Cheddar Nut Scones

I was grabbing breakfast on the run earlier this week and had been scanning the baked goods at a local coffee shop. The scones of the day were these giant orange wedges dotted with something green and dusted with red pepper flakes. I just finished wondering why on earth someone would ruin a perfectly good scone by covering it in pepper, when the man in front of me exclaimed, “Oh you’ve got those scones again! Fantastic, I’ll take two!”

Not only was I surprised at his enthusiasm, but you’ve got to understand that two scones together were quite literally the size of a football. I can’t tell you if the man ate them both himself, but he was whistling as he carried his bulging paper bag and coffee out the door …and then it was my turn to order. And there was one single scone left.

I’m sure you have figured out that my curiosity got the better of me and I bought the last – very strange – scone. Along with a half-caf soy latte, my prize and I braved the morning drizzle …and as soon as I had taken that first bite I knew that guy was on to something. The scone had all the magic of the traditional cheddar variety, but with whole pistachios adding a satisfying crunch and red pepper flakes providing a deep warmth. The pepper didn’t bother me at all and – surprise, surprise – turned out to be the key ingredient. If you’ve ever had Mexican hot chocolate then you’ll know what I’m talking about. That giant scone lasted all day and before I had even gotten through half of it, I knew I wanted to try to replicate it at home (in a slightly smaller form, haha).

Cheddar Nut Scones (inspired by Uncommon Grounds)

Ingredients:

* makes 8 – 10 small scones *

3   C   AP flour, plus extra for dusting

2   t   baking powder

pinch of salt, if desired*

1/3   C   unsalted butter at cool room temp (neither fridge-cold nor soft)

1   C   buttermilk (or 1 C milk + 1 T lemon juice, let sit 5 minutes)

1   egg

½   C   shelled whole pistachios

½   C   shredded cheddar cheese, minced fine

1   t   red pepper flakes, powdered**

extra cheese and pepper for topping as desired

* Note: Between the (usually salted) pistachios and the cheese, I didn’t bother to add any salt to my dough. Depending on your preference or the nuts you’re using, though, you might want to add a pinch.

** Note: In order to avoid pockets of spiciness, blend the flakes in a food processor or grind with a mortar & pestle to produce a fine powder. If you’re apprehensive about the heat, start with just a pinch and see how the scones come out. If you’re a fan of all things spicy, feel free to load ’em up!

Procedure:

1) Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix together flour, baking powder, salt (if desired), and butter in a food processor until the blend resembles fine crumbs (or, alternatively, use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut in the butter). In a separate bowl, beat together the buttermilk and egg. In a third small bowl, combine cheese, nuts, and red pepper powder. Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture and gently mix until just combined. Add the fillings to the dough and work them in.

2) Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead only three or four times to make the dough nice and smooth (overworking the dough means dense scones). Pat or gently roll the dough out to a circle of about 1½” in thickness (I had to use a rectangle due to limited counter space, but do what you can). Using a pizza cutter or knife, divide the dough into equal-sized wedges and place wedges on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

3) Top scones with a sprinkling of cheese and extra red pepper flakes as desired and bake until golden – about 15 minutes. A toothpick test can check to ensure the centers have cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for a few minutes before serving warm with coffee or tea.

Beezer’s Notes:

My mini-replicas turned out very similar to the giant version from the coffee shop. Their scone was a bit more crumbly, so I’m suspecting I overworked my dough despite being careful, but the flavors were spot on and the delicious subtle heat was there without being overly spicy. I’m a big fan of pistachios so this recipe makes me happy as-is, but I can see it being equally tasty with sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Give it a try and tell me what you think! Perhaps this strange peppery madness is just a local thing, haha.

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥

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Pumpkin Cornbread

Happy Thanksgiving! Oh, does it seem a bit early this year for you too? Haha, I had forgotten until just about a week ago that – now north of the border – we’d be celebrating turkey day in October. It seems more than a little strange for me to be eating pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce before mini snickers bars and candy corn, but I’m guessing that’s just my deeply-ingrained childhood habits getting the best of me. Strangeness aside, I’m more than happy to adopt Canadian Thanksgiving because, if last year was any indication, it potentially means celebrating Thanksgiving, Halloween, then Thanksgiving again (for my side of the family) before we even begin to think about Christmas. Giant feasts interrupted by sickening quantities of candy? Um, yes please!

Coincidentally, the same week I was reminded about our early Thanksgiving, I also read about a very simple recipe for a very yummy sounded pumpkin cornbread. I’ve been a big fan of cornbread since I was a kid (I prefer the moist kind dressed with honey, not the pepper- or meat-infused dry hushpuppies – but to each their own) and don’t even get me started on homemade pumpkin pie…so you can see why the idea of a happy marriage between the two would instantly sound exciting. Wanting a holiday-appropriate post for this weekend sealed the deal and I gathered up the very basic ingredients needed and got to work!

