Pumpkin Scones with Caramelized Pepitas

I enjoy the weekend after Thanksgiving more than the day itself. On Thanksgiving Day, I made several trips up and down three flights of stairs and did so much lifting and carrying that my body felt like I had spent the day at the gym instead of the kitchen.  It’s one way to burn calories I guess.    This weekend, I have more time to, relax, spend time with friends and family, binge watch the “Mystery Marathon” on my local PBS station and, of course, eat leftovers.

If you find yourself with extra canned pumpkin, try making these tender pumpkin scones.  The don’t take long to make and will impress weekend houseguests. As a bonus, your kitchen will be fragrant with the autumn spices that flavor the dough.  Serve them at a holiday brunch or split them in half for mini turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches after bargain shopping.  Note: Pepitas are the green kernels of pumpkin seeds.  You can buy them ready hulled.

If you like this recipe, please share it.  If you make it, let me know how it turned out.

Pumpkin Scones with Caramelized Pepitas

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 8 scones

Pumpkin Scones with Caramelized Pepitas

Ingredients

  • Caramelized pepitas:
  • 1/4 cup (15 g) pepitas
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • Scones:
  • 2 cups (260 g) all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (75 g) brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup (113 g) cold, unsalted butter cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup (50 g) dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup (15 g) toasted pepitas, walnuts, or pecans
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) canned pure pumpkin
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Egg Wash:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. whole milk

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C.)
  2. For the caramelized pepitas:
  3. Melt 1 tbsp. butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  4. Stir in the sugar. Keep stirring until the sugar turns a reddish brown.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup (15 g) pepitas to coat with the caramel.
  6. Spread out the caramelized pepitas on a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  8. Scone dough:
  9. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  10. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  11. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour and spice mixture with a pastry blender, two knives or your fingers until it looks like coarse bread crumbs.
  12. Stir in the dried cranberries and toasted pepitas or nuts.
  13. In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk, pumpkin and vanilla. Add this wet mixture to the flour mixture. Mix until the dough comes together.
  14. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough gently with floured hands. Pat it into a circle about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) thick and 7 inches (18 cm) diameter.
  15. Cut the circle in half, then into quarters. Cut each quarter into two triangles to make 8 dough triangles. Place the triangles on the baking sheet.
  16. Whisk together the egg and milk to make an egg wash. Brush the tops of the dough triangles with the egg wash. Sprinkle each triangle with caramelized pepitas.
  17. Place the baking sheet in the pre-heated oven. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick or skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
http://40shadesofflavor.com/pumpkin-scones-caramelized-pepitas/

 

 

 

Barm Brack (Irish Halloween Bread)

Barm Brack is an Irish Halloween bread containing fruit and spices.

Barm Brack is an Irish bread eaten at Halloween. Fortune-telling charms such as a ring or coin are baked in the bread.

Barm Brack is a fruit bread made with yeast and spices eaten in Ireland around Halloween.  Barm is an old word for yeast and brack comes from breac, the Irish word for spotted., Warm autumn spices make it just the thing with a hot cup of tea on a raw October afternoon.  Toasted for breakfast, it’s a richer version of cinnamon raisin toast.

The bread’s popularity at Halloween is due to fortune-telling charms baked in the bread — a ring means marriage, a coin wealth, cloth poverty.  There is great excitement when someone finds the ring in their slice of brack.  Fortune-telling games were an essential part of Irish Halloween traditions because of the old pagan belief that the veil between this life and the next became thin at this time of the year.   The holiday has its roots in a Celtic harvest celebration that marked the end of the year and honored the dead. The Catholic Church turned the three day festival into a Christian holiday, All Saints’ or Hallows’ Day on November 1 and All Soul’s Day on November 2.  October 31 thus became All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween. Irish and Scots immigrants brought their holiday to America.  The more ghoulish American version of the holiday has returned to Europe in recent years.  For more about the origins of Halloween, read Edyth Preet’s story in Irish America magazine.

This recipe is adapted from Rachel Allen’s “Irish Family Food”.  I used homemade pumpkin pie spice for a brighter flavor, but you can certainly substitute the store bought spice mix.  My version also includes another American fall flavor — dried cranberries.

Not that it’s ever “safe” to bake tokens in bread, but If you plan to include a charm, be sure it is first well washed in hot soapy water and wrapped in a piece of parchment paper or cheesecloth so it’s easily identified and not accidentally swallowed.

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Ingredients:

1 2/3 cups (225 g) white bread flour

2 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice (see note for homemade spice mix)

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. (25 g) unsalted butter

1 (1/4 oz. or 7 g) package of fast-acting yeast

1/4 cup (50 g) superfine (caster) sugar

2/3 cup (150 ml) whole milk, lukewarm

1 egg beaten

1 1/2 cups (200 g) mixed dried fruit such as golden raisins (sultanas), raisins, cranberries, and currants.

