Birthday 2015

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I’ve been a new age for exactly one week today. The slider is quickly reaching the middle of the twenty- something scale, and it is a fact that both scares me and excites me, depending on the day.

There are two types of people I’ve met in this world: people who absolutely looove birthdays, and people who threaten physical harm if there’s even so much as a whisper of their birthday in the air. Me? I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I like birthdays, I think they’re cool. I think it’s important to celebrate each one because you never know how many you’re going to get in this world. But I don’t really go all out. Honestly, it’s partially because they tend to sneak up on me now that I’m no longer in elementary school and there’s no longer the obligation of a parent to throw a mini party with enough tiny forks and plates and cups, and copious amounts of brightly-colored frosted cupcakes for each member of my class. I also don’t go all about because there’s so much hype around birthdays that once it’s over, I always feel a little bit of loss because I have to wait another whole year to again be the Birthday Princess.

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I do exactly what I want, and when I want on my birthday; absolutely no exceptions. If I want to binge-watch an entire season of Friends in an afternoon, there is no judgement. If I want to sing at the top of my lungs to the hits off of The Emancipation of Mimi album in a house full of people, I’m going to do it. AND, if I want to bake my own birthday cake from start to finish and entirely from scratch, well, yeah I’m going to do it. And I did. I baked my own birthday cake. Three layers of very tender vanilla cake, slathered in a LOT of delicious buttercream frosting dyed a decidedly peach-ish tone depending on the angle, and topped with cute little sprinkles. It took me approximately four hours to make in total, and I loved every single second of it. For one, this cake is a GIANT step up from my last attempt to make a very small, very sad excuse for a cake. That very simple cake was hard work manifested. And it was delicious.

The older you get, the more time you spend reflecting. To that affect:

Five Very Important Things I’ve Learned in My Twenties So Far

  1. Friends come and go, and friendship is a two-way street. Only make the effort for those who make the effort for you. That’s what makes it special.
  2. Quality over quantity in all aspects of life.
  3. Listen to your elders when they’re trying to tell you something. They’ve got stories that are better than anything you’ll see in theaters, and, apart from the tiny embellishment here and there to keep your attention, they’re totally true.
  4. Work hard and have patience. You’ll get everything you need and even some of the things you want, but it’s probably going to take some time. And you know what? That’s okay.
  5.  Having a plan is great, but don’t forget to deviate sometimes and just enjoy the ride. Nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say.

As far as birthdays go, this one was pretty ace.

Here’s to many more, eh?

Bronte+Sydney’s Chicago Adventures

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 This is my friend, Bronte. I’ve known her for…nine years. Wait, NINE YEARS!? That can’t be right. (holy moly, it IS right!) The first time I ever met her was when she came for a school visit the year earlier, and I did everything in my power to get her attention. After all, she was English, had an affinity for Tim Burton movies, had a super cool haircut, and, most importantly, she was NEW. I LOVE new kids. Back when I couldn’t bake anything to save my life, I used to use a little self-deprecating humor to get attention. Nowadays, I shove a baked good in their face, and we go from there.

Bronte and I became fast friends. We’re often on the same wave length, and like almost all the same things. It’s hard to find true connections with people in this world, so when you’ve found one, you must hold on to it. Though Bronte has since moved back to England, we’ve never lost contact, and she’s shown up in the Midwest several times since then.

When the stars align and I find myself in Chicago, I usually have a plan. It’s usually a 2+ page list of activities to ensure that I don’t squander even a minute of the opportunity to take a day trip to one of the greatest cities in America. I can also pick up a few harder-to-find baking ingredients whilst I’m in a bigger city, and I generally don’t waste those opportunities either.

But this visit was a little different. There was no plan, really, other than when I was to arrive, and when I was to board the commuter train home. This time we had hours and hours to simply wander around the city, pop into shops and bakeries whenever we pleased, and just enjoy each other’s company.

Bronte Chicago

We walked around, gabbed about old classmates, grabbed cupcakes and cake samples from Magnolia Bakery, went in search of sunglasses (Bronte), and lamented over the sudden disappearance of curls thanks to some powerful Chicago fog (Sydney).

