Archive | Quick breads and muffins RSS feed for this section

Sweet Simplicity: Chocolate Chip Scones

15 Sep

There are some dishes I make so frequently that I never bother to photograph them. That got me thinking the other day about lost recipes. The sort of everyday things that become second nature, that we think unworthy of photographing or calling attention to. But if we don’t teach or tell others how to do these things, they’re completely lost to time. Imagine that; a dish that might never live again until some unwitting cook elsewhere dreams it up again.

So this is one of the recipes that I make probably every other week or so, and one you can make and customize with whatever you have in the house.

Chocolate-Chip Scones

Yield: 8 scones

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder (aluminum –free is best)
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 oz. butter, chilled and cubed
  • ½ cup of cold buttermilk (or make your own by squeezing half a lemon into ½ cup 2% milk)
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (or berries, dried fruits, nuts…etc.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and kosher salt in a large bowl or food processor.

20160915_120439

Add the chilled butter, and process or cut the butter in to the dry ingredients until the mixture has a pebbly, sandy texture.

20160915_120600

Add the buttermilk and mix just until the dough forms large clumps.

20160915_120638

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and mix in the chocolate chips (or addition of your choice) by hand. Then pat the dough into a circle about ¾ in. thick.

20160915_120807

20160915_120912

Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the circle into 8 triangles and then arrange them on a baking sheet with a couple of inches in between each.

20160915_121012

20160915_121131

Bake for 15 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown and the tops are just lightly golden.

20160915_123132

Scones, like most quick breads, are best consumed the day they are made. That said, I’ve revived these in the toaster for many breakfasts, so they’re definitely still tasty a day later. My favorite additions aside from chocolate chips are blueberries and of course the classic dried currants. Don’t want to add anything? Then don’t! They’re great plain with a pat of butter, too.

So that’s it really. Go forth and make delicious scones!

Ciao for now,

Neen

Sunday Morning Sweets: Old Fashioned Cake Doughnuts

26 Mar

If you were snowed in, work was cancelled, and you had all of the necessary ingredients, tell me…

Why wouldn’t you make doughnuts?

Sure it takes a little time to do it properly, but it wasn’t like I was going anywhere on that February morning.

A lot of people don’t like frying, because they’ve had bad experiences with poorly-fried food. I get it. Believe me, greasy food makes me queasy too. If you keep a thermometer in the pot, fry in small batches, monitor the temperature between batches, and drain food properly, you will end up with almost as much oil in the pot as you started with. Less oil leaching into the food, no greasy texture.

I am always a fan of peanut oil for deep frying as I think it has the most neutral flavor, but you can use anything with a high smoke point.

Since I was snowed in at the last minute on this occasion, I decided to make cake doughnuts. I prefer to allow yeast doughs to rise overnight and we didn’t have that kind of time.

Old Fashioned Cake Doughnuts

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ tbsp salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspon cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1⁄4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup whole or 2% milk
  • 4 cups flour
  • Oil for frying

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.

20150222_114358In another bowl, Combine the sugar with the melted butter, milk, and eggs, and blend well.

20150222_114605Slowly add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and beat until you have a batter that comes together, but is very soft and sticky.

20150222_114623Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for one hour.

After chilling, roll the dough out until it is about ½ in. thick.
20150222_122147Cut out doughnuts with a pint glass or biscuit cutter, and then cut out center holes with a small cookie cutter or shot glass.

20150222_122235
20150222_122554Fill a deep skillet with about 1 ½ in. of vegetable or peanut oil, and heat the pan until the oil is about 360 degrees.

Add doughnuts gently to the hot oil, cooking a few at a time so that the oil temperature stays between 360-375 degrees. Once you see golden brown around the edges, flip the doughnuts so that they cook on both sides. Total cooking time is about 2-3 minutes for doughnuts and about a minute for doughnut holes.
20150222_124221Remove the doughnuts using a spider and drain on a cooling rack inverted over a layer of paper towels.

