Sunday, July 29, 2012

Campfire S'mores Scones

During my recent trip to Los Angeles, my mom and I rented bikes and hit the streets, biking to Venice Beach and Abbott Kinney Street. Parking the bikes, we ate our way down the street, starting with GTA (Gjelina Take Away). We sampled their brown sugar-blueberry scone. I loved the contrast of the crunchy scone exterior with the soft bready inside. The rich flavor of brown sugar not only topped the scone, but permeated throughout.
Continuing to walk, luckily the clothing shops were closed or I would have been greatly distracted, we happened upon a long line of people at what looked like a small cafe. The sign on the wall read Intelligentsia. Curious, I asked a man standing nearby who told me that this was the best coffee shop and by the way, it also had the best pastries. Of course, we couldn't move on after hearing this, so we joined the crowd outside. While standing in line, we took in the atmosphere. It was very much an earthy, industrial feel. Outside the small glassed entrance were concrete walls; greenery extended up one wall, flanked by earth friendly wooden slatted benches and tables. After arriving at the front of the line, I placed an order for a latte and a campfire s'mores scone. The pastries looked familiar to ones I had seen at Short Cake cafe/bakery located in the Farmer's Market at the Grove. My suspicion was confirmed by the barista who told me how their pastries were provided by Short Cake.
I watched as "my friendly barista" ground the beans for my latte and after brewing then poured the espresso. Lastly, she slowly added the Straus Family Creamery's cream forming a beautiful design in front of my eyes.
It was definitely worth the wait. It was the best latte I have ever had; the smoothest latte without a bitter aftertaste. The accompanying scone was really good also, different from GTA'S in shape and texture. It was round, a common shape for British tea scones, whereas GTA's was more triangular. The s'mores scone's texture was crumbly to the fingers, soft and moist to the tongue, with chunks of chocolate and a sticky marshmallow topping.

Last night as I was watching the Olympic's women gymnastic competition, I had a hankering (Southern slang word for craving/desire) for something sweet. I thought about that wonderful s'mores scone I had in LA. I knew that I already had a great scone recipe that I developed after returning from South Africa. By tweaking that recipe, I could create a s'mores scone. For the graham flavor, I processed enough graham crackers to equal 2/3 cups. My original scone recipe calls for 1 2/3 cups so I thought I could get enough graham flavor with the two-thirds.

I removed my scones from the oven and then thought about how I would toast the marshmallow topping. Without really thinking it through, I dolloped the topping on the scones; then returned them to the oven to broil. I peered through the glass of my oven to see the marshmallow topping melt off of the scones. I quickly retrieved the scones from the oven. Oh no! I hope I didn't ruin my scones. I tried to wipe away the excess melted marshmallow topping before my scones became too soggy. To repair the ones that were damaged, I placed them back in the oven on bake to hopefully evaporate the moisture. Thankfully, it worked! I made more maple marshmallow topping and this time pulled out my handy dandy blow torch to toast the tops. *You can also take store bought large marshmallows, halve them, top the scones and broil in the oven. Because they are more of a solid, they should toast before the marshmallow melts. Then enjoy the ooey gooey deliciousness!
Campfire S’mores Scones
About 8 graham crackers
1 cup self-rising flour
1/8 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. baking powder
Pinch salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter cut into cubes, cold
2 ½ Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg (egg wash), beaten
4 Tbsp. buttermilk
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Maple marshmallow topping:
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Process enough graham crackers, in batches, in a spice grinder or food processor until the texture of flour, to produce 2/3 cups. Pour graham flour into a large mixing bowl.
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the graham-flour mixture with your fingers until it is the size of breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
In a small bowl, beat the egg and buttermilk until combined.
Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Then using your hands, lightly knead the dough together to form soft, slightly sticky dough.
Place the dough on a floured surface and shape into a sphere then pat down about ¾-1 inch thick. Using a floured 2-inch cookie cutter, quickly push the cutter down through the dough and lift without twisting. Cut out scones, reshape dough, and repeat. Creates about 12 scones.
Place the scones on the greased baking sheet and brush the tops of the scones with the beaten egg.
For the maple marshmallow topping: Sprinkle the gelatin over ¼ cup cold water in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until dissolved.  Add the maple syrup. Mix well, then heat over medium-high heat until it almost comes to a boil.
Pour the warm syrup into a deep mixing bowl. Using an electric hand mixer beat on high speed for 6 minutes.
Place the scones in the oven and bake for 7 minutes. While the scones are baking return to mixing the marshmallow mixture for another 6-7 minutes or until doubled in volume and forms soft peaks.
Transfer the scones immediately to a wire rack to slightly cool.
Once scones have slightly cooled, spoon a dollop of maple marshmallow topping on each scone. Using a hand torch, toast each marshmallow topped scone until browned.
Serve slightly warm.
Makes about 12 scones

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

4th July Festive Foods

4th July is always a favorite holiday of my family. What makes it special is that it is also my mom's birthday. My family and I have spent 4th July at some fun places like the beaches of Florida and patriotic Boston, MA.
         On the 4th July a few years ago, at the Marriott Grand in Point Clear, AL, enjoying s'mores
         on the beach.

Fireworks are one of the most important parts of celebrating my mom's birthday on the 4th. Allow me to describe how important fireworks are to her. My mom had my sister, dad, and I stand on a huge bridge with a crowd of people in the RAIN to watch the huge fireworks show in Boston.
Not only are fireworks an important part of the celebration but more importantly the food. Whether our 4th July spread is on a picnic table, at the beach, or in our back yard; one thing stays the same the food is flavorful and fun!
Squash, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, figs, peaches, strawberries, and blueberries are all abundant right now so take full advantage!
My mom's recipe for her crispy pita BLT uses squash and jalapeno peppers in a unique way by oven-frying them. You can find her recipe in this month's issue of Taste of Home.
If you are wanting to crank up your grill, my miracle marinade in my cookbook will make any meat tender, flavorful, and mouth-watering good!
Miracle Marinade
1 tsp. olive oil
4 tsp. finely diced onion
8 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. paprika
2 tsp. lime juice
2 tsp. orange juice
½ tsp. garlic
¼ tsp. fresh ginger

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tsp. olive oil and onions. Cook until caramelized about 2-4 minutes.

Combine the remaining ingredients into a small bowl.
Stir in the caramelized onions.

Use Immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Makes: ½ cup

If the grill is too much work for you, keep it simple and prepare bbq pulled pork, recipe found on page 55 in my cookbook, in the oven. I love to serve my coleslaw and creole succotash alongside.
For a knock-your-socks-off dessert, my cool and creamy strawberry cream cupcakes are the perfect 4th July dessert. Add blueberries to create a festive red, white, and blue treat!