Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Strawberry Scones with Honey Thyme Butter

Strawberry scones have been popping up everywhere lately on the "internets".  Here and here and here. I have a love/hate relationship with scones.  I love moist scones or scones fresh from the oven.  I hate dry, dense scones that make a better doorstop than breakfast item.   But strawberry scones piqued my interest.  It made me decide to give scones another chance, you know, see if they've learned anything during our breakup. We're taking it slowly--keeping it casual for now, seeing where it goes.

I've been experimenting with different recipes, seeing as we're not exclusive.  Some use buttermilk, others use sour cream, some with heavy cream.  Some with baking soda and baking powder, some with just baking powder, etc.  I've settled on creating this recipe for now.  Using fresh strawberries, instead of a dried fruit ups the moisture content.  You'll notice I've added up to an additional 1/4 c of flour to the recipe to account for how juicy your berries are.  I've put some lemon zest in to brighten the flavor.  I've also added a recipe for Honey Thyme Butter to accompany your scones--I love the pairing of strawberries and thyme.  As for the scones and I...maybe love is better the second time around.

Fresh Strawberry Scones
Makes approximately 16 scones

2 c  flour + 1/4 c additional flour
2 t baking powder
1 egg
1 t vanilla
3 t lemon zest
1/2 t sea salt
1/3 c sugar
1/2 c very cold butter, cubed
1/2 c very cold heavy cream
3/4 c diced fresh strawberries

For the topping:
1 T heavy cream
2T Demera sugar or Sugar in the Raw

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
3. Cut butter into cubes and refrigerate until ready to use.
4. Put the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar into the bowl of your food processor. Pulse a few times to mix.
5. Add the cubed butter and lemon zest to the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Do not overmix.
6. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
7. Measure your cream into a liquid measuring cup and whisk the egg and vanilla into the cream. Add the liquids to the dry mixture mixing with a fork, and stir until just combined – do not over mix!
8. Add your diced strawberries and turn dough onto a lightly floured board.
9. If your strawberries are very juicy, you may have to add up to 1/4c of additional flour.  You want the dough to be tacky, but not sticky.
10.  Gently pat out dough into a rectangle, about 1 inch high.
11.  Cut dough into three rows, then cut each row into triangles.
12. Transfer to parchment lined baked sheets.  Brush tops with cream and sprinkle on sugar.
13. Bake for 20 minutes.

Honey Thyme Butter
1/2 stick of salted butter, softened
2t honey
1t fresh minced thyme

Combine all ingredients then refrigerate until ready to use.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Green Garlic and Happy Accidents

I have been trolling the farmer's markets lately, chomping at the bit for them to hit their stride.  I'm impatient for summer corn and heirloom tomatoes, watermelons and green beans.  Fortunately there are some early vegetables that have such a short season that when I find them I feel like I've won the lottery.  It's like finding a fabulous pair of shoes on the sale rack and it just happens to be your size!  Except, that never happens to me in real life.  Where are all those people who wear a size 5 shoe, anyway?  Plenty of sale shoes left for them.

Sorry, lost focus...back to food.  If you find rhubarb, ramps, fiddlehead ferns or green garlic, scoop them up while you can.  Their growing season is short and sweet so fill up now.  I came upon some beautiful green garlic at the Union Square Farmer's Market.  Green garlic is young garlic, before the cloves have formed.  It looks like big scallions with white bulbs and green stalks.  It's sweeter and more mellow than mature garlic.

I had a craving for roasted garlic which is done with wrapping a whole garlic bulb in foil with olive oil and oven roasting until soft and spreadable.  I thought, why use the same technique with the green garlic?

Plan A,  roast it and spread it on warm bread.  I put the green garlic, bulbs and stems in some foil with olive oil and salt and roasted it in a 400 degree oven until soft.  It smelled so good.  I then took a loaf of foil wrapped bread from my freezer and popped that in the oven to warm.  I couldn't wait to slather the soft roasted garlic onto that bread.  I took the warm bread out of the oven and unwrapped it to find this.  Doh!  It was my spare loaf of Easter bread.  A sweet bread that would not pair so well with my roasted garlic.  Wah Wah.

On to Plan B.  There's always a plan B, right? Otherwise known as make-it-up-as-you-go-along.  I had a sheet of puff pastry languishing in the fridge.  I took the roasted green garlic and put it in my mini food processor with a little more olive oil until I had a sweet, warm, green, garlicky spread.  I slathered that on the puff pastry and then sprinkled the whole thing with some grated Cacio Roma cheese. 

Baked for 15-20 minutes at 400 it came out of the oven golden and bubbly.The crispy, buttery pastry combined with the sweet garlic. The creamy, melty Cacio de Roma was mild enough to not overpower the green garlic. The verdict, way better than Plan A would have been.  Now, if only I were so lucky in the shoe department.

