Easy Lemon Scones

Lemon Scones paired with a whipped lemon honey and raspberry compound butter

It’s still Lemonpalooza around here. Our lemon tree is going crazy and we’ve got a lot of fruit ripening right now. So we’re scrambling to find things to do with all the fruit. Our tree produces grapefruit sized lemons with really thick peels which are ideal for cooking, because they produce a lot of juice and the peels are perfect for resting.

This weeks recipe is for lemon scones. Scones are a really easy and simple dessert and as we discussed last week, just by swapping ingredients here and there you can really change to flavor profile of scones. Scones are essential a type of biscuit, my recipe calls for baking powder as the leavened. I use the food processor for cutting the butter into the dough, but if you don’t have one, you can use a couple of butter knives, a fork or a pastry blender.

Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour

6 TBS chilled butter

½ cup kaffir (can sub sour cream, plain yogurt or buttermilk)

⅓ cup granulated sugar

½ tsp lemon extract

½ tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp salt

1 TBS lemon zest

1 tsp baking powder

1 TBS sanding sugar

¼ cup milk

Place all ingredients except milk, zest, kaffir and sanding sugar into the bowl of the food processor. Pulse 20 to 30 times, add the zest and slowly drizzle in the kaffir while pulsing the food processor. Dough should look like wet sand this should take about 10 pulses and should look like this:

Flour, salt sugar, baking powder, butter, zest, extracts and kaffir have been pulsed in a food processor until it is the consistency of wet sand.

Turn dough out onto a floured work service and form into a 1 inch thick disk like so:

Scone dough has been formed into a 1″ thick x 7″ round and will chill in the fridge for an hour before cutting and baking

The dough may still be slightly crumbly and that’s ok. Wrap the dough in wax paper or plastic wrap and place into the fridge to chill for at least an hour.  Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and cut into wedges.

chilled dough cut into wedges

Place wedges on to parchment lined baking sheet and brush with milk

unbaked scones being brushed with milk

Dust the milk brushed scones with sanding sugar.

scones being dusted with sanding sugar

Bake scones in an oven preheated to 400F for 15-18 minutes. Scones should be golden brown on the bottom and starting to turn golden brown on the edges.

 

When Life Gives You Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemon Tart garnished with Meyer Lemon zest and whipped cream

…you make a Meyer Lemon Tart

One of the many things I love about living in Southern California is that just about everybody and their brother has citrus trees. Many of my co-workers know I cook and bake and I become the happy recipient of a lot of excess homegrown fruit. Through the years I’ve been gifted persimmons, peaches, guavas, passion fruit and just a few weeks ago, key limes much of which turns up in recipes here. This week one of my co-workers shared their surplus of softball sized Meyer Lemons with me so I decided to make a lemon tart. Its also been really rainy and dreary here for the past week, so we could use some lemony brightness.

A few weeks back, I promised I would share a recipe that uses lemon curd and here it is, just a few weeks late. I’d rate this tart as being fairly easy, it just takes about 4 hours so the tart can set up.

Meyer Lemon Tart

1 cup lemon curd (find recipe here)

1 baked and cooled tart shell

Blind baked tart shell cooling after being baked at 375F for 20 minutes

3 cups stabilized whipped cream (see below)

*reserve 1 cup for garnish

1 TSP freshly grated lemon zest

In a large bowl, fold together 1 cup of lemon curd with 2 cups of stabilized whipped cream and lemon zest until thoroughly combine.

Myer lemon curd is combined with stablized whipped cream

Spread into a fully baked and cooled tart shell and chill for 4 hours before serving. Garnish with reserved whipped cream and lemon zest

Stabilized Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 packet of unflavored gelatin

4 TBS of water

1 TSP Vanilla flavoring

¼ cup powdered sugar

Chill a metal bowl and beaters from mixer in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. In a microwave safe bowl, let the contents of one packet of gelatin bloom with 4TBS of water. This should take about 5 minutes. Stir and then microwave the bowl of gelatin and water for 20 seconds. Remove from the microwave and stir thoroughly until all the gelatin is dissolved. Set aside and let cool to room temperature stirring periodically. Using chilled bowl and chilled beaters. Beat 1 cup heavy whipping cream until doubled in volume, slowly add the powdered sugar and vanilla until incorporated, then drizzle in the room temperature gelatin water and continue beating on high until stiff peaks form. Immediately add into recipe or piping bag and chill.