While warm, glaze or sugar as desired. For this batch, I dipped some in cinnamon sugar and others are topped with a simple powdered sugar, milk, lemon zest, and vanilla glaze and sprinkles. I love crazy flavor combinations, but sometimes simplicity is perfect.

20150222_12375520150222_12545720150222_125746

And I have to say that toasty coffee, pajamas, and doughnuts is a pretty fantastic way to spend a Sunday morning with your sweetie, snowed in or otherwise.

Ciao for now!

Neen

Recipe Megapost: My Old Kentucky Home

6 May

Roger, our native Kentuckian, invited Joe and I over for Derby Day this year. He and Lynn always loved celebrating the Kentucky Derby. I imagine that it was particularly special for her, having grown up so close to Churchill Downs.

While I pawned mint julep duty off on the men-folk, I took charge of the food. Roger’s only “must-have” request was derby pie, an amazing chocolate-nut pie that’s possibly sweeter than actually winning the race itself. Other than that, I was free to do as I pleased.

It got me thinking a lot about Lynn. She liked to get me cookbooks, especially Southern ones. Last summer she gave me an edition of Seasoned Cooking of Kentucky, and several years ago an edition of Charleston Receipts. But the foods that make me think of her are the ones that she talked about the way that I talk about food from Pittsburgh, and those that she eventually wrote down for me the on cards I received at the bridal shower last year.

20130503_142327One of the things I remember her always loving was ham biscuits. Exactly what they sound like; cured, country ham (not the sweet, smoked style of Virginia), thin sliced and piled on top of fresh, fluffy biscuits. Roger mentioned in one of his recent emails to me that they were indeed her favorite, so I searched high and low—the wonderful butcher at Union Meat finally came through with beautiful, red slices of country ham, and I went on a search for a sturdy, slider-style biscuit recipe. The next item on the menu was from one of the books she’d given me.  Pickled shrimp are a popular picnic food in the summer that sounded just refreshing enough to cut some of the richness in the menu (oh believe me, we haven’t even started). Steamed, chilled shrimp, mixed with some vegetables, herbs, and a sweet/sour pickling liquid, all layered into a jar to marinate overnight. Along with the ham biscuits, and pickled shrimp, I figured a vegetable had to enter into the picture somewhere, so I roasted some beautiful spring Brussels sprouts with herbs de provence,  red onion, and bacon and served them at room temperature. They were an amazing contrast to the shrimp.

But the Hot Brown was what intrigued me the most. Not only was it an iconic dish, but I’d never made it before, and had only seen prepared briefly on a Food Network segment done at the Brown Hotel. On one of the recipe cards she shared with me, Lynn wrote down the Brown Hotel’s recipe for their signature dish. What is this incredible food item, you might ask? It is an open faced turkey sandwich on thick slices of Texas toast, covered by creamiest, richest pecorino romano mornay sauce I have ever made, broiled until golden, and then finished with sliced bacon, fresh parsley, and paprika.

20130504_164420

And yes, this whole ordeal ended with pie. Because you should always save room for pie.

Pickled Shrimp

  • 1 lb. peeled, jumbo cooked shrimp with tails
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1/3 cup peanut oil
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 tsp. dried crushed red pepper

20130503_170453Layer the shrimp, onion, bell pepper, and bay leaf in a quart-sized mason jar.

20130503_170919Whisk the remaining ingredients together, and then pour over the shrimp and vegetables. Seal and allow the shrimp to marinate for 1 day, shaking and turning the jar every few hours or so.

20130503_171702

20130504_111819

20130504_163846

Ham Biscuits

These biscuits needed to be sturdier, and a little taller than normal to accommodate being made into sandwiches. Three leavening agents keep them light and fluffy, while giving you some freedom with manipulating the dough.

  • 1/2 envelope active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp. warm water (110-115 degrees F)
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, cut into pieces and chilled
  • 2 oz. unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. buttermilk
  • Slices of country ham
  • Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, or other condiments

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine yeast and warm water in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes or until foamy.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, then cut cream cheese and cold butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender or fork until crumbly.

