Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Daring Bakers - Fraisier

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

I completely changed my approach this month, not just making the recipe (the first I've made since March) but making it EARLY in the month. Thanks to the long weekend for Independence Day, I got this baby done early. I think we need a long weekend every month.

It was stinking hot here that weekend, and the thought of turning on the oven filled me with dread. So I made the lemon chiffon cake layer before the sun was up when I could have the window open and the fan bringing in what little cooler air there was. And that's when I ran into a problem.

Let me just say I think Daring Bakers needs to have a reading skills test for new bakers. I read the recipe carefully and REPEATEDLY and saw "8" cake pan" every time. Except the time when I read it as I was about to prepare my 8" cake pan. Whuuutt, 8" springform pan?!?!? Who changed the recipe on me??

I have three springform pans, none of them 8". So do I make it in a 9" (have two of those) or the 8" cake pan? Since it's a chiffon cake, with parchment in the bottom I figured it would be easy to get out of the pan, so I went with the 8" cake pan. (Why I didn't think of my 8x8 with 3" sides I'll never know, but a square frasier would have been cool). Then I realized the 8" springform was so all the cake batter would fit in the same pan. So I quickly prepped two 4" springform pans and scooped the excess batter into them and baked the 8" for a few minutes less than the recipe called for, and it was glorious, puffy and lightly browned.

Other than the pan trauma, the recipe was uneventful. The pastry cream was easy. I made my simple syrup with POG (passion fruit-orange-guava juice) to temper the sweetness of the fruit. Loved the technique of lining the ring from a springform with plastic wrap before assembling the fraisier. Assembly was not a big deal, no trauma, nothing to mar my enjoyment of making this lovely dessert. I did bypass the thin topping of almond paste because, well, I hate the stuff. So my fraisier is no doubt less beautiful as a result, but it's something I enjoyed eating. So much so that I took the leftovers to work.

This was a fun challenge, and a recipe that I imagine I'll return to in the future, but with different fruit. Thanks, Jana, for a great recipe that even I could make!

Basic Chiffon Cake:

1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270 ml) (5½ oz/155 gm) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) baking powder
3/4 cups (180 ml) (6 oz /170 gm) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) salt, preferably kosher
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (3.17 fl oz/95 ml) water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (3 gm) lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) cream of tartar
  1. Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3).
  2. Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.
  4. In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly.
  5. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
  6. Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.
  7. Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Removed the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  10. To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days.

Variations to the Basic Chiffon Cake:

Lemon Chiffon Cake

Ingredient Alterations:
Reduce water to 1/4 cup (60 ml)
Add 1/8 cup (30 ml) lemon juice
Increase lemon zest to 1½ teaspoon (7½ ml) (5 gm)
Remove the vanilla from the recipe
Direction Alterations:
Follow the directions, same as above, adding the lemon juice and zest to the oil, egg yolks and water in step 4.

Orange Chiffon Cake

Ingredient Alterations:
Replace the full amount of water with orange juice
Replace lemon zest with the zest of one orange
Remove the vanilla from the recipe
Direction Alterations:
Follow the directions, same as above, adding the orange juice and zest to the oil, and egg yolks in step 4.

Coconut Chiffon Cake

Ingredient Alterations:
Add ¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) freshly ground nutmeg
Reduce oil to 1/8 cup (1 fl oz/30ml)
Reduce water to 1/8 cup (1 fl oz/30ml)
Add 1/3 cup (2 ⅔fl oz/80 ml) unsweetened coconut milk
Remove the vanilla from the recipe
Direction Alterations:
Follow the directions, same as above, adding the nutmeg to the flour mixture in step 3, and the coconut milk to the oil, water and egg yolks in step 4.

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Ingredient Alterations:
Reduce all-purpose flour to ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon (195 ml) (4 oz/110 g)
Add 1/4 cup (60 ml) (3/4 oz/20 g) cocoa powder
Direction Alterations:
Follow the directions, same as above, adding the cocoa to the flour mixture in step 3.

