Moroccan Meatball & Couscous Soup

February 9, 2016

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So I know good ole Punxsutawney Phil has declared that Winter is on the way out and Spring is right around the corner. However, Spring hasn’t yet stepped out in this neck of the woods. It has been damp, cold and really pretty dreary recently. In fact, today it is actually snowing. Soup weather without a doubt and I have a great recipe for a soup which is not only flavorful and warming, but also pretty fun as well – Moroccan Meatball & Couscous Soup. This is definitely one of the Husband’s favorite soups. He LOVES meatball anything…cocktail meatballs, meatball subs, spaghetti & meatballs and on the rare occasion that we have ventured into an IKEA, you can rest assured that you’ll find him in the cafeteria sampling those Swedish Meatballs. So when I came across this recipe, I knew it would be a winner with him. This soup features mini meatballs which are chock full of Moroccan spices and Israeli Couscous in a chicken broth base. The meatballs are baked prior to going into the soup which helps them retain their shape. I prefer ground beef for my meatballs, though the original recipe calls for lamb. So if you are a fan of lamb, feel free to go with the original recipe. Either way, these Moroccan spiced meatballs are quite tasty!

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The Israeli Couscous adds a wonderful nutty flavor as well as a lovely texture to the soup. If you’ve never tried Israeli Couscous before, now is the time! It is really delicious. Similar to Moroccan couscous, this toasted pasta is much bigger and is shaped like little balls. This couscous works perfectly in soups because it retains its shape well and tends to not clump together. Though I will say, this soup does thicken if you have leftovers saved in the fridge. Before reheating, just add few glugs of chicken broth to it and it will be good as new! Quick and easy to make, you’ll have this soup on the table in no time flat. Serve it up with a big loaf of rustic, crusty bread and this comforting soup will make you forget all about the crappy weather outside. And don’t despair, I have great faith that our beloved weather predicting rodent was correct…Spring is on the way!

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Moroccan Meatball & Couscous Soup

  • Servings: 4 - 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Williams Sonoma

Ingredients:

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • the leaves from 4 -5 fresh sprigs of thyme (leaves only – no stems! You can substitute 1/4 tsp. dried thyme, but I think the fresh thyme is better if you have it.)
  • 1/8 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/8 tsp. chili powder
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. (500 g) ground beef (can substitute lamb in if you want to be a tad more authentic)
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste

For the soup:

  • 1 1/4 cups (10 fl. oz./310 ml) water
  • 1 cup (6 oz./185 g) Israeli couscous
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups (24 fl. oz./750 ml) chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional – but we like it spicy!)
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint (I do not actually use the mint when I make this dish)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

To make the meatballs, preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine the coriander, cumin, curry powder, oregano, thyme, mustard, chili powder, cinnamon and salt. Add the ground beef and tomato paste. Using your hands, mix gently but thoroughly. For each meatball, scoop up 1 tsp. of the mixture. I use a small cookie scoop to do this. It makes it a bit easier and all of your meatballs are similar in size. You should end up with around 40 meatballs. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the meatballs are cooked through, about 10 minutes.

In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Add the couscous, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the meatballs and couscous and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the cayenne pepper. Remove from the heat. Stir in the mint (If you are using it) and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Moroccan Meatball & Couscous Soup brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links to Useful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Moroccan Meatball & Couscous Soup

OXO Good Grips Small Cookie Scoop

Chef’n Zipstrip Herb Stripper – Fantastic tool for stripping herb leaves from their woody stems!

Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron 5 1/2 quart Dutch Oven

Israeli Couscous, Tri-Color – This link is for the tri-color couscous. Of course you do not have to use tri-color, you can use regular or even whole wheat if you wish. I just like the look of the tri-color style.


Nutella Sea Salt Stuffies

February 5, 2016

 

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Hey all you Nutella fans out there! Take a look at what I got here…Nutella Sea Salt Stuffies! Yup…a rich chocolatey Nutella cookie which surrounds a silky truffle-like Nutella center and if that hasn’t got you drooling, just listen up. It is topped with a sprinkling of flaky sea salt. You know I’m a sucker for that sweet/salty taste sensation! And these cookies have it all going on. The outside cookie is soft and yet also chewy at the same time. And once you bite into it, assuming it is warm out of the oven, you get this molten, lava-like burst of melted Nutella. Pure Nutella nirvana I tell you!

