Lemon Scones

The week was rather unkind around here; if the unseasonably cold weather wasn’t a hard enough pill to swallow, I went and sustained an ankle injury (my suspicion is that it’s the peroneal tendon) over the weekend.

Not being able to get out and run – the ultimate escape and, more importantly, a powerful anti-depressant for me – has been more than a little irksome; it has effectively trashed my plans to run a 10K next month. I’m hoping that the ankle will be healed enough so that I will, at least, be able to run the 5K. Fingers crossed.

Despite the bad luck, things are looking up and the coming week promises to be better. The temps are slowly climbing, the swelling in the ankle has gone down, and… my birthday is just around the corner, meaning there will be cake! Ah yes, what would life be like without cake? I shudder to think!

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. First, let me share this week’s recipe…

In all fairness, this is more a [rave] review of another’s recipe, as I have not changed a single thing from the original. So if you try these, please give credit where it’s due and leave a comment at Tammy’s Recipes. And while you’re there, be sure to take the time to check out some of her other recipes, she’s got quite the collection :)

Anywho, these were the very first scones I had ever tried and, after having made roughly half a dozen different varieties since then, are easily the most buttery and flakiest of the bunch! With a sweet, yet slightly tangy flavour, they are the perfect springtime breakfast! Seriously, if you love all things lemony, you owe it to yourself to try these, you will not be sorry!IMG_0021INGREDIENTS:
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
Zest of 1 lemon
2 Tsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup whipping (heavy) cream
1 egg

For the Glaze:
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 to 1½ Tbs. lemon juice
A few drops of natural yellow food colour (optional)

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 350°F and set the rack to the upper third. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter in until mixture resembles course crumbs - don’t be afraid to leave a few pea-sized pieces. In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 tsp. lemon juice, lemon zest, cream and the egg. Add the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing just until moistened. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, knead 6 to 8 times, folding dough over to create layers. Gently press dough into a circle, about 1-inch thick. Cut into 8 wedges. Place scones a few inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Watch the bottoms, they can burn quickly! Remove from oven to a wire rack to cool. Prepare the glaze by mixing together the icing sugar, food colouring (if desired) and enough lemon juice to make a thin glaze, approximately 1 to 1 ½ tbs. Stir until smooth. Drizzle or brush glaze over the scones while they are still warm.

Hot Cross Buns

With the week’s temperatures hovering at around average for this time of year, and the mountains of snow dwindling down to transform into mini lakes around the neighbourhood, I was fooled into believing that spring was finally here to stay. I was wrong! Temps are falling once again and they are predicting snow for tomorrow. Sigh. I have to keep reminding myself that, though it may seem hard to believe right now, it won’t be long before the grass turns green and the summer heat will be upon us once again.

Regardless of what the weather has to say, it’s that time of year where many families begin baking for the Easter holidays. And one of the most iconic Easter recipes you will ever find is hot cross buns.

Before I pass along the recipe that we use, I feel that I must give everyone fair warning: Be prepared for impromptu visits from neighbors while these rolls bake, because the aroma is sure to lead them straight to your door! In fact, it may not hurt to whip up an extra batch, just in case ;)

These rolls have a wonderfully soft and light texture that reminds me of their commercially prepared counterparts, only without the preservatives and artificial dough conditioners. Which means they are considerably healthier and therefore allows you to give in to the temptation of having a second (or third) without feeling guilty. Oh go on, I won’t tell anyone!

NOTE: The cross on these buns is made with icing sugar, not the traditional flour paste that is most often used in bakeries. And though my sweet tooth highly recommends sticking with the icing sugar, feel free to use whatever your heart desires.

These were made using half the recipe and baked in a smaller pan.

IMG_0025HOT CROSS BUNS – adapted slightly from allrecipes.com

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup water, warm (~100°F)
2 ½ tsp. yeast
1/2 cup sugar, divided
4 ¼ cups flour, divided
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 ¼ cup milk, warm (~100°F)
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
1/4 cup raisins* (we use sultanas, but feel free to use any dried fruit, or a combination, of your choosing)

2 Tbs. melted butter for brushing
1 cup icing sugar
2-3 Tbs. milk
1/2 tsp. almond extract

METHOD:
Place water in a small bowl, add yeast along with approximately 1 Tsp. of the sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes or until foamy. In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups of the flour, salt, and spices. Stir in the sultanas and set aside. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the milk, butter, egg, and the remaining sugar. Add the yeast mixture to the milk mixture and beat on low until blended. Switch to the dough hook attachment and slowly begin adding the flour mixture. Knead 5-10 minutes, adding the remaining flour as needed to make smooth, elastic dough. Remove dough to a large, oiled bowl (I just clean and use the same mixing bowl) turning to coat with the oil. Cover tightly and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 45 minutes or until doubled in volume.

Divide dough into 12 equal pieces; form into balls and place in a lightly greased or parchment-lined 9 x 13″ pan. Using a sharp knife, mark each roll with a cross. Cover pan with a tea towel and let rise again until the rolls have doubled. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake the rolls for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately lightly brush with melted butter. Place on cooling racks and prepare the icing while the rolls cool. Beat together the icing sugar, milk (start with 2 Tbs., then add as needed to make a spreadable icing) and almond extract until smooth. Spread or pipe the icing over the crosses you formed earlier.