Green Garlic Tart
 Serves 6 as an appetizer

3 stalks of green garlic
2T olive oil
pinch of kosher salt
1 sheet of puff pastry
2-3 ounces Cacio de Roma cheese, shredded

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Trim roots off of green garlic bulbs and cut green stems from bulbs.
3. Place bulbs and stems in foil.  Drizzle 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil over garlic and sprinkle with salt.
4. Wrap up green garlic and roast in oven until soft and fragrant, approximately 20 minutes.
5. Unfold puff pastry onto a sheet of parchment paper laid on a baking sheet.  With a knife, score a rectangle around the perimeter of pastry 1/4 inch from the edge.
6.  When garlic is roasted, transfer to a mini food processor and puree, bulbs and stems.  Consistency will be a little stringy/fibrous.  Add up to a tablespoon of olive oil to help blend together.  Taste and add salt if needed.
7. Spread green garlic paste inside perimeter of pastry.  Top with shredded cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden and edges and bottom of tart are golden.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Momofuku Crack Pie

In case you didn't know, I make cakes for people.  Elaborate cakes like these.  Inevitably, I get a lot of "I bet your kids' birthday cakes are unbelievable!"  And therein lies the rub.  My family is not interested in my cakes.  Sniff, sniff.

My husband, he only wants his first love, a Carvel ice cream cake.  My 6-year-old wanted a "decorate your own cupcake bar" for her birthday.  My 8-year-old is driving a final stake into my heart with her birthday request.  Instead of a birthday cake that looks like a giant box of movie popcorn, she wants....Momofuku Crack Pie.

I must confess, I can't blame her.  This stuff is appropriately named.  And before you call Child Protective Services on me, she thinks it's just called Momofuku Pie (sans the Crack).  I first had this at David Chang's dessert restaurant, Milk Bar in NYC which is adjacent to his famed Momofuku Ssam Bar restaurant.

Christina Tosi is the genius pastry chef at Milk Bar responsible for this life changing dessert as well as others not to be missed.  If there is a God, she will put out a dessert cookbook.  And I will camp out the night before the release date in front of Barnes and Noble, like an 80's groupie at a Motley Crue concert, waiting with absolutely no shame.  If you ever have the chance to stop in at Milk Bar, order one of everything they offer. 

So this pie.  It's hard to explain.  It's very sweet, a little salty.  Almost butterscotch-y with an oatmeal cookie crust.  I'm not sure what to compare it to.  But it's enough that the almost 8-year-old foodie deemed it "the best dessert EVER". Thus we will stick 8 candles into this humble little pie and introduce her friends to the world of crack.  PIE, people, PIE!!!  Geesh.

Momofuku Crack Pie
Makes 2 pies, serves 16
Reprinted and slightly adapted from the Los Angeles Times

Cookie for crust
2/3 c plus 1T (3 ounces) flour
Scant 1/8 t baking powder
Scant 1/8 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 c (1 stick) softened butter
1/3 c (2 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
3T (1 1/4 ounces) sugar
1 egg
Scant 1 c (3 1/2 ounces) rolled oats

1.  Heat oven to 375 degrees
2.  In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3.  In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Whisk the egg into the butter mixture until fully incorporated.
5. With the mixer running, beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, until fully combined. Stir in the oats until incorporated.
6. Spread the mixture onto a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking sheet and bake until golden brown and set, mine took about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to the touch on a rack. Crumble the cooled cookie to use in the crust.

Crumbled cookie for crust
1/4 c (1/2 stick) butter
1 1/2 T (3/4 ounce) brown sugar
1/8 t salt

Combine the crumbled cookie, butter, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until evenly combined and blended (a little of the mixture clumped between your fingers should hold together). Divide the crust between 2 (9-inch) pie plates. Press the crust into each shell to form a thin, even layer along the bottom and sides of the tins. Set the prepared crusts aside while you prepare the filling.

1 1/2 c (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
3/4 c plus a scant 3 tablespoons (7 ounces) light brown sugar
1/4 t salt
1/3 c plus 1 teaspoon (3/4 ounce) non-fat dry milk powder
1 c (2 sticks) butter, melted
3/4 c plus a scant 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 t vanilla extract
8 egg yolks
2 prepared crusts
Powdered sugar, garnish

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, salt and milk powder. Whisk in the melted butter, then whisk in the heavy cream and vanilla.
3. Gently whisk in the egg yolks, being careful not to add too much air.
4. Divide the filling evenly between the 2 prepared pie shells.
5. Bake the pies, one at a time, for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake until the filling is slightly jiggly and golden brown (similar to a pecan pie), about 18-20 minutes. The filling will still look bubbly and molten.  Remove the pies and cool on a rack.
6. Refrigerate the cooled pies until well chilled. The pies are meant to be served cold, and the filling will be gooey. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Starbucks Key Lime Crumb Cake

 On a recent vacation we passed through the Miami airport where I came upon something I'd never seen at Starbucks before-Key Lime Crumb Cake.  Do you have this at your Starbucks or is this a Florida thing?  If you're not sure, look for a rainbow in the sky or angels hovering over the building.  That would be a sign.

