keito potato

Buckwheat Scones with Boozy Fig Jam
December 28, 2011, 3:30 pm
Filed under: breakfast, recipes | Tags: , , , ,

Honestly the best scones I’ve ever tasted, even better than Some Crust Bakery, I may venture.  I made these for a special breakfast on Christmas Eve morning.

These buckwheat scones are perfectly flaky and moist, with a richly fragrant aroma.  The buckwheat and fig flavors are complex and complementary.  The recipe comes from my favorite baking cookbook, Good to the Grain (which I have used for several of my favorite cookie recipes including whole wheat chocolate chip, cornmeal cranberry cookies, and whole wheat gingersnaps).

Because you roll the scones into swirls like cinnamon rolls, they take a little longer to prepare than regular scones.  However it’s entirely possible to roll them into logs the day before, and simply slice and bake them in the morning.

The homemade fig preserves also take a little while to cook, but you can prepare that sometime in the preceding month (as it keeps that long in the fridge).  The fig jam recipe makes double the amount required for the scones, so you can have extra on hand for spreading on anything and everything.  Alternatively you could double the scone recipe and use all of the fig jam at once.  The fig jam is boozy because of the addition of 1 cup of red wine and 1/2 cup of port.  It will make your kitchen smell incredible when it simmers on the stove.  The recipe calls for 12 ounces of dried Black Mission figs, which is coincidently the exact size of the packages of dried figs at Trader Joe’s.



1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

2 whole cloves

1 star anise

1 cup red wine

1/2 cup port

12 ounces dried Black Mission figs, stems removed

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened


To poach the figs, measure 1/4 cup water and the sugar into a small heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Stir the mixture together with a wooden spoon, incorporating the sugar without splashing it up the sides, to avoid forming crystals.  Bring the mixture to a boil over a medium flame and cook for 7-10 minutes, until the syrup is amber-colored.

Add the red wine, port, figs, and cinnamon, standing back a bit, as the syrup is hot.  Don’t panic when the syrup hardens; this is the normal reaction when liquids are added to hot sugar.  Continue cooking the mixture over a medium flame for 2 minutes, until the sugar and wine blend.

Reduce the flame to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The figs will burble quietly as they are jostled together by the flame; they are ready when the wine has reduced by half.  Remove the pan from the stove and cool to room temperature.

Fish out the star anise and cloves.  Pour the cooled figs, with their liquid, into a food processor and puree until smooth, about 1 minute.  Add the softened butter to the fig paste and process until smooth.  The fig butter can be spread right onto the buckwheat scone dough or stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.  If it is refrigerated, bring it to room temperature before using.


1 cup buckwheat flour

1  1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter

1  1/4 cups heavy cream

1 cup boozy fig jam (recipe above)


Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.  Add the butter to the dry ingredients by either cutting the butter into 1/4-inch pieces, or freezing the butter and grating it into the flour using a cheese grater.  Rub the butter between your fingers, breaking it into smaller bits.  Continue rubbing until the butter is coarsely ground and feels like grains of rice.  The faster you do this, the more the butter will stay solid, which is important for the success of the recipe.

Add the cream and gently mix it into the flour with a spatula until the dough is just combined.

Use a pastry scraper or spatula to transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface.  It will be sticky, so flour your hands and pat the dough into a rectangle.  Grab a rolling pin and roll the dough into a rectangle that is 8-inches wide, 16-inches long, and 3/4 inch thick.  If at any time the dough rolls off into a different direction, use your hands to square the corners and pat it back into shape.  As you’re rolling, periodically run a pastry scraper or spatula underneath to loosen the dough, flour the surface, and continue rolling.  This keeps the dough from sticking.  Flour the top of the dough if the rolling pin in sticking.

Spread the fig jam over the dough.  Roll the long end of the dough up, patting the dough as you roll so that it forms a neat long 16 inches long.  Roll the finished log so that the seam is on the bottom and the weight of the roll seals the edge.

Use a sharp knife to slice the log in half.  Put the halves on a baking sheet or plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  (The dough can be kept covered, in the refrigerator, for 2 days).  While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

After 30 minutes, take both logs out of the refrigerator and cut each half into 6 equal pieces about 1  1/4 inches wide.

 Place each scone flat, with the spiral of the fig butter facing up, on the baking sheet, 6 to a sheet.  Give the scones a squeeze to shape them into rounds.

Bake for 30-42 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through.  The scones are ready to come out when their undersides are golden brown.  

Chilled Melon Soup with Mint
July 3, 2011, 12:19 pm
Filed under: recipes, soups, starters | Tags: , , , ,

A sophisticated chilled fruit soup for a summer dinner party. 

Yesterday I served this chilled melon soup as the first course at my sister Judy’s birthday dinner.  The soup is clean and refreshing, yet also complex and mysterious because of the infusion of mint and dry white wine, making it perfect for a special occasion during hot weather. 