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Now it is not by chance that I’m blogging a recipe which features Nutella today. Today February 5th is World Nutella Day. This celebration of all things Nutella was started in 2007 by Sara at Ms. Adventures in Italy and Michelle at Bleeding Espresso as a day to celebrate, get creative with and most importantly, to EAT Nutella.

World_Nutella_Day_Final_m-300x207 This year, the founders have transferred Nutella Day to Ferrero the company who owns that most beloved spread. Take a peek at their Facebook page and see how folks are celebrating the day! I love Nutella so I usually try to participate with a Nutella laden recipe every year. Last year I made cookies as well,  irresistible Salted Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwich Cookies

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I was still all about the cookies and the salty / sweet thing two years ago when I blogged about  Salted & Malted Nutella Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies. These cookies feature silky, decadent Nutella, creamy caramel, nostalgic malted goodness and rich chocolate chips, all rolled up together in a crunchy chewy salted cookie

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And then there was my  Nutella, Double Chocolate & Banana Tart which was quite stunning if I do say so myself.

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But back to today’s star, both decadent and addictive, Nutella Sea Salt Stuffies.

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These tempting little treats are pretty easy to make, especially if you plan ahead. You see, you need to freeze what will become the molten Nutella centers, for at least 3 hours before assembling the final cookie. Sure it can all be done on the same day, but I did it the day before baking day. Once I was ready to bake, these cookies came together in no time flat. They are truly magical warm from the oven what with that lava like flow of Nutella when you bite into them. But don’t fret if they’ve cooled down. The center will be more solid, like Nutella is straight out of the jar, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. However, if you love the Nutella lava effect, just reheat them for a short time in the microwave and you’ll have Mt. Nutella cookies, erupting again!

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I know these cookies look rather short on the list of ingredients front, but don’t be fooled, they pack quite a flavorful punch. The Husband, who doesn’t usually care for chocolatey desserts, has actually come back for seconds. He says they are like a Nutella filled brownie…with salt. YUM! Make up a batch today in celebration of all things Nutella. Or… you know… Valentine’s Day isn’t that far off. Bet any Nutella loving folks out there would be head over heels when gifted with these cookies on the big day. You know what they say…no better way to man’s heart and all…

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Nutella Sea Salt Stuffies

  • Servings: 12 -15 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 5 1/4 ounces / 149 grams Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread

For the dough:

  • 10 1/2 ounces / 298 grams Nutella Chocolate hazelnut spread
  • 4 ounces / 112 grams King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour or 4 1/4 ounces /120 grams of King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, optional

For the Topping:

  • Fleur del Sel coarse sea salt

Directions:

To make the filling: Scoop small balls of Nutella (chestnut-sized, about 1″ diameter) onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. A teaspoon cookie scoop, filled level, is the perfect tool for this job. Scoop out 15 -18 balls of Nutella. You may end up with extras, but better that than coming up short.

Place the baking sheet into the freezer (uncovered is fine), and freeze until the balls are completely frozen, about 3 hours; or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment.

To make the dough: Mix together all of the dough ingredients; the mixture will be cohesive, fairly soft, but not sticky; think modeling clay. It will stick together better when you squeeze it.

Scoop out heaping tablespoonfuls of the dough; a slightly heaped Tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.

Remove the frozen Nutella balls from the freezer once you have the dough ready to shape. Flatten a ball of dough. Place one of the frozen Nutella balls in the center. Wrap the dough around the Nutella like a dumpling, enclosing it completely. Roll the ball of dough between your palms to seal any cracks and round it out. Repeat with the remaining dough and frozen Nutella balls.

Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet; they won’t spread much, so should all fit on one sheet. Sprinkle very lightly with a bit of coarse sea salt.

Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes; when done, they will have lost much of their shine, and you may see a very faint lightening of color around the bottom third of each cookie.

Remove the cookies from the oven; serve warm, or at room temperature. For the full melting-center, lava-like effect, serve warm; if they’re at room temperature, the centers will be solid. Reheat very briefly in the microwave to liquefy the centers, if desired.

