Saturday, November 28, 2009


Oh my goodness... Chocolate. Peanut butter. Pretzels. Imagine all of these ingredients together along with lots of butter and sugar? Heaven in your mouth right? Right! I'm ready to run every single day if it means I can eat these squares whenever I want.

Recently, I've been enjoying an evening snack of pretzels dipped in peanut butter and sprinkled with mini dark chocolate chips. Which got me thinking, there must be some sort of baked good that can incorporate those flavours together? I not only found one, but hit the jackpot!

This isn't a difficult recipe, there are just 3 steps to follow - the first step being the most time-consuming - and the only part that requires use of your oven. Oh - and you do have to chill the squares for at least an hour before you can cut them - so these should be made a little ahead of time... especially since once you cut them up, you probably won't stop eating them (and then fall into a diabetic coma...)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Squares

Pretzel shortbread crust
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 c) cold butter, cut into cubes
2 c. salted pretzel crumbs, very coarse (remember to measure once you crumble the pretzels)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Spray a square baking pan with some non-stick spray. Set aside.

In your food processor, pulse everything together - the pretzels shouldn't get too fine - you want to be able to tell that they are in the crust - and your butter needs to be incorporated so that the mixture forms pea sized lumps.

Pour the mixture into your baking pan and press the shortbread firmly into the base (make sure it's level). Bake for 20 minutes (golden brown). Remove from your oven and place on a cooling rack. The base needs to cool for at least 30 minutes.

Peanut Butter Pretzel Filling
18 oz jar of creamy natural peanut butter
2 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 c.) butter, melted, allow to cool just a little
1 3/4 c. salted pretzel crumbs, very fine (again, measure once you crumble the pretzels)

Start the filling by processing the salted pretzels into a very fine texture (use your food processor).

Now in the bowl of your kitchenaid mixer, combine all the ingredients using your paddle attachment. You can do this by hand too, but the mixer makes it easier considering how thick the peanut butter can get.

Place the filling on top of the pretzel crust - I dumped the peanut butter filling and then lightly moistened my hands to spread it evenly and smoothly on top of the base. Be careful, the shortbread is delicate, try not to break it while you are spreading the filling on top.

Once your two bottoms layers are in place, start on the chocolate topping.

11.5 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 c. heavy cream

Place your chocolate chips in a mixing bowl. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat up the cream. Stir it so that it doesn't burn the base of the pot, and take it off the heat just before it begins to simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips and whisk away... you want the chocolate to melt and the mixture to get shiny and smooth.

Top the peanut butter filling with the chocolate. Use a rubber spatula to spread it evenly over the base. Chill in your fridge for at least an hour (the chocolate needs to set before you can cut into it).

I got 20 generous squares out of this batch... very generous. And very delish. I promise, everyone who can eat peanuts will be loving them and you for making them!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

don't judge a scone by its colour...

I'm back to baking scones... well to be honest, I haven't stopped making them, but I did try a new recipe last night. I switched up my original lemon scone recipe and added beautiful blueberries to the batter.

Sigh. The result was But fresh, tangy and light - a perfect way to start off your day. Oh, and these smell soooooooooooo good while they're baking. Double sigh. I can't wait to make another batch. Or 6. They are that good.

Blueberry Lemon Scones
grated zest of 1 large lemon
3/4 c. brown sugar
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. (2 sticks) cold butter, grated
1 c. blueberries (fresh or frozen)
3/4 c. heavy cream
3/4 c. buttermilk
1 egg, beaten for an egg wash
large sugar, to sprinkle on top of each scone

Grate the butter and return it to your freezer to allow it to get really cold.

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.

In your stand mixer bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Add the sugar and lemon zest to the bowl and mix with your paddle attachment at a low speed (STIR)until just combined.

Add the cold butter to the dry mix and combine on your low speed for a few minutes(you're looking for pea sized clumps). At this point you can toss in your blueberries and just incorporate.

Stop mixing and make a well in the centre of your batter. Add the cream and buttermilk. Mix together (low speed) very briefly; you want everything to come together and gather on your paddle attachment.

Turn the dough out a well floured surface. You'll want to use your rolling pin to roll out the dough into a rectangle. Cut your scones into triangular shapes. I get 2 rows and 3 columns out of the batter, which I then cut into triangles.