Pastry Cream Filling:

1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) whole milk
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon (1/2 ml) (¼ gm) salt, preferably kosher
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (10 gm)cornstarch
1/4 cup (60 ml) (2 oz/55 gm) sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz/30 gm) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (4 gm) gelatin
1/2 tablespoon (7½ ml) water
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) heavy cream
  1. Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine
  3. Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
  4. When the milk is ready, gently and slowly while the stand mixer is whisking, pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon.
  6. Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.
  7. Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth.
  8. Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for up to five days.
  9. In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.
  10. Put two inches (55 mm) of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
  11. Measure 1/4 cup (2 oz/60 ml) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
  12. Heat the cream until it is 120 F (48.8 C). Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
  13. In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.

Simple Syrup:

You may choose to flavor the syrup. One way is to use flavored sugar (for example: apple cider sugarorange sugar, or vanilla sugar) or to stir in 1-2 teaspoons of flavored extract. You may also infuse with herbs or spices, if desired or add four tablespoons (60 ml) of fruit juice while the syrup is cooling.
1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) (2⅔ oz/75 gm) of sugar, flavored or white
1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) of water
  1. Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary, but will not harm the syrup.
  3. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly.
  4. Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup can be stored for up to one month.

Fraisier Assembly:

1 baked 8 inch (20 cm) chiffon cake
1 recipe pastry cream filling
⅓ cup (80 ml) simple syrup or flavored syrup
2 lbs (900 g) strawberries
confectioners’ sugar for dusting
½ cup (120 ml) (5 oz/140 gm) almond paste
  1. Line the sides of a 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with plastic wrap. Do not line the bottom of the pan.
  2. Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers.
  3. Fit the bottom layer into the prepared spring form pan. Moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
  4. Hull and slice in half enough strawberries to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the strawberry against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring.
  5. Pipe cream in-between strawberries and a thin layer across the top of the cake.
  6. Hull and quarter your remaining strawberries and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover the strawberries and entirely with the all but 1 tbsp. (15 ml) of the pastry cream.
  7. Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup.
  8. Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners' sugar and roll out the almond paste to a 10-inch (25 cm) round 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) thick. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of pastry cream on the top of the cake and cover with the round of almond paste.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  10. To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the plastic wrap.
  11. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mine, Mine, Mine

Even preschoolers know that sharing is caring.

They haven't tried this chocolate sorbet. As much as I love chocolate ice cream, this sorbet is ten times better. With no egg yolks and no custard, the flavor of the chocolate dominates in a very good way.

Start with your best quality bittersweet chocolate (I used Valrhona 70% bittersweet). If you have a scale, put your pan on it and turn it on, then add all of the ingredients. Fewer dishes to wash!

This recipe was selected by Steph at A Whisk and a Spoon for Tuesdays with Dorie. It's so delicious I may never go back to traditional chocolate rice cream. Fortunately I made it within a few days of when I made this mango sorbet (which M. loves), so I don't even have to share with him. Sweet!

Deepest, Darkest Chocolate Sorbet (adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours)
Printer-friendly recipe
7 ounces/200 grams bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup/232 grams milk
1 cup/222 grams water
3/4 cup/150 grams sugar

Stir the ingredients together in a 3- to 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. Put the pan over medium heat and bring the ingredients to a boil, stirring frequently.

Lower the temperature and boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula.

Pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl (a one quart measuring cup is perfect) and refrigerate until chilled before churning the sorbet.

Scrape the chilled sorbet mixture into the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pack the sorbet into a container and freeze for at least 2 hours, until it is firm enough to scoop.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mango Sorbet for Sundae Sunday

Cool, refreshing and slightly exotic, this mango sorbet is the perfect healthy treat on a hot summer afternoon.

Sundae Sunday is the brainchild of my buddy Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook. She challenged a group of us to make an ice cream and post together today. She's doing a round up and will post it later this week.