Enjoy!

Nutella Sea Salt Stuffies brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links to Useful Kitchen Tools and Ingredients for Nutella Sea Salt Stuffies:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

OXO Good Grips Small Cookie Scoop

OXO Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop

King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (this link is for 2 – 5 lb. bags of flour)

Nutella

Maldon Sea Salt Flakes (Fleur de Sel)

I should also mention that King Arthur Flour has a wonderful shop full of kitchen essentials as well as their quality ingredients on their website. Definitely worth taking a peek!

 

 


The Model Bakery’s English Muffins

February 1, 2016

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Here it is…February already. It seems the Husband and I made it through the recent blizzard event, lovingly dubbed “Snowzilla” relatively unscathed. And tomorrow, my favourite varmint, Punxsutawney Phil, will be stepping out of his burrow at Gobbler’s Knob and letting everyone know if there will be 6 more weeks of winter or if perhaps Spring is on the way. Groundhog Day is nigh!

One extraordinary rodent!

One extraordinary rodent!

Phil & all the folks up in Punxsutawney aren’t the only folks celebrating now. February 1st, which falls half way between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, also marks the festivals of Imbolc, St. Brigid’s Day and Candlemas, all of which are associated with fertility, fire, purification and weather divination. Quite an auspicious time of year! I’m very happy to be marking an event today as well. February 1st just happens to be the 5th year anniversary of  the my cooking blog! Yup… Five years ago today I posted my first recipe. It was for Cream Tea Scones with Currants.

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I’ve posted some tasty “Anniversary Edition” recipes since then as well like Banana Rum Muffins:

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And last year I was able to successfully bake up a genuine Crack Pie!

IMG_0897So the pressure was on to pick a great dish to share on this my 5th Year blogging and I definitely have a winner for you: The Model Bakery’s English Muffins!

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I mean who doesn’t love an English Muffin? With all of those delightful nooks and crannies, it’s just the perfect vehicle for lashings of salty butter and sweet fruity jam. Seems I’m not alone in my adoration of the muffin. Folks have been enjoying these for a long, long while. Certainly you’ve heard the traditional English nursery rhyme “The Muffin Man”

Oh Do you know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Do you know the muffin man,
Who lives in Drury Lane?

In Victorian England folks were able to have fresh “muffins” delivered right to their door by a fellow known as….you guessed it, The Muffin Man. In 1874, Samuel Bath Thomas moved from Plymouth England to New York City. Once there he set up a bakery and began selling what he called “toaster crumpets”. They were similar to English crumpets but were thinner and pre-sliced. He was the founder of Thomas’s English Muffins which are still sold in many groceries today.41g0DUQLjuL

And whilst I’m thankful to Mr. Thomas, having enjoyed the convenience of easily buying a packet of English Muffins, whenever the mood struck me, I’ve got tell you…those store-bought muffins don’t really hold a candle to these homemade gems! Oh Good Lawd above! Once you taste these big honking, tender, moist & fluffy Homemade Muffins, you’ll be hooked. Sooooo worth the effort. You’ll never be found in the Muffin aisle of your local grocery again. (Sorry Mr. Thomas!)

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Now there are many recipes out there for homemade English Muffins, but this one from the Model Bakery reigns supreme! There is a reason their muffins were featured on Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate. The Model Bakery has been open in Napa for over 80 years. Dedicated to authentic artisan baking traditions, they specialize in Artisan Breads but also will tempt you with a complete range of pastry products. And if you’re not planning on visiting Napa anytime soon, they not only mail order some of their delicious baked goods, but have also published a great cookbook: The Model Bakery Cookbook: 75 Favorite Recipes from the Beloved Napa Valley Bakery , so that you can bake them at home. I’m telling you these muffins are just heavenly. Larger than your usual English Muffin, they bake up wonderfully fluffy and light as a cloud, yet are substantial enough to hold up to any breakfast sandwich you might send their way.

