Irish Soda Bread Scones

Here’s to some attempt of consistency in my posting. Maybe. I seem to have such a hard time maintaining one blog, so I figured I might as well try two and see if it goes any better. We have a summer blog. And by we, I mean to save The Hive Mind. Check it out… it’s pretty fun and definitely a little more that creepy at times.

To what we’re here for: food. Reid and I wanted to be the first ones to bake in the apartment, so we conveniently picked a time when Olivia was working and Abbey was out fo the state and went crazy. Not too crazy, mind you. Just a little crazy. Actually, not really all that crazy at all.

We’d been discussing making both Irish Soda Bread and Scones, and The Great Goddess Deb has just the answer for us. We were all set to go, and then we ran into a couple roadblocks. Being the professionals (read: lazy college students) we are, we chose to substitute ingredients rather than go to the store to get new ones. Cream of tartar was too expensive—baking powder. Buttermilk went bad—milk and lemon. No raisins—craisins. No cake flour (and no cornstarch to make our own)—pretend it just asks for all purpose.

In short, cooking in a new kitchen is so much harder when you don’t have things stockpiled away and when you can’t steal things from your housemates, but creative license gets you so much further than petty theft. Not really, but you get to have fun pretending you know what you’re doing.

Irish Soda Bread Scones
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen 

Yields 10 drop scones

4-4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (depending on stickiness)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon course kosher salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter (4 tablespoons softened, 1 tablespoon melted)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (or, make your own)
1 egg
1 cup currants or raisins

Heat oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the upper-middle position. Whisk dry ingredients (flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt) in a large bowl. Work the softened butter into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until the flour mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the wet ingredients (buttermilk and egg) and raisins, and mix with your hands until the dough just begins to come together. Knead until the dough just becomes cohesive and bumpy, but not too sticky.

Drop scones onto greased cookie sheet (should be able to make 10 sizable scones). Bake about 15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees. Scones should be golden brown a skewer should come out clean. Remove from the oven and brush with butter before cooling to room temperature. Serve with butter and jam, and eat on day one.


The Village Cup: Jericho, VT

Continue food tourism. Important rule: if goodbye dinners and football conflict, football should generally win, especially if it equals twice the food. Thus: goodbye brunch followed by an afternoon of football with Chinese food. Win-win situation, really.

Olivia suggested The Village Cup, which is reasonably near her house and is very Wesleyan. Set in what could pass for an old barn from the inside with large windows overlooking a wooded area, wood floors, and wood tables (are we sensing a theme?) the menu had markings for vegetarian dishes and dishes with Vermont-made products. Little surprise to anyone, the majority of the menu was vegetarian and all but one dish had Vermont products. There was a whole tea menu (though mine came over-steeped, which made me mildly sad… #teasnob) and a variety of other fun barista drinks, as well as lots of breakfast pastries and a little wine bar.

Four of the seven of us ordered the Chef’s Special Eggs Benedict (as did a huge number of others in the restaurant), which is really Eggs Florentine (spinach instead of meat) plus sun-dried tomatos and artichoke hearts served on either an english muffin or a croissant (both pictured), which was a fun idea… expect a (near) future post about my adventures making a similar dish with homemade croissants and hollandaise.

Apple Tart

If we’re going to have conversations about cooking legends and my various cooking heros, we could be talking for an awfully long time. If we continue this conversation to baking legends, we’d be talking even longer. I think one Ina Garten would fit into both categories.

Abbey just got Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics and we decided we had to try something from it. Thus, Apple Tarts. Very buttery. Highly delicious.

Apple Tarts (adapted barely from The Barefoot Contessa)

For the pastry:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup ice water

For the apples:

  • 4 Granny Smith apples
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, small diced
  • 1/2 cup apricot jelly or warm sieved apricot jam
  • 2 tablespoons spiced rum


For the pastry, place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 by 14-inches. Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.

Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baler. Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4-inch thick slices. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices. (I tend not to use the apple ends in order to make the arrangement beautiful.) Sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup of sugar and dot with the butter.

Bake for 40 minutes, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking. If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out. Don’t worry! The apple juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine! When the tart’s done, heat the apricot jelly together with the Calvados and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture. Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn’t stick to the paper. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

San Antonio

Everyone has expensive hobbies, and some of us have more than our fair share. Some people own a horse, others collect antiques, and still others collect fancy cars or play a lot of video games. I seem to have a couple very expensive habits: photography and food tourism. Here’s a compilation of the two.

Photos include Urban Tacos (guacamole, margarita, tacos), Floore’s Dance Hall, Rudy’s BBQ (“Worst BBQ in Texas”), Viking Cake (made in compilation with Smitten Kitchen’s Carrot Miso Soup, and a yellow mole from a Rick Bayless cookbook, neither pictured), local Bleu Cheese and crostini from the original Whole Foods in Austin, Zucchini Fries from La Enoteca in Austin (and other amazing food, not pictured), baked goods from the CIA bakery, Spinach and Brussels Sprouts Pasta (hoping for a guest post from Abbey?), and an Apple Tart (a buttery Ina Garten masterpiece).