With the weather sizzling around the U.S., I wanted to make something light and refreshing. I first had this sorbet when I spent the night at a coworker's house in the Napa Valley. A friend and I drove up to have dinner at the French Laundry, and Karen served us this treat when we got in. Although I thought I didn't like mangos, I loved it. M. adores mangos, and I've made it for him dozens of times since. I've tweaked it over the years, so that it is all about the mango. I hope you like it.


  • Don't make this unless you can find really good mangos. How can you tell? I am the woman sniffing each and every mango I buy. If I can't smell its perfume, I don't buy it. One way to tell: find the ripest mango in the bin and smell it. If it's fragrant, the unripe ones will be, too.
  • Large markets will sometimes have mangos from a couple different distributors in the same bin. If you find a fragrant ripe one, make sure the others you select have the same sticker.
  • Leave mangos to ripen at room temperature in a paper bag.
  • You want your mangos to be a tiny bit riper for this recipe than perhaps you'd want them to be for eating. And by a tiny bit, I mean a day, maybe two. Overripe mangos have an offensive flavor (to me anyway) that tastes like eating perfume. Blech!
  • Some mangos have a lot of flesh and small puts, some have giant pits and little flesh. I buy an extra mango or two in case I end up with the giant pit variety.
  • You can freeze simple syrup. Try putting it in an ice cube tray, then transferring to a zip top bag when frozen.
  • Add only enough simple syrup to the mixture as you need to highlight the mango. We're not making candy here.
  • The lime is only to make the flavor of the mango more prominent: you don't want your sorbet to be at all tart.
  • Start with a small quantity of the simple syrup and lime, adding small amounts to fine tune the flavor until it's perfect for you.

Mango Sorbet - adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Printer-friendly recipe
Makes about 1 quart

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
6 ripe mangos (see Notes)
1 lime

Make the simple syrup:
Boil the sugar and water in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool completely before using (I make this the day before and store in the fridge).

Make the sorbet:
Extract as much fiber-free flesh from the mango as possible, and put it in the jar of your blender. Add a couple tablespoons of simple syrup and the juice of half a lime. Blend until the mixture is smooth, then taste it. The mango should be predominant - not sweet, not tart, but somehow better than the fruit was by itself. When you reach that point and the mixture is perfectly smooth, transfer it to the canister of an ice cream maker and churn until the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze. Use within one week.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gianduja Brownies

As fabulous as these brownies are, I hesitated to post them. Gianduja is a specialty item that I order online, and I don't know if I've ever seen it in a store. Definitely not at Safeway.

In the end I decided to share this recipe with you for one reason: it's very hard to find easy, quick recipes with gianduja that you and I can make. Pastry chefs and dedicated elite home bakers, plenty of recipes for them. People who want to throw a few things in a bowl and end up with a wonderful treat, nothing for us.

Gianduja is a confection made with hazelnuts and chocolate. If you like Nutella, you'll like gianduja. It has a creamier mouth feel than bar chocolate, and it's greasier when melted. The last recipe I made with it was these truffles. I think these brownies might even be better because they're easier and the gianduja stays in chunks, so you get brownie and then, pow, a nugget of gianduja.

A few tips:

  • I cut each "bar" in half lengthwise, then each half in half again lengthwise, then cut the chunks from the four narrow pieces. 
  • Chunks the size of 3/4" dice are a good size, big enough to be detected but not so big that they stick out a lot.
  • These definitely need to cool completely before eating so the gianduja can become solid again.
If these brownies make you want to get your own stash for munching and baking, I get gianduja at

Gianduja Brownies
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chips)
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups/10 oz  sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup/5 oz all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
10 ounces gianduja, chopped

Line a 13" x 9" pan with parchment paper (or butter and flour the pan) and set aside. In a metal bowl, combine the butter, bittersweet and unsweetened chocolates and set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolates and butter are melted and combined, then remove from the heat. Let the mixture cool until it is lukewarm, then stir in the sugar and the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring until incorporated. Add the flour and the salt, stirring until just combined (a few flecks of flour are OK), then mix in the gianduja. Spread in the prepared pan pushing in any chunks that are lying on top, smooth the top and bake at 350 for 25 minutes, until a tester comes out with moist crumbs adhering to it. Cool completely before cutting.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Scones

Even a trip that is ill-conceived, poorly planned, and plagued with wrong turns can get you to the right destination.

