LEMON LAVENDER SCONES

It’s another wintry day and, as with most everyone, I’m ready for spring.  Not, of course, that we’ve had a bad winter, but … I’m still ready for spring.  So, to brighten my mood, I am going to buy some bright, cheerful flowers and then make scones.  Not everyday scones, but fresh, fragrant Lemon Lavender Scones … and, I’m going to serve them with an indulgent honey butter.  A springtime treat!

These scones are not difficult to make at all.  Assemble all your ingredients and give them a go.

LEMON LAVENDER SCONES
Bake 400° .  Makes 8 to 12.  Bake for 15-20 minutes depending upon size.

2 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons dried lavender, food grade
1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup heavy cream, cold
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 large egg, beaten for egg wash
Confectioners’ Sugar Glaze (optional):
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon milk

In a large bowl or food processor (which I prefer), mix or pulse together all dried ingredients:  flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, lemon zest and lavender.

Using your fingers or a fork, work butter into dry ingredients until just crumbly.  If using a food processor, pulse 8 or 9 times.

Whisk together egg, lemon juice and heavy cream and add it to the mixture.  With a fork, bring  together quickly.  Do not overmix or scones will be heavy.

Dump the mixture onto a lightly floured board.  It will be a bit crumbly.  Knead two or three times to bring the dough together.  Again, do not overwork the dough.

Shape into a round about 1/2″ thick.  Cut the desired number of scones you’d like … in the shapes you’d like.  Round.  Triangular.  Square.  It’s up to you.  I decided to be creative and cut mine  to resemble a flower.

Place the scones onto a parchment lined baking sheet.   Brush the tops lightly with a beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Refrigerate the scones for at least 1/2 hour.  This will ensure the butter gets cold and your scones will be light.  While the scones are refrigerated, preheat the oven to 400°.  Depending upon the size and thickness, bake anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes until baked through and lightly golden brown.

Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.  (Unfortunately, the angle of the photo doesn’t show how much they’ve risen.)  For confectioners’ glaze, mix together four tablespoons confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon milk.  When the scones are cool, drizzle with confectioners’ glaze.
How do you like my scone flower?

I mixed up some honey butter*, but you can serve these light, fragrant and delicious scones with absolutely anything … from strawberry jam to lemon curd to clotted cream.

Be sure to put the kettle on and have your cuppa ready because you’re going to want to dive right into these … well, at least, I did!

*Honey Butter
Mix together one stick softened butter with two to three tablespoons honey.
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STRAWBERRIES

I love strawberries and every year I buy a few strawberry plants and plant them in the garden.  Yes, I know.  Strawberries are perennials, which means the plant grows back every year … in the same place … generally bigger and stronger than the year before.  But, not for me.  Every spring I look to see where the strawberry plants should be and there’s nothing.  Nothing I should say except the dead plants from the season before.

I realize I live in New England and our winters get pretty cold, but no one else has a problem growing strawberries.  I mulch them heavily to make sure they stay as warm as can be over the winter.  But, I have yet to have any plants survive.  All the other perennials in the garden are fine.  As soon as the weather and the soil warms up, the shoots start to pop up from the ground, the blooms burst open and all’s right with the world.  Except, that is, for strawberries!

Strawberries are sweet, delicious and good for you (full of antioxidants and very low in calories).  And they are so versatile.  You can just pop them into your mouth or use them in salads, smoothies and all sorts of desserts from ice cream to shortcakes.  You can make jams, jellies and spreads, or dip them into chocolate.  They freeze easily, and for some people, they are easy to grow.  I, however, have been relegated to a “pick-your-own-fruit” farm where I “pick-my-own-strawberries”.  Now, armed with 10 lbs. of strawberries and a three-day window before they start to lose their appeal, it’s time to get cooking.

Strawberry jam is on the list as is Strawberry Cake Squares and Strawberry, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto Tart … but because this classic dessert is one of my favorites, the first thing I am making is Strawberry Shortcake.  No, not the packaged sponge cakes which always appear next to the strawberries in the produce aisle of the grocery store.  This recipe is more like a crisp, sweet scone.  Split them in half, add the sliced, sweetened strawberries and top with whipped cream!  Oh my, nothing better!

