Cheesy Bacon Scone-Off

Om nom nom nom.

That’s all I can really say about this recipe from The English Kitchen.  And this one from my pal Caroline at The Wanna Be Country Girl.  But which one to make?

Oh come on.  You knew I was going to do something ridiculous like that.  It’s in the title for Pete’s sake.  And any excuse to make these beauties twice is a good one.

So here we go.

Bacon, Cheddar and Rosemary Scones from The Wanna Be Country Girl:

First, fry up about 6 slices of bacon.  I discovered at the last second that my bacon was still frozen, so I did something genius.  While I was doing the dishes I popped the sealed package in the sink and when I was finished with washing up the bacon was ready to go.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 1

Because I was so pleased with myself I made it a round 7 slices.  You’ll want to fry this up extra crispy.  Set it aside to drain and cool, then break into a million little pieces.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 3

Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together 2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, a pinch of salt (if you’re using salted butter leave this out), and 1 tablespoon sugar (I actually forgot the sugar, and I don’t think it made much difference).  If you don’t have a hand sifter, you can shake your flour through a fine sieve instead.

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Cut 6 tablespoons butter into small cubes (it’s like halfway between 1/3 and 1/2 cup butter) and plop that into the flour mixture.

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Use a pastry cutter or your hands to incorporate the butter into the flour, so in the end all you get is crumbs.

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Find yourself some fresh rosemary.

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Take about three sprigs of that and chop it up so you end up with about 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary.  Add that to the flour mix.

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Find yourself some sharp cheddar.  If you have access to a Costco or you live in Ontario, make it a lovely Balderson aged cheddar.  It makes everything better.

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Gren knows exactly what the cheese grater looks like, where it’s stored, and what it does.  Unfortunately, I am not as liberal with my cheese droppings as the Pie is so he was disappointed today.  Grate up about 1 cup sharp cheddar and add that to the flour mix.

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Crumble up your bacon and add that to the flour mix.  Give the whole thing a good stir so everything is evenly distributed.

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In another bowl, plop 2 eggs and 1/2 cup heavy cream (whipping cream, in Canada).  Stir that up.

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Pour the liquid into the flour.  Stir it around as much as you can.

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Eventually you will need your hands to make everything stick together into a ball. Knead that ball once or twice inside the bowl.

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Dump the ball of dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat it down to a thickness of about 1 1/2″.  Use a cutter or a knife to divide it however you wish, and transfer it to the baking sheet.

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Bake for 12-15 minutes, checking to make sure they’re not browning too much.

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This one was pretty much fresh from the oven and the butter melted just looking at it.

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See?

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We may have eaten these for dinner one rainy night.  Don’t judge us.

Cheese and Bacon Scones from The English Kitchen:

Preheat your oven to 425°F.  Grab yourself a baking sheet.  

Fry up some bacon.  The recipe calls for 4oz of bacon (who weighs bacon?  The British, naturally), but in the interest of fairness I just used the same amount as I did in the last batch, which was 7 slices bacon.  Go for extra crispy, then let it cool and break it up into wee bits.

Bacon Cayenne Scones 1

Sift together 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour1 teaspoon baking soda1 teaspoon cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt into a large bowl.  I love my sifter, but a simple sieve is easier on the hands and a mite quicker. If you think your cayenne might be extra fresh, I would recommend using slightly less than a teaspoon — that stuff can build on you.

Bacon Cayenne Scones 2

Use a pastry cutter, and then probably your hands, to work 2 tablespoons cold cubed butter into the mix, until you have a crumb-y consistency.  Same as the last one.

Bacon Cayenne Scones 4

Grate up 1 cup sharp cheddar (again, go Balderson or go home).

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Add that to the flour mixture, along with the broken bacon.

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Whisk together 1 egg and 1 2/3 cups buttermilk.  You can sour milk with lemon juice, or vinegar but it’s not quite the same.

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Make an extinct volcano with your dry ingredients (dig a crater, yo) and pour the wet stuff into the hole.

Bacon Cayenne Scones 9

Mix this into a soft dough with your hands while trying the whole time not to knead it.  Apparently in this recipe kneading is a no-no. Dump your doughy mass onto a floured surface and pat the sticky stuff down with your hands until you get a little square patty about 3/4″ thick.

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Then you cut it into about 15-20 pieces. I decided, for science, to do mine the same way I did with the previous recipe, to get a better idea of how each one cooks.  Sliced into thick wedges, yis b’y.

Bacon Cayenne Scones 11

Plop those onto your baking sheet and pop them into your oven for 10-14 minutes, or until they’re risen and a nice golden brown. Just remember that this time is for the smaller square scones. If you make them big fat wedges you’re going to need to bake them for about 20-25 minutes.

Bacon Cayenne Scones 14

This recipe says to let them cool on a wire rack, but I’m not sure I can wait that long.  Where’s my butter?

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AND THE WINNER IS

Okay well there is no winner.  They’re both amazing.  I loved the fluffiness and slow heat of the English Kitchen version, and the flaky rosemary-ness of Wanna Be’s was amazing.

