flip over cherry cake

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Unless I did something very wrong, calling this a cake is a bit of a stretch. In fact, it’s very similar to a cobbler recipe I’ve made, which used the same technique of pouring batter over melted butter, topping that with the fruit, and baking. It seems an odd method to me; why not mix the butter with the rest of the batter?

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Maybe leaving the butter separate contributes to the “flip-over” aspect of this “cake”, which can also turn it into a cobbler with the dough on top of the fruit. It’s perfectly edible – sugary, fruity, and buttery – but I have to admit that I like my bready parts to be more substantial. On the other hand, a scoop of Greek yogurt made this a good excuse to eat dessert for breakfast.

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Becky chose this fruity cake/cobbler/pudding for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. I substituted cherries for the plums and increased the salt.

One year ago: Tarte Fine
Two years ago: Cottage Cheese Pufflets
Three years ago: Creme Brulee (comparison of 2 recipes, in which Dorie’s won)

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croissants (tartine bread)

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My coworker seemed surprised when I told him I was going home at lunch to work on croissants. He wondered if all croissant recipes are so complicated. No. But I chose the most complicated one.

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I seem to have convinced myself that the recipe with the most steps must produce the best result. By no means is this rule always true, but in this case, it was. Spending my lunch break rolling and shaping buttery dough was a small price to pay for croissants this good.

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And that’s just the beginning (well, it’s the end of the recipe, but it’s the beginning of me telling you about the recipe). The process starts a couple days earlier, when you feed your starter. If you don’t have a starter, you should make one! It isn’t hard, and I’m more proud of my all wild-yeast bread than anything else I’ve accomplished in the kitchen this year.

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Once your starter is awake and you’ve mixed up another pre-dough with instant yeast, you’ll make your dough, but instead of kneading it, you’ll spend a minute or so fussing with it every half an hour for a few hours. Once it’s risen and chilled, you can roll it out and start working in the butter, and this process takes a few minutes of fussing over the course of several hours too. Then chill the dough some more. Then roll it out some more. Then, finally, you can shape your croissants! But then you have to let them rise for a couple hours before baking.

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I actually love recipes like this. I love getting to play with dough for just a few minutes at a time, and because the dough is chilled in between, it’s adaptable to my schedule. And in this case, all that fussing paid off with the best croissants I’ve made yet. My coworker grabbed two, and then he didn’t seem to doubt my lunchtime fussing at all.

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More experiments with croissants:
Tartine Bakery (the recipe in their first book is different than the recipe in their bread book)
Martha Stewart (using fresh yeast)
Martha Stewart (using instant yeast)

One year ago: Taco Pasta Salad
Two years ago: Green Chile Huevos Rancheros
Three years ago: Pan-Seared Steak with Red Wine Pan Sauce

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Croissants (adapted from Tartine Bread)

Makes 16 croissants

I’ve shortened the instructions and added volume measurements. Keep in mind though, that the weight measurements are more precise, so if you have a scale, use it (as always).

The original recipe recommends an egg wash made from 2 egg yolks and 1 teaspoon of heavy cream, but I used a whole egg whisked with a pinch of salt (which loosens the protein structure of the egg) because I didn’t want 2 extra egg whites to use up.

I wouldn’t have minded the croissants being just a little bit sweeter. Next time I’ll increase the sugar to ½ cup (100 grams).

You don’t use all of the leaven, because the leftover leaven becomes the starter that you keep and feed and use in the future.

Poolish:
200 grams (1½ cups) all-purpose flour
200 grams (⅔ cup) water, room temperature
3 grams (1 teaspoon) instant yeast

Leaven:
1 tablespoon starter
220 grams (1⅔ cups) all-purpose flour
220 grams (¾ cup) water, room temperature

Dough:
450 grams (1¾ cup) whole milk, room temperature
300 grams leaven
400 grams polish (this is all of the poolish)
1000 grams (7 cups) bread flour
28 grams (4½ teaspoons) salt
85 grams (7 tablespoons) sugar
10 grams (1 tablespoon) instant yeast

400 grams (28 tablespoons, although I used a full pound (32 tablespoons)) unsalted butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
Egg wash

1. To make the poolish: In a small bowl, mix the flour, water, and yeast. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 3-4 hours or store overnight in the refrigerator.

