Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Strawberry Sour Cream Scones

I've been buying a crap load of strawberries.  They are my favorite berry--and they were having a two for one deal at the farmers market the other day.  That said, I'm getting a little frazzled trying to figure out how to consume all of them before they go bad.  I eat them every day--either on their own or in my cereal--but I still have a lot.  I mean I know I can make pies or cakes or jams but sometimes I want something a little different.  So when I came across an article on The Kitchn that so conveniently presented me with a slide show of just things to do with your spring/summer berries, I was like f yeah.  And then scrolling through it I came across these scones.

I never think of making scones.  I like scones.  My partner loves them.  They're not hard to make. My only problem with them is that they are really only good the day of baking them--like donuts--which is kind of a drag... After a day they seem to get a bit dry and a little less palatable.  But that wasn't really a factor for me. And I'm glad it wasn't because these scones were delectable.  The strawberry to dough ratio was perfect.  They were moist and tender.  And they had a crumb topping.  I love crumb toppings.  Crumb toppings--with all of their butter and sugar--can really elevate a baked good for me and this one did not disappoint.

So, if you're looking for an alternative from strawberry shortcakes or strawberry rhubarb pie, and want to expand your strawberry baked goods repertoire then make these guys because strawberry season is short and you should explore their presence in a variety of baked goods--especially these scones.

Recipe from The Kitchn

5oz (2c) all purpose flour
1.75oz (1/4c) granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
4oz (1/2c) cold unsalted butter cut into small 1/4 inch cubes
6oz (3/4c) cold sour cream
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla bean paste--or extract
1c chopped fresh strawberries

First, line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.  Next, in a large bowl sift and whisk all of the dry ingredients together.  In a separate small bowl, whisk the sour cream, egg and vanilla together until well blended and then set it aside.  Toss the cubed butter into the flour mixture and using a pastry blender--or a fork--cut the butter into the flour until it resembles course bread crumbs. Then, pour the wet ingredients--not the strawberries--into the dry. Using a silicone spatula, gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry just until incorporated--don't keep folding or else you are going to form some gluten strands and have a tough end product.  Next, place the dough onto the prepared baking sheet and gently pat--most easily with either a spatula or the back of your hand--it into a rectangle that's about a half of an inch thick.  Spread half of the chopped strawberries over the rectangle and gently press them into the dough--they do not have to be fully embedded within the dough.  Then--most easily with the use of a bench scraper--fold the rectangle in half and pat it again into another rectangle that's about a half of an inch thick.  Spread the remaining strawberries over the rectangle, press them gently into the dough and fold it in half again.  Gently pat the dough into another rectangle, fold it in half and do that one more time--you are just trying to thoroughly fold the strawberries into the dough.  Lastly, after your final "turn" pat the dough into a large circle that is an inch thick on the baking sheet.  Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least an hour--I did mine overnight.  In the meantime you can make the crumb topping.

Crumb topping

1.75oz (1/4c) all purpose flour
1.25oz (1/4c) brown sugar
1.5oz (3 T) cold salted butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes

In a small bowl--whisk together the flour and sugar.  Then--using either your fingers, a pastry blender or a fork--blend the butter into the flour/sugar mixture--into a crumble if possible.  My mixture just formed a big mass so I refrigerated it overnight and then I crumbled it the next morning when it was nice and cold.  At any rate, cover the mixture with plastic wrap and chill it until your scone dough has chilled.

For assembly

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Remove the scones from the fridge and remove the plastic wrap as well. If any strawberries have fallen out of the dough, just gently press them back into it.  Crumble the crumb topping evenly over the dough and then cut the dough into eight equal wedges.  Carefully separate each wedge from its neighbor--as much as possible.  They will rise and spread out so ideally a two inch gap would be nice.  Finally, bake the scones for 18-20 minutes or until they are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and let cool just enough until you can pick one up with your hand and it doesn't burn you.  Serve warm.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Rhubarb Cake

Sometimes it seems hard for me to find recipes that I would think shouldn't be too hard to find.  For example, the subject of this current post.  I wanted to find a recipe for a rhubarb cake.  But let me be clear.  I didn't want a recipe for a yellow cake that had chunks of rhubarb scattered throughout. I wanted a cake where pureed rhubarb was added to the batter to create a rhubarb cake--similar to what one would do to create a banana cake.

