Halloumi Mint Scones with Heirloom Tomato Spread

Here’s a recipe for crumbly cheesy halloumi scones that are delicious for breakfast or served as a side at the dinner table. Throw in some chopped mint in the dough for a refreshing herbal note and serve hot straight out of the oven. I always eat halloumi cheese with tomatoes, so I was inspired to make the tomato spread on the side. The Heirloom variety is the best because of their complex, wine-like, sweet taste that’s less acidic than the regular ones. Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do – Sahtein!

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Scones:
300g (2½ cups) all-purpose flour, cold
15g (1 Tbsp) granulated sugar
15g (3 tsp) baking powder
1 tsp fine grain sea salt
½ lemon zest
¼ cup chopped mint
140g (5oz) grated halloumi
112g cold butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
180ml (3/4 cup) cold buttermilk
1 large egg, cold

Egg wash:
1 small egg
pinch of fine grain sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC). In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Add the cold cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Pour the mixture in a large bowl and lightly mix in the grated halloumi.

3. In another bowl, beat the cold buttermilk and egg. Slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and gently fold just until all of the flour has been moistened. Do not overwork the dough. Dump the dough out on to a large piece of parchment paper and gently pat the dough out until it’s a 1″ (2.5cm) thick rectangle.

4. Transfer to a large baking sheet and rest for 20 minutes in the fridge. Cut the dough into 9 squares using a knife and space them out on the baking sheet. You can freeze the dough at this point if you are planning to make these a few days in advance.

5. For the topping, beat together the egg and salt. Lightly brush the tops of the dough with the mixture being careful not to drip on the sides (or it will prevent the scones from rising). Bake for 20 minutes, rotating halfway, until the scones are golden brown.

6. Rest the scone for 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool for another 10 minutes, Serve warm the same day.

Heirloom Tomato Spread:
1kg (2 LB.) Heirloom tomatoes, cored and chopped
50g (¼ cup) granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
Pinch of crushed red peppers (optional)
Add ins
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp pomegranate syrup

1. In a large saucepan, combine the chopped tomatoes, sugar, salt, and crushed red peppers. Set over medium heat and cook uncovered, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until most the tomatoes are glossy and thick and most of the liquid has cooked off, approximately 2 hours.

2. Press through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the tomato skins and stir in the lemon juice and pomegranate molasses. Let cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

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Butternut Squash Scones with Dates and Walnuts

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Let’s talk about scones shall we?

I’m no expert at scones, but I learned a few tips and tricks that will help you make great scones every time. And since I go completely crazy over butternut butternut squash every fall, I decided to post a recipe that combines a few of my favorite things. So here it is a light and flaky scone recipe with a subtle hint of butternut squash, walnuts, and sweets dates.

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The first thing to keep in mind when making these is to handle the dough gently and as little as possible. Start off by sifting the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt twice. Yup, twice. Why do you ask? Sifting helps in breaking up existing clumps which will produce lovely light pastries. It also blends the dry ingredients which gives more consistency and therefore better results.

Then proceed in grating the frozen butter and mixing it with your fingers until it resemble crumbs. When adding in the chilled wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, you don’t want to mix it more than it all just coming together or the scones will turn out chewy. As soon as the dough comes together, tip it onto a floured surface and form it into a thick round circle, and slice it into eight wedges. If you prefer small scones (like the ones pictured) then continue reading the directions below. Now, the dough may be sticky and that’s totally okay. If it is too sticky, I found that putting the dough in the freezer for a few minutes makes it easier to handle.

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It is very important to keep the whole mixture cold all the time because you don’t want the butter to melt. These cold bits of butter will create pockets of air when they’re in the oven, therefore making the scones airy, light, and flaky. If you have some extra time, chill the sliced wedges for 20 minutes before placing them in the oven: this will help in making the scones flakier and rising higher.

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Serve the scones as soon as they’re out of the oven with some jam, butter, or cheese!

