Archive | February 21st, 2010

Make Cream Scones or Add a Host of Flavors

Make Cream Scones or Add a Host of Flavors

These scones are flaky and just slightly sweet, which makes them an ideal starting point for strawberry shortcake, writes Cindy Mushet in “The Art & Soul of Baking.”

“Feeling adventurous? You can adapt these scones to your taste by adding flavorings to the dough, such as citrus zest, spices, chopped and toasted nuts, flavoring extracts or oils, and dried fruit,” she writes.

But don’t let them sit around too long. As Mushet says, “Once baked, serve the scones within 2 hours, when they are at their freshest and most appealing. Keep them uncovered at room temperature until serving time.”

Cream Scones

2 cups flour
½ cup sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon sugar, or for more crunch and a touch of brown sugar flavor, 2 tablespoons turbinado or raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and position an oven rack in the center. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or a thin silicone mat. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of the food processor and process for 10 seconds to blend well. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse 5 times at 1-second intervals, or until the butter is cut into medium pieces. Add the cream and pulse another 20 times, or until the dough holds together in small, thick clumps. Use a spatula to scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently squeeze the clumps together until they form a cohesive dough.

Pat the dough into a circle 7 inches in diameter and about 1 inch thick. Use a chef’s knife to cut the dough into 8 equal wedges and transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Brush the tops with a thin coating of the lightly beaten egg (you will not use all the egg). Sprinkle evenly with the sugar. Bake the scones for 14 to 16 minutes, until firm to the touch and golden brown. (See note at bottom.) Transfer to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve the scones warm or at room temperature.

Do ahead: Once the sough is prepared and cut, the wedges (without the egg brush) can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Brush with egg shortly before baking. The scones won’t rise quite as high as when freshly mixed, but they will be attractive and tasty.

The dough can also be cut and frozen for up to 1 month. Place the wedges on a baking sheet and freeze until hard, about 1 hour. Transfer to a resealable plastic freezer bag. To bake, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then place on the prepared baking sheet and proceed with egg brush and sugar sprinkle before baking. Or thaw at room temperature on the prepared baking sheet for about 20 minutes, until cool to the touch but no longer hard in the center.


Chocolate Cream Scones: Use only 1 ¾ cups flour and add ¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder to the flour mixture. Increase the sugar to 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Scones: Add ¼ cup poppy seeds and the finely grated zest of 2 large lemons to the flour and sugar mixture. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes (this dough is a bit thicker than the original so it will take a couple extra minutes to bake).

Cream Scones with Currants: Add ½ cup dried currants after the butter has been cut into medium pieces the size of large peas, and just before adding the cream. (Make sure the dried fruit is moist and pliable. If it isn’t, pour boiling water over the currants and let them soak for 5 minutes. Drain them, pressing out any excess moisture; then pat dry and let cool before adding to the dough.) Bake scones for 17 to 20 minutes (this dough is a bit thicker than the original so it will take a couple extra minutes to bake).

Cream Biscuits: This is a savory version, perfect for the dinner table. Omit the sugar and follow the recipe as direct for light, tender biscuits.

Chile, Cheddar and Cornmeal Biscuits: These can also be cut into 1-inch rounds and filled with thinly sliced ham, sweet-hot mustard and watercress, or other small greens for a fun, crowd-friendly hors d’oeuvre. To vary the flavor of the biscuits, add a handful of chopped fresh herbs, fresh corn kernels, crispy bacon bits, several finely chopped scallions or flavorings of your choice (add just after you finish cutting in the butter and right before you add the cream).

Reduce the flour to 1 ½ cups and add 1/3 cup of fine yellow cornmeal. Omit the sugar. Increase the baking powder to 1 tablespoon, the salt to ½ teaspoon, and add 10 grinds of black pepper. Decrease the butter to 3 ounces (3/4 stick). Add 2/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese and 2 tablespoons diced roasted poblano chiles (fresh or canned). Pat into an 8-by-4-inch rectangle, about 1-inch thick. Cut in half lengthwise and then into quarters crosswise to form 8 (2-inch) squares. Just before baking, brush the top with egg and sprinkle and additional 1/3 cup grated cheese over the top. Bake 15 to 18 minutes.

[amazon-product]0740773348[/amazon-product]Note: My oven is apparently warmer than Mushet’s. I tried the Lemon-Poppy Seed Scones, and they baked at 425 in less than 14 minutes. So you may want to set your timer a little ahead of time and monitor for the last few minutes. But the end result was quite good with jam, clotted cream or butter, and a cup of tea.

