Friday, April 29, 2011

Cranberry White Chocolate Scones

Hello??  Anyone out there still??  Am I all alone now??

I apologize profusely for abandoning ya'll.  I'm sorry!  I'm not sure what changed, but suddenly, my life was chock-full of things demanding my time and something had to give.  Now, things are starting to slow back down to a "normal" pace, so I have every intention of sharing with ya'll the recipes that I've been accumulating in my absence.

This past year (starting in September), I have had the wonderful privilege of leading Bible study with a group of ladies from my church (and some not from my church!).  Not only have the studies been amazing (Beth Moore, anyone?!), but those ladies come hungry for a treat!  The baking enthusiast in my aims to please!  One week, I just simply did NOT have the time in my prep time to bake, and I showed up empty-handed.  Trust me, I heard about that one!!

Enter these scones.  Simple.  Easy to make and fast to prepare.  They have some sort of yummy all over them.  One could definitely increase their "wow factor" by adding some orange zest to the batter.  Ooohh....

Cranberry White Chocolate Scones
Adapted from My Baking Addiction

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup white chocolate chips; roughly chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
zest of one orange, optional
1 egg white, beaten slightly
sugar for sprinkling

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
If you have a food processor, these scones will come together in about 2 seconds, using that kitchen workhorse!  If you don't have a food processor, you will love yourself for buying one!  Cooking in your kitchen will be transformed!

Food Processor Instructions:
In the bowl of the food processor, fitted with the cutting blade, place all dry ingredients in it.  Pulse to incorporate.  Cut the butter into small squares and toss over the flour mixture.  Pulse to combine until the mixture resembles medium-sized crumbs.
In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth, stir in vanilla.  
Add cranberries and white chocolate chips to the crumb mixture.  With the food processor running, slowly pour in the liquid and let pulse until dough comes together.  Be careful to not over-process, as that affects the gluten and will result in a drier scone.  Use your hands to finish pressing the dough together.  Turn onto a floured work surface, and follow the rest of the instructions below**.
Traditional instructions continued....
In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Grate butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate.

In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth; stir in vanilla.

Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. Continue pressing until the dough comes together--it will!

Place on a lightly floured surface and **roll into a large square (the size of the square will depend on how thick you want your scones to be).  Cut across the square, making 3 rows.  Cut each row into alternating triangles, and transfer triangles to prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1/2 inch between each scone. Brush each scone with  beaten egg white and sprinkle sugar on top.  Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

If desired, drizzle with melted white chocolate after the scones have cooled.  I did this the first time around, took the picture, then decided I didn't really prefer the chocolate on top.  Just keeping it real!

Another note:  I actually think my second batch baked better after I had frozen the unbaked scones.  These are easily made ahead and stored in the freezer.  Just bake frozen, maybe adding an additional minute to the baking time if necessary.  Baking them frozen resulted in a more tender, fluffier scone.  :)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Eight years ago, I became a mom.  The feeling of holding my firstborn as a newborn was unlike anything else in the entire world.  I worked hard to get pregnant with him, worked hard being pregnant with him, and worked hard at bringing him into this world.  The past 8 years as a mom have been hard, yet joyfully rewarding years.  I love this firstborn son of mine and am so proud of who he is becoming with each passing year.  He is smart, self-motivated, an excellent student, and funny.

There is so much of his dad's personality and quirks in him--sometimes I have to hold my jaw up as I watch his antics.  However, he made me so proud when he requested vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting.  That's my boy!  Happy 8th Birthday, Big Guy!

*Here is an easy way to make your own Cake Flour.  For each cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons of flour and replace it with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.  Whisk or sift well to aerate the flour.  Voila!  You now have cake flour!

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Annie's Eats

3 cups cake flour* (see above note)
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1¼ cups milk, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour*, baking powder and salt.  Whisk together and set aside.

Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.

Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition.  Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Combine the milk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.

Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full (you will likely have batter left over after filling 24 wells.)  Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Replace paper liners and bake remaining batter if desired.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Yield: approximately 30 cupcakes

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Source:  Brown Eyed Baker
(I doubled this for the amount of cupcakes the above recipe makes).

1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Using the wire whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.

Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.

You can store any unused buttercream in the refrigerator in an airtight container; let it come to room temperature and then give it a quick whip in the mixer before using.

(I used a 1M tip for the decorating, along with a reusable pastry bag and large coupler).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pizza Bites

I will admit to being a carb-addict.  Breads, cookies, rice, pasta,, yes please!  One thing I love about pizza is the dough.  That would explain why thin crust isn't my favorite (lightbulb moment over here!).  I have been making my own homemade dough for quite some time now, long enough that homemade dough is just a natural part of the plan when I make pizza.  A bit more time consuming, yes.  But well worth it!

While the toppings are the main focus on a pizza, the dough takes center stage with pizza bites!  Soft and yeasty, it is a little popper of pizza deliciousness!  Um, yes please!!

*Just so you know, this is more of a collection of ingredients that are place together as opposed to an "official" recipe.  Feel free to modify according to your tastes.  More cheese?  Sure.  More pepperoni?  Go for it.  