 

The Best Laid Plans…..

 

Special occasion cookies from custom stencils made using 7mil mylar from Amazon and a Silhouette Portrait

I teased in last weeks post that I’d share a recipe this week that makes a good use of homemade fruit curd. But this is one of those weeks where it seems that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get all the things done that I’d like to/need to.

This blog tends to be a casualty of that. I’ve got a cookie project that I’ve been working on for the past few weeks, that needed to get shipped out, so that has priority. I have a little bit of time off coming up at the end of this week and will hopefully be able to get that promised recipe up plus do some planning ahead for some future post.

Now some of you may be aware that I’ve got a thing for decorated sugar cookies. In fact, I wooed my wife with sugar cookies, I even used a sugar cookie demo as my final in one of my classes in college (the same class that required that I have this blog). So I expend a lot of time and thought designing cookies and related materials, I have 3 future cookie projects already in the works. I’ve been planning a project for my Mother-In-Law’s 75th birthday celebration. I came up with a motif, I opted for FLA-centric theme because that’s where my in-laws live and found some really cool cutters at my favorite local cake shop (shout out to Classic Cake Decorations in Westminster, CA) to form the basis of the theme and planned to use stencils to help embellish the design and to make backgrounds on some of the cookies. I use stencils for practical reasons, its faster than piping and well to be frank, I just don’t have the hand strength and stability that I once did to do that level of detailed piping.

In the past, I hunted online for something close to what I wanted or that I could make work to augment the theme, then waited however long it took to get to me if it wasn’t available on the Amazons. I’ve had a Silhouette for a couple of years now and one of the reasons I got it was to make my own stencils for various projects and in particular cookies. I’ve made stencils for etching projects and such, but haven’ dealt with thicker material like that of re-useable cookie stencils. My plan was to do that with this project.

There are a multitude of reasons to make your own stencils, for me, the ability to design my own stencil and not have to pay for someone else’s designs is huge, and there are limitless design possibilities with custom stencils. Then there’s also the ability to monetize the stencil making by selling them and getting ROI for the materials and equipment you use, versus tacking that cost into cookie pricing and such.

I ordered some 6″ square 7 mil mylar from Amazon because they’d fit perfectly into a stencil genie. The cost in material is $.45 each for stencils that can be reused and washed multiple times. And at 7 mil thick, the material is thick enough to not get blown around by the airbrush and misshaped when using thick royal icing. There’s also a workflow argument to have multiples of the same stencil so you can reduce the washing time between color changes and such.

The material arrived a few days ago, and I found that there’s not a lot of references online for what settings to use to cut mylar at this thickness. There was a lot of frustrating troubleshooting and trial and error to finally get decent cuts. I wound up losing an entire afternoon that was supposed to be spent baking to troubleshooting. Some of my patterns are really detailed so not having deep enough cuts, made weeding a nightmare (weeding is removing the negative/positive space from a stencil) and put a lot of undo strain on my eyes, many X-acto blades and the Portrait’s cutting mat. One of the patterns took nearly an hour to cut only to find out that it didn’t cut all the way through the material for most of the pattern, rendering it so tedious to weed that its not useable.

Now I realize this is a bit esoteric for some of you that came here to see decadent desserts or get some quick and easy recipe. But I know that some of you are also cookie and cake decorators that have die-cut machines like my Silhouette Portrait (the original not the 2 which would have eliminated this problem because it automatically sets the depth) and might be able to learn from my miss adventures.

So the take aways:

  • allow plenty of time for the stencils to cut, the more intricate the stencil the longer the cut time.
  • Keep a new blade for you cutter around
  • Clean the blade between stencils
  • have a cutting mat and craft knife handy to cut out the areas that didn’t cut cleanly
  • go over your stencil pattern thoroughly before sending it to cut, to make sure the lines are clean and any containers (the negative space that is formed by looped style letters like b, a, e, etc) are attached to the pattern, otherwise they will fall out during cutting.
  • and finally, the cut settings for the Silhouette Portrait are depth 10, speed 3, force 33, passes 7 (I’m unfamiliar with any other dye cutter so not able to provide guidance on their operation or what settings will work for them)

Here are the various stencils I made, the material is strong enough to stand up to airbrushing and thick heavy icing.

a leaf motif for the background, an island with palm trees and another leaf motif

And now that that’s all sorted, I can get back to the actual baking and decorating of the cookies. Stay tuned.

