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An English Tea Deserves Scones

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Now that LAUSD is out of session– yay summer– and I have a fairly regular working schedule that’s keeping me busy, yet open enough to do anything and everything in the mornings and afternoons, I decided instead of eating a very late lunch (after 3pm), I’d instead have a decent tea to hold me over till dinner.

I know 3 pm is also too late for a “traditional” tea, but I’m at work during the regular hours. An hour late won’t hurt, right? I love tea, I love clotted cream, jam, cookies and scones so why not? Firstly, I need scones. The ones in this post were a little dry, partly because of the oven temperature, however, the second batch was a lot better. Below is the adjusted temperature for the lovely muffins. Note that I also subbed in orange zest for lemon, and omitted the use of the glaze. I really don’t need it in presence of syrup and clotted cream. That’s enough calories for me, thank you.

Strictly Based on The Messy Baker scones.

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Blueberry Orange Scones

  • 2½ cups white whole wheat flour
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tbs. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 1¼ cups fat-free buttermilk
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries (do not thaw frozen blueberries)
For the Glaze- I omitted
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 3½ tbs. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles very coarse sand (the mixture will still be a bit dry).

photo 1

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, Greek yogurt, egg, vanilla extract, and lemon zest.
Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture. Gently fold in the blueberries. Scoop the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet using a large ice cream scoop.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top of the scones are golden brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Drizzle the glaze onto the slightly warm scones or slice open and serve with clotted cream, jam, and or syrup or honey.

photo 3
Glaze
In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and lemon zest. Slowly whisk in the lemon juice until smooth.

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The Chewiest Cookies and Some Good Readings

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 Considering that I have this week (and the next two weeks) off, I decided to start it right, by making some lovely chocolate chip cookies on Friday. Although I’ve made plenty of chocolate chip cookies, I could never get the Chips-Ahoy chewiness. As you can imagine, it’s been a very frustrating adventure with cookies.

Until this recipe came along. I’m almost 100% positive that the reason that it’s so chewy and lovely is due to the corn starch. THE SECRET INGREDIENT!

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Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed (I use light)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup bread flour (all-purpose flour may be substituted and used exclusively in place of bread flour)

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste

12 ounces  semi-sweet chocolate chips

To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on low speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, about 3 minutes.

Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the egg, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flours (solely using all-purpose flour will work, but the cookies will not be as chewy), corn starch, baking soda, salt, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.

Add the chocolate chips and chunks, and either fold in by hand or beat for a few seconds on low speed. Transfer dough to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to 5 days (although chilling the dough is theoretically not necessary; in reality cookies spread less with chilled dough).

Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with a non-stick baking mat, parchment, or spray with cooking spray. Using a 2-ounce cookie scoop, form heaping mounds weighing 2 1/4-ounces each (weighed on a scale, which is approximately a scant 1/4-cup measure) and place them on the baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart; I bake 8 cookies per sheet.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges, even if slightly undercooked in the center, noting the tops will not be browned and will be pale. Do not cook longer than ten minutes as cookies will darken and firm up as they cool (The cookies shown in the photos were baked for 9 minutes and have chewy edges with soft pillowy centers).

Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a rack to finish cooling.

Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Alternatively, unbaked cookie dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.

Now that you’ve got some cookies to eat, you need some books to read while enjoying them.

The Night Circus  is one of those books  that everyone is telling you about. Telling you to read it, to make sure you tell them you’re reading it, when you finish it, and to have coffee to discuss it. Seriously, this how I was introduced to the book, from four different people.

In any case, I can say that they were not wrong. This novel is wonderful! The only word that I can think to say about it is CHARMING. Although, if I try to explain specifics about why I love it, it might give too much away; and yes, any detail can be a ruinous moment with this lovely treasure.

It’s more than a description of a game, or a love story. It’s sort of Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes  with Water For Elephants mixed in, along with some fantastical bedazzlement.

Enough said.

I’ve read this book twice. First, when I got to page 76, and I had to get ready for… life, and I didn’t it pick it up till recently. The second time I read it, I devoted at least two hours a day to it, either at work or before bed, until I was sure I was so hooked I’d carry it with me everywhere.

I can only say that while I love all of Neil Gaiman’s stories, this one was sort of close to the heart. Although it was about an ex-convict (and his unfortunately short-lived marriage) and gods, both old and new, the stories of the gods, how they interact, what their motivations are for moving from location to location, and the general nature of stories, myths, figures, creatures, and gods of every region was very– human.

