Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Triple-Chocolate Scones

A wonderful friend sent me a big box of all sorts of fun baking spices from Penzey's a while back and I've been trying to use them to make some new, fun things. 

Some of the items in the box are normal - vanilla beans, cocoa powder, poppy seeds... but then there are a few I've never played with - double-vanilla extract, 3 different kinds of ground cinnamon, cardamom (umm.. this makes chai spice... it is amazing!). 

I have a great base recipe for scones that I adore and always gets me many compliments so I decided to break into the box and use something new to make up some scones for a treat - I chose Natural High-Fat Cocoa. Go big, or go home.. right?!
My scone recipe starts with sour cream with a bit of baking soda mixed in. 
 This is the sour cream right after I mixed in the baking soda - you can already see it getting fluffy.
 And this is after about 10 minutes. It almost doubles in size! The sour cream becomes unbelievably fluffy and airy. I like to think of it as a cool baking-science experiment.
 See all this butter... it goes into these scones. Yeeuummm.
I decided to chop up block chocolate to mix into the scones.
The chopped-up chocolate melts right into the scones and makes them super moist and chocolaty.  
 Once all the dry ingredients are mixed up, cut in the butter with a pastry cutter. 
 Pat the dough out to be about 3/4"thick; add more chocolate to the top before cutting into triangles

 Cut into triangles, put on a parchment-lined cookie sheet to bake.

Eat your scones with your favorite coffee beverage - that's the best way!

Cheers to the cook!

Triple-Chocolate Scones 

(adapted from allrecipes.com)


  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips (milk or semi-sweet)


  1. In a small bowl, blend the sour cream and baking soda, and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Cover a two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt. Cut in the butter. Stir the sour cream mixture and egg into the flour mixture until just moistened. Mix in the chocolate.
  4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead briefly. Roll or pat dough into a 3/4 inch thick rectangle. Cut into wedges, and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
  5. Bake 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown on the bottom. Do not over bake.
  6. Cool on baking rack

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Is that Pesto in your Pasta...?

I think I mentioned once before that we have a crop of basil that would make any Italian proud. It is enormous, fragrant and beautiful. 

Growing up my mom always had home-made pesto in the freezer and she would add it to dishes all the time. It was so good and always tasted so fresh. I am fairly confident that you can always tell the difference between home-made pesto and anything from a jar. Just saying.

The good and easy thing about making your own pesto is that a lot of the recipe is up to you and your taste buds. So I say, start small and taste-add as you go. 

My fresh basil cut right off the enormous "tree"

The basic accouterments: olive oil, garlic & Parmesan cheese

The finished product

Dinner: linguine with pesto, fresh tomatoes (also from our garden), some spicy chicken sausage with a bit more Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top for good measure. So good. 

Cheers to the Cook!

Home-made Pesto 
Special Equipment: Mini Food Processor, Magic Bullet or any other type of small blending-chopping apparatus

1 cup basil leaves, rinsed & dried
2 cloves of garlic (or more to taste)
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese (you could also use asiago or reggiano... almost any hard Italian cheese)
1/4-1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste - I like to make the pesto itself a bit less salty - you can always add more once it is worked into a recipe)
1/4 cup olive oil (again, start here, add more as necessary. Some like a thinner consistency, so add to your liking)

Throw all ingredients in your processor, puree/blend/chop for about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides, add a bit more oil if consistency is not right. Blend for another 10-15 seconds. Enjoy with ANYTHING!

Yield: 2 servings

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sunday Morning Apple Cake

I walked into my kitchen one morning and discovered I had a bunch of apples in my fruit bowl that were looking sad. Seeing as it is not apple season right now (see: July, humid, hot) I was not at all surprised that these apples had decided it was their time to start heading towards the light. 

Wait! I can make you into something delicious! Apple Cake!!
  I dug out my apple peeler-corer-sliced that I inherited from my grandmother. If you do not have one of these... get one. Seriously. It is worth its weight in gold. Peeling and slicing up apples was one of my least favorite things to do and this made it all better. It literally does just what it says - it peels, slices & cores an apple all at one time. It's just magic.
 See how amazing it is?! Anyway - I got side-tracked... we're making Apple Cake. Two apples, peeled, sliced, cored and then slice in half. I usually cut the core out completely to avoid any rough spots. I  basically take the half apple and cut down on either side of the core, then once behind the core and call it a day. 
 I decided our apple bread needed some toasted walnuts. Easiest way is to just toss the walnut pieces into a dry frying pan over medium-high heat until they become fragrant - just a few minutes. 
 In a bowl I tossed together my sliced-up apples, some golden raisins & my toasted (and then roughly-chopped) walnut pieces. 
 In a separate bowl I mixed together the dry ingredients, then added the wet to make this mixture. Be aware, it's not a batter - it's more of a crumbly mixture. 

