Fortnum & Mason's scone recipe

After the holidays, it's nice to have a lighter schedule.  I'm enjoying the slower pace and having time to do things, like read, again.  That said, I'm happily staying busy in the kitchen in the new year.  In fact, I've been paying attention to satisfying all my random food cravings!
These cravings run the gamut, from steel cut oatmeal to veggie stews, to, of course, chocolate.  One recent craving I've been having was for scones.  I think it may have something to do with my vague idea for a Christmas afternoon tea of sorts during the holidays that I couldn't manage to make happen.  So with more time to cook more random things, it was time to make another batch of scones!

I have developed a preference for British-style scones (which are lighter, more cake-like than the American counterpart), particularly after having an amazing afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason in London a couple of years ago.  I came home from that trip to London and wrote about making Battenberg cake and jammy dodgers and I realized I never posted about Fortnum's scones, which I've made a few times as well.  
I started making them after Fortnum published their scone recipe in their cookbook published in 2017.  I had to get my hands on some '00' flour first.  This superfine flour is common in Italian cooking, for making things like pasta; I'm happy to note that it's a lot easier to find this flour now and I can pick up a bag at my local Whole Foods.

I am admittedly quite shaky (i.e., bad) at making things like scones, biscuits, and pie dough.  But, somehow, I keep trying.  So my Fortnum scones don't come out quite as lofty, or uniform, or nearly as beautiful as the real deal.  However, they still taste wonderful!  These scones are delicate in a way - light and soft in texture, and sweet.  They are less buttery and heavy than American scones and more cake-like; they almost melt in your mouth.  After eating the latest batch this past weekend, I realize why I've been craving them! 
When I make British scones, I always get the urge to make a small batch of lemon curd to go with it.  I did just that this past weekend.  It felt so nice to sit down, split open a freshly-baked scone, and slather it with a little homemade lemon curd.  As much as I was enjoying the combination, I couldn't help but think how much I like these scones all by themselves, just enjoying the taste and texture of them.  Needless to say, I was really happy I paid attention to this particular craving and wanted to put down the recipe here.


Holiday baking, 2019 (part 2)

It's almost time to hang up the oven mitts and get down to the business of properly relaxing (at least for a couple of days)!  I hope it's been a sweet holiday season despite the inevitable stress and time crunch that comes along with it.    
I've had a lot of fun cocooning myself up in the kitchen and baking up a storm this holiday season.  I think we'll be finding sparkling sugar and bits of nuts and chocolates around the kitchen for a while yet.  So while I continue the cleanup, I'd love to share the final (part 2) recap of my recent holiday baking whirlwind.  
First up - I finally gave "the" cookies a try.  If you're on social media and into baking, you'll likely have heard of Allison Roman's "Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies", which were so popular, they essentially went viral and became dubbed "the" cookies.  I saw these cookies on my Instagram feed repeatedly for ever so long and have kept them in the back of my mind.  Since Christmastime is a great time to make shortbread cookies, it was time I gave them a try.

I can tell you the salted chocolate shortbread cookies are mighty tasty and they were not as tricky to make as I feared.  In my mind, you can't go wrong with adding chocolate to most things and inserting them into salty, buttery shortbread certainly works.  The salt stands out here; don't forget to add the flaky sea salt on top before baking...the extra bite of salt intensifies the flavor.  The edge of crunchy turbinado sugar not only brings a touch of glamor, they add a lovely sweet crunch.  It's a great holiday shortbread to bring to the party.
In addition to Allison Roman's salted chocolate shortbread, I made the vanilla sablé cookies that I made last holiday season.  This is going to become a holiday tradition because my family and I really, really adore these simple vanilla recipe by Dorie Greenspan.  They are a beautiful balance of sweet and slightly-salty, crisp and sandy yet tender, with that extra skirt of crunchy, sparkly sugar that adds to their elegance (and deliciousness). 



Holiday baking, 2019 (part 1)

The holiday season is my favorite excuse to amp up on baking.  It's a year-round sport for me but come late November through the month of December, baking takes on a whole extra level of sweetness.  I'm savoring this time in the kitchen, and I thought it'd be fun to once again cobble together pics of some of the baking that's been going on in my kitchen.  We're baking plenty of family-favorites, with some new recipes mixed in.
Let's start with the peppermint-chocolate macarons shown above.  I'm no stranger to trying macaron recipes and even though it's always a high-wire act with uncertain results, I can't help myself.  Since it's the holidays, it's all about the peppermint - my son's favorite flavor this time of year - so I went with the chocolate and peppermint combo using Martha Stewart's recipe in her latest book, Cookie Perfection.  I wish I could say my macarons were perfection but I did have some cracked shells.  Overall, though, we ended up with a solid batch of macarons.  It was the first time I flavored the macaron shells with peppermint (as opposed to adding it in the chocolate ganache filing) and we really liked the result.
Did I mention it's all about the chocolate-peppermint right now?  I snuck in an early batch of my son's favorite peppermint brownies a few weeks ago.  By request, I'm actually making another batch today as I type this.  
For me, it's time to stock up on almond paste during the holidays.  A batch of pignoli cookies hit the table this season and I also made the cherry-almond macaroons just yesterday.  
They bake up, and disappear, very quickly.  I love having almond paste around and making some version of these chewy almond macaroons whenever I have extra egg whites on hand.
During this season of warm drinks, it's also nice to have simple cookies like hazelnut biscotti around for dipping.  I love a dry, crunchy biscotti filled with nuts!  It's also a great option when you want something a little less rich - that way, you have space for all the other chocolates and treats around us this time of year.  



