Sometimes you just wanna be a little plain, am I right? (Ergo- lazy). It’s a total vanilla kind of day. If attitude were a flavor, it would be vanilla. You don’t want to put makeup on, you want to live in your jammies or sweats all day (same thing-duh!) and not get dressed. Forget about engaging your brain. You just want to exist. The couch is seriously calling your name. Perhaps you even called in sick or you blew off your first hour of class or perhaps the whole shootin’ day for that matter. You are oh so ready to binge watch something good all day while you are lazy as a fat cat on your over stuffed couch. Think Garfield on a Monday.
Yep, you are in a vanilla state of mind boo. The signs are all there….you’ve been needing a serious mental health day. Trust me- I’ve been there. Don’t EVEN feel guilty. No! you NEED THIS!
Enter the vanilla bean scone, dripping with vanilla glaze and coffee in hand. This recipe is so easy, you don’t have to think too much about it. This is what you need babe. I suggest you make these ahead of time through the shape and cut stage and freeze them solid on a sheet pan. Then pop them in a freezer bag and bake off as many as you want for those moments when you are feeling like being a little vanilla.
Vanilla Bean Cream Scones
yield: 8 scones
2 Cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 C sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
5 Tbsp. cubed cold unsalted butter
1 Cup heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
Whisk together one egg and 1 tsp. heavy cream (or milk)
Vanilla Bean Glaze
1 Cup confectioners sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
In a food processor place, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and pulse to combine. Add cold cubed butter and pulse 4 times. Dump into a large bowl. Mix the heavy cream and vanilla bean paste together and pour in the bowl and mix gently with a rubber spatula until combined. Dump out onto a lightly floured board and gently knead about 5 times- just long enough for dough to come together. Pat into a round circle 8 inches wide. Cut into 8 equal triangles. Place onto a parchment lined sheet pan at least 1 1/2 inches apart. Chill for 30 minutes (while you go be lazy for a while). Preheat the oven to 425° F. Make sure the oven rack is in the middle position. Brush each scone with egg wash and bake for 15 minutes. Let scones rest for 10 minutes. Make vanilla glaze and drizzle each scone. I like to double drizzle because I’m kind of a slut when it comes to glaze, but if you want to, you can also totally cover them in glaze.
Note: If you are baking them from frozen state, don’t thaw but just bake them a little longer until golden brown.
Thank you my loyal followers for stopping by to read my blog. I know I’ve been kind of absent and have not posted as often lately. I recently had back surgery-3 weeks ago, and I’m still trying to recover and I am not able to stand for very long still, so thank you for being patient! On to the subject at hand!
One of the beauties of this recipe is that you can make it in stages. You can make the tart shells ahead of time and keep them at room temperature in a covered container, and you can make the curd a day or two ahead and keep it stored in the refrigerator, so you don’t have to make it all on the same day; (perfect when your body is not cooperating such as mine).
I am absolutely crazy for passion fruit and I love it beyond words. I know unless you live near or below the equator it can be hard to find. If you cannot find fresh passion fruit you can use the frozen variety that you can find in either Hispanic or Asian markets that allow you to thaw it. One particular brand is Goya, which is a great brand.
I love these little tarts because the tangy tart but sweet floral taste of the passion fruit pairs nicely with the billowy marshmallow like meringue. I read online that it is possible to grow passion fruit vines here in Arizona. Hmmm, that is something to think about!
If you’re not familiar with passion fruit- the juice or “puree” is housed inside the seed pockets. Buy the fruit when it is as it’s ugliest- meaning, when it is wrinkly then they are ripe. You have to scrape out the fleshy pods and the juice will burst open. Smush it through a strainer to get the best consistency. The seeds or “pips” are edible. Some people do not care for the seeds, so mostly they are discarded. Other times you will see that a few seeds are left in a recipe, for visual appeal, but not usually all. Your choice!
Passion Fruit Curd Tarts
yield 6-8 three inch tarts
Short Bread Tart Dough
Note: this recipe makes enough for 12 individual tarts or one 9 inch tart (so freeze the remainder or cut the recipe in half to make 6 tarts)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/3 C confectioners sugar
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
lightly beaten egg white
In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed; cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add in the vanilla bean paste and combine briefly until smooth. In a small bowl whisk the flour and salt to combine. Add the flour mixture on medium low speed until the mixture is almost combined; there will be some bits at the bottom of the bowl. Stop the mixer and with your hands lightly mix the dough together to incorporate any little bits until it is combined.
