Austinite Fall 2016 ft. Cranberry Baked Goods

After living in Austin for over 2 years, I have learned that traditional [East Coast beloved] Fall does not start until after Thanksgiving. And by traditional I mean in terms of weather and leaves changing color. Even if October and November are too warm to even think about Fall-themed foods, grocery stores still manage to display copious amounts of pumpkins and cranberries. So inevitably, notwithstanding the warm weather, I found myself day dreaming about cranberry everything. Interestingly, another motivation to make all-of-the-things cranberry was to get rid of last season’s frozen cranberries in Tim’s freezer and make room for the upcoming November cranberry freezing fest.

Number one on the To-Bake list were cranberry scones because I have never been impressed by the scones I buy at bakeries. They either turn out dry or a bit tasteless. The ones I have eaten at Quacks are pretty good, but they are not earth-shattering, you know? I’m by no means implying that my scones are better or perfect. My goal was to get excited about scones again. By the way, if you know of a bakery that makes life-changing scones, please let me know. I´d love to try them!

Regarding my scones endeavor, I turned to Sally’s blog for answers. Her blog features a great cranberry orange scone recipe. What I learned from the recipe is that the secret to a delicious scone, texture and moisture wise, is really cold butter and a bit of heavy cream. I have to admit that my favorite part of the process was teaching Tim how to properly whisk an egg and heavy cream…by hand. His wrist was not prepared for the challenge. He ended up sore and I think I earned a few respect points, for yes, dominating the whisker (hehe).

The final touch in Sally’s recipe is an orange glaze made with freshly squeezed orange juice and confectioner’s sugar. Personally, I am not a big fan of icings because they are too sugary and end up drying the pastry. As an alternative, I created a cranberry jam to spread on top of the scones (ok, I think I technically called it the ‘Tim Siegler-inspired Cranberry Glaze’ because he dominates the cranberry sauce business…oh nomenclature). It mostly consists of fruit because I think it softens the pastry and the more fruit the merrier, right? I love fruity pastries. Here’s my cranberry glaze/jam recipe: 1 cup of cranberry + 1/2 cup of sugar (white or brown, both work depending on my mood) + 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. I cook the mixture on the stove until the sugar dissolves and the cranberry softens. When the mixture starts looking like a thick cranberry sauce/jam, I add the freshly squeezed juice of an orange. This is a very important ingredient, trust me! It adds an extra kick of flavor to the cranberries and helps the mixture thicken as it cools down.

We brought the scones to a cookout organized by Tim’s lab and everyone loved them! Scones were a success and I know a picture is worth more than a 1000 words, but I should say we had a blast making them 🙂

Next on the To-Bake list were Sally’s Cranberry Cardamom Spice Muffins. Yes, you read correctly: cardamom. I was beyond excited about trying these muffins because 1) CRANBERRIES and 2) I spent the last two weeks in India where cardamom is the staple of its cuisine (tea, meat sauce, paneer sauce, dal, sweets, etc). I have been thinking about the fact that it’s a shame that Western cuisine does not know how to incorporate spices. This ‘out-of-touch with spices’ feeling was intensified during my India trip. When I returned, I was determined to learn how to better incorporate cardamom, clove, coriander, nutmeg, and cumin into my cooking. My mind was pretty much blown when I saw Sally’s recipe: cardamom in a pastry, genius! The muffin batter paired cardamom, cinnamon, and orange zest. It worked very well because cardamom is a sweet spice. It was a wonderful opportunity to jump start my appreciation of spices.

I baked these muffins with my roommate Jen on a Saturday morning for brunch and it was fantastic. Again, I replaced the orange glaze with my original ‘Tim Siegler-inspired cranberry glaze’ (this time I used brown sugar). I went for the cranberry jam/glaze especially because I love to pack my cranberry muffins with fruit, but it is really hard to do without ruining the muffins’ structural integrity.

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Jen and  I enjoyed the muffins outside in our front yard. And of course, we had to have mimosas in Jen’s hand-painted Maryland glasses. Looking forward to many more perfect outdoor brunches like this one 🙂

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