I’m not a raw-tomato-and-vegetable-chilled-soup kind of person, but I find chilled FRUIT soups to be divine.  They usually consist of ripe fruit, wine, lemon juice, and some fitting herbs or spices.  My Russian-Mennonite friends might think of this as a sophisticated take on “plumemooss” or “cherrymooss.”

I discovered this recipe in Anna Thomas’ newest cookbook Love Soup.  She is a veteran, trustworthy cookbook author.  Over the years, I have found her recipes to be exciting, reliable, and exquisite. 

This chilled soup can be made with any dense-fleshed variety of melon, including but not limited to honeydew, Persian or Saticoy.  I examined most of the  melons in my local market, searching for the sweetest one.  I happened to choose an “Orange-Flesh Desert Owl” melon, which looks like an orange-flesh honeydew.

My 4-year-old niece Nadia excitedly watched the soup preparation, and announced at the table, “This soup has no vegetables — only fruit!!  It’s a fruit soup!”


1 cup (200g) sugar, plus more to taste

3 cups (750 ml) spring water or filtered water

1 large, ripe melon (roughly 6 lbs or 2 1/2 kg)

2 cups (500 ml) dry white wine, such as riesling, pinot grigio, or sauvignon blanc

1/2 cup (120 ml) strained fresh lemon juice

pinch of sea salt

4-6 Tbs. finely chopped fresh mint

1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream (or 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup greek yogurt)


Combine 1 cup sugar in a saucepan with 3 cups (750ml) spring or filtered water, and bring it to a simmer.  When the sugar is completely dissolved, simmer the syrup for another 5 minutes, then allow it to cool completely.

Seed the melon, cut it into wedges, and slice away the rind.  Cut the soft, ripe flesh in pieces and puree the melon in a blender or food processor.  You should have about 5 cups of puree.

Pour the melon puree into a medium mixing bowl.  Stir the wine into the melon puree.  Add the sugar gradually, starting with a half a cup and tasting as you go, then adding even smaller amounts as the sweetness becomes pronounced.  You might use 1  1/2 cups of syrup, maybe more, but you don’t know until you do the final balancing act of sugar syrup to lemon juice.

When the sweetness begins to assert itself, add 2 tablespoons of the strained lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt.  Taste again.  Now add a tablespoon of lemon juice or a tablespoon sugar syrup, tasting each time, until you achieve just the right tart-sweet balance without overpowering the melon flavor. 

Stir in 2 tablespoons of fresh mint.

Remember, every melon is different, every lemon is different, every wine is different.  Find the right individual balance for this combination.  Use the leftover sugar syrup for cocktails, sorbet, or lemonade.  Use the leftover lemon juice for salad dressing, or just about anything.

Chill the soup in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.  It is helpful to put it in the freezer for the last hour or so before serving.

Just before serving, add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint to the cream, along with a little sugar if you like, and beat the cream with a whisk until it just begins to thicken.  Taste, and add more mint if you like.

Serve this beautiful soup very cold, in chilled bowls, with a spoonful of the soft mint cream in the center of each serving.

strawberry farm
April 2, 2010, 8:53 pm
Filed under: desserts, recipes | Tags: ,

It’s officially spring. Not only is it warm enough to swim laps, but the strawberry farm 2 blocks from my house is starting to harvest. I’m finding myself daydreaming about strawberry pies, strawberry sorbet and strawberry shortcake. Stay posted, as I’m likely to post such recipes in the next few months. Today I’ve been eating them straight out of the green box, and have been enjoying them on simple open-face sandwiches with ricotta and black pepper.

I hesitated about posting such a simple idea as an open-face ricotta and fruit sandwich, but as a grad student, my friends and I are always looking for quick dishes to throw together. I think this will be helpful, as it’s healthful and a breeze to throw together as a light breakfast, snack, appetizer, or dessert.

This open-face sandwich concept allows for flexibility and variations. For the bread, use slices of baguette, a larger artisan loaf, or crackers. The fruit variable is wide open with this, depending on what is local and in season. Strawberries are simply what I’m using this week. In the summer you’ll be sure to find me assembling these with sliced peaches, nectarines and plums. The ricotta is also great with dates or figs.

It may sound bizarre to add black pepper to strawberries, but it is a well-proven pairing. My family has a long history of tossing macerated strawberries with a few drops of balsamic vinegar and several grinds of black pepper before using them to top ice cream.

baguette slices
black pepper
sliced strawberries
honey (optional)

Either toast the baguette whole and then slice it hot, or slice it first and toast the slices like crostini. Your choice. Spread the slices with ricotta. Grind a little black pepper before topping with the fruit. A drizzle of honey is optional, depending on the sweetness of your fruit.