Combine yeast mixture and buttermilk, and then add to the flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 6 to 8 times.

20130504_073019Roll or pat the dough to 3/4-inch thickness. Cut with a round cutter or slice into squares.

20130504_073652Arrange biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush with an egg wash or melted butter, and bake for 15 minutes or until deep golden-brown.

20130504_075415

Split biscuits and top with thin slices of country ham and condiments as desired.

20130504_160022

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, washed, outer leaves removed, and cut in half.
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 slices bacon (cooked), and 1 tbsp. bacon drippings
  • 1/2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. herbs de provence
  • Salt and pepper to taste

20130504_094401

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl and taste for seasoning. Then spread the sprouts on a baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees F until lightly browned, but not soft. It will take anywhere for 15-30 minutes depending on the size of your sprouts.

20130504_15125220130504_163931

Kentucky Hot Brown

I used the Brown Hotel’s original recipe and followed it to a T. The only exception being that I was able to make three sandwiches, rather than two. Honestly, I think that the amount of sauce this yields could easily be spread across four. The recipe can be found here, but here’s a photo sequence and my description of the process…

Gather your ingredients and preheat a broiler.

20130504_171142Lay one piece of crustless Texas toast in an oven-safe dish, and cut the other into triangles, putting them on either side of the whole piece.

20130504_170551Layer turkey on top, and put a slice of Roma tomato on two sides of the Texas toast.

20130504_172040

Make a roux and cook it until smooth, then add the cream and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture begins to simmer lightly and gets very thick.

20130504_17251920130504_172656Add the pecorino cheese and whisk until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

20130504_17353620130504_173625Ladle the hot mornay sauce on top of the turkey, and then place the sandwich under the broiler until lightly browned on top.

20130504_173800

Top with two slices of bacon and finish with a sprinkle of fresh parsley and paprika.

20130504_17465620130504_175043

Dark Bay Pie

The Derby Pie originated at the Melrose Inn, but the name is trademarked  by the Kern family and the owners are not shy about suing to protect it. Although numerous variations and recipes for this type of pie exist, to refer to anything that is not Kern’s recipe (which is again, heavily guarded by the owners) as Derby Pie is breaking the law. Hence, why my truly delicious AND SHAREABLE recipe has its own moniker, given for the final product’s similarity in color to that particular horse coat color.

  • 1 1/4 cups toasted, roughly chopped nuts – I used a mixture of pecans and walnuts
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Pastry for one 9 in. crust

First, prepare your pastry. I use my super-no-fail pate brisee, of course! You can find that recipe right here, in the butter tart tutorial. After making the dough, patting into a disc, and refrigerating it, roll it out into a circle a bit larger than your pie pan, and then fit into the pan and crimp the edges. Return the crust to the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes.

20130504_09175720130504_092234

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until thoroughly blended and slightly foamy. Add the brown sugar, white, sugar, light corn syrup, dark corn syrup, flour, and salt and whisk until smooth.  Add the melted butter, bourbon, and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly.

20130504_101233

Fold the nuts and chocolate chips into the mixture, brush the inside of the pie crust with a little bit of egg wash, and then pour the filling into the prepared pie crust.

20130504_10154920130504_101333(0)20130504_101745Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the center is just set and the edges are golden brown. It will deflate slightly as it cools.

20130504_11153020130504_11164120130504_112339

An hour after finishing everything up, I was putting my recipe cards safely back into the book when I noticed another one from Lynn that contained three simple ingredients: An orange, a cup of sugar, and two cups of pecans. Well shoot, I already had everything…so why not? Roger and I have since decided that these are far too habit forming. If you make them, not eating the entire batch will truly be a challenge.

Orange Pecans (and Walnuts)

Lynn’s recipe called for 2 cups of pecans, but I had a mixture of pecans and walnuts leftover from the Dark Bay pie, so I went with that.

