English Scones with Currants

tea and scones3Scones – the quintessential British breakfast. I needed to bake them to soothe my anguish – the next season of Downton Abbey will be their last. Like many of you, I have become addicted (in a sweet, marshmallowy way) to the British Masterpiece series that started at the end of WW I. The series hooked us with gritty plots, likeable characters, romance, beautiful costumes all set in the real life Highclere Castle. I appreciated the historical accuracy of the upstairs-downstairs movements as we jockeyed from the servants to the pampered princesses…the starched aprons to the afternoon tea gowns and jewels.
tea and scones1
With a sigh, I had to do something with my angst. So I baked – English Scones with Currant – those tiny raisins.
Not the world’s best pastry, but still, festive on a cold morning. I got the inspiration from an episode of Cook’s Country, a favorite public TV cooking show. Naturally, I changed a few things and recommend a few more additions to make them tastier. It was a fun experiment.
food processorIngredients for English Scones with Currants
3 cups flour
2 TBS baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
½ tsp salt
8 TBS butter (1/2 cup or one stick) – softened and cut into pieces
2 eggs
1 cup milk (Reserve 2 TBS for egg wash)
¾ cup currants (Try soaking them first in a liquor or brandy)
Zest from one orange
1 additional egg for egg wash
Turbinado or sanding sugar for garnish
currants
Directions
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. When you are ready to bake them, turn the heat down to 425 degrees F.
If you have a food processor, start by pulsing the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt about 5 times.
Add the butter and pulse again until the mixture resembles crumbs. (20 pulses)
If you don’t have a food processor, whisk the dry ingredients and then cut in the butter with a fork or pastry cutter.
Whisk the milk and 2 eggs together and then stir into the dry ingredients.
Stir in the currants and orange zest.
Turn out onto a floured board and knead about 25 times.
The dough should be about 9” round and about 1” thick.
At this point, either cut the scones into rounds using cookie cutters or, more simply, cut the round of dough into 12 – 16 pieces like the pieces of a pie. In the second method you use all the dough at once so you don’t have to rework the dough again and again.
Place the scones on a parchment covered baking sheet.
dough ball

cut into wedgesWhisk the last egg with 2 TBS milk. Use a pastry brush to brush the egg mixture over the top of each scone.
Sprinkle each with the Turbinado sugar.
Remember to turn down the heat to 425 before you put them in the oven.
Bake 10 – 15 minutes
egg wash
Suggestions for changes:
Instead of sanding them with sugar, you may want to make a light icing of orange juice and confectioner’s sugar and lightly frost them after they cool.
Swap out real raisins or blueberries, chocolate chips or a fruit of your choice.
Try soaking the currants or raisins in brandy or a liqueur. Reduce the milk by the amount of liquid you soak the fruit in.

I realize I cannot drown my disappointment with scones, but for a few moments, I can imagine that I’m at Highclere Castle having tea and scones with Lady Mary.
tea and scones3

Shredded Wheat and Prune Cookies? Or not

My mother died recently in Mexico. A life changer. Especially for my 91 year old father. He has begged to go back to his condo and we, his daughters, finally agreed to find a plan to make it work.

His first day alone – he baked cookies!
Yes, my love of baking runs deep. Dad used to make dinner rolls and sweet rolls for Christmas and Easter. And he would ask me to make oatmeal raisin cookies with walnuts when he had meetings to attend. What is a meeting without an oatmeal cookie?

But his baking skills have sadly become as confused as his conversations. When the appointed sister visited he showed her a plate of baked items made from shredded wheat and prunes. No flour, sugar or butter.shredded wheat2

In solidarity, I wanted to bake something tasty from a cereal. I remembered a bran muffin that Mom used to make. You could make up the batter and keep it in the fridge for up to six weeks. Then each day you could scoop out batter for 6 or 12 muffins, as needed. Fresh muffins out of the oven in minutes.
Sure enough, I found a recipe and when I dug through my cupboards, I found the dried worm-like bran cereal pushed to the back. As I prepared to dump it into my food processor, I caught a whiff that said “wait.” I turned the cereal box over looking for a “use-by” date. First I noted the words “recycled cardboard” which I hoped were referring to the packaging, but I wasn’t certain. When I finally found the expiration date, I discovered the cereal was four years too late. Years, not months. That explained the smell. My mother would have laughed at me. I was always urging her to get rid of out-of-date food, something she had in abundance.

So no recipe today and no muffins for me. I think I need to spring clean my cupboards.