Walking and continuous laughter can make a couple of gal pals awfully peckish. Since it was the middle of the dreaded lunch hour, and seeing as we were right in the heart of many, many businesses full of hungry office-dwellers, we decided that there was no chance we’d get seats in a restaurant. The best thing to do was grab some bangin’ burgers from Good Stuff Eateryand have an impromptu picnic on the steps of the Art Institute. Bronte did a fabulous job of documenting that in the picture above.^^^

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So, OKAY, I fibbed a little. I did have a little bit of a plan: absolutely no matter what else happened, it was essential that Bronte and I find ourselves in the pie garden of Bang Bang Pie Shop. No matter what happens, if my feet are touching the streets of Chicago, those feet must jump on the blue line to Logan Square to get a piece of pie, or else.

And, I will say, I was NOT disappointed. When we arrived, I vowed to get something new; I tend to just venture back to things I like because I know I’ll like them. And as I stared at the giant chalkboard filled with new possibilities, I’d made a decision to pick the first thing that sounded good to me. That is, until I noticed that the French Silk Pie was on the menu for the day. As much as I loved it, I just couldn’t order it again. I HAD to get out of my comfort zone. But then, I noticed something different: that classic French Silk Pie had been given a Mexican twist. That was new enough for me!

Get this: Chocolate mousse and Ancho Reyes Chili Liqueur, topped with whipped cream and a little lime zest. PHENOMENAL. Now I’m going to have to figure out how to replicate it at home!

We rode the train home in comfortable silence, quite content with our relaxed day of adventures (and quite sleepy as well).

Thanks for a good day, Chicago. I’m going to live in you one day.

Homemade Oreos

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I’ve been missing Boston lately. More specifically, I’ve been missing my local eateries; and there were many. I miss reading about new restaurants opening, and just hopping on the train, hopping in line, and experiencing something first-hand instead of reading about it later. And when I get into a mood like this, I turn to my cookbooks, for they always know how to cheer a girl up. Do you know what also cheers a girl up? Chocolate. Chocolate cookies. Buttercream frosting. Buttercream frosting sandwiched between two chocolate cookies. Oreos. I’m talking about Oreos.

The first time I ever visited Flour Bakery I was amazed by the selection of truly beautiful foods. How could they fit so much loveliness into such limited space? But more importantly, I was amazed by the sheer unpretentiousness of what Flour had to offer. Some of the biggest bakeries in the city try to dazzle you with sophisticated names, bright lights, fancy decorations, and anything else they can think of to draw you in. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be dazzled by complicated creations as much as the next food lover, but sometimes I want a no-frills, just great taste, bakery experience. And while Flour did have cases filled to the brim with impressive pastries and sandwiches, it also stayed true to the neighborhood bakery feel with classic cakes and cookies that I grew up eating. I loved that Flour could take a childhood classic, like an Oreo, and make it completely rustic and completely their own. It was that sort of approachability to the classics that made me come back every time.

So, on days when that feeling of missing something just won’t go away, I have to slip on the apron, and make it at home. Oreos, here we come.

oreos 1I think the only thing that I was truly worried about when making these cookies was rolling up the dough. I’d never done slice-and-bake cookies before, and perhaps this was unnecessary, but I felt that the task might be a little daunting. What if I didn’t roll the log into a smooth enough shape? What if, when I went to slice them, I would slice too thinly or too thickly? What if, in an especially clumsy state, I went to cut the log and the whole thing went rolling to the floor? Two out of three scenarios actually happened. I’ll let you guess which ones.

oreo2In all honesty, I probably shouldn’t have been so nervous. Though it wasn’t the smoothest log that it could’ve been, it still had a nice shape, and I was able to get great cookies out of it. Yes, I did slice a few too thinly, and also a few slightly thicker than the rest, but the trick is to make sure every cookie has a mate. These are sandwich cookies after all! And as good as these cookies taste on their own, trust me, you’ll want that buttercream frosting on every single one. No buttercream shall go to waste!

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It’s almost scary how good these cookies are. They’re partially crunchy, partially fudgey, partially creamy, and wholly delicious. And also sooo unbelievably tasty paired with a nice glass of whole milk. They’re a little too big for dunking in the average-sized glass, but you can always break them up into pieces should the need for dunking arise.

Boy, am I going to miss these cookies when they’re gone.

 

What You’ll Need:

For the Cookies:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

For the Buttercream Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened and at room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • dash of kosher salt

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and granulated sugar until well combined. Next, whisk in the vanilla extract and melted chocolate. Add the egg and whisk until well combined.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda until well combined. With a wooden spoon, slowly add the flour mixture into the bowl with the chocolate mixture. As you’re mixing, the dough might seem to get a little tougher to work with; don’t worry, that’s normal. Once it comes together, it should have a play dough-like consistency. Let the dough rest at room temperature for one hour to firm up.

