I fell in love with carrot cake, when I fell in love with my husband. For years I had an exclusive (some would say dependent) relationship with chocolate. Given a choice of ice cream, cake, cookies, snacks, drinks (you get the picture), I would almost always sway towards the chocolate offering. So you can imagine the shock and ensuing protest when he suggested we serve carrot cake at our wedding. I still do not know how he convinced me, but I did give up the vision of rich chocolate cake with richer, thicker chocolate frosting willingly agreed to carrot cake. One of our marriage’s first big compromises.

Key to our agreement was that we found an absolutely fantastic bakery, The Buttery in Santa Cruz, that baked up the most luscious carrot cake imaginable. This was 10 years ago and I still remember how delicious it was! This recipe is NOT from The Buttery, I adapted it from one clipped from a newspaper years ago, but it is the next best thing. It includes the absolutely key ingredient BUTTER! Flip through a pile of carrot cake recipes and you will see how rare this ingredient is. Almost all of the carrot cake recipes in my collection call for vegetable oil, which makes a nice moist cake, but fails to deliver the distinctive buttery note that reminds me that chocolate (while a delicious intoxicant) is not the only way to celebrate an occasion. The cream cheese frosting is super creamy and just sweet and tangy enough to add a nice counterpoint to the rich cake.

This particular cake I whipped up for a very special person to celebrate her 65th birthday. Which brings me to another reason to love carrot cake… there is no need to wait for a birthday or wedding. Carrot cake is fancy enough to hold its own on these occasions, but simple enough for an afternoon snack. Really, it is full of carrots and nuts and raisins; it is practically health food!

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Buttermilk Berry Scones

April 20, 2011

My little man turned 5…  I know, its huge!  His preschool honored him with the sweetest  (and most scientific) of ceremonies in which he holds a globe and walks around a candle, representing the sun, the number of times the earth has circled the sun since his birth.  Ah, the true meaning of a birthday!  Love it.  Of course, after the ceremony he shared a birthday snack with his friends.  This is always a challenge as the school has a no-sugar policy.  Actually, I love that they restrict sugar and encourage healthy, organic, whole foods.  I am glad that he is not gorging himself on sweets every time a classmate has a birthday.  Still, I wanted to make him something that still felt and tasted like a treat.  Though he asked for berry muffins, I opted for Buttermilk  Berry Scones.  Scones are easier to adapt for low or no sugar than muffins.

This scone recipe is my favorite, I have made it many, many times with different fruit and nut additions.  Once, years ago, I accidentally made it without the sugar.  They still tasted great!  That is what gave me the idea to make these delicious scones, packed full with berries, but without the forbidden sugar.  Wait, don’t get scared off, I have included the sugar in the recipe below for those of you with a sweet tooth.  Plus, these are nowhere near guilt free.  They are made with a literal pile o’ butter.  See…

The beauty of this recipe is that it is incredibly versatile.   Mix the batter with fresh fruit or dried.  Add seeds and nuts on a whim.  Include the sugar for a traditional breakfast scone or leave it out to make a savory dinner scone.  You can cut them up in many different ways.  Usually, I make a rectangular shaped slab and cut the scones into triangles.  This time my little big guy used a biscuit cutter to make mini scone circles to share with his classmates.  These scones are really easy to make and always turn out great.  Plus, despite the aforementioned pile o’ butter, this recipe is actually lighter than others you may find that keep the butter and use cream in the place of the buttermilk.  This biggest reason to make these though, is that they are delicious, no matter what you do.  Serve them for your friends, they will thank you!

Buttermilk Berry Scones

adapted from Bon Appetit

makes 12 scones

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar- plus 1 1/2 Tablespoon to sprinkle on top (omit for a savory scone)

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, diced

1 cup buttermilk- plus 1 Tablespoon to brush on top

1 1/2 cup frozen berries (or other additions)

1 1/2 Tablespoon Meyer lemon zest

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or baking mat.

