Thursday, July 16, 2009


Over the weekend, some of my siblings and my family went blueberry picking.  Great fun.  Lots of berries.

On Sunday morning, we were all together (27 of us) at my parents home inthe country.  I cooked up several batches of  Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes. They were fantastic.  The recipe I used is from the current  issue of Cooks Illustrated Magazine, .  

For those who are unfamiliar with this magazine and website, it is a great resource for all things related to cooking.  The staff at Cooks Illustrated exhaustively tests every recipe until the find the best approach to the final dish.  I subscribe to the online version, for about $40.00 per year.  This affords me access the the archives of the magazine.  I have available recipes, equipment reviews, how to videos...
Can say enough good things.

Best Blueberry Pancakes

Makes sixteen 4-inch pancakes; Serves 4 to 6.   Published July 1, 2009.   From Cook's Illustrated.

The pancakes can be cooked on an electric griddle. Set the griddle temperature to 350 degrees and cook as directed. The test kitchen prefers a lower-protein all-purpose flour like Gold Medal or Pillsbury. If you use an all-purpose flour with a higher protein content, like King Arthur, you will need to add an extra tablespoon or two of buttermilk.


2cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces) (see note)
2tablespoons sugar
1/2teaspoon table salt
1teaspoon baking powder
1/2teaspoon baking soda
2cups buttermilk
1/4cup sour cream
2large eggs
3tablespoon unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
1 - 2teaspoons vegetable oil


  1. 1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Spray wire rack set inside baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray; place in oven. Whisk flour, sugar, salt, ba

    king powder, and baking soda together in medium bowl. In second medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, eggs, and melted butter. Make well in center of dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients; gently stir until just combined (batter should remain lumpy with few streaks of flour). Do not overmix. Allow batter to sit 10 minutes before cooking.

From the May 2009 issue, I used the Best Blueberry Muffins, recipe this morning.  
It is a very good recipe.  But I am not convinced that you need the extra step of cooking some of the blueberries and swirling them into the batter.  As a matter of fact, I hat more batter than the 12, muffins it was supposed to yield, (my muffin cups may have been smaller than theirs) so I made six muffins with out the added swirl and they were equally as delicious.  
Make them for yourself and let me know what you think.

Best Blueberry Muffins

Makes 12 muffins.   Published May 1, 2009.   From Cook's Illustrated.

If buttermilk is unavailable, substitute 3/4 cup plain whole-milk or low-fat yogurt thinned w

ith 1/4 cup milk


Lemon-Sugar Topping
1/3cup sugar (2 1/3 ounces)
1 1/2teaspoons finely grated zest from 1 lemon
2cups fresh blueberries (about 10 ounces), picked over
1 1/8cups sugar (8 ounces) plus 1 teaspoon
2 1/2cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
2 1/2teaspoons baking powder
1teaspoon table salt
2large eggs
4tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
1/4cup vegetable oil
1cup buttermilk (see note)
1 1/2teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. 1. FOR THE TOPPING: Stir together sugar and lemon zest in small bowl until combined; set aside.

  2. 2. FOR THE MUFFINS: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times and stirring frequently, un

    til berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

  3. 3. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk remaining 11/8 cups sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be very lumpy with few spots of dry flour; do not overmix.)

  4. 4. Following photos below, use ice cream scoop or large spoon to divid

    e batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion. Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over muffins.

  5. 5. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rota

    ting muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

The Next Generation in a Baking Family

I have three sisters and one brother,  3 brothers in law and a sister in law on my side of the family. (My husband is from a family of six kids).  When ever there is a family gathering, there is food, LOTS of food. 

Baking was the forte of my maternal grandmother, my paternal grandmother was a fine cook and excellent baker.  Of my generation, we all have our specialties, siblings and spouses alike.

So, needless to say, I was delighted when my 13 year old niece expressed a strong desire to learn how to bake pies and cakes.  Last summer she took a decorating class through Wilton. She has done some really great work since then.

Most recently she made her cousins 8th grade graduation cake.  She baked a double layer sheet cake from scratch, and then decorated it.  She did a fine job.  I look forward to her future as a baker.  She's well on her way.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake

It's hard to say if it was the shortbread or the sublime combination of deliciousness that makes up a strawberry shortcake, but this one was the best I have ever made!

First I must say that I am not sure my son realizes yet that you don't walk into most homes at 9:30 pm and request strawberrry shortcake for a crowd and get it delivered fresh from the kitchen.  In his defense,  I did offer to make shortcake for his friends earlier in the evening , fully expecting to make it about 7 or 8.  That said, one day I know he will realize just how lucky he is.

I adapted the shortcake recipe from Chez Panisse Desserts, by Lindsey Remolif Shere. (It is a great book for pastry basics and frozen treats  followed by individual fruits, herbs and nuts used in those pastries.)

The salt on sugar in these biscuits were balance perfectly and drew out the sweetness of the less than perfectly ripened strawberries.  The chantilly cream took it over the edge.

Strawberry Shortcake
12 servings
preheat oven to 425
2 c flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon  baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter cold and cut into pieces
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons half and half
Fresh strawberries about 2 quarts
whipping cream for Chantilly cream about 1 cup

Mix flour,  salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl.  Cut in the butter until  the mixture looks like corn meal.  Add the cream and mix until dough just comes together.  Turn out on a flat surface and pat out to about 1/2 inch thick.  At this point you may cut into square or use a round cutter.  Gather left over dough gently and re pat into shape. Cut remaining biscuits.  Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

In the mean time wash and slice the strawberries.  Sprinkle with sugar to taste.  (I used the vanilla syrup I had made in a previous posting.) Set aside.

