Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oat and Maple Syrup Scones (tip of the hat to

I love Deb at smittenkitchen. Her writing is lovely and descriptive and down-to-earth and funny, and the recipes she chooses to showcase are, if not always simple, then certainly straight-forward and with an emphasis on Real Food. She takes risks on opening herself and her family up to the anonymous millions of Internet-world, in a really honest way that I respect. Her blog is probably the biggest influence on my own writing. Also: her kid is adorable. And you should buy her cookbook when it comes out.

So when I read her latest post, I got a Craving and I Had. to Make. SCONES. So I sent the Bald Guy out on a mission for milk and eggs (because we just got back from a short vacay and the only thing in the refrigerator at the moment is a half-container of old yogurt and a very loud echo). After much sorting and flour and kneading and general kitchen chaos, what emerged were nine light, flaky, not-too-sweet scones of the Afternoon Tea variety. I might add some dried fruit (apricot, maybe?) or other flavor/texture brightener, but really, with a little honey and some butter, these are just about perfect. And relatively easy.

This recipe ain't mine. It actually ain't even Deb's, as she acknowledges on her blog. It's adapted and then adapted again from the cookbook Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery. But I cribbed it from Deb.

Makes 8-10 reasonably sized scones.

1 3/4 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting kneading surface
1/2 cup (80 grams) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (35 grams) rolled oats
1 very heaped tablespoon baking powder
1 very heaped tablespoon superfine (caster) or granulated sugar (It could stand a little more, if you like your scones sweetish)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Scant 3/4 cup (160 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup milk, buttermilk, or English-style soured cream (as in, runny)
1 egg, beaten (for glazing the tops)

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 C). Line a baking tray with parchment paper (or butter or spray it with non-stick spray or something).
  • Whisk the dry stuff together in a large bowl. With a pastry blender or your fingertips, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. If you've never done this before, it took me a WHILE by hand - at least five minutes - of rubbing and scraping bits off my fingers and rubbing some more. Keep going. Don't leave big ol' lumps of butter in there. Also, note to self: take wedding ring off BEFORE you start...oy.
  • In a small dish, combine the milk and syrup, then add these liquid ingredients to the butter/flour mixture. By hand or with a non-metallic spoon or spatula, bring everything together to form a softish dough. I found it easier to do by hand. Plus. your hands are already messy, so you might as well. If it feels too dry, add a LEETLE more milk, but not enough that the dough is sticky. Deb quotes the cookbook here: "The dough should not be sticky at all."
  • On a lightly floured surface, pat or roll the dough out until it is 1 1/4 inches (3 cm) tall. Using a 2-inch cutter (or a glass dipped in flour or an empty fruit salad can - those little ones work really well), cut the dough into rounds and place them on the prepared tray. Brush the tops of the scones with beaten egg (this makes them brown and shiny and delicious) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until they're lightly golden and the kitchen smells goooooood. 
  • Serve warm, with butter or jam or honey or cream cheese or...nom...I wonder if there are any left...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sweet Potato Puff Pastry Pizza

I've been recuperating from surgery for the past couple of weeks, and while some very kind people have brought over yummy dinners for the Bald Guy and me, I've really missed the creativity and flow of being in the kitchen. This is the first thing I've made worth writing about since I've been able to stand up long enough to cook.

I stole this from the February 2011 issue of Food and Wine magazine, but substituted out several of their ingredients and added some of my own - mostly because that eggplant lurking in the back of the refrigerator was about a millisecond away from becoming a science experiment if it didn't get eaten, and because I enjoy using EVERY cooking utensil in the house to make something I could have with a touch of a few phone or computer buttons.

Anyhoo. In addition to being nommy, the bits that are noteworthy (to me - maybe you've been using these ingredients for years. If so, don't tell me. My ego is fragile.) are the puff pastry crust and using sweet potato purée instead of tomato sauce. This recipe can be easily modified for vegetarian purposes, but I don't know what sorts of grains lurk in puff pastry, so y'all gluten-free people may miss out. I do have some gluten-free pizza dough mix the Bald Guy bought on a whim (Bless.) that needs to be used...if it turns out well with the sweet potato sauce, I'll let you know.

