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Posts tagged ‘Baking’

Blackberry Scones

There are a lot of scone recipes out there.  I tend toward a more traditional cream scone, but I did not happen to have any cream in the house…so a little internet research turned up some alternatives, and a few seemed promising using evaporated milk.  After reading through them and finding some consistencies between them, I sort of made up my own recipe, fingers crossed that it would turn out.

Since it is the new year…and I’m sure you all have resolutions that you are trying to keep…many having to do with eating healthy, getting fit and watching your weight…here’s a little bonus!  Using evaporated milk makes these scones lower in fat.  You can substitute evaporated milk for heavy cream in many recipes, it provides the thickness and creaminess without the added fat.

Mini Blackberry Scones

2 cups flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
3 tbsp. sugar
6 tbsp. butter, cold, cut in chunks
1 can evaporated fat-free milk
1 cup fresh blackberries

Mix your dry ingredients together, then dump in the cold chunked butter and cut it in using a pastry cutter or two forks.

Before adding the evaporated milk, toss in the blackberries.  This helps them to stay whole and forces you to barely mix the batter once the liquid is added.

Pour in the evaporated milk and mix very gently.  It’s okay if the berries break up a bit.

Spoon into a scone pan (we scored this one years ago from our wedding – but they are not really necessary), or dump batter onto a greased cookie sheet and spread into an approximate circle or square.  Then using a pastry scraper or a knife, divide the dough into scone shapes (wedges, squares, triangles…whatever you fancy).

Bake in oven set at 400° F for 12-20 minutes depending on the size of your scone.

You are looking for tops that are golden brown.

Once they’ve come out of the oven and cooled just a bit, serve them up with honey, clotted cream, lemon curd or butter and of course, a cup of tea!




Pumpkin Pecan Biscotti

Pumpkin Pecan Biscotti are an annual tradition for us. It would not be autumn without pumpkin cookies and my husband is a sucker for biscotti.  Also…I’m guessing that you’ve got an extra can or two of pumpkin lying around from Thanksgiving.  These biscotti are perfect as it seems just a teensy bit too early for christmas cookies – it’s barely December!

Full disclosure…original recipe comes from my family cookbook and stops a few steps short of making biscotti.   I love the original pumpkin cookie, which turn out a bit cakey and only get better the second and third day.  Feel free to make those as well – only difference is you spoon the batter into dollops on the sheet pan – they end up looking a bit like scones!  We came up with the biscotti idea as Woody prefers crunchy cookies…not cakey ones!

1½ cups brown sugar
½ solid shortening (crisco)
2 eggs
1 lb. canned pumpkin (I’ve gotten away with the 14.5 oz. can)
2¾ cups flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground ginger
1 cup pecans, chopped (or more)

Preheat the oven to 400° F.  Mix sugar, shortening, eggs and pumpkin thoroughly.

Mix dry ingredients and add to pumpkin mixture; blend well.

Chop the pecans and fold in to combine.

I like my biscotti pretty nutty!

Pour and scrape the batter into two logs on a parchment lined half-sheet pan.

Using a spatula, flatten out the batter so the biscotti loaves will cook evenly.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the tops are just beginning to brown.  You want the loaves to be cooked through, otherwise slicing them cleanly will be difficult and gooey, but not so cooked that they will burn when you put them back in the oven!

Once removed from the oven, let them cool completely (they will smell really good…and it will be very difficult to not nibble the edges)!

When the loaves are cool, gently lift onto a cutting board and slice in 1/3 to 1/2 inch slices.

Lay the slices sideways on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 325º for 25 to 35 minutes.  I know that is not very specific, however, this is the part of the recipe that takes a bit of experience to get it right.  You want to dry out the biscotti without toasting them too much – so think low temperature for longer.  Every oven is different and you could probably do this at 250º for much longer.  It is also important to note that they might not seem done when you remove them from the oven, but remember that as they cool…steam (i.e. moisture) is escaping and they will continue to dry as they cool.

Cool the finished biscotti completely before storing them in any airtight container.  Serve up with a steamy cup of coffee and enjoy at all hours of the day!

Okay…now it is on to the next holiday…Christmas, OF COURSE!



Lemon-Ginger Bundt Cake

Prompted to bring a dessert over to a friend’s house for a small potluck dinner, I began scheming to find a dessert that was not overly sweet, involved a bundt pan (the husband’s been asking for of a bundt-something-or-other), and brought out the best of late summer (no pumpkin or other quintessential fall ingredients involved).

