Author Archives: heather - Page 2

Irish Soda Bread

Time to make something Irish. I am terrified of corned beef and cabbage, and believe it or not, I had not tried Irish Soda Bread until about 2 weeks ago. I am not sure what I was afraid of, but I was pleasantly surprised with the small sample I ate at the grocery store. Gwenny also seemed to enjoy it.

Be sure that the room is warm that you are leaving your bread in to rise. It took mine about 2 hours to rise the first time because the room was on the colder side. This recipe makes two loaves, so you can share with a friend!


  • 6 cups of bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of coarse salt
  • 4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of instant yeast
  • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 cups of buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups of raisins

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and yeast. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the buttermilk and using your hands, mix until the dough just comes together. Mix in the raisins. Using a plastic bowl scraper, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it is smooth and supple, 3 to 4 minutes. Shape into a round loaf.

Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rest in a warm location until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down to deflate it, reshape it into a round loaf, and let it rest again until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. With a bench scraper, divide it into two pieces, and shape them into two round loaves.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Dust the top of each loaf with flour, and with a bench scraper, form an X through the center of the bread, pressing down deeply in both directions with the scraper, almost cutting through the loaf. Place the loaves on a lightly floured baking sheet.

Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the crust is deep golder brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, about 1 hour. Transfer the bread to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Source: The Sono Baking Company Cookbook

Lemon Chiffon Pie with Pretzel Crust

I feel like I shouldn’t even have to write something to try to convince you to make this pie. The name and picture should be doing all the work for me. But if you still need more convincing, here we go…

I was recently looking around online for recommendations for a new cookbook since, believe it or not, I was getting bored with my collection. I came across a post of the top 10 cookbooks of the year and read a review about “Best of the Best: Volume 14“, part of a series of books. The books are published by Food & Wine magazine and are a collection of a handful of recipes from the top 25 cookbooks of the year. I was very intrigued. I ordered Volume 14 and love it…so I ordered volumes 8 and 11 too! I really liked seeing recipes from great chefs that I had never even heard of and getting to try a wide variety of recipes.

This pie caught my eye because of the pretzel crust. I had never heard of it used in a dessert like this before. I am also a big fan of lemons. For a while there I was drinking multiple glasses of lemonade a day, which may have been a sign of some sort of serious deficiency. The crust works really well here and the filling reminded me of the lemon flavored push pops from back in the day.


For the Crust:

  • 3 1/2 cups of salted mini pretzels
  • 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 12 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

For the Filling:

  • 1 packet of unflavored gelatin
  • 3/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) of ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • Pinch of table salt
  • 1 tablespoon of finely grated lemon zest
  • 4 egg whites

To make the crust:

Spray cooking oil to coat a 9 inch pie plate. Combine the pretzels and sugar in a food processor and process until the pretzels are medium-fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and process briefly until the crumbs are evenly moist. Mold the crumbs into the pie plate, being sure to get as high up on the sides as you can.

To make the filling:

Pour 1/3 of the lemon juice in the bottom of a blender and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Heat the remaining lemon juice in the microwave for 30 seconds, or until it is almost boiling. Pour the hot lemon juice over the gelatin/lemon mixture in the blender and let sit for 2 more minutes. Cover and blend for 1 minute until the gelatin is dissolved.

Add the ricotta, 3/4 a cup of sugar, and the salt to the blender and mix until smooth. Pour the mixture into a medium bowl and stir in the lemon zest. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to thicken, stirring often.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the egg whites and mix on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Continue to beat while gradually sprinkling in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Once all of the sugar has been added, turn the mixer to high until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Using a rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the whites into the lemon mixture. Once mixed, fold in the remaining egg whites until well blended.

Pour the filling into the crust and allow it to mound in the center. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled and set, at least 4 hours.

Source: The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge / Best of the Best: Volume 8

Seared Scallops with Citrus, Arugula and Pomegranate Salad

Scallops are one of those foods that can really turn you off to them if you have bad ones. I was afraid to try them for a long time after a bad experience because I was imagining a scary slimy blob that would come to life in my mouth and crawl up into my brain. I think we can all agree that the odds of that actually happening are pretty slim, but it kept me away from scallops for far too long.

Scallops are surprisingly easy to make at home. Be sure you are getting your scallops from a legitimate seafood place, and make sure they are as fresh as you can get. The thing to remember while cooking scallops is that you need to cook them in a very hot pan. Do not be afraid!


  • 3 clementines, peeled and cut into segments
  • 1 ruby red grapefruit, peeled and cut into segments
  • Salt
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 16 large scallops
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 cups of arugula
  • 1/2 a small red onion, finely julienned
  • 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds

Serves 4

Combine all the citrus in a medium bowl with a pinch of salt and crushed red pepper.

Remove the ‘tail’ part of the scallops and dry them with a paper towel. Season the scallops with salt. Coat a large saute pan with olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the smashed garlic. When the garlic has become golden and aromatic, remove it from the pan and discard it. Next, gently lay the scallops in the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. You may need to cook them in two batches depending on the size of your pan and your scallops. If the pan begins to smoke reduce the heat of the burner. The scallops should look beautifully caramelized on each side.

