Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie

There is really a lot going on in the world today and so much of it is hard to swallow. Perhaps that's part of being a baker: making the swallowing a bit sweeter and easier to do. It doesn't hurt that it's quite pleasant to have the homemade scent of just-baked cookies wafting through the house. 

For all the fun things I bake, the one thing I make every single week (just ask my family) is chocolate chip cookies. Sometimes I make them with rye flour, or sometimes they're all chocolate, but, my go-to hero recipe comes from Jessica Seinfeld's most recent cook book "The Can't Cook Book." Let me tell you, this recipe is easy (apparently Mrs. Seinfeld's kids whip these up on their own) and downright delicious. Her recipe incorporates whole wheat flour for body and a combo of baking soda and baking powder for a reliable rise.

Chocolate chip cookies are the pinnacle dessert. Vanilla and chocolate with a teeny salty finish, there really is nothing better. Tender, soft and melty on the inside, it has the most perfect little crunch as you take a bite. And then another. And another. And so on.

I bake these big. They turn out splendidly either way, but I like a big cookie because you get more gooey center that way. These are so good and so easy, they may just become a weekly tradition for you!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp
1 C brown sugar (I use dark brown)
1/2 C sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1-1/4 C white flour
1 C whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 t kosher salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
2 C chocolate chips (or one 10-12 oz. bag. I use Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Chips for a larger but not too large bite of chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment. Set aside. 

Beat the butter until smooth, about one minute. Add the sugars and beat again until the mixture is fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and blend just until incorporated. Add the vanilla and do the same.

Pour the dry ingredients over the batter and beat until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips. 

Drop the dough by tablespoonsful (I use a small ice cream scoop like this one) onto the cookie sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the edges are browned but the centers are still soft. You can always underbake chocolate chip cookies if you prefer the gooier center, as I do. In that case, bake them 11-12 minutes and pull them out. 

Enjoy the yummy scent and unbelievable perfection of a warm, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie!
Dough.

Fresh from the oven.

Mine!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Peach & Rhubarb Love Pie


Has anyone else experienced the magic of watching their dad become the most amazing grandfather ever? For those who have, they know that there is nothing that restores the heart like watching your parents with your child(ren). It's amazing. Profound, even. I find myself awed by the parent my dad was and enchanted by the childhood my parents gave me that I couldn't see from this perspective. Because when my little girl runs to her G Pops and throws herself into his arms, it's a parallel to the nights Dad came home and Erik and I ran to the door to greet him, throwing ourselves about him. When he tosses his grandbaby in the air and roughhouses with her and I hear her raucous giggling and shouting "More, G Pops!",  I'm transported to the summer days when my dad taught me how to properly throw a frisbee ("it's in the wrist!"), or the afternoons he coached my soccer teams, or the early morning surf-and-splash sessions at Topanga followed by peanut butter and jelly on the a warming-in-the-sun wet towel.

If you know those moments, you know how heartbreaking it would be to hear your dad was sick or injured, as we did a few weeks ago. Dad fell, cracking his head and breaking a few ribs. OUCH. He had been with us in Solana Beach only a few days before, tossing that little girl around in the pool. My dad is larger than life. He rides a motorcycle and surfs regularly at 66. He manages rock bands and travels the world. He drives down to SD for the day, flies to Taipei (where Erik now lives) for a couple of days just to meet his baby grandson. This is not the "sit on a blanket and read to the grandchild" kind of grandfather. He's a bongo-boarding, jetset, wild-and-crazy, never-gonna-stop guy.

Thank goodness for my youngest brother Adam who was there (and has been ever since) every step of the way, driving him to the doctor, making sure G Pops wasn't overdoing anything - which is a mighty, mighty feat. True to his nature, he was going nuts just "resting" by the second afternoon, resisting Adam's help and basically acting like one of his grandkids. This man was re-planting the garden on day 3 and back on is motorcycle a week later, cracked ribs and all. UGH.

What can a devoted Daddy's Girl do? Well, y'all know me by now, so, I won't keep you in suspense: I baked. Dad's favorite is apple pie, a throwback to my mom's cooking and those fabulous organic, home-grown hippie days in sun. Did I ever tell you we had a little farm in our backyard in Beverly Hills? My parents were so committed to fresh food, they grew it where most people were putting in pools and tennis courts. Anyhow, back to the Love Pie. Dad loves rhubarb and it's peach season, so, it seemed only natural to combine them and toss them into my special cream cheese pie crust - a crust that is the ONLY pie crust recipe you'll ever need. Most can't place exactly why they love this pie crust, but they will most certainly tell you it's the best pie crust they've ever had. Thanks, Rose Levy Beranbaum, for so many compliments over the years and thanks, Dad, for buying me this book!

