Vanilla Bean Scones with a Vanilla Bean Glaze

Happy New Year to you all. In the spirit of resolution making, yesterday I resolved to do two things: Delete my Facebook account and make Vanilla Bean Scones. Odd combination, perhaps, but it just worked out that way. Instead of setting some unreachable, obscure resolution, I went with two pretty much instantly gratifying goals. It worked.

Facebook, for me, was like some weird, grown-up (sort of) popularity contest. Having never been a super popular person, nor cared about being popular, I always had this nagging inner turmoil regarding my Facebook usage. Why do I care how many “likes” I get? Why do I not really know half the people I am “friends” with? I do not want to read personal, often graphic health details; I do not want to read religious or political rants. I found myself posting less and less, and I didn’t want to be one of those weird creepers who has a Facebook account but pretends like they don’t—a little too much like voyeurism for my liking. As much as I really did enjoy certain people’s pictures, posts, and comments, it was such a time suck—sucking time away from what I really want to do: write, cook, read, decide what I want to do with my life!

Anyway, my answer was twofold. Rid my life of Facebook and bake something to get my creative writing juices flowing again. Kitchen therapy fixes almost everything, and what it doesn’t fix it at least soothes for a while, and I needed some soothing. So, I made scones.

I made a version of these scones about a year or so ago after watching Ree Drummond AKA The Pioneer Woman make them on her show. I am wild about vanilla, especially when vanilla beans are involved. When I saw her make these, I knew I had to try them.

They were good—very tasty—but they needed some fiddling. So, I fiddled and came up with this recipe. Much, much better. Still soft and buttery, but not so crumbly they fall apart in the glaze.

And, how appropriate to make scones on Downton Abbey premier day! How very British of me.

Here’s the delicious recipe with step-by-step pictures:

Vanilla Bean Scones with a Vanilla Bean Glaze

Makes 24 scones

Ingredients:

Scones:
2 whole vanilla beans
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 and ½ tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, diced and very cold
1 egg

Glaze:
1 whole vanilla bean
1/2 to ¾ cup milk, start with ½ but you may need the full ¾ cup
5 cups powdered sugar

To Prepare:

For the scones:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape out all the vanilla seeds inside.
IMG_7902
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and vanilla seeds. With a pastry cutter, two butter knives, or your fingers, cut the cold butter into the flour mixture. Keep going until the mixture resembles crumbs.
IMG_7905
IMG_7908
Mix the cream with the egg in a large, spouted measuring cup. Pour the cream in slowly while gently stirring the dry ingredients with a fork just until it comes together.
IMG_7910
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and lightly press it together until it forms a rough rectangle. Cut dough in half and stack one half on top of the other, press back into a rough rectangle. Repeat this process one more time. The stacking process creates perfect, flaky layers. I do this same trick when I make biscuits.
IMG_7911
IMG_7912
IMG_7913
Use your hands or a rolling pin to roll into a rectangle about 12-by-7 inches and 1/2-to-3/4-inches thick. Then cut the rectangle into 12 squares/rectangles.
IMG_7914
IMG_7915
Next, cut each square/rectangle in half diagonally, to form two triangles. Transfer to a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 17 minutes. The bottoms will just be getting golden, but the tops should still be quite pale.
IMG_7916
IMG_7917
Allow to cool completely before glazing.For the glaze:

Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.Mix the powdered sugar, vanilla seeds, and milk in a large bowl, adding more powdered sugar or milk if necessary to get the right consistency. Stir or whisk until completely smooth and pourable.

