Apple scones

I wanted to bring my lemon curd over to my aunt and uncle’s house for Christmas Day brunch, but realized that it would need to be served on something. While lemon curd is delicious on berries, scones are really the first thing that come to mind for me. I knew I wanted apple scones, but couldn’t find quite the right recipe, so I combined two. I took the apple preparation from this one on Recipe Girl and the scone part from Food.com. Unfortunately (and uncharacteristically), I did not take any pictures.

Apple Scones

Apples
1 Tbsp. salted butter
1 large apple (gala or fuji work well)
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
Scones
2 cups flour (I used half white, half whole wheat)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup cold butter
1/2 cup milk
Topping
1-2 Tbsp. milk
sugar
cinnamon

Peel and core the apple, then chop into half inch pieces. Heat the butter over medium and add the apples, tossing to coat. Cook for five minutes, until the apples have started to soften, then add the cinnamon, toss, and remove from heat, setting aside.

Preheat the oven to 425° F. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut butter into small pieces, and use your hands to combine with the flour mixture until the mixture is crumbly. Add milk and stir to create a soft dough, then fold in apple.

Turn dough out onto a piece of parchment and kneed about 10 times. Pat into a one inch thick circle. Brush on reserved milk, then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Cut into six wedges. Transfer parchment paper to a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until the scones are risen and have just started to brown. Allow to cool before separating and serving. These are best served the day they are made.

Advertisements

Stewed Tomatoes

This is a staple recipe for me. Usually, I water bath can it in pint jars, but I’ve put my canning ingredients away for the season, so I’m just going to make to to store in the fridge (and use within a week) or freeze. For canning, this recipe has to be fairly precise and needs to have some acid added, but for fridge or freezer storage you don’t need to worry about acidity. It’s also a very flexible recipe; change the herbs to your taste, add more or less salt, include some pepper, more garlic and onion, or alter the acid to suit you.

IMG_6546

Stewed Tomatoes

10 roma or paste tomatoes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion
1 clove garlic
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. dried basil (fresh is ideal, but not always available)
Salt (to taste)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice (can be subbed for white wine or balsamic vinegar)

Step one is to peel the tomatoes. I’ve read that freezing them will make the skins slip right off, but I prefer to use boiling water. Bring 3-4 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, fill a large mixing bowl with ice water. Once the water has come to a boil, gently place the tomatoes into the pot and let sit for 30-40 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, immediately transfer to the ice bath to cool. I tend to do the tomatoes in batches of 3-4. Once the tomatoes have cooled slightly, use a small knife to create an X cut at the base of the tomato (opposite from where it was attached to the vine and slowly peel away the skin. You can discard it or save it in the freezer for stock, which is what I do.

IMG_6534

Next, heat the oil over medium in a 2-3 quart pot. While the oil is heating, dice the onion and add to the pot, stirring to coat. Mince the garlic and add to the pot.

IMG_6539

While the alliums (onion and garlic) are cooking, core and chop the tomatoes, discarding the core and seeds. How large or small the pieces are is entirely up to you. I tend to chop them into approximately half inch squares.

Once the onions have softened, add the tomatoes and bay leaves. Stir to mix. Continue to cook on medium for approximately 10 minutes. Stir in basil and any other herbs you’re using, plus the lemon juice and salt. Cook for another 5 minutes.

IMG_6545

This batch will be stored in the fridge; it’s a great base for my vegetable soup, which I’m sure I’ll be making more of soon. It’s also very easily doubled, tripled, or more. Large batches are especially great when tomatoes are local and fresh.

Easy Basics: Veggie Soup

I eat a lot of soup in the winter. It’s warm and filling and super easy to make healthy. Before I started cooking as much as I do now, Amy’s Organic Chunky Vegetable Soup was something I brought with me to work pretty regularly. But the reality is that this is so easy to make at home, that buying it isn’t really worth the extra cost. Plus, when I make it myself, I can use only the vegetables I like and exclude the ones I don’t like or don’t want.

