Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fresh Cranberry Orange Scones

Freshly baked scones, liberally flecked with orange zest and polka dotted with fresh cranberries. Do I really need to say more?
I usually make scones to use up the remains from other recipes. Half-full cartons of cream, odd amounts of butter, frozen fruit sitting sadly in my freezer often find their way into a scone sooner or later. Not that this is a bad thing, on the contrary, I adore scones and would bake them whether I had the incentive to or not. They are the consummate teatime pastry- not too sweet but sweet enough to revive one from that mid-afternoon lethargy .

These scones with their tart, sunshiny flavour are a much needed pick me up on a dull fall day. They come together in minutes and I didn't have to go shopping for ingredients. I love combining cranberries with citrus flavours, cranberries and orange zest is a perfect match it makes these scones tart and refreshing. The scones themselves are tender and beautiful due to the jewel toned smattering of red cranberries and the liberal application of sparkly sugar to the tops of the scones before baking.

Cranberry Orange Scones


Time: 30 minutes

Makes 8 scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for work surface
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • zest of 1 orange (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled (1/3 cup plus two teaspoons butter)
  • 2/3 cup half and half cream, plus 1 tablespoon for brushing scones
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 tablespoon sanding or granulated sugar for sprinkling

    1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a bowl, whisk together flour, 5 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, salt, and orange zest. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 2/3 cup half and half just until moistened. Gently fold in cranberries.
    2. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough gently 5-10 times. Pat into a 1-inch thick round. Cut into 8 wedges; place on a baking sheet, 2 inches apart. Brush tops with remaining tablespoon sugar or sanding sugar. Bake until golden brown, 12-15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Scones are best eaten the day they are made.

Adapted from : Martha Stewart Everyday Food Holiday 2007

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pear Upside Down Gingerbread

It officially feels like fall, the sky is overcast, it is cold enough that my summer clothes just don't cut it anymore and pears are in season.

I have taken to using pears in baking, (in muffins and pear butter) because they have a sweet subtle flavour that melds well with other things.

This recipe combines pears and one of my favourite desserts: gingerbread. I could eat gingerbread any time of the year but my craving for it's sweet-spicy-comfort-food goodness intensifies when the weather turns cold.

The recipe called for either Anjou pears or the teeny Seckel variety. Honestly I’m not sure whether pear variety makes a difference. I could only find the Seckel pears, so I went with those in an attempt to be good and follow the recipe.

So I peeled and sliced the eensy little pears and arranged them oh-so prettily on top of the caramel in the pan.

However about as soon as I poured the batter over my pears they migrated to the sides of the dish. So much for aesthetics. I might not have packed them in tightly enough or maybe the tiny Seckel pear slices were just too small to stay put. (Tiny things tend to be mischievous little fellows) Either way I think one should be particularly gentle when spreading the batter over the pear slices. I think when (notice it’s a when and not an “if”) I make this again, I might try using Bartlett pears, because I think they will work just as well and their bigger size will stop them in their sticky caramel tracks.

Flighty pears aside, this cake tasted perfect. It was exactly what I had been craving. The moist pear and caramel topping gets crunchy round the edges of the cake and stays soft and sticky in the centre. The gingerbread itself was a bit on the mild side of gingerbread. It had more mellowness than spicy bite, but in this regard it balanced the buttery caramel flavour of the pears. It also had that characteristic hot water gingerbread texture (despite not using hot water) that lends gingerbread cakes its tender, pillowy crumb.

I think this would be best served with whipped cream, but as I didn't have any, plain or with ice cream is certainly just as good. No matter how you dress it up, is there anyone out there who could resist the call of warm gingerbread on a chilly fall day?

Pear Gingerbread Upside Down Cake

Prep: 25 min, bake: 35-40 minutes, cool 5 min


Makes one 9x9 cake or about 9 servings

  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 Anjou pear or 3 Seckel pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced ( I don’t know if pear type makes a difference, I used Seckel pears which are tiny and I think that a bigger pear would stay in place better)


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ¾ cup water (room temperature, this is not a hot water gingerbread)
  • sweetened whipped cream for serving (optional)

