Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Peach Cobbler Scones

I could eat scones for breakfast nearly every day and be a happy camper.  

Well, maybe not when I went to put on my jeans....but at the table?  I'd be happy

The thing is, they have to be good scones.  Like, you know, soft....buttery....tender.....if they have those qualities, I pretty much don't care what flavor they are.  Apple, pumpkin, cherry almond, berry, whatever. It's all good. 

Maybe I just have bad luck, but it seems like every scone I've had from a restaurant (Starbucks, Panera Bread, and the like) has been a bit dry and stale tasting.  Oh, they weren't so bad that I wasted the fortune $3 they cost and tossed them in the garbage, but they just don't hold a candle to homemade.  In taste or value.  So in general, I prefer to make my own at home.  

These are a really fun variation on the normal type of scones - because they're basically like a peach sandwich.  Sweet, rich dough encasing juicy peaches, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, and baked until golden. 

Okay, to be perfectly fair, I'll admit that Grant wasn't the hugest fan.  But that's mainly because he doesn't really care for peaches unless they're plain....and he prefers scones with either frosting (ha, who wouldn't?) or a thick layer of jam, which would really be kind of weird on these scones. 

But the kids and I didn't mind because that meant more for us.  We thought they were incredible.  

Peach Cobbler Scones
makes 8 huge scones or 16 smaller ones
adapted slightly from Joy the Baker

3 cups flour (I used half white whole wheat, half all-purpose)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter, cold and cut into cubes (I used salted)
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk, plus a couple Tablespoons for brushing
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 ripe peach, sliced thin (or more if needed)
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Cut in butter until    mixture resembles coarse meal.  Don't leave any chunks of butter larger than peas.

3. In another bowl, combine egg, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Beat lightly with a fork.  Add to the flour mixture  all at once, stirring enough to make a soft dough.

4. Turn onto a floured surface and knead about 15 times.  If the butter has warmed too much in the making  of the dough, shape the batter into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.
 I didn't have this issue - mine was fine.
 If the butter is still cool, shape the dough into a disk and on a well-floured surface, roll dough to a little less  than 1/2-inch thickness, making a rectangle about 12 x 10 inches, or a little larger.

5. Brush half of the rolled dough with buttermilk.  Arrange peach slices, in a single layer, across that side of  the dough. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle half of it over the peaches.

6. Carefully fold the empty side of dough over the peach layer.  Press gently together.  Add a bit of flour to your hands and press the edges of the dough in, creating more of a rectangle shape than a half-circle shape.  Slice dough into 8 or 16 pieces.

7. Place scones on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of room around each scone for spread  while baking. If dough has warmed and feels mushy, place in fridge for a few minutes to re-chill.  Again, I  didn't have this issue.  Brush each scone top with buttermilk and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar.

8. Bake scones for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving. Scones are best served warm, on the day they're made - but they're pretty tasty the next day too. :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Peach Cheesecake Ice Cream

We're fortunate to have a local peach orchard not too far away and I recently picked up half a bushel of my favorite late summer fruit.  That worked out to be 22 pounds, in case you're wondering.  (yes, I did haul out my kitchen scale to weigh them.....I just had to know.)

That's a lot of peaches.

I stuck at least half of them in our extra fridge in the garage so they wouldn't ripen too fast and left the rest on the counter.  My constantly hungry kiddos would make fast work of them, I was sure.

I had every intention of making peach freezer jam, and even bought the pectin for it.....but when I saw that the recipe called for a cup and a half more sugar than peaches, I just couldn't bring myself to make it.
Should have bought that less-sugar required pectin.

Also on my list of things to make was Peach Cobbler Scones.  Those I made on Saturday - the recipe will be coming soon.  Delish.

But above all else, I wanted to make peach ice cream.
But not just plain peach ice cream - peach cheesecake ice cream!
I couldn't get the idea out of my head.

So what I basically did was take the basic vanilla ice cream that I usually make and added a bunch of pureed peaches, with a block of cream cheese replacing one of the cups of cream.  I toyed with the idea of swirling in crumbled homemade ginger snaps or something of the like, but ended up just deciding to sprinkle individual servings with crushed graham crackers.

