Cream Cheese Scones {Bake!}

This week’s Bake! selection is from our newest baker, Glennis, who chose these simple, delicious scones for her first pick. And a great pick it was.

The dough consisted of flour, sugar, baking powder, cream cheese, salt, butter, eggs, and milk, and came together very quickly in the food processor. After mixing the dough, I dumped it out on a floured board, kneaded it a few times, and divided it in two.

I shaped each piece of dough into a circle about six inches in diameter, then scored each one into six sections.

Although the recipe didn’t call for it, I topped each scone with sprinkling sugar. I baked the scones at 425°F for 20 minutes, let them cool a bit, then divided them.

I served the scones with red currant jelly. They were moist, not as crumbly as many scones, and really delicious.

This was such a simple and quick recipe. It took just over half-an-hour start to finish. Definitely one to make again and again.

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Roman Almond & Pine Nut Tart {ModBak}

I made this recipe a few weeks ago but am just getting around to blogging it now. I’m not sure why it took me so long. Like most recipes in the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of The Modern Baker, this one was quite simple to put together. In fact, since I already had homemade almond paste in the fridge and pine nuts in the cupboard, I didn’t even have to buy any ingredients.

I made the filling in the stand mixer by beating almond paste and sugar, then adding eggs, butter, vanilla, lemon zest, and flour. I scraped the filling into a sweet tart crust.

I topped the tart with pine nuts and pressed them in with the palm of my hand. Pine nuts seemed like a strange addition to a sweet tart, and I was anxious to see how it would turn out.

I baked the tart in a 350°F oven for about 30 minutes, until the crust was baked through and the filling was set.

I cooled the tart, then sliced and served it for dessert.

J is a pine nut nut, so I knew she would love it. And I liked it a lot, too. It tasted like an almond cake or bread. The filling was baked through and had a texture that reminded me of scones. The pine nuts gave it a nice texture and complimented the almond flavor.

This is one of those recipes that I might never have made but for the Modern Baker Challenge. But I’m glad I tried it. And I will probably make it again.

And the Parent of the Year Award Goes to….

First Farmer’s Market Day, 2011

There are a lot of “Farmer’s Markets” around these days. I put the words in quotes because not all “Farmer’s Markets” are really Farmer’s Markets. To my mind, a true Farmer’s Market only allows local farmers and food artisans (cheesemakers, bakers, etc.) to sell food grown or produced locally.

So if you live in the Midwest and go to the market in early Spring to find acorn squash, corn, and tomatoes, you know you’ve stumbled on a “Farmer’s Market”. Get back in the car (or better yet on your bike) and move on.

You might think that given these strictures there wouldn’t be anything at the Farmer’s Market this early in the year. To which I would respond, have a look at this:

Sure, it’s not the same bounty I would come home with in mid-Summer, but that’s the beauty of the Farmer’s Market. What’s fresh is what you get. Now don’t get me wrong. Despite my own ideals, I’m far from a locavore. I do most of my shopping at the local supersized supermarket, and I buy what I want when I want it. But I am becoming more aware of the impact of my decisions, both on the environment (do I really need strawberries in February?) and, more to the point, on my and my family’s health.

So what am I going to do about it? Well, for starters I’m going to do more of my shopping at places like the Countryside Conservancy Farmer’s Market, where I can shake the hand and look into the eyes of the men and women who grow my food. I talked to several of them today, and they all invited us to visit their farms to see how they operate and where our food comes from.

I’m going to take the kids on several farm outings this year. Having grown up in Eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, I know what a farm looks, sounds, and smells like and how sustainable farmers (the Amish were green before green was in vogue) grow food. But to my kids, a chicken is something you buy in a package at the store, cleaned, cut up, and not in any way resembling a living creature. I feel like I owe it to them to teach them how this whole food chain, circle of life thing really works — blood, guts, and all.

And I guess it’s time I finally read The Omnivore’s Dilemma. As I understand it, this book is not an in-your-face, Upton Sinclair, scare the crap out of you so you never want to eat a burger again food industry expose. Rather, it’s a well-written, no-nonsense, approachable discussion about how we interact with what we eat and how our food sourcing decisions impact our health and the health of our planet.

