Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cherry Oat Scones With Almond Glaze

When Pam (the other stew), came last month with her daughter to look at some Boston colleges, I tried to make their quick visit comfortable. The weather was unseasonably warm, well actually hot, so we had the luxury of having breakfast on the patio. Not bad for April in Boston. I thought I'd take Pam's Maple Oat Scone recipe and change it somewhat by using honey instead of maple syrup and adding dried cherries. Since almonds and cherries seem to be a match made in cherry heaven, I made an almond glaze to go on top. They were really very good, but as I've made them a few times again, I realized how small changes affect the overall taste. The next time I made them, I made the circle of dough 9 inches instead of 7. That made them too dry. The wetness of the dough also seems to be fickle. Maybe one egg is a little bigger than another or maybe the air is really damp...or maybe the moon must be in your seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars...I don't know. I do know that too much flour added and overworking the dough will make the scones heavier. I also toasted the oats a little too much one time and didn't like the flavor. Don't be scared away though...these are tips to the process of getting it just right. A lighter scone is achieved with a stickier dough and getting the perfect balance comes with adding more or less flour, as you go. I make them totally in the food processor, so they really are a snap to make and "nothin' says lovin' like somethin' from the oven!"

Cherry Oat Scones

1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1/3-1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup oat bran flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/2 cup dried and pitted tart Montmorency cherries

*you may substitute all purpose flour, if you can't find oat bran flour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread oats on a sheet pan and toast in the oven until fragrant and lightly colored, about 5-8 minutes. Make sure they don't brown.
Set aside to cool. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the toasted oats.

Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Whisk the milk, honey and egg together until well blended and set aside. Place the flour, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to blend. Add the butter to the bowl and pulse several times until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add the milk, honey and egg mixture and pulse to blend. Add the toasted oats (leaving out reserved 3 tablespoons), and pulse until just mixed. At this point, add just a little flour at a time if the dough is too sticky to handle, or more milk if too dry. Add the cherries and pulse 1-2 times just to mix in.

Dust a work surface with the reserved oats and flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface
and pat dough into a 7 inch round disc. Using a bench scraper, cut the dough into 8 wedges. Transfer them to the parchment lined baking sheet and separate slightly. Bake until golden, but not brown, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly on a wire rack and then drizzle on the Almond Glaze. Serve warm.

Serves 8.

These are best eaten the day they are made. If storing, place in an airtight container or freeze.

Almond Glaze

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1-2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons slivered almonds

Add almond extract to the powdered sugar. Add milk a little at a time until a the glaze becomes thin enough to spoon, but not runny. Add almonds and drizzle onto scones.

Served warm from the oven, they are a cheery cherry way to start your morning!

Written and photographed by Diane.

Cherry Oat Scone with Almond Glaze recipe (pdf)

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Purple Asparagus With Lemon Chive Vinaigrette

Purple haze all in my brain
Lately things just don't seem the same

Actin' funny, but I don't know why

scuse me while I kiss the sky...
by Jimi Hendrix

Is it me or are a lot of vegetables purple that never used to be? When I was at the market the other day, I must've had purple haze all in my brain. I had just bought some petunias in various shades of purple and then saw purple asparagus in the produce section. If that isn't serendipitous, then I don't know what is! I had never tasted them, and was curious. They are actually milder and with a 20% higher sugar content, are sweeter than green asparagus. Now is the end of the April-May season for the purple asparagus and the ones I bought came from Canada. I thought they would go well with a lemon viniagrette and some chives from my herb garden. The chives are just starting to stretch and bloom with purple flower heads. Decision made!

Just like my petunias, these asparagus would also be good mixed with white and green varieties. Serve as a tricolor asparagus salad.

Purple Asparagus

1 pound purple asparagus
1 tablespoon lemon juice*

Trim the bottoms of the asparagus and using a vegetable peeler, peel the tough lower skin. To blanch them you'll need a 10-12 inch stainless steel skillet filled with 1 inch of water. Add a tablespoon of lemon juice to the water. This helps maintain the purple color. Boil the water, add the asparagus and cook for about 4 minutes or until tender crisp. The thickness of the asparagus will determine cooking time. When done, drain them and run cold water over them to stop the cooking.