Thank you Interwebs…and Martha Stewart!

I stumbled upon her recipe for Lemon-Ginger Bundt Cake and it seemed perfect!  A buttery, citrus cake with the added brightness of ginger.  I am definitely adding this one to my recipe box, it was quick, a bit intriguing with the crystallized ginger and had just the right amount of sweetness.  Don’t you just hate it when Martha is…well, Martha?

Lemon-Ginger Bundt Cake (via

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a standard 12-cup bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, lemon zest, ginger, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; mix in lemon juice.
  2. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture in three parts and sour cream in two, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until incorporated (do not overmix). Spoon batter into prepared pan, and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Firmly tap pan on a work surface to level batter.
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes (if cake browns too quickly, tent loosely with aluminum foil). Let cake cool in pan 30 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. (To store, wrap cake in plastic, and keep at room temperature, up to 3 days.) Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

As previously mentioned, we carted this bundt over to our friends and let it cool a bit more before dusting with powdered sugar (as Martha suggests), and unfortunately ended up with no pictures of the sliced cake as it disappeared quite quickly.

I just love how bundt cakes get that lovely dark crust on the outside and hide their fluffy cake texture inside.  I think I’ll be making this again soon!

Mom’s Oatmeal Comfort Cookies

You know the days when all you want to do is come home to some cookies made by someone who loves you, and enjoy them just out of the oven while you sit there and complain vent discuss your crappy day…?

I seem to have had more than my fair share of those lately.  Why wait for someone to come along and cheer you up…when you can just make some yourself.  (This has the added bonus…that maybe, just perhaps, no one knows exactly how many cookies you made and therefore can’t accuse you of eating the whole batch…just saying!)

Mom’s Oatmeal Cookies*

1 cup rolled oats
¾ cup flour
½ cup brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter (room temp.)
¼ sugar
1 egg
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. vanilla

Beat living crap out of sugar and butter, add egg and everything but flour and oats, then flour, then oats.  (Mom usually doubles, or even quadruples the recipe.)

Spoon onto baking sheets.  Bake at 375° for 12 minutes (‘though Mom finds this too long sometimes).  Be generous with sugar for more thin/lacy/crunchy cookies.

{*recipe is taken word for word from the Connelly Family Cookbook (my maiden name)}

Quick tip…when my mom was making cookies regularly for the 5 of us to nibble on after school…sometime during the day, she would plop the stick of butter into the Kitchenaid bowl on the counter and by the time she started the cookies, the butter was room temperature and ready to mix!

There was strong disagreement in our house growing up about whether oatmeal cookies should inherently contain raisins.  I think of oatmeal cookies like cake…there are many kinds and they can all be good for different reasons.  Coffee cake vs. red velvet vs. chocolate decadent vs. ice cream cake – the list goes on.  My Dad is on team raisin  and my Mom – her opinion is that adding raisins to these cookies is ‘just wrong’.  I’ll let you decide.  (and I promise, I won’t hold it against you!)

Perfect cookies to enjoy with just a small glass of milk!

{I actually had trouble eating less than two okay three anytime I walked by the cookie jar!}

What is your go-to comfort cookie?



Hot Cross Bun(nie)s!

What do you get when you our boiling water down a rabbit hole…?

Hot Cross Bunnies! 

Okay, I kid.  But I do love some hot cross buns!  I came across a recipe on the King Arthur Flour site.  It seemed to have a nice balance of spiced dough with just a bit of sweetness not too much dried fruit.

Recipe can be found right here and the only changes I made were that used about half the total dried fruit called for in the recipe and only used currants.

I soaked them in rum as I did not have any apple juice in the house. This is a great trick to make sure that your dried fruit doesn’t steal all the moisture from your dough during the rising process.

No need to worry about the order of mixing either,  I added all the dry ingredients to the bowl, gave it a quick stir with the dough hook and then threw in the wet ingredients – eggs, milk and room temperature butter.

I happen to love the Proof function on my oven…it heats to about 80º (my guess is using the heat of the oven light), but it ensures that my rising dough stays warm and out-of-the-way of any drafts.

Note that it is not a super-puffy rise.

Just as the recipe stated, it makes 12-14 (for me – 14 exactly) and they are about the size of billiard balls.

And since I wanted warm toasty buns on Easter morning without having to wake up at the crack of dawn to get the dough going, I started it the evening before and left them formed in rolls over night in the fridge for the second rise.