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
Depending upon the size you cut the biscuits, you can make as few as four really large ones to as many as twelve minis.  Oven temperature 425°.  Bake 12 to 15 minutes.

For the biscuits/scones:
2 cups all purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup very cold butter, diced or grated
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg white, beaten

Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and sugar.  Either by hand or in a food processor mix the cold, diced butter until the flour mixture resembles crumbs.  Don’t over-mix in the butter.  It needs to be a bit chunky.  Whisk together the egg, buttermilk and vanilla.  Quickly mix these wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Again, don’t overmix.

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured board and bring together into a round ball.  Flatten the ball and gently roll it into an 10″ circle, about 3/4″ thick.  To cut out the biscuits, you can use a knife and cut the dough into squares or use a biscuit cutter to cut out rounds.  The size, again, is up to you.  I like to make smaller ones … using two per serving.

Place the cakes onto a parchment lined baking sheet, brush with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar.  Demerara sugar has larger crystals and adds a bit of color and crunch.

At this point, put the baking sheet into the refrigerator while you preheat the oven … 425°.  This will ensure the butter is nice and cold.  Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Strawberry Filling:
1 lb. fresh strawberries
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Wash, hull and slice the strawberries.  Put them into a bowl and sprinkle with sugar and balsamic vinegar.  Let the strawberries mascerate for 30 minutes or more.  When ready to serve, split the biscuits in half, spoon the strawberry filling inside, add the top and then slather on the whipped cream.

It’s hard to find a better, more delicious dessert … guaranteed to impress your toughest critics!  Should you prefer to use other berries or fruits, please do.  Or fill these biscuits with ice cream and top with hot fudge!  Yum!!!


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It’s Pumpkin Time!

Pumpkin-flavored anything has taken over the country!  I don’t know who started it (or why) maybe it was the competition between Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks with their Pumpkin spiced lattes, but the “pumpkin” craze is crazy!!  Forget about cookies, pie and cheesecake, now it’s all about pumpkin flavored cereals … and truffles … and ice cream …. not to mention yogurt, potato chips and now pumpkin-spiced “Peeps”.  Yikes!  We’ve gone pumpkin mad!

I’d love to bring our love for pumpkin back down to earth, so I’m sharing my recipe for Pumpkin Scones with Pumpkin Butter.  Moist, delicious and full of that pumpkiny flavor we all apparently love.  But, please note, these are not the dry flavorless scones you find in coffee shops.  These are British-inspired scones, moist and biscuit like.   Hot out of the oven, break them open and slather on a good amount of this not overly sweet pumpkin butter.  Enjoy!

PUMPKIN SCONES
Makes about 9 to 12 scones (depending upon size)  Bake at 425° for 20 to 25 minutes

1 14oz. can solid pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 cups unbleached flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup cold buttermilk
1 stick cold butter, (cut into 1/2″ cubes)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
melted butter for brushing
brown sugar for sprinkling

Assemble all your ingredients and baking tools – but do not preheat the oven at this time.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Do not preheat the oven as yet. If you are using fresh pumpkin, you’ll need about 2 cups.  Canned pumpkin can have a lot of moisture, so be sure to drain the pumpkin before using.

pumpkin-scones-1

I use a food processor.  It’s just the easiest and quickest way to cut the butter into the dry ingredients.  While the pumpkin is draining, add the all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, soda, spices, salt and brown sugar) into the food processor and pulse to blend well.

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Cut the COLD butter into 1/2″ cubes and add to the flour mixture.  Pulse quickly just to combine. Do not overmix the dry ingredients.  Bits of butter should still be visible in the flour.

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In a large separate bowl mix together the drained pumpkin and the buttermilk.

pumpkin-scones-4Put all the dry from the food processor into a large bowl, adding the nuts, and then, with a fork, stir in the pumpkin mixture.  Work quickly mixing all the ingredients together until just blended.  Do not overwork the dough or our scones will be heavy and tough.

pumpkin-scones-5Dump the batter onto a lightly floured board.  Knead lightly until smooth and form into a round or square shape.

