Simply Sunday Scones

A few weeks ago, we hosted a murder house marathon brunch. I only say marathon because the day seemingly went on for forever, and the finish line was eating. I had the (dis)pleasure of not being involved in any of the preparations. That’s probably why we didn’t end up eating until dinnertime. Okay okay, that sounds kind of bitchy. I thought it would be harder for my control freak self to sit back and watch semi-strangers take over my kitchen, but the hangover I was nursing thought otherwise.

Scones were an “appetizer” the morning of marathon brunch. While they were tasty, they were the basic bitches of breakfast scones. Maybe I spend too much time on Pinterest/double tapping #foodporn on Insta, but fruit can’t not come to mind when I think of scones. I want something a little more hearty than cinnamon and raisins. After stalking my #womancrusheveryday’s website, I came across a simple recipe for a scone bursting with berries.

This is a great recipe because it is easily adaptable. I made an almost dairy free (if I would’a subbed margarine for butter) blueberry almond version. To say they were a hit would be an understatement. All the basic scones better bow down, because this recipe might just be the queen B of breakfast.ImageImage

Blueberry Almond Scones

2 1/2 cups flour + more for dusting (I used half all-purpose & half whole wheat)

1/4 cup sugar + 1 tbs for dusting

1 tbs baking powder

3/4 tsp course ground or kosher salt

1/4 cup roughly chopped raw almonds, toasted for about 15 minutes

3/4/cup (1 1/2 sticks) very cold butter or margarine, cut into cubes

1 egg yolk

1 tsp almond extract

3/4 cup sweetened almond milk

1 cup fresh blueberries

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and almonds. Using your hands, a pastry blender, or even a food processor if fancy, work the butter into the dry mixture until it begins to form pea sized pieces. ImageImageImageImageImage
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together your egg yolk and almond extract. Slowly add in the almond milk, combining as you pour. Add the wet mixture to the dry. Your dough should be fairly sticky once fully combined. ImageImage
  3. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and flatten out with your hands. Sprinkle fresh blueberries, fold dough over, and pat down again. Repeat this process until all blueberries have been used up, about 3 times. ImageImageImage
  4. Form your dough into a circle and lightly flatten with the heels of your hand. Use a pastry cutter or a sharp knife to cut your dough into triangles. Transfer triangles to a greased and floured baking dish. I used a round 9 inch cake pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes until golden brown, rotating the pan halfway through. Let cool for about 10 minutes and serve. ImageImageImageImageImageImage

If I did not have to be at work before sunrise almost every day, these could easily become a daily breakfast staple. I would have saved some for the morning after, but they were just too good to not be completely devoured. I can’t wait to make different versions of non-basic scones using this recipe. A vanilla and orange blossom combination is dancing around my brain this very moment!

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Happy Baking!

(The ‘C’ is Silent) Challah Bread!

I love to bake fresh bread and usually opt for the single rise, no-knead, bake in a cast iron skillet versions. Everything else seems to take forever when you do not own a bread machine. As winter storm Ivan rolled on through Pittsburgh yesterday, I found myself bored after brunch. I had the entire day to dedicate to creating something delicious. Why not bake a loaf(ves) of bread?

For this baking adventure, I found inspiration after a quick flip through the Smitten Kitchen cookbook at Williams-Sonoma coupled with too much time spent in Squirrel Hill. I had been wanting to bake Challah after learning how to properly pronounce the name (last week). The ‘c’ is silent, in case you did not know! Upon researching various recipes and braiding methods, I discovered that this bread has a historical/biblical significance besides being a traditional Jewish bread. Traditionally, a double loaf is baked out of one batch of dough. Each loaf has 6 strands, totaling 12 & representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Thanks, Wikipedia!

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Reverting back to the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, my attention was grabbed by a beautiful loaf of fig, olive oil, and sea salt challah. I decided to move up 5 steps on the bread baking pyramid and attempt something of this delicious magnitude. Adapted from here.