I slashed the tops with a razor and let them sit on the counter to take the chill off of them while the oven heated.  Woody tried to get Cleo interested in them…which I don’t approve of.

Last step before the oven is to brush the tops with an egg white mixed with milk to help them brown up.

All seemed to go as planned although I cooked them a bit longer as they were so well chilled that I worried they would turn dark brown without the insides being cooked through.

Poof!  They magically turn into delicious and golden brown rolls,  Okay…maybe an oven was involved – at 375 for 20 minutes and at 350 for the remaining time.  In total, they baked for 30’ish minutes.  I know, very precise.

The dough only has a bit of brown sugar in it, so the icing was a nice addition.  (I can’t believe I actually advocated for icing…as I am almost categorically opposed to it…but I’ll admit…it was needed and delicious!

We are soon headed to a delicious brunch and therefore these were just a morning snack to hold us over until our 2:00 pm reservation.  Add in a steaming cup of coffee and it was a fabulous spring morning!

What are your Easter traditions?  Whatever they are I hope they are filled with delectable items and people you love and hopefully some delightful spring weather!

Happy Easter!




Baking Powder Biscuits

If you ever spent the night at my house when I was in high school…chances are these biscuits look familiar.  They were a standard on weekdays and weekends growing up…and a favorite of friends of mine and my siblings.  A stop by parents always meant chocolate chip cookies (afternoon) or baking powder biscuits (morning).  Who doesn’t need another quick breakfast in their repertoire?

Baking Powder Biscuits

2            cups       flour
1            Tbsp.     sugar
4            tsp.        baking powder
1/2         tsp.        salt
1/2         tsp.        cream of tartar
1/2         cup         vegetable shortening (Crisco)
2/3         cup         milk

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Place a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  In a large bowl combine dry ingredients and stir to mix.  Cut in shortening ‘til mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add the milk all at once and stir with a fork just until dough forms a ball.  Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 14 times.  Pat (or roll) until ½ in. thick.  Cut into rounds with cookie cutter size of your choice.  Place on cookie sheet, spaced out or next together.  Bake 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.

It’s surprisingly tricky to photograph all white ingredients in a white bowl….note to self – add in some color next time!  Clockwise from bottom left: flour, sugar, salt, milk, cream of tartar, Crisco, and baking powder.

Sift the dry ingredients together.

Add in the shortening.

Cut together using a pastry cutter or two forks.  You want pea size pieces of shortening coated in the dry ingredients.  When the biscuits bake, the shortening melts in and makes the biscuits flaky and delicious.

Add the milk all at once and stir together with a fork, just until it comes together.

Toss out on a floured surface or counter top and pat out (or roll if you don’t feel like working that hard) until the dough is 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick.  Err on the side of too thick…as thin biscuits turn out like hockey pucks.

I always try to get as many biscuits out of the first roll-out, then I squish all the dough edges back together and pat it out again and cut a few more biscuits.  The only drawback to patting out a second set is they won’t rise as uniformly.

Best eaten warm and with a homemade jam and some soft sweet butter.

We enjoyed ours with last summer’s strawberry thyme jam.

Spicy Brownies & Chocolate Disaster Cake

Say you’re asked to take part in a Chocolate Cake Challenge in honor of friends moving out-of-state, that will take place at a ‘going away dinner’ in their honor.  You have weeks to prepare…and you think about what adventurous recipe you might tackle.  The Chocolate Cake Challenge, despite its name does not require the entry be in cake form.  It just needs to have chocolate as one of the main components of the dish.  I pondered a savory enter of mole, perhaps cream puffs with a chocolate bacon drizzle, homemade hot cocoa, a frozen chocolate treat perhaps; the choices are infinite.  I ultimately decide on Decadent Chocolate Cake – the most commonly baked cake in my parent’s house.  My brothers enjoy this not only as an evening dessert, but a perfect morning shot of sugar – breakfast cake.

Now consider as well, that this evening competition was scheduled to take place the day after the dreaded and stressful Tax day of April 15, and let’s say that, unlike previous years, you were one of those procrastinators who lost all track of time, and had the “holy %$#*&” moment a few days prior,  realizing that THIS Thursday, taxes were due.  Assuming all this is true…here is the play-by-play of the events that led to the following disaster success, no, well, both really.