Chestnut fondant

Holiday time is all about sugar, spice, and everything nice.  It  conjures up all sorts of cozy images and makes me crave many kinds of foods, like chestnuts.  It's one of my favorite things and this is the time of year when fresh chestnuts pop up at the grocery stores.  I love eating good fresh chestnuts, and I also adore chestnut flavored desserts.  My love of chestnut desserts has been pretty well documented here but I'm always on the lookout for more.
So I'm back with yet another chestnut dessert, a little treat I shared with my husband recently.  It was a very simple chestnut fondant - the French style of cake that is nearly flourless, usually quite rich and moist.  The recipe comes from Paris Chez Sharon; I have seen her post the chestnut fondants from the Parisian market, Marché Maubert, on her Instagram account and drooled over them for a long time so I was thrilled when she shared her recipe for it over at her blog.  
And chestnut cream (or chestnut spread) is again our direct path to a simple chestnut dessert.  Think of this mini fondant loaf cake as mostly chestnut cream, enhanced with a smidgen of dark chocolate, a dab of butter, some egg yolks, and held together with just a spoonful of flour.  This fondant is similar to a flourless chocolate-chestnut cream cake I've made before; I'd say this fondant really lets the chestnut dominate, and I love it all the more for it. 
Because there are lots of Christmas cookies and treats to be devoured this month, I made a "baby" loaf (half the original recipe) in a paper loaf pan about 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch in size.  The mini loaf is perfect for my husband and I to tuck into and share as an after-dinner treat for a couple of nights.  This way, I also have leftover chestnut cream to use for a host of other delicious purposes (like in financiers slated this weekend).  

With so much deep chestnut flavor, a small wedge (or two) is really satisfying.  I love the depth of sweet, nutty, chestnut flavor.  The fondant is super moist, a little chewy, and every little compact bite is a wonderful seasonal gift to the chestnut lover.  I am so happy to discover this recipe!


Chocolate mint crunch bars

Baking is a year-round "sport" for me but there's an added layer of purpose and excitement around it when we start talking about holiday baking!  I must start thinking about Christmas cookies, and holiday baking in general, the minute the temps start dropping.  Peppermint things start popping up in the kitchen, and it's been happening already.  It's also no coincidence that chocolate and mint is one of my son's favorite combos.
A new and simple chocolate-mint idea popped up into our kitchen last week, and it was inspired by my teen.  We keep a candy dish near our door, with a mixture of small chocolates.  The other day, my son took a small Nestle Crunch, then followed it with an Andes Mint; he then started raving about how delicious the combination was!  It gave us all a good laugh but it got me thinking...
...I could easily make that combination happen for him!  So I went out shopping for some puffed cereal and this 3-ingredient chocolate mint crunch bar came to life.  
I literally chopped up a mix of semi-sweet chocolate and Andes Mint candies, melted it down, and stirred in puff cereal before setting it into a pan to set.  Using Andes Mint packs a strong minty punch and eliminates the possible issue of the melted chocolate seizing if you were to add peppermint extract to it instead.
This fun little happenstance project was a hit with the teen, who was tempted to write to Nestle requesting a mint version of their Crunch bar!  He was very pleasantly surprised when I presented him with his inspiration.  We can all vouch that a chocolate-mint crunch bar is a very delicious thing, and we're happy to make and eat our own homespun version of it for now.


Berry pretty raspberry soufflés

Fall is undoubtedly cookie-making month for me.  With cooler temps and more time at home now that we're back on the school schedule (more time for me, that is, but busier-than-ever for our high school freshman), I find myself whipping up batches of cookies on the regular.  It's a comforting routine - a mix of baking therapy and a way of expressing love and nurture in a small way.  So I'm all for cookies.  But that said, I try to mix in a little something different once in a while.  Cue the soufflés!
I've made soufflés a number of times but they're definitely not something I do on the regular.  In some ways, you have to hype yourself up a little bit and focus.  It's a little bit of magic and when the spell works, it's a great trick.
A few months back, I spotted a trio of beautiful soufflés on Erin McDowell's Instagram account.  You can see a photo and the recipe, here.  Is it any wonder I ran out and bought a bag of frozen raspberries right away to make sure I try it at home?