Place your scones onto the prepared pans and then move the pans to the freezer. Allow the dough to chill for 30 minutes (this allows the butter to get really cold again in order to really puff while baking).

Remove from the freezer, add an egg wash to the scones and then sprinkle them with the large sugar. Bake in the middle rack for 30 minutes (until golden brown). Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely... although the smell might dry you crazy with anticipation!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

bliss in a bite

If you know me, you know that I like to chat with people and talk things over, share ideas, get really enthusiastic, and completely commit to an idea... I think you've noticed that I tend to be on the obsessive side of things (scones, almond butter, lemons...and just about everything else in my life too)!

Now that I've started on this Starbucks kick, well... I've become game for trying any Starbucks baked good people seem to like. So Tonya challenged me with this one... chocolate dipped coconut macaroons. I didn't make them exactly as she remembered; since Starbucks used to make a flat cookie: with one half a beautiful white and the other half a dark chocolaty brown.

My little pyramid shaped cookies turned out pretty awesome, and Tonya said that I totally kicked their butt! Whoot Whoot!

Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons
2/3 c. sweetened condensed milk
1 egg white
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
3 1/2 c. sweetened flaked coconut
10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate squares, chopped (or whole chocolate chips)

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl (no need for any electric mixers for this recipe), stir together the condensed milk, egg white, vanilla and salt until just combined. Stir in the coconut until well blended.

Once everything is blended, grab your mini scooper and drop the dough onto your prepared cookie sheets - if you want to make more cookies, spoon out about 1 tablespoonful of dough per cookie.

Moisten your fingers as needed in order to shape your macaroons into little pyramids.

Bake one cookie sheet at a time (place the other cookie sheet into the fridge to remain cool) for about 15 to 20 minutes (the tops will be golden brown).

Allow the cookies to set on the cookie sheet for about 2 minutes, then cool the macaroons completely on a wire rack (at least 30 minutes).

Once your Macaroons have cooled grab your chocolate and melt it (either in a double boiler or over low heat in a saucepan). This should take a few minutes, whisking every once and a while to ensure that the bottom doesn't burn and that the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.

Hold a macaroon by its pointed top and dip the bottom into the chocolate - allow excess chocolate to drip back into the pot. Place the macaroon back onto your cookie sheet (lined with the parchment paper). Repeat with the remaining macaroons.

Refrigerate the macaroons until the chocolate sets, about 15 minutes.

You should get about 22 little pyramids in total... each one absolutely delicious. I promise.

Monday, November 23, 2009

bang on fantastic bars!

I'm about to share THE recipe with you... and I promise it's the kind of recipe that will have you planning to bake your next batch as you finish eating the squares in front of you!

Chocolate and toffee. Together in one bar. Seriously! There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. These are the types of bars that are not just fantastic - they are gobsmacking, tummy pleasing, lip licking wonderful bars. And if you don't believe me... give them a try. I swear you'll be itching to make another batch. They're that good. (as a side note... I made two batches of these a 5 hour time frame)

Black and White Toffee Bars
1 c. + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla salt
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 c. dark chocolate chips
1 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 c. toffee candy pieces (quite small)

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Grease your 9-inch square pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.

You'll need to combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer and with your paddle attachment (or a large bowl if using an electric mixer), beat the butter, sugar and vanilla extract together - about 3 minutes at a level 4/ medium speed. You want the result to be creamy and fluffy. Once you get to that stage you'll beat in the egg.

You'll then gradually beat in the flour - lower your speed for this part to the Stir level - you want everything to just combine.

Now, you'll dump in the remaining ingredients: chocolate and white chocolate chips and toffee pieces. Grab your handy wooden spoon and stir - everything will be thick. Don't worry, this isn't a loose batter, it should feel like molasses...

Once you have distributed all the bits of goodness, spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes. These should be golden on top, it's hard to do the clean stick test... since the entire thing is made up of melted chocolate ;0) (your stick should not come out clean)

Allow the bars to cool in the pan on a wire rack. Before cutting into your desired bar shape, refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes, this will allow the chocolate to set, making it easier to cut.

I ended up with 24 bars per batch - 12 squares that I then cut into triangles.

