SUMMARY – somewhere between a danish and croissant. Not too sweet. Layers of butter. Completely awesome still warm. Still better than anything from the store the next day.

I can’t believe this is the last Alpha Baker recipe! Of course Marie saved the cover recipe for last. She probably thought no one would continue baking if we made the kouigns first.

Looking over the baking projects, the one recipe that I constantly make is the Irish Cream Scones.

I’ve made scones for family, friends, neighbors, visitors, co-workers and the gals at the corner store. My students made versions of them in both of my baking classes this past fall.

A maple walnut version of them (using maple syrup, walnuts instead of raisins, adding some cinnamon) won me two fair blue ribbons and a second place prize from a maple festival.

My other go-to recipe (chocolate peanut butter cupcakes) is from a different cookbook author who I won’t mention (but she is addicted to baking and candy ;). Party coming up? Cupcakes are requested. The same cupcakes also netted me two fair blue ribbons.

 

This recipe might be the scone and cupcake equivalent.

 

First, butter. A half-pound of butter. I cheated and used a brick of Kerrygold so I wouldn’t have to mess around with squishing butter together. Totally worth it!

Second, the dough is a joy to work with. It’s soft and rolls nicely. Unlike pie crust.

Third, they lasted less than 24 hours.

Forth, I was asked if I was making them again this weekend.

Last, they are just plain over the top amazing.

I have made croissants from scratch. Kouigns are even better. Its the sugar layer. Just enough sweet to carmelize without creating too much sticky.

Now I want to play around with the recipe, and see if I can incorporate a layer of something else in the second turn. Like chocolate. Or almonds. Or hazelnut.

Before I try that, I have another dilemma.

Do I make these for Christmas breakfast at the parents house? And then discover that scones are no longer good enough?

Or do I make them just for my house? Since we have no problem polishing off a batch.

I only wish all my problems were like this.

I hope everyone had as good a time baking through the Baking Bible as I did. Marie and Rose – I can’t wait to bake with you again!

Meringue Birch Twigs
SUMMARY – light and tasty. Gluten-free! Easy to assemble, harder to execute. Prettier than grisini.

beating-wggwhites
I always seem to have extra egg parts. Either I need a bunch of yolks or a bunch of whites. Never at the same time, of course. BTW egg parts freeze well, in case you can’t use up your extras within a reasonable time frame. Luckily I had a mason jar in the freezer full of extra egg whites. No need to create more extra yolks!

soft-peak
FYI – I learned this fact at a Paleo baking class I took last week. Eggs are not dairy. That is all.

almosr-glossy
Making the meringue was the easy part. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar? Check!

Add sugar slowly? Check!

adding-flavor
Add flavoring? I used coconut. Beat some more? Check!

finished-meringue
Put meringue in pastry bag? Check! Line baking sheets, one with parchment and one with my solo Silplat. Check!

piped-twigs
Surprisingly, piping was easy, too! Put them in the oven, bake, cool. I also let them sit overnight. Why? Because trying to move them off the sheets broke them. Yikes.

into-the-oven
The next day, I gingerly loosened them off the parchment paper and put them between the twigs on the Silplat to drizzle the chocolate.

chocolate-added
More problems. I seriously couldn’t get them off the sheet without breaking. Don’t use a Silplat with these. Use parchment.

birch-kindling
Needless to say, my twigs look a more like kindling than branches. They are still super cute and taste really good, but they are certainly not tall enough to display in a vase. Sad face.

birch-kindling2
With that in mind, I would use a larger tip. They wouldn’t be as thin but I could get them off the sheets!