Ingredients: Makes about 24 mini scones

1 large egg, cold
1/2 cup butternut squash or pumpkin puree*, chilled
3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
310g (2+1/3 cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
55g (1/4 cup) packed brown sugar
113g (1/2 cup, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, frozen
175g (1 cup) chopped dates, tossed in flour (to avoid pieces to stick together)
100g (1 cup) chopped walnuts

*To make butternut squash puree, simply cut a squash in half, discard the seeds, and bake in a 400°F (200°C) preheated oven until tender (about 45-60 minutes). Scoop the softened squash in a blender and puree until smooth.

Directions:

1. In a small bowl combine egg, pumpkin, yogurt, and vanilla extract and mix well and keep refrigerated.
2. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)
3. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices twice. Mix in the sugar.
4. Using the largest holes on a box grater, grate the frozen butter into flour mixture and mix with your fingers until it resembles coarse meal.
5. Stir the chilled wet ingredients into flour mixture. Using your hands, mix all the ingredients together until just combined then turn out onto a floured surface.

For regular sized scones:
Using the palm of your hand, shape the dough into a 7″ (18 cm) circle, 1″ (2.5 cm) thick, and cut into eight equal wedges. Then transfer each wedge to a lined baking sheet spacing them apart and brush with cream or egg wash (a mix of 1 tablespoon of water or milk with a whole egg). Bake for 20-25 minutes or until just golden then cool. Serve immediately.

For mini scones:
Pat the dough with the back of your hand and shape into a large rectangle, about 10″ (25cm) long, 7″ (18cm) wide, and 1″(2.5cm) thick. Straighten the sides with a dough scraper. Cut the rectangle into 3 long rectangles, and then each into small triangles using diagonal cuts. Place them on a baking sheet 1/4 inch (1cm) apart. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until just golden then cool. Serve immediately.

Blueberry Oat Muffins

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While Autumn’s here and the weather is getting colder, I couldn’t help but reach for the last bag of organic blueberries from the freezer to bake an end of summer treat. I wasn’t planning on posting a blueberry muffin recipe on the blog because I never found one that’s good enough to share with you. Whenever I bake with blueberries I end up with muffins that are either too moist or too dry. However these babies… these are exceptional. I was surprised with how much I enjoyed them.

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I purchased the One Girl Cookies book on a whim last week while visiting one my favorite bookstores in Soho. The charming photography and collection of recipes caught my attention although I was concerned that no weight measurements are given in any of the recipes. Ever since I started using a scale to measure ingredients I noticed better results in the kitchen and never looked back to using cups. Eventually, I got over my skepticism and bought the book anyway. Let’s just say that these muffins did not disappoint!

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Nearly every blog claims that their blueberry muffins are the best or the tastiest but when it comes down to it, the idea of a perfect muffin is relative to each person’s taste and this recipe comes exceptionally close to mine. They’re crispy around the edges, yet fluffy and soft in the center dotted with juicy blueberries. I did a few minor changes to the ingredients list, like adding more blueberries and lemon zest, using low-fat sour cream, and omitting the crumb topping to make them slightly healthier. They’re great for breakfast with a spoonful of jam or simply left plain!

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Recipe adapted from One Girl Cookies – Makes 16 regular sized muffins

Ingredients:
2/3 rolled oats
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
6 tablespoons (¾ stick, 85 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup low-fat sour cream
¼ cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest
2 ¼ cups frozen blueberries

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (177ºC). Line muffin pan with 16 paper liners.
2. Process the oats in a food processor until they are powdery. In a medium bowl, whisk together the ground oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), beat together the softened butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix for 1 minute.
5. Add the low-fat sour cream, honey, vanilla, and lemon zest then mix for 30 seconds.
6. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and mix for 10 seconds.
7. Take the bowl off the mixer and fold in the blueberries with a rubber spatula.
8. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups, filling them to the rim. Sprinkle with rolled oats.
9. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, for 35 minutes or until the top of a muffin is golden and springs back when lightly pressed.
10. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Zopf (Swiss Bread)

Zopf Bread - Brownie Box
There is something very therapeutic about baking bread, all the mixing and kneading gets me in a good mood. I was intimidated at first from the idea of making bread from scratch because most of us are used to the store bought ones. But you’ll be surprised at how easy it is! I even took pictures of every step to facilitate the process of explaining this recipe.

