Cranberry Orange Drop Scones

Buttery scones packed with fresh cranberries and orange flavor, perfect for the beginning of fall!

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Big news, Reader.  After being back home with my parents for just over a month, I moved to West Virginia last week – I was probably packing the car as you were reading about Sparkling Wine with Strawberries.  West Virginia is not really someplace I ever imagined myself living, but after visiting a few times and seeing how absolutely gorgeous it was and how there are some cute towns, I decided to take advantage of an opportunity to serve with AmeriCorps doing heritage development.

We’ve been in training this week, filling out paperwork, doing leadership activities, receiving lots of AmeriCorps swag, and getting to know other AmeriCorps members serving with the same program.  I’m liking what I’ve seen thus far, though every now and then I have an “OH GOD WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO?” moment.

The last week before I came to West Virginia, the temperatures skyrocketed at home and it was in the 90s and humid.  As I drove south, it got quite windy and leaves swirled about.  When I woke up the first morning in my new apartment, it was 59° out.  All this is to say: fall seems to be arriving, at least in my new little town.  And fall not only means pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, it also means apples and sweet potatoes and squash and cranberries.

I adore cranberries.  Making cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving has been my job since I was, I don’t know, eight years old?  If someone else offers to make it I feel like they are discounting me and taking away my dish.  But cranberries are fantastic in breads, muffins, scones, chicken salad, or covered in chocolate as well.  And today I’ve got a Cranberry Orange Scone recipe to share to help welcome the first hints of fall!  Tender scones with fresh cranberries bursting in each bite and a fresh, bright flavor from orange zest.  What could be better on a fall morning?

(Oh, and I don’t yet have Internet in my apartment, so bear with me while I get that sorted out.)

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Cranberry Orange Drop Scones

adapted from bakingbites

makes about 12 small scones

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour (or use all-purpose or your favorite combination)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, chilled
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • zest of one orange
  • juice of one orange, plus enough milk or orange juice to make 3/4 cup
  • raw or demerara sugar, for sprinkling

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Grease a scone pan or a regular cookie sheet.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl.  Cube butter and add to dry ingredients, then cut in with your fingertips, a fork, or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal.  Stir in cranberries and orange zest.  Add 1/2 cup of the orange juice and milk and stir to combine.  Gradually add in more liquid until the dough forms a ball.

Drop spoonfuls of the dough into a scone pan or onto a cookie sheet and sprinkle with demerara sugar.  Bake for about 16-20 minutes, until the scones are light golden brown.

Sparkling Wine with Strawberries {Erdbeerbowle}

White wine, sparkling wine, strawberries, and orange liqueur all mix together for a light, refreshing drink!

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In 2010, after taking a year of German class, my mom decided that we should go on vacation to Germany to practice.  As I love to travel, I was all for exploring the country, though I was still hesitant about trying out my German language skills on the natives.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably remember that later I ended up studying abroad and then I spent a year teaching in Austria.  German – the language and the cultures of Germany and Austria – have definitely influenced my life in many ways.

On that first trip to Germany, my mom and I went for a week and a half and visited a few cities in the northeast.  As we were traveling in mid-May, we encountered all the signs of spring: Spargelzeit (“asparagus time”), the seasonal Maibock beers, Maypoles, and spring festivals.  The spring festival we visited in Osnabrück was my first German fair experience and, man, do they know what they are doing.  Rides, food, beer and wine flowing, folk costumes, and just enough kitsch being sold to be entertaining and not overwhelming.

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erdbeerbowle03This Erdbeerbowle, a sparkling wine drink with strawberries, was served at the spring festival we visited.  In wine glasses.  Real ones.  That blew my mind, a little bit.  Of course, you had to pay a deposit on the glass as an incentive to return it when you were finished, but still.  No plastic cups in sight.  It’s traditionally a spring drink and, I know, summer is basically over.  But I’ve still got until Monday before I begin my next adventure (more on that sometime soon), so I figured I’d better post this now.

I love how light this drink is, and how it’s like white wine but isn’t just white wine.  And it’s so easy!  You can make one pitcher of it and then you’re done, no making cocktails all night when guests are over.  It would be fantastic made with the first spring or summer strawberries, but if you just use fresh berries from the grocery store or farmer’s market, that will work just as well.  I promise.

Sparkling Wine with Strawberries

from Brigitte magazine

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. fresh strawberries
  • 5 T orange liqueur
  • 2 bottles white wine (750 ml each), chilled
  • 1 bottle dry sparkling white wine, such as Sekt or Prosecco, chilled

Instructions

Remove green strawberry tops and quarter berries.  Place strawberries in a large bowl or zip-top bag and cover with orange liqueur, stirring or tossing gently to coat.  Let rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes to an hour.

Place soaked berries in a large punch bowl and pour wines over the berries.  Serve and enjoy!

