Easter Basket Cake

By Coleen

Easter Basket Cake by The Redhead Baker

Happy Easter!

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. My laptop has officially died. Right now, I’m blogging from the world’s smallest netbook, courtesy of Dave. Thankfully, I will be able to recover all the data (like all of my past blog photos, copies of past tax returns, and every picture of Liam I’ve ever taken — most of which was backed up on an external hard drive anyway), but I must find a new home for them.

Anyway, I don’t have a recipe for you per se. More like a Easter Basket Cake tutorial. Though this cake is Easter-theme, this technique can also be used for Mother’s Day, bridal showers, or just “spring”-themed cakes.

Strictly speaking, this buttercream isn’t my favorite, flavor-wise. However, it crusts quickly, making it a fabulous decorating buttercream (a far cry from Wilton’s shortening-based recipe).

It looks a lot more complicated than it is. It is a bit time-consuming. But it will definitely impress your friends and family!

For this cake, you will need: a cake decorating turntable; one cardboard cake circle at least two inches larger than your cake; two 8- or 9-inch cake layers (already baked and cooled); decorating buttercream (recipe at the bottom of this post); decorating bags (I used two 16-inch bags and one 12-inch; you could use three of the same size); Wilton #47 or 48 basketweave decorating tip; Wilton #21 or 22 open star decorating tip; Wilton #233 grass decorating tip; green food coloring; Easter candy (I used ¾ of a bag of Cadbury mini eggs). I also find it’s nice to have a sheet of non-skid kitchen shelf liner, to keep the cardboard circle from sliding off the cake turntable. Some turntables have a nonskid top already, so you may not need this.

First, level your cakes. Most cakes “dome” while baking, and this means they won’t stack evenly. It’s very important to have a flat, even surface for this cake, so cut that dome off. Place the cake on the turntable. Place one hand in the middle of the cake layer. Hold a serrated knife parallel to the table, and slice an inch or so into the dome. Use the hand on top of the cake to turn the turntable, continuing to slice into the dome as the cake turns, until the dome comes off. Repeat with the second layer.

Place a dollop of icing on the cardboard cake circle, and place one cake layer in the center of the cardboard circle. Spread a thin layer of icing all over the top of the cake layer, and place the second layer, cut-side down (so the “bottom” is facing up) on top of the first layer.

Now, ice the top and sides of the cake, thicker than a crumb coat, but still on the thin side. It doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth, but the entire cake should be coated.

Easter Basket Cake by The Redhead Baker

Now, place the #47 or #48 tip in the bottom of a decorating bag. Hold the bag near the point, and fold the wide end of the bag over your hand. Fill the bag half-way (ONLY half-way!) with icing. Snip off the point of the bag, just enough so the top of the decorating tip pokes through.

Hold the bag so that the flat side of the tip is facing down and the serrated side is facing up. Hold the tip to the side of the cake and apply even pressure to squeeze the icing out. Pipe a line straight down from the top of the cake to the bottom.

Turn the bag 90 degrees counterclockwise (to the left). At the top of the side of the cake, pipe a line perpendicular to the first, starting about a quarter of an inch to the left of the line, going over the first line, and extending about a quarter of an inch to the right of the line.

Leave a gap about the width of your decorating tip, and make a second line exactly the same as the first.

Easter Basket Cake by The Redhead Baker

Now, turn the bag 90 degrees to the right (so the flat side is facing down again), and pipe a second vertical line right next to the first, going over the horizontal lines. Now, turn the back 90 degrees to the left again, and pipe two more horizontal lines, offset from the first two horizontal lines.

Easter Basket Cake by The Redhead Baker

Repeat until you’ve gone all the way around the cake.  Now we’ll finish the look with a rope border.

Easter Basket Cake by The Redhead Baker

Place the open star tip (#21 or 22) in the bottom of another decorating bag, and fill no more than halfway with icing. Snip off the point.

On the top outside edge of the cake, draw an “S” shape with the star tip. Now, draw an upside down “U,” starting with the tip tucked into the bottom curve of the “S,” going up over the bottom of the “S” and ending just to the right. Repeat going all around the outside edge of the cake. Repeat around the bottom of the cake.

Easter Basket Cake by The Redhead Baker

Now, we’ll make the grass. Place about a half-cup of icing in a small bowl. Place one drop of green food coloring in the icing and stir until evenly tinted. Repeat until desired shade of green is achieved.