This recipe is very flexible, however, and you can certainly add or remove vegetables as you see fit. Also, my version is not vegetarian, since I use chicken broth, but there’s no reason you can’t make it totally vegetarian (vegan, in fact), by swapping veggie broth for the chicken.

IMG_0881

Vegetable Soup

32 oz. stewed tomatoes
16 oz. chicken (or vegetable) stock
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 large onion
3 large leeks
1 clove of garlic, minced
2-3 large carrots
1/2 lb. green beans
1 bell pepper (red, orange, or yellow preferred)
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. dried tarragon
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley
1 bag baby spinach
Salt, to taste

Chop onion. In a 3 quart pot, heat olive oil over medium and add onions. Mix and allow to saute until translucent.

Meanwhile, chop the white part of the leeks and mince the garlic. When the onions start to become translucent, add the leeks and garlic, mix, and continue to cook over medium for another 5 minutes.

While the onions, leeks, and garlic are cooking, chop the carrots into bite sized pieces and cut the green beans into approximately one inch pieces.

Add the tomatoes, stock, carrots, and green beans to the pot and stir to mix. Turn heat up to medium-high. If the pot begins to boil, turn the heat down so it does maintains a simmer.

Core bell pepper and dice. When the green beans have just started to soften, add the pepper, thyme, and tarragon. Cook for another five minutes. Stir in parsley, then spinach, which will wilt in the hot broth. Salt to taste.

Pumpkin Pudding

You’ll notice that I’m posting a bunch of pumpkin recipes this week. It’s just that I opened that huge can of pumpkin to make the caramels and now I need to finish it off before going to visit my family for Hanukkah. In addition, I had some evaporated milk, also from the caramels, that needed to be used. What I didn’t have, however, were eggs, which are usually used to thicken pudding. Unfortunately, the last of the eggs went into the muffins, so I had to look elsewhere. After doing a bit of searching, I cobbled together the recipe below, which I think turned out quite well!

IMG_6406

Pumpkin Pudding

1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1.5 Tbsp. corn starch
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Whisk together all ingredients until smooth and heat over medium, stirring constantly, until it comes to a low boil and starts to thicken. Transfer to individual ramekins or one larger bowl. Allow to cool for an hour before refrigerating. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours before serving to allow the pudding to set.

IMG_6398

Pumpkin Bread

I opened a fairly large can of pumpkin making those caramels and we were about to go out of town, so I needed to figure out pretty quickly what to do with the rest of it. One thing I haven’t made yet this year that I usually do is pumpkin bread, so that was an obvious first choice. I based my recipe off this one from Taste of Home, though most quick bread recipes follow a basic outline. There are, as you’ll notice, a few fairly minor alterations to the recipe itself. The biggest change is that I made muffins, rather than a loaf of bread. This was purely practical. The thing is, I don’t actually own a loaf pan at the moment. I do highly recommend those silicone baking pans, though. They’re really excellent.

IMG_6391

Pumpkin Bread

1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup chopped candied ginger
1/2 cup raisins or craisins, optional

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease either a standard loaf pan or a muffin tin. (If using silicone bakeware like I did, it is unnecessary to grease the pan.)

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk all the wet ingredients until combined. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined. Fold in (c)raisins and candied ginger, if using. Pour into whatever baking pan you’ve chosen.

Baking times will differ depending on which pan you use. For my large sized muffins, 50-60 minutes was about the right amount of time. If you are using a standard muffin tin, making time will be shorter; start checking after 30 minutes. If you use a regular loaf pan, baking time will be around 65-75 minutes.

Allow to cool before removing from the pan.

Salted Pumpkin Caramel Candies

I know I’ve been posting a lot of sweets here lately. Well, it’s the holidays and most of these recipes are either gifts or for parties. Besides, I don’t think it’s so terrible to indulge sometimes!

I’ll admit that I was pretty nervous to try this recipe at first. I like a pretty laid back approach to cooking and baking, while caramel requires a close eye and a fair amount of precision. But I have a family holiday party coming up this weekend with some people who are gluten free and caramel candies seemed perfect. So I headed out to Target to pick up a basic candy thermometer and a heavy bottomed three quart pot and dug in.

