Strawberry Shortcake Scones

Strawberry Shortcake Scone

If you’re a tennis fan, then you’re probably well aware that Wimbledon begins today. I enjoy watching from time to time, but with only the loosest grasp of the rules and a sketchy knowledge of the players involved I can’t really consider myself especially invested in the sport. What I am invested in is a sporting tournament that has a long-standing traditional dish. That part is definitely in my wheelhouse, and according to the Wimbledon librarian, strawberries and cream have been associated with the event since 1877.

Trust the British to make a genteel sport even more refined, and frankly what better way to celebrate summer than with time spent outside in the fresh air accompanied by a summery treat? And, can you think of a purer distillation of English cooking than a scone studded with bright red strawberries?

So, in honor of lawn tennis played on grass courts, and as part of my continued efforts to bring you an enormous amount of butter and fruit based baked goods this summer, may I present: Strawberry Shortcake Scones.

The more I bake, the more I realize what a difference a little buttermilk, yogurt, or cream can make toward a tender, moist crumb. In this case, slightly sweet ricotta cheese fills that role and helps these scones tip their cap at the American strawberry shortcake, while maintaining their cream-tea bonafides.

Strawberry Shortcake Scone

Strawberry Shortcake Scones (yield: 12 scones)

Ingredients:
1 cup chopped fresh strawberries
2 1/2 cups, plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, diced
1 large egg
3/4 cup whole milk ricotta, bought or homemade
1/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. If it's a very hot day, chill the baking sheet and keep any ingredients in the refrigerator when they're not in use.

In a large bowl combine 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Lightly toss the diced butter in the flour mixture to coat, then using a pastry cutter, blend in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside in the refrigerator.

In a large liquid measuring cup, combine the egg, ricotta, and 1/4 cup heavy cream. Make a well in center of the flour mixture and add egg mixture all at once, fork together until just combined. Some of the flour may not be fully incorporated. Chill the dough while you hull and dice the strawberries into 1/4" sized pieces.

In a small bowl, toss together strawberries and 1 tablespoon flour, then add to the chilled dough, again using a fork until the strawberries are evenly distributed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently fold the dough 10 to 12 times, pressing it together until dough is nearly smooth. Pat into a rectangle about 1 inch thick and cut into 12 rectangles.

Place the scones 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush with the additional 3 tablespoons of heavy cream and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake about 15-16 minutes or until golden brown. Slide the parchment and scones onto a cooling rack. Best when served warm.

Slightly re-written from Better Homes and Garden’s Strawberry Shortcake Scones.

Strawberry Shortcake Scone

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Actually, yes. I used a large mixing bowl, pastry cutter, 2 cup-size liquid measuring cup, dry measuring cups and spoons, a butter knife, and a dinner fork. I also needed a small bowl, small cutting board, paring knife, baking sheet, pastry brush and parchment paper.

The Verdict:
The scone itself is tender and gently fluffy with a slight crunch from the coarse sugar, while the ripe strawberries add a bright sweetness that sings against the richness. To me, these scones are the epitome of summery ease – the intentionally casual shape and simplicity of the ingredients conjure a lazy morning on the porch. Definitely worthy of any Sunday brunch table or an international tennis event.

Strawberry Shortcake Scone

The Goldmine, A Breakfast Sandwich

The Goldmine Breakfast Sandwich  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

The Goldmine Breakfast Sandwich | Image: Laura Messersmith

A few weeks ago Mike and I took the train north to Boston to celebrate his fifth business school reunion with a group of our dearest friends. It had been a few years since we were last there with time to wander and revisit some of our favorite places. Number One on Mike’s list: a trip to Mike & Patty’s.

He and several friends had breakfast there in the final days of their last semester and the memory of that tiny shop and delicious sandwiches lived on in legend ever since. I missed that inaugural meal and to be honest, I’ve always been a bit skeptical. The guys might be exaggerating, after all. How good could it really be?

