate.  Mix with a fork until well blended and pat into the pan. Push the pastry up the sides and make a nice edge.

Generously prick the crust with a fork to prevent bubbling during baking (I pricked every 1/4 inch or so around the sides and across the bottom).

Bake 15-17 minutes, or until nicely browned.

**The original recipe calls for one tablespoon vanilla sugar, a product I do not keep on hand.  I substituted one tablespoon sugar and added a couple drops of vanilla extract.  Seemed to work fine, and was especially nice to use with a pie that called for vanilla as part of the flavoring.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Japanese Cucumber Salad

My mother was real big on pickles. She said when she was pregnant with me, she wept many tears with craving for two particular Japanese pickles she particularly loved and missed, pickled plums and pickled olives.  It was until I was in my early 20's and went to Boston to an Asian food mart that I was able to find her heart's desire and mailed them to her.  In the meantime, she did a lot of canning from the huge vegetable garden she kept, and  harvested bushel baskets of cucumbers from which she made bread and butter pickles, ripe cucumber pickles, and relishes. I used to butter bread and make pickle sandwiches they were so good!

One particular pickle she made during the summer, was one she called Japanese cucumber salad.  Now, I don't know if these are really Japanese or not; she's Japanese, she made them, so that makes them an authentic Japanese cucumber salad.  I have seen similar recipes on the web, not attributed to the Japanese, so your guess is as good as mine.

Recently my brother Grant asked me about Mom's cucumber salad, if I knew Mom's recipe and did I make it.  We both recalled the nice sweet and sour flavor, slightly crunchy texture,  and to me (and apparently to Grant) totally addictive and memorable.  Once we start on these, we both claim we can eat the whole bowl by ourselves. 

Japanese Cucumber Salad
5 medium cucumbers
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional, we never had it with sesame seeds)

Wash the cucumbers. Cut off the ends.   Remove the peel with a paring knife or vegetable peeler, leaving strips of green peel for a striped effect.  Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise.  Using the tip of a spoon, remove the seeds.  Slice the cucumber as thinly as possible (across the narrow side, so that you'll have half-moon shaped slices of cucumber) into a bowl.

Add the salt, and with your impeccably clean hands, mix the salt and cucumber mixture with your hands until the cucumber slices are limp and opaque looking.  This will take 4 or 5 minutes. Cover and set aside for 45 minutes to allow the salt to draw out the cucumber liquid.

In the meantime, mix the lemon juice, sugar and vinegar in a separate bowl. 

Transfer the cucumber mixture to a colander and squeeze out as much juice as possible.  My mother used to wrap the cucumbers in a clean white linen dishtowel and squeeze and twist the towel to remove the liquid, which is the way I do it.  Discard the salt water. Put the cucumbers into bowl.  (The volume will be greatly decreased from the amount you initially started with.)

Add the lemon juice, sugar, and vinegar mixture to the squeezed cucumbers.Add sesame seeds if using.  Let sit for an hour or so, refrigerated, and then enjoy!

I am submitting this recipe to Lynda  for April's Family Recipes.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

My brother Grant and I were jabber-jawing the other day, and he asked me if I remembered our Great Aunt Effie's strawberry rhubarb pie.  Do I ever!  It was the first time I had ever had strawberry rhubarb pie and we both agreed, it was love at first bite.  Aunt Effie, a tall, big-boned, taciturn Vermonter,  was my grandfather's sister.  She ran a boarding house, making meals for the lodgers every day of her life.  I was only 12 years or so, sat silently in her kitchen, watching her in awe, as she sternly rolled out the dough and threw together a pie lickety-split, no recipe required.  To this day I don't think I've ever had a pie as good as the one she made, but then I wonder, is any pie, like a kiss, any sweeter than the first.

I tried a new pie crust recipe made with a food processor.  I loved the way it worked up, it looked and handled beautifully, but despair at the way it turned out.  Can you say tough?  Oh my!  So I left the crust and ate the filling, which is very very good!

Glazed Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
(Farm Journal's Homemade Pies, Cookies, & Bread)

Pasty for 2-crust pie
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt (also known as a "pinch")
1/3 cup flour (I used cornstarch)
2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, dried, hulled, cut in halves
2 cups (1-inch pieces) fresh rhubarb
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, diced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg beaten with one tablespoon water (if desired, for glazing)

Combine the 1 1/4 cup sguar, salt and flour in a small bowl. 

In a separate bowl, combine the strawberries and rhubarb.  Pour half the fruits into a pastry-lined, 9-inch pie pan.  Sprinkle with half the sugar mixture.  Repeat with remaining fruit and sugar mixture. 

Dot the top with butter.

Apply the top crust, and flute the edges and make vent holes, or make a lattice top.  Brush top of pie with either cold water and sprinkle on one tablespoon sugar or brush with the beaten egg and water mixture and sprinkle with sugar.  (The egg wash gives a shiny glaze.)

Bake in a preheated 425*F oven, 40 to 50 minutes or until rhubarb is tender and crust is browned.

My Notes:  I think I had my pie on too low a rack.  The crust was very dark at the end of 50 minutes but the juices had not thickened, even after sitting for 3 hours.  I raised the oven rack,  covered the pie with tin foil, and put it back in a 350*F oven for 30 minutes,  The pie thickened up nicely.  Whew!

Here's a question for you.  Lots of folks have issues with a pie like this being too runny, and I admit it can be hard to gauge just how much thickener to add.  I want to say that my Aunt Effie started her pie filling on the stove first and then added it to the pie crust.  Anyone heard of that before?  I can't seem to find a recipe that supports the hazy memory.

Thanks a Bunch for All Your Good Wishes, Thoughts, and Prayers!!

Dare I say it?  I think I'm back!  I only have a couple of days remaining on my nasty old prescription, but I feel much, much better. I am grateful for the many good wishes, thoughts, and prayers that were sent my way, and I am sure that it is because of you that I am doing so well. Your notes and emails were all read and held dear.  You all are just so fine and so dear to me.  Thank you for gracing me with your friendships. 

Hugs & Blessings,

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I'm Going to Be Absent for a While

I apologize for not visiting your blogs but I have just been so doggone sick that it was hard to look at a computer screen and there was no way I could even think about food.  The mere thought of it, well, you know what I mean, right?  This morning Ole Sweetie-Pi fried up some bacon for his breakfast, but first he opened all the doors and windows in the house so I wouldn't have to smell grease.

As soon as things return to my level of normalcy, I'll be back around again.  In the meantime, I hope everyone has a happy and healthy Easter and Passover.