Thursday, June 07, 2007

Breads for Breakfast and Brunch

I've never been a breakfast person. Or, perhaps more accurately, I never been big on eating breakfast. A cup of coffee and a newspaper is all I want when I get up. But give me an hour or so for my belly and taste buds to wake up and I can match a lumberjack sausage for sausage, flapjack for flapjack, and biscuit for bagel. Consequently, I'm a huge fan of brunch.

Early summer is the perfect season for brunch, morning temperatures are perfect for sitting outside on the patio or by a pool eating strata, noshing on sausages, and drinking Mimosas or Bloody Mary's. The combination is hard to beat. But you've got to have some sort of bread, so we've come up with a trio of quick breads for that lazy summer morning with a few good friends.

Susan's Savory Cheese & Scallion Scones
Makes 8 large scones

Click to Enlarge

I came up with this recipe back in 1993 during a severe scone craving when there was no butter in the house. They're a snap to prepare and are really versatile. Serve them warm from the oven with dinner instead of rolls or bread--plain, buttered, or with cream cheese. Or split and toast in the toaster, spread with cream cheese and thinly sliced ham or turkey for a satisfying breakfast on the run, light lunch, or terrific after-school snack. They also freeze beautifully if you happen to have any left over (hint: the recipe can easily be doubled). Defrost at room temperature and heat at 375 degrees in an oven or toaster oven for about 5 to 8 minutes. If you're in a hurry, you can defrost them in the microwave before reheating.

Half & half will give you richer scones with a slightly nicer texture, but milk works quite well, is lower in fat and calories, and is usually always in the fridge. Either way, these are very moist and are healthier for you than traditional scones made with butter and/or heavy cream. You can also substitute Neufchatel cheese for the cream cheese, but I don't recommend using fat-free cream cheese. Fresh baking powder is essential. And as always, I urge you to seek out locally grown and organic ingredients whenever possible.
The optional egg glaze will give your scones a beautiful shine and dark golden color. Look for locally produced, farm fresh eggs at your farmer's market or natural foods store. You won't believe the difference compared to commercial eggs. The yolks are sometimes so dark they are a gorgeous deep orange, and the eggs actually taste like eggs! Enjoy.

2-1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons baking powder*
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (I use sheep/goat milk)
4 ounces cream cheese, softened in microwave 15-30 seconds (you want it very soft)
4 large scallions (green onions), green & white parts, chopped
1 cup half & half or whole milk
1 egg
Optional egg glaze:
Beat well with a fork:
1 egg & 2 Tablespoons milk

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine 2-1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Add cheeses & toss gently with a fork until combined.

Add scallions & toss gently with a fork until combined.

Beat half & half (or milk) with egg and gently fold into dry ingredients, mixing lightly until a soft dough forms. Add up to 1/2 cup additional flour if the dough is too sticky.

On a floured surface, gently pat dough into a circle approximately 1-inch thick. The key to tender scones is to handle the dough with a light touch and as little as possible. With a sharp knife (I use a large serrated knife dipped in flour) cut the circle into 8 wedges and place them on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. (I can't imagine life without my commercial half-size sheet pans.)

Brush tops and sides of scones with egg glaze if desired, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm, or cool completely and refrigerate or freeze in an airtight container.

*Make sure it's fresh! I prefer Rumford brand, as it does not contain aluminum and always gives me excellent results.

kitchenMage's Quick and Flaky Biscuits
Makes 12 - 15 biscuits.

Click to Enlarge

Biscuits are a perennial favorite. You can eat a fresh biscuit about 30 minutes after you decide you want one. (I believe this is the landspeed record for homemade breadstuff.) Hot out of the oven, a biscuit is simply layers of delicate, steaming flaky near-pastry. Add a smear of butter and a dollop of jam and it could be dessert! Biscuits are also a perfect recipe for teaching small children to bake. They are that easy, plus, tiny child hands can be very gentle, which helps with the flakiness.