These babies were inspired by Starbucks, but conquered by me :0)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Starbucks part deux

As I mentioned in my last blog, my Starbucks themed week included their Banana Walnut Bread... only, I didn't make a bread. I decided that these would be much better as mini bundt cakes; and added handfuls of chocolate chips to the mix (you can never go wrong with chocolate) ;0)

Feel free to make these in a loaf pan or in a large bundt pan if you don't have the mini ones. Just increase the baking time if you do use the larger pans.

Banana-walnut chocolate chip mini bundt cakes
2 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp vanilla salt
1 egg
1/2 c. + 2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Spray your mini- bundt pans (8) with non-stick spray (or grease with butter).

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt together into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In your larger bowl, mix together the egg, sugars and vegetable oil until combined (I used my electric mixer at this point). Add the flour mixture - again, using your electric mixer, adding the buttermilk, vanilla and mashed bananas until everything is incorporated.

Grab a wooden spoon and fold in the 1/2 c. chopped walnuts and chocolate chips (I added in an extra handful of chips too). I used my mini ice-cream scooper to scoop the batter into the mini bundt pans (4 scoops per pan). Top the batters with the 1/3 c. chopped walnuts.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes (45 to 50 minutes if using a loaf or large pan) - you'll want the skewer to come out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack before removing from the pans.

Aren't they so adorable? So easy to make. And again, I kicked Starbucks butt! :0)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I decided to bring Starbucks home with me...

I have to admit... when it comes to lattes, I'm a sucker for Starbucks. Every time I stand in line waiting for my grande soy latte I look at the baked goods on display and think... "I can totally do better than that!"... and so began last week's baking challenge. I decided to bake up a batch (or three) of Starbucks' classic Cranberry Bliss Bars and their Banana Walnut Bread.

I think in the end I did really well... the bars ended up with a bit of a thicker brownie crust than I would have liked - but I now know what I'll do next time... and believe me, there will be a next time. I can understand why these are such a hit in the coffee shops around the holidays - they look so festive when assembled - and taste as good as they look!

You have to be a little proactive with this recipe... the frosting calls for softened cream cheese - so be sure to take it out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature (ditto for some of the butter). And... you have to be patient... things need to cool before you can continue to assemble, but it really is worth the time and effort. I promise... after all, if I can be patient enough to do this, you can too!

Cranberry Bliss Bars

The Base
1 c. butter, melted
1 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. white sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp orange extract
2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 c. dried cranberries
3/4 c. white chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Prepare a 9x13 rectangular pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Allow the melted butter to cool slightly. In a large glass bowl and with your electric mixer, beat together the melted butter and sugars for 3 - 5 minutes until light. Gently blend in the eggs (1 at a time) and orange extract with the mixer at low speed. Add the flour, baking powder and ginger, just incorporating. Add the cranberries and chips - folding in with a wooden spoon.

Spread the batter into the pan (it'll be thick, that's ok). Bake until the skewer test comes out clean - my oven took about 45 minutes - but I started checking @ 29 minutes... since I didn't want to over bake and dry out the brownies.

Allow the brownies to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Remove them from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

While they are cooling start on your frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
3.3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
3 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp orange extract
3 tbsp half & half (or milk - whatever you have on hand)

Add your paddle attachment to your kitchenaid and blend the cream cheese and the butter until fluffy (about 3 minutes @ speed 4).

Add the orange extract and the powdered sugar and beat until you get that fluffy and spreadable frosting - adding the half & half a tbsp at a time; use your judgement in adding the liquid... it'll give you that looseness you need to create a spreadable frosting.

Spread the frosting over the cooled brownie bass.

Now for the fun... garnish these babies :0)

The Festive Garnish
1/2 c. dried cranberries, roughly chopped
zest of 1 orange
1/3 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 tsp vegetable oil

Zest your orange and roughly chop your cranberries. Sprinkle them both over the frosted base.

Mix the white chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a glass bowl over a simmering pot of water. Allow the chocolate to melt - stir as needed.

Using either a whisk or a fork, drizzle the melted chocolate over the bars. Allow the white chocolate to set for one hour before you cut them. I wanted the "traditional Starbucks triangles", so I cut the base in 3 columns and then 4 rows and then cut each of those squares in half diagonally to create the triangles.

Simply beautiful and really impressive.

Next time: I'll be using a 10x15 rectangular pan for a thinner brownie base... and I'm also going to exchange the orange extract for vanilla and swap out the orange rind for crystallized ginger... just to twist it up a little more.

