Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday mornings

     I'm one of those people who hate getting up in the morning, jumping in the shower, getting dressed, scarfing down whatever might resemble breakfast, and racing out the door. In order for me to function through my day, I've GOT to have a couple hours to wake up with some coffee and some quiet time before the rush of the day is upon me.

    What better way (especially on a beautiful Sunday morning) is there to start a day, than by getting into the kitchen, and baking up something yummy, but not-too-sweet, to accompany that morning cuppa joe?

     One of my all-time favorite things to pair with coffee is a golden, fluffy scone. YUM!
I found a recipe online about 10 years ago, and adapted it into my Cranberry Orange Scones. Easy to make, bake, and enjoy any time. So, enough chit chat...grab your coffee mug, settle in for a few, and let's get to baking!

      First, preheat your oven to 450° F. Line a couple sheet pans with parchement paper and set aside.

     Next, in a large mixing bowl...
     whisk together 3 cups all purpose flour, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 Tablespoon baking powder,
and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

     Next, cut 6 Tablespoons of the butter into your flour mixture. Some people use forks or a pastry cutter. I rub the mixture between my hands, working very quickly, so as not to warm the butter too much. Do this until the mixture is the size of small peas. Add your chopped cranberries, and toss to coat/separate them.
Set aside again.

Whisk the heavy cream, eggs, vanilla and orange zest until well mixed.
     Add this to your flour mixture, and stir with a spatula or large spoon, just until it forms a soft but smooth dough. It might be a little sticky at this point. If so, CAREFULLY add a little more flour, just until you get it smooth. You want the dough slightly tacky, but not too much so. Knead a couple times to make sure all ingredients have come together.

    On a moderately floured surface, lightly press and roll the dough into a rectangle, between 1/2-3/4" thick. Dipping your knife or biscuit cutter in flour first, to prevent sticking, and cut your scones. Place onto your
parchment-lined baking sheets.

     Melt the remaining 3 Tablespoons butter, and LIGHTLY brush the tops of the scones only. Sprinkle sanding (large grains) sugar over the buttered tops, and pop your sheet into the oven for 11-13 minutes.

     Bake the scones until just the edges and tops are firm, but only lightly browned. Be careful not to over-bake them :) Cool on a wire rack until warm enough to not burn your mouth ;)

      Now, all there is left to do is refill your cuppa, and ENJOY!
I hope you've all had a wonderful weekend, and I look forward to sharing more with you later this week :)

Cranberry Orange Scones

          3 cups All purpose flour
          1/3 cup granulated sugar
          1 Tablespoon baking powder
          1/2 teaspoon salt
          9 Tablespoons cubed COLD unsalted butter, divided
          1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
          1 cup heavy cream
          2 large eggs, lightly beaten
          2 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste
          2 tangerines, zested
          1/2 cup sanding sugar (if unavailable, you can use granulated)

       1. Preheat oven to 450° F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
       2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
       3. Cut 6 Tablespoons of the butter into your flour mixture, until it's the texture of small peas.
           Add chopped cranberries, and toss to coat.
       4. Whisk together the cream, eggs, vanilla, and orange zest until well-mixed.
       5. Stir wet ingredients into your flour mixture, and mix until dough just comes together. Dough will
           be slightly tacky, but if it's too sticky, add an 1/8 cup of flour or less, and stir lightly to incorporate.
       6. On a moderately floured board, pat and roll the dough to approximately 1/2-3/4" thick, and
           rectangular in shape.
       7. With cutters or a knife dipped in flour, cut out your shapes, and place on baking sheets.
       8. Melt remaining 3 Tablespoons butter, and very lightly brush the tops of the scones only. Sprinkle
           tops with sanding or granulated sugar.
       9. Bake for 11-13 minutes, just until tops are firm but not too dry, and edges are lightly browned.
     10. Cool on wire rack, and store at room temperature in airtight containers for 2 days.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chillin' w/ ma PEEPS! (aka..Hippity, Hoppity, Easter's on its way!)

     Wow! It's been too long, and for that, I beg your forgiveness...

     Luckily, life has been busy, and lots of opportunities are coming my way! More on that very soon. For now, though...let's get to some sweet fun, celebrating Easter!!

     Recently, my friend, and constant source of encouragement Callye of The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle, created a post with the CUTEST cookies, recreating one of the most iconic Easter treats, the marshmallow Peeps. I saw her do her trick of doing cookies-on-a-stick for cupcake toppers, and had a lightning flash of inspiration! A picture came to mind. And also, a flavor combo to really say "bright colors, bright & creamy screamed Spring and Easter at the same time. Will this idea fly?