Game Day Chocolate Cookie Bars

bars up close
I understand some big Yabba-dabba-do game is around the corner. I will not be watching, except for the commercials, but I do intend to imbibe in the spirit of the day. And by that I mean snack. So I’m posting a rich, chocolaty bar that can be whipped up in minutes, then baked to gooey perfection. Only six ingredients. Perfect if you’re needing to bring a quick treat to a game, to a church potluck, to friend in a crisis, whatever.

chocolate layer is creamy

drop batter

First a disclaimer – this is a treat. There are no ancient grains in it. It is not vegan or gluten free. Sorry!
You will use a cake mix. Find an organic one if that settles your mind, but that’s totally unnecessary. This is an old fashioned naughty, nummy bar recipe. Let’s dive in!
baked and done
Ingredients For Game Day Chocolate Cookie Bars

1 white or yellow cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup canola oil (or coconut, if you prefer)
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup dark or semi sweet chocolate chips (now we’re getting to the good stuff.)
1/4 cup butter, cubed (1/2 a stick of butter)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Grease a 9″ x 13″ cake or bar pan
game day bars

Combine the cake mix, eggs and oil in a large bowl with a spoon.
Take about 2/3 of this and press it into the greased baking pan. Do this with your hands. It will remind you of finger painting, gooey, messy. (Don’t be tempted to bake this yet.)
In a microwave safe bowl (glass) pour in the sweetened milk and add the chocolate chips (finally!) and the butter.
Cook 30 seconds at a time until all is melted and then whisk until smooth.
Pour this chocolate goo over the cake mixture that is waiting patiently in the cake pan.
Use a small spoon and drop teaspoons of the remaining cake mixture randomly over the chocolate layer.
If you want, you can use a knife to sort of connect these little cake-like islands. But I didn’t.
Bake 20 – 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool before cutting.
Makes 3 dozen or so, depending on how you cut them.
They were still pretty and got eaten in a flash at a church breakfast.

Amaranth with Apples and Walnuts – GF

garnish with nuts

Ancient grains sound so other-worldly. But they are making a comeback. Anyone who follows my blogs knows I love oats as much as a Palamino.

amaranth soaking
Last year I discovered an easy way to have steel-cut oats in just minutes. Now with winter bearing down again, I’m expanding my hot breakfast choices. Because this is one of the grains that’s touted as “high protein,” it seemed a good place to start.

apples
And of course, I added roasted walnuts for crunch and more protein. The apples are the bonus. I found a way to enjoy them without adding more stress to the morning. The night before I steamed them for just a few moments and then turned off the heat and left them covered on the stove. They were perfect in the morning.

bowl with apples

Need to know more about Amaranth? Me too. I discovered that it’s not really a grain. It’s food profile reads more like a seed and it’s a kissing cousin to quinoa, another cereal imposter that has lots of protein and other goodies going for it. The Whole Grains Counsel explained it better than I can: http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/amaranth-may-grain-of-the-month-0

“Amaranth contains more than three times the average amount of calcium and is also high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. It’s also the only grain documented to contain Vitamin C. Very little research has been conducted on amaranth’s beneficial properties, but the studies that have focused on amaranth’s role in a healthy diet have revealed three very important reasons to add it to your diet.

It’s a protein powerhouse. At about 13-14%, it easily trumps the protein content of most other grains. You may hear the protein in amaranth referred to as “complete” because it contains lysine, an amino acid missing or negligible in many grains.”
Read on. There’s more good stuff in the link. Imagine Cleopatra eating this for breakfast.
amaranth in a bowl

For me, it’s time to get to the recipe. Don’t be frustrated if the directions seem vague. It’s just that there are several ways to make this so I’m giving you options. Make it in the morning, all together. Or begin the cooking the night before and assemble and heat in the morning.

Amaranth with apples and walnuts – 4 servings

1 cup Amaranth
3 cups water
pinch salt

Roasted walnuts
3 apples
2 tsp coconut palm sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Splash of almond milk or whatever milk you like.

Directions: Soak the grain in the water for a few hours if you have time. It will shorten the cooking time. If not, boil the water and add the grain and salt. Cook until the grain is softened.

If you eating this right away, then add the apples and cinnamon after about ten minutes of cooking. Otherwise, you can make an apple compote and use it as a garnish over the cereal.

Garnish with roasted walnuts, apples and a splash of the milk of your choice.
amaranth done

Apple compote
Wash the apples and core. Cut into small bites.
Put in a saucepan with 1 TBS of water, the palm sugar (or stevia) and cinnamon.
Bring to a boil and cook for one minute. Turn off heat and leave cover on apples. You can do this the night before and leave them on the stove. In the morning, when you warm up a bowl of Amaranth, add a few of the apples to warm them at the same time. Save left overs in the fridge and warm them up the next morning. Perfect.