Toss the onion with the citrus. Place a large handful (or two) of arugula on the plate and place the citrus and onions over it. Be sure to reserve the accumulated juice in the bowl. Once all of the salads are in place, drizzle with the citrus juice and olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and sprinkle pomegranate seeds over each salad. Place 4 scallops on each place and enjoy!

Source: Anne Burrell –

Cinnamon-Swirl Raisin Bread

I can’t imagine that there could possibly be anyone out there who doesn’t like cinnamon raisin bread. While I would agree that making it at home might seem like a daunting task, this was surprisingly easy. I am thankful that Lindsay and I decided to make this together because there is a lot of down time waiting for the dough to rise, and we each got a loaf!

Ingredients (makes 2 loaves)

  • 2 cups of dark raisins
  • Canola oil for greasing the bowl
  • 4 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour; more for dusting
  • 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
  • 1 packet (1/4 oz.) of instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons of fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 7 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened; more for greasing the pans

Mix the Dough

Put the raisins in a small bowl and add enough hot tap water to cover them. Let sit for 5 minutes; drain and set aside.

Lightly oil a large bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, 2 tablespoons each of sugar and cinnamon, the yeast, and salt. Combine on low speed, about 1 minutes. Add the milk, egg, 3 tablespoons of butter, and 3/4 cup room temperature water. Mix on medium speed, scraping the bowl as necessary, until the dough comes together, about 1 minutes. Increase the speed to medium high and continue to mix until the dough is smooth, slightly sticky, and clinging to the hook, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the dough hook with your hand, and remove the bowl. Gently knead in the raisins by hand, just until incorporated.

Let the Dough Rise

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, roll it into a ball, and put it in the oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until the dough looks slightly puffy, about 30 minutes. Pour yourself a nice cup of coffee, and wait.

On a well-floured surface, use your hands to flatten and spread the dough out until it’s about 3/4 inch thick. Fold the dough in half from top to bottom, then in half again from left to right. Return the dough to the bowl, cover, and let sit until it has risen slightly, about 30 minutes more. Get that second cup of coffee ready.

Make the Cinnamon Filling

Generously grease two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pans with butter. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 4 tablespoons each of cinnamon and sugar; set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Divide the dough in half. Roll each ball into a rectangle large enough to fit into your pan when rolled. Once you have two rectangular pieces of dough, brush each with the melted butter and divide and sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Grease the bread pans. Roll the dough to form a log and place in each bread pan.

Let the uncooked loaves rest at room temperature for 60 – 90 minutes. By this time you might be getting impatient with all of the waiting. I suggest drinking something stronger than coffee to help pass the time, like a nice bottle of wine.

Bake the Bread

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375.

Bake the loaves, rotating and swapping the positions of the pans halfway through baking, until dark brown and hollow-sounding when thumped on the top, about 30 – 35 minutes. The bread will be very hard. Don’t get scared. Transfer the loaves in their pans to a rack and brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter.

When cook enough to handle, remove the loaves from the pans.

Source: Fine Cooking Magazine – Feb/March 2012

Orange Chicken with Scallions

If you are like me, you are constantly on an endless quest to find a consistently good Asian delivery place. Just when you think you have found a great place, you get sesame chicken that tastes like cardboard. I am starting to think that we can categorize great Asian take-out food with the Loch Ness Monster and a husband who can empty the dishwasher and put everything in the right place. They just don’t exist. I recently decided to bite the bullet and buy myself a rice cooker, dust off my wok, and make the food myself.

I have used my new rice cooker twice and it has already become one of those things that I don’t know how I lived without in the kitchen. I love it! If you don’t have one, I highly recommend that it be your next purchase in kitchen toys. One of the biggest things to remember when cooking with a wok is that everything happens very quickly, so make sure to do all your prep before you start, and have everything within an arms reach.


  • 1 large navel orange
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of light brown sugar
  • 1/8 of a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup of cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons of canola or peanut oil
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced (Keep the whites and greens separate)

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the zest from the orange in long, wide strips. If necessary, remove any large patches of bitter white pith from the zest using a paring knife. Juice the orange into a small bowl and mix with the soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and red pepper.

Sprinkle the chicken cubes with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. In a mini food processor, process the egg white, cornstarch, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt until smooth. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with the cornstarch batter.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet or large stir-fry pan over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Using tongs, transfer about half of the chicken to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, flipping every minute or so, until the chicken browns and crisps all over and is firm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes. With clean tongs, transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet (use more if you need it) and repeat the cooking process with the remaining chicken; transfer to the plate.

Put the orange zest strips in the skillet and cook, stirring, until they darken in spots, 15 to 30 seconds. Stir the orange juice mixture and add it to the pan. Let it boil for about 10 seconds and then add the chicken and the scallion whites. Cook, stirring often, until the sauce reduces to a glaze and the chicken is just cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve sprinkled with the scallion greens with white rice.

Source: Fine Cooking Annual: Volume 3