     Here's what I came up with: Pink Velvet cupcakes, white chocolate ganache filling, and lemon curd buttercream to crown these treats. Put it all together, and this was my vision come to life

     Now, I'm not a big fan of marshmallows in general, but when they're coated in colorful sugar, in little animal shapes...who can resist 'em? When they're in cookie form, topping cupcakes? Even I don't have the willpower to stay away :)

     So, I got to baking and decorating the Peeps cookies, and got those drying. I made white chocolate ganache, the EASIEST filling in the world. Two parts white chocolate to one part heavy cream. I used 1 pound white chocolate to 1 cup heavy cream. Put the white chocolate pieces into a medium bowl. Heat heavy cream in a saucepan on medium heat until it just starts to bubble at the edge of the pan. Be careful it doesn't form a skin on top, or it will burn! Pour the cream over the chocolate, and let it sit without stirring for at least 5 minutes. Then with a spatula, stir the mixture to combine thoroughly. Try not to mix too vigorously, so as not to incorporate much air into the ganache. Set aside, and let the ganache cool completely at room temperature for several hours. You can even do this the day before, covering with a lid once cool.
When ready to use, stir with a heavy spatula or spoon until the consistency is still quite firm, but creamy.

     Next up the cake. Red Velvet is a favorite of mine for many occasions, but I wanted to lighten up the color for Easter. I use Cakeman Raven's traditional RV recipe, with a couple tweaks. I didn't include the 2oz. of red food color, using instead a pink paste food color. I added a little at a time until I got the color I thought would work. (I should have added a tad more...but you can use as little or as much as you like). Also, for a richer batter, I did NOT compensate for the loss of that 1/4 cup of liquid. You can add that much water to the recipe, with no adverse effect. While the cupcakes cooled, I made my lemon curd buttercream.

     For this simple recipe you'll need:

             1 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
             2 teaspoons vanilla ( I HIGHLY recommend Singing Dog Vanilla paste! Find them on
                 Facebook here)
             2 pounds powdered sugar
             6 oz. lemon curd (if you make your own, more power to ya LOL. I bought a small jar at the market,
                 and it worked beautifully!)
             2 to 4 oz. milk

                   1. In a stand mixer, cream the butter until very smooth, but not too light in color.
                       Add vanilla, and mix until combined.

                   2. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar a little at a time, until completely

                   3. Increase mixer speed to med-high, and mix until light and fluffy, just about 3-5 minutes.

                   4. Turn down the mixer speed to low, and add the lemon curd to the icing. Once blended,
                       ramp up the mixer again to med-high, and mix again for another 3 minutes.

                   5. At this point, you're done, unless you want a little thinner icing. Add milk until you reach
                       the consistency you prefer.

     So, all the prep done, I cored the cupcakes with an old-fashioned apple corer. Filled the cuppies with
the ganache, and started decorating! Using tip 233, the grass tip, I bordered the cupcakes with a ring of grass buttercream. Using tip 96 (or any good size star tip), I then created the "nest" in the center of the cakes. Place the Peeps cookies in each cake, and decorate with small jelly beans, chocolates, or flower sugar sequins, or whatever else you like to make the design your own!
     I hope some of you give the recipes a try, and have fun creating your own spring or Easter-themed
goodies to share with family and friends.

     Enjoy, and Happy Baking to you all,
               ~ Scott


Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy New Year (a little late...)

     Indeed, I got a little TOO lazy over the holidays <sigh>.

     After the hub-bub of getting my first batch of decorated cookies done for my family, I was DONE! Over-reaching with intentions to bake up a storm, and hand out cookies to nearly everyone, just didn't happen. My excitement for a new baking/decorating outlet definitely created a "bit off more than I can chew" scenario.

     The rest of the holiday season was VERY low-key in our house. It was a nice change of pace. I'm usually unpacking the storage unit of all my Christmas regalia the day after Thanksgiving. 6 trees of various sizes, linens, chargers, and other table adornments, a DOZEN boxes from U-haul, filled to bursting with Old World Christmas ornaments....well, you get the picture! I'm OBSESSED with decorating for the holidays!
Perhaps next year, I'll offer a little peek into that crazy world as the holidays grow near. Do I dare? Do you care?

     Back to the hub-bub...the absolute rush to make and ship gifts to my family in AZ in time. Also, my sister-in-law's birthday is the day after Christmas, so I can't mess up a timely delivery!

     So things are going well, and on time, and I get word from my SIL that my 10-year-old niece, Megan, has been ill for days, and was admitted to hospital. Fever that comes and goes, rashes, pneumonia. All making for one scary time for our family. Megan was stoic, being strong, and though you could tell she was scared, didn't talk about it. My brother and SIL taking shifts sleeping at the hospital, while the other along with my parents, at home with my youngest niece. It was hellish! Being 1500 miles away, all I could do was wait for a daily update. Things got better, things got worse, things got better, things got worse. 8 long days....

    Megan finally comes home from hospital, to much fanfare in the neighborhood. Signs, balloons, and enough smiles and hugs to even scare the Care Bears! It was a sight to see on video that a family friend shot and posted on Facebook.

    I figure the least I can do is send my niece some cookies to hopefully brighten her day. And these are going out in the mail today.

       I have a LOT of learning still to do, but these came together quite well, and quickly too!

       With all the craptastic (my favorite word, by the way) events and mostly-off timing, things have turned out to have a pretty good start to the New Year. Health and happiness have returned, and I for one, have a great deal of hope for what 2011 will bring to us all.

       May you all be blessed with a marvelous year!

       Up next's time for new designs! Valentine's Day and Mardi Gras are just around the corner!