The recipe below is truly an easy one. It's a little waiting for the crust to harden in the fridge, and a little rolling out the dough, and a little prepping the fruit, but it's not complicated and will turn out a delicious result. Dad cut it up at the lunch table, everyone dipping their forks into the same plate for some reason (because, that's family?), and gobbled the sweet, fresh, Love Pie all up. Sure, it was good. But the best part was seeing a smile pass across my dad's tense face. He'd been talking out the side of his mouth from the rib pain, but all of a sudden, he just relaxed, SAT DOWN and ate. And that was worth the waiting and the rolling and the prepping and the driving to LA from San Diego. That moment, when he enjoyed what I made for him, as I enjoy what he made (and still makes) for me every day of my life, was worth it all.

xox,

A.
Peach & Rhubarb Love Pie
Makes One Pie

Cream Cheese Crust from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pie & Pastry Bible
makes enough for a double-crusted deep dish pie
12 T butter, cut into cubes and frozen 30 minutes
2 C flour
1/4 t salt
1/4 t baking powder
4.5 oz. cream cheese, cold and cut into 4-5 pieces
2 T ice water
1 T cider vinegar

Peach & Rhubarb Fruit Filling
5 large peaches, peeled and sliced into wedges
5-7 stalks rhubarb, chopped into 1" pieces
2/3 C brown sugar
1/2 C flour
4 T cornstarch
1 T lemon juice
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t almond extract
 
Butter a 9" deep dish pie dish and set it into the fridge.

Make the pie crust. Mix the flours & salt in a food processor, about 30 seconds. Add the cream cheese and pulse 6-10 times, until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the frozen butter and pulse until the butter is in pea-sized pieces, about 8-10 times. Add the water and vinegar and pulse another 3-6 times, until the mixture starts coming together. It will still be in bits, though.

Divide the dough into halves and place each half into its own plastic bag. One at a time, knead each mixture from outside its bag until each holds together in one piece. Then, form the halves into 2 discs, cover in plastic and refrigerate 45 minutes.

Make the fruit filling. Pour all the fruit ingredients into a bowl, toss with a plastic spoon until the fruit is coated and set into the fridge until your crust is ready.

Preheat the oven to 425 20 minutes before baking and set your rack on the bottom level.

Roll out the pie crust, place in your pie dish. Fill with fruit mixture and cover with the second pie crust. Crimp the edges - this is a reeeeally juicy pie, so, make sure your edges are firmly together - and slice 4-2" openings in the top crust to let some steam escape during baking.

Bake the pie 45 minutes, but check it at 30 to make sure the edges aren't burning. Cool at least 3 hours before cutting. It will still be warm. Soften some vanilla ice cream about 10 minutes before serving and prepare the experience a little summer heaven!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sweet & Salty Caramel Sauce

Well, hello, Party People! As we come upon our nation's day of independence - an excellent reason for a day off - we see all kinds of berry desserts in flag formations complete with genoise or chiffon cake and whipped cream. This one from Martha Stewart might just be the original, but this one from Smitten Kitchen is nearly perfect and photographed expertly or dessert queen Ina Garten has one, too. Since these recipes are so awesome, so delicious, I just had to share something different with you. I've been working on sauces lately and my greatest challenge has been caramel. The thing about caramel is that sometimes it can get overcooked resulting in a candy-like consistency or it can get undercooked resulting in decent flavor but a buttery color that is just too light. Don't you want your caramel sauce to have a nice, brown sugar-esque color, taste of butter, sugar and salt and pour perfectly? Yeah, me, too. It's not easy (for me)!

Fun fact: did you know that there are many, many versions of caramel sauce that are named Liquid Gold? When I was breastfeeding, that term had a whole different meaning, but I can see how it fits a good caramel sauce. Elusive, pretty and deeply rewarding in flavor, the maker of a good caramel may just feel as though she has struck gold right there in her All-Clad 4 quart pot. Not that you need this particular pot and I am not paid by advertisers or anyone else to blog (at least, not yet!), but, I make everything from sauces to brownies to pasta in this pot. I recommend it highly.

