Ginger and Hibiscus Scones

Usually, my trips to Traders Joes are surigcal. ¬†I’m there right when they open. ¬†I have a list. And, I follow the list with tunnel vision. ¬†I do not stroll. ¬†I do not look around me. This is because ¬†I have to do my TJs run on Saturday mornings. ¬†Just like everyone else.

A couple of months ago my parents were in town for a visit.  They live outside of Bozeman Montana.  And while it has a lot going for it, Bozeman does not have a Trader Joes (I think the closest one is in Salt Lake City).

My parents have lived there full-time for nearly 10 years. ¬†My mom still hasn’t gotten over the lack of a local TJs.

For this reason, California visits by my parents involve multiple trips to Trader Joes. ¬†I was out and about with them for one visit. ¬†Because it wasn’t Saturday morning, my local TJs was actually hospitable. ¬†So, we worked our way up and down every single aisle. ¬†By aisle two I had to abandon my basket for a cart as treasures like I’d never seen were revealed to me. ¬†Pancake bread? ¬†Yes please. ¬†Mushroom umami salt? ¬†Sign me up. ¬†Dried hibiscus flowers? ¬†Sure–I know I can come up with a way to use them.

I am a collector of “things I’ll figure out how to bake with.” ¬†I have two bins full of wonders like honey powder, freeze dried corn and dried blueberries.

This time, I actually already had something in mind when I picked up the dried hibiscus flowers. ¬†Whole Foods makes a fantastic ginger scone. ¬†They’re crumbly, spicy and just sweet enough. ¬†I don’t eat them very often but every time I do I think “I gotta make these.” I then immediately forget until the next time I eat a Whole Foods ginger scone. ¬†You know how it goes.

Luckily, I’d just had one the week before so the pump was primed. ¬†Hibiscus flowers are aromatic, slightly sour (but in the good way) and at least to my taste buds, reminiscent of citrus. ¬†I thought they might be good friends with candied ginger.

I used buttermilk in this recipe as opposed to the traditional cream because I already had it. I worked.  But, cream would work too.

And instead of traditional pie wedges, I decided to go with cut-out rounds. ¬†That’s how Whole Foods does them.

But, I give instructions for both shapes in the recipe (and, next time I make them, I’ll do the wedges–these looked too much like biscuits to my eyes).

My guess was correct–ginger and hibiscus do pair well together. ¬†The same combo would also be great in a muffin or loaf.

Ginger and Hibiscus Scones

adapted from Ginger Scones by Elise Bauer on Simply Recipes

makes 12-18 scones depending on size

Ingredients

  • 3 C (400 g) all purpose flour
  • 3/4 C (160 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 C (110 g) candied ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 C (73g) dried hibiscus flowers (found at Trader Joes)*
  • 1 TBS fresh ginger, grated
  • 3/4 C (200 ml) ¬†buttermilk at room temp
  • 10 TBS (140 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
  • 1 TBS coarse sugar for sprinkling on top (optional)
  • 1 egg + 2 TBS water (for egg wash)

* There are multiple kinds of hibiscus flours.  For this recipe, I used the kind that are similar to dried fruits like these dried eatable hibiscus flowers.  You can also get hibiscus flours that have been dried for tea.  This version is more desiccated like these organic hibiscus flowers.  The latter would work as well but the result would be more like adding dried tea to the dough rather than a dried fruit.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400¬įF (or 200¬įC). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Stir in the gingers and hibiscus flowers until combined.
  4. Add-in the cold butter pieces. Using your fingertips or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry mixture until the “dough” resemble wet sand with larger pea-sized pieces of butter.
  5. Create a well in the center of the flour, pour in  the buttermilk. Gently mix with a wooden spoon until the flour mixture is just moistened. The mixture should look very shaggy.
  6. Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface.  Give the dough two or three kneads (to just barely pull it together).  You have a couple of options here.  To make triangular scones, divide the dough into two and form each into a round disc.  Cut each disc into 6 pie parts.  You could also use a biscuit cutter.  To do this, flatten the dough into a disk.  Using biscuit cutter, cut out rounds.  Once all rounds that will fit have been cut, push remaining dough together and cut again. Repeat until you cannot cut any more rounds.  Do remix dough as you go.  Just squish together.
  7. Place triangles or rounds on baking sheets with a couple of inches in-between each.  Bruch the tops with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until scones are lightly browned on top (start checking at 15 minutes).  Cool on cooling rack.  Best served the day-of but can be stored for a couple of days in an airtight container (you just lose the crunchy texture).

Blueberry Pancake Bread

Just when you start to think all the things have been baked, Trader Joes goes and invents pancake bread.

And, because it’s Trader Joes, pancake bread is now every where. ¬†Impending recession? ¬†Government shutdown? ¬†Global warming? ¬†Yeah, but have you tried TJ’s pancake bread?

First things first, pancake bread does not taste like pancakes. ¬†Not even a little bit. ¬†It’s delicious. ¬†But, it doesn’t taste like pancakes.

