Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Scones, Pizza and Muffins - Oh Joy

One of the fun things I love about this blog is that it is so patient with my crazy life changes. It is always here for me to come back to when I have chased my next dream.

Cooking / baking is one of my passions. I find inspiration in the most random things. My latest inspirations have come from two events. Matthew, my 22 year old son, purchased a number of lemons for something he was interested in making. Time conspired against him and these beautiful lemons he purchased were no longer needed. What to do....

The same day Janet and I decided to visit Trader Joe's. We had never visited and I really had no idea what to expect. Needless to say we had a great time discovering this new store. I was surprised at the prices as I thought all of their high quality stock was very reasonably priced. I was a little disappointed to find that they didn't have any fresh basil, however. Well they had some but it was attached to a plant and it feels a little late in the season to be buying a basil plant. We ended up grabbing some vine ripened tomatoes and a ball of fresh mozzarella cheese.

Unknown to me, Janet grabbed a small package of dark chocolate candy bars. Once home when I was storing the groceries I happened to rip the package of the dark chocolate slightly. To be fair I felt that I had to remove a small chunk of the chocolate so that it wouldn't be further damaged by rough treatment.

Hmm... what to do... lemons, chocolate, mozzarella.... Yeah, that isn't all going to make it into a single dish but it is a great start to a weekend of baking.

I decided to make a simple pizza with the fresh mozzarella and vine ripened tomatoes. The recipe is startlingly simple.

Crust: 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 tsp salt, 1.5 tsp yeast, 2 tablespoons honey, enough warm water to make the dough nice and soft ( about 3/4 cup ). I use a kitchen aid mixer to mix the dough then I kneed it on the counter for a few minutes. Letting the dough rest for 10 minutes is a great way to soften it up. Roll it out with a rolling pin, toss it with your hands.... you get the point, make it flat and in the shape of whatever pan you want to use.

Sauce: simply take the best small can of tomato paste you can find ( don't get ch
eap on this ). Spread a thin but not transparent layer onto the crust.

Toppings: thin tomato slices, generous slices of fresh mozzarella, sprinkle with garlic and basil, drizzle with olive oil

Bake this in the oven for 15-18 minutes at 350. I prefer to use a very dark sheet pan, this gathers the heat nicely and crisps the crust.

This was pretty great, but I need to get onto that chocolate and those lemons... My next idea was to make a lemon scone with a chocolate lemon glaze.

My recipe on this is fairly rough. I have never made scones before and I don't really understand the science of making whole wheat fluffy. I probably should have switched to white flour but then what would be the fun in that?

Scone: 3 cups whole wheat, 1 cup sugar ( I used white ), 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 cup soured milk (this is milk + a 1 tsp vinegar ), 1 1/2 sticks of butter, big handful of cran-raisins, big handful of chopped walnuts, zest of 1.5 lemons.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut the butter into the mixture and add the soured milk. I zested two lemons and tossed 3/4 of the zest into the mixture. I pealed one of the lemons and cut out the insides of the wedges and added directly to the mixture (this too a bit of doing ). With your hands mix until it gets good and clumpy and the butter isn't in too big of chunks.
Form into a couple of 6" rounded cakes and then cut into wedges. Place onto parchment paper on a light colored sheet pan ( dark will cause the bottom to crust more ).

This cooks at 375 degrees for 16 minutes or so. I had to use two pans and the convection setting.

The glaze is easier and has lots of room for improvisation. 1/2 stick of butter, 1/2 of a lemon's zest, a small dark chocolate bar, 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar, most of the juice from a nice sized lemon. I found it easiest to warm up the butter and add the pow
dered sugar I wanted this nice and smooth, I then added the lemon zest and juice and slowly added the dark chocolate bar.

My recipe is loosely based on epicurious.com's Dried Cranberry, Walnut, Lemon scone.

Finally, I wanted to make some lemon based muffins.

Muffins are an impatient man's best friend. They are difficult to mess up and most people really enjoy them. I know I do.

So hang on to your seats for this recipe... zest of a whole lemon, 1.5 cups oats, 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1.5 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, just shy of 1/4 cup olive oil, 3/4 cup shredded carrots, big handful of spinach that has been food processed into small bits, big handful of cran-raisins, chopped walnuts, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons of honey and some almond milk.

Just add all this stuff together in a mixing bowl. The almond milk is just there to get this mixture to the consistency of yogurt ( firm but not sloppy ). Spoon into muffin cups and cook for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Not only are these intensely great tasting but they pack spectacular nutritional value.

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