Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gad Zukes! It's Time for Zucchini Bread!

Zucchini by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

When life gives you zucchini, you don't have much time to muck about. You can make zuke soup, Mollie Katzen's ZuCanoes, ratatouille, and zucchini bread, but you better be fast because fresh zucchini only lasts a few days before shriveling to primordial ooziness. Here's a zucchini bread that yielded two loaves, one big, one small. The large one made breakfast toast for a week. The baby loaf made the kids at work happy for about 10 minutes. Then they asked what I would bring tomorrow. Something about orange scones...

Zucchini Bread by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Zucchini Bread

adapted from "Bon Appetit, Y'all" by Virginia Willis

1 cup canola oil

3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

4 zucchini, peeled and grated, yielding 2 cups

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease two loaf pans with baking spray or cooking oil. I used one medium and one small loaf pans, you may do well with just one large loaf pan.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, whisk together.

3. In a measuring cup, place the oil, eggs and vanilla and stir together.

4. Add the wet to the dry mixtures, stirring just until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s).

5. Bake until golden brown, with the cracked spine along the top, about one hour. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for about five minutes, then turn out of the pan. Keep at room temperature, well-wrapped, for a few days.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pimento Cheese is the new gravy

Pimento cheese and crackers by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

As we approach the real dog days of summer, I can confess that it's been so long since I've really cooked! We eat so simply in the summer; I've come to the conclusion that my perfect summer meal is homemade pimento cheese on crackers; crispy, sweet watermelon slices, and iced tea. I could eat this for breakfast, lunch or dinner (and another confession: I have).

Have you seen all the buzz about pimento cheese (or, as it's known in my house, minner cheese)?  Wanda at The Teacher Cooks blog features a minner cheese biscuits recipe that I can't wait to try. There's even a tweet-bot on @pimentocheese, professing a love of the cheese spread all through the Twitter-verse. I never had homemade pimento cheese until I married; my family knew only the occasional plastic container of gloppy fluorescent orange spread. I had to ask my mother-in-law to make minner, and naturally, it's the easiest thing in the world: coarsely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, diced pimentos, mayonnaise, and a pinch of salt (depending on the sodium in the mayo and cheese, you may leave this out).

Pimento Cheese

8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese

1 cup mayonnaise, approximately, (I've never bothered to measure)

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons chopped pimentos

1. Shred Cheddar cheese on the coarse side of a hand grater or in a food processor.

2. In a bowl, stir together cheese and enough mayonnaise to bind. Add salt and pimentos. Serve with crackers or on squishy white bread.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Scones, the Raspberry Variation

Raspberry buttermilk scones by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
My buttermilk scone recipe is like gesso on a blank canvas, ready for whatever fruits I fancy. In the winter, raisins and dried cranberries get their turn, folded into the sweet, buttery dough. In summer, fresh, ripe berries take a tumble in the biscuits. I wrote at length about the blueberry version, Blueberry Lemon Buttermilk Scones, including step-by-step instructions for the shaping technique.

I'm pleased to report that the raspberry version is just as luscious as the blueberry version. Buy a pint of red raspberries at the store and let your kids eat a few, putting them on each little finger. Fold the rest into this recipe and enjoy a teatime treat - berry-studded scones, hot from the oven.

Raspberries by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Raspberry Buttermilk Scones

A key to tender scones is to shred frozen butter into the dry ingredients. I store butter in the freezer, so this is usually convenient. In the wintertime, when my house is at 68 degrees, I can get by using butter straight from the refrigerator, but in the summer, when the house is at 78 degrees, frozen butter makes a big difference.

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon. salt

2 1/2 teaspoons. baking powder

1/2 teaspoon. baking soda

3/4 cup unsalted butter, frozen

1 1/4 cups buttermilk, plus extra

1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen

Half and half or milk or cream for glazing, optional

Demerara or sparkle sugar for glazing

1. In a batter bowl, mix dry ingredients together. Using a regular grater, shred the frozen butter and lightly mix the shavings into the dry ingredients. Using your hands and a gentle, quick touch, make sure the butter is evenly distributed throughout the flour mixture.

