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Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chunk Pancakes
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Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chunk Pancakes

I realize that over the past nearly 6 years, I’ve given you guys no less than 4 other pancakes recipes here.  It probably could have been more like 6 0r 8 had a few of the other recipes we’ve tried actually had a chance to be photographed but some Sunday mornings are like that.  Padding around the kitchen in pjs and fuzzy wicked good Bean slippers, toting a cooling mug of coffee, flipping flapjacks and drizzling maple syrup…oftentimes I just don’t feel like distracting myself from a dreamy Sunday morning to pull out my camera and make things look pretty for photographs, no matter how great the food is.  My apologies.

Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chunk Pancakes

But I’ve been dreaming up these toasted coconut chocolate chunk pancakes for a few weeks now and I knew they would be too good not to share right away.  And by right away, I mean: you’ll want them right away.  Like for dinner tonight…or dessert, perhaps?  Because they are fuuuull of melty chocolate chunks and freshly toasted coconut, and even when you’re eating them for an actual meal (thereby possibly overstuffing yourself for the rest of the day) they really are quite the sweet indulgence.  And that’s probably why we both loved them so much.  Minus the overstuffing part.  That wasn’t fun.

Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chunk Pancakes

We certainly didn’t feel like braving the 10 degree New England air yesterday morning to hit up our favorite little place, Leo’s, in town for breakfast but I’d say this was quite the perfect way to “make do” with a few pantry staples, settle down with a full warm plate in hand, watch the kitty sleep by the fire, and spend some time with the seed catalog dreaming of spring.  I’ll never stop loving Sunday mornings.

Chicken and Biscuits Pot Pie
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It’s Election Day and my nerves are completely shot.  I’ve been wishing this day would come for…what seems like ever… with the hopes that the ridiculously smug TV political ads would end soon.  We have a hot Senate seat up for grabs here in CT and it’s been a contentious race between the businesswoman wife of the CEO of WWE (think Hulk Hogan-esque wrestling – but not the recent sex tapes Hulk Hogan – ewww stop) and our current Congressman.  It’s been an odd few months to say the least.

So this chicken and biscuits pot pie is a nerve-soother and it will make you forget about the political jargon, Quinnipiac polls, and personal attacks.  It’s really just a superb recipe for a hearty and homey chicken pot pie topped with flaky buttermilk biscuits instead of pie dough.  And to be honest, from here on out I’m nixing pie dough as my pot pie topper.  Why fuss with pie dough when you can make a bunch of biscuits and avoid all of that chilling and rolling?  Plus?  Come on – they’re biscuits.  They’re kind of like the most obvious food you’d want to dip into your pot pie anyway, aren’t they?  The pot pie comes together quite easily (especially when you use a rotisserie or leftover roast chicken) and in about an hour, dinner is on the table.  We adored this meal and with the weather feeling like full-on winter here already in CT, I can see this being a regular nerve-soother in our house.

Chicken and Biscuits Pot Pie

Yield: 8 servings

You can make this pot pie in either a 13x9-inch baking dish or individual oven-safe bowls (which I find cute but a nuisance) - just bake the bowls for 20-25 minutes. The filling and biscuits can both be made in advance. Keep them separate, reheat the filling before adding it to the baking dish(es) then proceed with the baking process as instructed in the recipe.

Ingredients

    For the buttermilk biscuits
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter chilled, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp buttermilk
  • For the chicken pot pie filling:
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 small ribs celery, cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 to 2 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry (optional)
  • 3 to 4 cups (about 1 1/4 lbs) shredded chicken
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