*For moist, plump raisins, simply soak in a small bowl of boiling water for 5 minutes, then blot dry with a paper towel before adding to the flour mixture.

Butterhorns

I’d wanted to make butterhorns for roughly a month or so and was happy to cross them off my bucket list today. (You can check out the list on the sidebar to the right.) All I can say about these delicate little pastries is “WOW!”

The dough comes together fast and will yield a total of 48 tiny butterhorns, like 3 bites-worth each! The best part is that the dough is made ahead and can be kept refrigerated for up to 2 weeks, allowing you to bake them 1 dozen at a time without having to whip up more dough each time.

And that is exactly what I did. I made four varieties from 1 quarter of the dough to perform a bit of a taste test before using up the remaining dough. Here is what I made and how each one ranked:

#4) Chocolate. These were filled with miniature semisweet chocolate chips. They were fine, but not something I would make again. I’m thinking that milk chocolate chips might yield a better flavour.
#3) Plain. These little guys, with their buttery, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth goodness, really don’t need any additional pick me up to make you snarf down a half dozen in one sitting! I can imagine how good they’d be alongside a bowl of soup or salad!
#2) Cinnamon-sugar. Though these could have used a bit more sugar or perhaps an icing sugar glaze, they tasted very similar to a cinnamon roll, and I absolutely love cinnamon rolls!
#1) Lemon. I filled these with a homemade lemon curd and, even though some of the lemon oozed out the sides, they were absolutely amazing! They taste very much like a lemon Danish… my all time favourite pastry!IMG_0154Adapted from Taste of Home

INGREDIENTS:
2 ½ tsp. yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/3 cup sugar, divided
4 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup cold butter, cubed
3/4 cup warm milk
1 egg, slightly beaten

1/4 cup melted butter for brushing

METHOD:
In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water with about 1 tsp. of sugar. Set aside 5 minutes or until foamy. Whisk together the flour, salt and remaining sugar. Cut butter into flour until mixture resembles course crumbs. Add yeast mixture, milk and egg. Mix by hand until the dough comes together. Place in a well-oiled bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight. The following day, divide dough into quarters, working on 1 piece at a time while keeping the rest refrigerated until needed. Place dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll to a 12-inch circle. Cut into 12 wedges and brush with 1 Tbs. of the melted butter*. Roll up from the wide end and place on a parchment lined, or greased, baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough as needed. Let rise 1 hour or until doubled in volume. Preheat oven to 375°F and bake approximately 10 minutes or until golden brown.

*I omitted the butter for the chocolate and lemon varieties.

Lose It! Report – March 24/14

I decided a few weeks ago to begin posting my Lose It! reports again in the hopes that it would motivate me to be more consistent with exercise, and get a handle on my tendency to overeat.


I had a less than ideal week in regards to calorie consumption, with a total intake of 11,943 calories for the week, which translates to a daily average of around 1,706; a touch above maintenance for me. To my credit, the week was considerably better than the previous 5, so that should give you a pretty good idea of just how much I’ve been overeating. Obviously I need to work on reducing my calorie intake if I want to lose this flab that I’ve accumulated over the last 6 months.

The fitness side of things don’t look any better. My running routine suffered a great deal thanks to my coming down with a bad cold, which also got in the way of plans to run my first road race of the year yesterday. To lessen the guilt a bit, I hit the treadmill and jogged the 5K that I should’ve raced :) I have to say that I’m very happy that I played it safe and stayed home, because I felt weak and feverish throughout the entire jog. Here’s to a better week!

Daily Summary
Budget Food Exercise Net +/- Weight (lbs)
3/24/14 1,484 1,594 0 1,594 110 122.8
3/25/14 1,484 1,500 0 1,500 16 122.8
3/26/14 1,488 2,200 0 2,200 712 123.4
3/27/14 1,488 1,502 0 1,502 14 123.4
3/28/14 1,488 1,706 98 1,608 120 123.4
3/29/14 1,499 1,811 0 1,811 312 125
3/30/14 1,499 1,630 357 1,273 -226 125
1,057 calories over budget for the week
Gained 1.6 pounds this week as measured from a starting weight of 123.4 on March 23rd.

**The weight gain wasn’t a true gain. I had lost a few pounds while sick and gained them back once I was feeling better**

Summer Borscht

Mmmm, summer borscht, the ultimate Mennonite comfort food!

I doubt that there is a Mennonite family out there who doesn’t have their own unique spin on this soup. It is simple to prepare, highly customizable, utilizes few ingredients, is hearty and very satisfying. Just what the doctor ordered when a springtime cold or flu sets in. Yes, yours truly thought it might be a fun change of pace to catch a cold (or perhaps it was a mild flu?) this past week!