2. Pour in the buttermilk and stir gently with either a wooden spoon or my instrument of choice, a silicone spatula. If mixture seems dry, add additional buttermilk until a cohesive dough forms. The dough should be slightly wet and sticky, but not overly so.

3. On a floured countertop, press dough into a rough 12 X 6 inch rectangle and follow shaping instructions above. Fold in raspberries, then fold into thirds, letter-style. Press into 12 X 6 rectange again and fold letter-style again. Press again into a 12 X 6 rectangle and cut into 16 triangles. Place scones on a lined baking sheet. The scones can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 24 hours.

4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Carefully brush each wedge with buttermilk or cream and sprinkle sugar over the top. Bake at 400 for at least 15 minutes. They may need a bit more time, depending on your oven, convection, etc. Scones are ready when they are golden brown on top and bounce back when touched lightly in the center.

If this is more scones than you want to bake (all that butter!), check out my half-recipe.

Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.

Friday, July 22, 2011

No such thing as too much tabbouleh

Tabbouleh, or Bulgur Salad by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
Hearty grain salads are not only healthy, they're handy to keep on hand for cool lunches on hot summer days. I've discovered the joys of quinoa this summer, and have now returned to an old favorite, tabbouleh, made with bulgur wheat.

And what exactly is bulgur? Thank you for asking - it's durum wheat with just a bit of the bran removed, then parboiled and dried. It's popular in Middle Eastern cuisines, especially in the Lebanese grain salad tabbouleh (two b's, one l). I buy the Bob's Red Mill brand in the organic section of the supermarket, and soak the wheat for about an hour before creating the salad.

The key to an excellent tabbouleh, I've found, is to hold off on adding the olive oil until you're ready to serve. Oily, cold grains make for a very unappetizing salad. I've also held back on the parsley, instead opting for a combination of parsley and mint.

Bulgur Wheat Salad

2 cups unsoaked bulgur

1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 cup fresh mint, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

2 medium tomatoes, diced

Juice of one lemon

1 English cucumber, peeled and diced

Up to ¼ cup olive oil, as needed

Salad greens, for serving.

1. To soak bulgur, place two cups of the grain in a bowl, pour 2 cups water over and let sit for at least one hour.

2. In a bowl, stir together remaining ingredients, except for olive oil. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve.

3. Just before serving, stir in olive oil, starting with a tablespoon and adding until you get the texture and taste that you like – you may not use it all. Serve tabbouleh with salad greens. Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container.

Tomatoes from my garden by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Not-so-plain Vanilla Ice Cream

Vanilla ice cream by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
Sometimes, I get so distracted by trying to something new that I forget that the classics are classics for a reason - they never let you down. My most recent example: my baby girl turned 13 last week, thir-teen! and she requested a rich chocolate birthday cake. Not my go-to chocolate pound cake, but something a little fancier. I found a pretty Ina Garten chocolate layer cake that filled the bill and started baking. Now, I've been putting together cakes for a long time, and this has never happened to me - when I pulled the layers out of the oven, they sank into themselves, becoming dark chocolate Frisbees.

Time for Plan B: my hasn't-failed-me-yet fudgy brownie recipe with a side of homemade vanilla ice cream. I love to make ice cream at home.

Ice cream freezer by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
And no, that's not my everyday ice cream maker - just a $4 estate sale find from a few years ago. I use a Krups La Glaciere, the kind with the canister you pop into the freezer (really, it's best to just keep it in the freezer all summer long so it's always ready for ice cream-making).

You can make this ice cream ahead of time and let it harden in the freezer, but I think it's best served soft, just out of the canister. The generous dose of cream fluffs up, creating a silky mouthfeel. Served alongside a warm, fudgy brownie, it's a winning birthday dessert.