Viking Cake

This isn’t the last you’ll hear of Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego. Lucky for you, I have Karen Krasne’s Extraordinary Cakes cookbook. Unfortunately, it’s in transit from San Diego to Middletown right now, meaning it’s not with me where it should be. I knew how much I loved the challenges that come from this book and asked my parents to scan over recipes so that Abbey and I could make a monstrosity cake when I was visiting her in San Antonio.

What I love about this cookbook is the amount of labor and steps that go into a single cake. It takes a serious and committed baker to go on one of these adventures. It’s almost too many pieces to list, but I’ll do what I can. Just to preview, the components are below:

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake
Cocoa Simple Syrup
Semisweet Kahlua Ganache
Chocolate Creme Brulee
Milk Chocolate Chantilly
Chocolate Almond Praline

Viking Cake (altered a tiny bit from Extraordinary Cakes)

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake
1/3 cup butter (cubed), plus 2 tbsp (melted but not hot)
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 cup water, boiled

1. Preheat oven to 275. Grease 9in x 3in springform pan, put line bottom with parchment round.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip the eggs and sugar until the mixture is very thick and lightens in color, about seven minutes.

3. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder.

4. Melt chocolate in small, heatproof mixing bowl over a small saucepan of boiling water.

5. Add cubed butter, then sour cream to mixer and mix until each is fully incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Gradually add dry ingredients, careful not to overmix.

6. Boil 1 cup water and add it to the mixer. Mix on low speed until combined and smooth.

7. Pour the cake into prepared pan. Bake until the cake springs back when pressed lightly and a knife blade comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

8. Allow to cool completely, run a knife around the outside and remove the cake. Wrap entire cake in plastic wrap store in freezer until ready to use.

Cocoa Simple Syrup

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa

1. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium-high heat. Bring to boil and stir until sugar is dissolved.

2. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa powder.

Semisweet Kahlua Ganache

4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp Kahlua

1. Place chocolate chips in a medium, heatproof mixing bowl.

2. Bring heavy cream to a boil, stirring occasionally. Pour cream onto chocolate chips and allow to sit for five minutes. Mix with rubber spatula until chocolate is melted.

3. Add Kahlua and mix with immersion blender.

Chocolate Creme Brulee

7 oz bittersweet chocolate (70%), coarsely chopped
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup lowfat milk
2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 250.

2. Melt chocolate in medium, heatproof mixing bowl over a small saucepan of boiling water.

3. In a small, heatproof mixing bowl, mix egg yolks with sugar.

4. In a medium saucepan, bring cream, milk, and vanilla to boil, stirring occasionally. Pour this onto egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly until smooth. Strain into chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth.

5. Pour into a 9in x 2in round cake pan and bake 25 minutes until set. The top may crack and the center will jiggle slightly. Allow to cool to room temperature, wrap in plastic and freeze four to six hours, until firm.

Milk Chocolate Chantilly

6.5 oz milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Place chocolate chips in a medium, heatproof mixing bowl.

2. Bring heavy cream to a boil, stirring occasionally. Pour cream onto chocolate chips and allow to sit for five minutes. Mix with rubber spatula until smooth and homogenous.

3. Cover with plastic wrap anad refrigerate overnight (I froze about 30 minutes because I ran out of time).

Chocolate Almond Praline

3 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp lowfat milk
1/3 cup butter, cubed
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup slivered almond, lightly toasted

1. Generously grease a baking sheet.

2. Bring cream, milk, butter, corn syrup, and sugar to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan over a medium-high heat. Continue to boil 7-8 minutes, until thick and slightly lighter in color.

3. Remove pan from the heat, mix in cocoa powder. Stir in almonds.

4. Spread onto baking sheet and set aside to cool.


1. If cake is frozen, allow to thaw a couple hours. Cut off top 1/4″ cake with long serrated knife to even top as necessary. Slice the remaining cake into three equal layers.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip chantilly until stiff peak form.

3. Using a pastry brush, moisten the bottom cake layer with 1/3 of the simple syrup. Spread 1/2 cup ganache over the syrup, then cover with the frozen creme brulee.

4. Top with the second layer, and brush with 1/3 of the simple syrup. Spread 1/2 cup ganache, then chantilly.

5. Top with the third layer of the cake, brush with remaining syrup. Cover top and sides of cake with remaining ganache.

6. Grind praline to a medium powder in a food processor (hopefully yours is cool enough, because mine wasn’t!) Press pralines into sides of the cake (if it ground finely enough) and sprinkle the rest on top of the cake.

7. Serve slightly chilled.

Hello world!

After all I’ve taught about bullying, I never thought I’d let peer pressure get to me. Looks like I lose this battle. A combination of a vow to get more into food photography, getting even more into baking (CAKES!), an attempt to get into real cooking (healthy, what?), and a lot of pressure from staying with Olivia over at morsels and chips has led to this blog. We’ll see how often I update it.

Just continue to pressure me, Olivia.