Posts Tagged ‘scones’

Kitchen Tips Thursday: Dried Fruit

December 8, 2016

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What exactly is Kitchen Tips Thursday, you may be asking? It’s when I am too busy to get the post up in time to call it Kitchen Tips Tuesday! Better late than never, right?
Today’s tip is about using dried fruit in baking. Before you stop reading, this isn’t just about fruit cake. In fact, I have never made a fruit cake, nor have I even considered it. I do however make delicious scones, and oatmeal walnut cookies, both of which use dried fruit in different ways.

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For the scones, the dried fruit (usually cranberries, but sometimes raisins, currents, dried cherries, dried blueberries or combination there of) are tossed in flour before being mixed into the dough. This is to keep them separated, and prevent them from getting sticky. This technique is often used in muffins when the fruit is fresh, as in the case of blueberry muffins, for example, to allow the fruit to disperse within the batter, rather than drop down to the bottom. Both of these items have heartier dough, and allow the fruit to become imbedded into the scone or muffin, thus protecting it from the heat of the oven.

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The opposite is the case for the cookies. My recipe calls for the dried fruit ( they use the classic raisins, but I make mine with cranberries) to be soaked in lightly beaten eggs and vanilla for an hour before getting added to the dry ingredients. This makes them plumper and prevents them from sucking the life out of the delicate cookie dough during baking. A very dry raisin will try to seek hydration from the moisture in the cookie, and it can also end up almost petrified after baking dries it out further. This method takes a bit longer ( get it started and go do something else for an hour) but it is well worth it for the end result.

Happy holiday baking!!!

photos: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: The Chill Factor

July 19, 2016

 

7091300904_compWhen making dough for pies, biscuits, or scones, it is important to use cold ingredients to get a rich, laminated outcome. Those little chunks of butter that haven’t fully mixed into the dough melt during baking, helping to create those layers that are the cornerstone of flakey, melt-in-your mouth baked goods. While many recipes suggest letting butter and eggs come to room temperature before using them, these baked goods are the exception.

Some people go to great lengths to keep those ingredients icy cold. They do everything from freezing the bowls and the blade of the food processor, as well as the ingredients. One friend, whose kitchen cred is very high, swears by grating frozen butter into the flour mixture to get the tiniest, coldest and most evenly distributed fat into the laminated dough. For pie crusts, I use ice water to ensure that the liquid doesn’t bring the temperature of the ingredients down.

 

7091300899_compWorking with metal bowls and a stone counter top also enables you to keep the dough chilly while forming it. Remember to handle this type of dough as little and as delicately as possible to avoid gluten formation. Gently patting it together, and only re-rolling the scraps once, keeps the dough open and craggy, which equates to layers of flakey goodness once baked.

Photos: Indigo Jones Eat’s biscuits shot by Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Be Prepared

September 15, 2015

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Even the most seasoned cooks get caught off guard sometimes. We think we have a well stocked pantry, and then discover that while we may in fact have the necessary item, its not enough to complete the recipe. We may get distracted and fail to pay attention to the recipe’s ingredient list until after we got started. Whatever the reason, it sucks to be in the middle of a recipe and realize we don’t have the right ingredients. Living in New York City has its benefits. I ran to the market on the corner twice mid-recipe last weekend, drastically overspending on items that I needed right that second. When cooking and baking in the ‘burbs, the drive to the supermarket might be more than you, or the stage of preparation can handle. Here are a few tips to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you:

Read the entire recipe through to make sure you have everything you need before you get started. Actually go to the cupboard or refrigerator and check so you don’t get caught short. ( One of my emergency trips was to pick up more eggs, only to discover that I had another carton in the fridge when I got back!)

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Mis en place is a french phrase used in the culinary world which translates as ” put in place.” This means measuring out the ingredients you need for a recipe ahead of time, so you can just grab and go. Garlic and onions get pre-diced, things get brought to room temperature, such as butter and eggs, and nothing gets forgotten. Make mis en place a part of your cooking and you will marvel at how much time you save.

Set out your tools. Once you are underway, hands covered with _________, (insert gooey, messy food item here:) is not the time to start frantically rumaging through the drawers looking for that random utensil.  Not having the right things you need can make or break an otherwise great dish.

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Preheat the oven before you get started so that it is the correct temperature when you are ready for it. Starting at the proper temperature makes a big difference in the cook time, and final outcome of the dish. Don’t just set the timer and assume that is the proper cook time. My oven is a bit erratic, and I have had things start to burn long before they were supposed to be done, because the oven temperature increased over time. Conversely, things aren’t always done when they are supposed to be. Check food regularly to insure it is cooking properly. For baked goods, such as cookies or muffins, rotate the pan part way through cooking to make sure that things are browning evenly. Insering a toothpick into baked items will let you know if the inside is cooked throroughly. A meat thermometer will let you know when the turkey or roast has reached the proper internal temperature.

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Stay present. I got distracted last week and grabbed baking soda instead of baking powder for my scones. Two big ole tablespoons of it. Needless to say, they were inedible. The “blessing in disguise” moment was forgetting to take them out of the oven, forcing me to take a little bite to make sure they weren’t dried out. Dryness was the least of  my problem.  Re-read the recipe as you go, and focus on the job at hand. If you get sidetracked, go back and check your recipe and ingredients from the beginning to make sure you don’t forget something, or use the wrong item. The time spent double checking yourself is substantially less time than it took me to throw away two dozen nasty tasting scones, run to the market to get more ingredients and remake them. By the way, the second batch was perfect, so all is well that ends well!

Happy Cooking!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Scones

February 17, 2014

It was my favorite Brit’s birthday, and a cold, snowy one at that. In other words, the perfect day for tea and scones.

These little biscuits are flaky, with just the right amount of sweetness. Eat them alone, with butter, or slathered with English clotted cream and jam. Put the kettle on, and your’e good to go!

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Scones:
Sift together 2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/3 cup of sugar. Stir in 1 1/3 cups of currents. Add 1 cup of heavy cream and use an electric mixer on a low speed to combine all of the ingredients.

Dump dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead the mixture until it comes together with a rustic texture.
Roll dough to a 1″ thickness, and cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter, or the rim of a wine glass. Re-roll scraps until all of the dough is used.

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Place the rounds on a parchment covered baking sheet, and brush the tops liberally with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes until they are a light, golden brown.

Enjoy!

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