Piece of (strawberry short) cake

I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but for the third week in a row, I was in search of a recipe that was easy and quick. In fact, this is the first time this year that I made this week’s recipe on the same day I posted my blog.

Like any (recovering) journalist, I live for a deadline.

Thankfully, I picked another recipe this week that not only was as simple as it seemed but came together with little effort. I needed the latter after losing an altercation with a cat that has left my right hand only partially usable.

Strawberry shortcake bars also happen to be delicious and the kind of treat that will please my in-laws as we head to St. Louis this weekend to see them.

Strawberry shortcake bars ingredients (sans flour because I keep it in a big honkin’ container because I use that much).

Everything’s coming up Christinia!

Because I’m cutting it down to the wire (again), two quick notes on this recipe:

  • It’s pretty strong on the shortcake, which I like, but it may be a bit dry for others’ tastes. If that’s not your thing, maybe cut down on the flour or add a little more whipped cream to the topping.
  • It doesn’t specifically call for it, but a stand mixer works really well for this recipe. Creaming both the cake and the topping is enough of a pain when one’s hand is healthy but it was pretty much a requirement for me this week. A hand mixer would also work, but I really appreciated saving the labor this week.
Fresh from the oven (and cooled) and it was amazing.

Here’s what I did, mostly following a recipe I found randomly online:

Ingredients

For the bars:

  • 1 c. (or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus a little more for coating the sheet pan (I used to use salted but we’re *trying* to be healthier)
  • 2 c. sugar (like I said, trying)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 5 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • ½ t. baking soda

For the topping:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped (or 8 oz Cool Whip but I like real cream, again, trying)
  • About 1 lb. strawberries, sliced

Directions

Heat oven to 375 degrees, and grease a large rimmed sheet pan.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Then, add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Add in vanilla and stir until combined.

In a separate large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to the wet mixture and beat until combined. (The dough will look like cookie dough.)

Spread the mixture on the sheet pan, using greased hands to spread evenly onto the pan.

Bake shortcake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, mix together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and remaining vanilla. Beat until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream, and chill until the bars are cool.

Spread the cream mixture on top of the shortcake, and then cover with the sliced strawberries. Eat immediately, or chill until ready to serve to in-laws, and enjoy!

Sweet simple sumptuous scones

A week late but I found the perfect “I don’t have time for this” sheet pan recipe.

The good news is it’s been another hectic week that meant I also didn’t have a lot of time to make something this week either; the bad news is, well, it’s been another hectic week. Please someone older than me tell me that life gets less stressful eventually.

Since I’m doubtful that someone will reach out to me, I’ll take solace in the fact that simple sumptuous scones exist and help make life worth living.

Lavender scone ingredients.

Lavender and lemon combine to make the perfect airy, floral, summery breakfast.

And as I might have mentioned, they’re fairly simple.

I’m not super picky when it comes to scones, and one of my favorites is Betty Crocker’s, but these had a nice fluffy texture that made it almost cake-like, while not really having more sugar than any other scone. They were a delight, and I’m absolutely sure I’ll make them again. I might even try to change it up and use different flavors, like my favorite raspberry and white chocolate chip.

Three quick notes:

  • The recipe calls for 2 sheet pans. I almost didn’t but decided to trust the recipe, especially since it’s from the the typically trustworthy Epicurious, and I’m glad I did. The scones don’t look so big but they expand, so use 2 sheet pans or bake in batches.
  • It also suggests serving with store-bought lemon curd. While lemon curd is a treat and does go well with the scones, lavender is such a subtle flavor that the lemon tends to overpower it, especially when lemon zest is already in the scones. So, use with that warning or feel free to pass if you love lavender.
  • Lavender made sound hard to come by, but my favorite spice shop Allspice in Des Moines has lavender flowers, and they ship if you can’t get to Iowa’s capital. And, if you don’t want to include them, I’m sure they’d be OK without it, if less exciting.
So delicious they help make bad days better.

Did I mention these were simple and amazing? OK, here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for light kneading
  • ¾ c. granulated sugar
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 2 t. dried lavender buds (recipe called for 1 t., but like I said, subtle; I also sprinkled just a few on top of each scone for plating purposes and for a bit more taste, but you do you)
  • 1 t. salt
  • ½ t. baking soda
  • 1 ½ sticks butter (preferably unsalted), cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 1 c. buttermilk, plus more for brushing (2-4 T.)
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 T. demerara sugar, or granulated sugar, for topping
  • Lemon curd, optional and to taste

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees, and arrange racks on upper and lower thirds of oven. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the 3 c. flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, lavender buds, salt, and baking soda. Cut in the butter, using two knives, your fingers, or a pastry blender. Stir in the lemon zest.

Make a well in the dried ingredients and add the buttermilk and vanilla.

Stir slowly to mix. I found a fork worked really well.