Curds and Whey…well maybe not whey

Seasonal fruit and store bought pound cake make for an easy dessert.

In this week’s post we’re revisiting something that I’ve talked about quite a bit through the years…curd. Fruit curd is super easy and can be dressed up or down and switched up in so many ways. Its like the utility fielder of the dessert world.

Back in September with the donut post, I included a recipe for Passion Fruit Curd at the bottom. I actually shot video for how to make the passion fruit curd at the time, but didn’t have it edited in time to be added to the donut post. I’m bringing this up again, because knowing how to make curd will be extremely useful for an upcoming recipe (most likely next week’s post, hint hint).

One of the great things about knowing how to make a good curd is that you can change 1 simple ingredient and completely change the flavor. Sub out lemon juice for, blood orange, mango, passionfruit, or key lime (or countless options) and you can easily adapt it into all sorts of new and interesting combinations and purposes. Like using it as the filling between cake layers (hint!),donut filling or an easy way to dress up a store bought pound cake or homemade eclairs as we’ve discussed in previous posts.

The other advantage of making your own curd besides being able to come up with all sorts of fanciful flavor combinations, is that you can scale it up easily and its inexpensive to make at home. I recently paid $5 for a 4 oz jar of store brand lemon curd and wound up needing a few jars worth to finish a recipe. My recipe for curd usually yields about 8 oz. So a cake that would have had negligible costs because I used things that were already in my panty wound up costing the price of curd plus the time and inconvenience of a  late night trip to 2 different grocery stores to buy more because I underestimated the amount I’d need.

Recipe

6 Egg Yolks

3/4 cup granulated sugar

½ cup Citrus Juice (lemon, lime, orange and passionfruit make good choices)

3/4 stick chilled butter cut into cubes

1 tsp finely grated zest

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan combine egg yolks, sugar, citrus juice, in a heat bottomed sauce pan over low heat, stir constantly until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Run mixture through strainer to remove any large pieces. Then slowly stir in the butter until all the butter has been added and is melted. Cover curd directly with cling wrap to prevent a skin from forming and let cool in the fridge before using.

And here’s the video to show you how its done…

 

Peppermint Chocolate Layer Cake with Peppermint White Chocolate Buttercream Icing

Rich chocolate cake stacked high with layers of Peppermint White Chocolate Buttercream Icing and finished off with more buttercream, chopped up candy canes, and peppermint bark

I hope everyone had a relaxing Christmas Holiday, things are settling back down around the homestead and the marathon cookie baking and decorating has come to an end. Now that we’re heading into the New Year, things are also calming down at work and I should be back to having consistent days off which will hopefully allow the blogging schedule to fall back into place.

This week’s recipe came about because I was asked to bring a dessert for Christmas dinner.  I’ve been intrigued (read obsessed) with MilkBar’s layer cakes (and their corn cookie and crack pie). The gang over at MilkBar always seem to come up with these fanciful flavor combinations for their cakes and they have a distinct visual style with their unfrosted sides. It’s been ages since I’ve baked a layer cake, so I thought it would be kind of fun to try my hand at building a MilkBar style towering marvel.

Over the years via interviews and various cooking segments, Christina Tosi (the genius behind MilkBar) has shared how she goes about designing and assembling these cakes with the cake itself, the frosting and a textural element as the basic components. In this case because of the holiday I opted for crushed candy canes and crumbled peppermint bark for my textural elements. I also decided to use peppermint oil rather than peppermint extract, because it provides an intense wallop of peppermint flavor. You can certainly use peppermint extract, it just takes a lot more extract to provide the same intensity of flavor and that will impact the texture of the frosting. I was able to find food grade peppermint oil at a specialty shop, but you should be able to find it easily enough on the interwebs.