I mean, if I make these again I’ll probably combine my favourite elements of the two, and come up with my own version.  I always thought scones were hard, but these ladies have certainly corrected that assumption for me!

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Guinness Beef Stew

Guinness Beef Stew 6

Oh yeah.  The fact that my fingers are going numb with cold right now tells me it’s comfort food season.  And what’s more comforting than a nice beef stew?

Guinness Beef Stew 6

The other day at Costco I went a bit nuts and purchased one of their large packages of excellent stewing beef.  “I’ll make boeuf Bourgignon,” I said, forgetting two important things: 1) I am horribly allergic to red wine; and 2) I do not own a Dutch oven.

So scratch that.  Let’s cook with beer instead.  I took a bit of inspiration from the Guinness Storehouse website, and a little from Jamie Oliver, but other than that I just kind of winged it.

Guinness Beef Stew 1

First I started off by roasting some of my vegetables.  That’s 1 head garlic, with the top chopped off, 1 package white mushrooms chopped in half, and 1 package pearl onions, peeled.

Guinness Beef Stew 2

Drizzle those with olive oil and roast at 400°F for about half an hour, and give the onions and mushrooms a good stir about halfway through.

Guinness Beef Stew 5

Then I peeled and roughly chopped 3 parsnips and 4 carrots, and a small bunch of celery.  And some potatoes, which aren’t in this shot.  How many potatoes?  I don’t remember. I didn’t take a picture of them.

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That all goes straight into the pot.

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You can tip in the roasted onions and mushrooms, too.

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Save the garlic on a plate for a little bit.

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Now you can work on your meat, and this is going to take a while.  This is whatever size the package of stewing beef is that comes from Costco, which is extremely large, but the beef is truly excellent and I highly recommend it.  I cut my chunks in half just to make them more manageable with a spoon.  Then  you pat them dry with a paper towel and put them on a plate.  You could use a clean tea towel to dry your meat if you were feeling environmentally conscious, but let’s face it: ew.

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In a bowl, mix together some flour (I used buckwheat just in case a gluten-free person came over for dinner sometime in the future – but then the Pie pointed out that Guinness has gluten in it so I’m an idiot), salt, pepper, and cayenne seasoning.

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Spill some of that onto a plate and spread it out.  Roll your meat chunks in the flour.

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Brown the meat, working in small batches, in that skillet you already used on medium heat.  Add some more olive oil if it starts to dry out and smoke.  Chuck the browned beef into the pot with the vegetables.  This is probably the most tedious step, and takes a while.

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Once you have browned all the meat, pour about 3 1/2 cups beef broth into the vegetable/meat pot.  I found this concentrated stuff at the grocery store. All you have to do is add boiling water. Sure takes up less space in my cupboard!

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Tie a bundle of thyme and rosemary together and chuck that in as well.  I find if you tie the bundle string to the handle of the pot it makes getting it out later a lot easier.  Bring the contents to a simmer.

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In the skillet that you have been using, plop a little butter and more olive oil and let that melt.

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Add in the garlic you roasted earlier and mash it with a wooden spoon.

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Then pour in 2 cans Guinness stout beer and bring that to a simmer.

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Scrape the bottom lots with your wooden spoon.

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Pour that whole lot into your bubbling stew and let that simmer with the lid off, stirring occasionally, to reduce for a while (at least an hour).  You may find you have to add in a bit of corn starch after a while for thickening if you used a gluten-free flour.

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We served ours with some beer bread made out of Mill Street’s Oktoberfest.

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You can simplify all this by doing it all in a slow cooker, but I find I prefer the sharper flavours of the roasted vegetables and the constant stirring — you’d still have to brown the meat before slow-cooking it anyway.  But boy it is time-consuming.

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Worth it, though.

Guinness Beef Stew 1

Oh, Gum Drops!

Gum Drops!

I got this recipe from Inquiring Chef, who in turn modified it from Bakerella.  I think it’s awesome.  Challenge accepted.

Gum Drops!

Inquiring Chef came up with four batches of different flavours: blueberry, raspberry, lemon, and mint.  She tried kiwi but apparently it didn’t gel, so I left my kiwi purée in the freezer for the time being.  I did whip out my frozen fruit from Costco and came up with six different flavours: blueberry, mixed berry (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry), strawberry, mango, and raspberry.  I planned to turn whatever was left into a mélange and call that one “fruit salad”.  I left those to defrost in the sun while I made The Un-Cola.

Gum Drops!

You only need 3 tablespoons of purée per flavour, but I wasn’t sure how much would be left over after I finished straining out the seeds and skins, so I kind of eyeballed it.

So, in a food processor, purée those fruits all up.

Gum Drops!

Strain them to remove the seeds and skins and whatever else is in there.

Gum Drops!

Push the stuff against the sides of the strainer with a spoon to get ’em to go. Some are easier than others.

Gum Drops!

Some are downright lurid.

Gum Drops!

Now we’re ready to go.  Five flavours here.

Gum Drops!

And my “fruit salad” here.

Gum Drops!