Never tasting this, I foolishly bought only one piece to share between four of us.  After one bite I wanted to invoke the "hands off twerps, 36 hours of labor and 2 c-sections--you owe me!" clause.  But I didn't, cuz I'm a giver.  Although, between you and me, I took giant bites when it was my turn.  I have been obsessed with recreating this ever since.

It's a basic lemon crumb cake with a layer of key lime curd through it.  I ended up with more curd in mine than the Starbucks version.  You can decide how much you like.  You can buy the curd if need be but c'mon, man up and make it yourself.  Key limes are hard to find and not available all year long so bottled key lime juice is the way to go.  This is a great dessert or breakfast/brunch item.  Make it for Mother's Day! And in the spirit of the day, share some with your twerps.

Starbucks Copycat Key Lime Crumb Cake
Serves 10-12


4 extra-large eggs
1/2 c sugar
3 t finely grated lime zest
1/2 c key lime juice
4 T sweetened condensed milk
a pinch of salt

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco De Mayo

 Did you know they don't celebrate Cinco De Mayo in Mexico?  I once knew a group of guys in L.A. who planned a raucous trip to Mexico for Cinco De Mayo.  They packed beer, condoms, they were "TOTALLY STOKED" for the awesome party that awaited them.  They came back dejected cuz "Dude, they don't even celebrate this holiday down there!"  I, of course, thought that was karmically hilarious.

However, any excuse to have Mexican food is one I support.  So this Cinco De Mayo (May 5th for you gringos)  I'll be whipping up some chicken enchiladas & homemade guacamole.  Instead of sharing a recipe today, I thought I'd do a show and tell instead...

My family and I recently took a vacation and spent time in Mexico.  Specifically, about 8 hours in Mexico.  My one goal was to score a molcajete.  In English: a mortar and pestle thingy.  In Spanish: a mortar and pestle thingo.

Yes, I know you can buy these at Sur La Table or other fine cookery stores but I wanted a real one made in Mexico.  And not to toot my own horn but half the fun was using what I remembered of my high school Spanish (Hola, Senora Calderone!) and bargaining down to half of what I would have paid here.  A special shout out to my husband who lovingly lugged this HEAVY thing through a few more countries and an airport to get it home in one piece.

These are made of volcanic rock and often painted or carved to look like a bull or pig.  They last forever and just get better the more you use them.  They are used for making salsa and guacamole but you could use yours to grind any kind of spices as well.

Here is my molcajete before it's "makeover" aka seasoning. Yes, you have to do a little work before you use yours unless you prefer your guacamole with a side of volcanic rock.  And here's how...
 He's been named Senor Pig
Seasoning A Molcajete

 Soak the molcajete in water for a few hours.  Scrub with a stiff or wire brush, rinse and let thoroughly dry.

Take a small handful of rice and grind it with the tejolote (pestle) until the rice is powdery.  Discard and repeat until rice no longer turns gray and remains white.

Add garlic cloves, cumin and kosher salt and grind into a paste.  Mash it into the entire interior of the molcajete.  Rinse out with water and allow to dry.

It should now be ready for your salsa or guacamole making.  If it still seems gritty, repeat the process.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Teeny Tiny Food

What is it about teeny tiny food that adults love so much?  Any foods "miniature-ized" are the most popular items on my catering menus.  Sliders, mini grilled cheese, two-bite pizzas, mini quesadillas, etc.  Obviously, these are great cocktail fare because you can eat with one hand and hold your drink in the other.   But I have a feeling that it's more than convenience.  I think it's because it's silly and fun.  Admit it, you get to feel like a kid again because the food is just so darn cute.  Sometimes, bigger is not better.

In the spirit of cute food, I give you the quail egg. 

Teeny, tiny eggs that match my counter tops.  Ooooh! Aaaah!  OK, just lost any male readers out there...but seriously, how often do you get to coordinate your food with your kitchen?

I find these at my local Asian market.  I've also seen them at Whole Foods.  You can fry, poach or boil these little guys, just treat them like a regular egg.  I have made tiny deviled eggs with these too.  For this presentation, I fried them and served them on teeny tiny toast rounds with teeny tiny coins of chorizo.  Everyone giggled and licked their teeny tiny plates clean.  Try these.  Hilarity may ensue.

Quail Eggs & Chorizo on a Raft
Serves 1
2 quail eggs
Spanish chorizo, sliced in thin rounds
1 piece of toast
Smoked Paprika

1. In a small skillet warm the chorizo rounds until they release some of their oil and juices, remove from pan.
2. Toast a piece of bread.
3. Fry two quail eggs, sunny side up, in the chorizo "juice".
4. Using a round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut a circle out of the toast.
5. Layer chorizo on toast round, followed by quail eggs.
6. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and serve.