Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Strawberry Balsamic Scones

It’s been a while since I’ve offered up a new scone flavor.  This one has been lingering in my mind for a while.  In reading recipes, I’ve seen strawberries and balsamic vinegar mixed in lots of ways.  I make an awesome salad with arugula, strawberries and balsamic vinaigrette among other things.  You can reduce the balsamic down to a syrup and pour it over vanilla ice cream topped with strawberries.  You can do the same but over French toast or pancakes.  Believe it or not, I haven’t made strawberries scones before and I thought I would amp them up right from the start by incorporating this popular flavor combination.

So how’d it go?  Uh yeah…it was hard to stop eating them.  Sweet and savory at the same time, they really just hit the spot whether you have them with some scrambled eggs for breakfast or just as an afternoon snack.­  My trusty taste testers were a little skeptical, vinegar in a scone?!  Until they tried one and were immediately sold.  The final verdict…really good warm without glaze, but even better at room temperature with glaze.  After all, you know how I feel about glazes.  When I mentioned this recipe to another one of my usual taste testers, he said he needed “a pool of balsamic”, well I didn’t deliver on a pool per se, but I think this glaze will satisfy what he’s looking for.

Get these while they’re hot – meaning make them now, while the strawberries are in season and full of flavor.  I might even push it and make these into the fall, they’re just that good.

Recipe adapted from Strawberry Scones on Annie’s Eats (


1 large egg
¼ cup plain or vanilla yogurt (I used nonfat vanilla)
½ cup milk (I used skim)
1 tsp. orange or lemon zest (I used and recommend lemon)
2 ¼ cups AP Flour (I used half AP flour and half Whole Wheat Pastry flour, hence the darker color – use what you like)
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 ½ cups diced fresh strawberries
¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
Balsamic Vinegar – add 1 tsp at a time


Preheat the oven to 375º.  In a 9”x13” pan, mix the strawberries and balsamic vinegar.

When the oven is hot, roast the strawberries for 10-15 minutes, stirring once after 5 min.  Let cool for about 15 minutes. 

In a small bowl whisk together the egg, yogurt, milk and zest until blended, then set aside.

In a large bowl, combined the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Add the butter pieces to the dry ingredients and cut it into the flour using a pastry blender or two forks (this can also be done in a food processor).

Using a slotted spoon, strain and transfer the strawberries to the flour mixture and gently toss to coat.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold until completely combined.

Transfer to a well-floured surface and gently pat into an 8 inch disc.  Cut into 8 wedges and carefully place on parchment lined baking sheet.  Or, if you have a scone pan, just fill each section evenly with dough – it filled my mini-scone pan perfectly (makes 16 small triangles).

Bake in a 425º oven for 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool on wire rack. 

**Note** If the dough looks a little too wet, freeze the shaped scones on/in the pan for 30 minutes and move directly from freezer to oven. You will need to increase the baking time by a few minutes. 

For the glaze, mix all ingredients until desired consistency.  Drizzle over each scone with a spoon, fork, piping bag, or plastic squeeze bottle, whichever method you prefer.  Let set before serving. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Grape Nut Ice Cream

If you’re from New England or Eastern Canada (or apparently Jamaica too) you know what I’m talking about and have likely had it.  If not, well then let me introduce you – Grape Nuts are not just for breakfast my friends. 

My dad’s family is from Massachusetts by way of Nova Scotia by way of Massachusetts and back to Nova Scotia….seriously, I just got a history lesson from him and there is so much overlap in these two places its confusing.  At any rate, he grew up eating this ice cream, both at home in MA and when he’d spend his summers in Canada.  As a result, I also grew up eating it when we traveled North for family visits.  Even if you aren’t a fan of the cereal as a cereal, you should give the ice cream version a try.  The base is a rich vanilla custard – easy, who doesn’t like that?  Then you add the Grape Nuts and as they churn together you end up with this malty, slightly nutty flavor.  The cereal gets a little soft in the cream, but towards the end of churning you add some more for crunch, and of course there is always the option of topping your bowl with even more.

I have to admit, I tried to go the healthy route and use way less cream than the recipe calls for, substituting with more milk – do not follow my lead – this turned out a little icey for my taste.  The flavor was spot on, but the texture left much to be desired.   I only used 1 cup of heavy cream and the rest skim milk, rather than whole – I always sub the milk with skim for ice cream and do not usually have an issue.  But I think this needs at least 1.5 cups of cream in order to maintain a good creamy consistency (if not the full 2 but it pains me to use that much fat!).  Make it according to the recipe or according to my alterations, but definitely make it.  My dad loved it and that should be proof enough that it’s good.

Recipe adapted from The Washington Post


6 egg yolks
⅔ cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream, warmed (microwave or stove-top; warm, not hot)
1 cup chilled whole milk
¼ tsp salt
1 cup Grape Nuts cereal, divided
2 tsp vanilla extract


In a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until well combined.  Slowly add the warmed cream, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.  Add the salt, vanilla and chilled milk and stir to combine. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but I strained the mixture at this point just in case there were any egg bits in it.  Do so into another medium bowl then cover with plastic so the plastic is resting directly on top of the liquid.  Refrigerate for at least a couple hours, until completely cool.