Cut out a 15-inch sheet of either parchment or wax paper (I used wax paper), and carefully transfer the dough onto it. With your hands, roughly shape the dough into a log about 10 inches long. Place the log on the end of the sheet of wax or parchment paper, and roll the paper around the log. With the paper fully around the log, roll it into a smoother log shape. (I cut into an old paper towel roll, and used that to roll the log into a smoother shape.) Refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight.) It may lose its shape while resting in the fridge, so make sure to check on it once in a while and take it out for a re-roll.

When it’s time to bake:

With a rack positioned in the center of the oven, heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. (Depending on how many cookies you slice, you may end up lining several baking sheets.)

Take your log out of the refrigerator, and let sit for a a minute or two to soften a little bit. Cut the log into 1/4 inch thick slices. (It should be noted that I tried to do this, and only managed to slice 1/4 inch slices some of the time. If you end up in the same boat as I was remember this: just try to keep your slices evenly sized, whatever you do.)

Place your slices about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet, as they tend to spread a little bit while baking.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cookies are firm to the touch. Make sure to keep a close eye on them, and after about 17 minutes, gently poke them in the middle to see if they’re firm. As soon as they’re firm to the touch, take them out of the oven. (Determining how long to keep them in will depend on your oven. For me, they weren’t firm until they’d been in for 21 minutes, so make sure to test your cookies for yourself!)

Let your cookies rest on the baking sheet(s) until they’ve come to room temperature. (It’s important that your cookies have cooled properly. If they’re too warm, the delicious buttercream will melt and slide right off of them. No one wants that.)

While your cookies are cooling, let’s make the filling!

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), beat the butter on low until it’s completely smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, and beat on low until the mixture is smooth and well combined. Next, add the milk and a dash of kosher salt, and beat until smooth. (Should have a putty-like consistency.)

Scoop about a tablespoon’s worth of filling onto the bottom side of one cookie. Top it with another cookie, bottom side down. CAREFULLY press the cookies together, allowing the filling to spread evenly toward the edges. Repeat until all the sandwich cookies have been made.

*Store in an air-tight container to retain freshness.*

 

SOURCE: Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe 

Fun-Sized Vanilla Sugar Doughnuts

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Two weeks ago we escaped to the land of country music, southern hospitality, and…the NRA Convention. But we didn’t find out about that last one until we read in the paper that there would be 70,000+ extra bodies in the city at the same time as we were. That’s right, we were in Nashville. And I never thought I would enjoy 80 degree weather so much.  I was basking in the warmth of a Southern sun, sweating from the humidity, sneezing because of blasted allergies that never give me peace, and loving every second of it. It’s shocking what a torturous winter will do to a person who typically detests hot, humid weather. Truly amazing.

We went down to spend Easter with The Grands and of course, while I was there, I had to see my Nashvillian bestie, Hailey. This go-round, after collecting some supplies from Trader Joe’s, we decided to venture into the kitchen and make something sweet: vanilla sugar doughnuts.

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MAN, do I love doughnuts. Not many other things can lift my spirits if I’m having a bad morning like a well-made doughnut. I love them so much that I even splurged once on a special Nordic doughnut pan that can’t be used for anything else (I hardly ever buy new bakeware unless it can be used multiple ways). But as much as I love doughnuts of all kinds, up until last week, I’d only made loads and loads of baked ones. Frying doughnuts was an entirely different adventure, and I’m glad Hails was by my side to experience it.

There were so many things I had to learn about doughnut-making. For instance, the name of the game is “patience.” We needed a LOT of it. Doughnut dough is very special, and needs much rest in order to become beautiful, and also achieve its full potential. It’s like a little baby that must always be warm, cool, and covered. It took forever. We were constantly peeking under the dish towel, then going “IS IT RISING? IT IS. IT IS RISING BECAUSE IT WAS AN INCH SHORTER BEFORE.” But a good baker must have patience if said baker wants doughnuts. So we waited. And waited. And peeked under dish towels. And waited.

FINALLY, after literal hours, it was time to ever-so-gently roll out our dough, cut it, and then send circles of it swimming into the 350 degree F oil. I’m glad that Hailey and I both had our reservations about that super hot oil; that way, when I screamed each time in preparation for splash-back, I had someone to scream with me. She’s a good friend.

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In the end, we walked away from Hailey’s beautiful kitchen with two bags’ worth  of fun-sized vanilla sugar doughnuts, and plans to bake something new, ambitious, and exciting the next time I’m in town.  In the meantime, I’m going into recipe-testing mode to come up with some real winners for you.