Mike & Patty’s is in Bay Village, a pocket of Boston that manages to be in the middle of Back Bay, the South End, and Chinatown, but still feel like it’s off the beaten path. Cobblestone streets, old-fashioned lanterns, and the hope of discovering amazing food at the end of your journey just heighten the sense of a hidden gem. After one bite of my chosen sandwich - The Goldmine - I was convinced the early morning trek was well worth it.

On the surface The Goldmine is just a bacon, egg, and cheese made fancy, but dip below that run of the mill designation and it becomes clear that this sandwich is so much more. First of all, I assumed that the honey – a strange, but genius addition – was the gold in this mine, but actually it’s the fried egg (or egg over easy as you prefer) whose yolk permeates all the corners of this delicious sandwich.

The Goldmine inspires tales of food treasures, hunched-over eating, and plate mopping. Simple pleasures and well worth your efforts to make at home.

The Goldmine Breakfast Sandwich   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

The Goldmine Breakfast Sandwich | Image: Laura Messersmith

The Goldmine (serves: 4)

Ingredients:
4 large eggs
2/3 cup whole milk ricotta, bought or homemade
2 ounces (4 slices) prosciutto
4 tablespoons golden honey
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 loaf challah, brioche, or sourdough bread

Instructions:
Pre-heat the large sauté pan over medium heat and crisp the slices of prosciutto, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the medium sauté pan over medium-low heat spread a thin layer of butter over each slice of bread. Toast the bread in the medium pan until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side, in batches.

Remove the crisped prosciutto from the larger pan and set aside. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter to the warm pan and melt. Once the bread is toasted, spread half of the pieces with 1-2 tablespoons of the whole milk ricotta on one side. Add a slice of crisped prosciutto, and drizzle with 2-3 teaspoons of honey. Reserve the sandwich tops until the eggs are cooked.

Crack the eggs one at a time into a small liquid measuring cup or bowl taking care not to break the yolk. Gently pour each egg into the large sauté pan allowing the white to just begin setting before adding the next egg. Once all the eggs are in the pan, cover with a lid (preferably glass, so you can monitor the situation) and cook over medium heat for another 2-3 minutes watching for an opaque white, but a soft, runny yolk.

Top each sandwich with a fried egg, sprinkle with kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste. Add the second piece of bread and serve immediately!

Need more advice on frying an egg? The Kitchn and Food Network have step by step instructions to get just the cook you're looking for.

Adapted from Mike and Patty’s The Goldmine breakfast sandwich.

The Goldmine Breakfast Sandwich   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

The Goldmine Breakfast Sandwich | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, indeed! I used one large non-stick sauté pan with a cover, one medium non-stick sauté pan, a medium cutting board, bread knife, a liquid measuring cup, rubber spatula, dinner fork, butter knife, and teaspoon. That’s all!

The Verdict:
I’m obsessed with The Goldmine. Each component is relatively mild on it’s own, but together they balance each other beautifully. Creamy ricotta, crispy prosciutto, sweet sticky honey all tucked under a blanket of egg-y goodness. Sigh. It's also a great choose-your-own-adventure dish. Like lots of prosciutto? Add an extra slice. Want it a little gooier? Let the honey drizzle a little longer over the ricotta. My last piece of advice: please make this on a lazy weekend morning when a second cup of coffee and a nap are all that’s on the docket. You’ll thank me.

The Goldmine Breakfast Sandwich   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

The Goldmine Breakfast Sandwich | Image: Laura Messersmith

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Cocktails and Cookies”

The Set-up: Ina and her friends are shaking up cocktails and baking up cookies today.

The Menu: Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup, Jalapeno Cheddar Crackers, Blood Orange Cosmopolitans, Whole Wheat & Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

0:44 – We’re chilling with Rob Marshall and John DeLuca again (remember them from this episode?)

1:17 – While the guys are out on the beach walking their dog Gilly, Ina is whipping up some Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup.

2:23 – Ina prepped the ricotta ahead of time since it needs a little while to strain, but we get a re-cap of the process.

3:08 – She’s really not messing around with this breakfast, the ricotta gets a topping of maple syrup toasted almonds, fresh berries, and a slice of brioche.

4:31 – While Ina plates the ricotta she clues us in on how cool and successful Rob and John are – their movies include Chicago, Nine, and Into the Woods.

