Thursday, August 31, 2017

Barley Flour Scones

I always have big ideas. Big ideas like cooking my way all the way through a great cookbook, tasting every recipe, and having the time of my life. My big ideas rarely survive contact with reality, however, and so my wonderful cookbooks get put aside, victims of busy schedules and procrastination.

The good news is that I did finally get a chance to try another recipe from a book I’d love to bake my way through, Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce. (These bars were based on a recipe in this book, as was the multigrain flour mix that I used in these baguettes and this zucchini cake.) I baked a version of the scones in the barley chapter, made with whole grain barley flour and just a touch of brown sugar.

I simplified both the ingredients and the procedure for this recipe. I just kept the scones basic, without the baked-in layer of jam in the original recipe (although that would be great, too), and I made the dough in the food processor. I like to make scone doughs with the food processor, possibly because I’m a little lazy, but more likely because I’m impatient (and busy), and excited to taste final products without having to wait too long.

These scones are wonderfully delicious! They mostly taste of barley flour, which is almost toasty and a little nutty. It’s mild enough that you can also taste the butter and a pleasant hint of salt. There’s just enough brown sugar in the mix to enhance the other flavors rather than make things especially sweet. The scones are pleasantly crumbly, but hold together very well at the same time. Their relative simplicity also makes them great vehicles for fruity jams or lemon curd.

I love to have something quick to grab in the morning when I wake up and stumble my way to the coffee pot. These scones are perfect for that, with the delicate barley flour flavor giving me something delicious to contemplate as I try to wake up. They’re also great afternoon snacks, of course, and, most important, they’re a delicious stop on my slow but determined journey of big ideas.

Barley Flour Scones

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons barley flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 stick (4 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup buttermilk
1 large egg
Coarse sugar for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the barley flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pulse a few times to mix well.

3. Add the cold butter pieces to the flour mixture. Pulse several times until the butter is mostly in pea-size chunks and well-coated with the flours.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg until smooth. Add to the mixture in the food processor. Process just until the mixture can hold together when squeezed. Transfer the crumbly dough onto a well-floured surface.

5. Gently knead the dough together and press into a disk roughly 7 inches in diameter and ¾ inch thick. Cut the disk into 8 equal triangles. Transfer the unbaked scones to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle each with coarse sugar.

6. Bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes or until the scones appear dry and lightly golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Enjoy slightly warm or cool completely. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for a day or two or freeze for a month or so.

Makes 8 scones.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Lemon Layer Cake

As I mentioned in a recent post, August is a celebration month in my house with two birthdays (mine and my husband’s) and a wedding anniversary (mine and my husband’s). At the end of the month, we also celebrate the day we met (20 years ago!) This year, August was even more special with a total solar eclipse to celebrate (I got to witness totality! Still excited!) All that, of course, means cake.

And I love this cake for such occasions. It’s a little bit fancy, but really doesn’t involve anything frilly or require any special skills. It starts with two layers of white cake flavored with a bit of lemon zest and brushed with lemon liqueur. A layer of lemon curd is nestled between them, and it’s all covered in a whipped cream frosting flavored with more lemon curd.

I don’t really need to say more than, “It’s so delicious!” The cake is a bit fluffy (from 5 egg whites in the batter), but substantial enough to hold up the rich and creamy filling and frosting. The lemon curd I made is rather tart, which balances the sweetness of the cake, and all that lemon flavor is fabulous!

This cake keeps well for a few days in the refrigerator, and that’s where you want to store it with its heavy doses of whipped cream and lemon curd. The liqueur gives the layers some added moisture, and the lemon curd gives the cake enough richness to keep it from drying out too rapidly. The lemon curd also seems to help stabilize the whipped cream frosting, so it doesn’t weep or slump.

This was the second time I made this delicious cake, and it got an enthusiastic thumb’s-up from the friends we invited to share. I might have to come up with more excuses to make it. But no extra birthdays for me, please. Those are adding up quickly enough!