So, anyway, like any good sugar addict pastry lover, I was reading the Tartine Cookbook and found this gem of a recipe at the back of the book. I tried it. Roughly 4 times. And it's been good each time, with caveats. Like I said, sometimes it's too thick, sometimes too runny. I'm getting there. But each time I've made it, it has been superb in flavor. We've discovered that the faster we use it, the better. So, if you're having ice cream at your soiree this weekend, whip up a batch before the guests arrive and keep it on the counter until you serve it. That way, even if it's not perfect, it'll seem perfect.

Sure, you could do that thing where you put a can of sweetened condensed milk in the slow cooker for 8 hours, but this sauce is heaven. It will wrap itself around your tongue, melting there and cause a reverie on your taste buds. Why did it take me so long to tell you that? Because that's how patient you'll need to be if you want to be successful at this sauce.

Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, I did my best to do your thorough and most helpful instructions and recommendations justice, but I very highly recommend to my readers to buy the Tartine books (again, not paid to endorse. Just LOVE them) and use them. Daily, if you can.

xox,

A.
Tartine's Caramel Sauce
2/3 C heavy cream
1 t vanilla extract (their recipe calls for 1/4 of a vanilla bean, scraped. Take your pick.)
1-1/4 C sugar
1/4 C water
1/2 t salt (Tartine's recipe calls for 1/4 but I wanted a saltier caramel. Again, your choice.)
2 T light corn syrup
3/4 t lemon juice
4 T unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Warm the cream & vanilla extract or bean in a heavy saucepan until just before it boils. Reduce the heat to low to keep the cream warm.

In your 4 quart stock pot or other medium-to-large heavy saucepan/pot, combine the sugar, water, salt and corn syrup and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture is at a boil, cook it without stirring until the mixture is amber colored, 5-8 minutes. You really kind of have to stand there and watch every second. One second the mixture will be clear, the next, yellowish and then, all of a sudden, it takes on that brownish tint. Remove it from the heat immediately as it continues to cook from there.

Carefully and slowly add the cream. The photo in step 4 above does not show how vigorously the cream will cause the mixture to boil up, creating hot steam and lots of caramel drama. Keep stirring until it all calms down and then whisk until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, take out the butter and cut it into chunks if you have not already done so.

When the 10 minutes is up, add the butter one chunk at a time, stirring completely after each addition.

The caramel sauce will keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to a month, but, like I said, if you use it right away, it'll do that melty fresh thing on your tongue. Can't beat that. For real.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Berry Bran Buttermilk Muffins

These are also known as Alliteration Muffins around my house - for obvious reasons!

This week I've been having fun with my Fannie Farmer cook book. It all started when a friend asked me for a great banana bread recipe and, like a reflex, I grabbed my trusty old paperback FF and sent it right off.
Then, I took a tour through the recipes in the quick bread and muffins sections and found a solid recipe for bran muffins that I could toil with. Listen, I know not everyone is a bran muffin fan. But, when you bake as much as I do, it has to at least have a pretense of being healthy every once in a while. My favorite bran muffin is Il Fornaio's delicious and huge beauty filled with walnuts and dried fruits. Working from the fruit angle and not wanting to add additional fats, I added some fresh berries we had cut up in the fridge and used half buttermilk rather than all milk to add a twang. These came out beautifully which attests to a fabulous and foolproof Fannie Farmer (more alliteration!) recipe - one you can mess with and still turn out a delicious morsel.

If you like bran muffins, you'll love these. If you're not usually a fan, you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised. And, if you, like me, are a mom looking for some healthy treats for the fam, you, and they, will gobble these up.

Happy eating!

xox,

A.

Berry Bran Buttermilk Muffins
1 egg, beaten
1/2 C milk
1/2 C buttermilk
2 T melted butter
1 C bran
1 C whole wheat pastry flour
3 t baking powder
1/3 C sugar
1/2 t salt
1-1/2 C berries of any kind

Makes 10-12
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 18-22 minutes
Soak the bran in the egg, milks and melted butter 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 and line your muffin pan with butter or pop in muffins cups.

Add the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt to the bran mixture and stir gently until incorporated. Fold in berries. Spoon into muffin pans, distributing the batter evenly. Muffins cups will be almost full.

Bake 18-22 minutes until nicely browned. Spread with butter and jam and gobble away.