Ingredient | US volume | US weight | Metric
Flour | 2 1/4 cups | 10 1/8 ounces | 285 grams
Salt | 3/4 tsp | 1/8 ounce | 4-5 grams
Sugar | 1 tablespoon | 5/8 ounce | 18 grams
Baking powder | 4 teaspoons | 5/8 ounce | 19 grams
Butter, very cold | 1/3 cup | 2 5/8 ounces | 75 grams
Milk, very cold | 1 cup | 8 ounces | 225 gram

Preheat oven to 450°

Place flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and baking soda in food processor and pulse for a few seconds to combine.

Cut cold butter into small pieces and add to food processor. Pulse half a dozen times and check for the size of the butter pieces. Repeat if necessary until the butter is in pieces roughly the size of peas.

Put flour mixture in a mixing bowl and add the cold milk. Toss together gently until barely combined. I use the little white plastic tool in the picture to lift the dough from the side of the bowl and dump it on top of the rest of the dough.

As soon as the dough holds together, turn it out on a lightly floured counter. Gently "knead" the dough a few strokes until it is a mostly a cohesive ball.

Roll the dough into a rectangle 1/2 - 3/4 inch thick, depending on how tall you like your biscuits. Cut into 2 inch circles, you should get 12 - 15, and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 450° for 8 - 10 minutes. Butter and eat while still warm.

Kevin: Butter Popovers
Makes six large popovers or 12 small.

Click to Enlarge

Actually, these are Rose Beranbaum's popovers, based on a recipe in The Bread Bible. These are the best popovers I've ever eaten, the butter adds richness and tones down the strong eggy flavor most popovers have. If you don't have a popover pan, use a muffin pan and be sure to only half-fill the cups.

1 c Wondra flour (must be Wondra)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 c whole milk — at room temperature
2 eggs — at room temperature
4 tbsp butter — melted

Heat oven to 425F 30 minutes in advance. Place one oven rack on the bottom level and the other on the second level (this avoids having the popover rising into the other rack).

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and sugar. Slowly add milk using an electric mixer on low. Add eggs one at a time, thoroughly mixing after each addition. Add two tablespoons of butter to batter. Transfer to pitcher for pouring.

Brush popover cups with butter then distribute remaining butter evenly among the cups.

Heat popover pan in oven for 3 minutes. Fill each cup halfway with batter.

Cook popovers on the second rack for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350F and continue cooking 20 - 35 minutes until well puffed and brown. Do not open oven for at least the first 20 minutes. Six - 10 minutes before popovers are done, use a small, sharp knife to poke a slit in the top of each popover and allow steam to escape.

When done, remove popovers from the pan and cool on a rack.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You all amaze.
Now that the weather has returned to it's normal gray skies and coolness, (hello from Portland, OR), I can heat up the oven and bake some delicious treats for my loved ones. Can't wait for Saturday! Thanks so much.

6/07/2007 11:32 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

"Astound and amaze" is our nom de cuisine.

6/07/2007 12:26 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Mmmmm ... I think I'm going to try those biscuits with brunch this Sunday. I love biscuits!

6/07/2007 3:45 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

You can tell, just by looking at the picture, they're perfect. Many breads, yeast and quick, can hide internal problems beneath a beautiful skin. But not biscuits. They're always at least as good as they look.

6/07/2007 4:02 PM  
Blogger Jan said...

Scones and biscuits and popovers, oh my! I don't know how I'd forgotten popovers, but it's wonderful to be reminded of them. I am so enjoying "A Year in Bread". Thanks for the efforts from all of you.

6/07/2007 10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, so what's so special about Wondra flour? Can we get it in the UK?

6/08/2007 3:59 AM  
Blogger Grace said...

These sound great. But one question. On the biscuit recipe - you only call for baking powder, but in the instructions you say you add baking soda as well. Is this a missing ingredient?

6/08/2007 9:07 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I dod't know why I don't make popovers more often, they're both easy and, with this recipe, fast.

I don't know if Wondra is available in the UK, it claim to fame is that it does't clump (if I remember correctly it pre-baked) and absorbs liquids quickly.I've never used it before making these so I don't have a good understanding of it's characteristics.