Measure a size ball of dough about a ping pong ball size and press the dough into the tart pans/rings until it looks fairly even. Chill the crust for at least 30 minutes before you bake them. I chill mine an hour so it helps prevent the crust from shrinking when baked. Once the crust has chilled, dock the bottom of the crust very well all over with the tines of a fork and blind bake the shells. Bake at 350 º F for about 15-20 minutes or until the crust looks no longer wet. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and brush the bottom of the tart shells lightly with a beaten egg white. The egg white will prevent the crust from getting soggy. Let the crusts cool completely on a wire rack.
Passion Fruit Curd
(yield: ~ 2 cups)
1/2 Cup passion fruit puree, divided
1 tsp. powdered gelatin
1 Cup sugar
1 large egg
2 egg yolks
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1. a small bowl measure out 2 tablespoons of the passion fruit puree and sprinkle the gelatin over and set aside to bloom. Keep the rest of the puree for the remainder of the recipe in step 2.
2. Place the remaining passion fruit puree, sugar, egg, egg yolks, and salt in a saucepan and whisk over medium heat until mixture reaches 160° F. Remove from the heat and stir in the bloomed gelatin until combined. Strain mixture into a clean bowl and stir in the butter. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap directly over the surface and place in the refrigerator to chill.
Note: you will have some curd leftover which you can freeze or store in the fridge to spread on scones etc. or stir into yogurt (coconut yogurt in particular is fabulous!) You can also stir curd into vanilla buttercream to make passion fruit buttercream.
3 large egg whites
3/4 Cup sugar
Place the whites and sugar in a heat proof bowl (I use the bowl of the stand mixer) and place over a bain marie and whisk while heating until the sugar is dissolved and temperature is around 160° F. Remove from the heat and whisk until the mixture is billowy and fluffy and resembles marshmallow.
To assemble tarts:
Spoon about 2 Tbsp. of chilled curd into each tart shell. Top with a heaping scoop of meringue, and pull up with a knife to achieve some spikes or swirls. Use a hand held torch to brown the meringues. Serve immediately. Store any leftover tarts in the fridge.
I’ve said it before, but it’s true. I always have a pie crust or two sitting idle in my freezer for such an impromptu idea as whipping together a quick simple pie or tart. Cruising through the store the other day the strawberries and blackberries were on sale and they looked divine, so I picked up a few cartons. Summer is all about simplicity when it comes to desserts and this is no exception. When you make a pie crust, get in the habit of making double and park that crust (wrapped really well in plastic wrap) in the freezer. Crust is the most time consuming part when it comes to whipping a pie together. The filling is the easy part, especially when it comes to berries because unlike say apples, there is minimal prep work. This simple pie would also work with throwing in some blueberries as well in place of some of the strawberries. Take note that because the strawberries carry a lot of liquid, the pie is best eaten the day it is made.
It’s best eaten when the filling is still warm and the crust is crispy. Vanilla ice cream optional. Mmmm
1/2 recipe fearless pie crust (or your favorite pie crust)
3 1/2 C fresh berries (mixture of strawberries and blackberries)
1/3 C sugar + more for sprinkling edge of pie crust
1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1/2 C almond meal
1 tsp. orange zest
heavy cream (or half and half for brushing pie crust)
1 1/2 Tbsp. Seedless Strawberry or Raspberry Jam for finishing
Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Roll out pie crust to approx. 1/8 inch thickness. Place the pie crust onto the prepared sheet pan. Toss the almond meal, flour and orange zest together and sprinkle onto the rolled out pie crust, leaving about a 2 inch border.
Wash and dry the berries. Cut the strawberries in half or quarters depending on size. Aim for the same size as the blackberries. I found strawberries that were really small in size so I just halved them (leave the blackberries whole). Toss the berries with the sugar (right before you assemble the pie). Place the berries onto the bed of the almond meal mixture in a nice high pile and fold in the sides of the pie crust, pressing lightly. Brush the crust with the cream and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake the pie in a preheated oven for approx. 35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Note: you may need to cover the pie with tinfoil for the last 10 minutes or so if the crust is getting browned too quickly.
In a small bowl mix the jam vigorously to smooth out any lumps. Allow the pie to cool slightly then brush with jam and serve warm.