5:44 – Breakfast is served while they scheme their plans for the rest of the day – one of which involves a wicker picnic hamper full of boozy cocktail ingredients. Well played, guys.

8:12 – Time for the cookie part of the show and it turns out that the “cookies” are actually special Whole Wheat & Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits for Gilly. One lucky dog to be sure.

9:25 – Aaannd, here’s why I love Ina. Her favorite descriptor for a messy plate is a ‘dog’s breakfast’ and now she jokes they’re “finally making [one].”

10:40 – Ina takes even dog biscuits seriously and these were overwhelmingly selected by dogs the clear winner in a blind taste test vs. boxed cookies. I guess I should make some for Maddie soon…?

11:37 – Uh-oh, the guys’ dough looks better than Ina’s and she’s getting competitive. Do not try to joke her down on her own show!

12:49 – A pause in the action for a moment to clean up, and I suspect they may have taken a nip of the cocktails already because this is an epic mess and they’re giggling like 14 year old girls. Yeah, I’m jealous too.

13:11 – Seriously, they’re sword-fighting with the rolling pins now. Who else thinks a food fight is about to break out?

14:06 Ina is too crafty, she’s cutting the dough out in bone shapes, egg washing them, and sprinkling the tops with oatmeal.

18:22 – Onward to cookies for human beings in the form of Jalapeno Cheddar Crackers and they actually are almost the same process as the biscuits.

19:50 – Ina explains to Rob and John that jalapeño peppers are very hot, especially if you leave in the seeds and ribs/membranes.

20:43 – John reveals an aptitude for rolling dough into logs and it’s jokingly suggested that he may have been a bread baker in an earlier career.

21:15 – A little Knife Skills 101: saw the blade back and forth to let the edge do the work, rather than just pressing straight down.

22:57 – Prepare yourself for the most adorable taste test ever as Gilly gets a first bite of her dog cookies.

23:14 – Now there are treats for the humans as the crackers come out of the oven They really do look crunchy and golden, mmmm.

26:26 – The booze hamper has been unpacked and Step 1 of Blood Orange Cosmopolitans is to “measure 2 cups of vodka, and you’re done!”

27:43 – Followed by another cup of Cointreau, and after that just 2 cups of blood orange juice and 1/2 cup lime juice. Which means someone is going to nap under a table later.

28:35 – Next Rob whips out the most massive cocktail shaker I’ve ever seen, which Ina immediately claims as the perfect size for the number of cocktails she needs. I bet that thing holds 2 liters, easily.

29:49 – The blood orange cosmos are a gorgeous color, like a Lilly Pulitzer pink went clubbing in neon. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere….

Final Thoughts:
Maddie rarely benefits from my cooking efforts, perhaps a little love of the home-baked variety is in order?

I love the idea of making a pitcher of drinks ahead of time just shake with ice and no need to measure them out one at a time. Brilliant!

Don’t try to tell me that there was no off-camera sampling of those cosmos.

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I’ve made a savory version of Ina’s homemade ricotta cheese before, but I was intrigued by the idea of having a sweeter Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup version for a morning meal. I also couldn’t resist the lure of almonds candied with maple syrup, especially maple syrup crafted by Merle Maple Farms (a company that's been run by family members on my mom's side for more than a century) and so here we are.

Ricotta Cooking – This seems intimidating until you’ve done it a time or two. I’d recommend using a larger pot than you think you’ll need. The milk/cream mixture needs room to bubble up, giving it space to do so means it won’t be all over your stove. Second, milk goes from zero to sixty when it’s coming to a boil, so watch like a hawk as soon as you see the first small bubbles form. Third, after the vinegar is added the mixture does look pretty terrifying, but trust the process – it works!

Ricotta Straining – I’d highly recommend setting-up the cheese cloth, sieve, and straining bowl before you start. Again, use a larger set than you think you’ll need – it’s far better to have extra space.

