Apricot Scones 

I headed out to run a few errands this morning and couldn’t believe how chilly it was. Just yesterday I was out in a sweater. I found myself longing to be home baking these scones I’ve been dreaming about and sipping a cup of my favorite loose tea. I love dried apricots and have enjoyed them in a moist cake I bake called Swedish cream cake, in my chicken salad, and just popping them in my mouth. I could just picture The apricots peeking out of the buttery dough. Beautiful for serving in the spring at tea time. I’ve baked many scones over the years and never tire of the experience. Looking forward to sharing these.

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Apple Pie and Pittsburg

Apples from Trax Farm

I have been dreaming of baking an apple pie for several weeks now. The fall chill in the air just seems to beg for the oven to be lit. My husband, Joe and I planned a quick getaway last weekend to Pittsburg. He was born in Pittsburg and grew up in the boro of Castle Shannon. I decided to wait on my pie so I could purchase the apples from a farmers market nearby. Trax Farm has so many different kinds of apples. Joe’s Mom Helen always made her apple pie with star apples. I was going to look for those apples to make my pie just like his mom’s. Unfortunately they had no star apples. Since there were so many different kinds of apples I decided to use a variety of apples for my pie. I chose Jonathan, ginger gold, golden delicious, Jonagold, and granny smith. I loaded up my bag and paid. It was cool enough in the car that they wouldn’t spoil for the few days we were visiting. We had such a great time sight seeing and visiting Joe’s old neighborhood. We even made it to the Steelers game on Sunday due to the generosity of an old college buddy of Joe’s who lives in Pittsburg. I was so excited on our return home to make my apple pie. I waited till the next day and rolled up my selves. I relived our trip in my mind as I prepared the pie. When Joe came home from work that day we enjoyed a piece after our dinner. It was so delicious! I’m sure it was all those different apples and the fact that they came from Pittsburg of course!

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Apple Pie

Double crust pastry

8 cups apples, different varieties of baking apples. Peeled and sliced.

2-3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

2 tablespoons of whole milk

Prepare your favorite pastry crust chill for a least 1 hour or purchase a ready-made crust. Peel and slice the apples. Toss the apples with the lemon juice. Add the sugar and spices and mix with a spoon until evenly coated. Roll out the bottom crust and fill with the apple filling. Dot the top of the pie with diced unsalted butter. Roll out the top crust and place on top of the apples. Crimp the edges. Brush the top crust with while milk, and then cut slits in the top of crust to make a vent. Bake in a pre-heat 375 degree oven for 50-60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or cool and refrigerate and serve cold.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

I rarely bake cookies any more. There’s never anyone at home that wants to eat them. We all seem to be watching our waist. So when an opportunity presents itself I’m right there ready to bake. I love chocolate chip cookies warm out of the oven with an icy cold glass of milk. They need to be soft in the center with a little crispiness around the edges, have semisweet chocolate chips, and be full of walnuts. I usually do half plain, half with walnuts. Not everyone shares my love of nuts. I slightly under bake my cookies; I find that they keep better. I don’t want to bite into a hard cookie the next day. These cookies stay just moist enough, making me feel confident that I can bake them the day before an event. I baked these cookies for a family gathering this past week. When I was leaving the tray was completely empty, which put a smile on my face.

Cream butter and sugars.
Cream butter and sugars.
Add eggs and vanilla.
Add eggs and vanilla.
Mix to incorporate.
Mix to incorporate.
Add chocolate chips, and nuts if using. Just stir a few seconds to incorporate.
Add chocolate chips, and nuts if using. Just stir a few seconds to incorporate.
Drop on to parchment lined baking sheet I inch apart.
Drop on to parchment lined baking sheet I inch apart.
Cool on a wire rack.
Cool on a wire rack.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 ½ Cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

¾ cup packed light brown sugar

¾ cup organic pure cane sugar, or granulated sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2-3 cups semisweet chocolate chips (if you love the cookies very chocolaty add 3, I use 2)

2/3 chopped walnuts, optional, or divide batter and make half plain and half with nuts just use ½ cup walnuts in that case.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat together the butter, brown sugar, pure cane sugar on medium speed for 3-5 minutes. Mixture will be light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix an additional 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture just till it comes together. Add the chocolate chips, and walnuts if using. Mix on low for about 25 seconds, just to mix together. At this point I refrigerate the dough for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a teaspoon or small cookie scoop place cookies 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, rotate cookie sheet at the 7 minute mark. I like mine light and just golden.