 

P.S. Not only is Hailey beautiful and talented, she’s also a wonderful potter! Check out her etsy page, Clay Off 8th! Word on the street is she’s got a housewares line in the works!!

 

Apple Spice Hand Pies

apple hand pies 1 Do you ever wonder, after making something new, how you could have lived without it before? That’s how I feel about hand pies. Sure, I’ve bookmarked dozens of recipes in the never-ending black hole that is my “Recipes” folder, and I’ve even eaten them, but never had I realized how much I love hand pies, until I had twelve perfectly golden ones cooling on my wire rack. I should say though, that they weren’t all for me. Last weekend one of my chums, who’s been telling me about Penzey’s for months now, decided to surprise me with a cute little jar filled to the brim with a rather hard to find ingredient: apple pie spice! It was a lovely gift, and to repay them, I decided that the best thing to do was make some apple spice hand pies. It was the best idea for all parties involved, really. apple hand pie 2Pies are not my strong suit; let’s just throw all the cards on the table now. I once tried to make a savory cheddar and garlic pie with an apple cider vinegar crust, and everything was going pretty well, until I tried pouring the filling into the crust only to discover that I’d rolled the pie crust too thinly, and custardy filling was going everywhere. There was a lot of mopping up of counters and floors, but in the end, what was left was delicious. Will I make it again? Probably not. I dunno, it was pretty good. Never say never. ANYWAY, based on my so-so pie track record, making hand pies for the first time made me a little nervous. I had a limited amount of apples and butter, a pie crust that was a little crumbly when I had made it the night before, and I was missing the necessary 5 1/2 inch cookie cutter that the recipe called for. There was only one shot to get this right, and I was determined to show up the next day with pies in hand. Even if I could just get two, that would be enough. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about! Everything went off without a hitch after I got a little creative with the cookie cutter. Instead of one that is 5 1/2 inches (which is really hard to come by unless you’re ready to order it online and wait), I was lucky enough to find an oversized coffee mug that was about 4 1/2 inches. Good enough! I floured the rim, pressed down and carefully wriggled each piece free. Easy.

The trick to a good hand pie is finding the perfect balance between filling and pastry. Too little, and you’re eating a lot of shell with the occasional bite of filling. Too much, and you’re looking at a baking sheet with filling cooking exactly where you don’t want it to be: on the outside. Either way, you’ll end up with a very empty shell. The key is to put the filling right in the center, leaving room on both sides for folding over and crimping the edges. By adding the filling to the center, you’re able to control the amount that goes on with each spoonful. If you feel like you need a little more, you’re free to do so. It’s much easier to add more than to *attempt* to take some out. And do yourself a favor: use a slotted spoon to scoop out your apple filling from the pan. The last thing you want is extra moisture, TRUST ME. What a mess. If you’re wondering which apples to use, I used a mix of Gala and Lady Alice apples. Both worked really nicely. These apple spice hand pies are the buttery and spiced mini pies of your dreams.

What You’ll Need:

For the Pie Pastry:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2-1/2 sticks (1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, very cold, cubed
  • 1/3 cup all-vegetable shortening, very cold or frozen, cut into small pieces
  • 6-7 tbsp ice water

For the Apple Filling:

  • 5 cups apples, peeled, cored and diced (about 5 medium apples)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves

OR

  • 2 tsp apple pie spice

For Brushing on Top:

  • 1/3-1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Turbinado or Demerara Sugar for sprinkling

TO STORE: Carefully wrap in cling film and keep in a cool place. They taste great when popped back into the oven at a low temperature for 10-20 minutes. Find the recipe on Fork Knife Swoon!

Food 52’s Quick Blueberry Jam

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I think I spoke too soon about Spring. My bad. Historically, when I’ve made decorations of Spring, and thrown my winter coat into the closet abyss until the next season, that was usually that. I may shiver a bit, but there’s usually no turning back. This year, not so much. No sooner had I stopped wearing stockings with my sneakers again that it snowed. Mind you it was a just dusting, but there was snow on the ground again, and a frost in the air that was totally and completely unwanted. Usually I relish in the sound of freshly fallen snow under my boots, but not when those boots were meant to be tucked away in exchange for attractive flats and sandals. Thankfully, it’s already melting. Melt faster!

