Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Scones

My mother has begged me to make scones ever since I came home in May. She buys scones from our local grocery store but refuses to make them herself. Yesterday, boredom struck and I searched for a recipe to make... and my mom asked for scones. Because I am a kind and benevolent god (I was bored, okay?), I relented.

Well, mum, scones are a piece of cake.

These scones take about half an hour to make, from start to finish. They're all from scratch, and there's not much cleanup!


You will need:
 -1 and 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
 -1/4 cup sugar
 -4 tsp baking powder
 -1/8 tsp salt
 -5 tbsp cold butter
 -1/2 cup milk
 -1/4 cup Greek yogurt
 -1/4 tsp baking soda
 -1/3 cup of raisins
 -1 beaten egg + 1 tbsp milk, combined

Oven temp: 400˚. Heat that sucker right up, with a rack in the middle of the oven.


Start by combining the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Mix together until well incorporated.


In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of milk, yogurt, and baking soda. Whisk together until completely smooth, then add the raisins.

You can use any kind of dried fruit that you'd like in this recipe. I thought of adding both raisins and craisins, but ultimately decided against it. Also, you could use sour cream instead of the yogurt and baking soda, but Greek yogurt is healthier than sour cream. It's up to personal preference!


Now, because I'm a twerp, I completely forgot to take a picture during the next step. You need to take your cold butter and cut it into the dry mixture with knives or a pastry cutter. Cut the butter in until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.


Then you slowly add the wet mixture to the dry. Only pour in a little at a time, and mix thoroughly (I used a fork) until the dough is just holding together. It will sort of resemble the texture of cookie dough. You don't want it to be super wet! I had about 1/4 cup of liquid left over, but I made sure to add all of the raisins.


Once the dough is holding together, take it and plop it on a floured surface. Using your hands, pat the dough into a rectangle, then fold into thirds. Flip it over and turn it 90˚, and start patting it into a rectangle again. Repeat this just once--you don't want to over-handle your dough.


After you've folded the dough and patted it into another rectangle, it's time to form the scones. Using a sharp knife, cut the rectangle into two squares. Then cut each square diagonally in half, then diagonally in half the other way. This will make cool triangular scones, like the kind you see in bakeries.


Arrange artfully (ha) on a baking stone. Make sure that the scones aren't touching, and have enough room to rise and expand.

Brush the tops of the scones with the egg and milk mixture. You'll probably have a fair bit of it left, so cook it in the microwave and feed it to your dog. I guess you could throw it out, but I think that's a bit wasteful and our dog is a princess. But that may just be her (or our fault).


Put the scones in the preheated oven until the tops are golden brown and they've risen. They took eleven minutes in our oven, but may take up to fifteen.

I kept mine on the stone to cook the bottoms a bit more, then I let them cool on a rack. My mother and I split one while it was still warm... and it was so delicious.


Everyone in my family ate one for breakfast this morning. Look at that and tell me it doesn't look delicious. Hearty, buttery, and flaky, these are awesome. These scones are a wonderful quick treat!

Now, I'm not going to say my mother was right... but I might be making these a bit more often now!

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie

As I told you a week ago, I needed to bake something for my boss's birthday. He absolutely loves peanut butter--much to his wife's dismay. So, in order to please them both, I tried to find a healthy dessert that had a strong peanut presence.


Ladies and gents, after much deliberation, I present to you a no-bake peanut butter pie. I got the recipe from one of my favorite dessert blogs: Sally's Baking Addiction. Her recipe used a lot of low-fat and fat-free versions of ingredients to make it "skinny", but to be honest, "reduced fat" doesn't mean it's healthier. It just means that the manufacturer uses a more obscure chemical ingredient to make the fat content go down. I'm not really comfortable with eating a lot of food with mystery ingredients, so I eat the real stuff as much as possible. Hey, it's not like I eat dessert all the time, right?

There was a major heatwave in New England over the holiday weekend, but today the temperature hovered right around 70˚ all day. Feasibly, I could have used the oven and been totally fine, but I really, really wanted to make this lil' frozen pie. Just look at it!


You will need:
 -24 Oreos (the only time I will recommend regular, not Double Stuf)
 -1/2 stick of melted butter
 -1/2 cup + 2 tbps creamy peanut butter
 -1/2 cup granulated sugar
 -1/4 cup milk
 -8 oz room temperature Neufchatel cheese (healthier alternative to cream cheese, and tastes almost identical)
 -8 oz thawed Cool Whip (Fun fact: I had to call my mom to find this in the supermarket)
 -3/4 cup of crushed Reese's Pieces
 -1/2 bar of dark chocolate


Wrangle your food processor out from the depths of its cabinet. Throw your Oreos inside. (and take an extra from the packet for yourself, clearly) Process until the Oreos are fine crumbs. It kind of really resembles soil... there's actually a dessert for kids that is essentially ground-up Oreos with a gummy worm sticking up from the middle. Sounds charming, right?