I do have this nagging thought that I should've went with the blueberry version to see if I could reproduce that gorgeous purple-blue hue, especially when I realize I'd made raspberry soufflés once before (albeit different), but pink and raspberry won out.  This raspberry soufflé recipe is different from the other I've tried in that it requires an extra step - pureeing the fruit and passing it through a sieve to remove the seeds so that you have a beautiful, smooth, bright red raspberry puree to infuse your soufflés with.  It results in the more even pink hue throughout the soufflé.  
That extra step of pureeing the fruit does take some time and patience but it was worth it.  And when the recipe works just as written, with the soufflés rising steadily and calmly (no tipping over), you feel such a thrill of success.  It's a great sight to behold but, alas, it is a very quick "high", as soufflés begin to deflate as soon as they come out of the oven.  But that's alright...sometimes you just have to life for the moment (and just hope there will be lots and lots of "moments").


Ice cream sandwiches

I know fall is fast-approaching and it's time for pumpkins and earth tones but can we squeeze in one more summer treat?  Let's sit back and have an ice cream sandwich, as we flip through our summer photos and reminisce (because it already feels like a long time ago).
I finally made ice cream sandwiches this summer.  My son adores a good ice cream sandwich and it's one of those things I've been meaning to make - instead of buy - for so long now.  After tackling ice cream tacos, I figured it was past time.  And really, this is just a matter of making the thin, brownie-like, cake layer, then a little quick work (and okay, a teeny bit of mess) spreading some good ice cream in between.  Extra credit if you feel like adding some chocolate magic shell and sprinkles.  

I went with a recipe from The New York Times - it's really simple and I liked the appeal of thin brownie-like cake that's soft, slightly fudgy and chewy, as the cap between some good vanilla ice cream.  And when I conferred with my son, we agreed that a classic vanilla ice cream is the best choice for an ice cream sandwich; it's hard to beat that simple contrast between chocolate and vanilla that somehow seems to make both taste better.  
If you want to make it a real project, homemade ice cream is an option, but to save a ton of time, buy a high-quality ice cream to use here.  You want the denser kind that has a higher fat content and less air/overage.  Not only will the ice cream sandwich taste better and be more substantial, it will be easier to work with and less mess, as the ice cream melts a bit slower.  We liked Haagen Dazs ice cream best for this job; Ben & Jerry's is a good second choice in this case.  

You'll feel great having these treats wrapped up and stocked in your freezer.  They will go quick!


Levain Bakery style cookies

Somehow we went from June to September!  Summer break flashed by all too quickly despite our best efforts to slow it down.
Copycat Levain Bakery style cookies I make at home
It was a busy summer!  We savored the break, took a couple of trips, and got a lot of things done in between.  The big guy started high school!!  I spent the summer trying to come to terms with this huge milestone and all that goes with it.  Now, my nerves are settling down and we're adjusting to fall routines and life with a busy high schooler.  I'm thinking about warm comfort foods - like big, warm, melty chocolate chip cookies!

If you live around New York City or ask New Yorkers about places for great chocolate chip cookies, you're likely to hear about Levain Bakery.  Known for their big cookies (and I do mean, big, as they weigh in at 6 ounces a piece), typically served up still warm from the oven, they have a serious cult following.  To me, the Levain cookies are all about texture.  The huge cookies are crisp on the outside and so soft, gooey, and melty in the center.  This divine texture - served up in a big way - is what makes me crave them.  And as big as they are, these cookies go down easy and are quite easily habit-forming.
Actual Levain Bakery cookies. A box of these were recently gifted to us (what a treat!) so we finally had the chance to taste all four varieties made by the bakery.
Levain only makes 4 kinds of cookies (shown above): chocolate chip walnut, dark chocolate chocolate chip, dark chocolate peanut butter chip, and oatmeal raisin.  

I had my first Levain cookies in 2017 (photos of their chocolate chip walnut cookie from that day below) when we stopped by one of their NYC locations (miraculously, no line at the time) and bought the chocolate chip walnut and chocolate chocolate chip cookies.  Recently, we received a box of each as a gift and got to try them all.
I have to say that my favorite is the chocolate chip walnut and it's my favorite one to mimic at home!  I've also made the chocolate peanut butter chip because I couldn't get it out of my head after someone mentioned it was their favorite of the lineup; I made a version before I even had the chance to try the real thing! 

So I'd like to share the two copycat versions of these cookies I make at home.  They are great for when you're in the mood for some seriously hearty, delicious cookies to warm up your fall and winter days ahead.  You can find different renditions of these cookies but I'm happy with the following two recipes I landed on, which are now firmly in my cookie-baking repertoire.   


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