As it turns out, I must have given away our cake pans when we moved from NJ to CA. So I had to go out and buy new cake pans. I opted for 7″ inch springform pans figuring that the springform would come in handy for assembly, transport and unveiling. I lucked out and was able to find 3 identical pans at Homegoods.

There’s basically three stages to creating this cake, first its the baking of the cake, then making the buttercream and then the last part is the assembly of the cake itself. The whole process took about 8 hours, which includes the time the cake had to chill in the fridge so the icing could set up and help hold the.cake together so It could be transported to its destination.

Part 1…the cake

Ingredients

  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint oil
  • 8 oz. melted extra dark chocolate
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 8 tsp extra dark cocoa

Place a clean glass or stainless steal bowl over a pot of lightly boiling water to make a double boiler. Break the chocolate into small chunks and place into the bowl, stir until all the chocolate has melted. Set aside to let cool. While the chocolate is cooling, assemble the rest of the cake ingredients. In a large bowl, combine, flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cocoa and set aside. In another bowl, mix the oil, water, sour cream, vanilla extract, peppermint oil and eggs lightly until combined then slowly pour into the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined by hand or with an electric mixer. Slowly mix in the melted chocolate. Divide batter evenly between 3 prepared 8″ cake  pans and bake in an oven preheated to 350 for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Because I used smaller pans and filled them to about half full, the cake took closer to an hour to bake for me. Remove from the oven to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from the pans and let cool completely before icing.

Part 2….the Icing

Ingredients

  • 1lb unsalted butter (softened and room temperature)
  • 12 oz white chocolate chips
  • 1lb powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp food grade peppermint oil
  • 2 TBS corn syrup
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream

Use a double boiler or microwave to melt white chocolate chips and set aside to cool. Once the white chocolate has cooled but is still liquid, whip butter in a large bowl or stand mixer with whisk attachment on high speed until the butter turns pale yellow. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and add vanilla extract and peppermint oil and whisk on medium speed until flavoring is incorporated. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle in the white chocolate and add the corn syrup*. Turn the mixer off and scrap down the sides. Add ⅓ of the powder sugar and turn the mixer on to low, mix until the powered sugar is thoroughly incorporated, turn off the mixer and scrap down the sides between each addition. Continue until all the powdered has been added. You should hear the motor of the mixer slow down. Now gradually start adding the heavy whipping cream. Your looking for a nice spreadable/pipable texture that’s not too loose. The icing should be airy but still hold a peak so you may not need all the cream.

Part 3….Assembly

Some assembly required. A springform pan and a sheet of clear vinyl hold the cake together during assembly.

 

  • large spoon or piping bag with large tip to apply icing
  • 1 cake pan
  • 1 cake board
  • a 10″ wide strip of acetate of clear vinyl.
  • clear tape
  • crushed candy canes
  • broken up pieces of peppermint bark

Cut the acetate of vinyl so that the length is equal to the circumference of the cake pan with 1″ overlap. The acetate/vinyl is what will allow you to build up the layers of the cake.  Level all three cakes, crumble the tops and set aside, you’ll use them to form the bottom layer of the cake.

Place the cake board at the bottom of the cake pan, then form a cylinder with the acetate/vinyl and place it into the cake pan, making sure that the cylinder is snug against the sides of the cake pan. Tape the top and bottom of the cylinder.

Spread a thin layer of icing on the cake board and pack the crumbled up cake into the bottom of the cake pan and top with a layer of buttercream. I find that its easier to use a piping bag for this rather than trying to spread with a spoon. Sprinkle the buttercream with crushed up candy canes and peppermint bark. Continue layering cake, buttercream and candy until get to the top layer. Frost the top layer and sprinkle with more candy canes and peppermint bark. Place a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the cylinder and place in the fridge to chill for at least 6 hours or overnight. This will allow the frosting to firm up which will help keep the cake together.

To serve, tip the cake onto its side and remove the cake pan, keeping a hand on the cake board so that it stays in place, turn the cake back up upright and place it onto a cake stand or plate. Cut the tape and remove the vinyl/acetate cylinder.

Enjoy….

* The corn syrup is necessary for texture and to help stabilize the frosting. Honey or agave will not substitute in this case because they’ll solidify and turn gritty when the cake is chilled.