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And with this dough, you don’t have to fiddle around with any old-fashioned muffin rings. You cook them up on a griddle, completely free form.  If you can resist eating the whole dozen in one sitting, a feat of self-restraint that would definitely be worthy of admiration, I’m glad to say these little darlings freeze well, allowing you to have these awesome muffins on hand at the drop of a hat! So what are you waiting for…

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The Model Bakery's English Muffins

  • Servings: 12 Muffins
  • Difficulty: easy, but several steps and dough rising times to be factored in
  • Print

From: The Model Bakery Cookbook

Special thanks to Steven & Julie, fellow baking enthusiasts, for sharing this killer recipe with me!

Ingredients:

For the Biga:

  • 1/4 cup / 60 ml water
  • 1/2 cup/ 75g bread flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant (also called quick-rising or bread machine) yeast

For the Dough:

  • 1 1/3 cups / 315 ml water
  • 3/4 tsp instant (also called quick-rising or bread machine) yeast
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 1/2 cups/ 510g unbleached all-purpose flour, as needed

Additional Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup/ 35g yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • 6 tablespoons melted Clarified Butter (recipe follows) as needed

Directions:

To make the biga: At least 1 day before cooking the muffins, combine the flour, water, and yeast in a small bowl to make a sticky dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. The biga will rise slightly.

To make the dough: Combine the biga, water, yeast, olive oil, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Affix the bowl to the mixer and fi t with the paddle attachment. Mix on low-speed until the mixture looks creamy, about 1 minute. Mix in 3 cups/435 g of the flour to make a soft, sticky dough. Turn off the mixer, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand for 20 minutes. (To make by hand, combine the water, biga, yeast, oil, and salt in a large bowl and break up the biga with a wooden spoon. Stir until the biga dissolves. Mix in enough flour to make a cohesive but tacky dough. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.)

Mix in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that barely cleans the mixer bowl. Replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed (if the dough climbs up the hook, just pull it down) until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface to check its texture. It should feel tacky but not stick to the work surface. (To make by hand, knead on a floured work surface, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and feels tacky, about 10 minutes.)

Shape the dough into a ball. Oil a medium bowl. Put the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil, leaving the dough smooth-side up. Cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until almost doubled in volume, about 2 hours. (The dough can also be refrigerated for 8 to 12 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding to the next step.)

Using a bowl scraper, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut into twelve equal pieces. Shape each into a 4-in/10-cm round. Sprinkle an even layer of cornmeal over a half-sheet pan. Place the rounds on the cornmeal about 1 in/2.5 cm apart. Turn the rounds to coat both sides with cornmeal. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until the rounds have increased in volume by half and a finger pressed into a round leaves an impression for a few seconds before filling up, about 1 hour.

Melt 2 Tbsp of the clarified butter in a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat until melted and hot, but not smoking. In batches, add the dough rounds to the skillet. Cook, adjusting the heat as needed so the muffins brown without scorching, adding more clarified butter as needed. The undersides should be nicely browned, about 6 minutes. Turn and cook until the other sides are browned and the muffins are puffed, about 6 minutes more. Transfer to a paper towel–lined half-sheet pan and let cool. (It will be tempting to eat these hot off the griddle, but let them stand for at least 20 minutes to complete the cooking with carry-over heat.) Repeat with the remaining muffins, wiping the cornmeal out of the skillet with paper towels and adding more clarified butter as needed.

Split each muffin in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Toast in a broiler or toaster oven (they may be too thick for a standard toaster) until lightly browned. Serve hot. (The muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

To make the clarified butter: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until completely melted and boiling. Cook until the butter stops sputtering, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Skim the foam from the surface of the butter.

Line a wire sieve with dampened, wrung-out cheesecloth and place over a medium bowl. Carefully pour the clear, yellow melted butter through the sieve, leaving the milky residue behind in the saucepan. (Discard the residue.) Pour into a small container and cover. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Psssst: If you can’t be bothered making your own clarified butter, you can just go buy some Ghee off the supermarket shelf or order on Amazon!)

Enjoy!

The Model Bakery’s English Muffins brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Helpful Links to Kitchen Tools & Ingredients I used in making these English Muffins:

So this is a new feature I’m adding to my blog. Below you will find a list of Amazon Links to some of the Kitchen Tools and Ingredients which may not be found in your local grocery store, that I used in making the above recipe. You certainly don’t have to order them from Amazon if you’d prefer not to, but you can at least take a look at them there and then proceed as you wish. You also might be able to make the recipe perfectly well without any of these tools, but I use them and feel they make things much easier for me.