Here's to the beginning of the holiday season... cheers!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

the birthday weekend...

I'd been looking forward to last weekend for quite some time... you see, Gigi and René bought their first house and Saturday evening was not only their house warming par-tay, but it was also René's birthday.

I wanted to bring them some lovin' from the oven - and it had to be something that I knew would bring huge smiles to their faces. That meant that it could only be one thing...lemon meringue pie.

This time round I made mini lemon meringue tarts for them. Although it's not a new recipe (I've already posted it), I thought you'd enjoy at least looking at some pictures - some blind baking of the crusts, filling them with lemon curd and then baking the meringue... oh, and obviously of course pictures of the new home-owners (and birthday boy).

Bonne fête René! And congratulations guys... I heart your home (and the two of you).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

have i mentioned i'm lovin' scones?

I wish I could update this blog with a recipe that has nothing to do with scones... and yet, I can't. You see - the obsession hasn't diminished. If anything, it's gotten worse.

I'm also still obsessed with lemons. So why not make a combo - a light, fluffy, wonderfully tart batch of lemon scones. Easy to make, so few ingredients and so wonderful to eat; the tartness of the lemon with the sweetness of some sugar sprinkled on top of the batter - an absolute winner in my books.

Lemon scones
adapted from: the cheese board collective works
grated zest of 1 large lemon
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 c. + 1/4 c. white sugar
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into cubes
3/4 c. half & half
3/4 c. buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.

Zest the lemon over the 3/4 c. of sugar and set aside.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together into your stand-mixer bowl. Add the sugar/lemon mixture to the bowl and mix with your paddle attachment at a low speed (STIR)until just combined. Add the butter and cut it into the flour on low speed for about 4 minutes (you're looking for pea sized clumps).

Stop mixing and make a well in the centre of your mixture. Add the cream, buttermilk and lemon juice. Mix together (low speed) very briefly; you want everything to come together and gather a little on your paddle attachment.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. You'll want to use your rolling pin to roll out the dough into a rectangle. Cut your scones into triangular shapes. Place your scones onto the prepared pans and then move the pans to the freezer. Allow the dough to chill for 30 minutes (allowing the butter to get really cold in order to really puff while baking).
Remove from the freezer and sprinkle the scones with the remaining 1/4 c. of sugar. Bake in the middle rack for 25 to 30 minutes (golden brown). Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely - or grab one and eat it (that's exactly what I did... and boy, was it good).

You should make these just so that you're kitchen is filled with the smell of lemons and warm dough... and then you can fill your tummy with them as well!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

the sweet smell of vanilla

Guess what?! I have orders!!!! In the last week I've baked dozens of scones; jalapeño-extra old cheddar, double cheddar-parmesan, cranberry-corn, lemon, white chocolate and raspberry, and finally vanilla bean.

As one request would come in (thank you Zarah for getting the ball rolling) other flavour inspirations would come up... until finally I was baking late into the night (and very early morning).

As part of my brainstorming for flavour ideas, I mentioned vanilla bean scones to Tonya and her face positively lit up; she placed her order immediately. I googled several recipes in an attempt to find the perfect one... with that much excitement I didn't want to disappoint my friend.

From these recipes, I ended up tweaking a couple and merging them together. I was so excited to try this recipe: I couldn't wait to cut into that vanilla pod and scrape out all those seeds. Add to that some pure vanilla extract and I ended up with a sweet smelling treat in my kitchen.

I've learnt the real secret to baking scones. Place the shaped, uncooked batter in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before baking them. This allows the butter to get really cold and then the scone puffs up as it bakes. It made all the difference, taking my scones to a whole new level.

Vanilla Bean Scones
2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. white sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 vanilla pod, cut length-wise and seeds scraped out
1/2 c. (1 stick) COLD butter, cut into small cubes
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 c. buttermilk
1 egg with 1 tsp water, beaten
extra sugar, to sprinkle on top of unbaked scones

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer combine the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, and vanilla seeds together. Mix to combine with your paddle attachment.

Add the cold butter and start working the butter into the flour at the STIR speed on your mixer (low speed). You just want it to incorporate - so this should take about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the 2 eggs, buttermilk and vanilla extract together in a small bowl. Whisk everything up (so that the eggs are beaten).