6/08/2007 9:37 AM  
Blogger kitchenmage said...

Um, the baking soda is there because it didn't get removed in an editing pass. (oops!) Please ignore it and I'll fix the article.

Anon/Kevin, I know people who use pastry/cake flour instead of Wondra in baking. Doesn't work like Wondra does for sauces but for baking it's fine. If you want to try some, I see it online at a variety of places (including Amazon) so check around.

6/08/2007 4:32 PM  
Blogger lucette said...

I love those looming scones!
I hadn't thought of making savory scones before--but what a good idea.

6/09/2007 11:32 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

These are all on my list of summer-baking to-dos. I can't wait. Thanks for the great ideas.

6/10/2007 11:43 AM  
Blogger oopsydeb said...

Thanks for some great recipes! I will make the scones tomorrow, I think.

About an earlier recipe: I made an odd adjustment to farmhouse white Sunday, so I thought I should report on my experiment. I was going to make the sour cream bread, but I forgot to buy sour cream. So, I thought I'd try out the potato bread. But I was out of potatoes. So...back to the farmhouse white (which we love). But, oh no, I was out of both milk and dry milk (I apparently haven't shopped since February). I know the recipe says you can use water, but I was concerned that would be a bit boring. So, I used 3 c. water and the 1 c. carrot juice I had leftover from making risotto.

The verdict? Eh. The color, a pretty yellow, is kind of fun. The flavor is fairly unremarkable..I was hoping it would have more carrot flavor. Perhaps I'll try it with 2 c. carrot juice some other time. The crumb was a bit looser, which translates into a slightly less ethereal quality when thick slabs are toasted. Still, it makes a good egg salad sandwich.

6/11/2007 10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beth--your biscuits are beautiful! I have been making a recipe for biscuits since childhood, and am curious about yours. I typically use shortening, but have been avoiding biscuits lately because of the trans fat. (I imagine my depression-era mountaineer granny, whose recipe I use, used shortening because of the cost factor.)

If I replace shortening with butter, what should I expect to change in my biscuits? Would I use the same amount?

I also use buttermilk, or sweet milk mixed with vinegar--and can't wait to try out a sweet-milk-only and sugar version. Sounds delish! Thanks!

6/12/2007 3:40 PM  
Blogger kitchenmage said...

oopsydeb, Interesting experiment. I'm planning on trying my potato bread with sweet potatoes when I can lay my hands on some.

anon, I made the biscuits in the picture with all butter - because I am an all-butter kind of mage. So you don't need to adjust anything.

For anyone who doesn't want to use butter, let's think this through. Butter contains some water while margarine/shortening does not. (now Kevin will come up with an obscure - or disturbingly common - southern shortening that has water in it and is stocked right next to the mythical Wondra) So if I was using another shortening, I'd reduce the fat to ~1/4 cup and add a teaspoon or so of extra milk.

But I think I'd still use butter.

6/12/2007 4:40 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

KM & Anon,
Don't forget about lard. It's no worse for you than butter and adds a wonderfully piggish flavor to biscuits that's perfect for breakfast.

6/12/2007 6:08 PM  
Blogger kitchenmage said...

That reminds me. I have ~1.5 lbs of leaf lard in the freezer! A friend got a pig butchered and gave me some. What to do, what to do...

6/12/2007 6:55 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

1.5 pounds of leaf lard! My god woman, spread it on toast like butter and then lightly salt it.

6/12/2007 7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lard... do they sell lard at regular, monster grocery store chains? I just moved to Albany, NY from NC and am finding a serious dearth of "Southern" foods, like blackeyed peas and White Lily flour. I hope lard does not fall in that category! Will check it out, though. Thanks ya'll!

6/13/2007 7:37 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Look for lard in the Mexican section if it's not with the oils and shortenings. You can also usually find it at specialty South American markets -- or you can make it, which is easy to do and produces the best result.

6/13/2007 8:36 AM  

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