Oxo Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

6 Quart Dough Rising Bucket

Kitchen Aid Artisan Series 5 Qt. Stand Mixer

SAF Instant Yeast

Le Creuset 11 3/4″ Cast Iron Frying Pan

Ghee (Clarified Butter)

 


Drop Scones aka Scottish Pancakes

January 24, 2016

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I’mmmmmmm back! Yup…I’ve definitely been missing in action for a while. I believe in my last post back in November I was complaining about our Indian Summer. Ha! What a difference in what we are experiencing now….historic Blizzard conditions in good old Virginia! We are pretty much buried under 2 feet + of snow!

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I probably should make some excuses about my blog neglect at this point. However, I’m sure no one wants to hear them, so I think instead I’ll just focus on the “I’m back” bit and call it a day. So…I’m back with a great recipe for tomorrow, which is Burns Night! Robert Burns once referred to his native country as the “Land o’ Cakes”, so I think these are certainly appropriate for the occasion. (Burns was likely referring to the oatcake, rather than the pancake. Nevertheless…) Here we have Drop Scones which as also known as Scottish Pancakes.

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Robert Burns was born in 1759 and is regarded as the National Poet of Scotland. On January 25th folks throughout the world, though especially in Scotland, will be celebrating with a Burns Night Supper to mark the occasion. I have done a few Burns Night recipes in the past. Last year I gave you Steak Auld Reekie over Crispy Tatties & Neeps:

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As well as Dundee Cake with Hot Whiskey Marmalade:

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The year before was Scotch Egg Pie:

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Another great Scottish dish is Cock-a-leekie Soup:

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Which I always serve up with fresh toasted Struan:

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And not to be forgotten are the traditional Scotch Eggs,

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which I have also done Deviled.

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Whew! That is quite a lot of Scottish delicacies! Now I suppose these Drop Scones aren’t so much for the Burns Supper, but instead for a Burns Breakfast, which I guess could take place either the morning of or the morning after. Goodness knows if you’ve imbibed a bit too much the night before toasting Scotland’s favorite son, a big old pancake breakfast on the morning after would be very welcome indeed. The husband and I enjoyed a big batch of them on the morning of our most recent Snowpocalypse. These Scottish Drop Scones, slathered with butter, clotted cream and The Green Apron’s award-winning Chocolate Raspberry Preserves went a long way towards making us feel all warm and cozy! Oh and the never-ending supply of Mimosas might not have hurt either!

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I would wager that there are a few of you out there saying, “Hey now. Wait just a minute. Those just look like good old pancakes. How are they Scottish? And what is up with “Drop Scones”? Aren’t scones biscuit type things?” So, let me address the pancake issue first. As it turns out, Scottish Pancakes are very similar to American style pancakes. They are maybe a bit thicker and a wee bit smaller, but otherwise the same. Scottish Pancakes are usually treated a bit more like toast or scones though in the sense that they are eaten with clotted cream and jam or butter and jam, rather than with maple syrup as is done in the States. And as for the Drop Scone thing. That is even a bit more confusing. The classic “Scone” is an individual serving cake or quick bread which is lightly sweetened and baked with baking powder as the leavening agent. Scones are often prepared by rolling the dough out into a circle and then cutting it into triangular-shaped wedges for serving. Once rolled, the dough can also be cut with a biscuit cutter into circles and baked individually. These Scottish Pancakes are called Drop Scones because rather than rolling the batter, you simply drop it onto a hot griddle and cooking it that way. Here in the States I often see folks referring to Drop Scones as scones which are not rolled out, but dropped by the spoonful onto baking trays and then baked in the oven. Hence the confusion. And don’t even get me going about the pronunciation of scone, which seems to either rhyme with “stone” or “gone”, depending on who you ask. I’m definitely in with the “stone” camp on that one! Anyhoo…the thing that I’m sure of here is that these Drop Scones or Scottish Pancakes are delicious! I’m sure The Bard would approve. After all he did say that “souple scones” were the “wale of food”, “wale” meaning best and I heartily agree. So don’t forget to raise a glass and drink a wee dram or two to Rabbie Burns tomorrow night.