Here’s the series of events:

  • 6:30 pm – Liz arrives at grocery store to purchase important ingredients for Decadent Chocolate Cake according to the Connelly family cookbook including Bakers Bitter Chocolate squares.
  • 7:15 pm – Liz spends 45 minutes at the store in shock and disbelief that they do not carry the necessary Bakers unsweetened chocolate…AT ALL.  They carry semi-sweet baking squares, chocolate chips, dark chocolate, peanut butter chips, toffee chips, dark chocolate bars…but seriously, no Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate Squares.  Liz searches her magical internet phone for exact cacao % and tries to match it to some substitute ingredient.  If you’re a Cohen brothers movie fan, this is the first moment that things begin to go wrong…which then of course leads to continual small disasters and ultimately ends with someone’s life in ruins – think Fargo.  I should have known I was doomed.
  • 7:45 pm – Liz arrives home with take out dinner and ingredients…and begins baking.  Reads recipe over again and thinks…hmmm…that seems like a lot of sugar – 2 cups, really?
  • 8:15 pm – Liz begins mixing…
  • 8:30 pm – Liz forgets to remove the 2 tbsp of flour from the 2 cups called for in the recipe…and thinks crap…maybe I just ruined the cake…but thinks, maybe I’ll add a little vegetable oil to try to avoid a dry cake.
  • 8:45 pm – Egg whites whipped – mixed in – batter looks surprisingly light in color…hmmm…hopefull it’ll darken when it bakes.
  • 8:46 pm – Liz greases and flours the cake pan
  • 8:50 pm – cake goes in to bake for 40-50 minutes.  Smells good…Liz is still thinking it is not totally ruined – there is a chance.
  • 9:40 pm – Liz removes cake from oven after testing with toothpick and it comes out clean.
  • Cake is left to cool for 15 minutes or so, so I can turn it out onto a plate.
  • 10:00 pm – turn cake pan over on plate…nothing happens.  Nothing.  No clunk, no thud, no easing of the cake out of the pan and onto the plate.  Remove plate – shake pan around, use spatula to try to loosen cake from the pan…cake seems loose – place plate on top of pan and flip over one more time.  Wait a few minutes…as if that might help it work.
  • Slowly lift edge of pan and promptly yell “f#$%&@* – I broke the cake!”

Woody:  “How did you break the cake…?  Cakes don’t break”
Liz:  “Well, I did.  So it’s possible.  I broke the cake.”
Woody:  “I don’t get it…?”
Liz:  “Look – 1/2 the cake is still stuck in the pan…and the other 1/2 is on the plate.  Broken. Cake.
Woody:  “You can fix this.  You could peel the pieces stuck in the pan out and glue them back on top – no one would notice…”
Liz: “Okay – now you’re just using crazy talk on me”
Woody: “Well, look at it this way – you won’t have to get up in the morning to make the frosting.”

Woody described the cake as tasting like a sugar cookie (not even a chocolate sugar cookie) hiding in a bundt cake, and in fact, even said, it tastes like something he would eat (read:  I don’t like cake unless it is made with pure sugar (angel food cake) or contains vegetables (carrot cake)).

So, I threw in the towel.

Decadent Chocolate Cake – you and I will meet again someday and this time…you will do as I say, and turn out perfect.

But all was not lost.  Thanks to Woody and his last-minute desire to enter his own chocolate masterpiece.  In the midst of my baking disaster, a chocolate success story was in the making.  Woody made some delicious brownies that incorporated a non-traditional dessert ingredient – Chipotle Chile’s in Adobo.  He made a regular batch of brownies and then added some special ingredients.  I can’t divulge exact amounts – secret recipe and all…and frankly, I don’t even know exactly what he added, although I think there was some adobo sauce, maybe a little garlic powder, a sprinkling of ginger and cumin as well.  All I know is that the kitchen smelled of enchiladas and brownies all rolled into one.

Woody resisted the urge to try one that night and waited until the party the next evening.  The competition was fierce and the voting was very serious.  In order to vote, you had to try every chocolate dish entered in the challenge; tiramisù, chocolate mousse cake, mini-mint chocolate double layer cakes, chocolate Kahlua bundt cake, dense chocolate petits fours, and ice cream filled cream puffs with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and lastly, Woody’s spicy chocolate brownies.  Everything was truly tasty, incredibly rich and I loved seeing how everyone interpreted the challenge.

Each person voted for their first and second choice.  The votes were tallied and the results finalized.  Ralph announced the winner.

Woody WON!