“The Dutch” Pecan Sandies Banner
SUMMARY – an unassuming cookie that is tender, buttery, nutty, crunchy and cinnamony all at once. This recipe proves your freezer is a baking tool.

browned-butter

When I first looked at this recipe, I checked out the picture of it. OK, it’s a round sugar cookie with sugar sprinkled on it. Been there, done that.

browned-butter-strained

As a kid I was a big fan of pecan sandies that the elves baked in their tree. They were also one of the very few packaged cookies that my mom would buy, probably because my dad liked them, too. Only if she had a tripled coupon, though.

butter-bits

There had to be something to these cookies, though. I saw plastic wrap, cooling and resting in the freezer these called for. Looks like a 2-day project, if only not to fill the kitchen sink with dirty dishes.

sugars-cooled-butter

I browned the butter first. Which took a while to do, since I didn’t want to scorch the last bit of the good Irish butter. I did that and worked on dinner (and played Farmville o.O).

creaming-butter-sugar

As an added bonus, I was heating up chicken cassoulet for dinner. Yes, this is leftovers in my house, the other half of the big batch I made a few weeks ago. After I strained the browned butter, I scooped out the solids and put them on the cassoulet breadcrumb topping. Butter on top of crunchy chicken skin and butter? Not thinking this is bad. Of course, my cholesterol numbers may disagree.

dry-ingredients

I measured the butter out (a little more than the recipe needed but it’s butter!) and put it in the refrigerator to cool during dinner.

dry-to-wet-ingredients

After the dinner dishes were corralled I started on the rest of the dough. It’s a good thing I heated up leftovers instead of dirtying a cutting board, knives and pans, since I had to break out the mixer and food processor for the dough.

kneaded-dough

Cream together the butter and sugars? Check. Grind the pecans with the flour and dry ingredients? Check. Great idea here to prevent over-processing the nuts. This would probably be even better in a recipe with toasted nuts. Toasting the pecans for this recipe might be interesting, as it would reinforce the nuttiness of the browned butter. I’ll file this idea away.

divided-dough

Scoop out the dough and knead it? Yeah … ugh … plastic wrap is involved.

rolled-dough

I hate plastic wrap. It doesn’t stick to what you want it to stick to, only itself. The stupid cutter thing on the box never works right. I think Rose uses top-secret special plastic wrap. Wrap that is nice and wide, sticks what you want it to stick to, and cuts nicely. Navy Seal Team “Cookie” brings it to her. Shhhh.

cookies-cut-freezer

I managed to get the dough divided and into the refrigerator without too much incident.

cookies-sugared-panned

The next night, after dinner, and after letting the cold dough warm up, I finished up the cookies. Again, with my off the shelf plastic wrap. Sigh.

cookies-cooling-overhead

I finally used my hexagonal cutters (a Christmas present from last year), so there wasn’t much re-rolling. The last batch I cut had only a little bit of dough left. There was no sense in re-rolling it, we ate it. Yum!

cookies-cooling-closeup

Because of the freezer rest time, the cookies took longer than a drop cookie. But the results I think were worth it. Tender and crunchy, nutty and buttery, cinnamon and pecan, so good.

cookies-plated

As I was eating one, I thought that this dough would make really good pie crust for a pumpkin pie. Or for the pumpkin-pecan pie we made last year. Ooooo …. another idea to file away!

Breadcrumbs

Vegan / Vegetarian

roasted-yams-and-chickpeas-with-yogurt

Chickpea “Tuna” Salad is Not Tuna, But No One is Mad via Food52
Blueberry Pie Overnight Oats from The Kitchn
roasted yams and chickpeas with yogurt from Smitten Kitchen
10-Hour Slow-Cooker Chana Masala from The Kitchn

Baking

halva-brownies

The Easiest Buttercream You’ll Ever Make (+ Meringue 101) from Food52
Yung, Wild and Free: Crucial baking advice from a Michelin-starred pastry chef from Tasting Table
You Deserve an Entire Cake All for Yourself from Bon Appétit
Classic Smith Island Cake from Saveur
Claire Ptak’s recipes for halva brownies and cookies from The Guardian

Techniques / Equipment / Etc.

cast-iron-myth-1

6 Things You Should Do to Take Care of Your Knives from Food52
The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need To Go Away from Serious Eats
The Temperature Rule to Follow When Converting a Dutch Oven Recipe to a Slow Cooker from The Kitchn
Chained to the Stove: What It’s Really Like to Write a Cookbook from Serious Eats

Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Silk Meringue Buttercream

SUMMARY – not-to-sweet and subtle coconut cupcakes. Creamy light buttercream topped with toasted coconut shreds. Like a pina colada in a paper wrapper.