As I mentioned, I couldn't find it.  So I made one up.  But then bothersome things began happening. First, some odd chemical reaction occurred when I added the pureed rhubarb to the already mixed cake batter.  It fizzled and popped like a freshly opened carbonated beverage.

I guess maybe it had something to do with the acid in the rhubarb reacting with the baking soda or baking powder that I had already mixed into the batter.  But I'm no chemist so I can't precisely say for sure what went down.  Also, the cake turned from a pink to a green when I took it out of the oven. That wasn't so much of a surprise because rhubarb does have a lot of green pigments and I've seen that happen before when rhubarb meets the heat.

But it was a gross looking green--like vomit green. And then there was the actual taste and texture of the cake.  I'll be honest, it tasted nothing like rhubarb to me.  It didn't taste bad.  In fact, it tasted good--just like a yellow cake. But not like rhubarb.  And the texture of the cake was all wrong.  It was overly spongy and moist--more like a bread pudding.  Thus a fail on my part.

Perhaps this is the reason why I couldn't find a recipe. Perhaps not.  I actually think that with some tweaks, I could get it right.  So, maybe next season. On the plus side, making this cake gave me the opportunity to pretty it up in a special kinda way.  I had been wanting to try this decorating technique since I saw it last spring on Sprinkle Bakes. By the way, if you want to see a woman who makes some truly beautiful desserts with a real creative hand, check out her site here.

Some of it isn't necessarily my style but nevertheless, they all appear very well crafted.  And when I saw this cake posted, it made a visual impact on me.  Since I keep buying an obscene amount of rhubarb I had plenty on hand to make it happen.  At first, I was getting a little frustrated with peeling the thin layers of rhubarb off from the stalk.  It may have had something to do with my dull vegetable peeler.  So if you are going to attempt this, then make sure you have patience and a good sharp peeler.  But that was the hardest part about the process.  The rest was pretty simple and not too time consuming.  My pattern wasn't as uniform or pretty as the one on Sprinkle Bakes but I liked it.  I'm calling it nouveau rustic.

Recipe for two six inch rhubarb cakes

190g cake flour
200g granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2/3c buttermilk at room temp.
100g butter melted and cooled to room temp.
40g vegetable oil
100g eggs at room temp.
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 lb or 3 c of rhubarb chopped to 1/2 inch wide

*Fair warning--this recipe was not such a big success but here goes anyway...

First, cook the rhubarb.  Place the chopped rhubarb in a medium non-reactive saucepan with 3/4c of water and bring it to a boil.  Once it's boiling, reduce the mixture to a simmer and continue to cook until the rhubarb softens and begins to break down--about 15-20 minutes.  Then, remove the rhubarb from the heat and let cool completely.  Once, it's cooled to room temperature place the rhubarb in a blender and puree it until it is smooth.  Set the rhubarb aside.  Next, start the rest of the cake by preheating the oven to 350 F.  Butter two six inch cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift all of the dry ingredients together.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk all of the wet ingredients together--except for the rhubarb puree--until well combined.  Pour all of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Using the paddle attachment, mix the dry and wet ingredients together on medium speed for about two minutes.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Pour the rhubarb puree in the batter, turn the mixer back on and mix until the rhubarb has been fully incorporated into the mixture (when you add the rhubarb it may fizzle and pop).  Stop the mixer and divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans.  Bake the cakes for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of each cake comes out clean.  Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool completely before removing them from the pans.

For the frosting, I made a swiss meringue buttercream base, pureed some strawberries I had and mixed it into the base.  And for the rhubarb wrapped decorating technique, I used the the link above from Sprinkle Bakes.