My Motto

May the muffin rise to greet you, may your friends be always at your door, and until we meet again, warm a single-malt in the palm of your hand and make something homemade for someone you love.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lemon Mousse

"Seize the moment.  Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart." 
~Erma Bombeck
Confession:  I am guilty of blog-neglect.  It's been three weeks since my last post.  In my defense, it is the height of garden-prep time in New England, so something had to give.  
Doesn't look like much NOW....but stay tuned...
Beginning of September, as summer was having it's last gasp, I made this and it was so good, I wanted to post it, but did not get a good picture.  Since then  I've been dying for more and Easter was a great excuse to make it, seeing I had dessert duty.
This Lemon Mousse is just luscious and was big hit.  The perfect accent to a light spring meal.  I prefer it slightly tart, but you can adjust the lemon to your liking.  Also, if you're squeamish about the uncooked egg whites, you can actually leave them out, using only the whipped cream  (in this case, increase cream to 2 cups).  It won't come out as cloud-like light, but it will still be fluffy and delicious.  
light as a cloud
As an added bonus, it keeps well for up to four days which is quite handy around busy holidays.
Lemon Mousse

2 whole eggs
4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (I got this from 4 lemons)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Knox gelatin powder (1/2 packet)
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a large glass or metal bowl, mix together the 2 whole eggs, 4 egg yolks (save 2 of the whites in a separate bowl), sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, Knox and salt.  Place the bowl over a pot with a couple inches of boiling water in it.  Keep the water at a boil, but do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.  Stir constantly until mixture starts to thicken (takes approx. 15 minutes).  
Set aside to cool.  At this step, what you've got is lemon curd.  It could be used between cake layers, on scones, biscuits or as a pudding.  Cover with plastic wrap placed directly on the pudding, so it doesn't form a skin.  Refrigerate 2 hours or until completely cooled.

In a medium bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff.  Fold into cooled lemon curd.  In a medium bowl, whip the 1 1/2 cups of cream with 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar until you get stiff peaks.  Fold cream into the lemon mixture.  Now spoon into a soufflĂ© dish, or individual glasses.  Serve cold with sweetened whipped cream (last 3 ingredients whipped together).  Serves 8.  It will keep for 4 days in the refrigerator, but if you store it, be sure to wait to decorate it with whipped cream until close to serving time.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Orange Scones

"All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast."

~John Gunther
Simply orange

I just had one of these for breakfast, hot from the oven, and it was heavenly.  For weeks the recipe was tumbling around in my mind, just waiting for a free day to be liberated.  Orange-cranberry is a common combination for scones, and I tried those first, but prefer the simply orange version best.  
The orange-cranberry version
They were so good, I'm going to make more today and freeze them in the raw stage...ready to pop in the oven any morning the mood strikes.  When I made this recipe, I baked two immediately to give to a friend who was coming by, and I placed the remainder in the fridge, to be baked in the morning.  The scones that rested and chilled overnight actually rose higher and came out better.  And what could be easier than popping them in the oven when you wake up?  Start your coffee, walk the dog and twenty minutes later, viola!... hot orange pastry nirvana.  I started with the basic scone recipe from the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion.
The first attempt was a tiny bit dry, so the second try I added a little more liquid and they came out perfect.  Environment and altitude can affect the composition of the dough, so use your judgement when adding the liquid.  It should just come together, without being wet.  I've included pictures so you can see what the dough should look like.
Orange Scones

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
the zest from two oranges (about 2 tablespoons)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup orange juice, plus 1 tablespoon (or a little more, if your dough needs it)
4 tablespoons very cold butter, grated 
1/4 cup shortening

1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for brushing on top
Coarse or large grain sugar for topping

Glaze: (optional)
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 teaspoons of milk, plus a few drops more, if needed to produce a glaze that will pour

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients, including the zest.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, buttermilk and orange juice.
This next step is important, because it will determine the texture of the scone.  You can use just cold butter, just shortening, or a mixture of both.  I tried it with just butter and the combination, and the combo came out better.  With the shortening, pinch small marble size pieces and drop them into the dry ingredients. It's not as messy as it sounds, if you get some flour on your fingers, the shortening doesn't stick.  Don't be tempted to use a pastry blender for this recipe, it will produce a tough, mealy texture with this recipe.

Grate the VERY COLD butter in after the shortening.  
Working quickly (don't want the butter to warm up) add the liquid, stir a few times to bring dough together, and then turn out onto a floured cutting board.  Be careful, too much mixing or kneading at this point will produce a tough, heavy scone.
Gently fold and gather dough together until it's cohesive.
At this point you can pat the dough into a 10 inch circle and cut into wedges, or alternatively, pat into a square about an inch thick and use a bisquit cutter, cut out round scones.