coconut-collection

These were some really good cupcakes. Like cupcakes that would win Cupcake Wars. Or a blue ribbon at the fair.

batter-mixing

It took a couple of stops to find real coconut extract. At the local grocery coop, I found this Aussie concentrated paste in a tube that was all natural, and not that fake stuff I kept finding in the spice section in the market. Thankfully I didn’t have to drive to another county to get it.

finished-batter

The cupcakes themselves were simple, although not one-bowl simple. More like 4 bowls for the separated eggs, the measuring bowl from my digital scale, then the mixer bowl.

cupcake-papers

I love the idea of using coconut milk in these. I was thinking that you could make these paleo if you used coconut flour and coconut sugar. Switch the butter with coconut oil, and you could make them vegan if you had an idea about egg substitution. Which, unfortunately, I don’t.

creme-anglais-start

I also decided to make the buttercream instead of the ganache. I found a new way to make buttercream from Food52 here. It’s a way to make meringue buttercream using a swiss meringue technique.

creme-anglais-done

Instead of making sugar syrup and pouring it over beaten egg whites, you heat the egg whites and beat them hot.

heating-eggwhites-sugar

The texture of the beaten meringue was like marshmallow fluff. But I think that’s because I only used 1 egg white from this frosting recipe instead of the 4 egg whites.

finished-frosting

Since there wasn’t a lot of volume of meringue, there wasn’t a lot of frosting. There was enough to put frosting on all the cupcakes, but the frosting to cupcake ratio was a little low.

trayed-cupcakes

And the frosting was so good that I wanted more of it!

3-cupcakes-in-a-row

I brought some to work. I have a co-worker that is not a cake fan. She is all about ice cream. She liked these!

3-overhead-cupcakes

And … there are no more left. We ate the last of them for dessert tonight. I call that recipe success.

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Tart

SUMMARY – Soft, crumbly crust topped with a smooth and creamy filling and chocolate glaze. The hazelnut praline was distinct and well-balanced. The bonus of a press-in-the-pan crust means this is a dessert to make again!

boiling-pot

Oh em gee. This tart was awesome!

boiled-hazelnuts

I’m not just saying that just because I didn’t have to roll out a crust. Which, by itself, was awesome.

skinned-hazelnuts

Even though I had to make hazelnut praline, which wasn’t so bad except for the getting the skin off the hazelnuts.

completed-paste

I couldn’t boil the hazelnuts long enough to make the skin easier to remove, because the baking soda made a lot of foam in the pot and I had to keep taking the pot off the burner.

crust-construction

But once I got the skins (mostly) off, and toasted, and covered with caramel, they ground down into this paste that would have been good enough to eat with a spoon. Oh, wait … I did eat that last bit of it with a spoon. Shhhh!

dough-in-pan

So the hazelnut praline was, in itself, awesome, in spite of adding an extra component to the tart construction.

mousse-filling

The tart crust was really good too. Soft, flavorful, food processor friendly. I baked it and it did puff up like Rose warned. But then it sunk back down and it was perfect. It would make really good cookies too, with a whole egg.

whole-tart-landscape

The mousse layer was also, dare I say it, awesome. And easy. I veered slightly off Rose’s instruction with the last whipped cream addition. I underbeat the whipped cream. I scraped it into the other mixing bowl with the cream cheese, praline paste and brown sugar, and beat it more. That worked out just fine.

whole-tart-top

Ganache? Easy! Tart assembly? Easy.

cutup-tart-top-closeup

I skipped the candied hazelnuts, because I put all the hazelnuts into the praline. I used nonpareils instead, which are still sugar.

cutup-tart-side-closeup

Everyone who had some loved this tart. And I didn’t feel too bad about giving away slices because they didn’t look like leftovers. Awesome!

Breadcrumbs

I am an information pack rat.

I used to cut articles from magazines and copy pages out of library books and put them in binders.

Now I use Pinterest and Evernote to save articles and recipes. There’s a lot less paper clutter around and the trees are happier!

Instead of hoarding this info, I am sharing my “Breadcrumbs” with you.