1 eggplant, diced in about a 1/2 inch dice (maybe a little smaller)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (original recipe calls for pre-baked pizza crust)
A little all-purpose flour, for dusting
1 egg, lightly beaten, or a little melted butter, for brushing (optional)
1 sweet potato, medium/large-ish size (or you can use "mashed sweet potatoes from a store," according to the recipe), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
About 1/4 to 1/2 cup fat-free plain yogurt
1 teaspoon thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon if dried)
A little knob of butter and a little swirl of olive oil (about a tablespoon of each, give or take)
1 large red onion, very thinly sliced (recipe calls for white. I scoff. Scoff!)
1 tablespoon oregano, a little less if dried
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 orange or yellow bell pepper, sliced thinly
4 ounces (ish) of thinly sliced soppressata, proscuitto, or parma ham. Try not to eat the entire package while waiting for the dough to bake.
1.5 cups (or thereabouts) of shredded mozzarella
About a quarter cup shredded fresh basil leaves, if you've got 'em
(Obviously you can add or subtract as many toppings as you want. This is not a dictatorship. I'm more of a socialist monarchist, myself. SHARE, DAMNIT!!)
  • Thaw the puff pastry sheet according to package directions.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
  • Toss the eggplant in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread out on a cookie sheet or pan and roast for about 20 minutes, or until just turning golden-brown (and not burnt. Ooops.) Take out of the oven and transfer to a bowl or something to cool. 
  • Lightly flour your kitchen counter or pastry board. Be sure to include your feet in their felt slippers (that flour will never come off), the front of your jeans, and the cat for good measure.
  • With a rolling pin (or, you know, a can of soup or a large juice glass or the cat), roll out the puff pastry rectangle until it's about 10 x 15 inches or thereabouts. If the pastry dough comes separated at the pre-perforated folds, just dampen your fingers with a little water and pinch it back together. It will be fine. Don't freak out. 
  • Fold the edges in about a half-inch to form a raised rim for your pizza. Brush those neatly folded edges with a little egg, for a glossy brown shine (if you're into brunette pizzas). Prick the inside of the neat geometric shape you've just created with a fork a bunch of times so it doesn't puff up too much in the middle while it's baking (mine puffed anyway, but I squished it with the weight of the ingredients). 
  • Transfer your puff pastry rectangle to a cookie sheet (I used parchment paper to keep it from sticking) and bake for about 10 minutes until the pastry's golden-ish and nearly baked.
Meanwhile (back at the ranch)...
  • In a large saucepan, boil the sweet potato until tender and easily pierced with a fork. Drain and transfer sweet potato to a food processor and process ('cause that's what you do with a food processor) until smooth. Add a bit of fat-free plain yogurt if it's too dry, up to 1/2 cup. Season to taste with thyme, salt and pepper. 
Meanwhile MEANWHILE...
  • Heat up that butter and oil in a skillet until nice and melted, over medium heat. Add your onions oregano and sizzle, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to the skillet and cook until the onion is caramelized, about 10 minutes (mine took about 5 minutes. Watch that sucker like the proverbial bird of prey!) Add the balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring occasionally, until it has evaporated, about 10 minutes (again, mine took about 5 minutes to get to a nicely caramelized, glossy, balsamic-y state).
Now. After dirtying nearly every dish in your kitchen for what is essentially a convenience food, you're ready to assemble your pizza!
  • Spread the sweet potatoes over the pizza crust. Add the onions. Then the eggplant. Arrange pepper slices, then top with basil leaves, cured meat product and mozzarella. You can use a schmancy pizza stone, or you can bake directly on the oven rack (um. I will not come clean up your oven if you use this method.) but I just used the cookie sheet the puff pastry was baked on originally, and it turned out fine. Stick the pizza in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, until bubbling and golden in spots. 
  • Eat. Eat Eat! Nom!
Extra bonus photo because I couldn't choose and because this shows the pretty pattern of the peppers (and because don't you think it looks vaguely like a WinDoze logo? Creepy how marketing gets in your head...)