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Drop Scones aka Scottish Pancakes

  • Servings: 6 - 7 Pancakes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 125 grams All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 25 grams caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 25 grams butter, melted
  • 100 ml buttermilk
  • Clotted Cream, Raspberry Preserves, Butter for topping

Directions:

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a medium-sized bowl.

In another bowl mix together the butter, eggs and buttermilk.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the buttermilk mixture. Mix until the ingredients are just combined. The batter will be on the thicker side.

Heat a flat griddle or frying pan. Brush pan with a little oil or melted butter.

Drop spoonfuls of the batter onto the hot griddle. In an attempt to make my pancakes the same size, I used an ice cream scoop, which holds about 3 tablespoons of batter. Leave the pancakes undisturbed until bubbles appear on the top. Flip the pancake over and cook for 1 -2 more minutes until golden brown.

Remove from pan and keep warm. Add additional butter/oil to the griddle and keep on making those cakes.

Serve warm with clotted cream and jam, or butter and maple syrup as you see fit.

Enjoy!

Drop Scones brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)


Cinnamon Buttermilk Mini Muffins

November 6, 2015

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Indian summer is a period of unseasonably warm, dry weather that sometimes occurs in autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.

So….did I hear someone say “Indian Summer”? Because that is what we’ve got going on around here! Good grief! Here it is November and tomorrow it is supposed to hit 80°F! Let me tell you it is super bizarre seeing folks running around in shorts with all that lovely Fall foliage as their backdrop. And although most people seemed thrilled with the weather, it kind of makes me a bit uneasy. I’m afraid it portends no Fall whatsoever. One day it will be 80° F and with little notice at all, besides my head exploding as it usually does with big swings in temperature, the mercury will crash down to freezing. I hope I’m wrong. I love autumn and would like to get in a few brisk jacket days and bonfires before I’m buried in layers of wool!

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Luckily these Cinnamon Buttermilk Mini Muffins are great no matter what the temp, though the cinnamon and nutmeg flavors do give them a very Fall-type vibe. Though I must confess, no matter what the season, I just can’t get enough of them.

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These little muffins are kind of like a cross between a doughnut and a muffin. The batter is actually a doughnut batter, but then these muffins are baked, not fried. The buttermilk makes them oh so moist and tender. And the cinnamon/sugar coating is not only delicious and crunchy but also adds to the doughnut-ness of this treat. Now you can make these muffins full-sized, but I love to bake them in a mini muffin pan. The mini muffins are just the right size to pop straight into your mouth. You know, like a doughnut hole. And being so pint-sized, you won’t feel as guilty when you have more than one….Oh and believe me you will!

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Cinnamon Buttermilk Mini Muffins

  • Servings: 30 mini muffins or 9-11 full-sized muffins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Recipe from: Williams Sonoma

Ingredients: 

  • 7 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping:

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease a mini muffin or standard muffin tin with butter or butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray; fill any unused cups one-third full with water to prevent warping.

To make the muffins, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the butter and sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well until pale and smooth.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Add to the butter mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. Stir just until evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each three-fourths full. Bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Unmold the muffins and let stand until cool enough to handle.

To make the topping, in a small, shallow bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Put the melted butter in another small bowl. Holding the bottom of a muffin, dip the top into the melted butter, turning to coat it evenly. Immediately dip the top in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, coating it evenly, then tap it to remove excess sugar. Transfer the muffin, right side up, to the rack. Repeat with the remaining muffins. Let cool completely before serving.

Enjoy!

Cinnamon Buttermilk Mini Muffins brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)


Halloween Cookies & Cream Owl Cupcakes

October 31, 2015

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Happy Halloween! And just look what I’ve got here…h’OWL’oween Cupcakes! Or I guess you could call them OreOwls! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. But really, aren’t these Cookies & Cream Owl Cupcakes adorable!

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Almost too cute to eat…but who am I kidding?!! I love cupcakes. So believe me they only got a very short pass before I gobbled them up! Last Halloween I baked up a batch of Mini Mummy Brownie Bite Cupcakes that were pretty fantastic. Just look at these tiny terrors!