Instructions

  1. To make the biscuits: In a large bowl, stir the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar together. With a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter resembles course meal with some larger butter lumps remaining. Stir in 3/4 cup of the buttermilk with a fork until the mixture forms a soft, slightly sticky ball. If the dough is too dry, add a little extra buttermilk - 1 tablespoon at a time up to 2 tablespoons.
  2. Transfer the dough to a well-floured work surface and pull it together into a ball with your floured hands. Pat the dough out to 3/4" thickness and cut out 12 rounds with a 3-inch biscuit or cookie cutter. Transfer the biscuits to a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill until you're ready to use them. The biscuits can be made and kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days in advance.
  3. To make the filling: Preheat the oven to 400° F. Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, sauté the onions, carrots, and celery until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer cooked vegetables to a bowl with the chicken; set aside.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter to the same pot. When melted, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk, chicken broth, and thyme. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer and let it simmer for 1 minute to thicken. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the sherry (if using). Turn off the heat and transfer the vegetables and chicken to the pot, stirring until the filling is well-combined. Mix in the peas and parsley. If the filling is too thick (you'll know), stir in the extra chicken broth, about 1/4 cup at a time up to 3/4 cup until the filling loosens up a little.
  5. Pour the filling into a 13x9-inch baking dish and bake for 18 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven (keeping the oven on and door closed) and top the filling with the biscuits. Return the baking dish to the oven and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Source

source: adapted from The New Best Recipe by the editors of Cook's Illustrated

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Cookie Dough Whoopie Pies
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Maine is one of my very favorite states to visit.  There’s something about the intoxicating northern Atlantic sea air, the rocky and evergreen-studded coastline, the way the fog rolls in and engulfs the beach in the morning, watching a storm at sea roll by.  And don’t dare forget about all the lobster!

If there was any other state I could live, it would be Maine.  I could take the harsh and never-ending winters.  I could take the love the people of Maine have for the Red Sox (not that I could ever be converted).  And I could definitely take the nearly unlimited access to the whoopie pie.

Actually, since I can make them at home, unlimited access isn’t such a sticking point for me, especially when they turn out like these do.  But Kyle and I spent Labor Day weekend in Maine (as I mentioned yesterday) and I made it my mission to eat whoopie pies all weekend long…which of course didn’t happen.  We did, however, hit up a hidden gem in Freeport: Isamax Snacks.  It’s a whoopie pie shop!  Cupcakes be damned – this is Maine!  They offer over 20 different whoopie pies (including jumbo pies that serve 12-18 people) and ship nationwide.  I was somehow able to restrain myself and chose the classic and maple, both of which were seriously awesome.

That trip left me with whoopie pie withdrawl and since I didn’t have the chance to make a batch for our road trip (all of 3 hours lol), I pulled some together this past weekend.  I decided on a classic chocolate cake (pie? cookie? I never know what to call it.) with chocolate chip cookie dough filling.  For reals, how can you ever go wrong with cookie dough you can eat without the worry of getting sick?  The cake is perfectly soft, thanks to the buttermilk, with a deep chocolate flavor and it will definitely be my go-to choice for a classic whoopie pie cake.  I foresee many a-whoopie pie in my future this fall and winter, especially since I can’t get these out of my head!

Blackberry Brown Sugar Buttermilk Ice Cream
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Before last summer when I made these blackberry oatmeal pie bars, I didn’t think I liked blackberries.  And that was solely based on the fact that I wasn’t a fan of raspberries.  And that was based on the fact that I don’t really like the tough seeds that raspberries contain.  I’m slightly ashamed to admit to this picky way of thinking to you guys (though Kyle will tell you that I am actually a picky eater – ??) but I quickly found out that baking and puréeing fixes the tough seed issue.

And so this blackberry brown sugar buttermilk ice cream was born in my head.  A perfect swirl of smooth and tart blackberry sauce ripples through sweet buttermilk ice cream and together, the two blend beautifully.  I’ve been looking forward to making buttermilk ice cream for ages and I finally came across a recipe that appealed to me: one with a good ratio of eggs to cream to buttermilk.  It’s suuuper creamy, thanks to its six egg yolks, and the brown sugar adds a bit of extra sweetness – it’s really lovely with the blackberry swirl!  Scooped into an old fashioned sundae glass and topped with a little hot fudge, could you ask for a more delightful late-summer ice cream treat?