20130504_113957Zest and juice the orange into a small, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the sugar and mix well. Put the pan over medium high heat.

20130504_114512Once the sugar has begun to dissolve, add the nuts to the pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring vigorously throughout, and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed (5-6 minutes).

20130504_114629Spread the nuts out onto a baking sheet and separate using a fork. Once completely cool, store in a well-sealed container at room temperature. And again, this is if you actually have any to store.

20130504_115611

20130504_125706So that was what we enjoyed with frosty mint juleps as Orb made his valiant gallop from almost the back of the pack, to a massive garland of roses.

20130504_20073320130504_192851

Dioji found all of this very exhausting.

Dioji found all of this very exhausting.

It was a really wonderful way to spend a Saturday, tasting and seeing things that reminded me of my mother-in-law. Sometimes it hurts to think about Lynn, because the fact that she is gone is still so raw. But Saturday was one of the first times that the cheerfulness I remember overshadowed those pangs of sadness. I am grateful that she shared so much of her home with me, and hope that I have done her proud sharing it with you.

Ciao for now,

Neen

Completely Counter-intuitive

18 Mar

Guess what we’re going to do today? We’re going to make BISCUITS! And we’re probably going to make a few people cry or write me angry letters.

I make biscuits and bacon for Joe almost single weekend, and use a pretty basic method. Always by hand, never in the food processor. Always all-butter (a cube or two of lard if I have it), never shortening. Always patted gently, never rolled out, and cut only once. Dough scraps are mashed together to make a mutant (but still delicious) biscuit, but the dough is NEVER re-rolled. And if it gets remotely warm while being handled, to the freezer with it!

The point here is that I’ve been threatened by enough Southern cooks in my life to know that YOU DO NOT OVER HANDLE THE BISCUIT DOUGH. Want them tender, crispy, and flaky? The less you touch it, the better. Otherwise: Bricks. Buttery, delicious bricks, but heavy and flat all the same.

There was an incident. I blame the bad reality television I leave on in the background when I’m in the kitchen. I was probably momentarily horrified by seeing an individual take a piece of raw chicken out of a marinade to cook, and then proceed to begin reducing the remaining marinade into a sauce. Mmm, salmonella! Anyway, an incident. I tossed my flour, salt, and baking powder together and then added the cubed, cold butter. As I worked my hands through it, quickly breaking and smearing the butter into small fragments, I thought “This is taking longer than usual…”

After adding the milk, the dough came together as usual…but the texture was different. It wasn’t sticky or too dry to come together, it just felt different. I chalked it up to paranoia and tossed the dough in the fridge. As I began to close the door to the refrigerator, I noticed that the 16 oz. tub of butter I’d bought earlier was nearly empty. “How did I go through this much butter this week? I didn’t even bake anything for work…”

(Censored expletive.)

"Why does this feel so light?"

“Why does this feel so light?”

A synapse clearly fired wrong, because the normal ratio of butter to milk is 1:2 in my biscuit dough recipe. Normally it’s 3 oz. butter and 6 oz. milk. And yet somehow that morning I was convinced that they were equal 6 oz. portions. “Now what?”

It occurred to me that the proportion of butter:flour made the ratio slightly closer to a croissant dough or pate brisee than a biscuit, but croissants use yeast, so it’s not abnormal there to handle the dough a lot. And pate brisee doesn’t need to rise, and has practically no liquid at all. At this point I figured that while I was already going off into left field, that I might as well just go all the way and see what resulted.

Something wonderful happened.

Flaky Layer Biscuits

The second time I made these, I made a few improvements to the methodology, and a 1 oz. reduction in the amount of butter. This was because the most inner layers in the first batch were over-saturated and a little greasy for my taste.

  • 9 oz. flour (about 2 cups, lightly scooped)
  • 5 oz. butter, cubed and chilled
  • 6 oz. whole milk or buttermilk
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt

In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder.