These will keep about 2 days covered on the counter or freeze them and eat up to 3 months later.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cinnamon Rolls

Having kids brings so much into a life. Where there once was solid sleep, now there are maybe 4 uninterrupted hours a week night. Where there once was the freedom to, say, run out with my dude for tacos & beer, or perhaps to use whatever language I pleased (however unbecoming), there are now a host of restrictions. BUT, as any parent knows, there is an even greater bounty of blessings. Some of the greatest blessings my daughter has brought me - and still does - are friendships, some of which I've talked about on this blog. When you're a full time parent, you tend to meet people through your kids' activities and schools and that's so great because not only do I find connections, but Lulu finds playmates and everyone is happy!

One of the sweetest gifts Lulu has given me is my friendship with Stacy. Yes, I have mentioned her before (hint, she loves date bars) and, yes, I will most likely mention her again (and again and again!), but my friendship with Stacy is worth talking about. As my first real mommy friend, she and I have been through all our parenting (and life) highs and lows together. So, when she tells me she's coming all the way to Solana Beach from Los Angeles to see me, I pull out all the stops. After a full day of sun and fun Saturday, we were all relaxed and renewed for Sunday morning breakfast at our house. We decided to keep it fuss-free which meant, of course, that I would  take a special after-dinner trip to Whole Foods for fresh OJ, stay up late Saturday night making granola and wake up Sunday morning around 6am to start a yeast dough for cinnamon rolls. Simple, schmimple, this is my friend we're talking about!

With the menfolk and the 2 babes, we numbered 6, so, I opted to make one batch rather than overdo it. Referencing my Tassajara Bread Book (which my good friend Wendy Mazursky introduced me to half a lifetime ago), I made the Yeasted Breakfast Bread dough (adding a little more sugar, as noted below) and spreading a very simple butter/brown sugar/cinnamon filling before rolling up and baking. Naturally, we had to have a cream cheese icing: I referenced a family recipe there and spread the goodness atop. Oh, my. These are soft, chewy, cinnamony-sweet and taste of home. Plus, as Stacy commented walking through my door Sunday morning, "it smells incredible!"

Cinnamon rolls are simple, really. It's just about putting in the time to let the dough rise a few times, but the rest of the work is pretty easy. And they do dazzle. In fact, there was not a crumb left over. Next time, to hell with not overdoing it. I'm doubling this recipe so we can eat them at tea time, dessert and breakfast the next day, too. If I'm hoping the promise of afternoon seconds will make my friends stay longer, you can't blame a girl for trying.

After breakfast, we had to say goodbye, bellies and hearts full. But Monday morning, Stacy and I were already planning our next weekend together because, with true friends, it's never enough!

xox,

A.

Tassajara Bread Book Cinnamon Rolls
Yeasted Breakfast Dough
1 C lukewarm water
3-1/2 t yeast (about 1-1/2 packages)
5 T sugar
1/3 C dry buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-1/2 C flour (I used regular unbleached white)
3 T melted butter
1 t sea salt
Additional 1-1/2 C flour plus more for kneading

Cinnamon Filling
1/4 C softened butter
3/4 C brown sugar
1 T cinnamon

Cream Cheese Icing
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 C butter
1 C powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract or 1 T vanilla bean paste

Yield 6 large cinnamon rolls
Prep time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes
Eating time: 3 minutes

Dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in sugar and dried buttermilk. Stir in the egg. Stir in 1-1/2 C flour until a thick batter forms and then beat with a wooden spoon 100 strokes. Cover with a damp (not wet) kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes. 

While that's rising, make the cinnamon filling. Stir the butter, sugar and cinnamon together until they make a paste. Cover and set aside.

Fold in the melted butter and salt (be gentle with the batter at this point. Fold, don't stir or beat). Then, fold in 1 C additional flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. If you need more in order for the dough to pull away from the sides of the bowl, add in the other 1/2 C. 

Knead the dough on a floured board 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and does not tear easily. Oil the bowl by drizzling about 1 T oil and spreading it with your fingers to coat the sides. Place the kneaded dough back into the oiled bowl and let rise another 40 minutes. 

Meanwhile, make the icing. Blend the cream cheese and butter together to combine. Add the sugar and beat until soft and all the sugar bumps are gone, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat until blended. Cover and set aside.

Once the dough has finished it's second rising, preheat the oven to 375. 

Roll the dough into a long, flat rectangle.
Spread on the cinnamon sugar mixture, covering everything except 1/2" along the long edge. Tightly roll the dough beginning at the cinnamon-sugared edge and ending at the 1/2" you left un-sugared. Cut the roll into 6 even rolls, about 2-1/2" wide each and place into a pie or round baking dish. 