2. To make the leaven: In a small bowl, mix the starter, flour, and water. Cover and let rise overnight.

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3. Add the milk, leaven, and poolish to a large mixing bowl; stir to break up the doughs. Add the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast; mix thoroughly until there are no bits of dry flour. Cover and let rest for 25-40 minutes. Fold the dough a few times by using a dough scraper to scoop up one side of the dough and drape it over the rest of the dough.

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4. Allow the dough to ferment for 3 to 4 hours and give it another few turns every 30 minutes. This takes the place of kneading. Be more gentle with the turning toward the end of the rising time. The dough is ready when it’s slightly increased in volume and is full of air bubbles. Flatten the dough into a rectangle, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

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5. Just before rolling out the dough, cut the cold butter into cubes. Gradually adding the ½ cup flour, pound the butter with a rolling pin until it comes together into a cohesive mass. Alternatively, use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to mix the cold butter and flour. Mold the butter into a rectangle measuring 8 by 14 inches.

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6. On a work surface dusted with flour, roll the dough out to a rectangle measuring 12 by 20 inches. Lay the butter block over the dough so that it covers about two-thirds of the dough. Fold the uncovered third of dough toward the center over the butter. Fold the other end of the dough, with the butter, over the center, as if you’re folding a letter. Turn the dough a quarter turn; roll it again into a 12 by 20-inch rectangle, then fold it in thirds. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. (You can chill the dough longer, but you’ll need to let it warm up a few minutes before rolling so the butter isn’t too stiff.)

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7. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Roll it out to a 12 by 20-inch rectangle, fold it in thirds, rotate it a quarter-turn, and repeat the rolling and folding. Chill for an hour. Repeat the rolling, folding, rotating, rolling and folding once more. Wrap the folded dough in plastic wrap and freeze it for 1-2 hours. If you don’t plant to finish the croissants until the next morning, transfer the dough to the refrigerator after a couple hours in the freezer. (You can store the dough in the freezer for several days at this point, letting it defrost overnight before using.)

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8. Roll the dough into a rectangle that is 18 by 24 inches and is about ½-inch thick. If the dough becomes very elastic, let it rest (preferably in the refrigerator) for several minutes before continuing the rolling. Cut the dough in half to form two 9 by 24-inch rectangles. Cut each rectangle into 8 triangles. Roll up each triangle, starting at the wide side. Transfer the croissants to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them at least an inch apart. Cover them loosely and let rise until they are about 50 percent larger than their original size, about 2 hours. They will be firm, but puffed. (You can also refrigerate them overnight at this point, which is what I did.)

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9. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush the croissants with the egg wash. Bake until they are deep golden brown, crisp, and flaky, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

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cooks illustrated’s ultimate banana bread

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I’ve always wanted to do a banana bread comparison post, and I still plan to someday, but usually I make banana bread for one primary purpose: to use up old bananas. And this recipe is the best for that, because it uses five bananas (six if you include the garnish, which I usually don’t), which is about twice as many as most other banana bread recipes. Furthermore, this recipe actually works better with previously frozen bananas, which mine always are.

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It manages to fit so many bananas into one loaf because the liquid is extracted before the batter is mixed. I love sucking the liquid out of ingredients before using them in recipes, especially quick breads like this zucchini bread. But I have to admit that I hadn’t realized bananas contained so much water. With zucchini, it’s obvious because water droplets immediately appear on a newly cut surface, but bananas had always seemed relatively dry to me.