Not-So-Plain Vanilla Ice Cream

¾ cup sugar

2 cups whole milk

2 eggs

1 pint (2 cups) whipping cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Prepare your ice cream maker before beginning the recipe. I use a Krups La Glaciere that requires the canister to be frozen about a day in advance. It resides in my freezer during prime ice cream-making months. If going the rock salt-and-ice route, make sure you have plenty of salt and ice, the canister is clean and that you have a place to churn the ice cream, and if it requires hand-cranking, gather the excited young’uns together and tell them they’re about to experience one of the great joys of childhood: cranking ice cream.

2. In a medium saucepan, and I use nonstick, combine sugar and eggs over medium heat. Heat milk in measuring cup in microwave for one minute to take the refrigerator chill off of it and then whisk it into egg mixture. Continue cooking over medium heat, whisking all the while, until mixture thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon, about 10 minutes.

3. Have ready a bowl and sieve. Remove custard from heat and pour through sieve to remove any egg solids, (discard the solids, of course). Let custard cool, then place in airtight container and refrigerate for up to two days.

4. When ready to freeze, add whipping cream and vanilla and freeze according to ice cream maker’s instructions. This ice cream is fluffy and soft served from the ice cream maker. Place any leftover ice cream in an airtight container and store in freezer.

Brownie and vanilla ice cream by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

VBS: Very Busy Summer (or Vacation Bible School)

Fish with grapes and squeezy cheese by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Summer began with a roaring start this year with a weeklong Vacation Bible School, VBS to those in the know. This is a ministry for my church, and it takes a lot of volunteers to pull it off to make a successful program for the 200 children attending. A core group of volunteer and church staff begin planning in December in order to get the program together by June. This year, the theme was Pandamania, a program that teaches God's love through various characters, including Boomer the Panda.

I was very excited this year to be in the kitchen, providing snacks for the kids. And I was in hog heaven on the first day when Kathy, the kitchen leader, asked me to help bake 250 cupcakes. No glue dots in the craft room for this craft-school dropout, cupcakes for 250 is a ministry that I can get into! We learned to use the commercial-size mixer and ovens and even though we used a mix, I was pretty pleased with the results:

VBS cupcake by Laura Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
The week of VBS was a renewing week for me. I love my church, but I'm in the mommy years, which means that when I'm in the church building, I get distracted keeping up with my kids and where they need to be, making sure my own volunteer responsibilities are met, in other words: keeping all my ducks in a row. I hardly have time to hang out and enjoy the other women and the young people around me. During VBS, I put names with faces, matched children to parents, and made new friends while bonding over squeezy cheese and rice cakes.
And speaking of, this was my favorite snack of the week: two Quaker Cheddar Cheese Quakes sandwiched with squeezy cheese and a triangle-shaped Triscuit Thin Crisp to create a fish shape, and a raisin for an eye.

Fish crackers by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

(The Quaker Cheddar Cheese Quakes are my current favorite snack food - I could seriously eat an entire bag with no evidence other than the cheesy powder on my fingers.)

What about you? Is VBS a part of your summer? And what is your favorite packaged snack food?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cow girls: Feelin' bovine and lookin' fine

Cow girls by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Filling up a summer is sometimes a daunting responsibility. We started off the summer break with a week of vacation, so that was easy. Vacation Bible School and its preparations took another couple weeks. Independence Day and a few essential family birthdays kept us busy in early July. Thank goodness for Cow Appreciation Day, July 9, Chick-fil-A's celebration of its advertising work-, er, cows. Customers who showed up at their local Chick-fil-A dressed as a cow received a free meal. Cownt us in.

The girls spent a few afternoons early in the week planning their costumes. I encouraged them to use materials around the house, so they recycled t-shirts and made hand-made cow-print stencils. I purchased the spray-on fabric paint for $5 from Michael's. It was enough to paint the fronts of three-t-shirts.

We dressed up, ate our free CFA and cow-watched at the mall.

Cows and a cow. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Accessories make the cow. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Cow print t-shirt by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Chick-fil-A's Cow Appreciation Day page includes a link for printable cow parts that really enhance a costume. With decorated t-shirts, flip-flops and printable cow parts, the girls were quite cow-vincing.