I’m falling in love all over again with my cast iron pan. Not that I fell OUT of love with it mind you, but I was rearranging my pots and pans in the cupboard and I came across my old friend. He was hidden in the back, but not completely forgotten. Comfortable like an old shoe, and familiar; the cast iron pan can do many jobs. He’s a Jack of all trades. Lately I’m in a phase of simplicity and easy recipes. That can all change on a weekly basis, but my old friend fits into my easy breezy lifestyle that I’m embracing this week. This is a recipe that comes together rather quickly and you’ll be singing the praises of your iron clad buddy as you spoon out warm strawberry oozy goodness to your family and friends. Have some vanilla ice cream at the ready….
Strawberry Apple Cobbler
1 1/2 lbs fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled (very large ones cut in half) otherwise kept whole
1 Cup sugar, divided
3 Tbsp cornstarch
2 pink lady apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
2 tsp vanilla, divided
1/2 Cup butter, divided
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Prepare the biscuit topping:
In a large bowl whisk the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon. Cut 1/4 cup of the butter into small cubes. Cut the butter into the mixture using a pastry cutter until butter is the size of small peas. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and stir gently until just combined. Set aside while preparing the filling.
In a 9 or 10 inch cast iron pan place the strawberries, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch and vanilla and stir to combine. Heat over medium heat until bubbly and starting to thicken; about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup of the butter and the apples. Drop the biscuit topping in six equal portions over the hot filling, sprinkle biscuit portions with turbinado sugar and place in preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly, then serve warm. Top with vanilla ice cream if desired.
When I lived in San Francisco we used to frequent the most amazing Greek restaurant called Mykonos. It has just the right amount of atmosphere; it’s cozy, non pretentious, and has great authentic affordable Greek food. They have THE best moussaka I’ve ever had and great baklava. The husband and I always ordered the same exact thing every single time; a family platter that had an assortment of traditional food and it came with coffee and baklava at the end of the meal. We almost never ate the baklava in the restaurant because we always left too full and with leftovers to boot. I would save it for the next day and when I did- I savored it with a good cup of coffee or tea. I always looked forward to that baklava and promised myself that eventually I would take a crack at making my own. Baklava is not hard to make- just a bit time consuming and tedious, but there is something relaxing and almost meditative that happens while you build each layer of love.
At first glance you will be scared when it comes out of the oven, as it looks dry and somewhat of an experimental science project gone wrong, but have no fear. Once you pour over the unctuous sweet syrup is when the magic truly happens. It is not a dessert to make when you are in a rush but rather a treat to build while you have the kitchen to yourself, it’s quiet and you can enjoy the process. You must also reserve some constraint as the whole mass must bathe languidly in that syrup for 6-8 hours or overnight to soak up the sweet love before you can bust into it, so plan accordingly.
I must have researched and read a million recipes before coming up with this combination. Some recipes call for all walnuts while others call for a combination of almonds, walnuts, and pistachios or even all pistachios- it’s really what you prefer just make sure you have a total weight of one pound of nuts.
yield: one 9×13 inch pan (about 24 pieces depending how small you cut them)
one (1 lb.) package of filo dough- thawed in the fridge overnight
1 lb. of nuts (I chose 50% walnuts/50% pistachios) [mixture to equal about 4 cups onced chopped if you don’t have a scale]
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2-3 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup honey (I used orange blossom)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 piece orange rind- minus the pith (approx. 1 inch wide by 2 inch long)
3/4 Cup water
1. Make the syrup first and then allow it to cool in the pan to room temperature. Remove the filo dough from the fridge and allow it to come to room temp (in the box) for 1-2 hours.
2. To make the syrup: place all the contents in a saucepan (2-3 quart size is best) and bring to a boil over medium high heat stirring just initially until the sugar is dissolved, then decrease the heat to medium low and boil for 4 minutes (without stirring). Remove from the heat and let cool. Once cool, remove the orange rind.
3. Place the nuts in a food processor and pulse until nuts are fine, but do not grind to a powder. I pulsed my pistachios and walnuts separately as they are different sizes and this ensures they do not get too small. Place both nuts in a bowl and add the spices and mix to combine.
4. Prepare the filo by placing 2 sheets of plastic wrap side by side and overlapping slightly on the counter top. Carefully lay out the sheets of filo onto the plastic wrap and cut the stack to size to fit your pan. All brands are different- (My filo came in one huge stack that measured 13 x 18 inches so I simply cut it into two stacks each stack measuring 9 x 13) then place another sheet of plastic wrap big enough to cover on top of the filo, followed by a damp tea towel or kitchen towel. Keep the filo dough covered this way as you are working with it to ensure it does not dry out as the dough can easily tear. You may need to check your tea towel and re wet it and squeeze out again to maintain a damp towel.