IMG_7920
IMG_7921
One at a time, carefully dunk each cooled scone in the glaze, turning it over to coat completely. (Your hands are the best tools for this. It’s messy, but so much easier than anything else I’ve tried. So wash your hands and roll up your sleeves.)
Once dunked, transfer to parchment paper. I do this in two steps, because as they sit the glaze will pool up a little. So after about 20 minutes, I carefully transfer the glazed scones to a fresh sheet of parchment so I don’t end up with a thick bottom layer of glaze when they set completely.
Alternatively, you can just dip the tops, or you can use a spoon to zig-zag the glaze over the tops. I go for the total submersion method.
IMG_7924
IMG_7926
Enjoy! The vanilla beans really do make these so special. I hope you love them.
IMG_7929

PS: My daughter wanted to help me type; this is her contribution. She typed it all by her little self: “Ava and mommy made scones we had fun.” It’s the truth.

https://twitter.com/cookonawhim

http://instagram.com/cookonawhim/

Advertisements

Peach Muffins

This is the first recipe I came up with after a recent peach-picking trip to Hollin Farms with my kids. On the drive home, my son was already devouring a peach, and I was already thinking of what I would make with the fuzzy beauties.

Before I moved on to peach pie and peaches over vanilla ice cream (my favorite), I was determined to use them in some kind of breakfast recipe. Peach pancakes crossed my mind, obviously fresh peaches sliced up on yogurt or french toast would be delicious, but then my thoughts landed on muffins. Peaches with brown sugar and vanilla? Yes, please. I’m not really sure why peach muffins aren’t as common as banana or blueberry, but maybe this recipe will change that.

PS: I’ve got a few more peach recipes to come. (We picked lots!). Stay tuned.

IMG_6737

Peach Muffins

 Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups peeled and chopped peaches (should be about 2-3 peaches)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2  cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or any flavorless cooking oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • granulated sugar for sprinkling

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 400. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners.

Stir flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Stir brown sugar, sour cream, milk, oil, egg, and vanilla in a medium bowl.

Add wet ingredients to dry along with the peaches.

Stir just until combined. I use a fork, because it really prevents over mixing. As I’ve said before, muffin batter should be lumpy and kind of ugly. You will end up with the yummiest, most tender muffins this way. Trust me.

IMG_6742

Scoop your gently mixed batter into muffin tins. Sprinkle tops with sugar if you want a crackly, sparkly crust.

Bake in preheated oven for 15-17 minutes or until muffins are domed and lightly golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

IMG_6747

Enjoy!

Check out my other muffin recipes: Pumpkin Banana Muffins, Mini Mini Chocolate Chip Muffins, Mini Spiced Banana Muffins

Pumpkin Banana Muffins

I realize it’s not really the season for pumpkin recipes, but it’s kind of a dreary day and I felt like baking something. So, I started rustling around in my kitchen, looking for inspiration. Of course I had a single, over-ripe banana staring at me from my fruit bowl, and upon further investigation, I found a lonesome can of pumpkin purée lingering in my pantry. I decided to introduce the two, and this is what I came up with.

(I think my kids will be very happy when they get home from school today.)

IMG_6060

Pumpkin Banana Muffins

Makes 22 muffins

Ingredients:

dry:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

wet:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 very ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine wet ingredients and mix well. (I used my potato masher and really squashed everything together.)

Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture, and mix gently with a wooden spoon or rubber/silicon spatula. Don’t whisk! Don’t over-mix! Muffin batter is supposed to be kind of lumpy and unattractive. Just fold together until the flour is combined.

Scoop batter into muffin tins. I used a large ice-cream scoop and filled them right to the top of the liners.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes.

IMG_6057

Enjoy!

 

The Best French Toast

Weekends are all about laziness, pajamas, and really yummy food—especially breakfast. I think I have said it before, but my weekday breakfasts are quite boring, and don’t often involve using the stove or oven (much to my kids’ dismay). But the weekend is another story. It’s the time for pancakes and bacon, biscuits with butter and honey, blueberry or banana muffins… the really good stuff, of course made while still wearing pajamas and drinking coffee. Of course!