When cooled, remove from the fridge and add ¾ cup of cereal then pour into the frozen bowl of your ice cream machine.  Churn according to manufacturer’s instructions, but for about 20 minutes or so.  During the last couple minutes of churning, add the remaining ¼ cup of cereal.  Transfer the ice cream to a container and freeze until hardened.  Or, enjoy it soft-serve style right out of the ice cream maker.

**For those of you in DC, I have noticed that Trickling Springs Creamery is making Grape Nut Ice Cream these days – it can be found at their shop inside Union Market.  If you don’t feel like making your own, go try it!**

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Lemon Blondies - Baking GALS Round 22

(Before the glaze)
It’s summer in DC and it is H.O.T.  Well, it’s been hotter, but the humidity today is the kind that makes your skin feel damp as soon as you step outside.  Weather like that makes me think of something refreshing…other than a cocktail…like lemons!  I love almost any lemon flavored dessert – as awful as the texture is, I’d probably even like lemon flavored flan, and that says a lot.

One texture I can always go for?  Soft, dense, chewy brownies.   In the summer, it’s a brownie sundae all the way.   If I could ship a sundae overseas I’d do it as I’m sure it would go over well, but I had to think of some way to get that brownie texture and make the dessert refreshing – enter lemon blondies.  As I’m sure you all know, blondies are basically just brownies without the chocolate – a version of a bar cookie...sort of.

Anyway, let’s get to business – I saw this recipe a few months ago and knew I’d have to give it a try soon.  I’m so glad I did.  And I’m so glad I was shipping them out the next morning as I’m pretty sure I could have sat with a spoon, and maybe some champagne, and devoured the entire pan.  Note to self:  don’t make these again unless they are for the express purpose of serving others! 

If you even remotely like lemon, give ‘em a shot.  You probably don’t even need the glaze, these are far from dry, but add it anyway, you won’t regret it.

Perfectly browned!
Recipe adapted from Let’s Dish: (

For the Blondies:

§       1 ½ cups flour
§       1 tsp. salt
§       1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
§       1 ½ cups granulated sugar
§       1 Tbsp.  grated lemon zest
§       4 eggs
§       2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

For the Glaze:
§       1 cup powdered sugar
§       2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
§       2 tsp. lemon zest (I omitted  for a super smooth texture)


1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 or 9-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2.      In a medium bowl, stir together flour and salt then set aside.
3.      Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest at medium speed until light and fluffy.
4.      Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
5.      Stir in lemon juice.
6.      Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in three parts, mixing until fully incorporated.
7.      Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack to room temperature.
8.      Meanwhile, make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, lemon juice and zest (if using) in a small bowl.
9.      Spread over blondies and let set for at least 10 minutes before serving.

*Note – I made 1.5x this recipe and used a 9”x13” pan.  Works just fine, but you may have to increase the baking time by a few more minutes.  Add 3-5 additional minutes at a time and check with toothpick.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Moist Chocolate Cake

Inspiration has struck.
Eww, I said moist.  But I'll get to that later...

I am my Mother’s daughter.  I get antsy sometimes at home, and the only thing to cure it is to bake or cook.  I can’t even count the times I have been with my Mom and randomly, even at 10:00 at night sometimes, she’ll say “I need some cake” and she’ll just go make one, or she’ll get the urge to make something for breakfast the next morning.  This trait appears to be genetic. It hit me last night (and not for the first time).  I was watching one of the Batman movies and I couldn’t follow it – I’ve never seen any of them and I wasn’t in the right mindset to truly pay attention to what was happening so I started scrounging around the kitchen for ingredients.  I wasn’t at my own house so my selection was limited, but then inspiration struck – mayo!

Do what?? 

Seriously, mayonnaise was often used long ago when ingredients or money were scarce and it makes complete sense – it’s basically eggs and oil.  The little bit of vinegar in it just amps up the cake’s flavor.  You can probably find recipes very similar to this one called World War II Cake, or Depression Cake.  This one in particular though, is actually an original family recipe.  It’s from my Aunt Jean – well I guess technically my Great Aunt – she was my Dad’s Aunt who we’d go visit on occasion in Nova Scotia, Canada.  I can remember her making this, as well as Boston brown bread steamed in a coffee can, rhubarb pie, baked beans, etc.  It’s funny how particular items stand out in your head for a certain person.  Anyway, this one has always been a favorite of my family’s and for good reason.  It’s easy, it’s delicious, and oh yeah – I said it, it’s moist.  I try to avoid that word like the plague, but it truly is the best descriptor for this super fudgy cake.

 Try it, you won’t be disappointed.  You don’t even need icing for it, though we had it with a little whipped cream and it was a perfect accompaniment. 

Aunt Jean's Fudge Cake

 Amount      Measure                   Ingredient   
  --------      ------------                ----------------
  1               cup                         Mayonnaise
  2               teaspoons                baking soda
  1               cup                         sugar
  1               cup                         cold water
Combine ingredients above and stir well – it will look gloppy, it’s fine.
  2               cups                       flour, sifted
 ¼               teaspoon                 salt
  4               Tablespoons            unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  1               teaspoon                 vanilla

Combine dry ingredients, then gradually add dry ingredients to wet, beat well.

Pour into greased 8" square pan.  Bake at 350° for 40-50 minutes.  Check after 40 minutes.  Let cool slightly, but this is amazing when it’s still warm.  Enjoy!