What about you? Do you celebrate Cow Appreciation Day? If you have pictures, share them at the A Cook and Her Books Facebook fan page!

Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pound Cake Dessert Sandwiches

Pound Cake Dessert Sandwich with Strawberries by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
We all know about sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and supper, now meet a dessert sandwich - juicy strawberries dripping over whole milk ricotta, between two slices of buttery pound cake. This inspired and summery dessert comes from Susan Russo's delightful new cookbook, "The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: Recipes, History and Trivia for Everything Between Two Slices of Bread." (Quirk, 2011).

The recipe is a terrific use for stale or leftover pound cake. It reminds me a little bit of the treat my husband's grandmother would fry up for him - mayonnaise-coated pound cake slices. Macerate some sliced strawberries in orange juice and zest, griddle the pound cake slices, spread with rich ricotta, and assemble all for a tasty dessert.

Begin with a loaf of my home-baked cream cheese pound cake, the only pound cake recipe you will ever need. Gather some berries and ricotta and you're in business.

Pound Cake Sandwich: The Ultimate Dessert Sandwich
from "The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches" by Susan Russo (Quirk, 2011)

Macerated Strawberries

2 to 2 1/2 cups fresh ripe strawberries, thinly sliced *see note
1/4 cup sugar, or to taste
3 tablespoons orange juice
Zest of 1 small orange
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

About 2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 pound cake, sliced thin
1 (8-ounce) container whole-milk ricotta or mascarpone

1. A few hours beforehand, prepare strawberries: In a glass bowl, combine all ingredients for macerated strawberries. Toss well. Let rest at room temperature at least two hours.

2. Butter both sides of cake slices. Place on a hot buttered griddle and cook 2 minutes per side, or until golden. Remove from heat. For each sandwich, spread 2 tablespoons ricotta on one slice of grilled cake, top with a spoonful of berries, and close sandwich. Serve warm. Makes 4 to six, depending on the thickness of the cake.

* Frozen strawberries can be substituted for fresh; just reduce the amount of orange juice since frozen berries will release more liquid.

Check out more sandwich recipes from "The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches":

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Jucy Lucy

Reading through Susan Russo's new cookbook, "The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches," (Quirk, 2011) something familiar caught my eye - my name. Not in reference to Lucille Ball and the Golden Era of Television, not a mention of Lucy Van Pelt pulling the football out from Charlie Brown's feet, and no reference to the Notorious Woman of her generation, Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd.

The Jucy Lucy by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

This time, it's a burger, the Jucy Lucy, a cheese-stuffed burger originating in Minnapolis at either Matt's Bar or the 5-8 Club. And in case you want to correct my spelling, dear reader, Matt's motto is "If it's spelled correctly, you're at the wrong place." And what exactly is a Jucy Lucy? Why it's just a plump beefy burger on the outside, with a molten lava river of American cheese sealed inside, ready to ooze out and singe your tongue at the first juicy bite. How can I not make a Jucy Lucy?

The recipe for the Jucy Lucy can be found in Russo's wonderful new book - between the Italian Tuna Salad sandwich and the Kofta pockets. This book is truly an encyclopedia of sandwiches - from the All-in-One Breakfast Sandwich to the Minnesota specialty fried Walleye Sandwich. It's a fun reference book and also a great place to start for meal-planning.

Jucy Lucy, a Cheese-Stuffed Burger
from "The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches" by Susan Russo

Makes 6 burgers.

2 pounds ground chuck, preferably 85 percent learn

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 slices cheese, such as American or Cheddar, cut into quarters

6 hamburger buns

Hamburger fixin's such as lettuce, tomato, sliced pickles and fried onions

1. Preheat grill to medium. Season meat with salt and pepper. Divide into 12 equal patties, being careful not to overwork meat.

2. Neatly stack 4 quarter slices of cheese in the center of each patty and top with a second patty. Using your fingertips, seal patties together. (The patty will have a small bump in the middle from the cheese.)