This week, the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers are making the chestnut scones from Baking From My Home to Yours. I couldn't easily find chestnut flour, so I decided to sub hazelnut flour, which I have in my freezer. I was all psyched about it once I realized I could add chocolate chips and make these taste like Nutella. That was the last good idea I had.

I weighed my dry ingredients, set them aside and went to bed. The next morning, I happened to check Twitter and read that Nancy thought almond flour was more suitable since it's fine like the chestnut flour was. Uh oh. So I quickly piled the dry ingredients (double batch) in the dry blending container for my VitaMix. I kept checking it and tamping it down. Not much was happening, so I dumped it back in the bowl. It was then that I realized I stopped just this side of making hazelnut butter. So I tried redistributing the pasty hazelnut flour with the all-purpose flour and hoped for the best.

I carefully measured out the cream, added the egg and vanilla. Then I added the butter to the flour and turned on the mixture. Then it seemed like a good idea to chat on Twitter with my Twitter buddies. By the time I remembered that the mixer was on and grinding the butter into the flour, it was too late. The butter lumps were gone. It was pretty well incorporated into the flour. Was I in the next room, unable to hear the mixer? No, I was about four feet away.

So I dumped in the wet ingredients and to my amazement/horror, the "dough" was VERY wet. Like, almost a batter. I added 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour and the chocolate chips, mixed it with a spatula and hoped for the best. Cutting out circles from a dough that is two steps away from being a puddle is challenging, but I managed to get all the scones on the sheet pans and into the freezer. I figured it would all work out if they weren't practically a liquid when they went into the oven.

The approach seemed to pay off as they came out resembling scones, though they cooked a little longer than I normally cook Dorie's scones. I took them to work, where the lovely people I work with said kind things about them. They were crumbly, but the flavor was amazing. Definitely reminiscent of Nutella. So good in fact, that I just added hazelnut flour to my grocery list. I'm going to give them another try, and hopefully not mess up the recipe quite so much this time.

I have Andrea of Andrea in the Kitchen to thank for choosing the chestnut scones this week. Although I didn't make them the way Dorie intended, I know Dorie's a fan of making do with what you have. The other TWD bakers are better at following directions than I am. You can find them here. Andrea has the REAL recipe for chestnut scones here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bal's No-Butter Chicken AND a Giveaway

There is a small group of my baking and blogging buddies that enjoys Indian food, and every so often we're all able to make the same recipe on the same day. Given our different time zones, it rarely works out that we all make it at the same time, but we take turns picking the recipe and it's fun to compare notes. Kayte (of Grandma's Kitchen Table) and Margaret (of Tea & Scones and more importantly my 24/7 Words With Friends friend) make up the core team when we cook Indian, but they were able to recruit a few new participants, ladies we know well from their blogs and Twitter: Peggy (of Pantry Revisited),  Abby (of Stir It! Scrape It! Mix It! Bake It!) and Katie (of Making Michael Pollan Proud).

Last week was my turn to pick and I went to a fabulous new book I have, Everyday Indian by Bal Arneson. She has a show, Spice Goddess, on Cooking Channel and her enthusiasm is infectious, plus I think she's absolutely adorable. She tells stories about growing up in her village and learning how to cook from her mother and I find myself mesmerized.

