RECIPE: STRAWBERRY SCONES FOR THE ROYAL WEDDING!

Ohhh, I love strawberries... and these scrumptious little scones are perfect for strawberries in so many ways.... Serve them piping hot and fresh from the oven with butter, cream, and jam or sliced for strawberry shortcake. Either way, these scones are simple to make and you can substitute the strawberries for all kinds of savory and sweet options. Read the directions carefully because the fresh strawberries make the dough a little tricky. Not hard, just easy to mess up if you are not careful when mixing in the strawberries. The batter can get too wet if you mix for more than a couple of seconds. That said, the fresh strawberries make these scones so perfect for spring and summer entertaining. Enjoy!

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FRESH STRAWBERRY SCONES

1 cup fresh strawberries, diced (use very fresh strawberries, not really juicy ones)

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar plus more for sprinkling, if desired

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 ½ sticks very cold unsalted butter, diced

2 eggs, beaten (make sure eggs are cold so you don’t melt the butter)

½ cup less 1 teaspoon heavy cream (make sure it is cold)

1 teaspoon imitation strawberry extract (optional but it really pumps up the flavor)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Egg Wash: 1 egg, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons of milk or water

INSTRUCTIONS:

Spread the fresh strawberries out on a paper towel after you dice them and allow them to dry out a bit. This way, some of the juice is absorbed before you put them into the batter. If the berries are too juicy, the batter becomes too wet. Allow the berries to “dry” for at least an hour first before adding to the batter. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking pan with parchment paper.

In the large bowl of your mixer, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, and baking powder, salt, and lemon zest on the lowest speed of your mixer; add the cold butter until the butter is the size of peas. Crack the eggs into a bowl, one at a time; add the cold cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and strawberry extract. Lightly whisk the eggs with a fork to combine and slowly pour into the flour mixture. The batter will quickly combine. As soon as it comes together, stop the mixer. Don’t over beat. Now, quickly toss the strawberries with the remaining flour and add to the mixture. Turn on the mixer for approximately 10 seconds to incorporate the berries. Be very careful; if you mix it too much, the strawberries will make the batter too wet. If you have strawberries left in the bottom of the mixer, just dump them out with the batter and work them in when you roll out the dough.

Dump the dough out onto a well floured surface. Before you touch it, I find it helps to rinse your hands with cold water so the heat from your hands does not melt the butter. Flour your hands, the rolling pin, and the biscuit cutter. Working quickly, roll the dough out to about ¾ inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter, cut the dough into circles. Place the dough onto the baking pan lined with parchment paper and brush with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar if desired. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes or until the tops are browned. If the scones are large, you may need to increase the baking time.

These scones are best eaten hot from the oven. And you can add a classic Confectioners’ sugar glaze if you like but they are wonderful without. 

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RECIPE: FESTIVE HOLIDAY HOT CHOCOLATE

MAKE HOT CHOCOLATE LIKE THEY DO IN SPAIN! 

In the cafes of Barcelona, the hot chocolate is legendary. It’s served thick, dark, and rich, flavored with espresso and a hint of orange. The chocolate there is so thick, you almost need a spoon. This is my version of the hot chocolate I came to love while traveling in Spain. The taste is the same, but it is not quite as thick. For an extra kick, add a liqueur. This one is delicious with a shot of vanilla vodka and a little Grand Marnier, but would be very good with peppermint liqueur, Godiva white chocolate or a shot of lovely, dark rum. YUM!

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Why not set up a HOT CHOCOLATE BAR for your next party. Mix up a huge pot of hot chocolate. Display whipped cream, toppings, liqueurs, shavings, coffee flavorings, etc so guests can mix up their own concoction.

HOLIDAY HOT CHOCOLATE

Yield: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

2/3 cup  heavy cream

2 ounces  good-quality dark or bittersweet (60 to 70 percent cocoa) chocolate, finely chopped

1 1/3  cups  whole milk

1 cup Espresso or strong coffee left over from the morning (okay to cheat and use Nescafe)

1/4  cup  unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4  cup  sugar

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1  2-inch piece orange rind

Pinch salt

1/4  cup  fresh whipped cream* (optional)

Cocoa powder or chocolate shavings (optional)

DIRECTIONS: 

Combine heavy cream, chopped chocolate, cocoa, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir well to incorporate, then place over low heat, whisking constantly until chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Gradually add the salt, vanilla, orange rind, milk and coffee. Cook over medium-low heat, continuing to stir with a whisk. Heat 5 minutes or until tiny bubbles form around edge of pan, stirring frequently (do not boil). Discard the rind.

Adult version: Add one shot vanilla vodka and 1 teaspoon orange liqueur to each mug.

Pour 1 cup mixture into each of 4 mugs. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon whipped cream over each serving. Dust with cocoa powder or chocolate shavings, if desired.

COCKTAIL RECIPE: JUICY WATERMELON ECLIPSE

Weird that Facebook would send me a reminder about this cocktail today- originally published on this day in 2009- since today is the day the US will experience a full solar eclipse. Since many are celebrating the eclipse with viewing parties... here's the perfect cocktail!

I always have watermelon left over after a BBQ and this is a great way to use it. Made with Mount Gay Eclipse Rum but you can substitute another rum if you don't have it- but a golden rum tastes best. Since the fresh watermelon is the star of the show; use a big wedge or slice for garnish to make the presentation extra special. If your watermelon is super sweet, you can omit the simple syrup... or if you're without a heat source to make the simple syrup, add a bit of powdered sugar in lieu of simple syrup. It will dissolve faster than granulated sugar.

Fresh Watermelon Cocktail recipe

JUICY WATERMELON ECLIPSE

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ ounces Mount Gay Eclipse Gold Rum

Splash Grand Marnier

3-4 chunks fresh watermelon

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1 ounce fresh lemon juice

½ ounce simple syrup (recipe below)

Splash orange juice

DIRECTIONS:

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the watermelon well, making sure there are no seeds. Add the remaining ingredients and ice. Shake well and strain into chilled martini glasses.

Simple syrup: Bring equal parts water and sugar to a boil, allowing sugar to dissolve. Cool completely before adding to drinks.