3. Place patties on grill, with the cheese-bump side up. Cook 6 to 7 minutes, flip, and pierce sides with a knife to let steam from the cheese escape. Cook another 6 to 7 minutes. Remove burgers from grill. Serve on buns and top with your choice of garnishes. Let cool slightly before eating.

See more recipes from "The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches"

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chicken Salad Sandwich

Chicken salad on croissant by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
Sandwiches get us through the day – from the ubiquitous fast food offering of a breakfast sandwich, to ham and cheese at lunch and meatball subs for supper, whatever meal you’re preparing, there’s a sandwich for it.

Susan Russo, author of the new "Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: Recipes, History and Trivia for Everything Between Sliced Bread" (Quirk, 2011) and blogger at Food Blogga knows this well. “The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches is a belly-filling book of over 100 of the world's most beloved sandwiches," she said recently. "It's got all sorts of tasty sandwich trivia, history and recipes.”

Food photographer and blogger Matt Armandariz (Matt Bites) photographed every sandwich for the book, artfully and attractively. Perhaps the handiest feature of the book is the alphabetic listing with colored index tabs along the page edge – looking for a Fluffernutter? – flip to “F.” Have a hankering for a Hamburger and its 8 variations, including vegetarian? Just skim to “H.”

Along the way, readers can pick up some helpful history, such as the origin of the Fluffernutter: “In 1913 brother and sister Armory and Emma Curtis opened the Curtis Marshmallow Factory, and their most popular product was Snowflake Marshmallow Creme, a spreadable marshmallow confection which Emma suggested would be delicious paired with peanut and sandwiched between two slices of white bread. They tried it. People loved it. And eventually it became known as the Fluffernutter, a trademark of Durkee-Mower Inc., the maker of Marshmallow Fluff.”

Narrowing the field of recipes to try, I lighted on chicken salad, the Southern standard, and served it to my writer friends for our ladies' lunch. Russo’s recipe delivers a delicious chicken salad filled with cranberries and pecans, and she assures me that it’s from the Loveless CafĂ©, in Nashville, Tennessee,  one of my all-time favorite restaurants (don't even get me started on Loveless biscuits, dripping with homemade blackberry preserves).

Chicken Salad
from "The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches" by Susan Russo

4 cups (2 ½ pounds) diced cooked chicken

1 cup finely diced celery

½ cup sweet pickle relish

1 cup mayonnaise

¾ cup dried cranberries, such as Craisins

½ Vidalia onion, finely diced (about ½ cup)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup pecan pieces, optional

8 slices white or whole grain bread, or 4 croissants

1. Combine chicken salad ingredients in a bowl. Cover and chill at least hours to let flavors meld.

2. To make each sandwich, scoop about ¾ to 1 cup chicken salad onto a slice of toasted to untoasted bread and top with a second slice of bread. Makes 4 sandwiches.

Be sure to check out these upcoming sandwich stories, also from "The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches."

  • Pound Cake Sandwiches stuffed with strawberries
  • The Jucy Lucy cheeseburger (that's right, Jucy)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Buttermilk scones for breakfast

Brown-sugar topped buttermilk scones by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
 I've made some lovely scones lately, blueberry- and raspberry-filled gems, luscious apricot pastries, another version with ginger and pineapple. These sweet biscuits are always appreciated around my house, but there are times when I don't need 16 buttery treats sitting on my counter, waiting for someone to devour them. This is why I developed the buttermilk scone half recipe, using less than one stick of butter and creating just enough pastries for my family to enjoy and maybe a few to bring to work. This version also takes about half as much time to assemble, so it's easier than ever to whip these up for breakfast.

Here's the recipe and if using fruit, be sure to follow the step-by-step folding technique in the Blueberry Lemon Buttermilk Scone post.

Buttermilk scones ready for the oven by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Buttermilk Scones Half Recipe

Yield: 8 scones
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 (6 tablespoons) stick unsalted butter, chilled or frozen

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk (whole if you can find it)

1. In a batter bowl, mix dry ingredients together. Using a regular grater, shred the cold butter and lightly mix the shavings into the dry ingredients. Using your hands and a gentle, quick touch, make sure the butter is evenly distributed throughout the flour mixture.

