May 17, 2016

Ginger Rhubarb Scones

When I arrived in Atlanta last week, it didn't feel like Spring at all. It was 88 degrees, 88% humidity, and way too sunny for that kind of heat. I was quickly back on the road, this time to Long Island, New York to visit family, and it finally felt like Spring instead of Summer. One of the fleeting signs of this gorgeous season is the brief appearance of rhubarb. When done right, its gentle tartness lends itself well to a variety of dishes. When done wrong, it might just kill you (really). These scones only use some of the sliced stems, so you have nothing to worry about. The flavor is a little bit sharp, but the sweet, buttery scones help tone it down, and there's a bit of fresh spicy ginger in there for good measure.

The trick to making rhubarb more palatable is letting it macerate. Maceration is a technique that lets fruits sit in juice to soften. With rhubarb, you just have to sprinkle the slices with some sugar to draw the natural juices out. This reduces the moisture content so the scones don't end up soggy, and it also makes sure each bite of rhubarb is countered with some sweetness.

The scones use a fairly standard buttermilk dough. The process is similar to that of biscuits or pie crust if you've never made scones before. Just pulse your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt) together in a food processor, add cubes of cold butter until just combined, then stir in your liquid ingredients (in this case, buttermilk and vanilla). As usual, the key things to keep in mind are making sure your ingredients are cold and mixed together just until combined. Small lumps of butter are ok, and the dough shouldn't be too sticky.

The one slightly different thing I do in this scone recipe is infuse the sugar with the ginger. It's the best way to perfume the entire dough with the ginger and takes all of 10 seconds. Using your fingertips, rub the grated fresh ginger into the granulated sugar until the sugar is fragrant and a bit moist. This ensures that it is evenly distributed and you won't bite into any big pockets of sharp ginger.

Once the dough is finished, you can shape it however you want. I tend to pat the dough into a few even circles and cut each circle into quarters so you end up with small but fat scones. I've also seen people do one big circle cut into lots of thinner wedges, a rectangle cut into squares or smaller rectangles, or using cookie cutters to make other shapes. The easiest method is making drop scones, which is just using a cookie scoop or spoon to drop heaps of dough onto the cookie tray and baking them into craggy domes. As long as they aren't too oversized or too tiny, they should all take about the same time to bake, but all you need to know is that you should pull them out of the oven when they are evenly browned on the bottom and just starting to become golden on the top. Pro tip: make a quick glaze with some powdered sugar, milk, and an extra pinch of fresh ginger to make them look even prettier.

3 Stalks Rhubarb, Sliced
2 tsp Grated Ginger
1/3 Cup + 3 T Sugar
2 1/2 Cups Flour
1 T Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Stick Butter, Chilled & Cubed
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Cup Buttermilk

Heat oven to 425F and line a baking tray with parchment.

Toss the rhubarb with 3 T sugar and let sit for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, rub the ginger into the remaining sugar until fragrant.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the ginger-sugar mixture, flour, baking powder, and salt together until combined. Pulse in the butter until small lumps remain. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and pulse until just combined. Gently stir in the rhubarb.

Cut the dough into three pieces. Shape each into a circle and cut each circle into quarters. Transfer the scones to the prepared tray and bake until golden, about 12 minutes.

Makes 12
Recipe Adapted from The Brown Eyed Baker

May 4, 2016

Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies

I just finished my last final, and I'm spending my last 48 hours in Rome packing, watching Netflix, exploring the rest of Rome, and going to Cinque Terre. I'm pretty excited to be done with sophomore year, but I'm even more excited to go home. My flight lands on Saturday night, which means I'm home just in time to make a giant feast for Mother's Day. Honestly, I'm just happy I get to eat Chinese food and brownies when I land, so this recipe for raspberry cheesecake brownies serves two purposes, assuming we don't eat them all on Saturday.

Like everyone's favorite slutty brownies, these brownies have four parts: the brownie itself, the layer of creamy cheesecake, the raspberry swirl, and a handful of fresh raspberries sprinkled on top. You can really use any type of fruit, but I love the contrast of the tart red raspberries on the sweet white cheesecake with a thick layer of fudgy brownies under it all.

The brownie layer is just my favorite brownie recipe. It's incredibly easy and equally chocolatey. It starts by mixing warm melted butter with sugar and a ton of cocoa powder. I then whisk in some vanilla and eggs, then a little bit of flour. Normally I add some chocolate chips, but they aren't entirely necessary given the richness of the rest of the recipe.

The cheesecake layer is fairly standard, though it is scaled down quite a bit from a normal-sized cheesecake. I aim to have about as much cheesecake as there is brownie. That means only one block of cream cheese, one egg, a dollop of sour cream, and a splash of vanilla. I like a simple vanilla cheesecake since it has to pair with the chocolate brownie and the raspberry swirl.

I use a small shortcut for the raspberry swirl by starting with raspberry jam as the base. It gets heated with a bit more sugar and a spoonful of water to loosen things up. I do add a handful of fresh raspberries for texture and to brighten it up a bit. Normally I would strain it, but that ruins the point of using the fresh berries. If you're looking to eliminate as many seeds as possible, you can heat the jam mixture minus the fresh berries until liquidy, strain it, stir in the berries, and heat it again, but that's a lot of effort for not much of a difference in my opinion.

To assemble the brownies, I spread the brownie batter on the bottom of a glass baking dish. I always use glass pans for brownies because they distribute the heat better to avoid burning the edges and ending up with gooey centers. The cheesecake layer is next; be gentle so that you don't pick up pockets of brownie batter with it. You should be equally careful with the raspberry swirl so that you don't end up with a pink raspberry cheesecake layer. I like to have a distinct red swirl, so I dot a few spoonfuls of the raspberry mixture on top and swirl them in just until it's fairly even. I also press a few more fresh raspberries in to catch any gaps and make sure every brownie has some raspberry. Of course, if you decide to forgo cutting it into smaller pieces and eat it as one large brownie (I'm not stopping you), technically every brownie will have raspberries.

1 Stick Butter
1 1/3 + 1/4 Cup + 2 T Sugar
3/4 Cup Cocoa
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
3 Eggs
1/3 Cup Flour
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/3 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips (Optional)
8 oz Cream Cheese, Softened
1/4 Cup Sour Cream
6 oz Raspberries
1/4 Cup Raspberry Jam

Heat oven to 325F and line an 8-9" square pan with parchment.

Melt the butter in a small pot over medium-low heat. Whisk 1 1/4 cups sugar and cocoa together, then add the butter. Whisk in 1 tsp vanilla and add two eggs one at a time, stirring until incorporated. Fold in the flour, baking soda, and 1/4 tsp salt. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and set aside.

Combine 4 oz raspberries, 2 T sugar, 2 T water, and the raspberry jam in a small pot. Cook over medium-low heat until thickened, about 8 minutes, stirring constantly. Strain and set aside to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and 1/3 cup sugar together until fluffy. Add one egg, then stir in the sour cream, remaining vanilla, and remaining salt.

Spread the cheesecake mixture onto the brownie batter. Swirl in the raspberry puree and press the remaining raspberries on top. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until almost set.

Makes 16