At any rate, despite the fact that I’ve had to put up with the winter coat for the time being, I’ve decided to ignore these winter-like conditions where it counts: in my heart. And to that effect, I’ve continued on in my quest to re-introduce warm weather fruits back into the kitchen any way I can. And I’m still on a blueberry kick. So, this week I’ve made Food 52’s Quick Blueberry Jam. And it was, by all accounts, a real JAM to make….I LIKE PUNS, SUE ME.

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Jam has been on my extended To-Make List for several years now, but I hadn’t gotten around to doing it, nor did I have all the proper accouterments it takes to effectively get the job done. While I still have long-term plans to fill my life and the lives of my loved ones with all the jams you could possibly imagine, until I have all the tools of the trade, this wonderful and easy quick jam is going to do very nicely in the meantime.

Quick Blueberry Jam Goes Well: on toast, rolls, biscuits, crackers, spoons, fingers, straight out of the pan, etc.etc. etc.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen, make sure that they have completely thawed and come to room temperature)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/16 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (I used upwards of 2 tablespoons, but I like a little bit more lemon with blueberries)
  • 2 tablespoons water

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a medium-sized pan.

Turn the heat to medium, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. As soon as it has come to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer. The fruit will start to release its juices, and soften.

Cook up to 30 minutes (though I did a few minutes longer). The longer it simmers, the smoother the result at the end.

Store in fridge, and eat within a week.

Note: Because I upped the lemon juice, I also had to adjust the sugar by a few tablespoons, and add a dash more salt. Make sure to alter this to your taste preferences. ABT= Always be tasting. Think it needs a pinch more salt? Go for it! Want a little more acidity? Squeeze it in. It’s your jam after all!

SOURCE: Food 52 via Phyllis Grant 

Rustic Blueberry-Lemon Ricotta Scones

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It went past 50 degrees last week and I could hardly believe it. For the first time in months I didn’t have to prepare myself for the familiar sting of winter wind hitting every piece of exposed skin. And I even spotted neighbors that I haven’t seen in months. The windbreaker is out, the winter coat is buried deep within the wardrobe, and despite what the weather people keep trying to tell me (back to the 40s, sometimes 30s) Spring is here to stay. Why? Because I said so.

The sun is shining so brightly and it’s making me think of Summer. And, it should be noted, I don’t even like Summer that much. It’s just too hot. While most people around these parts relish the feeling of a hot sun on their skin, all I can do is slap on the sunscreen; even while just looking out the window. I’ll take 70 degrees and breezy, please. None of that 90 degree business. Anyway, since the sun is shining and it’s actually remotely warm, it had me missing the fresh fruit that I practically live on all summer: blueberries. And what goes exceptionally well with blueberries? Lemons, m’dear!

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I’ve been trying to think of ways to spice up breakfast lately. The Cheerios just aren’t cutting it anymore; not by themselves anyway. Toast is a splendid breakfast companion, but I’ve just been looking for a little more oomph. That’s where these scones come in. Such a simple little thing on its own, the scone. So much potential, just begging to be taken to the next level. And so we shall, little scone. So we shall.

Plus, we had some extra ricotta burning a hole in the fridge. Ricotta cheese shall never, ever be wasted. Not on my watch.
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And I know that scones are traditionally wedge-shaped, but we’re not going for tradition here. The beauty of a scone (besides the lovely taste) is that it can be wedge-shaped, biscuit shaped, or maybe somewhere in between like I’ve attempted. Mine sort of resemble drop biscuits with fruit, and you know what? That’s what I’m going for. They’re rustic. And also incredibly delicious.

These scones are crispy like a good southern biscuit, but still super moist thanks to both the ricotta and blueberries. And just as you start to get into the sweetness of the blueberry, you’re greeted by the hint of lemony goodness. Breakfast is going to be really good this weekend.

Scones 3And don’t let anyone speak badly about whichever shape you choose. You do you.

What You’ll Need:

1 large egg

1/2 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

zest of one lemon

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (thawed if frozen)

Heavy cream for brushing

Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, lemon juice, and vanilla. Once fully combined, add the ricotta. (It’s okay if there are still little lumps once you’re finished combining.)

Combine the lemon zest and granulated sugar in a small bowl, rubbing the two together with your fingers until it gives off a lovely fragrant smell. Set aside.

In a large bowl,  use a whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon-sugar mix. Add the cut up pieces of butter and gently toss with a fork, making sure each piece of butter is coated with the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter or fork, incorporate the butter into the flour until you get a mixture of little lumps of butter and flour.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix together using a rubber spatula until just combined. Careful not to over-mix. Next, gently fold in the blueberries. Turn out the dough onto a very well-floured surface and gently knead the dough. Add a little flour as you knead if the dough is too sticky. Pat the dough into a 1/2 inch thick disk. Cut into a wedges, or a circles using a biscuit cutter, or for a more rustic look, gently cut a section and carefully shape it yourself. Transfer the pieces onto your prepared baking sheet.