Serve at room temperature with Lemon Chive Vinaigrette spooned over them. Garnish with flowering chives, if available and lemon slices. *to maintain the purple color you must add the lemon juice to the cooking water.

Serves 6, as a side dish.

Lemon Chive Vinaigrette

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Zest of 1/2 lemon

Whisk the lemon juice into the olive oil until emulsified. Continue whisking and add the Dijon mustard, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chives.
After spooning on the vinaigrette, top with lemon zest.

Makes about 1/3 cup.

Written and photographed by Diane

Purple Asparagus and Lemon Chive Vinaigrette recipe(pdf)

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Through Rose Colored Glasses

It's the parade of roses today at The Darling Baker's, and it is a theme I can't seem to get enough of. My roses haven't bloomed yet, and I'm gearing up for the moment. I found some lovely roses at the market though, to inspire me for the rose festivities. A Rosé wine spritzer with rose petal ice cubes, seemed to be the perfect way to start the warm, late spring rose celebration. Pasta Roses were next on the menu, made earlier in the day and baked without any last minute fuss. Served with a simple green salad, warm crusty bread and butter lead into the simplest of desserts. Raspberry sorbet with Rose Chantilly Cream and a hidden raspberry treasure at the bottom, was the grand finale. It was a rosy day indeed.

Rose Chantilly Cream

Per serving you'll need:

1/4 cup heavy cream
3 teaspoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon rose water

Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add in the powdered sugar and whip until just blended. Fold in the vanilla and rose water. More or less rose water may be used according to taste.

Makes 1/2 cup.

Written and photographed by Diane.

Rose Chantilly Cream recipe (pdf)

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Fresh Scent of Pasta Roses

As many of you know, I love roses....I'll make a rose out of anything. I love when life imitates art or nature. So twenty years ago when I saw a recipe by Marcella Hazan for Pasta Roses, I had no choice but to try it. Throughout the years, I've lightened it and adapted it to my taste. According to Marcella Hazan, the recipe originated in Romagna, Italy and is a stunning presentation of rolled pasta with a rosy cream sauce. It originated in a time and place where the gentle and yet robust art of cooking was more of a family affair. Engage a family member or friend while rolling your roses and you'll enjoy a meal made with love. Or you may make it yourself and dazzle them with your creation. This dish is an art and not a science. You may use long curly edged lasagna noodles, shorter and wider lasagna pasta or even fresh pasta. I used 3 x 7 inch flat lasagna pasta and cut it in half lengthwise after boiling. I even used any broken pieces to make "rosebuds". Just follow the basics and enjoy the fresh scent of Pasta Roses wafting from your kitchen.

Pasta Roses

1/2 pound lasagna pasta*, boiled "al dente" with 1 tablespoon oil
olive oil for coating pasta
1/2 pound ham, very thinly sliced
1/3 pound fontina cheese
1 1/2 cups red pasta sauce (use your favorite sauce)
1/2 cup cream or half and half
pinch of nutmeg
1/3 cup (about) grated Parmesan cheese

*use flat or curly edged lasagna pasta

You'll need a 7 x 11 inch baking dish.

Coat the boiled lasagna with olive oil so it doesn't stick together, and let cool. While the pasta cools, very thinly slice the fontina cheese in 1 inch strips.
Mix the red pasta sauce, cream, and a pinch of nutmeg together. Coat the bottom of the baking dish with this sauce.

When the pasta is cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise. Lay a pasta length on a board and then add a thin 1 inch layer of ham and the cheese. It is not necessary to cover the whole piece, it should be somewhat sparsely placed. Then lightly roll the pasta, from the shorter side. Add the pasta rolls to the dish, with the open side of the roll at the top and bottom of the dish. Arrange the pasta so it is evenly spaced in the dish and loosen any rolls if needed. After adding all of the rolled pasta "roses" to the baking dish, top with the remaining sauce and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. You may refrigerate it to bake later at this point. If you are baking right away, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake about 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top. If you are baking it from the refrigerator, let it come to room temperature before baking.