It was so. good.

Grant (aka Mr.Chocolate) was admittedly skeptical of it.  He was convinced that he wouldn't really care for it.  But after one spoonful, he was SOLD.  

In my opinion, nothing you buy at the store can hold a candle to homemade ice cream.  It's so rich, satisfying, and free of weird ingredients. (carrageenan, anyone??)  And this version, with so many sweet, juicy peaches in it, must have a full serving of fruit per scoop.  What store-bought ice cream can boast that?

Peach Cheesecake Ice Cream
Makes a generous 2 quarts
(a Rebekah original)

1-1/2 pounds fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1 8 (oz) package cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups sugar (I used organic evaporated cane juice sugar)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
Graham crackers for garnish (optional)

1. Place peach slices and cream cheese (cut into small pieces) into a blender or food processor.  Puree until smooth.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the milk and sugar and mix for a few minutes on medium speed, until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture is smooth. I test it by rubbing a small amount of mixture between my fingers to make sure there's no grittiness left.
3. Add the peach cream cheese mixture to the milk and stir to combine.  Add the vanilla and cream and stir gently.
4. Pour into your ice cream maker and proceed according to your manufacturer's directions.

Mine nearly overflowed my Cuisinart 2-quart ice cream maker - so if yours is smaller, reduce the recipe in half or only freeze part of it at a time. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Lemon Zucchini Bread - SRC

This month I had the pleasure of getting introduced to Lea Ann from Cooking...On the Ranch for my Secret Recipe Club assignment. Lea Ann lives in Colorado and has seriously one of the best views in the entire world from her little town.  You HAVE to click over to her About page to see it.  Go ahead....I'll wait.

Didn't I tell you???  Looks like a little piece of heaven to me. I need to go on vacation there.

So I was tempted by so many recipes on her blog - from Chicken Macaroni Salad (definitely making that one soon - I bought the ingredients for it, just haven't gotten to it yet) to this mouth-watering Baked Zucchini and Tomato side dish.....but I had some organic zucchini that was desperately calling to me from the bottom drawer of the fridge to be used soon, and I had never tried Lemon Zucchini Bread before, so that was the big winner.

I was the designated "snack-bringer" to my ladies' Bible study that week, so I decided to double the recipe and share this treat with friends.  And I must say, it was a HUGE hit.  I got loads of compliments from the ladies and kids alike.....and everyone was super surprised that the bread had zucchini in it.

That's mostly because of an error I made.

See, I just got my first food processor a few weeks ago and was super excited to use it to shred the zucchini. Sooooo much faster than hand-grating it, right?
But silly me, I neglected to take the blade out of the bottom of the processor, so the zucchini got not only grated, but basically pureed.  It was a nice, fine pulp.

I just tossed it in the bread anyways and it essentially disappeared.  I don't think anyone would have guessed that there was zucchini in the bread - but it definitely did its magic of adding moisture to the bread.

The best part was the glaze - the tangy, vibrant lemon glaze.  It just made the bread explode with flavor.

You really have to try it - Lea Ann swore it was amazing and she was Oh. So. Right.
Definitely double the recipe - you'll be so glad you did.

Next year I am totally planting some zucchini in my yard so I can make this bread all summer long.

Lemon Zucchini Bread
Adapted slightly from Cooking...On the Ranch
(makes one 9x5" loaf)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil (I used expeller-pressed coconut oil)
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
Juice of 1 lemon (or 2 Tbsp. lemon juice)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup grated zucchini

1 cup powdered sugar
Juice of half a lemon (or 1 Tbsp. lemon juice)

Preheat oven to 350°.
In a large bowl, blend flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat 2 eggs well, then add oil and sugar and blend well.  Add the buttermilk, lemon juice and lemon zest and stir to combine.  Fold in the zucchini.
Add wet mixture to dry mixture and blend gently; don't over mix.
Pour batter into a greased 9x5" loaf pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Combine glaze ingredients in a small bowl - add more juice or sugar if necessary to make a good drizzling consistency.  You don't want it really thick, but super liquidy isn't good either!  Spoon glaze over bread evenly and let set before serving.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Chocolate Chip Chocolate Cheesecake Bites

I know it's just the beginning of August - and there are lots of people who are still soaking in the love of summer for another month - but around here, we're already two weeks into our home school schedule.