Cool on a wire rack.

Yields 4 dozen cookies

Store in an air tight container

 

Bakers note: I love to infuse my sugar with a vanilla bean for these cookies. Keep a container on hand for cookies and other bake goods.

I consider room temperature butter to be at least 65 degrees. I give the eggs 30 minutes to come to room temperature.

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Blueberry Pie

I just love baking homemade pie. It is such a satisfying feeling. When I slip the pie into the oven I can barely wait for the sweet aroma to permeate the air throughout my home. My favorite summer pie is blueberry. I’ve been patiently waiting for that little container full of blueberries that say Hammonton, NJ I love that they are local. I wouldn’t dare bake my pie without these fresh berries, and I’d never bake this pie any other time of year. I’m day dreaming in the cold winter months of baking the pie. It’s the anticipation that makes it even sweeter on that first bite. I will be sharing this pie with my Mother-in-law Helen. She is turning 89 years young on the 23rd of June. I happen to know that she too loves blueberry pie.

Fresh blueberries
Fresh blueberries

 

Fresh blueberries, freshly squeezed lemon juice, Lemon zest, pure cane sugar, cornstarch, salt.
Fresh blueberries, freshly squeezed lemon juice, lemon zest, pure cane sugar, cornstarch, salt.

 

Roll pie crust.
Roll pie crust.

 

Pour filling into prepared crust.
Pour filling into prepared crust. Slip little bits of unsalted butter into the blueberry mixture.

 

Brush on milk and sprinkle with sugar.
Brush on milk and sprinkle with sugar.

 

 

Let pie cool completely. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.
Let pie cool completely. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Blueberry Pie

4 heaping cups fresh blueberries

1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

¾ cup of pure cane sugar, or granulated sugar

4 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Place washed berries in a large bowl. In a small bowl, stir sugar, lemon juice and zest, cornstarch, and salt. Combine the mixture with the blueberries stirring gently to coat. Pour the blueberry mixture into a prepared pastry crust. Tuck dots of cold butter into the berries. Top with your 2nd crust. Flute the edges of the pie. Cut a hole in the center for an air vent. Then cut slits in the top of the pie around the circle. Refrigerate the pie for 30 minutes. Please don’t skip this step; it gives you a flakier crust. Use whole milk with a pastry brush to wash the top of the crust. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a 375 degree oven until the crust is golden and the pie is bubbling in the center. About 50-60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely. I cool my pie for 3-4 hours before cutting into the pie. After cooling my pie I refrigerate it overnight. I love it ice cold. You can serve the pie room temperature as well.

Double crust pastry

2/3 cup solid shortening, very cold

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

6-8 tablespoons ice cold water

*For a sweet crust add 2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar

In a medium bowl stir the flour and salt with a whisk. Add the shortening and cut in using a pastry blender till the mixture resembles tiny peas. Add the ice cold water 1 tablespoon at a time mixing with a fork until the dough starts to form a ball. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead just to form a disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

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Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread
Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I have been making Irish soda bread for many years. I love the smell of this quick bread in my oven. There are not too many bread recipes that produce such quick and delicious results. This recipe is a result of many years of trying different recipes. I believe it has the right amount of moisture, sweetness, and tang from the buttermilk. I also love the mixture of the currents and golden raisins. I have always added the butter cold to the flour mixture and approached this as a scone. By testing my recipe with melted butter I feel the end result may be just as good and a little easier. To add flavor I use pure vanilla extract it has always been my favorite. You could also add the zest of citrus fruit which gives a unique flavor. I love the sweetness of the golden raisins, the currents are more traditional and I love them as well. You could also just use raisins, and some years I add the caraway seed which really gives a depth of flavor. Irish soda bread is basic dough. Your imagination with adding the flavor you love makes it special. I only bake Irish soda bread right on or before St. Patrick’s Day. It is always something special to look forward to and I only serve it with Kerrygold Irish butter. It’s the best!