Serves 4-6.

Written and photographed by Diane.

Download Pasta Roses recipe (pdf)

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

O(h)m Cookies, And Final's Week Wishes

Next week is final's week at my son's college. He is a freshman Microelectronic Engineering major, so the finals will be pretty intense. The calculus....the physics.....electronic laws, like Ohm's Law...and, the stress! Oh My! During Parent's Weekend last fall I made his favorite Pumpkin Nut Bread, and brought it along with some other goodies. When thinking about what to send him now, I remembered seeing a post at a favorite site, La Table De Nana, featuring cookies with text made with the Brigitte Cookie Cutter (thank you, Monique!). I thought how perfect that would be. For finals he needed the ultimate treat and sweet food for thought, so I made Sugar Cookies with Zen inspired final's wishes....Om....Ohm........and the most important wish.....I baked them, packaged them and mailed them to send some warm wishes for college final's week.When he called to thank me I could feel the calm already.

Reflecting, I then wrote a Haiku poem:

The young blossom,
leg's crossed,
an open book.


I used this recipe to make the cookies....

Rolled Sugar Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon lemon zest, finely grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In large bowl or food processor, cream sugar and butter together until fluffy. Add egg, lemon zest and vanilla extract until well blended. Add the flour and salt and mix until it begins to form a ball, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed. If the dough is too dry, add a few drops of water. Scrape dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press together to form a thick flat disc. Wrap well and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a baking sheet.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thick (1/4 inch, if using Brigitte cutter), or
desired thickness. The dough needs to be just the right temperature to roll and cut properly. If it is too cold, it is hard to roll, and if it is too soft it becomes difficult to cut and pick up. Roll any scraps back into a ball and chill again. Use as little flour as possible to roll out, so they don't get tough. After cutting, place on a baking sheet and bake for 8-12 minutes or until just lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack. I use an insulated baking sheet to prevent the edges from getting too brown.

Makes 4 dozen, 3 inch (1/8 inch thick) cookies.

Rolled Sugar Cookie recipe (pdf)

Written and photographed by Diane.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sweet Candied Violets and Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Happy Mother's Day, to Mothers everywhere....this bud is for you!

Every year as I walk past the sweet, budding violets that have volunteered to grow in my garden, I vow to candy them with a crystalline coating of sugar. Some years I find the time, and some I don't. I'm glad I did this year. Different shades of violet blue, purple and lavender give these old fashioned flowers
their name. Just picking them makes me happy. The process of candying them can take patience and time, but the rewards are worth it. I have candied almost all types of edible flowers to grace the top of a cake or other confection. Just make sure they are nonpoisonous and pesticide free. Some flowers are edible and some are just pretty. Small roses and large single rose petals are stunning coated with sugar. The best flowers to candy are ones you have grown yourself to assure they are pesticide free. You may use larger flowers, but will need to coat each petal. Before starting, I always give them a dunking rinse to remove any dust or dirt. They are now ready for your sweet artistry.

Crystallized Flowers

artists watercolor brush
a small bowl of superfine sugar (regular granulated sugar works also)
1 egg white, slightly beaten
optional: silicone mat

With the artists brush, give the flowers a light coating of the egg white.
Then sprinkle lightly with sugar.
Place the colander upside down on a plate and then put the flower stem through a hole in the colander to dry.
Keep repeating until all flowers have been sugared. Let air dry. While drying, gently loosen from the colander to make sure they don't stick.
Once they are partially dry, I put them on a silicone mat or other similar surface, to finish drying. This prevents any sticking to the colander. Occasionally, gently shift them so they dry evenly. After about 24 hours, a small flower is dry enough to use as a decoration. To store, make sure they are thoroughly dry and then put in an airtight container. I have kept them for 4-6 weeks. Again, make sure they are dry before storing.

I made my Lemon Poppy Seed Cake in a rose shaped cake mold, dusted with powdered sugar and decorated it with the Sweet Candied Violets.Oh, Happy Day!

Written and photographed by Diane.

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