Monday, April 29, 2013

How to make good scones: Whole wheat scones from King Arthur Flour

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Whole wheat scones with the mix-ins I happened to have on hand: dried figs, pistachios, chocolate chips

Thanks to King Arthur Flour, I can now make scones I'm actually willing to eat.

Until last week I never understood why people like scones. Scones are tough. Crumbly. So dry they're hard to get down, even when they're slathered with butter or jam.

Aren't they?

Turns out I'd never had a good scone.

Well, now I have. Thanks to the wonderful baking instructors at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center in Norwich, Vermont, I even know how to make good scones. And I'm going to do my best to teach you.

There are a few secrets to making light, moist scones:

1. Use the right amount of flour. If you weigh your ingredients for baking, you're okay here. But those of us who measure flour by volume usually end up adding too much flour (guilty!). A cup of flour should weigh 4.25 ounces. If you don't have a scale, use the fluff-sprinkle-level method demonstrated in the video below.

2. Keep the butter cold. I like rubbing in the butter with my fingers, but I have hot hands (all the time). You want the butter to stay cold when you cut it into the dry ingredients so it creates little pockets of steam as it bakes, keeping the scones light. Use a pastry blender, two knives, or quick bursts in a food processor. If you like flaky scones, stop when the biggest pieces of butter are the size of large peas. If you prefer cake-like scones, keep cutting in the butter until the dry ingredients look like wet sand.

3. Don't work the dough too much. Add your liquid, mix briefly, turn the dough out onto your work surface when it's shaggy and rough, then pat it quickly into a round with your hands. It will not look smooth. That's fine.

With these tips, I've now produced three batches of light, flaky, whole wheat scones, all made with King Arthur's white whole wheat flour. A whole-grain flour made from hard white spring wheat, it's lighter in color and more finely milled than traditional whole wheat flour, and it's my favorite flour for whole-grain baking.

The add-ins are up to you. At King Arthur I added dried apricots, crystallized ginger and chocolate chips. The batch pictured above has dried Calimyrna figs (rehydrated with a little Meyer lemon juice and zest), pistachios, and dark chocolate chips, because that's what I had in the pantry. You can use fresh fruit, but you'll want to cut down on the buttermilk a little to account for the extra moisture.

With these tips and the recipe below, you'll be able to make great scones too. What do you like in your scones? Leave a comment and share your favorite scone add-ins!

Note: I attended the 2013 King Arthur Flour Blog & Bake at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center as a very grateful guest of King Arthur Flour.

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Whole wheat scones from King Arthur Flour
Measure your flour carefully and use a light touch to turn out perfectly flaky scones every time.
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) King Arthur unbleached white whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tablespoons (7/8 ounce) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (cut to 1/8 teaspoon if using salted butter)
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces, 1 stick) butter, chilled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried fruits, nuts, chips (use any combination you like)
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) buttermilk
  • 1 egg, separated
  • approximately 2 teaspoons coarse sugar (raw or white)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (if using) in a large bowl.Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives, then stir in the dried fruit and/or other additions.Whisk together the buttermilk and egg yolk and stir into the dry mixture until a soft dough forms. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly for just a few turns. Pat the dough into a flat disk about 7 inches across and cut it into wedges.Transfer the disk to a parchment-lined baking sheet. For crispier scones, separate the wedges; for softer, higher-rising scones, leave them in the circle.Brush the tops of the scones with beaten egg white and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake the scones for 18-25 minutes, until they're light golden brown. Do not overbake.Cool the scones on the baking sheet on a rack. Eat within one day for best results (scones go stale fast).
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 large scones

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with Craisins

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The secret to soft, chewy oatmeal cookies loaded with chocolate chips and tangy Craisins: Conquering my fear of raw cookie dough

It took me 46 years to learn how to make soft, chewy oatmeal cookies.

Hi, I'm Erika, and I'm an overbaker.