And finally, when I do go to the mega-supermart, I’ll pay more attention to what I am buying, where it comes from, and how it was produced. I don’t promise to give up bananas, but I will plan my menu around what’s in season. And I’ll do my best to cut unnecessary chemicals out of my family’s diet.

“Hi, I’m Phyl. And I’m an omnivore,…”

Meeting Nancy

One of the things I like about being a member of several bake-and-blog-along groups (Modern Baker Challenge, French Fridays with Dorie, Bake!) is that I get to meet so many cool and interesting people. Of course, we “meet” by following each other’s blogs, Tweeting, e-mailing, etc. We keep up on each other’s baking and cooking adventures, for sure, but we also talk about our spouses, kids, jobs, other hobbies, you name it.  It’s amazing how well you can get to know someone 140 characters at a time.

It’s fun to have friends (and, yes, they are my friends) all over the world. But it’s also fun to meet them in person from time to time.

One of those opportunities came up the other day when my friend Nancy Tweeted to say she was passing through my area the next evening and would love to get together if I had the time. J had been out the day before, so she wasn’t up to hosting, but she didn’t mind if I went out. So the next evening, Nancy and I met at TGI Fridays.

I ask you, which one of us appears to have been on the road for 11 hours?

We spent an hour or two drinking Guinness milkshakes, chatting, laughing,  and getting to know one another better. We talked about our families, cooking, baking, and our other online friends. Even though this was our first in-person meeting, it was more like catching up with an old friend than meeting someone new.

 
Thanks for taking the time to stop by for a bit, Nancy. I enjoyed passing the evening with you. We’ll have to do it again soon.

Mom Hartzler’s Rhubarb Pie {Recipe}

Shortly after J and I were married, I received a card from her parents. I forget the occasion — a birthday, Father’s Day, some other holiday — but I remember the card. It said, “To a Special Son”. After the word “Son”, her mom had written “in-Law”. J and I laughed about it and decided she had probably bought a bunch of cards ahead of time and was just making do with what she had.

We saw them a few weeks later, and when I thanked her for the card, she told me that she bought that one because none of the son-in-law cards said what she felt as well as the son cards. “Besides”, she said, “we think of you more as a son than a son-in-law”. As the years went by, Mom was never neglectful when it came to marking special occasions. And over time she stopped looking for son-in-law cards and just started sending me cards addressing me as their son.

That’s how she felt about me; and how I felt about her, too. I always called her, “Mom”. I felt as welcome in her home as in my own. And even on my worst days, I always felt her love and unconditional acceptance.

We lost Mom about a year ago, and I still miss her every day. Since she died, family gatherings have fallen to me to plan and host. And regardless of the holiday, someone always asks me to make one of Mom’s recipes. I’ve nearly perfected her baked corn and deviled eggs (both from the Mennonite Community Cookbook). And recently, I tried my hand at her rhubarb pie for the first time.

I’m not sure where the recipe originated. Dad Hartzler e-mailed it to me after he brought us rhubarb from his garden. It’s one of the only recipes I’ve seen that uses both a custard-type filling and a crumb topping. I made this pie for J the other night, as it’s her favorite. I’ve never been a rhubarb fan myself (I’ve been heard to say that rhubarb pie is proof that if you add enough sugar to something, people will eat it), but I have to admit, this pie is delicious.

Mom Hartzler’s Rhubarb Pie

Ingredients

One 9-inch pie crust

Filling:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups rhubarb, washed, trimmed, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

Topping:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in center of oven.
  2. Whisk egg, sugar, flour, and vanilla in large bowl until well mixed. Add rhubarb and toss with rubber spatula.
  3. Combine topping ingredients in small bowl and blend with fork.
  4. Scrape rhubarb mixture into shell and spread evenly with rubber spatula. Use your fingers to crumble topping over filling.
  5. Bake at 400°F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F and continue baking for 40 minutes or until crumb topping is golden and filling is set.