Place the #233 tip in the bottom of a small decorating bag. Fold the bag over and place the icing inside. Snip off the tip. Touch the tip to the top of the cake, just inside the rope border, and use short squeezes to make “grass” that falls slightly over the rope border. Once you’ve gone all the way around the cake, squeeze the decorating bag in random patterns over the top of the cake. Top with Easter candy, make it as sparse or full as you like.

Easter Basket Cake by The Redhead Baker

This cake would probably be fine stored at room temperature, but I prefer to store all iced cakes in the refrigerator.

Decorating Buttercream

Slightly adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Ingredients

  • 3 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 9 cups powdered sugar
  • 7 ½ tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. If your mixer came with a splash guard, use it.
  2. Mix on the lowest speed no more powdered sugar is visible.
  3. Increase mixer speed to medium-high, and beat for 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Buttercream crusts quickly, so cover with plastic wrap when not in use.
  5. Store extra buttercream in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before briefly re-beating and using.

Pizza with Ground Lamb, Leeks and Rosemary

By Coleen

Pizza with Ground Lamb, Leeks and Rosemary

Life got a little crazy. We fell into a food rut, then went through a period where we’d completely forget to defrost something for dinner, and had quite a few nights of spaghetti, or take-out, or breakfast for dinner (eggs, or pancakes).

My birthday was almost two weeks ago, and my parents made a delicious brunch — omelets, cinnamon buns, pancakes, sausage, bacon, fruit salad … Brunch is my favorite meal! For my birthday, I received a tabletop fluorescent light, which will hopefully help improve my blog photography (since my apartment doesn’t get great natural light), AND I got tickets to Phantom of the Opera!

I am a geek for musicals, and Phantom was the first one I ever saw, twenty years ago. I was thrilled to go see it again at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Dave and I had dinner beforehand at City Tavern, a restaurant that serves dishes inspired by the cuisine of 18th century Colonial America. I started with the mushroom toast (sauteed mushrooms on a thick slice of toast, smothered in Bearnaise sauce) while Dave had cornmeal-fried oysters. For my main course, I had the medallions of beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes and asparagus; Dave had the medallions of venison with leeks, mixed vegetables and a rosemary-bourbon mushroom sauce. For dessert, we split a slice of triple-chocolate mousse cake. Everything was delicious!

Since then, it’s been back to life as usual, with one happy thing: spring weather seems to have FINALLY arrived! Time for Easter eggs, fresh asparagus, Cadbury Caramel Eggs, sweet cherries, chocolate bunnies, hoodie weather and countdown to summer!

I’m looking forward to bringing you recipes with fresh spring produce, but for now, I want to share this pizza with you. I think I love homemade pizza better than takeout. Sure, it’s more work, but you can get flavor combinations that you’ll never see at the corner pizza joint.

I only just tasted leeks for the first time about a year ago, but I love the mild onion-y flavor (they are in the onion family). Ground lamb is an “exotic” alternative to ground beef, and after having this 3-cheese, rosemary and pepperoni pizza, I don’t think I’ll ever have a pizza without rosemary again! I love it!

This pizza takes a bit of advance planning, cooking the ground lamb and leeks ahead of time, but it’s definitely worth it. Each bite is bursting with flavor. It’s inspired by a recipe from The Way the Cookie Crumbles, but I decided not to make the meatballs, because I thought it would be easier for Liam’s toddler-sized mouth to eat ground meat instead of meatballs on a pizza.

Pizza with Ground Lamb, Leeks and Rosemary

Pizza with Ground Lamb, Leeks and Rosemary

Inspired by The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces ground lamb
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 leek (white and light green parts only), rinsed, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • about 1 lb pizza dough (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can no-salt-added whole or diced tomatoes packed in juice, drained
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4 to 6 ounces shredded mozzarella (depends on pizza size)
  • 2 stalks fresh rosemary