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That’s until you freeze and then defrost them, when they turn into a pile of gross brown mush soaking in gross brown liquid. And this is perfect, because the mush is ready to mix right into the batter, and the liquid can be simmered down into a concentrated banana syrup, so not one bit of banana flavor is wasted. And if you don’t constantly have a bag of bananas taking up space in your freezer, of course you don’t need previously frozen bananas for this recipe – a quick trip to the microwave achieves the same effect.

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The end result is a banana bread that’s moist and tender, even if I go ahead and utilize my favorite quick bread tricks of subbing half whole wheat pastry flour and reducing the fat by 25% by replacing some of the butter with oil. Plus I figure that all that extra fruit in there contributes more fiber and nutrients. It’s not over-the-top banana-y either, despite containing so much more banana than most loaves. It’s so good that it’s actually worth making just for the sake of eating it, not just to use up the ingredients!

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One year ago: Pappa al Pomodoro
Two years ago: Risotto with Swiss Chard
Three years ago: Gazpacho

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Ultimate Banana Bread (from Cooks Illustrated)

I’ve reproduced Cooks Illustrated’s recipe exactly below. However, I don’t particularly care for the sliced bananas on top. They’re pretty, but they’re too sweet and candy-like (which really doesn’t sound like me, come to think of it).

You can slightly healthy up this recipe by replacing half of the flour with whole wheat pastry flour, and using 4 tablespoons butter plus 2 tablespoons canola oil instead of 8 tablespoons butter. The oil helps keeps the loaf moist, and of course leaving all that butter in contributes flavor.

1¾ cups (8¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
6 large very ripe bananas (about 2¼ pounds), peeled
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed (5¼ ounces) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

2. Place 5 bananas in a microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in the plastic with a paring knife. Microwave on high power until the bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bananas to a fine-mesh strainer placed over a medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cups liquid).

3. Transfer the liquid to a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until it’s reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, stir the reduced liquid into the bananas, and mash with a potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in the butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

4. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in the walnuts, if using. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Slice the remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Shingle the banana slices on top of both sides of the loaf, leaving a 1½-inch-wide space down the center to ensure an even rise. Sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly over loaf.

5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and continue to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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cornmeal and bacon loaf

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It’s impossible to get burned out on food fads in smalltown southeastern New Mexico. There are no cupcake shops (heck, there isn’t any kind of bakery), no restaurants topping their food with foam, and bacon stays where it belongs – next to eggs, not in desserts.

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Not that adding bacon to cornbread is particularly trendy, but I naively fell for the naming trickery of this bread and didn’t realize until I was eating it that “cornmeal loaf” is cornbread. In this case, cornbread with bacon and without any fruit, as I didn’t want to confuse the issue of whether this was a dessert or breakfast. With a poached egg on top and savory bits of bacon mixed in, this is classic breakfast all the way.

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Caitlin, who evidently can’t resist the combination of fruit and cornmeal, chose this for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the full recipe posted. I substituted whole wheat pastry flour for half of the whole wheat flour, left out the fruit, reduced the sugar to ⅓ cup, and added 6 strips of cooked chopped bacon, as recommended by Dorie in her savory variation.

One year ago: Espresso Chocolate Shortbread
Two years ago: Lime Meringue Pie
Three years ago: Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

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golden brioche loaves

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Saturday I had a cooking extravaganza. I chose five fun recipes and spaced out the eating and the cooking over the course of the evening. I spent hours in the kitchen, and I had a great time.

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I spent most of Sunday in the kitchen as well, but it wasn’t planned, so it wasn’t as fun. Plus, I made bread dough for three types of bread, but one (completely delicious) grilled pita was the only bread I ate all day. It’s a good reminder that the best part of cooking is eating.

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Of course it’s worth it in the end. I was thankful for the Sunday’s batch of bagels at work Monday morning, and I was grateful for the brioche on Tuesday. My coworkers were particularly grateful for the brioche. Who can say no to bread that’s this flakey, and most importantly, buttery?

