Cooking

Irish Soda Bread Scones

Irish Soda Bread Scones

If you are in the mood for Irish Soda Bread- you can get the same wonderful flavor in a scone.

Scones don’t take a lot of time or effort to make. These would be a wonderful addition to your St. Patrick’s Day meal.

While traditionally served for breakfast or tea time, scones are really good any time of the day. They certainly can be served with dinner.

I used golden raisins, but you could use regular raisins, currants or cranberries, for a less traditional scone.

  Irish Soda Bread Scones

2 c. flour

3 T. sugar

2 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

½ t. salt

1/3 c. butter

½ c. golden raisins

1 t. caraway seeds

2/3 c. buttermilk

1 egg

Milk

Extra sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet. Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl and cut in butter to resemble coarse crumbs. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds. Beat together buttermilk and egg and add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until mixture just coming together. Turn onto floured surface and knead 5-6 strokes or until ball of dough holds together. Dust an 8-inch round cake with  flour. Press dough into cake pan. Invert pan over onto prepared baking sheet. I find if I do this quickly the dough comes out more easily. Remove cake pan. This will give you a perfect 8-inch circle of dough. With a sharp, floured knife cut dough into 8 wedges. Brush top with milk and sprinkle with extra sugar. Bake 14-16 minutes. Makes 8.

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

It’s that time of year. Irish food in on the mind. This soda bread is a classic. Simple and fast to make, it can be served with breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The soda bread is  like a big scone or biscuit. It has a crisp, outer crust, with a crumbly, soft center. I like to serve soda bread with butter and jam. We made this bread in class the other night and everyone enjoyed it.

I used raisins, but you can substitute currants, golden raisins, or just leave them out, if you prefer.

I make soda bread all through the year, not just for St. Patrick’s Day.  Right from the oven with some butter and jam. Yum.

Irish Soda Bread

2 c. flour

½ t. each baking powder and baking soda

¼ t. salt

2 T. butter

¾ c. raisins, currants or golden raisins

2 t. caraway seeds

1 egg. Beaten

1 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Dust a baking sheet with a little flour. Combine dry ingredients in bowl and cut in butter to resemble coarse crumbs. Add raisins and caraway seeds. Combine egg and milk and set 2 tablespoons of this mixture aside. Add remaining milk mixture to flour mixture and combine just until dough forms into a ball. Place on baking sheet, brush with reserved egg mixture and cut a crisscross on top of loaf. Bake about 25 minutes or until bread sounds hollow. Makes 1.

Cream Scones

Cream Scones

I must admit that for me, the difference between a scone and a biscuit is sometimes hard to see. Both use the same ingredients, for the most part. They can be rolled and cut out the same way, too. I often say that scones are like biscuits, but with more stuff in them. Scones are often sweeter, too.

This recipe is a tough call for me. I was given the recipe by a friend a long time ago. She called them Cream Scones. I could easily see calling them Cream Biscuits, instead. Whatever you call them, these little gems are tender, flaky and super easy to make. We made them in class last night and they were a big hit.

Cream Scones

2 c. flour
1 T. sugar
½ t. salt
1 T. baking powder
1 c. heavy cream
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sift together dry ingredients and gradually add cream to form soft dough. Knead lightly on a floured board until dough sticks together. Roll to ½ – ¾ –inch thickness and cut with 2-inch biscuit cutter. Re-roll scraps and continue cutting, handling dough as little as possible.* Place on baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes or until golden. Makes 8-10.

* Instead of rolling them out and cutting into rounds, I pressed the dough into an 8-inch square. I cut the square into 4 smaller squares. I then cut and “x” across each of the four squares, making 4 triangles (16 in all). Bake as directed above.

Blueberry Lemon Trifle

Blueberry Lemon Trifle

Trifle is one of those desserts that can be whatever you want it to be. The basics of a traditional trifle are sponge cake, layered with some sort of pudding or custard and fruit. The cake is sometimes soaked in sherry or some other alcohol. Trifles are often topped with whipped cream.

We made this blueberry lemon trifle in Spring baking class tonight. I love the combination of flavors.

Once you have all the ingredients, the trifle is simple to assemble. Pick a nice, glass bowl, so you can see the layers in the trifle. It is best to put your trifle together a bit in advance, so the cake can soak up some of the moisture from the berries and the lemon curd. It also helps the trifle to stay together. You can actually slice the trifle to serve it.

So here is the recipe. I made the pie filling ahead of time and we made the and lemon curd in class, but you can use store bought, to save time.