Once a shaggy dough forms, turn out onto a floured surface and lightly knead until the dough forms together.

Use your hands to pat into an about 10-inch by 6-inch rectangle. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, and then cut each square into four squares. Cut each square into two triangles, so you have 16 triangles of dough.

Divide the triangles between the prepared baking sheets. Brush with the buttermilk and then sprinkle with the additional sugar.

Bake until scones are golden, about 13 to 15 minutes. Enjoy warm or at room temperature with lemon curd, if desired.

 

Everything sucks about these everything bagel crackers

I’ve been wanting to make this week’s recipe for a few years now, ever since I spent a year making breads. Somehow these crackers never made the cut, but I’ve saved the link to the recipe for a time when I had the chance to make them.

Of course, I’ve had opportunities but when you like to make food as much as I do, the list of things you wish to make — while still making time for old favorites — is quite long.

But, still, these are everything bagel crackers. Everything bagels were my first and favorite bagel love.

Everything bagel crackers ingredients. If you dare to make them.

If I’m only getting a single bagel, it will be an everything bagel (with a plain shmear, if you’re wondering). If I’m getting a dozen, a quarter to half of them will be everything. Almost all of the remainder will be one of the toppings from an everything bagel — poppy seed, sesame seed, garlic, maybe onion. I might make an addition of an asiago.

Point is, it’s a little weird I haven’t made these crackers yet.

So, even though I didn’t have a lot of time this week, I love to make bread and I thought this was the perfect week to finally whip together this treat.

It didn’t go well from the start, which should have been a sign.

Most of it was my fault. I had to go get some ingredients so I got off to a late start; it went more slowly than I had anticipated; I misread the directions slightly so I got even more flustered; and it made more of a mess in our already messy kitchen than I had hoped.

But not all hope was lost. After all, these were topped with “everything.” It’d all work out.

And initial signs indicated it’d be OK. The first few that crisped at the edges got taken out a little early while the rest baked, and after slight cooling, they tasted pretty good.

Then, when I was putting them away, my spirits got totally crushed and I’ve vowed to get revenge on this recipe if it’s the last thing I do (OK, not really, I’m just feeling dramatic.).

The parchment paper lining, I thought, made for an easy way to wiggle the crackers into a Ziploc bag for safe storage.

But when I poured, all of the topping mix just came right off the crackers and sunk to the bottom of the bag.

The only thing that made them good sat in a layer so so so far away from the crackers. I could have saved the effort of brushing the crackers with oil and carefully sprinkling on the topping mix, and instead just dumped them on some plain wheat crackers.

A second batch was placed more carefully but it only salvaged a couple of poppy seeds. Plus, who wants to make crackers that have to stay right-side up for their toppings to stay on?

Ugh.

As for the crackers, they were merely OK. The salt stayed on, which meh. Mostly, I made it work by pouring the topping mix onto hummus and then scooping up everything hummus onto plain wheat crackers.

If you’re still brave enough to make this recipe after my rant, and not dissuaded, I do have two thoughts to make it work. First, mix the everything topping mixture *into* the cracker dough, or do most of it in the dough and sprinkle on some, and then *press* it into the dough with wax paper or more parchment paper. Second, just do it all on top, but *press* it into the dough.

Me, I’m just going to hit up an Einstein’s or make the mix and put it on something else.

They look pretty good, sure. But if you turn them upside down, that topping just slides right off.

Here’s what I did, mostly following a recipe from The Chew:

Ingredients

For the crackers

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 t. sugar
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 ¼ c. water
  • 5 ½ T. olive oil (plus more for brushing if you put the topping mix on top)

For the topping mix

  • 2 t. dried minced onion, or onion flakes
  • 2 t. dried minced garlic, or garlic flakes
  • 2 t. poppy seeds
  • 2 t. sesame seeds
  • 2 t. Kosher salt
  • 1 t. caraway seeds (optional)
  • 1 t. fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 t. black sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Line two large rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the flours, sugar and salt. Stir in the oil and water. Mix together until well incorporated. (Add the topping mix here, if desired.) Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead to combine completely, without overworking the dough.

Divide the dough into three discs and cover two with plastic.

Roll one disc at a time to ⅛ inch thickness, and then cut into 2” pieces. (The recipe says to cut into triangles but TBH, I couldn’t figure out how to make discs make triangles of that size without a lot of effort. I thought at first cutting like a pizza but they were too big.)

Transfer the pieces to the parchment paper-lined sheet pan. (Here’s where I misread. The recipe has you do this in batches so you do one disc, bake, then the next disc. I missed that, but I’d rather get it done quicker by fitting it all on 2 sheet pans and baking at the same time.)

Repeat with the next two discs.

Just before baking, brush the triangles (or whatever) with oil and top with topping mix. PRESS into the dough.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until crispy.

Let cool completely, and try to enjoy!