I hope you find these articles interesting, informative, and maybe inspiring! And feel free to save them or pin them yourself.

Cake, Cookie and Bread Recipes

Banana-Bread-HonestlyYUM

Black Sesame Banana Bread from Honestly YUM

Homemade Everything Bagels with Step-by-Step Photos from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Ultimate Chocolate Cake from ChefSteps

Persian Love Cake from Aimee at Twigg Studios

How to Invent a Cookie Recipe from Lifehacker

Dinner, Soup, Stew and Other Recipes

columbian-stew

Colombian-Style Chicken, Short Rib and Potato Stew from the NY Times

Tuna Nicoise Sandwich from Martha Stewart

Stuffed Turkey Breasts with Butternut Squash and Figs from SkinnyTaste

Broken Wonton Soup from Mark Bittman

Red Pepper and Baked Egg Galettes from Jerusalem (the book) from The View from Great Island

Other Food-Related Links

typographic-map-flavors

A World Map of Flavors – 36 Regions, 36 Herb and Spice Combinations from Tim Ferriss

15 Pro Tips and Techniques For Quicker, Easier, Better Cooking from The Kitchn

Breaking Bad: How to Kick the Late Night Snacking Habit from Summer Tomato

Mark Bittman: 19 Ways to Cook Everything Faster from Readers Digest

Decoding Tough and Tender Cuts from ChefSteps

I have three projects in one post this time.

I do actually make most everything for Alpha Bakers, but I don’t always get a chance to sit down and post it. I can do the baking, but writing about it is harder.

So I am rectifying this, sort of, in a late (or early!) post about some of the projects I made, but didn’t talk about.

White Christmas Peppermint Cake

Project #1 – White Christmas Peppermint Cake ➡️ Ornament Cupcakes

I don’t like making large cakes unless I have a specific event that requires an actual cake, like a birthday party, wedding, anniversary. I would much rather make small cakes that I can easily transport and give away.

cake-batter-mixing

I decided on cupcakes because I was inspired by a Christmas ornament! A mini-cupcake with lots of sprinkles. How could I not make cupcakes that look like my ornament?

baked-cupcakes

The other thing  about this cake was the peppermint. Don’t get me wrong, I like peppermint. But not in a cake. I skipped the peppermint extract and went with the vanilla in the cake base.

frosting-started

It was a good cake, too. It had nice flavor and light color. I would use this cake again if I wanted really white cake, and not a yellow-ish cake.

frosting-finished

The frosting … oh the frosting! It was creamy, chocolate-y, light, fluffy, great to work with. A perfect frosting.

sprinked-cupcakes
I piped the frosting on the mini cupcakes and decorated. I had gold sugar nonpareils and crunchy pink sugar crystals flavored with peppermint. Not too much mint, but enough to get them somewhat back to peppermint.

cupcakes-with-ornament

There was a lot of frosting left over from this recipe. I packed it up and waited for another project to use it up.

This bonus frosting was used in …

Faux-reoCookies

Project #2 – Faux-reos

My mother gave me a King Arthur boxed cookie mix a while ago. It was rolled chocolate cookies with white frosting. Sort of like homemade oreos. I finally got tired of looking at this box in my pantry and made them.

dough-started

To me, they were strictly OK. Certainly better than something out of a plastic sleeve, but still, not that great. I brought some down to the corner market to get rid of them. The clerks down there really liked them! One of the girls, Briana, begged me to make more of them for her birthday.

dough-done-mixing

Since King Arthur doesn’t make this cookie mix anymore, I decided I could do a lot better. I already had some really tasty frosting. I just had to find a cookie recipe to go with it.

ready-for-baking

In Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery cookbook (which I have renewed twice from the library because I don’t want to return it!) I found a recipe for TKO cookies. Chocolate shortbread cookies filled with white chocolate ganache. Ding ding ding!

plated-cookies

The cookies were really really good. They got even better filled with Rose’s frosting. They were so good, I almost didn’t want to give any away! But I dropped a container off at the store for Briana. She really liked them. I really liked them! I may have even found another fair recipe.