pumpkin-scones-6Then roll to a thickness about 3/4″ high and approximately 8″ in diameter.  The shape will depend upon how you want to cut them.  The batter should still be soft and sticky.  By dipping the biscuit cutter or knife into flour after every cut, you avoid squishing the dough together.  Try to make clean cuts, not twisting or turning the dough.  Whether you cut the scones into rounds or triangles or squares is all up to you!  If you have any scraps after cutting, reform the dough and continue making more.

pumpkin-scones-7Transfer the cut pieces onto a parchment lined baking sheet by again dipping a spatula into flour and lifting from underneath.  Try not to compress the dough or add too much pressure.  Arrange the scones on the baking sheet about 1/2″ apart.  They will rise while baking.  Brush the tops of the scones lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with brown sugar.  Then place the baking sheet into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (or more).  Only then should you preheat the oven to 425°.

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Bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes (rotating the tray about halfway through the bake time), or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  The scones should be puffed up, lightly browned on top and on the bottom.  Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool.  Serve warm or cool.  It’s entirely up to you!

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For breakfast or tea, if you and your family love pumpkin, I hope you LOVE these moist, rich and delicious (not overly sweet) scones.
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Addicted to GBBO

Yes, I will admit it.  I am addicted to the “GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF” program on PBS.  It doesn’t matter which season, or which episode, or which challenge, I will stop what I am doing and watch every action-packed moment.

But why?  What makes this cooking program any different from the slew of other cooking programs … on all the many cooking channels … at any time of the day or night?   I’m not really sure.  Could it be that the two judges are actually professional bakers, and not actors or tv personalities whose careers have waned and they have no other place to go?  Could it be the lack of insulting comments from the chef judges to the contestants?   Master Chef, you know who you are!   Or perhaps the lack of having to utilize the obvious ‘placement’ products from their sponsors to create the ‘challenge’ that week?  Sound familiar, Top Chef?  Maybe its the gimmick-free way in which the program is presented … name most of the shows on the Food Network these days!

The format is very basic – three baking challenges over two days – starting with 12 bakers, eliminating one each week and selecting a “star” baker, until the final three bakers face off to select the winner. The winner of the GBBO does not get $250,000.00 in cash, or their own cooking program, or a feature in Food & Wine magazine.  They get “bragging rights”.  Yup!  That’s it!Abouttop-Sue-Mel

Fashion icons they are not, but the show hosts, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, are masterful in their handling of each week’s challenges and contestants.  They have very little camera time but when they do, their quips are quick, slick, and quite funny.

I became familiar with Sue Perkins, the bespectacled brunette, from a BBC program called THE SUPERSIZERS, in which she and her co-host had to live in selected British periods of time and experience the life styles and, more-importantly, the foods from those eras. It was historically accurate and hysterically funny.   Each episode focused on one historical period and for one week they lived in that time period … from clothing and lack of conveniences to tasty repasts sometimes consisting of sow’s udder paté, bovine pudding or duck tongue.

Mel Giedroyc, the perky blonde with the quick wit, has co-hosted with Sue before.  Apparently they worked together on a daytime British program called LIGHT LUNCH or was it LATE LUNCH.  Either way, I’ve never seen it, but I’m sure it was quite entertaining.  Together Mel and Sue have a great comraderie, and always empathize with each contestant’s near disasters.

Abouttop-Paul-MaryThe judges, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, somehow work beautifully together … a bit like Julia Child and Jacques Pepin.  Paul, with his piercing blue eyes, would intimidate even the most seasoned baker.  It just takes one look for you to know you’re doomed, but Mary (30 years Paul’s senior) finds some good in every bake, regardless of how awful it may look or taste.  Both Paul and Mary are hugely successful professional bakers, cookbook authors, and television personalities, each with their own cooking shows; but there are no signs of egos here.   Each week they bring interesting and quite difficult challenges to the contestants, after which they focus on the ‘bake’, nothing more.  How refreshing!

The show is filmed in tents on the grounds of many different British country houses from Welford Park in Newbury, to Harptree Court in Bristol, to Valentines Mansion in Redbridge.   Did I say, in tents?  Yup!  Where else could you showcase Britain in all of its glory but on perfectly manicured lawns of magnificent country houses with a background of lush green gardens and, of course, the completely unpredictable British weather!  The location for each of the season’s filming is kept quite secretive … not wanting stampeding fans showing up, I guess.