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small sauce pan combine the 1/3 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons butter, and 1 tablespoon water. Cook and stir over low heat until mixture comes to boiling. Pour mixture into a 9x9x2–inch baking dish, spreading to cover the bottom. Arrange pear slices in a decorative pattern on top of the brown sugar mixture; set aside. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and cloves; set aside.
    2. In a large bowl, beat the ½ cup butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds, add the brown sugar and beat until combined. Beat in eggs and molasses until combined.
    3. Alternately add flour mixture and the water to butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat on low speed after each addition just until combined. Pour batter evenly over pear slices in pan, being careful not to disturb pear slices.
    4. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until center springs back when lightly touched. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Using a sharp knife or narrow metal spatula, loosen edges of cake from sides of pan. Carefully invert onto a serving platter. Serve warm. If desired top each serving with sweetened whipped cream. Makes 9 servings.

Adapted from: Better Homes and gardens Holiday baking 2008

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lime Meltaways

Summer's almost over, it seems so odd that there is Halloween stuff in the stores already and pumpkins in a big crate outside the grocery store. Sure it's September, and I do love fall , but it all seems a little pre-emptive. I mean the leaves haven't even changed yet! Ok, so the air has become a bit colder, but I haven't quite got that distinctly fall feeling yet, maybe in a few weeks I'll start craving pumpkins, spices and cranberries.
Anyways, to hang on to the warm weather for a bit longer I wanted a cookie that was rereshing and citrusy. these lime shortbread meltaways seemed like a good experiment. I rarely make meltaway style cookies but I do love them. These lime flavoured cookies from martha stewart 's cookie book are a good adaptation of the lassic cookie. they are very simple, eggless shortbtread, liberally flavoured with vanilla and lime zest. the dough is rolled into logs and refrigerated till firm, and then sliced into the teeniest little coins and baked. No shaping required!
The warm cookies are then rolled in powdered sugar to give them that melting quality when you bite into them. These cookies are nice. They are refreshing, zesty and a nice sweet treat while the weather is still warm.

Lime Meltaways
makes about 3 dozen
time: 2 hours including chilling time

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

  1. Put butter and 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add lime zest and juice and vanilla, and mix until fluffy.
  2. Whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl. Add to butter mixture, and mix on low speed until just combined.
  3. Divide dough in half. Place each half on an 8-by-12-inch sheet of parchment paper. Roll in parchment to form a log 1 1/4 inches in diameter, pressing a ruler along edge of parchment at each turn to narrow log. Refrigerate logs until cold and firm, at least 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove parchment from logs; cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Space rounds 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake cookies until barely golden, about 13 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. While still warm, toss cookies with remaining 2/3 cup sugar in a resealable plastic bag. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 weeks.

From Martha Stewart Show, March 2008

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cherry Clafoutis

I made this classic cherry clafoutis earlier this summer to finish off a dinner of rosemary crusted lambchops and roasted vegetables. I was feeling very Provencale so I decided we needed a simple yet elegant fruit dessert to complete this very summertime meal.

I made this cherry clafoutis using a recipe I use for cranberry clafoutis but substituting sweet summer cherries for the cranberries.

I am a fan of tart flavours so I think I preferred the cranberry version (which I will post later) although I love the way cherries burst when they are cooked.

Clafoutis batter resembles crepe batter and is somewhat like a dense, custardy pancake.

The clafoutis batter can be used for any kind of fruit but cherries are traditional.

Simply scatter whatever fruit you are using in a pie plate and pour over the batter. Bake for half an hour and then you have a very simple yet satisfying dessert. The French traditionally do not pit the cherries, baking the clafoutis pits and all. but I did pit my cherries because I don’t like the idea of spitting out pits all through dessert.

I like to serve my clafoutis with a vanilla crème anglaise, a runny custard sauce that is essentially unchurned vanilla ice cream. The hint of vanilla lends a bit of sweetness to the not very sweet clafoutis and dresses up a very simple classic dessert.

Cranberry Clafoutis


Serves 6

Time: about 40 minutes

  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream (35% M.F./ whipping cream)
  • 6 tablespoons milk (1 % is ok)
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (or enough to fill a pie plate) fresh sweet cherries
  • icing sugar for dusting

    1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Using an electric beater, beat the eggs and sugar until frothy. Whisk in cream and milk. Add flour and mix until batter is smooth.
    2. Spray a 10-inch pie plate or gratin dish with vegetable spray or grease with butter. Pour batter into the pan, then sprinkle with cherries. Bake until golden brown, about 30 -35 minutes. Cool in pan and dust with icing sugar. Serve warm with creme anglaise or vanilla ice cream. Serves 6.

