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Bourbon Apricot Bread Pudding

27 Mar

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If you’ve had fun making cascarones or other Easter egg decorating crafts that involve removing an egg’s insides from its shell, I probably don’t have to remind you that the second part of your egg decorating journey is now upon you. With a big bowl of raw eggs now sitting in front of you, what are you going to do?

Let me tell you what you are going to do: You are going to make bread pudding. Then, you are going to eat bread pudding and, again, I don’t think I have to tell you this, but, my friend, you are really, really going to like it.

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Much in the same vein as a frittata, bread pudding is a great way to use up a few last ends of this and that, eventually creating a finished dish that is light years removed from what you may have initially been able to achieve with each item individually. Because I am frugal to the point of being almost batty, my freezer is populated with several different bags of almost-finished hunks of bread. Not all of the bread is the same type of bread, but in the case of bread pudding, I have found that it doesn’t really matter if all your matches, so long as all of your bread is delicious. I’ve made bread pudding with a mixture of old baguette, leftover brioche, and stale Italian-style boule, and the result is never anything less than fantastic.

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Because I had dried apricots on hand, I decided to put them to use in this bread pudding, and because there are few things as well-paired as stone fruits and bourbon, I just had to give the apricots a nice soak in some bourbon before tucking them into the pudding. No surprise, the two items just sang when put together, and they did wonders for bringing out all the right notes when they met up with the dark brown sugar of the custard. With less than ¼ cup of sugar in the entire affair, I’d argue that this lovely, only mildly sweet dish could be carted out for brunch and never seem out of place. Not that I could ever think of a time or place where I would not welcome this bread pudding, but that’s just me.

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Last Year: Brown Butter Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting

Bourbon Apricot Bread Pudding

½ cup coarsely chopped dried apricots

2 tablespoons bourbon

2 cups milk

4 large eggs

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar, separated

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

pinch of salt

5 cups stale or slightly dried bread cubes, cut into 1-inch chunks

¼ cup coarsely broken raw pecan halves

In a small bowl, combine dried apricots and bourbon. Toss to combine, then allow to soak for at least 20 minutes, tossing frequently to make sure the bourbon reaches every bit of the apricots.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl or in a large measuring cup, combine milk, eggs, 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Whisk vigorously until the brown sugar has dissolved and the eggs are completely combined. Place the bread cubes in an 8” x 8” square baking pan, then pour the custard over the bread, soaking every piece as much as possible. Allow bread to rest in the custard for 15 minutes, pushing the bread down into the custard every couple of minutes to ensure that everything gets nice and soaked.

When the bread has finished soaking, remove the apricots from the bourbon (discarding the remaining bourbon, ahem, in any way you wish). Add the apricots to the soaked bread, using your fingers to poke the fruit down and really nestle them in. Sprinkle the pecans over the top of the bread, then sprinkle over the 1 teaspoon of dark brown sugar.

Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until the custard in the center of the pudding is set, and the bread has puffed up quite a bit and turned a nice golden shade. Serve hot or warm.

Makes roughly 6 to 8 servings.

Leek and Rosemary Scones

26 Feb

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From my house, you can walk to a place to get seasonal handmade pie, two places to get Japanese noodles, a place that makes their own coconut milk to mix into delicious curries, and a place that makes cecina (also called farinata, cecina is a crepe-like flatbread made of chickpea flour) in an enormous wood-fired oven. This summer, there will also be a place to get delicious French pastries and a place to get small batch ice cream. What there will not be, and what there is not now, is a place to get a scone.

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Perhaps due to the proliferation of coffee places that serve the type of scones that are more closely related to a slice of cake or a doughnut, there isn’t a lot of represented variety in the scone world. Most scones encountered these days are sugary, glaze-covered, or chocolate-studded, and while I certainly have no problem with a good selection of sweets being offered, it would be nice to come across the occasional savory scone. Logic leads me to believe that, this being America, the biscuit is most likely the main culprit in the obsolescence of the savory scone, but, me being me, that doesn’t mean I am going to rest easy with that knowledge.

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So, if you are like me, and you are interested in delving a bit deeper into the world of the non-sugary scone, might I suggest you give this delightful leek and rosemary version a try? Flaky and buttery, it’s a welcome addition to a cup of coffee or tea, and it plays very well with the warm and cozy attributes of a bowl of soup. Come to think of it, these scones, so very savory and toothsome, go great with a big, crunchy salad as well, lending a balance of heartiness to the crisp lightness of a big plate of greens. Oh, greens! You could split one of these in half and pile it high with sautéed greens—chard, collard greens, kale, what have you—making yourself a sort of hybrid sandwich that goes a long way towards making a case for the presence of the savory scone. I could keep going with this case for scones, but I think I’ve made good headway so far. How long before a shop offering savory scones pops up near my house? I have no idea. But, so long as my kitchen and I keep up the pace, I don’t anticipate we’ll be needing the services of such a shop.