Red Velvet Cupcakes
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Red Velvet Cupcakes

It’s known far and wide around the interwebs that anything red velvet is humungously popular around Valentine’s day and strangely enough after almost 5 years of blogging, I’ve yet to post a red velvet cake recipe.  So after quite a few reader requests in the past couple of weeks for a great red velvet scratch cake recipe, I decided it was about time to share.  And believe me, it wasn’t like you guys had to twist my arm!  I scoured a few recipes on Pinterest and my favorite blogs and decided on this one since it’s made with both buttermilk and vinegar to boost the tang that is so beloved in red velvet cake.  Topped with a swirled dollop of silky cream cheese frosting, these red velvet cupcakes are an outstanding way to say “I Love You” to the hunnies in your life.  And yes, if you’re thinking about making a layer cake instead of cupcakes, Annie says that it’s a great recipe for that too – just grease three 8-inch pans, divide the batter, and bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake
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Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

For years I’ve been dreaming about finding a dense yellow cake recipe that could hold up to being stacked in layers as well as a thick layer of velvety frosting.  So many recipes I came across just didn’t fit the bill; either they were too fluffy negating the ability to even hold up to being frosted or they were flavorless and blah.

Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

So when I saw this cake posted way back in June, I filed it away in the back of my mind as a possibility for this year’s birthday cake.  The thing is, I couldn’t shake this cake.  Every time I thought about my upcoming birthday this whole summer, visions of this cake floated into the forefront of my mind.  Pink.  Sprinkles.  Vanilla beans.  It was practically the most basic cake that I wanted so desperately – nothing fancy, no swirls or drizzles or compounding flavors.  And I insisted on waiting until my birthday to make it.

Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

Believe me, there were many times where I almost threw in the towel…where this cake almost got made.  But I held strong and waited until last week.  And honestly?  I’m so glad I waited.  I made this cake, step-by-step, and feeling like it was a hot and stuffy August night in 1986 again, I had all the anticipation and excitement of the 8 year old me waiting for my candle-lit birthday cake to be brought in through the darkened room with drones of the [maybe not-so-purposefully] out of tune birthday song in the background.  Seriously, I was dancing with excitement to show Kyle this cake when he got home from work and had he OK’d eating cake before dinner (thank God for being an adult!), I think I may have burst.

Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

And it was everything I wished for.  Dense, moist, tangy from the buttermilk, speckled with vanilla beans, with a smooth buttercream frosting that lent just the right amount of sweetness to the cake layers.  It was most definitely the prettiest cake I had ever made and I couldn’t be happier with how the towering three layers and frosting held up to being cut into such perfect slices.  Needless to say, I’ve found the yellow cake recipe I’ve been searching for all these years and I can see many birthdays in the future (mine and/or others) being brightened with this vanilla bean cake.

Pink Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

Total Time: 2 hours

Yield: 12-15 servings

Ingredients

    For the Vanilla Bean Cake:
  • 3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature (on counter apprx 20 minutes)
  • 2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 9 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the buttercream frosting:
  • 3 ½ sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Ateco or Wilton color gel for dying

Instructions

  1. To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter three 8" x 2" round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, butter the rounds, and dust the pans and rounds with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, 3 to 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds into buttermilk. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated or finish by hand gently.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan on a digital kitchen scale to ensure even layers. Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes clean.
  5. Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
  6. To make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.
  7. Add the confectioners’ sugar to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated. Add in the salt. Continue to beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract and heavy cream on low speed just until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed and whip on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed, about 4 minutes. Stir in the color gel to achieve your desired color.
  8. Frost and decorate the cake as desired.

Source

sources: cake adapted from Sweetapolita | frosting adapted from Sweetapolita via Annie’s Eats

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Blueberry Buttermilk Upside-Down Cake
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Blueberry Buttermilk Upside-Down Cake

This is the cake of family secrets.  It’s the cake that will make all of the old bitties at the church fair nudge each other out of the way with oversized handbags in order to buy the sole one remaining from the cakes and pies table.  It’s the cake I can picture being baked up in a tiny southern Georgia kitchen when the thermometer is crossing 90 degrees at 8am so that it’s ready for tea at 4pm.

Blueberry Buttermilk Upside-Down Cake

Maybe it’s the buttermilk that induces these visions…the buttermilk that tends to be that secret ingredient that no one can put their finger on.  But needless to say, I’ve found the perfect white cake that I’ve been searching for.  It’s a tender (thanks to the cake flour and buttermilk) and delightful cake that when made into a layer cake (as it should have been for the original recipe) would be a complete show-stopper.