Once it's all mixed together - add the apple-raisin-walnut mix - mix it up well and pour it all into a greased bread pan. I think the recipe I was reading asked for an 8x4 pan... I actually have no idea what the dimensions of my loaf pans are.. I just guess. That's what separates me from the novice bakers - my ability to adapt pan sizes. Ha!
And this gloriousness is your end result. The texture of this is less bread-y and a bit more cake-y. I suppose you're supposed to wait until it cools to slice into it and eat it but that was not happening on this particular morning. I'm pretty sure while the oven mitts were still on we demolished about 1/2 the cake for breakfast. I couldn't even get a better picture than this. 

This is actually really good for breakfast - or if you can wait for dessert, this would be super amazing with some vanilla ice cream. Yum. 

Cheers to the cook!

Apple Cake - adapted from All Recipes


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 apples - peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins 


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8x4 inch loaf pan (or whatever you have.. don't get stuck on the logistics - just remember to alter your baking time a bit if you use a different sized pan). 
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar, egg and oil. stir in the sifted ingredients. 
  4. Fold in the apples, nuts and raisins.
  5. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

From our Garden: Tomatoes

After we re-did our backyard last summer, my husband made us three great raised beds for planting our own herbs, veggies, fruits... and, still, the occasional weed. (grr!)

Our first official crop is basil, followed closely by tomatoes. Both are plentiful and beyond delicious. So, over the weekend we decided to start harvesting our ripe fruits and enjoy them during their perfection.

Our first harvest - 9 tomatoes. Hmm... what goes well with tomatoes? Basil! (umm.. I don't have a picture of our basil but trust me - it's amazing)

We decided on some bruschetta - chopped up a couple of tomatoes, added some minced garlic, chopped basil, a bit of olive oil & salt & let it marinate for about 30 minutes. There is something about fresh, organic produce - the flavors are so much stronger and better than anything you could buy in the grocery store. After I mixed all of the ingredients together you could just smell the goodness wafting out of the kitchen. So good.

 To go with our bruschetta I whipped up a batch (actually, a half-batch) of pizza dough from my Williams-Sonoma cookbook. I grew up on home-made pizza dough and love it so it was worth the extra effort. And toasts are not good enough for our home-made bruschetta!

To make it an official meal we served our bruschetta with some cheese, salami and two kinds of olives. 

Here's our final product - amazing, fresh and packed full of flavor. And... maybe even slightly healthy. Ok, let's go with healthier... than a lot of things we could have had for dinner. 

Cheers to the cook!

Bruschetta Bread (adapted from Williams-Sonoma's Pizza Dough)


  • 1 Tbs. active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. lukewarm water
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup for
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil


Turn oven on to 500 degrees. Place pizza stone in oven while it preheats.
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and let stand until slightly foamy, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, stir together the 2 3/4 cups flour and the salt and form into a mound. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture to the well. Using a fork and stirring in a circular motion, gradually pull the flour into the yeast mixture. Continue stirring until a dough forms.

Lightly flour a work surface with some of the 1/2 cup flour and transfer the dough to it. Using the heel of your hand, knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. You will most likely need to add more flour as you knead; you do not want your dough to be sticky. Form the kneaded dough into a ball.

Brush a large bowl with the olive oil and place the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap (or light-weight towel) and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour. More if you have it

Turn the dough out onto a surface dusted with some flour. Punch down the dough and, using your hand, begin to press it out gently into the desired shape. Stretch the dough until it is the desired thickness, about 1/4 inch thick for a crusty pizza base and 1/2 inch thick for a softer one. Flip the dough over from time to time as your work with it. (Or roll out the dough with a rolling pin.) The dough should be slightly thinner in the middle than at the edge. Lift or pinch the edge of the pizza to form a slight rim.

Take pizza stone from oven & transfer the dough to the stone. Gently spread dough onto the stone. Brush with olive oil & add minced garlic, salt, herbs.. whatever you like. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool for just a few minutes - cut into squares and serve.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pretty Motivation

My birthday is not for three more months but my mother-in-law said she saw these and thought they would be perfect for my blog. *gulp*

You mean that blog that I abandoned for 6 weeks? 

Yep - that's the one. 
She said she thought these would photograph nicely.

Should we take a sneak peek?

 Well... it's from one of my all-time favorite stores
It is wrapped up in a little paper cocoon. 
I love all the details: the letter pressed box, the personalized masking tape, the muslin bag for the gift receipt. Swoon...
And what do we have? 
The most beautiful measuring cups that anyone could ever own. 

It makes me want to start baking pretty things. Don't you just have the urge for pie? Or a a multi-tiered chantilly cake? 

I do. 

So I'm back. 
I have to put these pretty, little things to work.