Add your melted butter to the crumbs and process until it all comes together. It should seem pretty dry still, but that's fine. Also, just to note that the original recipe calls for the oreo crumbs and the butter to be mixed by hand, but I was feeling lazy... and my mother is terrified of me touching the processor blade. Thanks for watching out for my fingers, mama. And remember; it's your pie, so it's up to you how you mix the butter and the crumbs!


Press the crumbs into a 9- or 10-inch pie pan. Pack it down into an even layer, and try to make the crust go as far up the sides of the pan as possible.

That's it! You're done with the crust now! Stick that sucker in the freezer while you make the filling.

Well, this looks vaguely phallic and disturbing.

Combine the peanut butter, sugar, Neufchatel, and milk in a large bowl. Mix until smooth. I highly recommend using an electric mixer--I used a wooden spoon and it took way longer than I thought it would. I also tried (and failed) to use my left hand because my right was so sore.


It will look like this. Seriously, spare yourself the trouble and use the electric mixer.


Now, fold the Cool Whip into the mixture, using about a third of the container at a time. If you're not sure about your folding capabilities, check this tutorial out. Once the Cool Whip is incorporated, the filling is done!


It's time to assemble! Get your crust out of the freezer and dollop half of the filling in. Smooth it out with a knife, then add half of the crushed Reese's Pieces.


Then, add the other half of the filling and top with the remaining candies. See? Isn't that easy!?

For the chocolate drizzle: Coarsely chop up the chocolate bar, then put it into a microwave-safe dish. Nuke it for thirty seconds, then take out and stir. Repeat until the chocolate is all melted. As soon as it's fully liquid, drizzle it on top of the pie. I had thought about writing "Happy Birthday" on top, but I thought that may be a little too ambitious.


Pop this bad boy back in the freezer for at least four hours before serving. Let it thaw for twenty minutes before serving.


My boss has yet to see/consume his pie, but I'm eagerly anticipating his reaction. His wife seemed okay with the idea of a "lighter" peanut butter dessert, so I say mission accomplished!

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pesto

Okay everyone, I swear I didn't forget about my blog. Yeah, I've been slow to update... only because life's been pretty crazy lately! I've been working a lot, between my real job, babysitting, and dogsitting... as well doing some fun stuff (well, that depends on your definition of fun).


I reorganized our pantry! I threw out some old Trader Joe's soups that expired in 2006, among other equally spoiled things... ew. Notable changes: all baking supplies are on one shelf, oils and vinegars are arranged for maximum visibility, and things with expiration dates are front and center so we don't miss out on any deliciousness!


I bought my best friend the coolest flask for her graduation. I may or may not have already ordered another for myself... but you'll have to guess which house's sigil and motto I like!


The same best friend let me tag along with her family to a Friday night game at Fenway Park. What I love about Boston sports is the sense of camaraderie. Everyone at Fenway is focused on the game, but there's still time to laugh and joke with random Sox fans sitting near you.

And since I've been so busy, I haven't really had time to blog! I've been on a salad kick lately, but salads aren't really worth a full post, I think. A little too specific to one's own taste.

While planning the week's meals on Sunday, my mother suggested tortellini with pesto for dinner tonight, and a plan was born! This pesto is quick, easy, and undeniably delicious.


What you'll need:
 -3 cups basil
 -1 1/2 cups of toasted pine nuts
 -1 cup olive oil
 -4 cloves of garlic
 -1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
 -salt and pepper to taste

That's it! Isn't that easy? It doesn't get any harder from here!


Step one: Throw everything but the olive oil into a food processor. The garlic doesn't need to be chopped or anything. Chuck it all in there.


Step two: Process until the mixture resembles this. I think it looks remarkably like tabouleh, with individual particles very easy to spot. It's a pretty coarse mixture.


Step three: While processing, pour oil in slowly. My lovely mother helped me out with this.


Step four: Process until all the oil is incorporated. Stop the processor, then taste a little bit of the pesto. My mom and I thought it could use a little something-something, so we added the juice of a quarter of lime.

Boom. You're done. Add it to really anything you want! This makes quite a lot, so you'll have some for later. We used about a fifth of it for a family-size thing of cheese tortellini.

Transfer the excess to a vessel and you're done! (Parsley garnish optional)


We used some of the basil from our own garden, which is a dark purple in color. It doesn't affect the taste, just the color!

My boss's birthday is next week, and his absolute favorite food is peanut butter, so stay tuned for what I bake! I'm deciding between Peanut Butter + Jelly Bars, or No-Bake Reese's Peanut Butter Bars. Any thoughts?


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