Blueberry Buttermilk Upside-Down Cake

Beth of The Powdered Plum chose the original recipe (a 3-layer with Jack Daniels’ buttercream cake) for Project Pastry Queen but I changed it substantially recipe because I honestly couldn’t bear the thought of having to resist a buttercream encased layer cake sitting on my counter this week.

Blueberry Buttermilk Upside-Down Cake

Blueberry Buttermilk Upside-Down Cake

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • A heavy/slightly rounded 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg white
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried (enough to almost cover the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan)
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Instructions

  1. Place one of the oven racks to the center position of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking or baking spray, place a circle of parchment paper over the bottom of the pan (on the spray), then lightly spray the parchment paper with more cooking or baking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder together; set aside. Stir the lemon zest into the buttermilk, set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg white and vanilla and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add about one-third of the flour mixture to the batter and beat on medium speed until just incorporated. Add about half of the buttermilk and beat on medium speed until just incorporated. Continue adding dry and wet ingredients alternately, scraping the bowl down and beating until incorporated after each addition. End with the dry ingredients; the batter should be thick and glossy.
  4. Spread the blueberries out in the bottom of the pan. Spoon the batter evenly over the blueberries and using an offset spatula, smooth the batter out to the sides of the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out mostly clean with just a few crumbs on the toothpick and the top is flat and lightly browned.
  5. Set the cake pan on a wire rack to cool for 10-15 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack and allow to cool completely before transferring it to a cake plate, dusting with powdered sugar, and serving.

Source

source: heavily adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

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New York-Style Crumb Cake
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NY-Style Crumb Cake

I am always on the hunt for a great crumb cake recipe and since crumb cake is a pretty big thing to this [former] New York girl, finding just the right recipe is really important to me.  See, I watched many a crumb cake pass through the hands of family and friends while I grew up.  It was the dessert of choice to bring to someone’s house when you were going for coffee and usually it was an Entemann’s cake.  When Entemann’s came out with their “Ultimate Crumb Cake” years ago, it was the best thing since sliced bread –  loads of big crumbs with a fresh and soft yellow cake underneath is what has driven people crazy for years and I’m thrilled to say that I’ve found a recipe that meets my high expectations.

Cook’s Illustrated has pulled together a super easy and fantastic recipe for this beloved cake and I’m so excited to share it with you today!  The use of cake flour instead of all-purpose flour yields a beautifully soft cake that puffs up underneath the always sought-after cinnamon crumb topping.  And about those all-important crumbs…I’ve made plenty of crumb cakes where I’ve needed to increase the amount of topping the recipe calls for (as I’m making the recipe which is so frustrating!) because well, shouldn’t the topping fully cover the batter? With this recipe, there are plenty of crumbs to go around for everyone and the recipe perfectly balances the amount of crumbs with the amount of cake underneath.  It’s these types of things that make finding a great crumb cake recipe so critical and when you found the right one, you know it. This one is definitely worthy of a pot of coffee.

New York-Style Crumb Cake

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Yield: 12 servings

Make sure you use cake flour for this recipe - all-purpose flour will yield a dry and tough cake. A few people have commented that their crumbs have sunken into the cake - the key to keeping the crumbs on top is to gently lay them out on top of the batter - do not push them down. This recipe yields an 8x8-inch crumb cake but you can easily double the recipe using a 9x13-inch pan.

Ingredients

    For the crumb topping:
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour (7 ounces)
  • For the cake:
  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. To make the topping: Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. To make the cake: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325° F. Cut 16-inch length parchment paper or aluminum foil and fold lengthwise to 7-inch width. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and fit parchment into dish, pushing it into corners and up sides; allow excess to overhang edges of dish.
  3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.
  4. Transfer batter to baking pan; using rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer. Break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces between your thumb, pointer, and middle fingers and spread in even layer over batter, beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan by lifting parchment overhang. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