Lemon Layer Cake
Cake layers based on a recipe in Pillsbury: The Complete Book of Baking

The only "decoration" I added to this cake was a scattering of yellow sprinkles. It doesn't really need anything else, but feel free to embellish as you like.

For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon fine salt
1 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup milk
½ cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 egg whites

For the filling:
3 tablespoons lemon liqueur (such as Limoncello)
½ cup lemon curd

For the frosting:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons lemon curd, divided
1 tablespoon sugar

1. To make the cake layers, preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans with butter, shortening, or cooking spray. Dust the greased pans well with flour. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of each pan, and place the paper in the bottom of each pan. Set pans aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, 1 ½ cups sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Stir for a few seconds with the paddle attachment to combine. Add the milk and shortening. Beat at low speed until moistened. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes.

3. Add the vanilla and egg whites and beat on medium speed for 2 more minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl if needed.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Smooth the batter out in each pan. Bake at 350 F for about 30-35 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean.

5. Remove the cake pans from the oven and cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cake from the pans and place back on the wire rack. Cool completely.

6. When the cakes are cool, brush the lemon liqueur over the outside of both cakes. Let stand to soak in.

7. Place one cake layer on a cake stand or plate, or whatever you have chosen as the cake’s final resting place. Spread the ½ cup lemon curd evenly over the top of the cake layer. Place the other cake layer on top of the lemon curd.

8. To make the frosting, combine the whipping cream, 1 tablespoon lemon curd, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a small bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat at medium to medium-high speed with a hand-held electric mixer or with the stand mixer whisk attachment until the cream is whipped to firm peaks. Gently fold in the remaining 3 tablespoons lemon curd, leaving some yellow streaks if possible.

9. Spread the frosting evenly over the cake. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. Cover the leftover cake with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Makes a 9-inch double layer cake.

One year ago: Corn and Tomato Pie

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Lemon Curd


I was going to skip over this recipe for lemon curd and go right to the delicious layer cake I made with it instead. After all, you could just use any jar of purchased lemon curd in its place if you want to. I’m one of those people who will make something from scratch when I can, however, and so I’ll talk to you briefly about this recipe.

It really isn’t difficult to make your own lemon curd. It’s kind of like making pudding from scratch (like this one or this one). There are just a few ingredients, lemons, sugar, eggs, butter, and a splash of vanilla. The trick is to keep whisking things as the mixture cooks, avoiding lumps as well as scorching.

This particular recipe is quite tart, so I find it particularly nice with something sweet (like the layer cake I made). A good dollop would also be nice on something like these scones, or these scones, or even these biscuits, perhaps accompanied by a few berries and some whipped cream. You may be able to adjust the sugar in this recipe to make something sweeter, but I’m not sure if that will affect the texture of the final product.

Other citrus fruits also make good curds, and I’ve seen adaptations using pureed berries or pineapple juice. Each time I make lemon curd, which isn’t especially often, I think I should play around with it more, trying some of those other fruits in place of the lemon, or testing out other uses. Right now, though, I’m still having pleasant dreams about Lemon Layer Cake. I promise to tell you about that soon!

Lemon Curd
Adapted from several sources

This lemon curd is quite tart, and especially good for use in other recipes.

Zest of 1 medium-size lemon
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
½ cup lemon juice
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a medium-size saucepan, combine the zest, sugar, eggs and egg yolks. Whisk together until fluffy, smooth, and light in color. This could take 2 minutes or so.

2. Whisk in the lemon juice. Stir in the pieces of butter. Heat over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Continue to heat and whisk until the butter is melted.

3. Once the butter has melted, whisk constantly. The mixture will thicken significantly, then begin to bubble. Once it bubbles, simmer gently for just a few seconds, continuing to whisk. Remove from the heat.

4. Whisk in the vanilla extract. Strain into a bowl if desired (I don’t usually bother). Cool completely.

Makes about 1 ½ cups lemon curd.