Zopf is a rich and flavorful bread that is excellent with butter, jam, or cheese. Its name literally means “braid” in German. It is also ideal for sandwiches because it doesn’t contain sugar and it’s very soft and light.

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The first thing you need to do is sift the flour onto a working surface, make a well in the center, and add the yeast, soured cream, milk, egg, butter, and salt.

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Little by little, work the dough into a ball and start kneading.

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When I’m too lazy I use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook to knead the dough for 20 minutes (Remember the more you knead the dough, the more the gluten will develop, and the softer the bread!)

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Wait an hour for the dough to rise.

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Divide the dough into three equal parts, then shape into thick ropes.

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Braid the ropes, pressing together the ends.

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Using the same plastic wrap that was used earlier, grease it with olive oil and cover the dough (to prevent the dough from drying)

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Bake for 40 minutes, and you’re done!

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I’m going to talk about the ingredients that are used in this recipe and explain their role in making the perfect Swiss Bread:

  • Yeast is an essential ingredient in bread making and there are two types you can choose from: fresh yeast (a firm, moist block stored in the refrigerator), or dry yeast (small granules– sold in packets). Once the yeast comes into contact with flour, the billions of microorganisms begin to nourish themselves from the sugar of the starch molecules. So they multiply and produce carbon dioxide which gives a fluffy texture to the bread. That’s why raising the dough is one of the most delicate phases in the preparation of bread, and it should be placed in a controlled warm environment (you can use your oven).
  • Olive Oil prevents the dough from drying and forming a crust
  • Salt is crucial to the flavor of bread. It shouldn’t come in contact with the yeast during the initial phase of mixing because it compromises the rising. You can make a small well for the salt in the outside portion of the mound of flour and add it at the last minute.
  • Herbs, Oats, or Dried Fruits give a great aroma and taste. You can add them to the dough before it is left to rise or after the first rising

Did you ever try baking your own bread? I’d love to hear your thoughts or comments!

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Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 2 hours for rising. Baking time: 40 minutes.

Ingredients: (adapted from Classic Breads)
Juice of Half a Lemon
2/3 cups (150 ml, 5 oz) cream, lukewarm
5 cups (600g) all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp (30g) fresh yeast or 3 1/3 tsp (10g) dry yeast
2/3 cups (150ml, 5 oz) milk, lukewarm
1 large egg, room temperature
7 + 3/4 Tbsp (110g) softened butter, cut in small pieces
2 tsp (12g) salt
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice with the cream and let sit for 5 minutes. (The mixture will thicken)
2. In the meantime, sift the flour onto the work surface, make a well in the center, and add the crumbled yeast.
3. Steadily pour the milk and the soured cream mixture into the center of the well and mix with your fingertips to dissolve the yeast.
4. Add the egg, the softened butter, and the salt (pour the salt outside of the well- explanation above).
5. Mix and then knead for 20 minutes (you can also use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook)
6. Place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour in the oven. The dough will double in size.
7. Transfer the dough to the work surface and, without kneading it, shape into a ball and then divide it into three parts of equal weight.
8. Shape into thick ropes.
9. Lightly flour the work surface and lay the ropes out in front of you lengthwise.
10. Join them at one end and then braid. Finish by pressing together the three ends.
11. Place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap greased with oil and let rise for 50 minutes.
12. Brush with the beaten egg. You can enrich the bread by patting on oat flakes, sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
13. Bake in an oven preheated to 355F (180C) for 40 minutes.

Apple Tart

Apple Tart Brownie Box 2

When it comes to small family gatherings, I’m always asked to bring dessert with me. So what I usually do is head over to Foodgawker or Pinterest and look up some inspirational images or go through my list of “recipes I want to try”. The Apple Tart is definitely on my “to-try” list. I’ve had my eye on this recipe for months!