Source

source: Cook's Illustrated May 2007

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Café Mocha Cupcakes
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We’re coffee lovers here and when we’re at home, we drink mostly half-caff or decaf which makes it easy for Kyle to justify the amount he drinks in a day.  And since we bought a Keurig back in the fall, not only can we brew a cup in about 30 seconds, but we’ve got lots of new flavors to try as well.  So when these café mocha cupcakes crossed my path a few weeks ago, I couldn’t resist.  Simple ingredients…good ingredients…lots of coffee…fantastic results.  This quite possibly is the best buttercream frosting I’ve ever made.  Espresso flavor is busting out of this smooth and decadent frosting and it’s the frosting that made this cupcake as great as it was. I’m not sure I would use this choice of cupcake recipe again since the cake was quite literally falling apart under the weight of the frosting and I really didn’t find as much coffee flavor as I had expected to.  I should have been leery of the cupcake since it’s adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe and it’s definitely not my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe so next time I make these, I’ll use my favorite devil’s food cupcake recipe.  In any event, treat yourself to some chocolate covered espresso beans for a little garnish and boost the buzz…something that’s certainly appreciated in this house after all that decaf!

Bacon-Cheddar Scones
17

Bacon-Cheddar Scones

When I think of breakfast pastries, a savory item usually isn’t what I think about.  Muffins – yes. Cheese Danish – oh yeah.  Cinnamon buns – gimme gimme gimme!  And though I love so many varieties, scones aren’t usually what I reach for…but I think my mind is changing now after making these bacon-cheddar scones.  How could anything with bacon, cheddar, and scallions not be amazing?  Quick and simple to put together, I think what’s so great about them (aside from the guaranteed amazing flavor), is that you can make them for any meal.  I served them with some cheesy scrambled eggs but making them to serve with a roast chicken for dinner or a pot of soup for lunch would be totally acceptable and I’m sure very well-received, also.  If you know you’ll be in a pinch for time, I suggest cooking your bacon earlier in the week when you have the time and pulling it out of the fridge when you’re ready to make the scones.  Alternatively, you can make the dough in advance, cut and freeze it…then bake the scones off when you’re ready for them.

Bacon-Cheddar Scones

Many thanks to Mariana of Food Junky for choosing these scones for this week’s Project Pastry Queen task.  I knew they would well-worth the 3+ years I’ve been waiting to make them!

Mother’s Day [Buttermilk] Pancakes
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mothersdaypancakes

Sunday morning breakfasts evoke such a great feeling in me.  To me, when we’re not rushing around doing errands or going to church, it’s such a treat to pull out a great breakfast recipe, brew a hot pot of coffee, and languish the morning away.  When the mercury starts rising, we’ll spend hours on the deck reading the paper, drinking coffee, drinking in the sunlight.  It’s such a treat to push away our often harried lives for some sunshine and time together.

wilmacloseup

Oftentimes, we’ll be joined by Wilma, our kitty, as she sniffs around trying to angle for the best spot on the newspaper. It’s inevitable.

wilmablackandwhite-1

I’m sharing these Mother’s Day Pancakes with you today, not to get a jump start on posting early Mother’s Day recipes, but to remind you that sometimes it’s ok to slow life down.  Turn down a play date.  Take a few hours off on a Friday afternoon just for the hell of it.  Forgo the PTA meeting.  And make these pancakes soon for your loves.  They are super fluffy and the buttermilk adds the perfect amount of tang.  I’m in love with these pancakes and I’m even more in love with the time we spend making and eating them together on those lazy Sunday mornings.

This is a way old Project Pastry Queen recipe and was chosen by Katy.  Unfortunately, the recipe isn’t posted there so I’m posting it here now.  The things a blogger has to do… ;)

Homemade Ranch Dressing
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It may seem like such a benign thing to be so excited about ranch dressing but I am.  I’m not afraid to admit it.  Like most of of us Americans, I was brought up eating bottled salad dressing.  It’s just one of those convenience foods that we can’t seem to live without…like bottled ketchup and canned beans.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza1

But did you realize that it will take you less time to make this dressing than it will to pick out a dressing from the massive variety the grocery stores offer these days? It’s true and it’s just as easy as throwing a handful of ingredients (most of which you’ll likely already have on hand) in a food processor.  This is the recipe we use for our buffalo chicken pizza, for dipping some pizza bites, all kinds of raw veggies, pretzels and chips, on sandwiches and of course on salads.  Pretty versatile and WAY easy, huh?