As I baked this pie the other day, I couldn’t help but think of Mom. Not only because it was her recipe and the rhubarb came from her garden, but because of my recent forray into pie and tart baking. For years, I could cook and bake about anything, but I struggled with pie crusts. Most of my attempts ended in failure, and whenever Mom was around, she would just laugh about it and then set out to make my crust for me.

So it was ironic and somewhat bittersweet when the crust for her rhubarb pie recipe came out picture perfect.

The crumb topping looked just like I remember hers looking.

And the pie itself baked up beautifully. Just like Mom’s, if I do say so myself.

And the flavor was as I remember, too. Sweet, with just the right hint of tartness from the rhubarb. I must be a closet rhubarb fan after all, as I ate half the pie last night.

To me, baking is one of the ways I feel tied to my past. When I think of family members, especially those who have passed on, I often remember their signature dishes — the ones they always brought to family gatherings, and the ones we all looked forward to. So it’s nice to have a number of Mom’s recipes. They make me feel close to her, even though she’s no longer here.

Parisian Fruit Tarts {ModBak}

This is the first tart recipe in the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of The Modern Baker, and although I generally bake the Challenge recipes roughly in order, this was actually the 11th recipe I made from this section. We started baking from this section at the beginning of April, and I wanted to wait until the fruit at the grocery was a bit nicer looking before I made this tart.

This tart has three components — crust, pastry cream, and fruit filling. Each one is fairly easy to put together. The recipe calls for press-in cookie dough for the crusts, so that’s what I used. Based on my previous experience with this crust recipe, I refrigerated the dough before pressing it into 4 1/2-inch tart pans. The chilled dough is much easier to work with, and chilling some of the dough while working with the rest keeps it firm enough to handle. I baked the crusts for about 15 minutes at 350°F until the crusts were nicely browned and baked through.

The tart recipe includes a recipe for pastry cream, but I decided to take a shortcut and use King Arthur Flour pastry cream filling mix, which makes a rich, delicious pastry cream with no cooking or fuss.

The fruit was also very easy to prepare. I made an apricot glaze by boiling strained apricot preserves and water, then reducing it by about one-third. While the glaze was cooling, I washed, peeled, and sliced the fruit — kiwi, mango, blueberries, and blackberries. I had wanted to use fresh pineapple and strawberries, too, but I bought them too early and they weren’t in the best shape by the time I made the tarts.

After layering the fruit in a bowl, I poured in the glaze, then mixed it all gently with a rubber spatula. To assemble the tarts, I spread a layer of pastry cream in the shells, then piled on the fruit.

We absolutely loved these tarts. The crunchy cookie dough, creamy filling, and sweet-tart fruit all worked perfectly together. I will definitely be making these again and again for my family and friends. And since you can use any mixture of fruit you want, the possibilities are endless.

If you grew up eating “fruit pizza” made with canned sugar cookie dough and cream cheese filling, you owe it to yourself to try the real thing. You’ll be amazed at how easy these stunning and delicious tarts are to prepare. You could also make this as a single large tart, like my friend Abby did, to take to a party or carry-in dinner.

Either way, I guarantee it will make more of an impression than fruit pizza.

Lemony Cheese Tart with Sour Cream Glaze {ModBak}

The next recipe I made from the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of the Modern Baker Challenge was one of Kayte’s picks for her official blog post. This was another simple and delicious tart, made with sweet tart dough and ingredients I already had in the kitchen — sour cream, sugar, eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, and cream cheese.

After making the crust and preheating the oven, I mixed up the filling. I beat the cream cheese and sugar, then added the other ingredients one at a time, beating the mixture smooth after each addition. I scraped the mixture into the shell and smoothed the top.

I baked the tart at 325°F for 30 minutes, until the crust was baked through and the filling set. While the tart was baking I mixed the topping, which consisted of sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. I took the tart out of the oven, spread it with the sour cream glaze, and returned it to the oven for about 10 minutes, until the glaze was set.