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until the tops are browned and the cinnamon sugar is bubbly inside the rolls. 
Remove from the oven and let cool about 20-30 minutes (not all the way, but if you spread the icing too soon, it just melts). Spread on the cream cheese icing and serve.
Pretty freaking awesome.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ice Cream Sandwiches with Molasses Cookies & Brown Sugar Cinnamon Frozen Custard

Summ, summ, summertime is here!

Summertime always evokes memories of long, salty, Beatles-records-filled days at Rincon Point for me. A legendary surf spot just south of Santa Barbara, we have family friends who own a home there and were lucky enough to go every summer. Usually, several families would pile in at once, all of us kids sleeping in a bunkroom and our parents enjoying a little privacy in the few remaining bedrooms. For my brothers and me, it was pure bliss.

It seemed like rather than being just our nuclear family, we instead became 2 tribes: the kids and the grown ups. We kids felt free to roam the beach, take out surfboards or jet-skis, and catch lizards. Our parents hung out, chatting as they sunbathed or napping in the hammock, nursing their margaritas and Mexican beer. We ate meals en masse, plopping down at several tables around the house and on the deck. All of us left behind whatever existed in LA and just blended into this carefree summer life. Rather than being the kid who struggled at school, my focus was instead that sensation of being part of something greater than myself and I cherished the love and acceptance I found from these families who collected in this house.

The food on those weekends was awesome. Our parents cooked everything from street tacos to pastas to roasted chicken and root vegetables. Someone was always in the kitchen concocting something we'd all enjoy later. Admittedly, my brother Erik and I were especially thrilled by the endless canned bean dip (our mother fed us "farm-to-table" before that was a thing. I kid you not, we had a full vegetable farm in the back yard of our tiny Los Angeles canyon cottage) and the sodas in the garage fridge. One of the best treats I recall from those weekends, in addition to the incredible feeling of being part of this great, fluctuating, mixed-genetics "family", was opening the freezer to find molasses cookies. Packaged in a long, low topless box, they were dark, sweet discs of tangy chewy-ness covered in sprinkled sugar. I died for them and snuck far more than my fair share from that freezer.
So, while others save flavors like cinnamon and molasses for fall and winter, I always crave them right around the summer solstice. It's a sense-memory thing, I guess. Although, when it gets warm, the laaast thing I want to do is turn on the oven. I tend to bake things in small batches or not at all. But a small batch of perfect molasses cookies is so worth it.

On the other hand, ice cream is a summer staple and last week I made 2 batches of it based on Shelly Kaldunski's recipes in Sweet Scoops. One was vanilla, of course, and the other incorporated brown sugar and cinnamon, flavors I thought would go well with something else I had baked. It turns out, the cinnamon frozen custard has become my new favorite flavor and, although limited by a mid-tier home ice cream making machine, I'm going to work with this recipe until I can make it as well as I assume Ms. Kaldunski can (well, close). The difference between the ice cream and frozen custard is really just that frozen custard lingers on the tongue, somewhat coating the tongue in its creamy goodness. Ice cream tends to dissolve a bit faster by my estimation.

Because I had the molasses cookie craving and because I had the frozen custard in the freezer, naturally I put the two together. Ho! Not only were these ice cream sandwiches delicious, but they reminded me of those blissful childhood days and my friends, all of whom are grown up now and most of whom have kids of their own. Most of our kids are still small, but I can't wait to get them all together at Rincon and let them run wild - or as wild as you can let your kids run in 2014 - with these ice cream sandwiches in their hands (ice cream dripping down chins, cookies covered in sand) while we "grown ups" sip our margaritas and Mexican beer.

Heaven.

xox,

A.

Molasses Cookies
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp
1/3 C sugar (plus more for rolling)
1/3 C dark brown sugar
1 egg, at room temp
1 t vanilla
2-1/4 C flour
1-1/2 t cinnamon
1-1/2 t ginger
1 t baking soda
1/2 t cloves
1/2 t salt
1/4 t allspice
1/4 t finely ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350.

Sift all the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, cream the butter with the sugars. Add the egg and vanilla and blend. Pour the flour & spice mixture into the creamed butter and mix until blended. 

One tablespoon at a time, roll the dough into balls and roll those in more white sugar and place 12 to a baking sheet. Bake 11-12 minutes until the cookies are set but do not overbake. These are better soft and gooey plus they make better ice cream sandwiches that way. Cool completely (you can even freeze them for 10 minutes or so) before making the sandwiches with them.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Frozen Custard
2 C heavy cream
1-1/2 C whole milk
3 cinnamon sticks
1/4 t ground cinnamon
5 large egg yolks
2/3 C packed brown sugar
1/4 t salt

In a heavy saucepan, combine the cream and spices and heat on medium until just before it simmers, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a heat proof bowl, combine the yolks, brown sugar and salt, beating until the mixture lightens in color and doubles in volume, 2-4 minutes.