Rosemary, Apple, Walnut Challah with Goat Cheese (+1 Regular Challah)

3 3/4 tsp dry active yeast

1 tbs + 1/2 cup sugar

1 3/4 cup lukewarm water

1/2 cup olive oil

5 large eggs

1 tbs salt

8-8 1/2 cups flour

filling: 4 oz goat cheese, 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts, juice of 1/4 lemon, 2 small granny smith apples (peeled, cored, cubed), 2 tsp rosemary, pinch of kosher salt, 1/2 tsp sugar

  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tbs sugar in lukewarm water. Set aside for about 5 minutes until foamy.
  2. Whisk in olive oil, then, one at a time, beat in 4 eggs. Beat in the remaining sugar and salt. ImageImageImage
  3. Gradually add in flour, cup by cup. If using a mixer, the dough hook attachment will save you quite the arm workout. Sadly enough, my hand mixer croaked in the midst, even with the dough hook attachment.
  4. This is my favorite part! KNEAD dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Return to your rinsed and greased mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place to rise for one hour.  ****************************The rest of this recipe involves a lot of waiting around*****************************2 episodes of Mad Men to be exact****************************** ImageImageImageImage
  5. By this point, your dough should have doubled in size. Using a pastry cutter, divide the dough in 2. Double loaves! For regular challah: punch down the dough, set in another greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, set aside for 30 more minutes of rising. For stuffed challah: flatten into an oblong shape with your hands, cover half with filling, fold over, and repeat a few times. Form into a ball shape and set aide for 30 more minutes of rising.
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  6. Divide each ball further into 4 parts. Roll each part into a rope.
  7. BRAIDING. Lay your 4 ropes perpendicular to each other, forming a #hashtag. Weave them so that one rope is over and the other is under (see photos below). The rest of the weaving is not too tricky, though I honestly had no idea what I was doing. As long as you keep with the under and over weaving pattern and tuck the awkward ends underneath the loaf it should come out fine. ImageImageImageImageImageImage
  8. In a small cup, beat your last remaining egg. Brush each loaf generously with egg wash and allow to rise for 30 more minutes.
  9. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Before baking your bread, brush generously one last time with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating pans at the halfway mark. Your loves should be a nice golden brown color and your kitchen should smell amazing. ImageImageImageImage

I brought the stuffed loaf over to my friends Lauren & Chase’s house for our family dinner. I thought there was going to be a lot leftover, but the three of us easily consumed half of this loaf. I love the way you can just pull this bread apart. It is lightly sweetened and makes a great breakfast companion, too!

I think I can say I am no longer intimidated by bread making. I actually find the entire process to be more therapeutic than brain frazzling. The process is long and drawn out, rather lazy and perfect for a lazy, snowed in weekend. ImageImage

52 Weeks of Baking: Buttermilk Buttermilk

Never had I ever eaten a slice of buttermilk pie until last summer when a coworker brought some to the office. As a huge fan of anything buttermilk, I devoured my slice and went back for seconds. Buttermilk pie is a dessert indigenous to The South and Texas. How was I just tasting it at the ripe age of 24?

My dad loves pumpkin pie. I would always bake him pies straight from the can come Thanksgiving time. I would occasionally have a slice of pecan or coconut cream pie from Bill Miller’s if my grandpa had a craving. I was never really a fan of apple pie. GASP! How un- American of me, right? Needless to say, I grew up very sheltered from the amazing types of pie out there in the world. Buttermilk was one of these!

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Upon opening my Hoosier Mama cookbook for the first time, I landed on page 174, pretty much the centerfold, a recipe for buttermilk pie. The rest is history! I have since adapted Paula Haney’s recipe a litter here and a little there to satiate my cravings. My two favorite versions include the addition of cocoa powder, extra lemon, and frozen berries. You wanna know what makes this pie the best things ever? This.

Ingredients

1 cup granulated sugar

6 tbs butter

the zest of an entire lemon

2 large eggs, separated

3 tbs all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 tbs fresh lemon juice

1 cup buttermilk

***for chocolate buttermilk pie: 3 tbs cocoa powder

***for berry buttermilk pie: 1 1/2 cups frozen berries, preferably black, blue, or raspberries

The Process 

1. In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, and lemon zest.ImageImage

2. Whisk together the egg yolks and add to the sugar and butter.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together four, nutmeg, salt, and *cocoa powder. Slowly add the dry mixture to the butter, combining thoroughly.