DSCF5160Ingredients.

DSCF5163Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Add the wet.

DSCF5166Stir with a wooden spoon just to combine. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and shape into a ball.

DSCF5168Place in you baking pan and cut an X in the top.

DSCF5171Bake 375 degrees 45-55 minutes.

DSCF5184Out of the oven.

DSCF5189Cool just a little serve warm with butter.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 extra large egg, lightly beaten

1 2/3 cup buttermilk

¾ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

½ cup dried currents

½ cup golden raisins

1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)

Sift the dry ingredients in a large bowl. You could also use a wire whisk to combine the dry ingredients. Make a whole in the center of the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients. Stir to combine with a wooden spoon. Add the currents and golden raisins. Turn out onto a lightly floured board knead just a few times to form a ball. Don’t over mix!! Lightly butter a cast iron skillet or line a baking sheet with parchment. Lightly press the ball of dough. Using a knife make an X in the top of the dough. Bake 375 for 45-55 minutes. Bread should be 205 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Cool on a wire rack serve with softened Kerrygold butter.

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Millionaire Shortbread

Millionaire Shortbread
Millionaire Shortbread

This dessert has three of my favorite ingredients: Shortbread, caramel, and chocolate. I only eat a very small bite and chew it thoroughly to savor all the flavors and texture. When you bite into this heavenly bar you immediately taste the chocolate, then the creamy rich flavor of the caramel and the buttery crunch of the shortbread crust. It is to die for. I first had this dessert at a lovely tea room. It was served on a delicate china plate with black tea in a matching china tea cup. It was the perfect ending to the little tea sandwiches, mini quiche, and sausage rolls that were served as part of the afternoon tea. I now make this dessert to serve at tea parties that I host in my home. I serve it in small bites as it is a very decadent dessert.

DSCF4943My ingredients.

DSCF4944Whisk the flour and salt.

DSCF4949Rub the butter into the flour.

DSCF4953Press into a 9×13 inch baking dish.

DSCF4954Bake 325 degrees 30-40 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

DSCF4957Place all the ingredients for the caramel into a saucepan.

DSCF4958Over medium heat stir to dissolve sugar and melt the butter. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. Reduce to a low heat and cook gently while stirring about 5 minutes. Caramel with slightly thicken.

DSCF4969Pour over baked and cooled shortbread

DSCF4970Melt the chocolate over simmering water.

DSCF4973Pour the melted chocolate over the cooled caramel. Spread evenly with the back of a spoon. Let set till the chocolate hardens.

DSCF5005Enjoy!

Millionaire Shortbread

Shortbread:

2 Sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces

½ Cup of granulated sugar

2 ¼ Cups self-rising flour

In a medium bowl combine the flour and sugar stir the mixture with a whisk. Rub the butter into the flour mixture. Press into a 9×13 inch baking. Bake 30-40 minutes. Shortbread will be golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Caramel:

2 Sticks unsalted butter

1 Cups sugar

4 Tablespoons Lyles golden syrup

13.5 oz. Can sweetened condensed milk

Place all ingredients into a saucepan. Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. Stirring constantly bring the mixture to a boil. Keep stirring and reduce to low heat, cook very slowly and gently for 5 minutes. Mixture will slightly thicken. Pour the caramel over the cooled shortbread crust.

Chocolate:

8 oz. Semi-sweet chocolate

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Pour over cooled caramel. Let set to harden. Cut into squares.

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