Which is good for me because I make certifiably terrible pancakes. ¬†I can whip up a batch of rough puff, no problem. ¬†But, ask me to make pancakes and I’m at a loss. ¬†Luckily, TD figured this out very quickly and doesn’t ever ask for the least elevated of all the cakes. ¬†Parenthetically, I think I’m a poor pancake provider because I really don’t like them. ¬†I know, it’s un-American and all that. ¬†Pancakes just aren’t my jam so I’ve never been particularly motivated to master them.

But back to the pancake bread. ¬†After trying the TJs version I thought I’d come up with my own. ¬†With blueberries and an optional freeze dried blueberry crumble.

This loaf has all of the elements of a great stack of pancakes: fresh blueberries, buttermilk, and  maple syrup.

I’m of the opinion that in this case, the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. ¬†But that’s probably because this blueberry bread tastes nothing like pancakes.

If you decide to make this, especially for pancake adoring fans, I suggest you employ the placebo effect. ¬†Tell them what it’s called. ¬†Maybe list some of the pancake ingredients. ¬†And leave it at that.

I’m fairly confident that believing in the pancake could make it so.

Blueberry Pancake Bread

makes two regular loaves

Ingredients

for the streusel (optional)

  • 1/2 C ground freeze dried blueberries, finely ground
  • 4 TBS brown sugar
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 3 TBS cold butter

for the bread

  • 3 C all purpose flour (plus 1/4 C for blueberries)
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 C butter, softened (I use unsalted)
  • 1 C sugar
  • 2/3 C maple syrup
  • 4 large eggs, at room temp
  • 1 C buttermilk, at room temp

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two 9X5 (or similar size) loaf pans with parchment.  Then butter or oil pans.  Set aside.
  2. To make streusel, in a small bowl, combine flour, blueberries and brown sugar. Cut butter into small pieces. Using the tips of your fingers, cut the butter into the sugar mix until combined (butter pieces should be pea sized, maybe smaller).  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
  4. Set blueberries in a fine meshed sieve and sprinkle reserved 1/4 C flour over. Gently toss blueberries so that they are covered in flour.  This will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the batter.
  5. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle (or electric mixer), cream butter until light, about 2 minutes.  Add-in sugar and syrup.  Beat for another couple of minutes.
  6. Beat-in eggs on at a time.
  7. Starting and ending with the flour, add 1/3 flour, combine and then add 1/2 buttermilk.  Mix after each until just combined.  Repeat until you end with the last of the flour.
  8. Gently fold-in blueberries with a spatula (do not use mixer).
  9. Fill loaf pans with batter and sprinkle tops with streusel.
  10. Bake, both loaves at the same time, for 45-60 minutes, rotating pans at the 30 minute mark.  At 45 minutes, start checking for doneness by inserting a wooden skewer into the middle of the loaf.  Loaf is done with skewer pulls out with barely dry crumbs.
  11. Allow to cool in pans for 5-10 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool completely on cooling rack.

 

Rugelach, Ugh

Over the years I’ve made a few attempts at rugelach. ¬†At its best, this deli favorite is ¬†flakey, nutty, just barely sweet and a little chewy from the carmelized jam. ¬†Even not at its best, this cream-cheese based pastry is pretty delicious.

And then there are my versions.  My fault, I think, lay in attempting the lovely crescent shaped version.  Perhaps I was too heavy handed with the preserves because everything would leak out and sort of cement the cookie to the parchment.

A couple of years ago, Deb Pearlman of Smitten Kitchen did a sort of study on variations of the rugelach shape. ¬†And, because she’s one of my kitchen heroes, I took good notes when I rediscovered the post earlier this year.

With her help, I made the move from crescents to rolls. ¬†It’s made all the difference. ¬†Fair warning, rugelach (even in easier shapes) is a finicky mistress. ¬†While the dough comes together easily and quickly in a food processor, it is sticky and only behaves when really cold.

Rugelach also takes some diligence. ¬†Not happy to be rolled out in a single attempt, the dough insists on being addressed one-quarter at a time. ¬†Listen to the recipe. ¬†I didn’t the first time. ¬†I wished I had. ¬† Funny (or maybe just typical) story about the rugelach pictured here. ¬†I knew I had a jar of raspberry preserves in the cupboard and grabbed the new jar for this recipe. ¬†On the first roll-out of dough I thought, ‘hmmm, the seeds in this raspberry jam are all clumped together, how weird.’ I pulled off the little ball of seeds and tossed them. ¬†On the second round I thought, strange, this is really is pink for raspberry jam. ¬†On the third round I observed how strawberry-like the jam smelled. ¬†It wasn’t until I was doing the last roll out that I actually looked at the jar. ¬†Yep, it was strawberry.

My rugelach competency leaves something to be desired. ¬†Luckily, much of the fun is in the practice. ¬†I’m also going to leave you with the link to Deb Pearlman’s recipe and instructions. ¬†I haven’t advanced enough to add my own spin. ¬†And, not that I’d question her (other than to ask her to be my bestie in baking), but I did my own research and she’s right. ¬†There really is only one recipe for rugelach dough. ¬†The success (or in my case, middling okayness) it seems, lies with the baker.

Smitten Kitchen’s Variously Shaping Rugelach

Have fun!