Whisking constantly, slowly add one cup of the hot cream to the egg mixture and beat well. Again whisking constantly, pour the egg/cream mixture back into the hot cream and place over medium heat. Switch to stirring with a wooden spoon and heat until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Set up an ice bath (a heat proof bowl nested into a larger bowl of ice) and strain the custard into the smaller bowl. Stir periodically until cooled. Then, cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 4 hours but up to 3 days. (I chilled mine overnight.)

Pour the cold custard into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. Then, chill in your freezer at least 2 hours before scooping onto the cooled cookies.

Ice Cream Sandwiches
Scoop the chilled frozen custard onto the bottom-side of one cooled cookie. Place another cookie on top, topside up and gently press until the sandwich comes together. Freeze 30 minutes until set. Eat! MMMMM. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sunday Morning Creme Scones with Lemon Butter


A few weeks ago, I made the most delicious recipe for lemon butter a.k.a. lemon curd and have been spreading it on anything I can get my hands on ever since. It's delicious on store-bought angel food cake. Or those tea biscuits you get at the British Store. Or toasted potato bread. But, in the back of my mind was a little voice nagging, "Come on! You're a baker. You know you need to get off your ass make actual, real, home-baked scones to go with this." That voice got louder and louder and, although scones are not my favorite treat and I do tend to save my calories for freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, I finally relented. And, man, was it worth it.

Let me just say that these scones should be made on their own merit, not just to couple with condiments you may want to try. Silky crumb, tangy sweet and perfectly soft with a gentle crunch provided by a pre-baking sprinkle of sugar, it'll come as no surprise to you that I based the recipe on one by the formidable chemist-baker Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery in Boston. Ms. Chang would probably have preferred I follow her Classic Currant Scones recipe to the letter, but I didn't have currants, buttermilk nor sanding sugar, so, I made due and called them Creme Scones after the creme fraiche.You can fill them with 1/2 C of any dried fruit, really, or nuts, if you like. For me, the toppings were the thing, so, I opted for a rich backdrop for those the lemon butter, homemade berry jam and more creme fraiche.

The lemon butter is a labor of love that I whole-heartedly recommend, but if you're iffy on cooking egg yolks on the stove top or simply don't know what you'll do with 12 egg whites (lowfat quiche! omelettes!), just buy something in a jar like this one.
Once these come out of the oven, make yourself a cuppa, sit to table and call them skahhhns, dahling.

Hope you love these as much as Jeremy, Lulu and I did.

xox,

A.


Creme Scones
2-3/4 C flour
1-1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/3 C sugar
1/2 C cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 C milk (or buttermilk, if you have it)
1/2 C cold creme fraiche
1 cold egg
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 T sugar, for dusting

Yield: 8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 35-40 minutes

Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine the dry ingredients. Add butter and either blend with your hands or a pastry blender until the butter is broken down into pebble sized pieces.

In another bowl, blend the milk, creme fraiche and egg until thoroughly mixed. Add the wet ingredients to the butter mixture and blend just until the dough comes together. Mix in any remaining flour with your hands (in case you're using the pastry blender).

Place the dough onto your baking sheet and mold it into a circle. Brush with the beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar. Then, cut the round into 8 wedges and pop into the oven. Bake 35-40 minutes (or longer if necessary) until the center is set and cooked through, but soft. Overbaking these dries them out.

Re-cut your slices and serve with your favorite jams, butters and whipped cream, Devon cream or creme fraiche.

Lemon Butter
12 egg yolks, at room temp
3 T grated lemon zest
1 C lemon juice
1-1/2 C sugar
1 C unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Yield: about 24 ounces
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Setting time: 3 hours to overnight

In a medium-sized sauce pan, whisk the yolks, zest, juice and sugar together until thoroughly blended. Turn the heat up to medium-low and cook gently 15 minutes or so, until the mixture is thickened. Do not boil it.

Remove from the heat and add in the butter, one chunk at a time, stirring thoroughly after each.

Refrigerate several hours before serving. This keeps in the fridge about 4 weeks and makes enough to share with friends and/or make a tart out of after eating with your scones.