When biscuits come out of the oven let cool and prepare the chantilly cream.

Chantilly Cream
Place cold whipping cream in a mixer with the whip attachment.  Add about 1 tablespoon of sugar. Whip until cream begins to take shape.  It will be about double in volume, but peaks will not yet be forming.

Assemble the shortcake by splitting the biscuit in half lengthwise. place bottom on a plae.  Top with a generous scoop of strawberries, followed by a generous scoop of chantilly cream. Top with the remaining biscuit half.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Olive Oil Baby Cakes

I wanted something interesting to serve with coffee and the New York Times this morning, so I took a look through my file of "saved" recipes and came across this one by Michael Recchiuti,

They were a nice treat.  Served with jam and butter.
I made some as directed in a mini muffin tin. The rest I baked in a regular sized muffin pan.
The cups can be filled 3/4 full without any fear of overrun.  The mini muffin size would be great for a brunch or afternoon tea.  The larger sized muffin worked best for 
a morning muffin.
They are much like a toothy piece of cornbread, although with a slight citrus taste.

Olive Oil Baby Cakes

2/3 cup (150g) whole milk

3/4 cup (150g) extra-virgin olive oil

Zest of 1 lemon

Pinch of kosher salt

3/4 cup (115g) all-purpose unbleached flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 cup (115g) yellow cornmeal, medium coarse ground

2 extra-large eggs

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (120g) granulated cane sugar

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line mini muffin cups with paper liners or coat with oil. (You may also use a silicone mini muffin pan and omit the paper liners.)

Combine the milk, olive oil, lemon zest and salt in a medium bowl and whisk by hand until mixed. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour with the bakin

g powder. Stir in

 the cornmeal. Set aside.

Put the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until creamy and doubled in volume. Add the milk mixture gradually and beat until combined.

Switch the mixer to low speed. Add the dry ingredients all at

 once and mix until just incorporated. Over-mixing will result in a tough cake.

Using a tablespoon, divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them about three-quarters full.

Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pans 180 degrees after 5 minutes. When done a skewer inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

Let cool completely on a wire rack.

When cool, remove the babycakes, still in their paper liners, from the muffin cups. Serve at room temperature with a garnish or your choice.


Food, Friends and Fireworks

Some of my favorite summer evenings involve pulling things from the refrigerator and whipping something together worthy of sharing with friends who have likewise done the same.

Yesterday, the 4th of July was one of those nights.

As luck would have it, I had just roasted a bunch of tomatoes the night before.

(Cut tomatoes in half lay out on a baking sheet drizzle with olive oil, Sprinkle with salt and pepper. roast for 4 hours at 270 degrees.)

I had some fresh mozzarella and pesto in the fridge, and some nice quality premade pizza crust in the freezer, left over from a food styling job.

The combination made for a tasty appetizer.

Next, I had some beautiful scallops in the freezer,  I wanted to try something a little different.

I remembered reading about a recipe for cocoa seared scallops.  I looked up a recipe on line and gave it my own twist.

Cocoa Seared Scallops with a Caramelized Orange Sauce

Cocoa Crust

3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
1 tablespoon Anch
o Chiile powder
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon paprika
combine the above ingredients in a shallow bowl.  Set aside.

Caramelized Orange Sauce

2 shallots minced
2 gloves garlic minced
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper
juice of 3 oranges
1 cup white wine 
1/2 cup seafood or chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

Saute shallots and garlic  a large saucepan until translucent. Add parsley and pepper. Saute about 5 minutes. Add the orange juice. Cook until think and caramelized. Deglaze the pan with the wine. reduce by half.  Add stock. 
Slowly reduced by half.  Add cream. Simmer until slightly thickened. Finish with butter, salt and pepper.  Cool slightly and strain.  Hold for plating  with scallops.

Both the cocoa mixture and the sauce are enough for 4 dozen scallops.

Rinse and drain scallops.  Pat dry.
Dip scallop top and bottom in the cocoa mixture. repeat until all scallops are coated.
Heat a frying pan or griddle with a little oil. place scallops on hot griddle. Searing the surface.
Cook for about 2 minute depending upon the size of scallops you are using. With a pair of tongs carefully  the scallop turn over. Cook 1 to 2 minutes on the other side.  Be careful not to overcook or scallops will be tough.


Spoon sauce onto individual plates,  Place the desired number of scallops on top and serve.

Nancy and Burt served up some tasty grilled sausages and turkey burgers.

Peter and Gretchen contributed a fruit crisp which offered up a delicious combination of berries and peaches. The crisp was topped with oats and crumbled sugar cookies.  Yum!

And then there were the fireworks.  The official ones the village sent up, and those set off by various groups of neighbors. 

Time To Get Back To Cooking and Writing

It's been a crazy couple of months around here.
Two big birthdays, an anniversary, a prom, a graduation, graduation party, out of town guests, more graduation parties.

Lots of eating! Lost of drinking! Loads of fun!

Now it's time to get back to the "normal"  routine around here, which I guess in reality in anything but routine.

One thing I have come to realize is that I have a very difficult time cooking and photographing at the same time.  I'll cook something worthy of the blog, but when the meal is finished, I suddenly remember; I should have been photographing the process. I should have set up a spot to shoot. 

I'll keep working to that end.  In the mean time please be patient.