Pizza Bites

Ranch Dressing

Total Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup mayonnaise (I use light mayo) or plain Greek yogurt
  • ¾ cup sour cream (I use light sour cream)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ to 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 small bunch of chives or 2 scallions, roughly chopped
  • Small handful of parsley
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients along with just ¼ cup of buttermilk in a blender and blend for 10 seconds. Check the consistency and blend in additional buttermilk as needed. Use less buttermilk for dipping or pizza “sauce”, more for dressing. Store in an air-tight jar in the fridge. Leftovers will keep 2-3 weeks.

Source

source: adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride and The Gourmet Cookbook, 2004

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Buffalo Chicken Pizza
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Remember the days when you were convinced you didn’t like a certain food…and then by some unknown miracle, you found out that you actually loved that food?  Most of us have a food like that.  For me, it’s buffalo sauce.  When my girlfriends were putting down 10¢ happy hour wings in college, I was studying. Or working.  And when Domino’s showed up at the dorm in the wee hours of the night with a butt-load of extra hot wings after a long night at the bars, I usually was no where to be found (Read: already showered and in bed). I couldn’t be bothered with anything having to do with buffalo.

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But in my post-post college years, something awakened inside me.  Now 10 years after college, my college girlfriends and I still meet up a few times a year and it should be no surprise that we meet for wings. It was a few years ago that something told me that I needed to partake in this wing obsession that my girlfriends still harbored  So I gave these much beloved buffalo wings a shot and through the sweaty red face and fingertips full of hot sauce and ranch dressing, I fell in love.  I couldn’t believe what I had been missing all those years ago!  So I pitched the idea of getting wings one night to Kyle and got a thumbs down. Another non-believer! Boooo!

But there was a way around this.  A way to get my way and get some of that winged goodness in my house without Kyle turning it down…I’d put it on a pizza.  And let’s just say that he loves this pizza just as much as I do.  It’s spicy.  It’s sweet.  The flavors almost caramelize together and make it impossible to resist going back for seconds.  You won’t see a pizza dough recipe below but I’ll tell you that I’ve tried 3 or 4 different dough recipes for this pizza in the past and I wholeheartedly recommend Annie’s favorite recipe (also linked below since I haven’t blogged about it yet).  Don’t wait like I did to try out a pizza like this one; I know you’ll love it as much as we do!

Still not ready for buffalo chicken pizza?  Here are some other recipes to try out:

How to Make English Muffins
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~~~Well, here I am again.  Both surprised (shocked?) and over-the-top excited that I made it to Project Food Blog Challenge #4! It has been an honor to make it this far and to be able to share my experiences with you.  Thank you all for coming along for the ride with me as I push myself to new levels and publicly divulge my struggles and successes.  Without your encouragement and support in the first three challenges, I would not be writing this today.~~~

Let me say it right now…you’re in for a doozy of a post today.  Challenge #4 instructs to “go above and beyond and use photography to create a step-by-step, instructional photo tutorial.” If you’re been reading Smells Like Home, you won’t find a single step-by-step tutorial. Not a one. It’s not my blogging style.  So you could imagine the state of panic I’ve been in since Friday afternoon, not only struggling with the question of how to go about a photo tutorial but what was I going to show through these photos.

After a nearly sleepless Friday night including countless times waking  up with step-by-step photos of eggplant in the forefront of my mind (my third choice, by the way), I finally decided on English muffins, a feat I’ve only attempted once before.  Risky? Probably. But I was determined to make something that not a whole lot of people have attempted themselves so as to highlight the steps through photographs.

When I’m looking for a yeast recipe to make, my first impulse is to go to Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Oh how I would love to be his apprentice!  For those unfamiliar with this book, it’s the be-all and end-all of bread-baking cookbooks.  My impulse was no different for these English muffins.  After having a so-so result (my fault) the first time I made them for our annual Easter breakfast of egg salad and English muffins earlier this year, I decided to give them another go for this challenge.  Aren’t you excited to watch me make them this time??  Here goes… (PS – the instructions for each step are under its respective photo.)