Pumpkin Cornbread (via The Pioneer Woman Cooks!)

Ingredients:

1   C   unbleached flour

1   T   baking powder

1   t   salt

½   T   ground cinnamon

1/4   t   ground nutmeg

½   C   light brown sugar

1   C   cornmeal

2  whole eggs

1   C   pumpkin puree

1/4   C   olive oil

1   T   molasses

Procedure:

1) Preheat oven to 400°F and grease an 8×8″ baking dish. In a medium bowl whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, spices, brown sugar, and cornmeal. Sift the mixture as needed to remove any lumps.

2) In a separate small bowl lightly beat the eggs before stirring in the remaining wet ingredients: pumpkin, oil, and molasses. Using a rubber spatula, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined. The batter is quite thick so it does take a few minutes of gentle stirring – be patient.

3) Pour batter into pan and smooth top as much as possible while spreading batter into all corners. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. The top should be a deep golden brown in color. Let cool 10 minutes or so before slicing.

Beezer’s Notes:

This cornbread is as delicious as it is simple. The pumpkin flavor is quite strong, but in a sweet, moist compliment to the crumbly cornbread. The addition of cinnamon and nutmeg adds just a hint of spice while the molasses and brown sugar gives the bread a depth that raises it from the humble chili accompaniment to a true Holiday Side Dish – worthy of its own decorative plate on your dining room table. I ate my slices drizzled with honey, old habits are hard to break I guess, but we confirmed that it’s equally good with coffee, hot chocolate, tea, and soup. How would you eat this fantastic new twist on two fall favorites?

Overall Enjoyments:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

Jimmy Carter Smoothy

Unless you have an allergy, there are very few pairings as magical as peanut butter and banana. One of my favorite sandwiches growing up had slices of bananas on crunchy peanut butter (it had to be Jif-brand back then, I wasn’t a hippie yet haha) with a liberal dusting of cinnamon on top. I’d eat the sandwich by tearing pieces off in chunks, so the super-soft white sandwich bread was always the best kind to use. Occasionally I’d toast the bread or add chocolate chips just to mix it up a bit. To this day you’ll still find the occasional PB&B sandwich in my lunchbag – or crammed into my little bento box – because I just don’t feel like anything else. Yup, I definitely think the PB&B sandwich has taken the backseat to the classic PB&J for far too long.

(use creamy PB in your smoothy unless you'd prefer the chunks - I just only had crunchy in my cupboard at the time of this photo)

So when I stumbled across something called a “Jimmy Carter Shake” at a food joint back in VT I had to try it. It was called a shake, but was made with non-fat froyo and skim milk so it wasn’t exactly a dessert. Still, with all the calories of the peanut butter it isn’t exactly a health-food either. It had a deliciously thick consistency and you could easily taste both the bananas and peanut butter without either being too sweet. It was the perfect snack for a hot summer day and I vowed to one day learn to recreate it at home.

Jimmy Carter Smoothy (inspired by Boloco’s Jimmy Carter Shake)

Ingredients:

1   Cup   non-fat vanilla frozen yogurt (learn how to make your own here)

2   T   creamy peanut butter, preferably organic

1½   fresh ripe bananas, sliced

¾   Cup   low-fat milk

handful of ice cubs, if needed

Procedure:

  1. Put all ingredients in a blender, except for the ice cubes. Pulse until chunks have broken up and then blend on medium speed until smooth. If needed adjust for consistency and taste – because so many brands of PB differ and the sweetness will change depending on how ripe your bananas are, you really just have to play as you go here. I’ve never had to add sugar, but I’ve frequently added more banana slices or milk depending.
  2. Finally, if you don’t find your smoothy thick or cold enough, add the ice cubes and pulse until just incorporated. Serve immediately.


Beezer’s Notes:

I love how this smoothy is like a PB&B sandwich plus milk all in one! I, for one, am calling it a smoothy because it is a froyo base with fruit (I’m not counting calories haha). I’m sorry the recipe is so open-ended, but your flavor and texture really will vary quite a bit depending on brands, ripeness of fruit, and what kind of froyo you’re using. It can even be adapted to be gluten-free (just make sure you buy a gluten-free peanut butter) or vegan (use vegan ice cream and soy or almond milk). You could also spice things up a bit with a teaspoon of cinnamon or a pinch of nutmeg. Or here’s a thought: what if you tried chocolate froyo as the base instead? Oooo…

Overall Enjoyment:  ♥   ♥   ♥

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