Once again, I am taking inspiration from my dad. You better get used to it; he is undoubtedly the best cook I know, and my biggest cooking influence. (In case you hadn’t figured it out yet). His French Toast is the best. I am usually in the salty/savory breakfast camp (or, more truthfully, the “coffee for breakfast” camp), but this French toast makes me jump the fence. There’s nothing like it. And, just in time for the weekend, here’s the recipe. (P.S.–this is perfect for those “breakfast-for-dinner” nights, too.)

IMG_5288

French Toast

Makes approximately nine 1 1/2 to 2-inch slices

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of day or two old French Bread (Or Italian, just don’t get it with seeds or spices on top) sliced into thick 1 1/2 to 2 inch slices
  • 2 cups half and half or whole milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (or the seeds of a vanilla bean if you want to get super, Crème brûlée style fancy)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and/or nutmeg (this is totally optional, and I add it depending on my mood–sometimes I just want the vanilla)
  • good pinch of salt–about 1/2 teaspoon
  • butter and vegetable oil for cooking

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 350

Crack the eggs into a large bowl and whisk well. Add half and half or milk, honey, vanilla, salt, and any spices you’re using and whisk to combine. Place your sliced bread into a baking dish large enough to hold them comfortably in a single layer. Or, alternatively, split it evenly between two smaller dishes. Pour over your wet mixture and allow to soak for about 5 minutes before flipping and allowing to soak another 5 minutes. This step is so important! One of my biggest food peeves is French toast that is still dry in the middle. Let it soak. Just walk away and let it soak. It will drink up the liquid, and you will be rewarded for your patience. I promise.

When your bread is done soaking, prepare a large griddle or skillet by heating about two tablespoons of butter with a tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium-low heat. Carefully lift your soaked bread, allowing excess to drip off, and place on pre-heated griddle. Cook slowly allowing to brown for about 7 minutes on each side. Flip as needed to get it evenly browned. Do this in batches if you don’t have a large griddle.

IMG_5297

When it is nice and brown on both sides, remove to a sheet tray and bake for about 5-10 minutes. This last step is my dad’s signature move, and it just ensures the bread is cooked all the way through, as well as making it puff up a little–C’est très Français. And it guarantees that while you scurry around getting the final breakfast preparations done, your French Toast will be nice and hot when you’re ready to sit down and slather it with butter and syrup. My family’s favorite accompaniment is sausage, but bacon is obviously great, too. Whatever you serve it with will be perfect.

IMG_5302

Enjoy!

 

 

Mini Mini Chocolate Chip Muffins

Yesterday was a snow day, the first one of the season, and although I was a little irritated that it decided to happen after my semester was over and on a Sunday, I still loved it. I loved seeing my daughter’s excitement; it reminded me of how I used to feel every time I pressed my nose against a cold window to watch snowflakes fall. It also reminded me of when my son was very young, about 2 1/2, and I picked him up from daycare early one day, just as the first snow started to fall. It was late November–we weren’t really in the full Christmas swing yet–but when he saw the snow he screeched with excitement, “Santa! Santa is coming soon!” and my heart melted.

There is something magical about snow, something I’m glad I never lost when I grew up. A magic that is described so beautifully in the following quote–a quote that I loved so much I tore it out of a magazine years ago and have had hanging in a frame in my office ever since.

“I am younger each year at the first snow. When I see it, suddenly, in the air, all little and white and moving; then I am in love again, and very young and I believe everything.”–Anne Sexton, in a letter to W.D. Snodgrass (November 28, 1958)

Magic.

Something I love, love, love to do on a snow day is bake. Big surprise. And since I had been eyeing this bag of mini chocolate chips in my pantry for a week or so, wondering what I was going to do with them, the snow day was the perfect opportunity to put them to use.

These muffins are the cutest. A double dose of mini, I use mini semisweet chocolate chips and I make them extra cute by using mini muffin tins. You could certainly make them regular size, and use regular chocolate chips without losing any of their deliciousness (though, you will lose some cuteness I’m afraid). They are so moist, have a perfectly sweet vanilla flavor, and a balancing tang from the sour cream.