Blueberry Lemon Trifle

1 angel food cake, sliced thin

2 c. blueberry pie filling- homemade or store bought- recipe follows

2 c.  lemon curd- recipe follows

1 c. whipping cream

1/4 c. powdered sugar

Place a layer of cake slices in the bottom of the bowl. Spread half of the blueberry mixture on top of the cake. Place another layer of cake slices on top of the blueberry layer and press down a little to even it out. Cut cake pieces to fit as best you can. Add half of the lemon curd and top with more cake. Repeat the process one more time. Don’t worry if something isn’t perfect in the layers- that is kind of the charm of a trifle. Just be sure to get all the ingredients in the bowl. Cover and chill the trifle. When ready to serve beat the whipping cream and powdered sugar together until stiff peaks form and spread over the trifle. You can do this part ahead of time, if you prefer, Just keep trifle, covered, in the fridge, until ready to serve. Serves 6-8.

Blueberry Pie Filling

3 1/2 c. blueberries

3/4 c. sugar, or to taste

1/4 c. Clear Gel* or cornstarch

1 c. water

1 T. lemon juice

In saucepan, bring blueberries and sugar to a boil, stirring often. Combine clear gel with water and lemon juice and add to the blueberry mixture. Return to the boil and cook until thickened and bubbly. Makes 4 cups. You won’t need the whole batch for the trifle.

*Clear gel is a modified cornstarch. It is used in commercial pie fillings and in homemade pie fillings, as well. Unlike regular cornstarch, Clear Gel retains it’s thickness, even if you reheat it. You can find it online or in some specialty food stores.

Lemon Curd

1/2 c. lemon juice

zest from one good sized lemon- you should have 2-3 teaspoons

1/2 c. sugar

3 eggs

6 T. unsalted butter- cut into little cubes

In medium saucepan combine all ingredients. Whisk the mixture until the eggs are well blended. Cook over medium low heat, whisking often, until the mixture thickens. This will take 5-7 minutes. Whisk more often as mixtures warms and starts to thicken. Better to heat over lower heat and take longer than over too high a heat. You don’t want the eggs to scramble. Once the mixture is thickened , transfer to a bowl or jar. Cover the surface with a piece of plastic wrap to keep the surface from developing a skin- like any pudding will do. Chill until ready to use. Makes about 2 cups. Will keep in fridge a week or two.

Blueberry Lemon Trifle, ready to serve

Smoky Brussels Sprouts Salad

Smoky Brussels Sprouts Salad

I know some people don’t like Brussels sprouts. I am not one of them. I have always loved them, even when I was a kid. I like them steamed with butter, roasted, pan fried and even raw. This salad is a great way to enjoy their crunchiness in raw form. The smoky flavor come from the bacon. The dressing, sweetened with maple syrup, really makes the dish.

The nice thing about this salad, is that it tastes good even the next day. The sprouts are like little cabbages. Unlike leaf lettuce, which wilts quickly once dressed, the sprouts soften some, but retain most of their crunch.

Smoky Brussels Sprouts Salad

8- 10 oz. Brussels sprouts
1 large orange, peeled and cubed
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
¾ c. dried cranberries
½ c. toasted slivered almonds*
Dressing:
¼ c. olive oil
¼ c. apple cider vinegar
2 T. maple syrup
1 T. fresh chopped parsley- or 1 t. dried
2 t. hot sauce, or to taste
½ t. dried thyme
½ t. dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim bottoms off the sprouts, cut in half and slice thin. You should end up with about 4 cups of sliced sprouts. Place in large bowl with the remaining salad ingredients. Place dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well to combine. Toss over Brussels sprout mixture.
Note: The salad ingredients can all be assembled a day ahead, then just dressed when ready to serve. This salad is also good the next day.
*To toast the almonds, place in a skillet over medium low heat and stir occasionally, until toasted. Be careful, once they start to brown, they can burn easily.

Mom’s Corned Beef Hash

Corned Beef Hash

My mom used to make the best hash. Making hash for friends yesterday, gave me a chance to think about her. She taught me so much about cooking- and life.

I didn’t have any specific recipe for hash, so I made a point of writing down what I did, and measuring ingredients, so I could share the recipe with you.

The hash tasted a lot like my mom’s. That made me smile. Here is the recipe. Hope you give it a try.