Martha Stewart’s Yellow Buttermilk Cake

Light, tender, and flavorful, this yellow buttermilk cake recipe from Martha Stewart is the only one you’ll ever need.

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Ok, Reader, I know my blog posts have been more sporadic than usual for the last…month.  I’m hoping that will change soon, but for now please bear with me.  I’ve been stocking up things to share so I can hopefully get back into the groove of posting at least every Saturday.  (I’m pretending this is a Saturday post.  I just ran out of time yesterday/may have chosen to watch The Great British Bake Off in my free hours instead.)

I made this cake a few weeks ago and am so in love with the recipe.  I’ve been a cake-from-scratch convert for the past, oh, six years, but have never had much luck with yellow cakes until this recipe.  They always seemed a bit too dry, or too blah.  Even the ones from my favorite vintage Betty Crocker cookbook.

But this Yellow Buttermilk Cake, Reader, is a great cake.  Martha Stewart (or perhaps one of her minions) really hit the nail on the head with this one.  It’s so tender, but not enough that you can’t stack it in layers, it’s light, it’s flavorful, and it’s straightforward.  I know, the photos aren’t great, but I misjudged the time when putting the cake together and then BOOM it was dark out, and I had to bring the cake to a birthday celebration.  Oops.

If the pictures don’t look fantastic, please trust me when I say that this is the best yellow cake I have ever made, and is way up there on my list of best yellow cakes ever eaten.  You will not be able to eat a yellow cake from a box after this.

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Yellow Buttermilk Cake

makes 3 – 9″ round layers

very, very slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes (first edition)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup + 2 T butter (Martha says use unsalted, I used salted and thought it was fantastic)
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs + 3 egg yolks
  • 2 cups buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, mix a scant 2 cups milk with a big splash of vinegar)
  • 1 T vanilla extract

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour 3 – 9″ round cake pans.  I like the kind with a bottom that pops out.

Sift together flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.  Prepare “buttermilk” by adding vinegar to regular milk, if necessary.

In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add whole eggs then egg yolks, one at a time, beating each until it is fully incorporated.  Add vanilla extract to milk.

Add flour mixture to the creamed butter sugar and eggs in three batches, alternating with milk mixture.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary.

Divide evenly into the three pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating pans as necessary.  When done, the cakes should be golden brown and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean.

Posted to Totally Talented Tuesday!

Brunch at the Pond House

Over the past few years I’ve acquired friends in various parts of the country (actually, the world) as tends to happen when you do things like go to college or go abroad.  The Internet makes it pretty easy to keep up with them, especially with videochatting and Facebook.  But it’s not quite the same as seeing them face-to-face.

Last week I met up with a friend/former roommate who lives several hours away for brunch.  We did a “meet in the middle” thing so neither of us had to drive all the way to see the other, which was perfect for brunch.  Halfway for us was approximately Hartford, Connecticut, so after some serious reviewing of Yelp’s brunch reviews, we decided to meet at the Pond House Cafe in West Hartford.

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The Pond House is in Elizabeth Park, which means there is no search for parking (as the park has ample parking spots), no street traffic, and a lovely green setting.  If you’ve ever watched Gilmore Girls, the neighborhood the park is in is reminiscent of Emily & Richard’s place.  The cafe’s prices, though, are quite reasonable.   And the menu is available online (a major bonus, in my book).

After happy greetings, my friend and I headed inside.  We didn’t have reservations (which the hostess sort of implied we should have made for Sunday morning brunch) but took us in to be seated right away anyway.  The restaurant was full but not packed.  Service was quick, and the food was hot and tasty.  The Yelpers were right!

The Pond House looks a little odd from the outside – I don’t think the building was initially supposed to be a restaurant.  Inside there are three seating areas (plus a mostly empty room that looked like an event space): a large, high-ceilinged room with mildly funky decor, a smaller room with classier decor, and a few outdoor tables.  We were in the first room.  Once we were seated, menus were delivered promptly (menus on tablets!) and once we ordered we didn’t have to wait too long for the food.

Now, the food.  I know, this is probably why you’re really here, Reader, and I’ve saved it til the end.  Both my friend and I decided to get that day’s brunch special, which was Italian Eggs Benedict.  Two poached eggs served over a scoop of white bean, tomato, and escarole stew which was on top of corn bread.  I am a huge eggs-for-breakfast fan (though I don’t do it often) and while I usually just go for an omelet, I was rather pleased that I was more adventurous at the Pond House.  The special came with your choice of a mimosa or Bloody Mary – I had the former – and was under $14.  The eggs were poached perfectly, the cornbread was just as I like it, and I could’ve had a bowl of the stew by itself.  Had I decided not to get the brunch special, there were plenty of other options that sounded enticing, from the Apple & Brie Omelet to the Breakfast Quesadilla.