Until this week, I've always overbaked my oatmeal cookies. Chocolate chip cookies, too. Any cookie that was supposed to be soft and chewy cooled down crisp. Always a disappointment.

I know why it happens. I know I'm not supposed to wait until I see brown around the edges. But somehow (probably something to do with my fear of raw eggs) they never felt done until I did.

This week I was craving soft, chewy oatmeal cookies. So I forced myself out of my comfort zone. I pulled the cookies before the edges colored at all, despite the fact that inside my head I was screaming "NO! THOSE ARE RAW! RAW COOKIES! YUCK YUCK YUCK!"

And once they cooled they were perfect. So there, voice in my head.

You all must think I'm pretty silly, right?

This is one of the simplest cookie recipes ever. I used Craisins because I happened to be out of raisins, but either will do. Dried sour cherries would also be great.

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Chewy oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips and Craisins
These old-fashioned oatmeal cookies are loaded with dark chocolate chips and tangy Craisins. The secret to a chewy cookie: Be brave and pull them out of the oven when they still look raw.
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup Craisins (substitute raisins or dried sour cherries)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats.In a small saucepan, melt the butter.While the butter is melting, add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, water, egg, and vanilla to a stand mixer. (Alternatively, use a large bowl and a hand-held mixer.) Mix until all ingredients are well combined, then add the melted butter and mix again until combined. Add the oats, flour, baking soda, and salt and mix again until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Add the chocolate chips and Craisins and mix briefly just to combine.Drop clumps of the cookie batter at least 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake 11-12 minutes and not one second longer; do not let the cookies brown. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and use a spatula to transfer the cookies carefully to a rack to cool. Let cool (at least most of the way) before eating.Note: You can mix the batter ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator up to 2 days before baking. The cookies will be just as good, although they won't spread as much during baking.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: about 24 cookies

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chocolate caramel matzoh crunch, aka Stuff From Hell

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Passover has come and gone, but I bet a few of you have leftover matzoh sitting around.

Chocolate caramel matzoh crunch is a really good way to use leftover matzoh. Possibly the best way. There's only so much matzoh brei a girl can take.

This recipe was inspired by the amazing cooks at The Kinhaven Music School in Weston, Vermont. I went there as a teenager and Emery has attended the junior session for the past three summers. Good music, good friends, and very good food - including Stuff from Hell.

I don't remember eating Stuff from Hell as a Kinhaven student, but Emery raves about it. Chocolate, caramel and crunch - what's not to like? During the summer they make it with saltine crackers, but matzoh worked very well.

I prefer homemade caramel sauce, but feel free to use caramel sauce from a jar. The caramel doesn't quite set in the freezer, but that's part of the charm.

P.S. I don't know why they call it Stuff from Hell.

P.P.S. Did you wonder about the fact that Kinhaven is in the town of Weston, Vermont and I have a son named Weston ? It's no coincidence.

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Chocolate caramel matzoh crunch, or Stuff from Hell
Make this sinfully sweet chocolate caramel dessert treat during Passover or after the holiday to use up leftover matzoh.
  • 4-5 sheets unsalted matzoh
  • 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup caramel sauce
Line a half-sheet baking tray with parchment paper. This is going in the freezer, so if you have a side-by-side like I do, you'll need two quarter-sheet pans instead.Pour the chocolate chips into a large Pyrex mixing cup and zap them in the microwave for 1 minute. Let stand 30 seconds, stir, and zap for another minute. Stir until completely melted.Spread about half the melted chocolate on the parchment paper. Line the pan with matzoh, breaking the pieces as necessary to fit them into the pan. Spread the caramel sauce on top of the matzoh and put the tray(s) in the freezer for 1 hour. This will firm the caramel somewhat, although it will probably not freeze solid.After an hour, zap the remaining chocolate for 30 seconds to loosen it up again. Remove the tray(s) from the freezer, quickly spread the chocolate on top of the caramel, and return the tray(s) to the freezer until the chocolate on top is firm, 1 or 2 more hours.Break into pieces and serve with many napkins.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 servings