These cookies lead to …

Pink Pearl Lady Cakebecomes Pink Pearl Baby Cakes

Project #3 – Pink Pearl Lady Cake ➡️ Pink Pearl Baby Cakes

Believe it or not, I really wanted to do the full cake this time. Or at least heart-shaped small cakes. I have a silicone heart pan with cupcake-sized hearts in it.

starting-batter

I showed my roommate Kathy this recipe and she wanted to help me make this. Kathy does pottery, so she was really interested in working with the fondant. Interestingly enough, the last time I made a fondant cake was her wedding cake! And I was somewhat traumatized by the whole fondant process, so I was quite happy to get an offer of help with it.

batter-finished

The day I planned to make the fondant, I was sick. I had a nasty headache, stomach ache, and felt just plain lousy. I didn’t want to go to the store and find glycerin and glucose. Even though I didn’t make the fondant, I decided I could still make cupcakes instead.

egg-whites

I went ahead and made mini-cupcakes. I overfilled the little cups, and forgot to grease the top of the pan, so I had to excavate the cupcakes. Sigh.

finished-frosting

This frosting wasn’t as nice as the white chocolate frosting for the earlier cupcakes. I worried that the frosting would be too warm! I wrapped a cold pack around the bowl bottom. Then the frosting was too cold. I held my hands on the bottom of the bowl to warm it up. I was Goldilocks and the Three Bears of Frosting. It finally came together. Whew.

finished-cupcakes

It wasn’t easy to pipe out, either. It wasn’t warm enough. And there wasn’t enough of it. Some cupcakes didn’t have quite enough frosting.

finished-cupcakes-closeup

The frosting tasted pretty good. But the Ornament Cupcakes were just a teeny bit better.

Hopefully I will get the Breton cookies done. And written about. I don’t have mini brioche pans, but I think I have a solution worked out. We shall see!

SUMMARY – three different apple varieties, cider and cream cheese crust made several very luscious apple pies.

4-apple-piesI would have had finished done earlier, but I took a semi-spontaneous trip to Cape Cod this week. Part of the reason it was semi-spontaneous was that I had to finish this project!

I thought that I could finish the post in the motel, and I even downloaded WordPress and Dropbox to my tablet. But the free motel wi-fi was terrible, and I couldn’t get Dropbox to cooperate with WordPress on my tablet. I love it when technology refuses to cooperate. Here it is, a few days late.

mini-pie-makerI made small pies, because we picked up a display model mini-pie maker for $4.00. I don’t normally buy single-use appliances like this, but it was a total deal.

It was also interesting assembling the pies. Homemade crust is not the best crust for the pie maker, since it’s very fragile. You are trying to get the crust into a hot surface, and then patch the holes that you will make!

Break out the premade pie dough for this thing, but if you don’t mind potentially burnt fingers, use the homemade crust. The pies were really good! And very cute.

cooling-apple-piesSo after making these, my roommate and I decided to leave them for the boys, who weren’t going.

We could have packed them and ate them on the road, but we were going to the ocean!

cut-apple-mini-pieWe did split one and ate it for breakfast. It was pretty good. But since the little pies were only cooked for 10 minutes, the apples were a little al dente. I didn’t mind it but it made it a little crisper than normal.

Seagull-beach-cape-codBy the way, if you live in the northeast or New England, the Cape is the place to be after Labor Day. No kids, the water is warm, the shops are still open, and there’s lot of sales.

Since I won’t be sitting on the beach this weekend, hopefully the Pepparkakor won’t be late.


This post is part of the Alpha Bakers bake along. It’s an online project where a group of food bloggers bake our way through The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

Most of the recipes made during this project will not be shared. If you see something amazing and want to know about the recipe please let me know. You might want to get the book for yourself, or at least check it out from your local library before deciding.

scones-header

SUMMARY: Cream cheese, butter and cream make these scones rich, yet light and airy. These are better than $5.00 scones from your local chain coffee shop.

I actually invented cream cheese scones three years ago.

fair-ribbons-2013Well, no, I didn’t actually invent them. I tweaked the Currant Scone recipe from The Pie and Pastry Bible, substituting half the butter for a little bit more cream cheese.