20130317_083011

Add the cubed butter. Smear and break up the pieces until the mixture is pebbly. The largest pieces of butter should be pea-sized.

Add the milk / buttermilk and stir the mixture with a fork until a rough dough forms.

20130317_084012

Transfer the dough to the counter and pat it into a small rectangle.

20130317_093225

Wrap this in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for a half-hour or until it is firm enough to roll.

Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and roll into a 9 x 17 in. rectangle.

20130317_093459

Letter-fold (as in my croissant recipe) into thirds, and then rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat the process.

20130317_09354820130317_09361020130317_09371820130317_101009

Wrap the folded dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a half-hour.

Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and roll into a 9 x 17 in. rectangle, and again letter fold into thirds, rotate, and fold again. This time, cut the rectangle in half, and stack the two squares on top of one another, making sure that the folded sides of each square are at opposite ends. Press down, and then wrap the folded dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a half-hour.

20130317_10115920130317_105140 20130317_10152120130317_101543

Remove the dough from the plastic wrap for the final time, and repeat the previous three-step process. Then roll or press it out to 1/2 in. thickness.

20130317_10522720130317_105420

Cut into 12 squares with a sharp knife or pizza wheel. Place the biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate while the oven preheats.

20130317_105805

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the tops of the biscuits with a beaten egg or a little bit of cream or milk.

20130317_110659

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until fluffy and golden brown.

20130317_11385220130317_113830

Then you can enjoy slowly peeling apart all of the buttery layers and eating a delicious biscuit. Perfectly soft and flaky in the middle, a touch salty, and crisp on the outside. Voila!

20130317_114122

I was convinced these were going to be masonry equipment, but the result was opposite in nearly every way. The texture was just incredible, and they needed absolutely nothing spread on them (although fresh jam would be fantastic I’m sure). If, like me, you wish to gamble with your cholesterol numbers…they’re kind of amazing alongside a fried egg that’s still slightly runny.

It’s not the quickest biscuit recipe, but it’s hands-down my new favorite. I doubt I’ll have the patience to make it my every-weekend recipe. Even so, it was truly the happiest of accidents.

So go ahead. Handle the dough, roll the dough, and go nuts. Follow what I’ve written and you too will wonder why everyone has been lying to you. Maybe it’s a conspiracy among southern cooks to never reveal this secret. If I disappear, I wish you to assume that I’ve been kidnapped by someone’s grandma and locked in a basement for my crimes. Happy baking!

Ciao for now,

Neen

Deep-Fried Delicious Memories

1 Nov

Two days after what was probably the most fun wedding party ever, my in-laws hosted brunch for our family at the Grand Concourse. My mother-in-law Lynn was glowing with pride in a beautiful floral print pink dress and matching cardigan as she welcomed everyone to another celebration as a big, new family.

The Grand Concourse lives up to its name in more ways than one. It’s a giant restaurant set in an old train station, and is famous for its vast brunch buffet complete with everything from roast beef to bananas foster. But what was it that tickled our family the most?

The doughnut machine.

Yes, the doughnut machine. A mold dropped perfectly shaped pieces of doughnut batter into oil just long enough for them to cook and then moved them  along to a conveyor belt where the grease drained off of them. Next to the machine were two bowls where the doughnut could be dipped in either powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar. Needless to say, we were all incredibly entertained by this. Especially Joe and Lynn.

For almost as long as I’ve known Joe, I’ve known exactly where he gets his eating habits. It’s certainly not my father-in-law, who like me, thinks vegetables really are a food group. Nope, it’s definitely his mom. Their shared love for burgers and fries, anything with blueberries in it, and fresh, hot doughnuts is unmatched. We arrived in Louisville late one night on a flight from DC and saw that the Krispy Kreme nearby had the “hot doughnuts” sign lit up. I blinked and we were at the drive-thru window. On another occasion when I’d had just about enough of grad school, I closed the books for a day and made yeast doughnuts with a honey glaze and sent half of them with Joe when he went to visit his parents. I was later asked why only a half-dozen had been delivered.