This story was one that I enjoyed the most, simply because the action kept coming and the protagonist refused to give up (as is the usual case), and in the end he received minimal answers for his efforts, a lot of grief and pain, and a little bit of peace of mind.

Peace of mind was something that I desperately needed when reading this gem.

I recommend it tenfold.

Hazelnut Biscotti

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As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m a bit obsessed with biscotti. They’re a pretty great cookie, really. Nothing more lovelier, even on a 100 degree So. Cal. summer day than some hot tea (or coffee) and biscotti to chew on. Since my first biscotti was so successful, I’ve decided to go ahead and make another one.

I’m sure I’ll be making my own biscotti for years to come.

This recipe was easier when I omitted servicing the nuts. Simply because I don’t mind a bit of roughage which the skins provide, and I enjoyed that slight bitter edge it gave the biscotti, contrasting nicely between the sweetness of my teas. Overall, two thumbs up!

 

Taken from Homemade and Wholesome’s TWD post

  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2/3 cup unblanched (raw) hazelnuts

*I skipped this step, my nuts weren’t skinned, and were totally fine.

  • 1  2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons hazelnut liqueur, such as Frangelico, or brandy
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.

Preparing the Nuts– To skin the hazelnuts, bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan, add the baking soda and the nuts, and boil for 3-5 minutes, until the water turns black. To test if the skins have loosened sufficiently, drop a nut into a bowl of cold water and rub lightly against the skin- if the skin just slides off, the nuts are ready to go. Turn the nuts into a colander and run cold water over them. Slip off the skins, toss the nuts onto a towel, pat dry, and transfer to a jelly-roll pan.

Place the pan in the oven and toast the nuts, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until evenly browned. The best way to test for total toastiness is to bite into a nut- it should be brown to the center. Remove the nuts from the oven and cool. Lower the oven temperature to 300F.

When the nuts are cool enough to handle, coarsely chop them and set them aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and reserve until needed.

Making the Dough– Put the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk just to blend. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, liqueur, vanilla and sugar. Add the dry ingredients to the liquid and stir with a wooden spoon to mix. Add the nuts and continue to mix, just until well incorporated. (Since the dough is stiff, sticky, and hard to stir, you might find it easier just to reach in and mix it with your hands.)

Flour your hands and lift half of the dough onto one side of the parchment-lined baking sheet. Pat and squeeze the dough into a chubby log 12 to 13 inches long. Don’t worry about being neat or smoothing the dough- it will even out as much as it needs to in the oven. Repeat with the other half of the dough, leaving about 3 inches between the logs.

I decided to only use one log simply because I was lazy and I like biscotti that’s wide and thin.

First Baking– Bake the logs for exactly 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes. At this point, the logs can remain on the pan overnight, if that’s more convenient for you.

Second Baking– Using a serrated knife, cut the logs into 1/2 inch thick slices, cutting straight across or diagonally. (You can make the biscotti thinner or thicker, as you wish, and adjust the baking time accordingly.) Lay the biscotti on their sides on a cooling rack- you may need to use a second rack- the place the cooling rack in the 300F oven, directly on an oven rack. (Baking the biscotti like this allows the oven’s heat to circulate around the cookies, so there’s no need to turn them over.) The cookies may need to bake for as long as 15 minutes, but it’s a good idea to start checking them after about 10 minutes. When the biscotti are golden brown, dry and crisp, remove the cooling racks from the oven. Let the cookies cool to room temperature before packing them for storage.

Tea Party Part III: Butter Sugar Cookies in Festive Coating

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Going off of my Tea Party theme I seem to have adopted for the month of July, I decided to make something that goes so perfectly with tea, dare I say better than Biscotti, I’m surprised it took me almost a week to figure out what I was missing out on!

What I’m babbling on about is of course, sugar butter cookies. Almost like the Danish cookies you get for Christmas and devour, more or less, within the week, these cookies are amazingly soft but have great bite. Perfect for dunking, dipping and doing what you must to a cookie and a cup of tea.

I’ve got to admit that I have a bit of a phobia when it comes to making cookies like these, for no other reason than that I have to roll and cut them out, and having limited counter space, all the extra work of cleaning and prepping and cleaning and putting away is too daunting. Thank goodness I was in a cookie mood, no matter the extra chores.

taken from Life’s a Feast

For the cookies:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tbs Amaretto, optional
  • ½ tsp vanilla – increase to 1 tsp if omitting the Amaretto
  • 3 ½ cups  flour

To decorate:

  • 1 lightly beaten egg
  • Colored sugar crystals, sprinkles/jimmies or sugared flower petal nibs

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and the sugar until light and fluffy (I felt like being completely domestic and wearing an apron, I’m quite proud to say I creamed the butter with sugar by hand).