When the tart had cooled and it was time to serve it, I recalled something I learned from Nick Malgieri in a cooking class. This was a huge tart, 11-inches, and I knew the slices would be long and thin if I cut them from edge to middle. Nick was slicing a large tart, and he began by cutting a circle in the center of the tart. One of the class participants asked him why he did this, and he explained that it makes the slices come out nicer looking, not overly long and thin.

This was the first time I had tried Nick’s method, and I have to say the slices came out looking really nice.

This tart was a big hit around here. It reminded everyone of cheesecake, and the sour cream gave it a distinctive flavor. Based on the reviews of some of the other Modern Bakers, I upped the lemon a bit by adding extra zest and the juice of the two lemons I zested. It had a great lemon flavor. Not as strong as lemon icebox pie, although that’s what it reminded me of.

This is definitely a recipe that will be making repeated appearances on my table.

Mango & Rice Tart (Pudding) {ModBak}

I’ve been involved with the Modern Baker Challenge for a little over a year now. Some recipes have been bigger hits with my family than others, and I enjoyed the process of baking some of them more than others. But each of the nearly 70 recipes I’ve made so far has come out as expected.

Until now.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have had my first Modern Baker FAIL. Let me say right up front, though, that it was my fault, not that of the recipe. I know exactly what I did wrong, and I’m sure that if I tried baking this recipe again, I could achieve the intended results.

This is actually a rather simple recipe. You cook some rice, make a simple syrup, mix them together with coconut cream, then let the whole thing sit until the rice soaks up all the liquid. This mixture is then scraped into a prebaked cookie tart shell and topped with sliced mangoes.

So, how did I mess this up? On the very first step. I was doing five other things while cooking the rice, and let it scorch a bit. It didn’t burn exactly, but enough of it stuck to the bottom of the pan that there wasn’t sufficient rice to soak up all the liquid. Looking at the filling, I knew there was no way this would hold up as a tart. Picture a fruit pie that doesn’t set up, and you’ll have an idea of what I was facing.

Never one to let a little thing like failure get in my way, I realized the filling was about the texture of Kheer (Indian rice pudding), so I decided to serve it in custard dishes with sliced mangoes on top. My family didn’t know it was supposed to be a tart, and they loved it. And it really did taste like Kheer — sweet, creamy, and oh so coconutty. The mangoes gave the pudding an additional depth of texture and flavor and will be a regular part of my rice pudding and Kheer from now on.

I thought about remaking this recipe, but I feel like I got the true flavors in the pudding. And heaven knows I’ve eaten enough tarts in the past few months.

Strawberry Chantilly Cake {Bake!}

My friend Kayte had a birthday recently. And in a budding Twitterbake tradition, she chose her own birthday cake from Bake! by Nick Malgieri. Kayte always has a cake with strawberries for her birthday, so this was a natural choice.

This was really more of a set of assembly instructions than a recipe. The directions referred to two other recipes — one for the cake layers and the other for sweetened whipped cream — which were combined with fresh strawberries to make this cake.

Assembling the cake was a breeze. The first layer was spread with whipped cream, layered with strawberries, and finished with more whipped cream. Then the top layer was placed on the cake, and the whole thing was spread with whipped cream. I decorated the top of the cake with sliced strawberries.

I served this cake on Easter, along with blueberry crumble pie and carrot cake. All three were bit hits, and I personally liked the blueberry pie the best. But this cake disappeared first. In fact, my 10-year-old nephew had about four pieces!

The cake layers were moist and light, and the whipped cream was so good I just wanted to eat it by the spoonful. It’s important to use really good strawberries for this recipe, as they add a lot to the overall flavor. There was a small piece of cake that escaped the Easter carnage, and I found that it was even better the next day. In fact, the next time I make this cake, I will assemble it a day ahead of time so the flavors have time to meld.

By the way, if you’re wondering why there are no pictures in the post, with all the excitement around here on Easter, I didn’t get any. You’ll just have to trust me that this cake was as beautiful as it was delicious. Or better yet, don’t take my word for it. Get a copy of Bake! and try it for yourself.

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