Abouttop-Victoria-SandwichThe baking “challenges” are divided into three categories.  First , there is the Signature Bake, to test the contestants’ creativity and baking ability.  Next is the Technical Bake, where the bakers receive a recipe from Mary or Paul with minimal instruction.  Finally, it’s the Showstopper Bake, which is designed to display the bakers’ skill and talent.  Many of these “challenges” are classic British baked items, some are from French patisseries … most of which I have never ever heard of (actually some of the contestants have never heard of them either).  Yes, the contestants are given recipes in the Technical Bake, and, yes, they have advance knowledge of what the next challenge is going to be so that they can practice at home.  What they don’t have to do is try to utilize canned chicken, root beer, squash blossoms and dill pickles to make a frozen dessert.  This is a true baking show, remember.   Gimmick free!

This cooking/baking program may not be for everyone, but it certainly is a hit for many.  Not only can you buy the cookbooks, you can, of course, download any of the episodes, and now you can buy the intriguing background music composed by Tom Howe.

We’re into Season 6 right now … but in Great Britain Season 7 is viewing and competing with the Olympics.  For some reason, PBS didn’t start airing GBBO until Season 3 and are calling this season “Season 3” …!  Confused?  So am I.   Perhaps PBS wanted to see if the show was going to gain in popularity before airing it, as they do with so many other British television programs. Well, it has!  Over 13 million viewers in Great Britain alone.  And what it has done to the baking industry is unbelievable.  Sales of flour, baking powder, baking chocolate have all risen (no pun intended).  Home bakers are being challenged to try their hand at scones, bread and cake.  Yes, it has even inspired me.

So if you haven’t seen an episode of the GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF, I challenge you to watch it, and tell me you don’t hunger for one of those “Show Stoppers“!

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References:  Great British Bake Off, GBBO Music, The Guardian

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Classic English Scones

The Lemon Curd is in the refrigerator chilling and now I’m ready to make the scones.  Today, I’m in the mood for a classic English scone.  Nothing fancy.  No lavender honey scones.  No chocolate chips and hazelnuts.  Not even currants.  Just flaky, buttery, warm from-the-oven scones.   You can get creative if you want to (and I’ll even give you some suggestions at the end), but for me, it’s the basic.

Classic English Scones are not the dry, triangular-shaped muffiny things you find in a lot of coffee shops.  They are more like the American biscuit so common in the South – but made with butter and not shortening.   It takes a light hand.  You do not want to overwork the dough building up the gluten, making them tough.   Some people prefer working the butter in with their hands.  I prefer a food processor.  Not only is it quicker, but the heat from your hands, makes the butter too soft and the scones are less likely to be flaky.

CLASSIC ENGLISH SCONES
Preheat the oven to 425°.    Bake for 12 to 15 minutes (depending upon size).   Makes 8 to 12 (again depending upon size).

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar*
6 tablespoons unsalted cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 beaten egg
cream
sugar

 Preheat the oven and prepare the baking sheet.  I prefer parchment paper to greasing a baking sheet.  Combine all the dry ingredients. With a fork, pastry blender, or in a food processor, cut in the very cold cubed butter until the flour mixture is blended and about the size of a pea.  (Yes, my cuppa tea is always around.)  Do not overwork the dough.  You should be able to see bits of butter.

 Make a well in the center of the bowl.  Mix the buttermilk and beaten egg and, with a fork, quickly mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board.  Again, quickly form a round, smooth ball, after kneading a few times.

Roll to about 1/2″ thick.  With a biscuit cutter, tuna fish can, or glass (whatever you have), cut out the scones.  Again, you decide how big and how thick you want them to be.   (They can be frozen at this point and then baked at another time.)

Brush the tops with cream (or beaten egg white) and then sprinkle lightly with sugar.  Bake at 425° in the center of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned.

Cool on a wire rack and then serve with the delicious lemon curd you prepared earlier (or strawberry jam, whipped cream, etc.).  Don’t limit your imagination.

Now it’s time to put the kettle on and enjoy!!
Cheers!

 

Optionial ingredients:   You can add any combination of the following – dried currants, raisins, cranberries, blueberries, mini chocolate chips, mini white chocolate chips, chopped nuts, orange peel, vanilla, lemon peel, dried lavender buds.