1 oz. (25 g) chopped mixed orange and lemon peel (I had to buy them separately at my supermarket and mix them)

Method:

Grease the sides and bottom of a 9 by 5 inch (23 by 13 cm) loaf pan.

Sift the flour, spice and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter, yeast and sugar.  Beat together by hand or in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.

Warm the milk until lukewarm, then add to the flour mixture with the beaten egg. Mix until the dough comes together.  Knead in the stand mixer using the dough hook attachment for 5 minutes or tip out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for 8 minutes.  Add the dried fruit and mixed peel and knead for another 2 minutes.   If using charms, add them here.

Put the dough into the prepared tin, cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius).

Remove the kitchen towel, place loaf in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until deep golden brown.  Insert a toothpick into the center of the loaf, if it comes out clean, the bread is baked through.  If not, bake for another few minutes.   When it is ready, loosen the sides of the loaf from the tin using a spatula.  Tip it out and let cool on a wire rack.

Slice the loaf and serve it fresh or toasted with plenty of butter.

Note: To make homemade pumpkin pie spice, mix together 3 tbsp. ground cinnamon, 2 tbsp. ground ginger, 2 tsps. freshly ground nutmeg, 1 1/2 tsp. ground allspice and 1 1/2 tsp. ground cloves.  You will only need 2 tbsp. for the brack, save the rest in an airtight container for your Thanksgiving pumpkin pies.

 

 

 

 

 

Irish Scones

These are the famous Irish scones I bring to work every year at St. Patrick’s Day.  They go so fast, that coworkers have been known to wait at the elevators for my arrival to be sure they snag one. These light as air scones are a far cry from the heavy, dry and glazed versions sold at a popular coffee chain.

My Auntie Anna from Castleisland, Co. Kerry, generously shared this recipe with me. Over the years, I’ve tweaked it, for instance using plain, whole milk yogurt instead of buttermilk for a lighter dough.   I also play around with adding ingredients to  the dough such as sultanas (golden raisins), dried cranberries and orange peel in the winter, apple and cinnamon walnut in the autumn or cheese and onion for cocktail parties.  Feel free to experiment with your favorite flavors, the recipe lends itself to creativity.   Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Irish Scones

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 17 minutes

Yield: 2 dozen scones

Irish Scones

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda sieved
  • 1/3 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 oz. (1 stick) butter chilled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup plain, whole milk yogurt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. Rub in the butter until the mixture looks like bread crumbs.
  4. Add the egg.
  5. Fold in the yogurt. At this point add dried fruit or other ingredients if using.
  6. Using an ice-cream scoop, scoop out the scone dough and place on greased baking sheets.
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and the baking sheets and let cool on a wire rack.
  9. Serve with butter and jam.
http://40shadesofflavor.com/irish-scones/

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Experience a real taste of Ireland

Ireland May 2015 I 069

The fish counter at Dublin gourmet market Fallon & Byrne’s.

Long before I started this blog, I was an evangelist for the high quality of food in Ireland where the seafood is literally fresh off the boat, cheese and butter come from grass fed cows, and local butchers still make their own sausages. In every home you will be offered a cup of tea, usually with a slice of cake or bread spread with deep yellow butter.  If you visit, you will quickly learn that hospitality is an intrinsic part of Irish culture and farm to table is not a fad, it’s a way of life.  Saveur magazine founder and award winning cookbook author Colman Andrews has called Ireland “…one of the most exciting food stories in the world today.”

If you want to experience a real taste of Ireland for yourself, Chicago travel company Global Gourmands,  is offering a culinary tour of the Emerald Isle this May.  Founded by luxury travel pros,  Susan Gillato and Claudia Royston, Global Gourmands specializes in small group tours that offer memorable food and adventures not available to the average tourist.    Forage for wild edible plants in a Wicklow forest.  Go fishing off the spectacular Dingle peninsula and prepare your catch at a local cooking school.  Explore the food stalls and make new friends at Cork’s historic English Market.  Enjoy traditional food prepared in new ways at world class restaurants.  The tour also includes two nights at the famous Ballymaloe House Hotel and a class at Ballymaloe’s world famous cookery school.

Wild garlic growing along a rural Irish road.

Wild garlic growing along a rural Irish road.

Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry, Co. Cork.

Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry, Co. Cork.

Listen to Susan and Claudia talk about their travel philosophy and the Ireland tour on Edible Chicago’s latest Deep Dish Cafe podcast.  Global Gourmands’ Ireland tour was featured in Edible Chicago’s Winter issue as well as the February 2016 issue of Irish American News.  For more information and recent news articles about the trip go to http://www.globalgourmands.com.  If you like this post, please share it.

Me with Cork's most famous fish monger Pat O'Connell of K. O'Connell's in the city's English Market.