All in all, I was very pleased with the cafe – the location, the food, and the service were all up to par.  Should I ever be in West Hartford again, I will be heading back!

Mocha Truffle Cookies

Delicious chocolate cookies with an intense coffee kick!

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Saturday already!  I’ve fallen into a bad habit of not writing my blog posts in advance, like I used to do, and instead writing them on the day I plan to post.  I like doing it the other way better, but somehow the week disappeared.

I’m not sure what I was doing.  Besides, like, trying to figure out my life.

And thinking about what I’ll be sharing with you next week.

So this will be a short post!  This is one of those recipes that I’ve had saved (okay, pinned) for ages but never got around to making because of that one silly ingredient I didn’t want to buy.  In this case that ingredient was instant coffee.  I know, I know, a small purchase, but I really wouldn’t have used it for anything else, except for the odd chocolate baked good, maybe.  I’m not a huge coffee drinker, instant or otherwise.  (Ha, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking about how fantastic an iced coffee would be.  I may not be a huge coffee drinker, but when it’s warm enough to go around without a sweater, I love a mid-afternoon iced coffee).

When paired with chocolate, though, I am much, much more open to the consumption of coffee.  The mocha flavor in these cookies really comes through–like a mocha from a good coffee shop, one that’s not too sweet.  These may not be the prettiest, but they definitely are quick, chocolatey, and chewy!  What more could you ask for in a cookie?

The Wordy Baker

Mocha Truffle Cookies

From Cooking a la Mel

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (for melting)
  • 1 T instant coffee powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 2 cups flour (I used half white whole wheat)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (to stir in at the end)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease 2-3 cookies sheets, or line them with parchment paper instead.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate chips.  When melted, remove from heat and stir in instant coffee.  Let cool for five minutes, then stir in the sugars, eggs, and vanilla.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  Add the chocolate-butter-sugar mixture to the flour mixture and stir until mostly combined, then add remaining 1 cup chocolate chips.  Stir to combine.  The mixture will be on the drier side.

Scoop dough in rounded tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.  These do not spread much.

Bake for about 10 minutes.  Let cool briefly on the cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Garlic Knots {Campfire Cooking}

You don’t just have to have hot dogs and baked beans on camping trips!  Next time you’re cooking over a fire, try these garlicky bread rolls to change things up!

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As mentioned, I spent this past week camping and visiting relatives.  My sister is a (relatively) recent vegetarian, which meant that the usual hot dogs were not an option.  The little stores in rural West Virginia really left us scratching our heads on the first night (thank you onions, potatoes, and aluminum foil), but when we remembered to hit a big grocery store before getting to the backwoods campsite on night #2, we had the ability to be really creative.  With all of Kroger as our oyster, we had so many options!  What do my mom, my sister, and I all like to cook with?  Garlic, and lots of it.

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Garlic knots, all ready to be packaged and set over the fire.

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Crimped and doubled aluminum foil packet of garlic knots, plus a few stray veggies to be grilled.

This version of garlic knots is perhaps a bit heartier and, yes, I’ll admit it, a bit sloppier than whatever you might make in your kitchen.  But it’s really quite easy and doesn’t involve too many steps or hard-to-transport ingredients.  It’s a great vegetarian addition when you’re cooking over an open fire, especially served with some grilled veggies and a possibly-breaking-the-campsite-rules bottle of white wine.

All you need to make these is refrigerator pizza crust (I used a tube of Pillsbury whole wheat), a few ounces flavored butter (mine was garlic and herb), a few cloves of garlic, aluminum foil, and (of course) a campfire preferably with a grate.  The results may not win any prizes for beauty, but they certainly win on flavor!

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Almost dinner time: garlic knots, the stubborn veggies that don’t want to cook, and hot water.

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All done! And only a little burned.

Campfire Garlic Knots

makes about 6 large knots

Ingredients

  • 1 – 14 (ish) oz tube of pizza dough
  • a few ounces flavored butter, such as garlic and herb flavor, softened
  • about 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

Special Equipment

  • heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • a campfire with a grill grate

Instructions

Spread out a large rectangle of double layer of aluminum foil.  Butter a smaller rectangle on the foil–this is where you will place your garlic knots.  You should leave about 2 inches on all sides unbuttered, as these edges will be folded over.

On a clean surface, roll out your pizza dough.  Smear with about 2/3 of the remaining softened butter and all the chopped garlic.  Slice into approximately six slices.  Fold each slice in half, then tie with a knot and place on the buttered aluminum foil.  Spread a small amount of butter on top of the garlic knots.

Cover the garlic knots with another double-layer of aluminum foil and tightly crimp on all sides to make a foil packet.  Place on the grill grate over a hot campfire.  Flip halfway through cooking.  Cooking time will vary greatly depending on the heat of the fire, how close the grate is to the fire, etc.  Ours took about 10 minutes on each side.  Serve hot.