Stop the mixer and make a well in the middle of the batter. Pour the wet mixture into the hole and combine (low speed) until everything just comes together... there will be a bit of flour on the bottom of the bowl, that's ok.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Carefully knead it until it comes together (see photo above of the dough before I cut and shaped it). You want to roll out the dough into a large square (don't roll it too thin). From there you can cut out triangles. I was able to get 12 scones out of my batter - but next time I make them I'm going to make mini-ones. So I imagine I would be able to get at least 24 - if not more...I'll let you know how those turn out.

Place on your cookie sheets and set in your freezer for 30 minutes. Trust me - this makes a difference (see how flat my pre-baked scones are compared to the final product in the pictures above).

Remove from the freezer, brush with the egg wash and then sprinkle some sugar on top of these babies.

Bake for 20 minutes - increasing the time if you need to (mine took 20 minutes, but my oven is totally unpredictable).
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. These will store in an airtight container well... but they are too good to keep too long!

This recipe was a winner... and if anyone says "plain vanilla" you can offer them one of these... there is nothing plain about these babies!

just some pictures...

Oh Cannon G10, how I love thee (insert sigh). I love that you can make even my pictures look good. I love that you were made to take pictures of the baked goods I so enjoy making. And I love that I got you on sale.

Here are some pictures from the latest batch of jalapeño-extra old cheddar scones I made (3 dozen in the last week... all sold too!).

Perhaps these pictures will make you want to get out your ingredients and start baking. If not, give me a call. I deliver :0)

Monday, November 2, 2009

bread that really schmecks!

Deb lent me Food that Really Schmecks by Edna Staebler last February. She promised that not only did it have the best bread recipe (in her own words "no fail each and every time") but it would read like a novel; or I'd feel like I was chatting with Edna while enjoying one of the delightful goodies she writes about.

Deb isn't a liar. She was right; the bread recipe hasn't failed me. The book reads like I'm visiting my grandmother and we're sharing a pot of tea and devouring cookies, pies, cakes or warm loaves of bread (or all of the above).

Why schmecks? Well, Edna compiled recipes from the Kitchener/Waterloo (Ontario) Mennonite community. Everything that's in it is tried, tested and no fail; after all, (as I learnt reading this) Mennonites love their food and don't have time to waste. I have re-read it several times; bookmarking pages along the way.

I like to think that this blog is really an Edna entry - since it's thanks to her book that I am able to pass it along :0) (thank you Deb for introducing me to her and her recipes)

This batch makes 3 loaves: I turned one into a raisin bread with a cinnamon, allspice, and brown sugar topping. The second one into a plain white loaf (my father and step-mother have been enjoying that one with me) and the last one into a cornmeal crusted loaf.

I hope you enjoy eating this as much as I enjoyed baking it and eating it... after all, it's bread that really schmecks!

Neil's Harbour White Bread
1 c. lukewarm water
1 tsp white sugar
2 tbsp yeast granules (or 2 packets)
2 c. lukewarm water
1/2 c. white sugar (I used brown sugar instead)
1 heaping tbsp salt
1/2 c. vegetable oil (I only used 7 tbsp)
about 9 c. of all-purpose flour (I only needed 8 1/2 c.)

Warm up your stand-mixer bowl (warm water in it, then dump out the warm water) and pour the 1 c. lukewarm water, the tsp of sugar and sprinkle the yeast in order for it to dissolve.

Let stand for 10 minutes. I cleaned out my fridge while I waited :0)

Once your yeast has risen to the surface of the water, stir it all until it's well blended (and ensuring that the yeast is all dissolved).

Into the mixture you will stir in:(use your dough hook attachment and the STIR speed) the remaining water, the brown sugar, salt, oil and 3 cups of flour.

Increase the speed to level 2 and add more flour, by the 1/2 cup. The dough will start to gather on the hook and you'll know it's ready when it gets that elastic texture - super glossy as well (the flour will pull away from the sides and all gather together).

I got to about 8 1/2 cups of flour and got the texture that I needed. Turn the dough over onto a floured surface and knead it with your hands for a minute. Put about 1 tbsp of vegetable oil into a glass bowl, greasing the bottom and sides and then placing the ball of dough into the bowl. Make sure that you coat the dough with the oil (move it around). Cover with a damp dish towel and set in a draft-free place for at least an hour (I always put mine in the oven) so that it can double in size.