Directions

  1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground lamb and cook, breaking up clumps  with a wooden spoon or spatula, until fully browned. Remove from the skillet to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain the fat. Wipe out the skillet.
  2. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the same skillet over medium heat; add the leeks and a pinch each of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are soft, about 8 minutes.
  3. Place a pizza stone in your oven and preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Roll or stretch the dough into a 12- to 14-inch circle.
  4. Season the diced tomatoes with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Strip the rosemary leaves off of the stems; discard the stems. Roughly chop the leaves.
  5. Line a pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet with parchment paper, and dust generously with cornmeal.  Carefully transfer the circle of dough to the peel. Spread the tomatoes in a thin layer over the dough, leaving a half-inch margin around the outer edges. Sprinkle half the mozzarella over the tomatoes, then sprinkle on the chopped rosemary. Transfer the pizza to the hot pizza stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the crust starts to appear dry. Partially remove the pizza from the oven, very carefully sprinkle the ground lamb and leeks over the pizza, then sprinkle on the remaining half of the mozzarella cheese, and return the pizza to the oven to bake another two to four minutes, until the top layer of cheese has melted and the crust is golden brown.
  6. Remove the pizza from the oven, let it cool for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving. 

Number of servings (yield): 4 (2 slices per person)

Meals on Wheels DE “Meals from the Masters”

By Coleen

Meals on Wheels Delaware "Meals from the Masters"

I’m taking a quick break from posting recipes for today. Instead, I want to tell you about an upcoming event in Wilmington, DE, by Meals on Wheels of Delaware. The event is the 17th Annual Meals from the Masters, held on April 25th and 27th, and it brings together restaurants and chefs both local and international to raise funds and awareness for senior hunger.

Meals on Wheels Delaware "Meals from the Masters"

Meals on Wheels of Delaware is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that partners with five meal-providing agencies to foster independence and good health in the senior population of Delaware. Last year alone, over 635,000 meals were delivered. In addition to delivering meals, Meals on Wheels volunteers help connect seniors to the help they may need to manage their affairs, or get financial assistance or care.

 

Meals on Wheels Delaware Evening with the Masters

Photos courtesy of Meals on Wheels DE

The event on Friday, April 25th is called Evening with the Masters, with tastings by more than 45 local and regional restaurants, samples from more than 20 craft breweries in a tented beer garden, wine and unique cocktails, hosted by Spencer Graves of 93.7 WSTW radio station, and live music by Paul Cullen and Spin Jocs Entertainment. The evening will feature participants from Buckley’s Tavern, Chesapeake Inn, Harry’s Savoy Grill, Philadelphia Distilling Company, Sweet Somethings, Union City Grille, Brooklyn Brewery, Dogfish Head Brewery, Flying Fish Brewery, Samuel Adams, Troegs Brewing Co., Victory Brewing, and many more. See the complete list of participants here

The event runs from 6:30 to 10 p.m at the Doubletree Downtown, 700 N King St, Wilmington, DE. Tickets are $75, and you must be 21 years of age or older to attend. Purchase tickets online.

Meals on Wheels Delaware Celebrity Chefs Brunch

Photos courtesy of Meals on Wheels DE

On Sunday, April 27th, the event concludes with the Celebrity Chefs’ Brunch, showcasing food from chefs across the U.S. and the world, including Michael Blackie of NEXT in Stittsville, Ontario; Jay Caputo of Espuma in Rehoboth Beach, DE; Daniel Fox of Heritage Tavern in Madison, WI; Roger Herring of Grand Tour in Chicago, IL; Bruce Moffett of Barrington’s in Charlotte, NC; Debra Paquette of Etch in Nashville, TN; Cathy Whims of Nostrana in Portland, OR; and more. See complete list of participants here.

In addition, there will be a silent auction for prizes including high-end culinary items, travel packages, one-of-a-kind experiences and luxury gifts.

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hercules Plaza, 1313 North Market Street, Wilmington, DE. Tickets are $175. Purchase tickets online.

Last year's celebrity chefs, photo courtesy of Meals on Wheels DE

Last year’s celebrity chefs, photo courtesy of Meals on Wheels DE

A weekend pass to both events can be purchased for $200, or for $250, you can purchase a pass to both events as well as a wine auction.

I hope that if you’re in the area, you’ll help support Meals on Wheels by attending the event. If you’re not in the area, there are special room rates available at the Courtyard Marriot, the Doubletree, and Sheraton hotels. See the Meals on Wheels site for more information.

Disclosure: In exchange for help promoting the 17th Annual Meals from the Masters, Meals on Wheels DE is providing me with free tickets to the events.

Baking with Irish Cream Round-up #WhatsBaking

By Coleen

What's Baking Round Up

In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, I chose Baking with Irish Cream as the theme of the March round of What’s Baking. Here are the submissions!

Jaida from Sweet Beginnings made Irish Cream Cheesecake Swirled Brownies. I can’t wait to try these myself!