Me with Cork’s most famous fish monger Pat O’Connell of K. O’Connell’s in the city’s English Market.

 

 

Holiday gift from the kitchen, spiced pecans

Spiced pecans are my signature holiday food gift.

Spiced pecans are my signature holiday food gift.

 

Spiced pecans have become my signature holiday party food gift.  Crunchy, salty and sweet with a touch of heat, they are an irresistible cocktail snack.  They also add personality to a cheese plate or a simple green salad.

A homemade food gift is more personal and saves money, and who doesn’t want to save money at this time of the year?   I buy the pecans at a warehouse club and package them in repurposed mason or jam jars decorated with a bit of Christmas ribbon or a sprig of fresh holly or rosemary from the garden.

If you like this recipe, please share it.

Spiced Pecans

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unsalted pecan halves
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's (icing) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne or ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, cover the pecans with water. Transfer to a sieve and shake out water.
  2. 2. In another bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, cayenne or cinnamon and salt. Add the pecans and toss. Transfer to a sieve and shake off the excess coating.
  3. 3. Arrange the pecans on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the sugar carmelizes and the nuts are golden. Let cool and package in decorated mason or jam jars.
http://40shadesofflavor.com/spiced-pecans/

 

Don’t Miss This Event

Irish cooking maven Darina Allen will speak at iBAM Chicago 2015.

Irish cooking maven Darina Allen will speak at iBAM Chicago 2015.

It’s rare to meet one of your heroes.  I can’t believe that I will be lucky enough to meet one of mine twice in less than five months and have the honor of introducing her.The great Irish chef  and cookbook author Darina Allen, founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, Co. Cork, will be speaking this weekend at the Irish Books, Art and Music Festival at Chicago’s Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox.  She will receive the festival’s first award for culinary arts at a gala dinner on Friday, Oct. 9.  The festival is free, tickets for the gala are $150, $125 for IAHC members. Check the iBAM schedule for details about the festival and gala.   This is a rare opportunity to hear her speak in Chicago, so get to iBAM on Saturday or Sunday afternoon.  And please share this post.

When I was in Ireland last May, I went to the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Food and Literary Festival.  Although only three years old, LitFest has become a must-attend event for chefs and food writers worldwide.  Although Darina Allen is the head of the whole thing, amazingly she was one of the first people I met at LitFest following Chef April Bloomfield’s cooking demo.  Not only did I talk to her about a mutual friend in Cork, she handed me a plate of April’s outstanding food.

To get a flavor of LitFest, watch this video of April Bloomfield at Kerrygold Ballymaloe LitFest 2015.

Here are a few more pictures from LitFest:

 

Chef Christian Puglisi cooking demo moderated by Darina Allen at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe LitFest 2015.

Chef Christian Puglisi cooking demo moderated by Darina Allen at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe LitFest 2015.

In the kitchen of the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

In the kitchen of the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry, Co. Cork.

Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry, Co. Cork.

Festival goers relaxing on the grounds of Ballymaloe House during LitFest 2015.

Festival goers relaxing on the grounds of Ballymaloe House during LitFest 2015.

Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry, Co. Cork.

Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry, Co. Cork.

 

Victoria Sandwich

Victoria Sponge

My dad’s birthday is June 18 and Father’s Day usually falls close by, if not on his actual birthday.  He loves cakes and sweets and misses Irish cakes.  This year, for his birthday/Father’s Day I decided to make him a Victoria Sandwich —  an old fashioned cake that I don’t think I’ve made since I was 13 or 14. It’s a very light sponge with a filling of fresh cream and jam (my school recipe calls for a chocolate buttercream filling which I remember being good.)  It used to be the classic afternoon tea cake.  Since I made it as a young teen, you know it’s not a complicated recipe.

Although I wrote down the ingredients,  I did not write down the steps involved in actually making the cake and for some mind-boggling reason we were instructed to use margarine —  this was in Ireland, a country awash in possibly the best butter in the world. I definitely wanted a recipe that used butter and needed to confirm that I remembered how to make the cake. And, since June is strawberry season, I also wanted to include fresh berries with the jam.

I found this recipe for Victoria Sponge using butter and fresh strawberries on Irish chef Kevin Dundon’s website.  He included it in his “Back to Basics” cooking series that airs on PBS.  As I’ve noted before, organic cream makes a big difference in the flavor of cream cakes. It’s even a different color than standard whipping cream — more yellow.  Yes, it is more expensive, but how often do you eat cream cakes?   They are meant to be a treat. This is how it turned out.  As my neighbor commented “not shabby” for a cake I haven’t made since I was a young teenager.  I won’t wait that long to make it again, maybe with raspberries next month.  Happy birthday dad!

This is the recipe for Victoria Sandwich I wrote in the back of my secondary school cookery book when I was 13.

This is the recipe for Victoria Sandwich I wrote in the back of my secondary school cookery book when I was 13.