4. Slowly pour in the lemon juice, followed by the buttermilk. Mix together on low. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the sides of the bowl, being sure to incorporate everything.

5. In another separate bowl, beat the egg white until soft peaks form. Fold 1/2 of the egg whites into the batter using your rubber spatula. Once fully combined, fold in the remaining egg whites. *If making a berry buttermilk pie, stir in the berries at this time.Image

6. Gently pour the batter into a blind baked pie shell. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Image

Let your pie cool for about 30 minutes to an hour after baking. For a little extra sweetness, I dusted the tops with powdered sugar! ImageImageImage

Buttermilk pie, and especially these variations, has wiggled its way to my top favorite desserts, coming in second to pecan pie! I can’t wait til the holidays so I can make/maybe sell some of these bad boys. Until then, they will suffice for Sunday Breaking Bad watch parties.

XOXOXO

The Best Pie Dough for the Best Pie Crust

Until recently I used to pretend like I was Martha Stewart when working away in the kitchen. These days, I find myself relating more and more to Paula Haney. While she may not be the queen of arts & crafts, the woman sure as hell knows how to make a pie! I bought Haney’s cookbook as an early birthday gift to myself and have since gone pie crazy. Off the deep end into a wonderful land of butter, butter, and more butter, plus some flour. And don’t you dare let your brain start along the path of Paula Deen.

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I love this cookbook because it tells Haney’s story. Almost every recipe is accompanied by an anecdote about either her family way way back or something that happened in the shop. It’s very personal, and that Midwestern hospitality (it’s a real thing, y’all) is evident in her writing. The recipes are also very easy to follow, which is good for professional and novice bakers alike. She begins her recipes for pie dough with a warning: making good pie dough is hard. I made a perfectly poached egg on the first try. I was up for the challenge.

The Hoosier Mama’s All-Butter Pie Dough

To start things off on a good note, I absolutely loved making this dough. Honestly, I love making all kinds of dough, and the process for this crust was actually fairly similar to the one I used for my empanadas. (Would ya look at how much my blog has improved!!!) The key here is keeping things “chill”. My kitchen does not come equipped with a food processor, but fortunately for me, I have what they call pie maker hands! This means that my hands are cold. Actually, honestly, my hands are not cold during the summer months (June-September for Texas) so this is a half truth. Anyway. I had to mix the dough by hand for this recipe because I lack a food processor. I am totally alright with this though. My grandma and her mother and even her grandmother did not use a food processor, and pie has a long long history. What the hell, a dough blender and 10 fingers work just the same!

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Before I begin relaying the recipe to you, please note that a good pie crust takes time. The dough must rest in order to be its best! The same goes for me!

Ingredients

1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, divided

1 tbs red wine vinegar

1/2 cup very cold water

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

2 1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tbs granulated sugar

The Process

1. After cutting into cubes, freeze 5 tbs of your butter for any amount of time between 20 minutes and overnight. I went with an hour. Chill the remaining 1 1/8 sticks until ready to use.

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2. Stir the red wine vinegar and water together and set aside as well.

3. In a large bowl, combine your dry ingredients.

4. After your declared amount of freeze time, add the CHILLED butter to the dry mixture first. Work the butter into the flour with either your hands or a dough blender (or both!) until it resembles a coarse meal. Image

5. Next, add the frozen butter. Cut into the dough until the frozen pieces are pea sized. These pieces will eventually turn into butter pockets, making the crust ever so flaky, delicious, and, well, buttery!

6. Add 6 tbs of the chilled vinegar water to the dough and mix together with your hands. If the dough holds together in your hand after squeezing a small amount, you are good to go. If not, add more vinegar water to the mixture, little by little.

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7. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough together until smooth. Divide the dough into two equal parts and roll each into a ball. You can then lightly flatten them and wrap in plastic wrap. From here they must rest in the refrigerator, preferable overnight.

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8. After an extended period of time in the refrigerator, your dough will be ready to work with. Dust your work surface and a rolling pin liberally with flour.