It was a long summer for Lynn as she fought valiantly to stay well amidst all of her treatments and enjoy the wedding festivities. By the time the brunch in Pittsburgh came around, she didn’t have much in the way of an appetite anymore. But when my brother returned to our table with two fresh mini-doughnuts for her (one of each kind, of course!), she took a bite of each. It was the first thing I’d seen her eat in a long time and one of the few foods she said still tasted good to her. Had I the time, I’d have been churning out doughnut recipes for all of August.

Things changed very quickly when we returned from Pittsburgh. A few posts ago in “Bake it All Away,” I mentioned that the reason I’d baked bread that particular day was because I was feeling sad and powerless. It was right around that time that Lynn’s condition started to deteriorate. All I could do was make frozen meals for my father-in-law, sit by Lynn’s bedside singing and trying to remember the words to songs from “Evita” (her favorite musical), and play Rachmaninoff recordings so at least she might dream about being at spectacular performances at the Kennedy Center.

On October 23rd, Lynn’s long battle with ovarian cancer ended. She passed away peacefully with Joe, Roger, myself, her sisters, and her nurse at her side. The loss has felt agonizingly painful at times and we’ve all spent the last week in kind of a fog. Life still doesn’t feel real, and I imagine that it will take a long time to get used to the “new normal.”

Then Hurricane Sandy hit and gave us Monday and Tuesday off of work this week. It was kind of a relief and gave me time to do something a little bit fun and lighthearted for a little bit of distraction.

I’ve been promising Joe for a month that I’d make cider doughnuts for him. But we spent most of our October days being where we truly needed to be, with our family. So when I suddenly had unexpected free time on Tuesday morning, I decided to spend it elbow deep in flour and all the spicy sweet smells of autumn.

Cider doughnuts are cake doughnuts, so there’s no rise time involved here. That said, the dough does require some chilling prior to cutting, so make sure you have a good chunk of time on hand before starting.

Apple Cider Doughnuts

  • 1 cup apple cider (fresh, unfiltered is best)
  • 2 small strips of orange peel
  • 1 shot bourbon
  • 3 ½ cups flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

Toppings

  • Sugar mixed with cinnamon
  • Powdered sugar mixed with just enough cider to achieve a glaze that ribbons off of a spoon.

Combine the apple cider, orange peel, and bourbon in a small pot over medium heat and simmer until it reduces to between a 1/3 and ¼ of a cup of liquid. Discard the orange peel and set the liquid aside to cool.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter together until smooth. With the speed turned to low, add the eggs one at a time, mixing in between additions, and then add the cider reduction and milk. Mix until well blended.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix just until everything comes together. You’ll have a sticky, loose dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust it with flour. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto the baking sheet and flatten it with your hands until it is ½ in. thick. Freeze for 20 minutes or until slightly firm.

Cut doughnuts into desired shapes and place them on a second baking sheet lined with floured parchment paper. I used a 2 in. biscuit cutter and got 3 dozen small doughnuts. A larger biscuit cutter can also be used, in which case you should also cut out the middles (a shot glass dipped in flour works well) and use them to make doughnut holes. If a 1 in. cutter is used to make only doughnut holes, the yield is about 10 dozen. These fry fairly quickly and it’s easier to avoid raw middles with smaller doughnuts.

Refrigerate the pan of doughnuts while you prepare the frying oil and toppings. Put each topping in a shallow bowl and set them next to a wire rack placed over a piece of aluminum foil. Fill a pot with at least three inches of peanut or corn oil. They both have high smoke points, but peanut oil is my favorite for frying. Heat the oil over a burner set to medium-high until it reaches 350-360 degrees. Keep the oil within that temperature range while you fry the doughnuts and you won’t end up with greasy pastries. If you filter your oil at the end to reuse it, you’ll notice that you lose very little when you pay attention to temperature control.