Once it's doubled in size, punch out the air, take it out of the bowl and divide it into 3 equal sizes. This is when I added about a cup of raisins to my raisin loaf - kneading the raisins into the dough before shaping it.

Shape your bread into your shape of choice - loaf or round, or like me - keep them pretty rustic looking.

Place on a cookie sheet (2 loaves on 1 pan and 1 on the other) and cover with a damp cloth again. Allow to rest another 40 minutes in a warm spot - or cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest overnight in the fridge.

When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400 F. Take out the dough, remove the dish towels and make an egg wash; beaten egg with a bit of water. I made my brown sugar mix - 2 tbsp of brown sugar, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1.5 tsp allspice mixed together.

Brush the egg wash on all 3 loaves. Cover the raisin loaf with the sugar/spice mixture. I covered another loaf with finely ground yellow cornmeal and left the 3rd loaf plain.

With a sharp knife, cut some "steam vents" into the tops of the bread.

Bake for about 20 - 30 minutes. You'll know that they are ready when the tops are golden brown and if the bread sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom.

Allow to cool. Or be like me, and cut right into it. I heart this bread. I heart food that really schmecks.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

don't call me cheesey...but you sure can call my scones that!

I have become obsessed (yet again, and with yet another thing). This time, the object of my obsession is scones. Last week alone I made 4 dozen scones - and sold almost all of them! It all started with a simple request from Zarah. She wanted to know if I could make her some jalapeño-cheddar scones... I had never made them, but figured I could try. As you can tell from the picture, the end result was pretty awesome... they smelt great and tasted even better. I think I've found my calling - I'm going to become a scone queen :0)

I used my stand-mixer since I have one, but obviously scones can be made even if you don't have one. The secret to them is not to over work the batter (just like your pastry dough) and to use COLD butter. And cream. If you want a flakey, moist and delicious scone - pull out the heavy cream and just enjoy!

Oh, and be careful when handling those jalapeño - don't de-seed them, so don't touch anything you don't want burning ;0)

jalapeño-extra old cheddar scones
3 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp finely ground yellow cornmeal
3 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) COLD butter, cut into cubes
1/2 lb (300 g) of COLD extra-old cheddar (I prefer using white), cut into cubes
1/2 c. heavy (35%) cream
1 c. buttermilk
1 egg beaten (with 1 tsp of water)
extra cornmeal

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Dust your cookie sheets with some of the cornmeal (spread it all around) and set aside.

In a small pan over medium-high heat, melt the 1 tbsp of room temperature butter and sauté the chopped jalapeño peppers. You want them to soften, so cook them for about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, sift the flour, b. soda and powder, salt and cornmeal together. Use your paddle attachment to stir the ingredients together (level STIR on your machine). Once combined, slowly cut in the cubes of butter (low speed); until they resemble the size of small peas, about 4 minutes. With the mixer still running add the cheddar cheese and the jalapeño peppers and mix them in.

Make a well in the centre of the dry batter and add the cream and buttermilk. Slowly mix until everything just comes together (I would say less than a minute at the STIR speed). You want everything to have pretty much gathered on the paddle but still have a bit of flour sitting at the bottom of the bowl. Your cheese will still be in chunks and your batter will be pretty wet.

Turn your dough out onto a floured counter top. Gently work the dough - I personally worked it into a log and cut out my scones from that shape. Place the scones onto the cookie sheets (on top of the cornmeal)- about 2 inches apart (allow room for them to spread) and lightly brush both the top and bottom with the egg wash.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 - 35 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to your wire racks to cool. Store in a well-sealed Tupperware in order to keep them as fresh as possible - if they even last that long. I promise you, just the smell of these scones will have you counting down to when you can devour them!

You should get at least a dozen scones... perhaps even 13.

*If you only need half the recipe; just freeze half the batter - follow all the steps until you get to the point were you will brush them with egg wash. Place them (already cut) on a clean cookie sheet. Put the cookie sheet in the freezer and allow the batter to completely freeze. Then remove from the freezer, put all the frozen scones into either a Ziploc bag or a Tupperware and return to the freezer. Bake as desired (thaw the batter and then put cornmeal on the cookie sheet and brush the scones with egg wash).