Add the eggs one at a time, beating briefly after each addition just to incorporate.

Beat in the Amaretto and vanilla and then about a third of the flour until smooth. Gradually beat in as much of the remaining flour as possible using the electric beater, then stir in the rest with a wooden spoon or a spatula.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead quickly; if you haven’t stirred in all of the flour you can knead in the rest quite easily. Once you have a smooth, homogeneous dough, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Working with about half the dough at a time, roll it out to a thickness of not less than 1/8-inch , being careful that the dough is very evenly rolled out.

Carefully cut out shapes with your cookie cutters. Gently transfer to a cookie sheet. If you want to decorate, just gently lift the cookies one by one, brush around the edges with a beaten egg, then dip in the decorative sugar before placing on the cookie sheets.

Bake for about 10 minutes. They will be set and appear cooked but they will NOT brown (I’m bolding this for  a reason: they won’t brown, seriously, don’t even attempt it or they will be dry crackers).  You’ll know they are done because they will slide right off the cookie sheet when just nudged with a spatula.

Remove from the oven and gently lift each cookie off of the baking sheet and place on a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before enjoying.

Tea Party II: Honey Pistachio Orange Cake on Thursday

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I got this recipe from Baked Bree. I’ve never made a simple cake like this before. The closest I’ve ever come would be coffee cakes, or tarts. In any case, as this was my first go I didn’t alter it at all, however, I think I added a bit more pistachios than necessary, but that’s never a bad thing.

Next time I think I’ll be adding orange juice into the batter, with some cranberries, or some other dried fruits. Anything would be great, which is why the versatility of this cake was as alluring as the promise of honey and pistachio goodness.

I would also recommend you try this with all-purpose gluten free flour from King Arthur as it’s only got 1 cup of flour in it. It shouldn’t change the recipe at all, not the flavor or texture. The cornmeal is gf as well as the rest of the ingredients. So it’s a winner no matter what your dietary needs!

For the cake:

  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup honey, separated into 1/2 and 1/4 cups respectively
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, ground (I chopped mine up to add some more texture, and I added double the amount of pistachios)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • orange zest (about half an orange)
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used vanilla almond milk, it was all I had and it turned out just lovely)
  • 2 Tablespoons orange juice (to go with the 1/4 cup honey for a glaze)

**For the cream (optinal):

  • 1/2 cup cream cheese or mascarpone (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 pint berries (raspberries or strawberries)

Cream together butter and 1/2 cup honey until light and fluffy. While the butter is creaming, combine flour, cornmeal, pistachios, baking powder, and salt. Add the eggs one at a time, and add the orange zest. Add most of the flour mixture to the bowl. Add the milk, and then add the rest of the flour.

Pour the batter into a 9-inch cake pan sprayed with cooking spray. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

For the glaze: melt together the remaining 1/4 cup honey and orange juice over low heat. Using a toothpick, poke holes in the cake while the cake is still warm, and brush the honey mixture over the cake.

**To make the cream, beat the mascarpone or cream cheese for 30 seconds. Add the cream and honey. (I added a little more orange zest, I can’t resist zest.) Whip until soft peaks form.

Dreaming of Summer

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Here in Southern California summer lasts for a good 5 months; starting at about May and going all the way to October some years. Considering that, I have at least two more months of lovely summer fun left to get all of my sunny fun needs done. I know in summer there are a lot of wishlists, to-do lists, and pretty much every other form of lists people can manage to make. It’s the good weather that gets people going in a productive way, I suppose.

I thought I’d share one of my lists with you.

These are things that I want, specifically for end of summer. This way I’d have a nice, mellow and smooth transition into the colder days of fall.

 

First my drink of choice, tea. And not just any tea, this lovely number from Teavana has the great tropics with warm spices so it’s the perfect blend for September. Why September? I don’t know.  But it seems right to me.

WHITE AYURVEDIC CHAI TEA

Next, is this Hot Milk bath bomb from Lush. I love all things Lush, but I have to say taking a bath in summer is almost impossible to do. I really miss it, and I just have to put this on my list to prepare for the cooler season cause I’ve missed my baths. Too much.