Baking With Irish Cream Round Up #WhatsBaking

Ali from Sparks From the Kitchen made Lucky O’Cupcakes (chocolate cupcakes with Bailey’s frosting and a butterscotch drizzle) — yum!

Baking with Irish Cream Round Up #WhatsBaking

Kate of Kate’s Recipe Box is pregnant, so she used Irish Cream-flavored coffee creamer in these Irish Cream Double Chocolate Cookies.

Baking with Irish Cream Round Up #WhatsBaking

Eva from Eva Bakes made Bailey’s Irish Cream Cupcakes, with Bailey’s in the cupcakes AND in the frosting!

Baking with Irish Cream Round Up #WhatsBaking

And I made Mini Irish Cream Chocolate Cheesecakes with Bailey’s Whipped Cream. So rich and delicious!

Baking with Irish Cream Round Up #WhatsBaking

Mini Irish Cream Chocolate Cheesecakes

By Coleen

Mini Irish Cream Chocolate Cheesecakes #WhatsBaking

This month is my turn to host What’s Baking, a group organized by Jaida of Sweet Beginnings. I got to choose the theme, so in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I chose baking with Irish cream.

What's Baking logo

In the past, I’ve made a full-size Irish cream chocolate cheesecake. It’s rich and full of Irish cream flavor, but I didn’t want to make a full-size cheesecake without an occasion to share it. So, I decided to adapt it into mini Irish cream chocolate cheesecakes.

For the crust, I used Trader Joe’s Chocolatey Cats Cookies for People, but you could also use chocolate graham crackers, or Oreos (cream scraped off). Why add sugar to the crust, when the cookies already contain sugar? The sugar will melt during baking and resolidfy when cooled, holding the crumbs together.

Mini Irish Cream Chocolate Cheesecakes #WhatsBaking

The key to getting a smooth, creamy filling is (1) room-temperature ingredients, and (2) beating to combine, but not to incorporate air. That means beating only as long as necessary to combine the ingredients, but on a medium-low speed.

The verdict? Delicious! Mine cracked during baking (I couldn’t figure out how to put the muffin tin in a water bath), so but I remembered the wise words of my culinary instructor: “That’s what whipped cream is for!” I added more Bailey’s to the whipped cream, and didn’t feel a smidge of guilt for downing two mini cheesecakes back-to-back.

Check back later this month to see all of the What’s Baking — Baking with Irish cream recipes!

Mini Irish Cream Chocolate Cheesecakes #WhatsBaking

Mini Irish Cream Chocolate Cheesecakes

Adapted from AllRecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 (8-oz) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • ⅔ cup white sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tbsp sour cream
  • ¼ cup Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp Irish cream liqueur

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-count muffin tin with foil liners.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the cookie crumbs, powdered sugar and melted butter. Mix until all of the dry ingredients are moistened.
  3. Place a tablespoonful of cookie crumbs in each liner, and gently press with fingers into a flat crust. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, blend together the cream cheese, white sugar, and cocoa powder until evenly combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl between additions. Beat in the sour cream and the Irish cream on medium-low speed.
  6. Scoop two tablespoonfuls of batter into each muffin well.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes, then decrease oven temperature to 250 and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until edges are set but center still jiggles slightly. Let cool on a wire rack for an hour, then refrigerate for at least four hours (overnight is preferable).
  8. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whip attachment, beat the heavy cream and sugar at high speed until stiff peaks form. Lower the speed to medium-low, and gradually add the Irish cream liqueur, and mix until fully incorporated (peaks may soften). Place a generous dollop on top of each cheesecake.

Stocking Your Kitchen: Cookware and Bakeware

By Coleen

Stocking Your Kitchen: Cookware and Bakeware

Having a well-stocked pantry, refrigerator and freezer doesn’t mean much if you don’t have the appropriate cooking tools. Now, like the ingredients, the hardware is going to depend on your cooking style. Why have a wok if you never make a stir-fry?

I’m also big on multi-taskers: cookware, bakeware and tools that perform more than one task. I don’t need a garlic chopper, because I can either use my chef’s knife, and my mini food processor.

I don’t discuss specific brands here, because I don’t have any experience comparing and contrasting specific equipment from each brand. Heck, my saucepans are hand-me-downs from my grandmother, I don’t even know what brand they *are*!

I store most of my cookware on this pot rack, similar to this one:

Stocking Your Kitchen: Cookware and Bakeware

First, let’s talk pots and pans.