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But back to these little owls… They are so easy to make that you could still get a batch done before this evenings festivities. Or maybe you could make them for Thanksgiving. They definitely have an autumn vibe.

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I give you a recipe for some very moist and chocolatey Cookies & Cream Cupcakes, but if you’re in a rush you could just make a box mix and fold some crushed Oreo cookies into the batter before baking. The chocolate ganache frosting is super easy to make. I dipped the cupcakes rather than actually frosting them. To be honest, the most difficult part of these cupcakes were trying to separate the cookies so that all of the white frosting cream remained on one cookie. Cutting the frosting-less Oreo to make the owl’s tufts was a bit challenging as well, but a few choice words later and Voila! Owl nirvana achieved! Happy Hauntings!

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Halloween Cookies & Cream Owl Cupcakes

  • Servings: 14 -16 cupcakes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: Once Upon a Chef (cupcakes) and Arctic Garden Studio (ganache)

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1/2 tablespoon instant coffee granules (optional, to enhance chocolate flavor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup chopped Oreos
  • 28 -32 Oreo cookies for decorating
  • 28 – 32 brown, blue or green plain chocolate M&M’s (I used Mega M&M’s but regular sized are fine)
  • 14 – 16 yellow or orange white chocolate M&M’s (or plain chocolate M&M’s if you prefer)

For the Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons corn syrup

Directions:

Prep Work: Count out 28 -32 Oreo cookies. Divide these cookies in half and attempt to keep all of the cream on one of the cookies. Using a small icing spatula helps. If you end up crack a few cookies, don’t despair – you can crumble them even further and use them in the cupcakes. Once you have the cookies successfully separated, cut 14 -16 of the non-icing side Oreos in half to make the owl tufts. 

Preheat oven to 350° F and line two 12-cup muffin tins.

Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and cook in the microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring in between, until about 3/4 of the way melted. Stir, allowing the residual heat in the bowl to melt the remaining chocolate completely. (If necessary, place the chocolate back in microwave for a few seconds.) Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, instant coffee (if using), baking soda and salt until well combined.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl and beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and lukewarm chocolate.

Add the dry ingredients in three separate additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the crushed Oreo cookies.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups until about 3/4 full (I think it’s easiest to use an ice cream scooper with a wire scraper). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops look dry and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

For the frosting: Heat heavy cream and chocolate over medium low heat stirring constantly until chocolate has melted. Stir in corn syrup. Let ganache cool for about 10 minutes before assembling cupcakes.

Cupcake Assembly:

First complete the owl “ore-eyes” (the Oreo halves with the icing). Place brown, green or blue M&M’s into the inner edge of the white part of each owl eye. Press down gently (if you push too hard you will crack the cookie) to stick M&M to the cream filling. Or if it seems like it doesn’t want to stick, a little bit of ganache to the bottom of the M&M to “glue” it in place.

Now for the cupcakes. Dip each cupcake in the ganache so that the top is frosted. Place eyes just slightly below the center of the cupcake, this will make sure you have enough room for the tufts. Then place the tufts above the eyes. Add a sideways orange or yellow M&M for the nose. Repeat with each cupcake until complete.

Enjoy!

*These cupcakes are best on the day that they are made as far as looks go. The Oreo tufts do get moist on the following day and tend to break off easily if you are trying to transport cupcakes.

Halloween Cookies & Cream Owl Cupcakes brought to you by: Runcible Eats. (www.leaandjay.com)

 

 


Irish Tea Barmbrack with a Whiskey Honey Butter Glaze (Non yeasted version) Battle of the Bracks -Part 2