Fry batches of 5-6 doughnuts at a time for 30-60 seconds on each side or until brown. Two chopsticks or butter knives make it easy to flip them. One batch I made had a few that were a little doughy in the middle, so I’d lean toward the longer cooking time for larger doughnuts. Doughnut holes cook much faster, so watch them closely. Check the oil temperature between each batch and adjust the heat accordingly.

Drain the doughnuts on paper towels for a few seconds and then either dip in the glaze or roll in the sugar. Enjoy warm with a cup of very strong coffee for maximum joy.

As Joe and I ate them and relaxed on a much-needed surprise day off of work, I couldn’t help but smile and think of Lynn. She’d have been right there with Joe, probably play-fighting for the last one on the plate.

If you want to see some of Lynn’s favorites, check out other recipes I’ve made for her: There’s Easter Bread (she loved it for grilled cheese sandwiches), Flourless Chocolate Cake with Italian Meringue for the chocoholics, and last year’s special birthday treat, a Coconut Layer Cake for the true southerners out there.

I’ll always love this special lady for everything she was: A generous, loving, kind, intelligent and empowered woman with more wit in her little finger than I have in my entire body. I feel blessed to have known her, and even more special to be a part of her family forever.

Ciao for now,

Neen

Waffle Makeover!

15 Jun

The Carbo-Queen, as my family used to call me, is serious about waffles.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve tried every waffle mix there is, and have made them completely from scratch about a thousand times. There’s just something about achieving that perfect mix of sweet and savory that makes my mouth really, really happy.

But (there’s always a ‘but,’ isn’t there?) I’m supposed to focus on eating protein first at meals. Sure, a side of wheat toast with some eggs and turkey sausage is fine, but a meal of waffles? Probably not the best option for me, although I do treat myself to the occasional plate of French toast or slice of banana bread.

When I want to slay my waffle cravings without trashing my diet and going into a carb-coma, I turn to this recipe. It turns out crisp, light, and super-flavorful protein-filled waffles. You won’t miss the cups of flour, believe me. The secret to making these really delicious? Use full-fat ricotta to keep the insides rich and moist. Fresh-made would be the very best, but hey, there’s not always time for that.

Because I am usually only cooking these for me, this recipe yields a small amount (4 square waffles), so feel free to double or triple it if you’re feeding a crowd.

Pecan Ricotta Waffles

  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbsp. whole wheat pastry flour (or brown rice flour, almond meal, rolled oats, buckwheat flour…etc.)
  • 1 tbsp. ground pecans
  • 1 tbsp. sugar, honey, or light brown sugar (or less, if you prefer more savory waffles)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 egg whites and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar, ground pecans, and a pinch of salt.

Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt and beat until soft peaks form.

Fold the ricotta mixture into the dry ingredients. The batter will seem very stiff at this point.

Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter.

Cook in a preheated waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s directions. In my waffle iron, they take about 2-3 minutes to get nice and golden brown. If they seem slightly soft when you remove them from the waffle iron, just put them in a warm oven or toaster for a minute or two to crisp up the outside. Leftovers freeze pretty well and take about 3-4 minutes in the toaster oven to reheat.

Bust out the maple syrup and enjoy. These are already on the lightly sweet side, so go light on the syrup. I barely used a teaspoon on these and it probably didn’t even need it. They’re also good with peanut butter, bananas, berries, jam, and probably whatever other toppings you can dream up. I personally like something crunchy like more chopped nuts or some chopped, crisp bacon on top.

Seriously, writing this post has already made me hungry for more of them! And at under 100 cal. per waffle, why not? Go to it, friends.

P.S. In case some time goes by and you wonder why you’re not getting your fix of food porn, just FYI Neen’s Notes is going on vacation for a little while.

“Why Neen? WHY would you do such a thing?”

Oh, I’ll be busy marrying my best friend, that’s all.

But don’t worry, I’ll write again in a few weeks…maybe about something tasty inspired by our honeymoon abroad. Until then, “mangia bene!”

Ciao for now,

Neen