We're attempting a new routine - one that I started last year but was completely disrupted by our move; six weeks on, one week off year round - with an extra ten weeks to take off whenever we want.  I'm sure a chunk of those will regularly be taken in the summer, plus we'll have extra time off in December and whenever grandparents come to visit. We'll see how it goes.

A couple of weeks ago, the leaders of our church hosted a dinner for the families who were new to the congregation in the past several months.  We were asked to bring a dessert (you know they had to twist my arm on that one) and I decided to make this variation on these Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Squares.  That's my second most popular blog post of all time - and well deservedly so - but I always like to try new things.

The recipe that inspired me was made in a 8x8" square pan.  Now, I know for some people, that's a reasonable amount of dessert to have around, but when you have a family of 7 and might like a dessert to last more than one meal, that's just not gonna cut it. Not to mention that we were taking it to a potluck.

So double it I did.  

Okay, I have a confession to make.  Any time a recipe calls for an amount of cream cheese that doesn't use up the whole block, I adjust the recipe to use it all  - unless I already have a purpose for the remainder. I just can't stand leaving 4 ounces of cream cheese in the fridge, knowing that I'll never have a recipe that uses so little or I'll forget all about it and end up throwing it away in 3 months.  (cause that's about how often I clean out my fridge.  I know. Ick.  But it's my least favorite chore.)

Sooooo.....I not only doubled the recipe but increased the cheesecake layer so I avoid having the icky cream cheese in the fridge.  The result was that my cheesecake layer was a little taller than the original and took a bit longer to bake - which in turn meant that the cookie layer on top got slightly brown.  I was worried about that at first, but you know what?  It still tasted fabulously delicious.

The proof was that people kept asking "Who made these bars??" with glowing eyes and blissfully happy smiles on their faces at the fellowship meal - and my family couldn't get enough of them.  I'm afraid my kids might have taken more than their share.  And the small pan that I saved at home and took to my parents the next night were equally as well received - my dad and brother LOVED them.

Oh, and another nice thing about making a huge pan - although I didn't have the chance to freeze any, I know they'd freeze perfectly and you could have little cheesecake bites just waiting for you any time the chocolate urge hits.
Or you have surprise company.
Or an accomplishment to celebrate.
Or you just like cheesecake with cookie dough.  Like me.  :)

Chocolate Chip Chocolate Cheesecake Bites
Adapted from Baby Gizmo

3 cups chocolate sandwich cookie crumbs (about 27 cookies)
1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter, melted (I used salted)

Cookie Dough:
10 Tbsp. salted butter, partially melted
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
6 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cheesecake Filling:
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 13 x 9" pan with foil or parchment paper allowing a little overhang.

Mix the melted butter and cookie crumbs until thoroughly combined.  Press into the bottom of the prepared pan.  I use a metal measuring cup to press the mixture in well.  Bake in preheated oven for 6 minutes.  Remove pan to a cooling rack.

While the crust is baking, prepare the chocolate chip cookie dough.  In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth.  Mix in the flour just until incorporated.  Stir in the chocolate chips. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Mix in the eggs and vanilla on low speed just until combined. Add the melted chocolate and mix gently.  Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared crust.

Flatten clumps of cookie dough in your palms and distribute onto the top of the cheesecake batter.  Get it as evenly spread out as possible.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cookie dough feels dry and firm and the entire pan looks set.  If it's really jiggly, give it a few more minutes.  If the cookie dough starts to brown too much, you can cover the top of the pan with foil.

Move bars to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours before cutting.  Remove from pan using the foil overhang and cut into desired size squares.  Keep refrigerated until serving.

Bars can be frozen also - just allow to thaw before serving.  

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