Many caramel recipes use corn syrup, which I wanted to avoid. With a little research, I found that corn syrup is an invert sugar; the slight amount of acid in invert sugars prevent the caramels from getting too hard as they cool off. Luckily, honey is also an invert sugar, and maple syrup — which this recipe uses — seems to have the same effect. Plus, the addition of lemon juice would be enough acid even without the maple syrup.

I was initially worried that I had burned them, which is a real worry with caramel, but they actually came out quite well, I think!

IMG_6387

Salted Pumpkin Caramels

1 cup heavy cream (35% or whipping cream)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 cups white cane sugar
1 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons butter
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. large grain salt

In a small or medium saucepan, combine the cream, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin pie spice. Heat it until warm, but do not let it boil. Whisk to combine. Remove from heat.


In a medium (at least 2 quart, but 3 quart is ideal) heavy-bottomed pan, combine the sugar, maple syrup, and water. Stir until the sugar is melted. Allow it to boil until it reaches approximately 244°F (the upper limit of “soft ball” point on a thermometer). Add the cream and pumpkin mixture, and stir gently until incorporated. Allow the mixture to boil and bring it to 240°F on the candy thermometer. It can take up to half an hour for the mixture to reach temperature, so be patient. I had to stir almost continually, moving the thermometer around to make sure I incorporated the caramel behind it, to make sure it didn’t burn, but I suspect that my pot wasn’t “heavy-bottomed” enough. 



Once the caramel has reached 240°F, remove it from heat and quickly stir in the butter and lemon juice, stirring well until both are fully incorporated and butter is melted. Now pour the caramel into the pan. Let it cool about 30 minutes and sprinkle on the salt.

IMG_6368

Wait at least 2 hours for caramel to fully set before slicing. Use a hot knife to slice them more easily, which I did by keeping a mug of hot water next to me, cutting them into 1-inch squares. If you have trouble cutting them because they are too soft, you can always chill them for 20 minutes before cutting. Wrap them individually in waxed paper.


Recipe leftovers: Egg Yolk Edition

Those candied nuts have been a big hit around here, but with all the batches I’ve made, I ended up with nine egg yolks hanging out in the fridge that I couldn’t bear to just throw out. And then I thought about what recipes require yolks, but no whites.

Lemon curd.

Delicious, creamy, tart lemon curd. Perfect on scones and pancakes. I’d never made it before, but the recipe seemed straightforward enough, even without access to a full size food processor. It is useful to have either an immersion blender or a good handheld mixer for this one, though.

Plus, the finished product is beautiful:

IMG_6380

Note that I had nine egg yolks, so I basically doubled the recipe and ended up with just over 1.5 pints of lemon curd.

Lemon Curd

7 lemons
1.5 cup sugar
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into pieces
9 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt

Zest the lemons using a microplane then cut them in half and juice them, setting aside 1 cup of juice. the rest can be discarded or used for another recipe.

IMG_6373

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and use an immersion blender or handheld mixer to combine. The butter will look curdled at this point, which is fine.

Cook the mixture over a very low heat. If you have a cooking thermometer (it doesn’t need to be a candy thermometer given the low temperatures required by the recipe), affix it to the side of the pot. Cook until the mixture has started to thicken, which will take up to 15 minutes. If you are using the thermometer, you want to reach 170°F. If you do not have a cooking thermometer, you can test for doneness by coating the back of a spoon and running your finger through it. You should be able to wipe a clear path in the curd if it is done.

Do not leave the curd unattended while it is cooking! If the temperature gets too high, it can actually curdle. You don’t even want it anywhere near a simmer.

While the curd is cooking. place a fine mesh strainer over a medium mixing bowl. When the curd is done, pass it through the strainer to get rid of any remaining pieces of lemon zest or coagulated egg. Then funnel into jars for storage. Allow jars to cool for an hour before capping and putting in the fridge. The curd will thicken more as it cools.

Lemon curd will keep for several weeks — up to a month — refrigerated. It also apparently freezes well!