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Last Year: Marinated Goat Cheese and Savory Olive Oil and Walnut Sables–these go great together!

Another Savory Scone: Cheddar, Apple, and Poppy Seed Scones 

Leek and Rosemary Scones

4 medium leeks, white parts only

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

2 sticks (1 cup) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 ½ cups buttermilk or soured milk

Rinse leeks thoroughly, then slice in half lengthwise. Slice each half into thin half moons. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add leeks, then sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the leeks begin to soften. Reduce heat to low, cover leeks, and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the leeks from sticking to the pan. When the leeks are touched with crisp brown edges, uncover the pan, stir for a minute or so over low heat to allow the leeks to crisp up a bit more, then remove leeks to a plate to cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, rosemary, and lemon zest. Whisk to combine. Add the cold butter chunks and, using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few large pea-sized butter bits strewn throughout. Using a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula, carefully stir in the buttermilk until the dough appears quite shaggy and just begins to hold together. Fold in the cooled leeks.

Turned the dough out onto a floured surface. Carefully pat the dough into a long rectangle about 18 inches long and roughly 1 ½-inches thick. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 12 triangles.

Place the dough triangles on the prepared baking sheet. You might need to partake in a bit of creative arranging in order to make all 12 triangles fit on the baking sheet. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops of the scones have turned dark golden brown. Remove scones to a wire rack to cool slightly, then serve while still warm.

Makes 12 scones.

Almond Flour and Roasted Apple Scones

7 Jan

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There has been an internal debate going on in my head over what to call this particular baked good. Introduced to me over the holidays as a recipe for gluten-free Irish soda bread, the batch I originally tasted was very texturally different than the version seen here. More cakey than bready, and containing raisins instead of roasted apples, the delicious bread, slathered with strawberry preserves, was devoured in the span of a late morning.

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What is seen in these pictures is my own version of the bread, made with a very old—and, I suspect, somewhat dehydrated—batch of almond flour that I had sitting around in the refrigerator. The texture of the bread I made was a lot less cake-like than the original, so, in the interest of full disclosure, I feel as though I can’t really call this bread a bread or a cake. Therefore, scones it is!

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All that aside, the recipe is also quite delicious. Given to me by a friend who is avoiding gluten consumption, it is not the type of baked good one eats and immediately pinpoints as trying to be something that it is not. Wonderfully nutty, lightly sweetened, and quite toothsome, it is not lacking anything in the way of desirability. If you use fresh almond flour in this recipe, you’ll end up with a treat that has the crumb of a sturdy cake; if you use almond flour that is, ahem, a bit older, the dryness of the flour will result in a drier, though certainly no less tasty, crumb. Truth be told, I loved both versions of this bread/cake/scone. The batch I made was meant specifically for a friend of mine who is diabetic, and therefore has to maintain strict control of her carbohydrate intake. Though she is often deprived of sweets in general, I’d like to think that her enthusiasm over these scones was based more on upfront taste, rather than on relief over finally being able to eat a baked good. In either case, I’ll take it as a good sign that, though I can eat gluten and carbohydrates, I find this recipe wonderful enough to make any time I am craving something warm from the oven.

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Last Year: Cod and Leek Chowder

Almond Flour and Roasted Apple Scones

Let’s talk texture for a moment. There are a few different types of almond flour one can use in this recipe, and all of those flours will result in a slightly different baked good. Blanched almond flour (that is, almond flour made with almonds with the skins removed) will produce a more tender product, as will any fresh almond flour that you grind up yourself. Almond flour with the skins ground in will produce a more crumbly baked good, though one that is no less delicious. In regard to terminology, I have found that there is a 50/50 split between companies that refer to their product as either almond flour or almond meal. Without getting into a long discussion about it, the gist of it is, either almond flour or almond meal can be used in this recipe and things will still turn out beautifully.

1 large apple, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch chunks (you’ll end up with roughly ½ to ¾  of a cup—sometimes more, sometimes less—of apple chunks)

2 ¾ cups almond flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons agave nectar (you could also use honey, though be aware that honey will impart a much more pronounced flavor)

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then arrange apple chunks on parchment and roast in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, until the apple chunks feel fairly dry to the touch and are just tinged with a golden hue. Remove apples from baking sheet and allow to cool while you prep other ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine almond flour, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, agave or honey, apple cider vinegar, and lemon zest. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in roasted apple chunks.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, shape dough (it will be rather sticky) into an 8-inch round. Score the center of the round with a ½-inch deep X. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, then turn off oven and allow round to sit in oven for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before slicing into triangles.

Makes 6-8 scones, depending on how you choose to slice.

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