  • Saucepans with lids: one small (2 to 3 quart) and one large (4+ quart), for making sauces, small batches of soup, boiling or steaming vegetables, cooking rice or other grains.
  • Stockpot (12- to 16-quart): for making homemade broth, cooking large amounts of pasta, or large batches of soups
  • Saute pan (straight sides) with lid: 10- to 14-inches, depending on the size of your family, for making one-pot meals, pan sauces, browning ground meat, etc.
  • Skillet (slanted sides), preferably oven-proof: 10- to 12-inches, for searing meat (stainless steel or cast-iron, but one of each is even better, if you can swing it)
  • Small nonstick skillet: for cooking eggs
  • Dutch oven: 5- to 6-quart, for soups, braising, stews, even baking bread.

Now, on to bakeware (most of which can be used in savory cooking as well). Most of my bakeware is stored on the lower shelves of an Ikea kitchen island (which no longer seems to be available. It’s similar to this one, but ours has three drawers above the shelves).

Stocking Your Kitchen: Cookware and Bakeware

  • Baking sheets: at least two, I prefer the lipped half-sheet pans, 18×13 inches, for baking cookies, roasting vegetables, baking all kinds of meat, poultry or fish.
  • Baking pans (square): one 8×8 or 9×9, and one 9×13 pan, with two-inch tall sides, for brownies, sheet cakes, casseroles, or roasting meats
  • Baking pans (round): two round baking pans 8- or 9-inches in diameter for layer cakes
  • 12-count muffin tin: for muffins, cupcakes, mini cheesecakes, mini quiches, etc.
  • 9-inch pie plate: not only for baking pies or quiches, but also for dredging food in flour or breadcrumbs
  • 9-inch springform pan: for cheesecakes, flourless cakes, pasta bakes, etc.

There are other things that are nice to have: the afore-mentioned wok, if you frequently make Asian dishes at home; a donut pan; oven-proof bowls (for French-onion soup, or individual pot pies); a large round cake pan (10 to 12 inches) for large cakes, and to use as a water bath if you make a lot of cheesecakes; a roasting pan; a 9×5 loaf pan for quickbreads; tube or bundt pans … Really, the list is endless.

Next week: cooking tools!

Mascarpone and Roasted Plum Tart

By Coleen

Mascarpone and Roasted Plum Tart #pieday

Happy Pie Day! (3.14 = March 14th)

OK, yes, I made a tart, not a pie. What’s the difference? Both have a crust, a filling, and can be sweet or savory. Pies typically have a tender crust, with sloped sides. A tart, on the other hand, typically has a crisp, crumbly crust, and straight sides.

This tart has a sweet, almost shortbread-like crust, filled with sweetened mascarpone, and topped with roasted plums. I’m not typically a fan of cooked fruit; it often leaves an unpleasant aftertaste in my mouth. But these plums are delicious, with no bad aftertaste!

Like most baked goods, don’t handle the crust too much, or else it will get tough. If you think you’ve handled it too much, let is rest for about ten minutes before continuing, to allow the gluten in the flour to relax.

It really is worth getting real vanilla beans for this recipe. You can substitute vanilla extract in the mascarpone filling, but if you toss the plums with extract before roasting, the heat of the oven will just burn off the extract, leaving no vanilla flavor behind.

Mascarpone and Roasted Plum Tart #pieday

Mascarpone and Roasted Plum Tart

Inspired by Bon Appetit

Special equipment: 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup + 3 ½ tablespoons sugar, divided
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp ice-cold water
  • 6 ripe yet firm plums
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp honey