5. Brush the sides and bottom of a 9×13 inch pan with melted butter. Carefully pick up one sheet of filo dough and place it on the bottom of the pan and brush with melted butter. Continue in this manner; brushing EACH and EVERY sheet carefully with melted butter (I used a silicone brush) until you have built a stack of 10. Sprinkle a generous 3/4 Cup of nut mixture over the stack. Start another stack (this time a stack of 5 layers) (ALWAYS brushing EACH layer with melted butter as you “stack”), then sprinkle 3/4 Cup of nut mixture. Continue this 5 layer stack followed by nut sprinkle until you have used all the nuts, then build a final and top layer of 10 sheets or a minimum of 5-7 if your package does not allow a final layer of 10. Make sure to brush the final top layer with melted butter. Preheat the oven to 325° F.
6. Take a sharp pointed knife and cut 3 vertical lines so you visually have 4 equal portioned vertical rows through the entire built layer spacing your rows about 1.5 inches apart (see the above picture). Now cut diagonal rows through the entire stacked layers (to form diamond shapes) and place the baklava in a 325° F oven and bake for 45-50 minutes or until it is light golden brown.
7. Remove the baklava and allow to sit for 5 minutes then pour the cooled syrup over the baklava. You will hear it hiss and crack a bit (that’s normal). Allow to sit a room temperature to soak up the syrup. Once room temp, cover lightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 6-8 hours or overnight to ensure the baklava soaks up the syrup. Enjoy at room temperature or warm slightly if you wish by zapping in the microwave.
I just finished reading a really moving book that tells the true story of Sasha Martin, called Life From Scratch. The book is sad, inspiring, raw, and sensitive. Along the way you feel the mood and emotion of her childhood as she moves into adulthood. Each chapter is a blessing of recipe(s) from her life’s journey. One of the recipes is a Chocolate Guinness Cake with Baileys Buttercream which I’ve adapted into cupcakes and added a bit of extra chocolate fudge frosting as a bonus. I’ve seen cake recipes before that use Guinness so I was especially excited to try this, and it was fabulous. Pick up her book if you haven’t read it- it’s a great read.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!
Chocolate & Guinness Stout Cupcakes
recipe adapted from the book Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin
yield: 16 cupcakes
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 Cup Guinness Extra Stout Beer (take the beer out ahead of time and let sit on the counter unopened so that it is not cold)
1 Tbsp Vanilla
3/4 Cup unsweetened Cocoa powder
1 1/2 Cup sugar
1 1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs, room temp
Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a small saucepan heat the butter until just melted, then whisk together with the Guinness, vanilla, and cocoa. While the Guinness mixture is cooling, line cupcake tins with paper liners. Whisk together the sugar, flour, and baking soda in a large bowl. Pour the Guinness mixture onto the dry ingredients, and then whisk in the 2 eggs. When the batter is shiny and smooth, pour it into the wells of the cupcake tins filling 2/3 full; exactly 1/4 cup of batter. Bake for ~ 15-20 minutes or until skewer inserted comes out clean. (baking time in a regular oven is around 19-20 minutes. I used my convection oven at 325° F and baked mine for exactly 15 minutes). Cool completely.
Prepare a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (or your choice of tip) and fill each side of the bag with chocolate fudge frosting and Baileys frosting-it’s handy to use a “two tone” piping bag if you can find one.
Dark Chocolate Fudgy Frosting
recipe adapted from Sweetapolita
1 Cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
1 Cup plus 3 Tbsp confectioners sugar
1/3 Cup (40 g) extra dark unsweetened cocoa (I used Hershey’s extra dark)
1/4 Cup hot water
1/4 Cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
generous pinch of salt
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli) melted and cooled
In a food processor place all but the melted chocolate and pulse until incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and pulse until smooth. Chill frosting is not using right away.
Bailey’s Irish Cream Buttercream
recipe from Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 lb. confectioners sugar, sifted
2-4 Tbsp Baileys Irish Cream
Whip the soft butter until fluffy. Add the confectioners sugar on low speed, then increase to medium high, and drizzle in enough Baileys to get the buttercream loose and fluffy. To achieve a whiter frosting whip it 5-10 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.