Thursday, December 16, 2010

Peppermint Bark

This makes a great gift for almost anyone!  The combination of dark chocolate with a dash of white chocolate and some crunchy bits of mint is a perfect holiday treat.

You will need:

6 oz. dark chocolate (70-72% cacao)
2 oz. white chocolate
1 candy cane

parchment paper or foil
cookie sheet or cutting mat/board

Bring two pots of with 2 inches of water to a boil.  Turn down to a low simmer.  Break chocolate into smaller chunks and place in a metal bowl big enough to sit on the rim of the pot without touching the water (dark chocolate in one bowl, white chocolate in another).

In a small baggy, break a candy cane into small pieces by hitting it with a spoon.  Then set aside.

Using a cutting board, mat, or cookie sheet cover with parchment paper or aluminum foil and begin to spread melted dark chocolate layer out first.

Spread to an even thickness,  approximately 8 by 5 inch rectangle.

Next, drizzle the white chocolate in a zigzag pattern across the dark chocolate.

Sprinkle with the broken candy bits, and place it the refrigerator for 10 minutes or so, until hardened.  

When firm, break into pieces and fill gift bags.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cranberry-orange Scones

Okay, so I said all this last time we made scones.  But it's important.  So I'll say it again:
The ideal scone should be crisp outside and flaky inside; it should not be cake-like in texture. Scones are made from a few simple, basic ingredients, but it’s the way those ingredients are worked together that separates the ordinary from the exceptional scone.  The key to flaky scones is to mix the dough as little as possible, keeping the butter in large chunks.  Using cold butter helps to keep it from blending too much with the flour, thus allowing it to melt and bubble its way through the dough once put into a hot oven.

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3oz. (6 Tbsp) cold butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 Tbsp chopped orange zest

3/4 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks

For topping before baking:
1/2 cup extra cream for brushing
small bowl of sugar for sprinkling

Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. 

Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two butter knives until the largest pieces of butter are about the size of peas.

Add orange zest and cranberries and stir into mix.

In a separate, small bowl stir the cream and egg yolks just to blend. 

 Add this all at once to the flour mixture.
Stir to begin combining the wet and dry ingredients and then use your hands to gently knead the mixture together until all the dry ingredients are absorbed into the dough and it can be gathered into a moist, shaggy ball.

Remember, do not overknead.  This dough is sticky but benefits from minimal handling. 

Set the rough ball in the center of the prepared baking sheet and use lightly floured fingers to gently pat the dough into a disk about 1 inch thick and 7 inches in diameter.

  Do not worry if the dough doesn't look smooth- a rough, lumpy dough means tender, flaky scones!
With a sharp knife or a pastry scraper, cut the round into eight wedges; separate the wedges.

Brush the scones with the extra cream and sprinkle with the sugar.

Bake until the scones are deep golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a wedge of a wedge comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes.  Slide the parchment onto a rack and let the scones cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.