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Margie chose brioche for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. Despite Dorie’s recommendation that the full recipe (enough for two loaves) of dough be made at once, I was able to make only half the recipe with no problems. For tiny brioches baked in a mini muffin pan, I divided the half recipe into 36 portions and baked them at 450 degrees for 12 minutes.

One year ago: Crunchy and Custardy Peach Tart
Two years ago: Applesauce Spice Bars
Three years ago: Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream Torte

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sweet corn hash

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I went to the local farmer’s market for the first time in over a year this morning and was sadly reminded why I hadn’t gone to the local farmer’s market for over a year. Apparently a farmer to the locals is someone who makes little crafts, not someone who grows stuff. The only vegetable for sale was zucchini, and we already have plenty of that.

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So I’ve been buying my summer corn at the grocery store, which just seems wrong, doesn’t it? Ears of corn should be bought out of the back of a truck on the side of the road. That doesn’t seem to be an option here, but it would be a shame to go the whole summer without eating corn just because I can’t find a local vendor selling it.

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It doesn’t take much more than the word “hash” to get me excited about a recipe. It’s hard to go wrong with a dish based on browned potatoes topped with eggs. Buying corn at the grocery store instead of the farmers market might not feel as satisfying, but it works just fine, especially once the corn is mixed with lightly caramelized onions, browned potatoes, and crisp bacon.

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One year ago: Whole Wheat Challah
Two years ago: Potato Tomato Tart
Three years ago: Fruit Bruschetta

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Sweet Corn Hash (adapted from Joy the Baker)

Serves 4

Joy roasted her potatoes, but I thought it would be easier to brown them in the skillet with the rest of the ingredients. She also adds butter at the end to increase the richness of the dish, but I figured a couple slices of bacon would have the same affect, while contributing great flavor of its own.

We also stirred in some chopped roasted green chile, because ‘tis the season.

4 slices bacon, chopped
4 medium red potatoes, cubed
1 onion, chopped
4 ears corn, kernels removed
¼ cup parsley, minced
salt and ground black pepper
4 eggs

1. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until almost crisp. While the bacon cooks, put the potatoes in a medium microwave-safe bowl; spoon a couple teaspoons of rendered bacon fat from the skillet into the bowl; stir. Cover the potatoes loosely and microwave on high for 3 minutes, stirring twice.

2. Add the onions and potatoes to the skillet with the bacon; cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the corn and most of the parsley. Lower the heat to medium-low. Using the back of a spoon, create 4 wells in the hash. Break one egg into each well; season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and cook, without stirring, until the white is set, about 8 minutes. Garnish with the remaining parsley; serve immediately.

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carrot spice muffins

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I am against vegetables in cake, but I am pro vegetables in muffins. I am against raisins in cake, but I am pro raisins in muffins. The same goes with nuts. Basically, carrot cake is an abomination, or at best just a vehicle for cream cheese frosting, but carrot muffins are awesome.

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Awesome to eat, that is; they’re a bit of a pain to make, what with the carrot shredding and nut toasting and spice measuring. But they’re worth it in the end, hearty and moist and studded with sweet raisins and bitter pecans. I have to confess to wondering if they would be even better topped with cream cheese frosting though.

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Nancy chose these for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. I reduced the oil to ½ cup, replaced 1 cup of all-purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour, doubled the salt, and increased the carrot slightly.

One year ago: Chocolate Ganache Ice Cream
Two years ago: Banana Bundt Cake
Three years ago: Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream

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peanut butter and jelly muffins

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I used to make a recipe similar to this – but without the peanut butter – and I loved it. Something about a dollop of jam baked inside of a muffin tastes so much better than a spoonful of jam spread over it once it’s baked. My old recipe also had a warm overtone of nutmeg I enjoyed.

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The only thing that wasn’t perfect about it was that it seemed too cakey, too dessert-like. These days, I like a heartier muffin. I also like to squeeze protein in wherever I can, and besides, everyone knows that peanut butter is a perfect partner for jelly.