9. Place your chilled dough onto your surface and partially flatten with the heel of your hand. To get the dough even flatter, beat with a rolling pin. This was a fun process! Image

10. Now you can begin rolling out your dough. Dust your pin and even part the dough with flour and make long strokes out from the center making sure the dough does not stick to the surface along the way. The final product should be about 1/8 inch thick. Image

11. Cut a 14 inch wide circle out of the dough. I guestimated with a dinner plate! Image

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12. Softly settle the dough circle into a greased and floured 9 inch pie plate. You may have to tap the plate ever so gently on the table until it settles. Then, lightly press the dough into the corners of the pie plate.

13. If you are continuing on to make a single crust pie, begin the crimp process by folding the dough edges under. Work the edges in opposite directions, squeezing little points on the outer top of the pie plate. This did take a while to get the hang of. My later pies looked much better, and they all tasted equally amazing! ImageImageImageImageImage

As you can see, I have definitely gotten better with practice!

Since purchasing this book, I have made 6 pies. Some were recipes straight from the Hoosier Mama, while others mere varieties. Each one has tasted delicious. I documented the process for a buttermilk pie (along with chocolate and berry variations) that will knock your socks off. Expect many recipes in the coming days, weeks, and months!

With a different work schedule and school back in session, life is a bit more hectic. But, I can always make time for pie! And so begins a new love affair!

XOXOXO

52 Weeks of Baking: Bread for Beginners

I remember the first time I made bread. I was however old you are in the 2nd grade. We made “unleavened” bread at some retreat before my first communion. Basically the ingredients were flour, salt, and water. Basically the bread tasted like shit. I think that may have been the point though.

My second attempt at bread was beer bread. Yeah, 13 year old Annie definitely made this with the intention of getting drunk. She didn’t know how the science of baking worked back then. The bread didn’t turn out that great anyway.

Other than those two anecdotes, I don’t really have that much experience with baking bread! I feel like I never have the time to dedicate to the process, though I often dream of being an artisan baker. How cool would that be? This weekend I learned how to bake an easy, no frills version using my favorite kitchen utensil: my cast iron skillet! I’d say this is the perfect bread for beginners. I mainly followed this recipe, but substituted whole wheat flour. Also, my new neighbors do not have a rosemary bush….

Ingredients

1 package active dry yeast

2 cups lukewarm water

4 1/3 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 tbs kosher salt

olive oil

The Process

1. Combine yeast and warm water in a large bowl.

2. Using a wooden spoon, stir in 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/2 tbs kosher salt.

3. Stir in the rest of the flour 1 cup at a time until completely incorporated.

4. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for a little over and hour.

5. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough. With floured hands, form the dough into a disc shape. DO NOT KNEED!

6. Lightly oil the cast iron skillet. Place the dough in the skillet, cover with a towel, and allow to rise for one more hour.

7. Brush the top of your bread with more olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

8. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.

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This was seriously the easiest thing ever! I can’t wait to be more adventurous with my bread baking as the year progresses! 50 weeks to go.

52 Weeks of Baking

At some point in my future, I would love to enter the world professional baking. Unfortunately, being a full time library girl doesn’t translate, in my opinion, to mass cupcake production that well on a resume. I have read that a degree in culinary arts is not necessarily a necessity, and I really like being debt free! Why not use my blog as a portfolio? Hence my reason to bake for 52 weeks.

Over the next year I plan to challenge myself as a baker. Some weeks it may be making my own pastry dough while other will be making myself get in the kitchen!

In the spirit of New Orleans and wine night, I decided to start off on the easy side with brownies. Cafe du Monde brownies!

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Ingredients

1/2 cup coconut oil

1 1/4 tsp vanilla

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup chilled Cafe du Monde coffee

powdered sugar for dusting

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  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine oil, sugar, and vanilla.
  2. Beat in eggs.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet.
  4. Once batter is prepared, stir in the chilled coffee.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes
  6. Let cool. Dust with powdered sugar. Serve. Voila!

These brownies were a hit at my first wine night! So much that I didn’t get to take any photos/enjoy any leftovers! Next time, I would love to experiment with different types of chocolate! Decadence.

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I would love to get your input about baking! Is there anything you would like for me to try to attempt, excluding French macaroons?

Happy Baking!