One of the traditional ingredients for this soup is a smoked ham hock, but occasionally you will also hear of farmer’s sausage being used. My grandma, on the other hand, used chopped up smoked bologna. While she isn’t sure where the idea came from, she just remembers that her kids preferred it over the more traditional meat. I tried the soup once with the usual ham hock, but honestly, it just tasted weird to me. Hey, cut me some slack here, I just happened to be in the midst of some very picky teen years and had never tried it any other way than Grandma’s way :D

So here it is, Mennonite Summer Borscht. Just be sure to have some fresh-baked bread on hand before you begin cooking!
IMG_0152INGREDIENTS:
300g package of bologna, diced
1/2 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)
8-10 large red potatoes, diced
1 bundle green onions, finely chopped
1 bundle fresh dill, finely chopped
1 Tbs. salt (or to taste)
Water
3 cups buttermilk*
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)

METHOD:
Saturate the diced bologna with liquid smoke; mix well and allow to stand a few minutes. Place all ingredients, except buttermilk, into a large stock pot; add just enough water to cover potatoes by an inch or two. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes test done. Remove from heat and let the soup cool slightly, about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Finally, stir in buttermilk and heavy cream; serve warm with fresh baked bread. Yields around 8 servings. When reheating leftovers, do not bring to a boil.

TIP: Bring the buttermilk to room temperature by removing from the refrigerator while you prepare the soup. This will help prevent curdling once it is added to the hot soup.

Chili

This chili was my mother’s signature recipe and is, hands down, the best I have ever tasted. I could probably live on it for a month straight without tiring of it, or until cravings for pizza – my all-time favourite food – became intolerable!

The only thing about this recipe that I am not at all fond of is the use of canned food. However, it can be made healthier by using organic beans and tomatoes. But then, let’s face facts, ALL of the ingredients should be organic, that is, if you can afford the outrageous prices.

Aside from all the chopping involved (which can easily be done the night before to save on time) this recipe is very simple to cook up and yields a boatload! We enjoy this chili as is with a dinner roll on the side, or better still, as the most amazing taco filling EVER!
IMG_0134INGREDIENTS:
4 LB extra lean ground beef
2 large red bell peppers, chopped
2 large green bell peppers, chopped
4-6 Jalapeño peppers, chopped
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped onions
1, 28 oz can crushed, or diced, tomatoes
2, 12 oz. cans kidney beans
2, 12 oz. cans beans in tomato sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 ½ Tbs. chili powder
2 Tbs. paprika
1 pkg. chili seasoning (or mix up your own)
Salt & pepper to taste
2, 10 oz cans condensed tomato soup

METHOD:
In a large stockpot, brown the ground beef over medium-high heat. Add peppers, celery, and onions; simmer 15-20 minutes. Add canned tomatoes, beans and seasoning; simmer 1 hour. Add tomato soup approximately 15 minutes before removing from heat. Freezes very well.

Spelt Bread

Having baked exclusively with all-purpose wheat flour all these years, the transition to spelt flour has been quite the adventure and not always an enjoyable one either. Particularly in learning that it behaves very differently and is not nearly as forgiving as wheat.

Though it has taken me a couple of years, and more than a few less-than-perfect loaves of bread, I believe that I have finally nailed this recipe. The resulting bread has a rich, nutty flavour, with a soft and light texture. In my opinion, it beats a loaf of wheat bread any day!

There are 3 key points to remember when baking this bread:

  1. After mixing and kneading, the dough is placed directly into the pan to rise only ONCE. Reason: Spelt flour rises beautifully on the first go round, not so much the second time. It will rise to maybe half the height that it does the first time, and worse yet, it will bake up very dense and flat.
  2. The loaf is lightly brushed with water just before it goes in the oven. Reason: This step prepares the loaf for, and works in conjunction with, step #3.
  3. The loaf is placed, initially, in a very hot oven. Reason: This ensures that the crust bakes quickly, preventing it from collapsing later. My loaves collapsed every single time in the past, until I learned this trick!

Follow the recipe as written and I can almost guarantee you the best tasting loaf of bread you’ve ever made! I say “almost” because it’s impossible for one to rule out all the variables :smile: IMG_0027INGREDIENTS:
1 ½ cups warm (100°F) water, divided
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 Tbs. instant yeast
4 cups spelt flour, divided
1/4 cup ground golden flaxseed
1 ½ tsp. salt
2 Tbs. creamed honey, melted and cooled (you could use liquid)
2 Tbs. butter, melted and cooled
2 Tbs. coconut oil, melted and cooled

METHOD:
Generously grease, or line with parchment paper, a loaf pan and set aside. In a small bowl, add 1/4 cup of the water along with the sugar and yeast; let stand 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together 3 cups of the flour, flax, and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add yeast mixture, the remaining water, honey, butter, and oil. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and knead for 5 minutes, adding additional flour as needed. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; shape into a loaf and place in the prepared pan. Let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes, or until doubled in size. With about 10 minutes remaining, preheat oven to 500°F. Lightly brush the entire surface of the loaf with water, place the pan in the oven and immediately reduce heat to 325°F. Bake approximately 1 hour, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Like all breads, this one tastes best when hot & fresh from the oven, slathered in the spread of your choosing. I also find that it is the absolute best bread to serve along side a bowl of soup.IMG_0146Check out that amazing texture!