The recipe below will give you two flavours.  I obviously multiplied it by three to match my six flavours.

Grease or spray 2 5″x 6″ pans for the gelatinizing of them there gum drops.  I used 8″ pie plates and cake tins, because that was what I had on hand.

Gum Drops!

So.  Plop 3 tablespoons purée of one flavour into the bottom of one large heat-proof bowl, and then another 3 tablespoons of another flavour into another.

Gum Drops!

In a large pot, sprinkle 4 tablespoons unflavoured gelatin (sorry, this isn’t a vegetarian recipe) over 1 cup cold water.  Leave that to soften for 5 minutes.

Gum Drops!

Pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over the gelatin and stir to dissolve.

Gum Drops!

Pour in 4 cups sugar and bring that to a boil over medium heat.  You will need to stir this constantly so it doesn’t boil over.  And you will need to do this for 25 minutes straight.  No, you can’t run to change the radio station or answer the phone.  I managed to do this while talking on Skype with my parents, but they’re an indulgent sort and Skype is hands-free after all.  They only stuck around for one batch of the stuff, though.  I had to do that three times.

Gum Drops!

Pour half the boiling sugar-gelatin foam over the purée in one bowl and the rest into the other.  Working quickly, stir to mix the purée completely into the sugar syrup.

Gum Drops!

Pour the mixtures into the sprayed pans.

Gum Drops!

Shove those suckers in the refrigerator overnight (or up to 2 days).  See how nice and firm that is?

Gum Drops!

Pour about a cup of sugar onto a baking sheet. Then run a knife around the edges of the nice firm gelatin and gently release it from the pan.

Gum Drops!

This will take a bit of persuasion, and I found a metal spatula to be very handy here. Don’t worry about damaging the gelatin — it’s pretty resilient.

Gum Drops!

Place it in the sugar. When I’d done this I almost felt like I’d done some sort of organ transplant, and this was the one waiting for donation.  It looks like a lung or something …

Gum Drops!

Then flip it to coat both sides — this will keep things from getting super sticky. You’ll get sticky enough as it is.

Gum Drops!

Put the gelatin on a cutting board and use a long knife to cut strips from it.

Gum Drops!

I then used scissors to cut the strips into 3/4″ cubes, or close enough approximates.  You can use a knife for this if you want to get straighter lines, but seeing as I was making squares out of something that was originally a circle, I wasn’t that concerned.  Plus as things get stickier, scissors are way easier.

Gum Drops!

Cut the strips into the sugar.

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Then get in there with your hands and toss them to coat.

Gum Drops!

A just-tossed gum drop, up close and personal:

Gum Drops!

Transfer the finished gumdrops to parchment paper and leave, at room temperature, for 2 days to crystallize and get all good. This is my dining room table, completely covered in candy.

Gum Drops!

Then give them all away — or save a few for yourself!  It always amazes me how simple candy always turns out to be — and that’s probably why it’s so good!

You can see more pictures of the gum drop adventure on my Flickr page.

Gum Drops!
Clockwise from top left: Fruit Salad, Raspberry, Mixed Berry, Blueberry, Mango, Strawberry

Sweet Texas Pork Ribs

Obviously it’s been a sweet week with Rusty and Mags in town.  We’ve even had some awesome weather, and what better way to celebrate summer than ribs on the back porch?  It’s become kind of a yearly tradition with us and The People Downstairs, so we took advantage of a sunny day last Friday and had ourselves some ribs.  The sauce here makes enough for four racks of ribs and comes from an old LCBO magazine.

We got these ribs from Costco, and it’s a hit and miss process.  These ones were a very strange cut, and probably tougher than we would normally prefer.  But ribs is ribs. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

First you need to remove the membrane across the bone.  This will help to tenderize your meat and will ease the absorption of juices.  It also facilitates the removal of excess fat, and boy, did these ribs ever need some trimming!  Use a paper towel to help you grip the membrane on the bone side.  Then, with steady pressure, slowly pull it off.  It’s simple.After you’ve removed the membrane, place the ribs bone-side-up in a baking dish.Now you concoct the sauce.  In a bowl, mix together the following:

1/2 cup soy sauce

3 garlic cloves (or 4 teaspoons minced garlic)

2 bay leaves

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon chili sauce

2/3 cup beer (the darker the better)

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon green Tabasco sauce

2/3 cup barbecue sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Pour that stuff all over your ribs.

Use a pastry brush to coat the ribs evenly.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for an hour.  Remove the aluminum foil and bake for a further 30 minutes to thicken the sauce.

Remove the ribs from the oven. 

Place the ribs on your serving plate and cut to serving size (you might want to keep it in a low oven to keep the ribs warm). You can also toss them on the barbecue for a few minutes to caramelize the juices on them.   Drain the  sauce from the pan into a gravy separator to get rid of the fat.  Discard the bay leaves.  Then cook the sauce in a saucepan for a further ten minutes until it is reduced and thickened.  You can add corn starch to push this along if you need to.

Drizzle the hot thick sauce over your ribs and serve. 

We had ours with creamy garlic mashed potatoes and a fresh green salad.