Monday, August 30, 2010

British Scones

I love the idea of afternoon tea. I very much enjoy a cup or pot of hot black tea and tasty English tidbits. I was fortunate, years ago, to take Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC and it was a magical experience (even though, strictly speaking, it was not British but Canadian.) Even before, and ever since, I've enjoyed playing the lady in my own home; brewing up a pot of tea, warming up my favorite tea pot, using my best antique china and whipping up a batch of something baked to serve alongside.

I came across this recipe awhile ago on one of my trips to the local library. A favorite pastime of mine is to check out a dozen cooking and baking books and peruse them for hours at my leisure. This particular book was about a well loved tea house in a hole-in-the-wall place in New York. The woman who owns the place is a crazy wild British woman. The thing I liked about the book was the true and authentic recipes for all the British favorites. This recipe for scones was among them.

The taste and texture of these are truly delightful. The outsides have a slight crisp, with the insides being fluffy and soft, yet sturdy with a good crumb. I ate rather too many of these, they are delicious. Serve with fresh whipped cream and jam to top.

Makes 8 triangles

2 cups sifted all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp organic sugar
1 tsp finely ground sea salt
1 1/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add the heavy cream and mix very gently with either your hands or a wooden spoon. Do not over mix. If the dough is very sloppy, you may add a bit of flour.

Lightly flour a board, or counter top. Using your hands, turn out the dough onto the floured surface and spread and pat the dough into a round shape, with 1 inch thickness.

With a knife, cut the round into 8 wedges. Place each wedge onto an un-greased baking sheet a few inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes, just until the scones no longer look wet in the crevices and the bottoms are golden.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fresh from the Farm dinner

Saturday is market day for me; that is to say, the local Farmers Market. I am a happy locavore, which means I prefer to eat only local and in-season foods and I give preference to organically grown foods produced without pesticides, hormones, or genetically modified organisms. So I shop every Saturday at my local farmers market, where I know my farmers by name and rate them among my friends. One of the many benefits of eating locally produced food is that it simply tastes much better. I am in earnest here, it really does taste better. Your food is fresher and at it's peak; it has not sat on a shelf for weeks, it has no preservatives, it is fresh and straight from the earth in which it was grown.

If you have never tried a farmers market before, I highly recommend that you start now. And those of us in the Portland Metro area haven't any excuses; there are farmers markets in nearly every city every week. Find the one closest to you and go!

Tonight, I made dinner in about 30 minutes using fresh from my garden and just bought today ingredients. It was as tasty and delicious as anything you would order at a fancy restaurant. A whole lot cheaper too.

This menu requires a specialty item that I realize most of you will not have: Apricot Ginger Chutney. An Oregon City Farmers Market vendor, Diana's Delights, makes this wonderful chutney with apricots, oranges, fresh ginger, golden raisins, onions, garlic, coriander and sugar. It's amazing. You can easily substitute: use apricot jam mixed with some fresh minced onions and garlic, then add coriander and ground ginger.

Tonight's dinner: 
Golden Spiced Rib Chops
Haricot Verts
Sweet Corn

Pork Chops:
Bone-in rib chops or boneless loin chops, thawed
rubbed sage
salt & pepper
Apricot Ginger Chutney

Turn oven to broil. Rub in with your hands a sprinkle or two of sage, salt and pepper onto both sides of chops. Place chops on a broiler pan. Put in oven, 4 inches from the heat and broil for 15 minutes, turning chops every 5 minutes. Spread chops with the apricot ginger chutney and broil for 5 minutes more. Pork is done when it reaches 150°-160°.

Haricot Verts (pronounced ar-ee-co verz):
1 lb haricot verts, slender french green beans
2 Tbsp butter
1 large shallot, minced
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
red wine vinegar

Boil green beans for 3 minutes. Green beans will be crisp-tender. If you like your green beans more tender, you may boil for up to 5 minutes, but no longer or you'll have a goopy mess. Drain and set aside. In the same pot over med-high heat, melt butter. Add shallot and garlic. Saute, stirring until garlic is golden and shallots are tender, about 1-2 minutes. Add green beans and toss around in pot for 1 minute. Add a splash or two of red wine vinegar, it will deglaze the pot and add wonderful flavor.

Sweet Corn:
Fresh ears of corn (best the day you've bought them)

In a large pot, half fill with water. Shuck the corn, removing husk and silk strands. Drop into the pot of cold water. Bring to a boil on high heat. Cover with a lid, turn off heat and let stand 10 minutes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Raspberry Lemon Tart with crumble topping

If you love sweet and sour desserts, you are sure to love this one. This divine tart starts with a thick layer of sweet and flaky shortbread crust, then piled with lemon curd and raspberries, then topped with more crumbled shortbread. Pair it with a cup of coffee and you will have yourself a little slice of heaven.

This recipe comes from The Grand Central Baking Book, from the bakers at the Grand Central Bakery in Portland, Oregon. An inspiring book, one of my favorites. I actually combined two of it's recipes to make this one awesome dessert.
To save myself time and effort, I used a jar of lemon curd that I bought at my local farmers market. One of the vendors there makes small batch jams, relishes, chutneys and lemon curd in the authentic British way. The following recipe tells how to make the lemon curd from scratch. I suggest that you make it in advance; the lemon curd will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Also, note: the picture above is of an unfinished tart, before I baked it with the crumble topping on. Once it was baked, it was so quickly devoured that I didn't get a photo. Next time.

Serves 8

2 1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached organic flour
3/4 tsp sea salt, finely ground
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Lemon Curd:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp finely chopped lemon zest
4 egg yolks
6 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 tsp sea salt, finely ground

1 pint fresh raspberries
3 Tbsp granulated sugar

3-4 Tbsp confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350°. Assemble a 10-inch spring-form pan.

For the dough:
Whisk the flour and salt together. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or a hand beater like I did, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until light in color and fluffy. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate. Reduce he speed to low and add the dry ingredients, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl several times. Stop mixing when the dough is still crumbly. This happens quickly; the mixture will look dry and floury, then little clumps will suddenly appear. Don't over mix, or you will end up with a ball of dough that will be difficult to use.

Set aside 1 cup of the dough, then sprinkle the rest (about 2 1/2 cups) on the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Distribute it evenly, without pressing it. Bring the dough slightly up the sides of the pan to contain the lemon curd, then lightly press the dough to hold it in place. Refrigerate the reserved cup of dough. Bake for 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. The crust should be toasty brown.

To make the lemon curd:
Combine the sugar, lemon zest, and egg yolks in a bowl or the top of a double boiler and whisk together immediately; don't delay or the mixture will coagulate. Put the bowl over a pan or the bottom of the double boiler with about an inch of lightly simmering water and whisk continuously until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon juice and, still whisking continuously, cook for about 5 minutes. Add the butter and salt, then use a spatula to stir constantly until the mixture is the consistancy of sour cream, which will happen at about 170°.

Strain the curd through a fine mesh sieve. If you won't be using it right away, cover with plastic wrap, placing it directly on the surface so the curd doesn't form a skin, and refrigerated for up to one week.

Fill and bake:
Spoon the curd into the baked crust, smoothing with a spatula. Scatter raspberries onto the lemon curd, sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Crumble the reserved 1 cup of dough over the top. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. The berries will collapse and the topping will be slightly brown. Immediately dust the warm tart with the confectioners sugar, then let cool slightly before removing the sides of the sprinform pan.