Brush the scones with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Bake for 7 minutes, then turn the oven off and without opening the oven door, let the scones remain in the oven for 8-10 minutes.  (It's important to bake the scones on the middle oven rack.)  Remove the scones from the oven and cool minimally on a rack.

If desired, stir together the glaze ingredients in a small bowl, adding milk just until the glaze will run off a spoon.  Drizzle over warm scones. 
Serve the scones immediately or within a few hours, for best flavor.

This dough lends itself to being made ahead, shaped, and either frozen or refrigerated overnight before baking.  For frozen scones, add 2 minutes to the baking time before you turn the oven off.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Apricot-Orange Marmalade

I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It's amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.
~D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
I went to Florida recently with marmalade on the brain and a mission to find some Seville oranges, since after much research, they kept popping up as the orange of choice for good marmalade.  David Lebovitz's recipe, and blog comments were very helpful as I started looking into methods.  I didn't use his recipe, but his and the readers comments came to mind and were helpful when I was developing my own.  Marmalade holds a nostalgic place in my heart since it was the very first preserve I ever made, at around 13 years old.  The second was apricot, so I wanted to combine the two.  The result was an intensely flavored, not overly sweet, tangy and lusciously orange marmalade that was NOT BITTER!  
From what I read, the English prefer their marmalade bitter, but I don't, so I went to pains to remove the pith (root of bitterness) from the rind before I sliced it up.  You can leave it on if you prefer.  
I never did find Seville oranges in Florida.  They are grown in Spain, but I thought I might find them in the Citrus state.  Nope.  I even tried an orange farm warehouse.  After more research, I settled on using the readily available (in Florida) Valencia oranges.  I'm so happy with the results that going forward, I wouldn't bother trying anything else.  I made this two weeks ago.  It's best if you let it sit for a week.  Well, I gave a jar to my mother and she called today to say it was "absolutely fabulous!"  Woo-hoo!

If you would like to make this, but have never made preserves, I suggest you pick up a good book on canning.  My favorite is 250 Home Preserving Favorites.  Concise, easy, and all the recipes are for small batches (4-8 jars).  There is a link to it in my sidebar.  With my recipe, you need to start the day before.  It breaks up the work, and gives the natural pectin longer to do it's thing.

Apricot-Orange Marmalade

Kitchen string
5 Valencia oranges
6 ounces dried apricots
1 lemon
granulated sugar
pinch salt
dot of butter
2 tablespoons scotch, Grand Marnier or Cointreau

Makes about 6 8-ounce jars.
Day before:
1. Place the dried apricots in 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, simmer 20 mins then let sit for 40.  Pulse in a food processor until chopped chunky.
2. Cut oranges in half and squeeze out the juice.  Remove seeds and place in a square of several layers of cheesecloth.  Cut oranges in half again.  Scrape membranes from peels and add to cheesecloth; tie with string.  
Scrape as much of the white pith off the peel as possible.  Slice peel sliver-thin. I found the peels from 4 oranges was enough.
3. Zest and juice the lemon.  Add seeds to cheesecloth bag.
4. Measure combined volume of juices, peel and apricot mixture. Add half as much water.  For instance...if the combined amount of fruit mixture is 8 cups, then add 4 cups water.  Place in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pan, such as a Le Creuset.  Place a cheesecloth bag in center of pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally and squeezing cheesecloth bag several times, for about 2 hours or until peel is very soft.  Cover and let sit overnight.
Next Day:
5. Measure the peel and liquid, squeezing cheesecloth bag; discard bag.  Stir in 3/4 the volume in sugar.  For instance, if there is 4 cuts fruit mix, then add 3 cups sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar.  Add a dot of butter (to reduce foam).  Boil rapidly, stirring often, for 10 to 15 minutes or until marmalade thickens or reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Test for setting point. 
If you do not have a candy thermometer, use the cold-saucer test: Remove the pan from the heat and place a spoonful of hot jam on a chilled plate. Place in the freezer for 1 minute; draw a finger through the jam on the saucer. If the jam does not flow back and fill in the path, it is thick enough. If, after 25 minutes it has not set, stir in 1 tablespoon dry instant fruit pectin.
6. Remove from heat and stir for 5 to 8 minutes to prevent floating rind.  At this time, stir in the scotch, if desired.
7. Ladle into sterilized jars to within 1/4 inch of rim; wipe rims.  Apply prepared lids and rings; tighten rings just until fingertip-tight.
8. Process jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.  Transfer jars to a towel-lined surface and let rest at room temperature until set.  Check seals; refrigerate any unsealed jars for up to 3 weeks.  It's best if you let it sit for a week.