If you like this post, please share it.  Thanks.

Hidden Treasures at Printer’s Row Lit Fest

 

Used cookbooks I found at the Printer's Row Litfest.

Used cookbooks I found at the Printer’s Row Litfest.

If you go to the annual Printer’s Row Lit Fest  in Chicago this weekend I recommend spending some time at the many used book stalls.   They’re a treasure trove for lovers of vintage cookbooks.  Several years ago I found “A Taste of Ireland in Food and in Pictures” by the esteemed  Irish food writer Theodora FitzGibbon, ( Food writing was the least of her accomplishments. Read her biography “A Taste for Love.”) published by Pan in 1970.   Three years ago — on my birthday — I did one last search through a stack of used books before leaving the festival.  I nearly fell over when among the dog-eared and stained volumes I discovered  the 1959 paperback edition of the James Beard Cookbook and saw that it had been autographed by the great man himself.

James Beard autograph

James Beard autograph

I felt like the universe had given me a birthday gift.  Both of these vintage cookbooks have become indispensable in my  growing collection.  I can’t wait to see what I find this year.

Earth Day Cupcakes

Happy Earth Day cupcakes

Happy Earth Day cupcakes

 

Although I love cooking and blogging, my day job is helping to protect the environment.  I decided to bring my food and environmental worlds together and make special Earth Day cupcakes for my coworkers using organic carrots, eggs and pecans from Chicago’s Green City Market .   I used Martha Stewart’s recipe for carrot cake cupcakes http://www.marthastewart.com/351273/carrot-cake-cupcakes-cream-cheese-frosting  because I trust that she knows what she is doing. She didn’t let me down. The cupcakes were not too sweet and stayed moist for days.

I wanted to decorate the cupcakes to look like the earth from space, but still wanted to use cream cheese frosting because it’s not a proper carrot cake without it. It was a challenge.  Butter cream is definitely much easier to work with. They kind of looked like an Impressionist’s view of the earth from space — but everyone still understood what I was going for and, most importantly, they tasted good.   (Note: Cream cheese frosting usually includes vanilla, but I left it out because I read  that vanilla extract and food coloring don’t play well together.)

To frost the cupcakes, I used a half cup of the plain frosting mixed with six drops of blue food coloring.  I used a 9 inch angled spatula to spread the blue frosting on the cakes.  To make the continents, I mixed an eighth of a cup of plain frosting with two drops of green food coloring and “painted” them on top of the blue base with a small decorating brush I bought at a craft store.    I also used a decorating brush to paint white frosting “clouds”  over the blue and green.  A couple of tips for easier decorating, the frosting should be at room temperature and make sure the cupcakes have completely cooled before starting to frost them.

 

carrot cake cupcakes 003

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature

4 oz. unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup confectioner’s (icing) sugar

Place cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using a spatula, break it up.

Add butter.  Mix at low speed to cream cheese and butter together.

Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar and mix at medium  speed until sugar, butter and cream cheese are blended.

Irish Wine – Who’d Have Drunk It?

Concannon Vineyards

Concannon Vineyards

Last week, my friends Dolores and Dan invited me to their house for a St. Patrick’s Day dinner of beef and Guinness stew.  When I told Dolores that I had brought an “Irish” wine for the dinner, she looked at me as if I had two heads.  Even to my Irish friends, the idea of Irish wine seems like a joke.  Not many of them know that one of the first families of California wine making is descended from an Irish immigrant.  I had just read about pioneering winemaker James Concannon on the Daily Sip blog.   What a great story. He was born in the Aran Islands on St. Patrick’s Day, 1847, and, like many young Irishmen, left Ireland at 18 in search of adventure and better opportunities.  He made his way to Mexico and California and was engaged in all kinds of business endeavors.  In 1883, he purchased a property in the Livermore Valley, California, initially to make communion wine for the Catholic Church. Four generations later, the Concannon family is still producing wine at that same vineyard and is very proud of its Irish heritage.  In 2012, John Concannon produced an Irish whiskey aged in Concannon Petite Sirah casks as a tribute to his great grandfather.

When President Ronald Reagan — a former Governor of California — visited the birthplace of his parents in 1984, he presented a Methuselah (6 liter bottle) of Concannon Reserve Petite Sirah 1979 vintage to Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald as an official gift from the United States.  I doubt that James Concannon could ever have imagined that one day his family’s wine would be presented to the Prime Minister of an independent Ireland by an Irish American President of the United States.

I love this story so much and since Concannon is close enough to my own surname, I think Concannon Vineyards is going to be my new “house” wine.

For more information about the history of Concannon family, their wines and family recipes go to the Concannon Vineyard web site.

(For a fascinating history of Irish winemakers around the world, read “A Kingdom of Wine” by Ted Murphy published by the Ireland Fund Winegeese Society.)