Directions

  1. Place the flour and 1 ½ tbsp of sugar in the bowl of a food processor, pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter, and pulse 10 to 20 times, until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
  2. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk with the ice water. With food processor running, stream the egg mixture through the feed tube. Process until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky; don’t process more than 30 seconds.
  3. Scrape the dough onto a clean work surface. Form the dough into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic. Chill at least 1 hour, up to 1 day.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut each plum in half and remove the pit. Cut each half into four equal pieces. Place the plum pieces in a large bowl; add ½ cup of the sugar and the lemon juice. Split the vanilla bean down the center. Scrape the seeds from one half of vanilla bean; add to the plums and toss to coat.
  5. Line a baking sheet with tin foil, and crimp 1 inch of each side up. Spread the plums in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until fork-tender and juices are bubbling. Let the plums cool about 10 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees.
  6. Carefully pinch up the tinfoil, and pour the juices into a small saucepan. Transfer the plums to a bowl and chill. Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and simmer until thickened and reduced to a ½ cup; set glaze aside.
  7. Place the mascarpone, the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar, Greek yogurt, and honey in a medium bowl. Scrape in seeds from the remaining half of the vanilla bean. Beat with a whisk until well-blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  8. Spray the tart pan with nonstick spray. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour. Roll the dough out to a large circle (11 to 12 inches), about an eighth of an inch thick. Gently roll the circle over the rolling pin, transfer to the edge of the tart pan, and unroll into the pan. Gently press dough into the sides. Roll the rolling pin over the top to cut off any excess dough. Lightly prick the bottom and sides of the tart crust with the tines of a fork to prevent the dough from puffing during baking. Place the tart pan on a larger baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking the crust for another 15 minutes, until the crust is lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
  9. Once the crust is fully cooled, spoon the mascarpone mixture into the crust and spread with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon until it forms an even coat. Arrange plum slices, slightly overlapping, in circles on top of the mascarpone filling. Lightly brush the glaze over the plums. Chill until ready to serve.

Number of servings (yield): 8

Irish Soda Bread Scones

By Coleen

Irish Soda Bread Scones

Chances are, if you’re not living under a rock, you see Irish soda bread popping up after Valentine’s Day.

What is soda bread? No, it’s not made with a carbonated beverage. It’s a quick bread, and uses baking soda as a leavener. Yes, just about all quick breads you see these days use baking soda, but when baking soda was introduced in Ireland in the mid 1800s, it was the first bread to use it.

You might think of muffins or pumpkin bread when you hear “quick bread,” but soda bread is much dryer than either of those, which is why I thought it would be perfect to transform traditional soda bread into breakfast scones!

Irish Soda Bread Scones

These soda bread scones an adaptation of “Americanized” Irish soda bread rather than traditional soda bread. Some purists believe that what we call Irish soda bread is actually a purely American invention with no roots in Ireland at all (much like the “traditional” St. Patrick’s Day meal of corned beef and cabbage). Anyway, many recipes for Irish soda bread include caraway seeds and/or raisins. I haven’t included them here (mainly because (1) I don’t like caraway seeds and (2) I didn’t have any raisins), but feel free to add up to two teaspoons of caraway seeds and/or a cup of raisins if you like them. Knead them into the dough during Step X.

Irish Soda Bread Scones

Irish Soda Bread Scones

Adapted from Rose Levy Berenbaum’s The Bread Bible

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour (or a second cup of all-purpose flour)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes
  • ½ cup buttermilk, plus more as needed and for brushing
  • 1 large egg yolk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. Place the flours, sugar, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.
  3. Add the cubes of butter to the food processor, and pulse 10 to 20 times, until the mixture looks mealy.
  4. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk the buttermilk and the egg yolk with a fork. While pulsing the food processor, slowly stream the buttermilk/egg mixture into the dough. Pulse two or three more times until the dough comes together in large clumps. If it does not, add up to an additional ¼ cup of buttermilk, one tablespoonful at a time, until the dough comes together.
  5. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times with floured hands until smooth but not sticky. Gently pat into a disk, then roll out to a circle 8 inches in diameter and ½-inch thick.
  6. Use a floured 2 ½-inch circle cutter to cut out scones — press the cutter straight down, do not twist. Place the scones on the baking sheet. Gather the scraps, re-roll into a ½-inch thick circle, and cut more scones. Repeat until you only a few scraps remain. (NOTE: If you don’t have a circle cutter, roll the dough into a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter, then cut that circle into 8 wedges, and continue with the next step.)
  7. Brush the tops of each scones with buttermilk and bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until dry-looking and golden brown (wedges may take a few minutes longer).
  8. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Number of servings (yield): 8 to 10 scones

Stocking Your Kitchen: Baking Staples

By Coleen

Stocking Your Kitchen: Baking Staples

This “Stocking Your Kitchen” post all about baking staples. I know that not everyone is into baking. And I get it. Some people are much more comfortable tossing in a palmful of this, a pinch of that. Others are very “by the book,” measuring every single ingredient. Cooking is better suited to former; baking to the latter.