Corned Beef Hash

4 T. oil, butter or bacon fat

2-3 medium onions, peeled and chopped

1-1½ lbs. potatoes, 4-5 medium, cut in cubes, peeling optional

1 lb. corned beef, cut into ½- inch cubes

Salt and pepper

Eggs, optional

In skillet, heat up your fat of choice. Cook onions over medium heat until translucent. Add cubed potatoes and cook until potatoes and onions are starting to brown. Rather than constantly stirring, I let the potato and onion mixture cook a few minutes, then turn over sections with a spatula. It seems to get them brown faster. Check a few random potatoes to make sure they are tender. Add the corned beef and continue cooking until everything is starting to get a little crispy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. At this point you can serve it. I like to add the eggs. To add the eggs, crack and add eggs, one at a time, to the pan. Keep some space between the eggs, if you can. Turn heat down to medium low and cover the pan. It should take about 5 minutes for the eggs to cook, with the whites firm and the yolks runny. Try not to keep peeking. I know you want to, but every time you remove the lid, the heat dissipates. Wait 3 minutes to check the first time, if you can. Don’t set the heat too high, or you will burn the bottom of the hash while the eggs cook. I usually add one egg for each person I am serving. Feel free to allow more eggs per person, depending on your guests. Serves about 4.

Note: If you want to save yourself from dicing potatoes, you can use frozen hash browns. I prefer diced fresh potatoes, but the hash browns will save you time.

Hash, crisping in the skillet
Hash with the perfect runny egg.

Oatmeal Date Bars

Oatmeal Date Bars

I wouldn’t go so far as to call these granola bars, but they are pretty similar. The dough is made from oats, flour, nuts, brown sugar and butter. There is also the option of making a vegan version with applesauce and olive oil in place of the butter. Both variations are good.  Between the dough you add a layer of dates, although you can use any dried fruit you like or happen to have on hand. I have made these with fig jam, raisins and dried cranberries.  Once cooked and cooled, you cut them into squares. They keep for days, but can also be frozen. Great for road trips, picnics, boxed lunches, breakfast or just snacking.

Oatmeal Date Bars

4 c. rolled oats
2 c. flour (you can use whole wheat pastry flour, ap or spelt flour)
½ c. brown sugar  or ¼ c. honey
1 c. pecans, chopped
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 ½ c. butter, melted  or 1 c. applesauce and ½ c. olive oil
2 t. vanilla
½ c. water
2 c. pitted dates, chopped- or 2 c. any dried fruit
Zest of 1 lemon
1 t. cinnamon
Non-stick cooking spray

Heat oven to 350. Spray a 9×13-inch pan, set aside. Combine oats, flour, sugar, nuts, soda, salt. Pour in butter and vanilla, stir until well mixed and set aside. Heat together water with dates, zest and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Simmer two minutes and remove from heat to cool a little. Press half of the oatmeal mixture in bottom of prepared pan. Spread the date mixture over the oatmeal mix and then top with the remaining oat mix. Press down firmly. Bake until golden on the top, 35-45 minutes. Cut once cool. Makes 24 bars.

Oatmeal Date Bars, cooling down

Orange and Cream Scones

Orange and Cream Scones

These are wonderful scones. They are just what a good scone should be, tender and crumbly, without being dry. The orange flavor comes from the orange zest used in the recipe. It is subtle, but there.

I love scones because you can have them for breakfast or with a cup of coffee or tea. You can also use them as the base for a shortcake dessert by splitting them, adding sweetened fruit and whipped cream.

I was in the mood for scones, but wanted to try something new. I had come across this recipe in an old file of mine. I had ripped it out of a magazine a long time ago. They looked promising, so I decided to make them. I made few changes from the original recipe. I was very happy with how they came out. I think you will be, too. I enjoyed one this morning with some homemade clementine marmalade.

Orange and Cream Scones

2 c. flour

¼ c. sugar

1-2 T. orange zest, I used 1 tablespoon, but could have used more

2 t. baking powder

½ t. salt

10 T. unsalted cold butter, cut into ½ -inch cubes

1 egg

½ c. cold half and half

1 t. vanilla

Extra flour

2 T. half and half or orange juice to brush the scones

Extra sugar for sprinkling on top- 3-4 tablespoons

Preheat oven to 375. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silicone liner. Set aside. In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like coarse crumbs. You can also use a pastry blender, but what fun is that? In a small bowl, beat together the egg, half and half and vanilla. Pour into flour mixture and stir until mixture starts to hold together. I am going to save you from messing up your counter with this next part. Get an 8-inch round cake pan and sprinkle flour in the bottom of it. Don’t be stingy, be sure there is a layer over the whole pan. One or two tablespoons should do it. Go back to your dough and sort of knead it in the bowl. That is why I said to use a large bowl. You don’t really need to knead it on your counter. Use a wooden spoon, rubber spatula or your hands to get the dough to form into a ball. Make sure you get all the dry bits from the bottom of the bowl. This isn’t a yeast dough. The idea is to get it to stick together with as little actual kneading as possible. Trust me, this is how you end up with super tender scones. As soon as the dough will hold together, and form into a ball, use a rubber scraper to get it into the floured cake pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan. Now a fun trick. You want to turn to the pan over so the dough ends up on the prepared baking sheet. You don’t want to do this slowly or the dough might plop out too soon. You also want to dough to come out. In one motion turn the cake pan over quickly onto the baking sheet. You want to actually slam it firmly on the baking sheet. Then lift up the cake pan. If all has gone according to plan, you’ll have a perfect 8-inch circle of dough on the baking sheet. I could have told you to just place the dough on the baking sheet and form it into an 8-inch circle, but I prefer the cake pan method. You get nice, even edges. There will be some flour on the dough. Leave it there for now.  Using a bench scraper, or a long knife, cut the dough in half, then in half again, like cutting a pie. The dough is pretty moist, so the extra flour on top should make them easier to cut. Repeat two more times so you end up with 8 wedges. Pull them apart a little, so they can expand when they bake. I used a metal spatula to do this. If there is still extra flour on top and it is bothering you, you can brush it off. Using a pastry brush, brush a little half and half or orange juice over the scones. Then sprinkle the tops with the extra sugar. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 8. Great plain or served with jam.      