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These peanut butter muffins are mixed a little differently than a standard muffin, in that the peanut butter is cut into the dry ingredients before the remaining liquids are added. Maybe this contributed to how light and soft the muffins were once baked, or maybe it was just the fat content of the peanut butter. Either way, with a good proportion of whole wheat flour and a layer of fruity jam in the middle, these are even better than my old favorite.

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One year ago: Lemon Curd Tart
Two years ago: Puff Pastry Dough
Three years ago: Pain a l’Ancienne

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Peanut Butter Jelly Muffins (adapted from Real Simple and Jeanne Lemlin’s Vegetarian Classics)

I used half whole wheat pastry flour.

1 cup whole milk
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups (9.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Pinch nutmeg
⅓ cup (3 ounces) peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
About ¼ cup jam

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray the bottoms of a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with paper liners. In a large measuring cup, whisk together the milk, egg, butter, and vanilla.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer), combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Add the peanut butter; mix until evenly combined. Turn the mixer off, add all of the milk mixture at once, and mix on low speed just until combined (small lumps are fine).

3. Place one heaping tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup. Spoon about a teaspoon of jam over the batter in the cups. Divide the remaining batter evenly between the cups.

4. Bake until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean, 15-20 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool slightly, about 5 minutes, then use a thin-bladed knife to remove the muffins from the pan.

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coconut scones

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The first half of this year was downright lazy for me. Of course I went to work, exercised, did laundry, cooked, and kept my house from turning into a cesspool, but I managed to do all that while spending the majority of the weekend, every weekend, outside in the backyard reading books and drinking margaritas. I love reading books and drinking margaritas, but I admit that I was starting to get the slightest bit bored.

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And just in time, because the pace is picking up. The second half of the year is packed with vacations, from a weekend in Colorado over 4th of July, a week on the beach later in the summer, Italy in the fall, Thanksgiving with Dave’s family, and then finally Christmas. It’s getting busy, and I’m still adjusting.

That’s my excuse for not being on top of things and making these scones for breakfast a few weekends ago, since we spent this weekend in Albuquerque. On the other hand, I knew I wouldn’t be able to find chestnut flour in my little town, but I was pretty convinced I could get it at Whole Foods in the “big” city. I was wrong; they didn’t have it.

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So no chestnut flour and no breakfast opportunities. Then I remembered that scones are really dessert disguised as breakfast, so there was no reason not to eat them after dinner. And while grinding almonds would have been a better substitute for chestnut flour than coconut flour was, I chose the easier option: coconut flour is already ground. I doubt coconut flour and chestnut flour result in a similar scone, but I can assure you that coconut flour, at least, makes a light scone with a texture somewhat reminiscent of a sable. One little scone made a nice dessert.

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Andrea had some chestnut flour in her kitchen that she bought a while ago, so she chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie. I simply substituted coconut flour for the chestnut flour in the original recipe. I also doubled the salt, added ¼ cup of unsweetened flaked coconut, and topped the scones with shredded sweetened coconut right before baking.

One year ago: Lots of Ways Banana Cake
Two years ago: Blancmanger
Three years ago: Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler

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peaches and cream scones

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Scones are just an excuse to eat dessert for breakfast. It’s a better disguised excuse then chocolate muffins, I will grant you, but in the end, equally bad for you. I think I might sound like I’m complaining. I’m not complaining.

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Cream scones are one of my favorite weekend morning accompaniments to coffee. The cream makes them so tender, and when they’re only lightly sweetened, like these, they’re perfect either topped with jam or baked with fresh fruit. A sweet biscuit, peaches, and cream – you can’t tell me that doesn’t sound like one heck of a dessert.

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Lynne chose the cream scones for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. I left out the currants and added one peach, peeled, chopped, and frozen, to the dough after the liquids were partially mixed in.

One year ago: Brrrownies
Two years ago: Brioche Plum Tart
Three years ago: Chocolate Pudding (comparison of 2 recipes)

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