Maple Syrup & Almonds – As with the boiling milk, the almonds bear watching while they’re toasting in the pan. Mine turned golden brown after about 3 minutes. Something else to note: the maple syrup bubbles up quite a bit when it hits the hot pan (I used the Grade A Medium Amber in case you're curious), not to overflowing but more than I expected!

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, especially because this recipe comes together in stages. For the ricotta I used a large sauce pan (4 quart), large fine-mesh sieve, liquid measuring cup, rubber spatula, large bowl, and cheese cloth. To make the toppings and finish seasoning the ricotta I used a small sauté pan, large bowl, measuring spoons, a small cutting board and a paring knife.

The Verdict:
For me, Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup walks that line between sweet but not too sweet perfectly. The honey and vanilla push the ricotta toward mascarpone in flavor – slightly sweet, but still a hint of mild, creamy cheese – an excellent back drop for bright berries. The true revelation though: those toasty, nutty, rich maple almonds. OMG. Borderline an ice cream topping, but in small doses they’re the perfect note of indulgence. I naturally gravitate toward anything you’d typically put syrup on, but if you’re more of an omelet person like Mike, I’d skip this one.

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Apricot Mostarda & Spiralized Hotdogs

Apricot Mostarda & Spiralized Hotdogs   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Apricot Mostarda & Spiralized Hotdogs | Image: Laura Messersmith

While we’re talking about grilling, I have a confession to make: even with all the backlash against processed food I still love a hot dog once in a while. There. I said it. For me they’re still a salty, ketchup & mustard-slathered taste of summer in the backyard, and while I wouldn’t eat one every day – everything in moderation – there are times when a hotdog really hits the spot.

Especially, I might add, when you’ve dressed them up and transformed them into something borderline grown-up with a unique preparation and a delicious sauce like this Apricot Mostarda. The June issue of Food & Wine magazine is my source, and it probably reveals something when the simplest, most down-home recipe in a magazine full of lush, gorgeous, elegant options is the one I immediately gravitated to.

It might have something to do with the accessibility of the ingredients – I literally had every, single item for the sauce in my pantry already, which meant all I had to do was pick up a package of hotdogs and hunt down some Martin’s potato rolls. I will also admit that the idea of “spiralizing” a hotdog when everyone else is preparing cascades of luminously green zucchini pasta appeals to my sense of humor (video demo here.) So, thanks for that Food & Wine!

Apricot Mostarda & Spiralized Hotdogs   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Apricot Mostarda & Spiralized Hotdogs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Apricot Mostarda (yield: 1 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 cup (6 ounces) diced dried apricots
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons (1 medium) finely minced shallot
1 1/2 teaspoons (1 clove) finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt

Instructions:
In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, apricots, sugar, shallot and garlic and bring to a boil.

Simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the apricots are soft and coated in a light syrup, about 7 to 10 minutes. The liquid will reduce and the consistency should be flowing, but thick - think somewhere between honey and salsa.

Stir in both mustards and season with salt to taste. Let cool completely. Stir in tablespoons of water before serving if the mostarda is too thick.

Slightly rewritten from Food & Wine magazine’s Dried Apricot Mostarda by Justin Chapple.

Apricot Mostarda & Spiralized Hotdogs   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Apricot Mostarda & Spiralized Hotdogs | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Oh, yes! I used a small sauce pan, medium cutting board, chef’s knife, liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons and a rubber spatula. A clean jam jar makes a great storage vessel. For the hotdogs I also needed a long bamboo skewer, 8” cast iron pan, and since I wanted to toast the potato rolls, a butter knife and a baking sheet.

The Verdict:
In all seriousness, the Apricot Mostarda is delicious - lightly sweet, zippy with vinegar, and just a little spicy - trust me when I say that I am already plotting other foods to pair it with as alternate to chutney. The apricot pieces and whole grain mustard add beautiful texture, and in this case it’s perfect with the savory hotdog and fluffy potato rolls. I also am converted to spiralizing my hotdogs (or sausages, as the spirit moves you) they cook more quickly and all those little notches capture toppings perfectly.

Apricot Mostarda & Spiralized Hotdogs  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Apricot Mostarda & Spiralized Hotdogs | Image: Laura Messersmith