From: Cranberries:Recipes from Canada’s Best Chefs by Elaine Elliot

Classic Crème Anglaise

  • ½ cup whipping cream or 18% cream
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 or 3 egg yolks
  • ½ tsp vanilla

    1. In a small saucepan, heat together the cream, milk and 1 tbsp of the sugar over medium heat until bubbles form around the edge.
    2. In bowl, whisk the egg yolks with remaining sugar; whisk in hot cream mixture in thin stream. Stir back into pan; cook stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2-3 minutes.
    3. Strain into clean bowl; stir in vanilla. Lace plastic wrap directly on surface; refrigerate in airtight container until cold, at least 1 hour. Makes about 1-1/4 cups.

To make ahead: refrigerate in airtight container for up to 3 days.

From: Canadian Living Magazine June 2008

Friday, September 4, 2009

Blueberry Struesel Bars with Lemon Cream

Wild blueberries are really the best part about staying in the Maritimes in August. I could do without the hurricanes and the fruit flies (who have taken up residence in my apartment) and the imminent arrival of the fall semester, but these tiny little fruits somehow make this rather depressing season seem a bit more palatable - worthwile even.

Wild blueberries are the tinier but more powerful cousins to the cultivated behemoths at the grocery stores. They are a fraction of the size and yet they taste of pure distilled blueberry goodness. It’s almost like an intensely flavoured blueberry candy but without the cloying sweetness and artificiality.

Ok, So I’ve digressed into an ode to the wild blueberry. On to the recipe!

I’ve backlogged this recipe for streusel bars ever since I picked up the June/July 2008 issue of Fine Cooking Magazine. I was enchanted by the section on blueberry themed desserts (In fact, the pictures taunt me everytime I browse this magazine. Blueberry lime pound cake I’m coming for you next!) so with my hoard of wild blueberries, I decided to make these lemony bars full of bursting blueberry goodness. And you know they’ve gotta be good If I’m resorting to alliteration!

These bars are slightly fussier than your usually oat bar, because you bake in three steps rather than two (crust and then top). With these, after baking the crust, you layer on the filling and par-bake until it is shiny before then applying the topping and baking again. Really it’s not that much extra work. These really aren’t hard to make at all.

When cooled completely the lemon cream stays quite soft . The original recipe said to bake in a foil overhang so the bars can be lifted out of the pan easily but I found that the lemon cream was so soft if I had tried to lift them, the bars would have buckled and fallen apart. Just bake, cool and cut in a greased pan, I mean you'll still have to clean the pan anyways. These were soft and creamy at room temperature, but firm up in the fridge. Once you get past the first few edge pieces they are easy and relatively neat to slice into. (I eat the rejects/ evidence of clumsy bar slicing)

These bars are incredible and I can’t believe I’ve waited so long to make them. They are very rich and creamy, with great texture from the crispy topping, firm yet yielding lemon cream and the bursting tart blueberries in the middle of it all.

Can you still believe I have at least 3 cups of these blueberries left? I bought the small container I swear! Now what shall I do with the rest?

Blueberry Streusel Bars with Lemon Cream

Makes about 24 bars

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats(not quick oats)
  • 1-1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 large egg separated
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 2-1/2 cups fresh room temperature blueberries, washed and patted dry

    1. Position a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (line a 13x9 pan with foil leaving a one inch overhang and grease the foil) or grease the bottom of sides of the pan.
    2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, salt and baking powder. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, blend the butter completely into the into the flour mixture. Transfer 2 cups of the crumb mixture to another bowl and reserve for the topping. Blend the egg white into the remaining crumbs to moisten and then press the mixture into the bottom of the pan to form a level crust. Bake the crust until it starts to form a dry top,10-12 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile in a medium bowl, whisk the condensed milk, lemon juice, lemon zest and egg yolk. Let this mixture stand for 5 minutes; it will begin to thicken.
    4. Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the hot crust and then drop spoonfuls of the lemon mixture over the blueberries. Spread gently with a spatula to distribute a little more evenly, but take care not to crush the blueberries; it’s fine if the lemon mixture isn’t perfectly even. Bake until the lemon mixture just begins to form a shiny skin, 7-8 minutes.
    5. Sprinkle the reserved topping over the lemon-blueberry layer, pressing the streusel between your fingers into small lumps as you sprinkle. Bake until the filling is bubbling at the edges and the topping is brown, 25-30 minutes.
    6. Let the bars cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into 24 bars when completely cool. The bars may be stored at room temperature for a few hours but otherwise should be kept in the refrigerator.

