Tag Archives: baking

Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones

And just like that, Thanksgiving is here. The bad news is that I can’t seem to hold on to the days that slip further and further into early sunsets; the good news is that I am in full nesting mode, which means lots more baking projects and – of course –  Christmas music! Christmas and early Pearl Jam/STP, randomly. I just need to find the right Pandora station that combines both. Purchasing the yearly no-commercials deal was the best thing I’ve done this year.

I’ve posted before about how much I love the combination of pears and dark chocolate. And when you fold this love into a scone, you get the moist chunks of pear with the crunchy richness of chocolate all in a buttery cakey thing.

Scones are fun because they require little work as far as breakfast pastries go. Just mix everything, pat it into a disk and cut out the pieces. Bake, nibble, smile.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen…I sometimes find problems with her recipes, just like in my own, so I changed a few things here and there. The big thing was making smaller scones so the recipe went further (than just 6 scones).

Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones

Ingredients:

  • 3 firm pears (about 1 pound – I used Bartlett)
  • 1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated or coarse for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt plus additional for egg wash
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small bits
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (3 ounces or 85 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or chips)
  • 2 large eggs, 1 for dough, 1 for glaze

Heat oven to 375°F. Peel and core pears. Cut into 1-inch chunks. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange pear chunks on parchment and roast until they feel dry to the touch and look a little browned in spots, 20-30 minutes. Slide parchment paper with pear chunks onto a cooling rack (or into fridge) and cool to lukewarm. Leave oven on. Line baking sheet with another piece of parchment.

Whisk flour, baking powder, 1/4 cup sugar and salt together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Toss in cooled pear chunks, bits of butter, heavy cream and 1 egg (Note: Next time I will cut in the butter first, after the dry ingredients, as the chunks don’t incorporate evenly when added with the pear. Once you work in the butter, add the pear and everything else). With the paddle attachment, mix the dough on low speed until it just comes together. Don’t overmix. Add the chocolate chunks and mix for 5 seconds more. It will look lumpy and messy.

On a very well floured counter, pat out dough into a 6-inch round. Cut into wedges (6-8) and transfer to baking sheet at least two inches apart. Whisk remaining egg in a small dish with 1 teaspoon of water and a pinch of salt. Brush each scone with egg wash and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar.

Bake scones until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack.

Perfect with your morning coffee. Store in air-tight container at room temperature. They’ll taste good for 3 days or so.

Enjoy, friends!
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Focaccia with balsamic onions and rosemary

A couple big differences exist between this homemade focaccia and the focaccia you buy at the store. Whereas those I’ve purchased are thick, spongy and oily, this homemade recipe yields a thinner bread with a crunchy crust. It still tastes delicious, but it is definitely different than I was expecting.

I’ve made this recipe before, and this time, I added onions caramelized with balsamic vinegar and fresh rosemary. Very tasty, especially when dipped in garlic-infused olive oil and more balsamic vinegar.

Focaccia with balsamic onions and rosemary

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages active dry yeast ( 5 tsp)
  • 1 3/4 c. warm water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 c. EVOO
  • 5 c. flour, plus more for kneading
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 2 T EVOO
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • balsamic vinegar

Dissolve yeast in warm water, whisk in sugar and let stand until foamy, approx. 5 min. Pour into large mixing bowl and add 1/2 c. olive oil, flour and kosher salt. Mix at low speed with dough hook (or wooden spoon) until dough is smooth and elastic, 7 min.

Turn dough out on floured board and knead for another 5 min., adding flour to keep it from sticking. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Put in warm place to rise – it should double in size (I put mine by the fire). If you are making this ahead, punch it down after it rises and place in fridge. Bring to room temperature before shaping.

Pour remaining 1/4 c. olive oil on half-sheet pan. Turn dough into pan and press evenly to all sides. Cover the pan loosely with a dry kitchen towel and let rise again in warm spot, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, thinly slice 2 yellow onions and add to hot frying pan with olive oil, over medium heat. Saute until dark brown and caramelized, about 12 min. Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic and 1 T fresh chopped rosemary. Add 1-2 T balsamic vinegar and stir until everything is thick and caramelized. Season with salt.

Preheat oven to 450.

Sprinkle onion mixture over dough and dimple the surface with your fingers. Sprinkle sea salt over the top.

Bake until golden brown, 20-30 min. Transfer to wire rack and let cool in the pan. Cut into squares and serve warm. For a soft bread every time, microwave leftover slices for 20 seconds.

For anyone who is interested in a great baking book that has beautiful pictures and instructions, here is the book I’ve been using, and loving, “Essentials of Baking” from Williams-Sonoma:

Enjoy the weekend, friends! Do you have your Superbowl menu planned? I know I do…xoxo

How to bake bread

I baked bread! I baked bread!