Brush each piece with heavy cream (to help it brown nicely in the oven), and sprinkle scones with Turbinado sugar.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!

Two things to note:

1. This dough is VERY sticky because of the ricotta cheese. If you need to, add a little flour when kneading, but make sure to be gentle and not over-knead the dough.

2. Depending on your oven, it may take more than 20 minutes for your scones to turn golden. Be patient. They’ll get there. But do keep a close eye on them: scones can go from lovely brown to too dark in no time flat.

SOURCE: Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Let’s Make: Homemade Whipped Cream

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There are some people who will tell you that making your own basics is a waste of money because you can just as easily pick up anything at your local supermarket in no time flat. Those people, I can assure you, have never been dazzled by the home-made.

Sure, it’s easy to pick up a tub of Cool-Whip (with all those delicious chemicals added in!), but you know what? It’s also just as easy to bypass the frozen section entirely and grab yourself a pint of heavy whipping cream. Now go get some vanilla extract and some sugar…good. Now go to checkout and get outta there!

Just three simple ingredients are all you need to have the best whipped cream you’ve ever tasted in your life. I guarantee it. Oh, and did I mention that it’s crazy easy and takes 2 minutes? But keep a watchful eye; whip too much and you’re on your way to butter. If you don’t whip enough, you’ve got soup. It’s sweet-tasting soup, but not what we’re going for.

Basically, this kitchen basic is best homemade.

 

Crazy Easy Whipped Cream

What You’ll Need:

-1 pint cold heavy whipping cream

-4 tablespoons sugar

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer, or a medium-sized bowl.

2. With the mixer set to high speed, beat until stiff peaks form (should take about a minute if you’re using a stand mixer; may take a tad longer with a hand mixer). Try not to over beat.

3. Go forth with the knowledge that life-changing whipped cream can be made in the comforts of your own home. In other words: enjoy!

This will keep for about three days well-covered and refrigerated.

Chocolate Chip Skillet Cake

Image 1 skillet cake

I’ve said this so many times before, but it bears repeating now: one should never underestimate the power of a chocolate chip cookie. There’s a reason why it’s such a classic, go-to dessert. It’s soft in the middle, ooey gooey, and oh-so-cholatey. In times of stress, I find myself going back to my favorite chocolate chip recipes, seeking out that comfort that only a good cookie can bring. And when that cookie happens to be 9-inches, baked in a skillet, and slightly under-baked in the center, it’s even better. Let’s call it an easy reward for surviving Monday, shall we?

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Never have the words “You deserve a cookie,” been more applicable.

 

What You’ll Need:

2 cups AP flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

 

Directions:

-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour well one 9-inch ovenproof skillet.

-In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt.

-In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using a wooden spoon, or with a hand mixer) beat the butter and sugars (granulated and light brown) on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg. Add the egg yolk, then the vanilla, and mix well.

-Carefully add the flour mixture a little bit at a time while the mixer is on low speed,  and beat until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to fold in the chocolate chips. Transfer the batter to the prepared skillet, making sure that it is smooth and evenly distributed.

-Bake until the edges are baked and golden, but the center is still slightly under-baked, about 18-20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before serving.

(This cookie can last for up to three days tightly wrapped, and at room temperature.)

 

SOURCEJoy the Baker Homemade Decadence: Irresistibly Sweet, Salty, Gooey, Stick, Fluffy, Creamy, Crunchy Treats by Joy Wilson

P.S. Check out my review of this excellent cookbook here!

 

Valentine’s Day Leftovers

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The only thing better than eating all of the sweets on Earth on Valentine’s Day, is discovering that you have extras left over for days and days afterwards. Forget the discounted chocolate (but don’t actually because Lindt chocolate ain’t cheap when it’s just a regular Tuesday), the real edible magic after Valentine’s Day are the baked goods. Cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and all heart-shaped. Is it me, or do things just taste better when they’re heart-shaped? It’s just me? Okay.

My generally sad lunch has an upgrade this week in the form of these sweet sugar cookie hearts.

 

I keep going back to Bon Appetit’s Ultimate Sugar Cookie recipe because it’s JUST THAT GOOD.

And don’t forget the royal icing!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day Leftovers Week!