The trophy (which will be passed down in the next annual chocolate challenge) is actually a 4H trophy from Ralph’s early years raising sheep…1991 to be exact.  Of course, it was slightly modified with various chocolate stickers.

Congratulations Woody!

Woody saved the day!  The Fischer name will remain an honorable one in kitchens across Pasadena.  Maybe he’s a baker after all.

Meyer Lemon Cake

We still have lemons.  Many lemons.  Apparently we have one of the most productive ever-bearing Meyer lemon trees on the planet.  And it is now flowering again…and being pollinated and will therefore be producing more fruit in the near future.  So my hunt continues for interesting and creative ways to juice, squeeze, preserve, cook with and bake with Meyer lemons.  Thoughts, recipes, ideas are welcome!  I found a recipe for this Meyer Lemon Cake in this book.

It is worth the time and many steps involved in making this cake…and I think that it might end up being a very simple cake to make…if I made it all the time.  Chez Panisse Cooking may not look like a very exciting cookbook with it’s lack of drool-inducing photographs of each recipe and ingredient…but the value of it’s actual substance – food philosophy, recipes, techniques and insight into Alice Waters – is huge.  I highly recommend all of the Chez Panisse series.  The illustrations are even worthy of frames hung on a wall. (See below for full recipe.)

First, start with Meyer lemons, zest them, and juice them.  The recipe calls for approximately 8 lemons.  I must have some really juicy lemons, because I only juiced 3.5 lemons and had more than enough juice for the cake.

Eggs are separated and whites are whisked until you have stiff, but not dry, peaks.  Copper bowl is not required…just fun to use if you have one.  I had to ask Woody if I could use his – as it was a Christmas gift after a very long and extensive search for a true copper round bottom bowl that wouldn’t break the bank – he’s always wanted one.  Permission was granted.

Eggs, lemon juice, sugar – beaten and frothy.

Sugary, lofty egg whites.

Flour added to egg yolk and sugar mixture.

I know you were dying to see the inside of my oven…so here it is!  I used a mini-bundt pan and a regular sized bread loaf pan – the proportions look very strange in the photo above if you weren’t aware of the mini-bundt.

Pulling them out of the oven and unmolding them revealed a delicious and perfectly toasty golden color to the cake.

This was perhaps the 4th or 5th glazing…all of it pooled on top would sink right into the cake and it would once again look as if it had just been taken out of the pan.  Don’t let your glaze cool too much, otherwise it won’t be viscous enough to soak in.

Also, you should poke more holes than you think you should.  Poke the skewer in 8-10 times and then poke it again and again and again!


I had plans to candy the thyme…but funny enough, I ran out of time.  HA!

Meyer Lemon Cake
from Chez Panisse Cooking

for the cake:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups sugar
2/3 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup Meyer lemon juice
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon zest
2 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

for the glaze:

1/3 cup Meyer lemon juice
1 2/3 cups confectioners sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Melt butter in a saucepan, set aside to cool. In a mixing bowl, beat together the egg yolks with 1 cup of sugar, until thick and light in color. Beat in the buttermilk, lemon juice, and zest. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks are formed. Add the remaining quarter cup of sugar, then continue beating until stiff peaks are formed.

Alternately fold half of the flour into the egg yolk mixture, followed by half of the egg whites. Fold carefully as not to deflate the batter. Repeat with remaining portions. Take approximately 1 cup of batter and stir into the melted butter. Gently fold the butter mixture into the cake batter. Pour into a buttered, and floured, 9-inch cake pan, springform pan, bundt cake pan, bread loaf pan – really any pan will do.  Bake for 50-60 minutes – this time varies depending on the type of pan you use.  Always test the cake for doneness with a toothpick or skewer.  No one likes a dry cake.

While the cake is baking, make the glaze. Combine the lemon juice and confectioners sugar. Heat in a saucepan just until sugar is melted. Set aside until cake is done.  I found that the volume of glaze was more than I needed, but I am also a little hesitant about soggy cake.  I probably could have used more.  It’s delicious stuff!

When the cake is done baking, cool for 5 minutes in pan. Turn the cake out on a cooling rack, and invert. With a long toothpick or skewer, poke the top of the cake making small holes. Slowly spoon on the glaze. Wait for the glaze to sink in, then add more. Repeat process until all of the glaze is used.  Cool cake completely, and enjoy!

For an extra ooommph at the time of plating – drizzle the glaze over each slice and top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Almond Butter and Lavender Cookies

What happens when you add lavender to cookies?

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