2. Pour in the buttermilk and stir gently with either a wooden spoon or my instrument of choice, a silicone spatula. If mixture seems dry, add additional buttermilk until a cohesive dough forms. The dough should be slightly wet and sticky, but not overly so.

3. On a floured countertop, press dough into a rough rectangle and if using fruit, follow shaping instructions here. Cut into 8 triangles. Place scones on a lined baking sheet. The scones can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 24 hours.

4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Carefully brush each wedge with buttermilk or cream and sprinkle sugar over the top. Bake at 400 for at least 15 minutes. They may need a bit more time, depending on your oven, convection, etc. Scones are ready when they are golden brown on top and bounce back when touched lightly in the center.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Adventures in scone-making: Cream cheese apricot scones

Cream cheese apricot scones by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

On this fifth day of July, I'll celebrate our great country and the English language by creating a new word: scone-making. Probably not that earth-shattering a notion, but scone-making has taken up a fair bit of my baking time lately. It all started with a refinement of my everyday buttermilk scones, which have been gussied-up with fresh blueberries and raspberries.

As I've shared my scone-making adventures, I've discovered that not everyone in my world knows about scones. Which is completely understandable, because here in Georgia, we're smack-dab in the middle of biscuit country. And that's not biscuit as code for "cookie," either. Fluffy, feathery Crisco-and-White Lily goodness - with a bit of friend chicken breast or a sausage patty or pork tenderloin, a satisfying breakfast. Scones are kissing cousins to the Southern biscuit - buttery, sweet relatives that come to the table for breakfast or tea.

Scones are like sweet biscuits - a touch of sugar, and a lot of butter for a tender pastry that's superlative filled with fresh fruit in the summer or split and slathered with preserves in the cooler months. I make them for breakfast, or brunch if I get a late start. Scones can be an afterschool snack, or if supper's late, a teatime treat to tide you over.

Cream cheese apricot scones by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Cream Cheese Apricot Scones

Yield: 16 scones

3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 (8 ounce) package 1/3 less fat (Neufchatel) cream cheese

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 16 pieces

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup whole milk

1 cup diced, dried apricots

Demerara or sparkling sugar for garnish, optional

1. Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in cream cheese and then butter, using your fingers, two forks or a pastry cutter, until the butter and cream cheese are nuggets the size of peas.

3. In a separate container, whisk together the milk, egg and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently with a fork or spoon. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and following the step-by-step technique for forming the Blueberry Lemon Buttermilk Scones, pat the dough into a 12 X 6 inch rectangle.
4. Spread the diced apricots over the rectangle and press the fruit into the dough. Fold the dough into thirds, letter-style. Press the dough into a 12 X 6 rectangle again and repeat the letter fold. Press the dough into a 12 X 6 rectangle for the final time and using a sharp knife or bench knife, cut dough into four equal rectangles. Divide each rectangle in half and each of those squares into triangles, yielding 16 triangle-shaped scones.
5. Place scones on baking sheet - it's ok to get them close together because if the dough and kitchen are fairly cool, the scones will puff up rather than spread. Brush each with reserved milk and sprinkle with sparkle or demerara sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Small Town 4th of July

The Parade begins with the Color Guard by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

I hope you're having a great Fourth of July, enjoying the best of summer and the blessings of family. Our Independence Day begins with a parade and ends with fireworks. In between, there's barbecue and ice cream and leftover birthday cake. These are pictures from last year's parade.

Cap'n Herb's vintage cop car by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Seeing the band reminds me that I marched in this parade as a high schooler. In full uniform. No t-shirts and shorts for us, (Kids today don't know how lucky they are.) 

Too loud.

Politicians, incumbent and wannabe, are always represented.

Christopher Elf is a regular at the parade.

We view the parade from the lawn of the armory.
The soldiers park their equipment and let the kids climb on - like this tank.

God Bless America!