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups (10 oz) bread flour
1/2 tbsp (.25 oz) granulated sugar
3/4 tsp (.19 oz) salt
1 1/4 tsp (.14 oz) instant yeast
1 tbsp (.5 oz) shortening or unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 to 1 cup (6 – 8 oz) milk or buttermilk, at room temperature


Get out your scale, place a bowl on the scale and start weighing your ingredients. (If you don’t have a scale, use your measuring cups, but I’d recommend buying one.  They’re cheap.)

Transfer the flour mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir them around a little.

Add in the shortening or butter and pour in 3/4 cup of the milk or buttermilk.


Stir on low until the dough forms a ball.

Switch the paddle out for the dough hook and knead on low speed for about 8-10minutes. Photo on the left is after 4 minutes.  Photo on the right is after 10 minutes. Work that gluten!

When the dough is ready, it should not tear when pulled (left) but pass the windowpane test (right). If it tears, continue to knead for a few more minutes.

Lightly oil a bowl. If you oil it too much…like some people who don’t pay attention while trying to take photos and pour at the same time…wipe out some of the oil and proceed to the next step.

Transfer the dough to the bowl, roll it around the bowl to coat it with oil, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Let ferment at room temperature for 60-90 minutes or until the dough doubles in size.

Wipe down your counter with a damp cloth and divide the dough into 6 pieces, each weighing 3 oz.

Shape the pieces into boules (little round loaves with tapered edges wrapped under the dough).

Mist a parchment-lined sheet pan with spray oil, dust with cornmeal, then transfer the boules to the pan then lightly spray them with spray oil, sprinkle with cornmeal, and loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap or a towel.  And then wait another 60-90 minutes while the dough proofs at room temperature or it doubles in size, swelling both up and out. Patience, Daniel-son.

Heat a flat griddle (or skillet) to medium (350 degrees F) and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with a rack in the center of the oven.  Brush the griddle with vegetable oil then transfer the dough rounds to the griddle with a flat spatula and space them at least 1 inch apart. (Keep any extra dough covered until you transfer them to the griddle.) If you have rings, great.  If not, no big deal.

The dough on the griddle will begin to flatten and spread slightly. And then it will begin to puff up.

Cook for 5-8 minutes or until the bottoms won’t brown any longer before burning; they should be a rich, golden brown (these are a wee too dark).  After this happens, carefully flip them over and cook the other sides for 5-8 minutes.

Transfer the muffins back to the sheet pan and bake for 5-8 minutes as soon as they come off the griddle.


Cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before diving in.

Or you can wait until the next morning and have them with herbed eggs, a fried egg with bacon and cheese, butter and strawberry jam or some pumpkin butter. Mmmm…pumpkin butter.

We adore this recipe and hope you will too! Enjoy!!

I Heart My Chunky Hubby [Cupcakes]
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Be forewarned that I’ll be in cupcake mode here for the next 6 weeks!  See, I’m attending Cupcake Camp New Haven on September 18th as a baker and I need to cut my list of about 300 choices of cupcakes down to just 4.  It won’t be an easy task (sigh) but I know the students working in my office for the summer will appreciate helping me narrow the choices down.

We started off the journey to cupcakedom with these Chunky Hubby cupcakes.  Remember the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Chubby Hubby flavor? Peanut butter-filled-chocolate-covered-pretzels…yum!  Well this cupcake is a deconstructed version of Chubby Hubby plus B&J’s Chunky Monkey flavor which adds banana to the mix.  Double yum!  I upped the ante and roasted the bananas before adding them to the cupcake batter and subbed in a some brown sugar for some of the white sugar.  The results of this already fantastic-sounding cupcake was truly a delight with the roasted banana and brown sugar. So you’ve got the roasted bananas, the obvious pretzel on top, some peanut butter frosting (which, if you haven’t tried this recipe yet, it’s a must), and a hidden surprise of chocolate ganache that fills the cupcake.  Does life get any better than this?!