October 28, 2015

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Here we go! Day two of the Battle of the Bracks. Today we are considering Irish Tea Barmbrack with a Whiskey Honey Butter Glaze. (Yup…I said “Whiskey Honey Butter”….don’t know about you, but that alone sounds like the stuff of dreams!) As I mentioned yesterday in my post about Irish Barmbrack Bread, Barmbrack is a tradition Halloween Treat in Ireland. And it is rather appropriate that we look to Ireland for Halloween goodies, since Halloween actually has Celtic origins. Our modern Halloween celebrations are derived from the Celtic holiday of Samhain. Samhain was Celtic New Year. It was a harvest festival which marked the dying of the sun-god and a turning to the colder, dormant half of the year. On this night, the Celts believed the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was at its lowest point. The dead could more easily travel back over to our side, and if we weren’t careful, we could accidentally wander over in to their world and be trapped-a good reason to stay close to home and bonfires, no doubt! This belief likely gave rise to our Halloween legends of ghosts, ghouls and witches wandering about on this night in particular. Roaming spirits aside, Halloween was also a time for divination and that is where Barmbrack came in. This bread was actually used in an ancient fortune telling ritual. When a loaf of this bread was baked, several different trinkets or charms which had been wrapped in parchment paper were added into the bread. When the bread was sliced and handed out, your future was foretold by whatever bit you found in your portion. A wedding ring meant you’d be married within the year, a pea meant that you would not, a coin signified wealth, whereas a piece of rag meant a lean year, a thimble predicted a spinster and button meant bachelorhood was in your future. Feel free to add whatever trinkets you prefer to your bread. Most commercial loaves baked today only contain one ring.

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Now that the history lesson has ended, it must be time for the Brack review. I found this Irish Tea Barmbrack to be quite a charmer! (har har). It will definitely make you change your mind about fruit cakes without a doubt. It is really dense, boozy and bursting with fruit. And that Whiskey Honey Butter Glaze? Pure ambrosia I tell you! One taste and you will be hooked! And if all that wasn’t good enough, this bread is a one bowl wonder. You do have to remember to start the fruit soaking in the tea/whiskey bath the night before, but after that you just add all the ingredients to the soaking bowl, mix ’em up and pour them in the baking tin. Super easy!!! Which is just what I need right now because my house is still somewhere midst deconstruction/construction. Kind of has that perfect urban decay/ Halloween vibe come to think of it. Bottom line – the husband and I really like both Bracks and were it not for that Whiskey Honey Butter Glaze the yeasted version would have won easily. But well that amazing glaze is there for consideration. This has led us straight down the road to indecision! Not that I’m complaining at all since I now have two tasty loaves of bread that I can just keep sampling under the guise of trying to decide between them. So I’ll leave the judging up to you. If you have an opinion – yeasted vs. non – I’d love to hear from you in the Battle of the Bracks!

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Irish Tea Barmbrack with a Whiskey Honey Butter Glaze

  • Servings: 1 5x9 Loaf of Bread
  • Difficulty: Very Easy!
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: Edible Ireland 

You can use whatever fruit you would like in this bread, ie. all raisins, or substitute in some mixed candied peel, cranberries or glacé cherries if you prefer. Also if you would rather not use any whiskey in your bread (glad you can’t see the look of horror on my face right now…) you can soak the fruit in 1 1/4 cup tea and just leave it out of the glaze.

Ingredients:

For the bread:

  • 100 g (3/4 cup) raisins
  • 100 g (3/4 cup) sultanas
  • 100 g (3/4 cup) currants
  • 50 g (1/4 cup) chopped dates
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 250 ml (1 cup) hot, strong black tea
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) Irish Whiskey
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 225 g (1 3/4 cups) self-raising flour
  • 200 g (1 1/4 cup) light brown sugar
  • 1 level teaspoon mixed spice

For the Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup Irish Whiskey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Put the raisins, sultanas, currants, dates in a large bowl, one that’s big enough to accommodate all the ingredients later on. Pour over the tea and whiskey and allow the fruit to soak for at least 30 minutes or even overnight. (overnight is better!)

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 1 lb (5″x 9″) loaf tin with parchment paper or spray with non-stick baking spray.

Add in the lemon zest, beaten egg, flour, sugar and mixed spice to the fruit and tea mixture. Stir well until everything is just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin. Bake for about 1- 1 1/2 hours or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Place tin on wire rack to cool while you prepare glaze.

Place all glaze ingredients in sauce pan and heat over low heat. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for several minutes until it reduces slightly. Set aside to cool until warm.

Remove the warm bread from the baking tin and place on parchment paper. Once glaze has cooled to warm, paint bread all over with glaze in several passes, allowing time for it to be absorbed before adding the next wash.

Enjoy!

Irish Barmbrack with a Whiskey Honey Butter Glaze brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

 

 


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