*Someday soon, I will take a better picture.  These things are crazy-good when they are piping time for good photography!  :)

Homemade Pizza Bites
Adapted from Annie's Eats

1 ball of homemade pizza dough
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3 oz. cream cheese, cubed (use whatever variety you like!)
sliced pepperoni, quartered
For topping:
Olive oil
Italian seasoning
Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  Lightly grease a 9-inch pie plate or cake pan.  Divide the pizza dough into 20-24 roughly equal sized pieces.  Take one of the dough pieces, top with a cube of cream cheese cheese, and a couple of slices of quartered pepperoni.  Top with a pinch of mozzarella cheese.  Pull the edges of the dough around the fillings and pinch closed.  Place seam-side down in the baking dish.  Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.
Lightly brush the tops of the dough balls with olive oil.  Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Serve warm, with dipping sauce as desired.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Snickerdoodle Blondies

The snickerdoodle obsession continues over here at The Culinary Enthusiast.  For the record, I have never had "blondies" before (I guess they are the vanilla equivalent of brownies), but when I saw this recipe, I knew that I had to make it pronto.  Now, also for the record, I did not--repeat, did not--drop everything I was doing and make them when I saw them.  But I should have.  Instead, I waited a couple days until I had a need for a dessert.  (Yes, that is a legit need).  

Eaters' feedback?  "Luscious," "delicious," "baked perfectly," were some of the top comments.  I have to admit--I concur 100%!  These are indeed a wonderful treat, and the bonus is that they are so easy to make!  Really, just as simple as brownies!

Snickerdoodle Blondies
Adapted from:  My Baking Addiction

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and/or line a 9×13 inch pan. 

Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and set aside.

In large bowl, beat together butter and brown sugar for 3-5 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, and beat until smooth.

Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan (mixture will be thick, like cookie batter consistency). Combine the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a little bowl. Evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the batter.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until surface springs back when gently pressed. Cool before cutting.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Yakitori Noodle Bowls

Once upon a time, I used to watch daytime television.  Sometimes soaps, but most talk shows starting with Rachael Ray, ending with Oprah, then me saying, "Oh, crap.  It is now 5 pm.  What am I going to make for dinner??!"

I figured misery loved company, so I would call my best friend and we would talk briefly about Rachael Ray's recipe that we had mutually just watched her make before we would attempt to tackle our our personal dinner crises.  Before we would know it, an hour had passed, our kids were starting to whine, and by the time we would hang up the phone, we had sort of an idea which direction we each were going to go with dinner.  It was the life!  How I cherished those long dinner-prep conversations!!

This recipe is one that my BFF and I watched together, in our own respective homes.  This is one where we both said before Rachael Ray was done making it on TV, "What the heck are soba noodles?"  and "That looks delicious!"

So, we each put this meal on our menus, and the necessary ingredients on our grocery lists.  We knew we needed soba noodles, and since my BFF had grown up as a missionary in Indonesia, she kind of had an idea where to start to look for them in the grocery aisle.

I wish I could remember the exact number of cell-to-cell phone calls I made to her when I did my hunting shopping.  "Karla, go to the ethnic food aisle."  "Ok, I'll call you back when I'm closer."  "Ok, now, I just passed the spaghetti.  How close am I?"  "Ok, now I see chop suey in the cans.  Where exactly did you find the soba noodles?  What kind of package are they in?"  And so on.  With her cell phone guidance, I found them (they are near the bottom, Asian aisle, plastic packaging, yellow-ish noodles)!

I think that we both made this meal on the same night, and we both LOVED it!  I make this meal over and over, and this time around I was once again blown away by its simplicity, ease, and delightful taste!  I love how this story floods my mind every time I make this--it is a delightful trip down memory lane!

Yakitori Noodle Bowls (Soba Noodles and Sauteed Chicken)
Adapted from Rachael Ray

2 packages of soba noodles
2 tbl. canola oil
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thawed, trimmed, and diced
2-in piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely minced (or 1 tsp. ground ginger)
freshly ground black pepper
2 bunches scallions, trimmed of roots and cut into 1-inch pieces on an angle
1/3 cup dry sherry
1/3 cup tamari (Asian soy sauce, or substitute regular soy sauce)
1 tbl. sugar
1 tbl. sesame oil (this is what makes the dish, so don't leave it out!!)
toasted sesame seeds, for garnish, optional

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Once boiling, add some salt to the water; add the noodles and cook according to package directions (about 3 MINUTES!  They will cook fast!)*  Drain thoroughly.

In a large skillet, add the canola oil and diced chicken pieces and sautee until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink.  Add some salt and freshly ground black pepper and the ginger (whether fresh or dried).  Let the chicken brown in the skillet a couple of minutes.  Add the sherry, tamari (or soy sauce), sugar, and sesame oil; bring to a boil and let it simmer one minute.  Add the scallions.

*(It is usually at this point that I put the noodles in the boiling water).

Add the drained noodles to the skillet and toss to combine.  To serve, transfer to serving bowls and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Pear Crisp

I love dessert!  I love fruit desserts.  I love simple, fruit desserts.  Insert this dessert.  Fresh, juicy pears.  A bit of sugar.  Add the crunch of pecans.  Top with creamy vanilla ice cream.  Indulge.  Don't feel guilty, because, you are eating fruit, after all.

Want an easy pear-ripening tip?  Ok.  This is courtesy of my sister, who is a biology and chemistry double-major.  Place your fresh (and often rock-hard!) pears in a brown paper sack.  Fold the sack closed and let set at room temperature for a couple of days (or really, until you are ready to use your pears).  The gases released from the pears inside the sack will ripen them to perfection. 

Pear Crisp
Source:  The Pioneer Woman

4-5 whole large Pears
⅔ cups sugar
¼ teaspoons salt
Topping Ingredients
1-½ cup flour
⅓ cups sugar
⅓ cups firmly packed brown sugar
½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ cups pecans,  chopped
1 stick butter, melted


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel, core, and dice pears. Place into a bowl and stir together with 2/3 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans. Stir together. Drizzle melted butter gradually, stirring with a fork as you go until all combined.

Pour pears into a baking dish; top with crumb topping.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Place pan on top rack of oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until topping is golden brown.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.