From: Fine Cooking Magazine June/July 2008

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Blueberry Pudding Cake with Cream Cheese Ice Cream

I came to study in the Maritimes about a year ago and one of the first things I learned was of the existence of the wild blueberry. I first tried them on a whim last year and have been waiting for them to come back into season ever since.

Despite being tiny, they have such an intense flavour compared to cultivated blueberries it is really amazing. My waiting was finally rewarded when I saw the first cartons of blueberries in the markets. I decided to splurge and bought myself a carton of the teeny fruits, with the intent of using them on a blueberry baking spree.

I was in an indulgent comfort food mood, since I just finished up some classes this summer, so I decided to make this blueberry pudding cake because I was intrigued by the concept and wanted a full on blueberry dessert. You could use cultivated blueberries for this recipe too but if you can get them wild blueberries are amazing in this recipe.

A blueberry pudding cake is similar to a lemon pudding cake in that there is a sauce layer on the bottom and a moist fluffy sponge cake layer on top. However Unlike its citrus (or chocolate!) compatriots, this cake does not owe it’s separation to the mixing method, rather you simply layer the ingredients in the pan so the sauce bubbles underneath while the cake bakes on top.

The first step to making this is to toss blueberries with sugar in a baking pan. This probably won’t be a problem with cultivated blueberries but if you use wilds you must take a bit of time to do some de-stemming. Picking the microscopic stems out of the tiny berries is a pain but so worth it in the end.

Next you make a lemon scented cake batter that is as smooth and satiny as a dog’s ear, and spread it over the berries in the pan, smoothing as you go. Then comes the strange part, boiling up a syrup of water sugar and lemon juice and then pouring it over the cake before baking. I was a bit trepidatious at this point but when the cake came out of the oven I breathed a sigh of relief. It came out perfectly.

Tender moist cake served warm with its own sauce, it’s easy and pure comfort food.

But I needed more!

I decided to make a cream cheese ice cream to go with my blueberry cake.

This cream cheese ice cream is so simple to make. It is whipped up in the blender and then churned in the ice cream machine. I think it is one of the better ice creams I have made lately. This ice cream tastes exactly like cheesecake, the texture is smooth, creamy and thick and it tastes slightly tangy because of the cream cheese. This ice cream complemented my pudding cake very well, when the tangy ice cream melts into the warm blueberry sauce, it tastes like a blueberry cheesecake.

I would definitely make both of these recipes over and over again.

This cake can be made ahead of time but it doesn’t keep too well, after more than a day, because the blueberries begin to get absorbed by the sponge cake. It is good either warm or cold but I prefer this cake warm.

The wild blueberries were tamed and they tasted good!

Blueberry Pudding Cake

Makes 8 servings

Time: 1-1/2 hours, including 50 minutes baking time

  • 3 cups wild or cultivated blueberries
  • 2/3 cup sugar, divided
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup lemon juice

Cake topping

  • ½ cup butter
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • ½ cup milk

    1. In a greased 8-inch glass baking dish, toss blueberries with 1/3 cup of the sugar; set aside .(can be done ahead of time)
    2. Make cake topping: In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in lemon zest and vanilla.
    3. Ina separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture alternately with milk, making 3 additions of flour mixture and 2 of milk. Scrape over blueberries, smoothing top. Set aside.
    4. In a small saucepan, bring water, lemon juice and remaining sugar to boil; pour over batter. Bake in centre of 350 degree F oven until bubbly around edges and cake is firm to touch, 50-55 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. (Make ahead: Set aside for up to 8 hours; reheat if desired)

Adapted from: Canadian Living Magazine August 2008

Cream Cheese Ice Cream

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

    1. Combine cream cheese, milk, lemon juice, sugar and salt in a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in cream and vanilla. Chill completely.
    2. Freeze mixture inn ice cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.
    3. Let ice cream soften for 5 minutes before serving.

This ice cream can be made up to 1 week ahead.

From: The Gourmet Cookbook ed. Ruth Reichel