Butter chicken is a classic Indian recipe, but Bal has lightened it up by using yogurt in place of the cream and oil in place of the butter. Since I'm in California, the other ladies had already made this and raved about it by the time I got home and started cooking. A recurring theme was how easy it was, which is hard to believe since most of the Indian dishes we've cooked start with measuring 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoons of endless spices. The prep on this one was easy, quick, and it was ready fast. The house smelled amazing (as long as you don't mind your house smelling like a curry, and we don't), but the real test was tasting. It was sooo delicious. I served it on plain basmati rice and it was fantastic, as were the leftovers. I'm definitely making this one again. If you'd like to give it a try, you can find the recipe here.

The reason I wanted to pick a recipe out of Bal's book is because I accidentally purchased it twice, so I have an extra copy to give away. To enter, just leave a comment on this post telling me what interests you about Indian cooking, and if you have a favorite Indian dish let me know that, too. The deadline to enter is Monday, July 18th at 9 PM Pacific time. I'll pick the winner using the random number generator. Good luck!

We have a winner! My friend the random number generator at chose comment number 10.

True Random Number Generator  10Powered byRANDOM.ORG

Number 10 is Margaret of Tea and Scones. Congrats, Margaret!

Blueberry Cream Scones

Behold, the scone.  So few ingredients, so ethereal when executed well, so leaden when executed poorly. I speak from experience because my first batch was a comedy of errors. I was doubling the recipe, but forgot to double the flour until I was about to cut them out. Noting the dough was extremely wet, it dawned on me that I had left half the flour out. I mixed it in with golden raisins and all seemed fine. Knowing scones bake in the blink of an eye in my oven, I set the timer for 18 minutes, 2 less than the recipe called for. When my nose told me they were done, I peeked in at them, thought "but it's not 18 minutes yet" and left them in. Duh! They were browned and smelled done. Why didn't I pull them out??? When I did take them out, they were very brown and the golden raisins were little black knobby things. Accustomed to leaden coffee house scones, my coworkers thought they were pretty good. Tasting one, I knew all my errors cost me the fluffy, flakey texture I was seeking.

So even though I overslept yesterday morning, I was determined to make these scones again. I'd leave out the raisins, sub blueberries instead, add all the flour at the correct time, and take them out when they were done, no matter what the timer said.

This time, I was rewarded with the crispy outside and fluffy inside I was hoping for. These were fabulous, even to a non-blueberry lover like me. And who can beat a recipe you can prepare on a morning when you sleep an hour later than you planned and still make it to work in a respectable time?

Here's what I did that made these such a success this time:
  • I cut the butter into small cubes and stuck in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  • Add the butter to the dry ingredients and turn your mixer on to the lowest setting. When your mixture looks partly like small peas and partly like oats, pour in the cream mixture.
  • When mixture still looks wet and floury, remove bowl from the mixer, and using a spatula, gently mix in the berries
  • My triangular scones are never the same size, so I cut mine with a biscuit cutter.
These fabulous cream scones were chosen by Lynne of Cafe LynnyLu as this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. I'm so glad I gave these another try because if I hadn't I never would have found the perfect scone recipe. Thanks so much, Lynne! Here's my version of the recipe, but if you want the original as Dorie wrote it, Lynne has it for you here. You can find the other TWD bakers and what they thought of these here.

Cream Scones with Blueberries - adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours
Printer-friendly recipe
3 tablespoons sugar
Grated zest of one lemon
1 large egg
2/3 cup/155 grams heavy whipping cream
2 cups/280 grams all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and frozen for about ten minutes
3/4 cup blueberries (or raspberries, chopped cherries, strawberries, or peaches, etc.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

In a small bowl, add the zest to the sugar and with your fingers or a spoon, rub the zest and sugar together to bring out the oils from the zest. 

In a measuring cup or small bowl, stir the egg and cream together.

Add the flour, baking powder, salt and the zest and sugar mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and turn it on to the very lowest setting. Drop in the butter and mix until the mixture is a combination of pea sized pieces and pieces the size of oats.