Makes 8 scones.

From “The Art & Soul of Baking” by Cindy Mushet

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Paella Cook-Off at Pearl, Iron Chef-style

Paella Cook-Off at Pearl, Iron Chef-style

The first-ever Cocina de las Americas, a one-day community event, will be held on the grounds of the Pearl, 312 Pearl Parkway, on March 14.  Chefs will vie for a prize, competing Iron Chef style, to make the best Spanish Paella, the country’s famous rice dish.

H-E-B/Central Market are presenting sponsors of this community event, in partnership with the Culinary Institute of America.  Co-chairs of the event are Chef Johnny Hernandez of True Flavors and Dya Campos, Director of Public Affairs for H-E-B.  The San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and New World Wine and Food Festival also are supporting and promoting the event.

The public is invited to enjoy live entertainment and sampling of food from Spain, including sangria, Spanish hams and cheeses and an array of tapas, or Spanish small plates, prepared by CIA San Antonio students.

All food and beverage stations will be located in the Fountain Plaza. Live entertainment will be in the Main Stage Train area.

Chefs will compete with a full pantry of ingredients while guests can watch the cooking action in full swing.

Proceeds from ticket sales will go toward scholarship opportunities to the CIA San Antonio to benefit local chefs.  A portion of proceeds will also go to the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Office of the Honorary Council to Spain for educational initiatives benefiting San Antonio students.

Admission to the festival is $40. Doors open to the public at 11 a.m., judging is at 1:45 p.m. and the event ends at about 4 p.m. Tickets are $40; $20 ages 21 and under. Tickets can be purchased online at and

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Bakers, Fire Up Your Ovens

Bakers, Fire Up Your Ovens

If Julie Powell could bake her way through “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and actually master the art, then I can see any number of serious bakers do the same with “The Art and Soul of Baking” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $40) from Sur La Table with Cindy Mushet.

This is a gateway into the world of baking from someone who has not only mastered the art of creating memorable dishes, but also the elusive art of conveying even the most complex of techniques in a style that makes it seem understandable and not too hard to follow.

Or, as chocolate queen Alice Medrich writes in her introduction, Mushet is, simply, “a superb and empowering teacher who relates to the beginner as well as the seasoned baker.”

Take, for example, these instructions on how to buy and thaw sheet phyllo: “Choose phyllo packages from the back of the freezer case, where the temperature is more consistent. Phyllo sheets that have been thawed and refrozen will stick together and tear unmercifully. Always buy an extra box, just in case you get one that has thawing damage. Thaw frozen phyllo in the refrigerator for 24 hours before use. if you try to thaw it quickly on the counter, condensation will form, the dough will get sticky, and you won’t be able to pry the sheets apart. After it has thawed in the refrigerator, place the box on the kitchen counter for 1 to 2 hours and allow the dough to warm to room temperature. Cold phyllo is prone to cracking, whereas room temperature phyllo is more supple and easier to work with.”

It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that.

Recipe: Cream Scones

Then consider the dazzling array of recipes, from Cream Scones and Peach-Gingerbread Dumplings to Malted Milk Chocolate Tart and Chocolate Velvet Pound Cake. Few of us with a sweet tooth could resist a summer stunner like Apricot-Cherry Almond Cobbler with almond paste in the crust. Or the exquisite Raspberry Soufflés With Hidden Chocolate Truffles, a photograph of which graces the cover of the book. (That mouthwatering photo and more from Maren Caruso will should sell more than a few copies of the book.)

The book isn’t all sweets. There are recipes for various breads as well as savory treats, such as Potato, Onion and Gruyère Galette and Pesto Rolls.

Still not convinced you can be a great baker? The book breaks each section (quick breads, tarts, fruit desserts, cakes and so on) begins with a primer on the general techniques involved in each.

There are also “What the pros know” notes accompanying many of the recipes. Here’s one: “There’s a trick to making pumpkin pie that keeps the prebaked crust crisp against the liquid custard filling, and it defies logic. You’ve probably always heard that a prebaked pie crust should be cooled before being filled with custard and sent back to the oven. Not here. The crust should be hot from the oven (or reheated until hot) and then filled with hot custard. It’s crazy, but it works beautifully. The bonus is that hot crust plus hot custard equals a shorter baking time. While pumpkin pies usually take an hour or more to bake, this one is finished in about 30 minutes. Now that’s a reason to be thankful.”

Bakers will certainly be thankful not just for such juicy morsels, but for the whole banquet of flavors revealed in this expansive work.

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