This batter is fantastic, and you can use it for any kind of muffin, but the chocolate chips are really, really good. The trick to keeping them suspended and evenly distributed in the batter is to mix them with a tablespoon or two of flour, just enough so they’re evenly coated, before you add them to the mix. This works for anything you’re stirring into batter, and if you’ve ever had your ingredients sink to the bottom of your muffins, this trick will make you very happy!

Here’s the recipe.

IMG_3827

Mini Mini Chocolate Chip Muffins

(makes 48 mini muffins or 24 regular muffins)

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3  eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • one 12 ounce bag mini (or regular) chocolate chips

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place paper liners in muffin tins, and for a little extra insurance give them a very light spray of nonstick cooking spray.

Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. Reserve about 1/4 cup of chocolate chips for sprinkling on top, and place remaining chips in a separate bowl. Add about two tablespoons of the dry ingredients to the chips and toss to coat.

In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix to combine. Scrape sides, add sour cream, vanilla and milk, and mix once more until combined.

With mixer on low, add dry ingredients, then quickly add the chips that have been dusted with flour. Do not over mix. Once chips are just incorporated, turn mixer off and give the batter a final mix by hand with a rubber spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom.

IMG_3809

Fill muffin tins to the top, and top each with a few chocolate chips.

IMG_3811

Bake for about 20 minutes, until just cooked and a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.

IMG_3813

Enjoy!

IMG_3825

Mini Spiced Banana Muffins

Rainy Day Baking

It has been raining for days. Seriously. Days. There is a part of me that’s sick of it (the part of me that also wonders why I don’t own rain boots or a rain coat!), but then there’s a bigger, moodier part of me that loves the excuse to stay in. I do my best reading, writing, and baking on rainy days. So this morning I woke to more rain, and as a result, my thoughts quickly turned to baking. I thought about chocolate chip cookies (which I still might make), and I had planned on making this amazing flourless chocolate cloud cake but anyone who knows anything about egg whites knows not to mess with them on rainy days… So what to bake?

I had a few neglected bananas because, out of some deeply ingrained habit, I always grab a bunch of them when I go to the grocery store, even though I really don’t love them. I am aware of their health benefits, and they are certainly a convenient breakfast or snack on the go, but I’m just not wild about them. I inherited this from my grandma, I know. Yet, I still buy them and they sit in the fruit bowl until I peel them and freeze them for smoothies, or I bake something with them.

There are, however, two ways bananas become desirable to me… irresistible even. #1. Bananas Foster and #2. Banana bread or muffins. A little early for bananas foster, and knowing that my bananas were a tad soft for that application, I settled on mini muffins. ‘Cause they’re way cuter than regular muffins. I realize banana bread/muffin recipes are abundant, but mine is a little different. The main difference is in the spice. So many recipes call for just cinnamon, and lots of it. I love cinnamon, and still use it, but I think nutmeg and ginger are just so much better with the sweetness of bananas, and too much cinnamon can overpower the recipe. The spice combination does something magical, and it smells so, so good while they bake. I also cut the sugar a bit, since the bananas are so sweet on their own. Here’s how I make them:

image

Mini Spiced Banana Muffins:

Ingredients:

  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 24 mini muffin tins with paper liners, or spray with non stick spray.

Combine flour, spices, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl or mixer, beat eggs, oil, and sugar until thoroughly combined. Add in mashed bananas, yogurt, and vanilla and mix.

Slowly add dry ingredients to wet, don’t over mix-it’s ok to still have a few lumps.

Fill mini muffin tins almost to the top, I use a small ice cream scoop which is about 2 tablespoons, and bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out mostly clean, with a few moist crumbs, or when you press the tops they spring back. These will be very moist muffins, don’t over bake. Enjoy! May I suggest straight from the oven, with butter? Yum…