I wanted to make scones with similar ingredients to the Bacon Scallion Cream Cheese dip I make – affectionately known in my house as Heart Attack dip. Then I remembered Rose’s cream cheese pie crust recipe. I thought, if this works for pie crust, it will work for these scones. And it did! I even won a second place ribbon from my Heart Attack scones, which are also my sister’s favorite scones. She is like a begging dog if I even hint I might make them.

So scones have a pretty high hurdle to get over to be better than my modified P&PB recipe.

Of course, Rose surpasses herself with this new scone recipe. They are way easier than the other recipe with the layering of the dough, rolling it out, measuring it, cutting it, recycling the scraps, etc.

The easier recipe put them as equivalent. I think they taste just the tiniest bit better and have a better crumb, which clinches these for me as the better scone.

The night before I made these, I put a bowl and the beater in the freezer to chill for the whipped cream. I never would have thought of using whipped cream. Genius. But that’s why Rose writes cookbooks and I buy them 😉

whipped-creamI whipped the cream first before anything, so that could sit in the fridge.

scones-dry-ingredients-lemon-zestThen I got the dry ingredients together. Since I use King Arthur flour pretty much exclusively, I used half bread and half all-purpose. I also zested the lemon right into the bowl. I may have used more than a tablespoon of zest. But it smelled soooo good and I really didn’t want to wash another bowl or have a half-zested lemon kicking around.

cream-cheese-addedI got out the old pastry blender, which I am more likely to use to make guacamole or egg salad these days, and worked in the cream cheese. Yes I use a food processor for pie crust. But these scones needed a hands-on approach. And I didn’t want to make even more dirty dishes for my human dishwashers.

soaked-dried-berriesI took a look at the dried mixed berries I bought and was not particularly impressed by their dryness. No one enjoys biting into a dessicated bit of fruit in their scone now do they? So I soaked them in some hot water to plump them up a bit. They looked a bit better after their bath, although the color got duller. And they got a little less sweet. I love how they add more sugar to some dried fruit. I get it with cranberries but with strawberries and cherries?

dough-with-fruitI started out with the pastry blender when I added the butter. But when the blades started bending I put it aside and just used my mitts. It worked a lot better, and I felt like a kid again playing with some Play-doh or messing with homemade flour dough. I mixed in the fruit and it was smelling pretty good already.

added-creamI made the well and spooned in the whipped cream. I’m gonna say it again, whipping the cream is genius! I use yogurt in scones because I like a thicker texture than plain cream, plus you get some tang. I always use yogurt in the Heart Attack scones for the texture and extra tang. But cream would be easier to get believe it or not.

scone-dough-diskThe dough came together really nicely and I kneaded it a bit on the counter. I was seriously getting my mind into some scones now! Wrapped up the disk and put it in the fridge.

At this point in the scone process, I went down to the farmer’s market and got some things. And I got a cookie to hold me til I got home and finished the scones.

scones-sugar-toppedWhen I got home, I put everything away, turned on the oven and got the scone dough out of the fridge. I cut them up and put them on the baking sheet with parchment. Since I love some crunch and sparkle on scones, I egg washed them and sprinkled them with demerara sugar before putting them in the oven.

I pulled them out and they looked and smelled so good! The had risen up so nice. My roommate asked what kind of scones they were. When I told her they were dried fruit she was somewhat disappointed, since she likes the other scones better.

finished-sconesBut after letting them cool in a cloth, I offered them up to everyone who was at home. Seriously, three of us ate six of them in like four minutes. They were that good. No butter, just scones in a napkin.

My two roommates were like “OMG these are best scones! Can we eat them all now?”

No! Not everyone was home and my other roommate (yes I live with three other people) was at work. He ate them th next day and said they were very good, but probably would have been better warm. Yeah!

The consensus? Make a double batch the next time! And there will be a next time, oh yes.

 

plated-scone

 

This post is part of the Alpha Bakers bake along. It’s an online project where a group of food bloggers bake our way through The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

Most of the recipes made during this project will not be shared. If you see something amazing and want to know about the recipe please let me know. You might want to get the book for yourself, or at least check it out from your local library before deciding.