Shelf-life will vary by product. Most flours will last a long time (whole wheat is the exception), as will sugars and chocolate. Baking soda and baking powder do lose potency over time (about 18 months after opening). To preserve my whole wheat flour, I buy it in smaller packages, and keep it in the freezer. I also bought a 16-ounce package of instant yeast. I keep it in an airtight container in the freezer, and it’s going on five years old and still going strong.

As with a cooking pantry, the basics will vary depending on your preferences, though not nearly as widely. But here’s what I think almost all bakers need:

  • Flours: all-purpose flour, bread flour (nice-to-have: whole wheat flour, cake flour)
  • Sugars: granulated, confectioners, light and dark brown sugar (nice-to-have: vanilla sugar)
  • Flavorings: Vanilla extract, vanilla beans, almond extract (nice-to-have: mint extract, lemon extract)
  • Leavening: Baking powder, baking soda, instant yeast
  • Cocoa powder (nice-to-have: Dutch process cocoa powder)
  • Corn meal
  • Cornstarch
  • Rolled oats
  • Light corn syrup
  • Cream of tartar
  • Mix-ins: semisweet chocolate chips; white chocolate chips; semisweet and white chocolate in bar form

Stocking Your Kitchen: Baking Staples

I keep nearly all of my baking ingredients together, in a cabinet under the breakfast bar. This is the right-hand side of the cabinet. On the top shelf are the flavorings (extracts, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks), light and dark corn syrup, meringue powder, and sprinkles.

On the middle shelf are my lesser-used flours, corn meal, baking soda, and baking powder.

On the bottom shelf are my often-used flours, molasses, gelatin, and a box of graham crumbs.

Stocking Your Kitchen: Baking Staples

On the left side, top shelf are my chocolates: cocoa powder, bar chocolate (semisweet, white), chocolate chips (semisweet, milk, white).

On the middle shelf are my sugars: granulated, light brown, dark brown, powdered sugar, and vanilla sugar).

On the bottom shelf is a hodge-podge of stuff: cake circles, Nutella, fondant, pudding mixes, flavored gelatins, etc.

Because of my nut intolerance, I don’t cook or bake with them. If you do, you’ll want to keep those in the freezer, because nuts are high in fat and will spoil quickly.

Next week, we’ll talk about cookware and bakeware!  

Meyer Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Quick Bread {recipe swap}

By Coleen

Meyer Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Quick Bread

Dear Winter: What’s up with you? The past few years, you’ve been pretty mild, sometimes a little chilly, but that never lasted long. This year? Let’s just say, I don’t remember moving to Antarctica. The cold shoulder is getting old. Let’s move on and try again next year, okay? Signed, The Redhead Baker.

Spring can’t get here soon enough. But until it does, I’m perking myself up with bright flavors, like citrus. I always paired citrus with summer in my mind, yet the peak season for citrus is right now.

Meyer Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Quick Bread

I bought a bag of Meyer lemons from Wegman’s, and was looking for a recipe in which to use them. Then I got my recipe swap assignment from our host, A Taste of Home Cooking, and saw that she had a lemon blueberry yogurt quick bread that I really wanted to try. I giggled a little to myself, because it’s the same blog I was assigned almost exactly a year ago, and in that swap exchange, I chose another blueberry-lemon recipe, and subbed in Meyer lemons instead. What can I say? I love Meyer lemons. And they pair well with blueberries.

The yogurt loaf is essentially a quick bread. It’s very easy to put together the batter, and just under an hour later, you have a delicious, moist, sweet-tart bread perfect for a light breakfast or quick snack.

Meyer Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Quick Bread

Meyer Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Quick Bread

Adapted from Sweet Beginnings

Ingredients

For the Loaf

  • 1 ½ cups + 1 tbsp all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup vanilla greek yogurt (no-fat, low-fat or regular)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • Zest of 2 Meyer lemons
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 ½ cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)

For the Lemon Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Juice of 2 Meyer lemons (about 3 tbsp)
  • Splash of vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Combine 1 ½ cups of flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. In a larger mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients.
  4. In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, then fold gently into the batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes then remove the loaf and cool on a wax or parchment paper-lined wire rack.
  6. While the loaf is cooling, make the lemon glaze: mix the powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, and a splash of vanilla together in a small bowl. The mixture should be thick but pour-able. Add up to another tablespoonful of lemon juice if the mixture is too thick. Spoon the lemon glaze over the top of the loaf and let it drip down the sides. Let the loaf sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes for the glaze to set before slicing and serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

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