Sunday, November 16, 2014

Scones Revisited ...


Once upon a time (read: September), I found myself with a bit of inspiration to create a little something new.

Thoughts and ideas swirled around in my head, as they do, and I settled on scones, which are like a distant cousin in the family tree of baked goods. Cookies and cakes and pies and muffins get all the love but scones aren't often invited to the party. Poor scones. They're often inexcusably dry, and while, yes, they're meant to be enjoyed with tea and slathered with jam and clotted cream, why can't scones star in their own show?

Well, these little guys are worthy of attention. I started with a recipe I've made in the past, and then doctored it, which is how most new recipes come to be. I knew I'd incorporate Nutella. And then I decided to add dark chocolate Ghirardelli chips because, well, can you think of a reason not to add dark chocolate Ghirardelli chips? And then I added toasted, chopped hazelnuts, to reinforce the Nutella and add a bit of texture, and voila! Scones with a double dose of hazelnut and a double dose of chocolate. And I knew I wanted to make them cookie-size because, well, have you seen the size of some scones? They can wear out their welcome.

These aren't very sweet but the dark chocolate chips add a nice intensity. And they're also rather moist, not crumbly like some scones you may have had in the past. They'd make a nice treat for holiday guests. Or package them with some cocoa mix and marshmallows for a holiday gift.


Double Chocolate Double Hazelnut Little Cookie Scones
(Adapted from Simply Scones, St. Martin's Press, 1988)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
1/3 cup buttermilk*
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup Nutella
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and distribute them evenly over the flour mixture. With a pastry blender or two knives used scissors fashion, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, vanilla, and Nutella. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir to partially combine. Dump in the toasted chopped hazelnuts and chocolate chips and stir to combine completely. The dough will be sticky. With a cookie scoop** (or two spoons), portion dough onto the parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake one tray at a time in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes. Remove sheet from oven, let cookies cool for four minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

Yield: About 30

* Or mix milk with a teaspoon of lemon juice and let sit for a few minutes. It'll curdle a bit.
** I use the OXO 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop which seems to hold two tablespoons. Go figure.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Cookie Has Spoken, I Must Obey ...

The fortune made me smile but the Learn Chinese phrase drove home the point: I gotta get back to singing.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Good Fortune Of Good Neighbors ...

Unexpected doorbell. Neighbor hands me a plastic bag. Inside, I find this. Soon, they will be drizzled – nearly doused – with a garlicky balsamic vinaigrette and buried under a mountain of Parmesan cheese. Summer, you continue to make up for years past. Neighbor, thank you.

The Fuzziness ...

... makes me happy.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

A Brief Note To Summer ...

Summer, I know I've not always been your biggest fan. I gripe. I whine. But you've been lovely this year. Thank you.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Art In Nature ...

I have yet to find a respectable peach this season – as I tweeted yesterday, every peach I find at the grocery store is as sumptuous as a league ball – but I was delighted to find this artful tendril of vine in yesterday's grapes.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Blueberries ...

Awaiting their muffin destiny ... .

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Crumbled ...


I never was a cupcake maker.

I have no childhood memories of baking cupcakes with my mom.

I have childhood memories of selecting cupcakes at Cub Scouts meetings when I was very wee. I have childhood memories of looking for the cupcake with the most frosting. I have childhood memories of scraping the paper cupcake liner against my bottom teeth to capture the bit of cupcake that was left behind.

But the only cupcake-baking episode I can recall happened a couple of years ago and resulted in the cupcake at the top of this post. I baked a whole batch. I didn't frost most of them. I threw most of them away. My pursuit was a singular, picture-perfect cupcake. I did eventually eat it. It was OK.

Yesterday, when I read that Crumbs, the cupcake chain, had closed all of its locations overnight, my only thought was "Of course it did. Fads don't last."

How anyone thought they could build a sustainable business on a single food product is beyond me. McDonald's doesn't just sell hamburgers. Starbucks doesn't just sell coffee.

But even if they did, hamburgers and coffee are much more staples of the American diet than cupcakes.

The precipitous rise of the cupcake foretold its precipitous fall.

I never did buy into the cupcake craze. I never ate a Crumbs cupcake. I never set foot into a Crumbs store. (The reaction on Twitter yesterday was decidedly anti-Crumbs. If tweeters are to be believed, Crumbs cupcakes were dry and topped with overly sweet frosting. If that was truly the case, it's no wonder Crumbs didn't last: There are only so many curious first-timers in the cupcake world.)

For that matter, I've never had a Magnolia Bakery cupcake or any other. Cupcakes don't entice me. And I really dislike fads.

I make really good blueberry muffins and I make really good cream currant scones. I bake sensational brownies, I don't mind boasting. But cookies are my thing.

And cookies are my thing because the borders of cookies are so malleable. When I baked monthly cookies for Angelo, and I would clack out ideas, many were the time that I had to rein in my thoughts because I was really exceeding the boundaries of what constitutes a cookie.

But, like hamburgers and coffee, cookies will never go out of style. Cookies are as timeless as they are infinite.

If I ever do open a bakery, though, I will sell more than just cookies. Not much more. I will not try to be all things to all people, but if someone walks in and wants a brownie, they will be able to buy a brownie. Biscotti? You bet. (Yes, I know they're cookies, but some biscotti are second cousins to cement and have gotten a bad rap and are sometimes shunned. Mine are buttery and crunchy but pleasantly so.) Scones? Maybe not every day. Maybe I'll have a rotating special.

But if anyone wants a cupcake, they'll have to go elsewhere.

If there's anywhere left to go.