*To make savory scones, omit sugar.  Add grated cheddar cheese, or chopped prosciutto, maybe fold in chutney, or herbs.  Let your imagination run wild.

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When Life Gives You Lemons … Make Lemon Curd!

You thought I was going to say ‘lemonade’, didn’t you?  Nope!  When life gets complicated, stressful, unsettling and you need to withdraw into your own private space to reflect and relax, try making something.  Something a little different.  Something unique.  Something delicious!

For me, it’s been a very busy week, and I’ve been tugged in many different directions.  Today I need to meditate … in my kitchen … over the stove.  Classic Scones with Lemon Curd are going to be my method for decompressing.  C’mon along.  I hope you like them.

LEMON CURD
Preparation Time:  10 – 15 minutes                  Makes about:  1-1/2 cups

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 2 large or 3 medium lemons)
1/2 cup sugar (more if sweeter curd is desired)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3 extra large eggs (or 4 medium eggs) beaten
3/4 stick ice cold butter cubed

 Hint:  Zest the lemons before cutting them to squeeze out the lemon juice.  To get more juice from the lemons, pop them into a microwave oven for 10 seconds just to warm them through and them roll them on your cutting board. Two large lemons should produce enough zest and juice for this batch of curd – which will produce 1-1/2 cups.

In a heavy small saucepan, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest and beaten eggs.  Place the saucepan over medium to low heat and stir continuously with a wooden spoon while adding the cold, cubed butter. Continue stirring for about 5 or 6 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and the curd thickens, coating the back of the spoon.

If you want a really smooth curd, you may want to sieve the curd t hrough a strainer to remove the lemon zest, and any coagulated bits.  I want to have all the zesty bits right in there, so I prefer not to.

Spoon the curd into a bowl or serving dish and cover with plastic wrap.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

 

You can also spoon the curd into small  mason jars,  put your label on the front, and decorate with a ribbon for a beautiful addition to any gift basket. Why spend $7.95 or more at the grocery store, when you can make your own delicious, creamy, lemony curd for just pennies.

(This curd will keep beautifully for at least a week.  Keep refrigerated.)

Now it’s time to make the scones!!

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The British Food Festival

Hubby discovered this event while trolling the Internet a few weeks ago.  We had already made plans to be in the County Durham area during that weekend …. yes, of course, I want to go!  Master classes … celebrity chefs … local artisan foods … everything that I could learn from and use for my new blog and ultimately my new specialty foods café.  Who knows, maybe Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood would be there.  If not, then maybe one of the contestants from the Great British Bake Off.

I did my research, downloaded the map, the schedule of events, and was ready.  We took a drive to Bishop Auckland the day before just to get the ‘lay of the land’.  I certainly didn’t want us to get lost, or not know where to park.  As we drove along the highway into Bishop Auckland, the flashing signboards were up warning us to “expect delays” because of what was expected to be thousands upon thousands of foodies descending on the town.  We talked to relatives who kindly offered their driveways, knowing that we’d be driving around for hours trying to find a spot to park the car.

Off we set on Sunday morning.  A typical English day, cold, damp, and grey,  8° C (about 46° F).  The drive was uneventful.  Parking (thank you Morrison’s) was not a problem.  Walking to the town square was brisk, but quiet.  Where were all the people?   I was ready to battle the crowds.  We saw the first of the white canopies, then more, then row after row of folding chairs, and a stage platform.  But where is Mary Berry?

As we made our way through the market square down past the canopied vendors to Auckland Castle where the main event was to take place, finally, people!!  The day began to brighten and so did my attitude.  Look there’s a vendor selling Millionaire’s Shortbread and it LOOKS JUST LIKE MINE!!  Pies ….. steak and stilton, pork and apple, cheese and onion, traditional and exotic.  They were all here!  Scones …. cheeses …. breads ….!

food show image

We sampled everything we possibly could from Spanish Paella to 6-month aged Bleu Cheeses.  We drank hard ciders, homebrewed vodka, and, of course, tea.  There were traveling troubadours singing the praises of ‘tomatoes’, squawking seagulls to entertain (and annoy) the children, foods from all over the world.

Did I read more into this event than it actually was?  Probably!  But, did I enjoy it?  Absolutely!!

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References:  The British Food Festival

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