Usually I get my soaps from Villianess. Their products are hands down the best I’ve ever used. Yes, even better than Lush soaps, I think. However, they take a while to deliver some days, and once you have a good stock of 6 soaps from her, it’s hard to order more. I usually leave these out for hand washing on my vanity. But once in a while, I stray into Lush and run right into this beauty.  How can I not buy it? How can I not want to buy it?

Sultana of Soap by LUSH

Now for some fun.

Something from Sephora is on my list almost year-round. This time I have to say Kat Von D’s Triple Threat Liner Set is staying forever! I’ve read four other blogs and countless beauty site reviews on her eyeliners and they all say they’re amazing, better than urbandecay, and 100% worth it.

So for those lazy, hazy summer days and nights, I dreamily put this trio of liners on my last Summer Wish List of 2012.

Finally, and thanks to InStyle magazine, I was introduced to this great serum. Yes to Blueberries is a great brand, I use Yes to Cucumbers Facial Wipes all the time before and after working out because it’s easier and less harmful than washing my face four times a day, and with this new age and skin repair line, I’m 100% set.

This serum isn’t anti-age, although it could be used as such, it’s actually got antioxidants and vitamins to repair sun damaged skin. This is amazing considering I’ve spent a good 2 hours a week sitting by the pool. Not to mention a ll those times I forgot to put sunscreen on my face when going out to the store, work, or even to the beach (yikes!).

I’ve heard good things about it, and while I love my Vitamin C Truth Serum (my skin is amazing after starting to use it regularly) it’s not designed to reverse skin damaged  by the sun, only aid in it’s natural and slow healing processes.

Point being, at $20 a pop at Target, I’m totally down to get this after summer is over.

Hello, my Pretty

 

Love of Pistachios and Tea: Chocolate Covered Biscotti

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It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything lovely and delicious. It’s been a very long, slow, and mostly, workless summer. The latter is the reason why I’ve been scrimping and not producing anything delectable. However, being well stocked in the pantry as I am, I realized that most of the recipes I wanted to try and make over summer were very do-able. I had everything necessary to make them all along!

It’s sort of like that moment in Wizard of Oz when Dorothy realizes she’s had the means to go home all along, but she was never told– which is not only unfair, but sneaky, and a little cruel.

I digress.

The reason for this lovely number is a desire to turn British, in a way. I’ve no desire to move to London, start saying “Bloody Hell” (that’s the only slang that comes to mind at the moment, sorry), etc. but I’m every eager to start drinking afternoon tea. According to my research (google and wiki), the three points in the day when drinking tea is acceptable is 11am, 2:30pm, and 4pm. Otherwise, you’re just pushing you’re luck.

But I’m in America, and I’ll be taking my tea at noon, or 1:30. And if I’m feeling very risky, perhaps even 8pm!

This is my first batch of biscotti, and one of many recipes that go well with tea, or are classics to be expected at a tea party.

As it was my first attempt they were a great experience. And while I had a few doubts and tried out a lot of different things, I was glad they came out wonderfully.

Makes 12 Biscotti (for me)

Slightly adapted from Buttermilk Party Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • seeds from 10 cardamom pods
  • 1 egg (for egg wash), optional
  • raw sugar, approx 1/4 cup, optional

*1 tbsp milk (I used coconut) if too dry

 

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 1 cup chocolate chips, I used semi-sweet
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Mix your dry ingredients with the sugar and honey. Beat the eggs and add them into the dry mix a little at a time, until a wet dough forms. Then mix in the pistachios, lemon juice and zest, and cardamom seeds. If you’re dough isn’t wet enough, go ahead and add in the tbsp of milk. Mix, and with hands coerce  into a log.

Turn the dough out onto a very well floured surface, and roll it into a log shape. It’s ok if it won’t stay perfectly cylindrical—the log will flatten out a little.

 

For a bit of color, I added some egg wash on top.

 

Bake on a baking sheet lined with parchment at 300 degree  for 30 minutes,  then remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Cut the cooled log on the diagonal, in about 3/4 inch slices. Arrange the slices back on the baking tray, adding egg wash if desired (I also added on some sprinkled raw sugar just for fun), and bake for 10 minutes. Flip the biscotti over and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Dip into chocolate ganache if desired.

For the Ganache: in a microwave safe bowl add the chips and cream and heat on high for 1 minute. Stir, and continue to heat through in 20 second bursts till melted through. If it starts to thicken, pop into the microwave. This isn’t a traditional ganache recipe, but it’s close enough; I wasn’t patient enough to do the double boiler thing this time around.