Scone dough in cake pan
Ready for the oven

Cheesy Chocolate Hamantaschen

Cheesy Chocolate Hamantaschen

A friend shared this recipe recently, and I was intrigued. I had to try these cookies. The filling for these traditional Jewish cookies is inspired by the filling used in cannoli.

I made a few changes from the recipe he shared, and was very happy with how they turned out.

The dough, which contains no sugar, has a wonderful, pastry-like texture. It pairs up well with the filling. The drizzle of chocolate is a perfect finish for them.

They aren’t a gooey, overly sweet cookie, which I really like.

They pair up nicely with tea or coffee. I confess,  I had a couple for breakfast with my morning tea. I would definitely make these again.

Thanks, Jared, for sharing this recipe.

Cheesy Chocolate Hamantaschen

Filling:

¼ c. ricotta cheese

5 oz. cream cheese

½ c. powdered sugar

1 t. cinnamon

½ c. mini chocolate chips

Dough:

½ c. (1 stick) butter, softened

3 oz. cream cheese

½ c. half and half or milk

1 t. vanilla

½ t. salt

2½ c. flour

Topping:

1 egg white

2 T. water

½ c. chocolate chips

Powdered sugar, optional

Prepare the filling. Beat together the ricotta and cream cheese until smooth. Mix in the milk and cinnamon, then stir in the chips. Chill until ready to use. Make the dough by mixing the cream cheese and butter together. Add the milk, vanilla and salt and mix until smooth. Stir in the flour until a stiff dough forms. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, or put in a bag and chill at least an hour – or up to a couple of days – before proceeding. On lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a little less than ¼ – inch thickness. Cut dough out into 2-3 inch circles. Place a scant teaspoon of filling in middle of each dough circle. Combine the egg white with water and beat together. Brush a little of the egg white mixture over the edges of the dough circle. Fold the dough up in thirds towards the center, pinching the edges to seal. They should look like little three-corner hats. Repeat with remaining dough, re-rolling the scraps. Brush folded cookies with a little more of the egg white mixture. Place on lightly greased cookie sheets and bake in a 375-degree- oven for 15 minutes, or until golden on the bottom. Remove to cooling rack. Once cooled, melt the chocolate chips and drizzle over the cookies. You can top with some powdered sugar, if you like. Makes 2½-3 dozen.

Lemon Curd

Lemon Curd

Lemons are in season and it is a perfect time to make lemon curd. Lemon curd is such a versatile dish. It’s a sort of lemon pudding and can be served plain, or with a dollop of whipped cream. It is also great in trifle or served as a topper for any number of cakes and sweet treats. I especially like to make lemon curd to serve with scones. It is also really nice served with berry shortcakes.

It is easy to make and packed with fresh lemon flavor. Lemon curd is just a few ingredients, cooked over low heat until it thickens up. You can make a batch in under 10 minutes. The longest part of the prep time is just waiting for it to cool down after cooking.

So here is the recipe for the lemon curd. If you never made your own- you might want to give it a try. Certainly worth the effort.

Lemon Curd

1/2 c. lemon juice

zest from one good sized lemon- you should have 2-3 teaspoons

1/2 c. sugar

3 eggs

6 T. unsalted butter- cut into little cubes

In medium saucepan combine all ingredients. Whisk the mixture until the eggs are well blended. Cook over medium low heat, whisking often, until the mixture thickens. This will take 5-7 minutes. Whisk more often as mixtures warms and starts to thicken. Better to heat over lower heat and take longer than over too high a heat. You don’t want the eggs to scramble. Once the mixture is thickened , transfer to a bowl or jar. Cover the surface with a piece of plastic wrap to keep the surface from developing a skin- like any pudding will do. Chill until ready to use. Makes about 2 cups. Will keep in fridge a week or two.

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