To appreciate this fact, you have to appreciate that I have avoided baking bread for ever. It was sort of like how I used to insist on buying $4 lattes every morning instead of getting a coffee maker: I finally took the plunge and wondered what I had been thinking.

Same with bread. It’s daunting to bake. You have to deal with something alive. Something called yeast, which is apparently a finicky little bitch – don’t get it too hot, don’t get it too cold, feed it sugar, let it rise on its own schedule, etc.

Martha metaphorically held my hand through this process with a simple white sandwich bread recipe in her recent Valentine’s Day issue (recipe to come).

The recipe had all of six ingredients, I figured it would be a cinch to make. It also cost me less than a dollar.

After mixing the flour, yeast, water, salt and honey together, I kneaded it for five minutes of tactile heaven. Then, it rose and I punched it down, put it in these buttered bread pans and it rose again. I dusted one loaf with flour, for a rustic look, and brushed the other with melted butter.

It has risen...

It only baked for 25 minutes in my stupid oven, but all was well:

Jesse couldn’t wait until it cooled before slicing a piece. They came out with a nice, thin crust and a light, airy bread within. I cannot wait to make myself a PB sammie with Skippy’s creamy peanut butter!

Classic white bread —

2 envelopes dry yeast (1 T plus 1 1/2 tsp)

2 1/4 c. warm water (110 degrees)

3 T plus 2 tsp honey

4 T unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing

7 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 T coarse salt

Sprinkle yeast over 1/2 c. water. Add 2 tsp honey and whisk to dissolve yeast. Let stand until foamy, at least 5 min. (there will be a sizeable “head” of foam in the bowl, like an inch high). Transfer to bowl of a mixer with hook attachment. Add butter and remaining water and honey.

In a separate bowl, whisk flour with salt. Add 3 c. to the yeast and mix on slow until mostly smooth. Add remaining flour, 1 c. at a time, mixing until dough comes away from the sides. Butter a large bowl.

Knead dough on floured surface for five min. It will be smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and place in buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in warm place for at least 1 hour, or until it doubles in size.

Butter two rectangle bread pans. Punch down dough, then divide it in half. Fold the long sides to the middle, pinching to seal, so you have one nice, smooth side. Place dough in pans with smooth side up. Brush each loaf with butter or sprinkle with flour.

Preheat oven to 450. Loosely cover doughs with plastic wrap and set on TOP of oven to rise again, at least another hour. The dough should rise an inch above the pan edge. Reduce oven temp. to 400 and put loaves in. Bake, rotating after 25 minutes, until tops are golden, 45 min (or less!). Transfer to wire racks, cool slightly, then remove from pans. Let cool completely, slice and enjoy!

Simple olive-oil cake

IMG_4059

When I first heard that such a thing as olive-oil cake existed, my reaction was, “Huh.” It sounded slightly interesting, but not enough for me to start combing the Interwebs for recipes.

Then I read “Julie/Julia” and I promised myself that I would cook my way through my Bon Appetit magazine, which has Julia Child-esque difficulty levels, but with a healthier and non-French bend. The point is to cook things you wouldn’t normally bother with. So I made this cake, which Bon Appetit modeled after a treat served at some cafe in Manhattan.

The men in my house exclaimed that they loved it. I thought it was okay, definitely a tasty snack or breakfast nibble. It actually reminds me of something related to banana or cucumber bread, but maybe that’s just because I cooked it in a loaf pan? It’s a little more dense than your typical cake, and the orange zest gives it a nice aroma. The olive oil adds a little something that you can’t put your finger on. It also colors the cake a pretty yellow.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c. flour

1 c. sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp kosher salt

2 large eggs

3/4 c whole milk

1/2 c olive oil

2 tsp orange zest

Preheat oven to 325. Oil and flour a 9-inch loaf pan. Whisk first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.

In another bowl, whisk eggs, milk, olive oil and orange zest to blend. Gradually whisk this into the flour mixture. Scrape into your loaf pan.

Bake about 60-65 minutes (mine took less) or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan, on rack, for 20 minutes, then cool completely on rack.

This would do well with a little orange or lemon chutney. Or even some whipped cream. Enjoy, friends!

Baker’s delight

I’ve been craving baked goods lately.

When we came back from Fourth of July at my folks’ place, I had three bananas that were over-ripe. You know what that means…

I baked up this moist, sweet banana bread. I just love the smell of it wafting throughout my house! This was my breakfast and snack for three days straight (not to mention all the thick slices that you-know-who took).

A warm fall smell in the middle of summer.

A warm fall smell in the middle of summer.

I can’t wait to make it again. But in the mean time, I have a zucchini in the fridge that isn’t going anywhere…