Pour the cream mixture over the dry ingredients and when there is still both liquid and flour visible, stop the mixer. Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the blueberries. Gently mix them in with a rubber spatula. Your mixture should have bits of flour peeking out and look pretty shaggy.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Pat the dough into a rough circle that's about 1 1/4 inches in high, and using a biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut as many scones as you can, keeping the cuts as close as possible (a little divit on one side will disappear in the oven) and place each scone on the baking sheet. (At this point, the scones can be frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight. Don't defrost before baking- just add about 2 minutes to the baking time.)

Bake the scones for 16 to 19 minutes, or until their tops are golden brown and firm. Transfer them to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving, or wait for them to cool to room temperature.
Makes about 12 scones

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chocolate Chunk Muffins

I know not everyone feels the same way, but I believe that most days are better with chocolate, and some days require chocolate. I've had a lot of the latter at work these last few weeks, so you've undoubtedly noticed chocolate popping up more frequently here. My coworkers have been fine with the extra chocolate, which is good since I goofed on a part of this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe and could only fix it by tossing (no way) or doubling it.

People always ask me what the difference between a chocolate cupcake and a chocolate muffin. I usually start by saying that a chocolate cupcake you choose to have for breakfast is a muffin, but then I explain the different mixing methods (cupcakes are cakes, so they usually are beaten more where as muffins are mixed sparingly, the lighter crumb, number of eggs, etc.) and before long their eyes roll back into their heads and they resolve never to ask me about baking again.

These muffins were so good that none of my coworkers minded me babbling about them, as long as they had one in their hand. I may have baked them a minute too long, and I wished I added more chocolate chunks. I'm my own worst critic, and I was the only one with the above complaints. Even so, you may want to consider the following:

  • When making muffins, I always add the chocolate chunks before I finish mixing in the dry ingredients. It helps me avoid over mixing.
  • I included espresso powder to boost the chocolate flavor. I usually add it to the buttermilk, so lumps are less of a problem.
  • These cupcakes don't rise much, so I overfilled my muffin liners. A lot.
  • If looks matter to you, you'll want to smooth the tops of the muffins before baking.
Bridget of The Way the Cookies Crumbles was our host this week. I would have posted these Tuesday but I wanted to add the weights to the recipe. I plan on making these A LOT so I weighed everything, even the buttermilk. Fewer dirty dishes that way.

Chocolate Chunk Muffins - adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours
Printer-friendly recipe
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups/280 grams all-purpose flour
2/3 cup/133 grams sugar
1/3 cup/32 grams unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups/320 grams buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon espresso powder
1 large egg
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Melt the butter and 2 ounces of the chopped chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (I used the microwave). Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, espresso powder, egg and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients and the melted butter and chocolate over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin molds.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool 5 minutes before carefully removing the muffins from the tin.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake Cookies

The rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers made these sour cream chocolate cake cookies earlier in the week, but I've been working a little extra time (our fiscal year-end was yesterday). I've done other baking, so it wasn't really a lack of time that led to my procrastination, it was the ho-hum feeling I had about these. Sour cream in my cookies? Really?

By now I know better than to judge a recipe from Baking From My Home to Yours by the name or ingredients. So I finally made these last night, sour cream and all.

I'm not a huge fan of raisins, but I had some golden raisins in the pantry which I'm trying to use up (look for an update on my dirty little secret soon).

These cookies are not the first from this cookbook that were cake-like. In fact, I dubbed these jam cookies cakies for their cake-like texture.

Mine rose nicely in the oven and didn't deflate. They were moist, chocolaty and the raisins added a nice little chew that even I had to admit was a nice change of pace. Overall a good cookie, though one that could only get better with a little ganache sandwiched in. I didn't have time for that, but it would be goooood.

Many thanks to Spike of spike bakes for hosting this week. If you'd like the recipe, she has it for you here.