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I noticed that there are so many variations of the apple tart filling: some add heavy cream, lemon zest or juice, rum, ground almonds, caramelized apples etc ! I ended up adapting my own recipe from what I’ve read online, and I am so happy with the result. I only added apricot preserve between the dough and the apples. The crust turned out very thin and flaky, and the apples buttery soft with a tinge of sweetness. It looks so impressive, I couldn’t believe that I did it all by myself! I’ve already baked 3 tarts in two weeks! When my family saw the tart they screamed out “You made that?!” (They think that it took hours preparation, and I didn’t deny it). Seriously, this beautiful tart will make you look like a pro in no time. (who said you’re not a pro anyway?)

First, start making the dough which is essentially pate brisée (French for shortcrust pastry – It doesn’t rise when baked and it has a buttery flaky texture).

Chopped Butter
food processor
It is made from equal parts of cold butter and flour blended into pea sized bits, then held together with a small amount of ice cold water to form a crumbly dough. Transfer the mixture onto a working surface, then shape into a disc and place it in the fridge for an hour at least or overnight.
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dough plastic wrap
Next, peel, core (I used a melon baller), halve apples, and thinly slice them while keeping them together to retain the halved apple shapes. Then take out your dough, roll it out on a heavily floured surface to avoid sticking to the work surface. I rolled it out on a baking paper because it made the process of transferring the dough to the tart pan much easier. If you don’t have a tart pan, you can fold in the sides of the dough galette style, and bake on a baking sheet.

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Next, brush the dough with apricot preserve and place the sliced apples on the dough in concentric circles. Finish off by sprinkling sugar, cinnamon, and few cubes of butter. Bake until deep golden brown in color and serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream!
Apple Tart Brownie Box 10 Apple Tart Brownie Box 3

Here it goes: A simple flaky thin crusted apple tart filled with buttery soft apples.

Ingredients:
Dough:
1+1/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon sugar (optional, to make the dough sweeter)
115 grams (1 stick, 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1/4 teaspoon salt (to make the dough less sticky)
4 tablespoons ice-cold water

Tart:
11 small apples, peeled, cored, and halved
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
50 grams butter (about 4 tablespoons butter)
3 tablespoons apricot preserve

Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving

Directions:
1. Add flour, sugar, butter, and salt in a food processor.

2. Pulse 10 times until pea­-size crumbles form- meaning, turn the food processor on and off in short cycles. It’s very important to use cubes of COLD butter, to avoid melting it into the dough. Do NOT break down the butter too much, you won’t get a flaky dough if the tiny bits of butter are not visible.

3. Slowly add 4 tablespoons ice­-cold water and pulse until dough is moistened, about 3—4 pulses. Do not pulse the dough to form a mass — keep it loose and crumbly, it will come together eventually

4. Transfer dough to a work surface and form into a flat disk using your hands; Plastic wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 2 days.

5. Peel, core, halve, and thinly slice apples — keeping the slices together.

6. Unwrap dough and transfer to a generously floured work surface. Press down the dough with a rolling pin and move it from the center out. Roll into a 25 cm (10 inch) thin circle and then transfer to a 22 cm (9 inch) tart pan, and trim edges. Work quickly to keep the dough cold and to avoid stickiness. If the dough softens, chill it in the freezer for a few minutes. — I used a glass tart pan, you can also use a non-stick tart pan with a removable bottom. The dough rolls out up to 30 cm or 12 inch.

7. Brush apricot preserve onto the bottom of the pastry.

8. Heat oven to 190ºC or 375ºF.

9. Transfer halved sliced apples to the tart pan and press gently as you are placing them next to each other. Start out at the outer edge of the pan working your way to the center.

10. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

11. Sprinkle the tart with the sugar-cinnamon mixture, and add small cubes of butter (Use as much or as little as you like).

12. Bake until golden brown, around 50-60 minutes. (It took me 50 minutes)

And you’re done!