Sift together dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt)in a large bowl.  Work the butter into the dough until pieces are the size of small peas.  You may use your hands, a pastry cutter, or pulse using a  food processor.  Toss berries in flour mixture.  Mix lemon zest and buttermilk.  Pour buttermilk mixture into flour/berry mixture.  Use a spoon to mix until a dough ball forms.  Turn dough out onto a board and gently knead one or two times to fully incorporate the ingredients.  Flatten into a 1 inch tall slab and cut to your desired shape.  (For a traditional triangular scone, press into a slab 4 x 12 inches.  Cut the dough at angles across the shortest width of the rectangle to create triangles.)

Place scones on prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with reserved buttermilk and sprinkle with reserved sugar (for sweet scone).   Bake for 18-22 minutes, depending on the size of the scone.  Pull from the oven when scones are lightly golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Here is a printer friendly version of the recipe: Buttermilk Berry Scones

You may also like:

Crepes with Lemon Curd and Warm Berry Sauce

Easy Cranberry Bread

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The other night at bedtime, my 4 year old son announced to me that he is a vegetarian.  Never mind the fact that he had just put away three helpings of chicken at dinner.  I nodded and told him he never had to eat anything that he did not want.  He asserted once more that he was a vegetarian, but then went on to tell me that he only eats bacon, hamburgers, and sausage.  Oh, I said, that kind of vegetarian.  I was amused, but also relieved.  Though I am sympathetic to vegetarians, since I refrained from meat and dairy myself for many years, it is so much easier to cook for a household that agrees to eat the same kinds of foods.  Not to mention that my husband and I just filled the freezer with many pounds of homemade sausage.  Now is not the best time to opt out of sausage in our house.

Oh, the Sausage and Kale Dinner Tart.  This is the single most soul satisfying tart I have ever made. Sausage and kale both are iconic winter fare. They dominate this tart with only minor distractions from sauteed onion, garlic, and the slightest addition of ricotta cheese. Served atop the flaky butter crust, this is a winter meal to celebrate.  Both pork and chicken sausage work equally well, as do kale and chard.  You can trade out the egg for egg white, but it really will not put much of a dent in the fat of this dish given the buttery crust.  This is not diet food.  This is late winter though, and our last chance to enjoy the decadence of the cool months before the threats of swimsuit season are upon us.  Enjoy!

Update: My Sausage and Kale Dinner Tart won for Best Dirt Cheap Dinner on food52!

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There are recipes I love, because the flavors produced are so unlike those I am apt to make on my own. There are recipes I love, because the technique is new to me and create an utterly delicious dish using a method I have never tried.  This recipe fulfills both of those criteria.  Though my family loves Indian food, I admit to being hung up on a few standard curries and dals that are regulars in our kitchen. This dish, though it uses familiar ingredients, is unlike any I have made in the past.  Garam masala and ginger infuse the sauce of Divine Indian Butter Chicken with exciting flavor. The garlic, bay, cardamom, and cloves simmer slowly with the tomatoes deeply infusing the sauce with even more flavor.  Top that off with butter and milk (or cream as the original recipe suggests) and you have a silky, spicy, delectable bath for the tenderest of chicken.

The chicken first spends many hours soaking in a tangy marinade of yogurt, ginger, garlic, and garam masala.  Yogurt tenderizes the meat as it soaks.  The next step surprised me.  The chicken is roasted at 500 degrees for 20 minutes.  Never have I thought to use that kind of extreme heat on an ultimately braised chicken dish.  The chicken finishes cooking in the fragrant tomato sauce.  My first bite dispelled any skepticism I may have harbored regarding the roasting technique.  This chicken is so incredibly tender and moist!  The dark meat falls from the bone and the breast slices up beautifully and melts in your mouth.  What is more, this is a perfect dish to make ahead.  Simply prepare the dish and keep it warm and covered until ready to serve.  You can also cool the dish, refrigerate, and heat up when you are ready.  Serve with basmati rice and chutney.  Here is a great recipe for homemade chutney.

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