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Scones

Scones are a major part of the British afternoon tea. The scones that I am making today are Devon scones with golden raisins. The typical Devon scone is made without raisins and is always glazed with egg. They are quick and easy to make. Once baked they are soft, light and somewhat dry, but heavenly. Slathered with clotted cream or English double Devon cream and preserves, just takes you to complete new level of deliciousness. These scones can be easily whipped up for breakfast too, no need to wait until teatime.
Photography by Robert Demetrius




2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon flour for dusting
5 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup whole milk
½ cup of golden raisins
1 egg yolk at room temperature, lightly beaten, to glaze

Sifting All-Purpose Flour and Baking Powder
In a large mixing bowl, sift 1½ cups all-purpose flour and 5 teaspoons baking powder then mix in ¼ teaspoon salt and 5 tablespoons granulated sugar. Blend the dried items together. 
Adding Butter Pieces
Add 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter, which has been cut into pieces, into the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. 
Incorporating Pieces of Butter
Using a fork or a pastry blender mix until the butter is incorporated into the dried ingredients and has a crumble-like texture.
Forming a Well in the Crumble-Like Ingredients
Form a well in the middle of the crumble-like ingredients, then add 2/3 cup whole milk and ½ cup of golden raisins and knead the ingredients gently together.
Adding Milk

Mixing Milk and Raisins Into the Dried Ingredients
Dough Nearly Ready to Knead
Kneading Dough
On a Flour Dusted Surface
Place the dough on a flour-dusted surface. 

Rolling Out Dough
Roll the dough out to about a ¾ inch thickness and with a cookie cutter that is about 2½ inches in diameter, cut out the scones. 

Cutting out Scones
Scones on Greased Parchment Paper
Place the pieces on a greased parchment paper lined cookie sheet. 

Whisking Egg Yolk
In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk gently and brush the whisked yolk on the top of the scones and let it rest for 15 minutes before placing into the oven. 

Glazing Scone with Whisked Egg Yolk
While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit.

Placing Scones in the Oven
Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 7 – 10 minutes, or until they have risen and are golden brown.
Devon Scones with Golden Raisins with English Double Devon Cream and Seville Orange Marmalade
Voilà! This recipe makes 12 scones. Enjoy with a nice cup of steaming tea or coffee, slathered with English double Devon cream or clotted cream with strawberry preserves. I am having mine with English double Devon cream and homemade Jamaican Seville orange marmalade. Enjoy!

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Sweet Dark Cherry Clafoutis

The season for cherries has started and what is nicer than a light and fresh dessert for a balmy evening. I bought some cherries that are dark, sweet with just the right amount of tartness. A clafoutis is a French dessert and is usually served with pits in cherries, because it is said that it releases so much more flavor, but mine is without the pits. So much easier to enjoy.
A clafoutis has the texture of part pancake, part custard as it’s quite soft and not very cake-like.

Photography by Robert Demetrius




3 cups dark sweet cherries, pitted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, I like to use a Madagascar Bourbon vanilla
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon almond extract
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon lemon zest

confectionery sugar

Dark Sweet Cherries
Rinse and drain 3 cups of cherries. This can be done in advance, as it’s best to use cherries at room temperature and if done in advance, it will also eliminate any excess moisture.
Drying off Excess Moisture
To make sure the cherries are void of any water, I like to place a nice big kitchen towel on the counter and after they have been drained, gently throw the cherries on the towel and pat any excess water away before pitting them. The cherries have enough juice and we do not want additional moisture.
Pitting Cherries
Use a cherry and olive pitter and the seeds will be removed fairly quickly. If you don’t have a pitter, not to worry, just cut the cherry in half and twist it off the seed. It may take a while, but certainly worth it.
Dusting Baking Dish with Sugar
Once the last cherry has been pitted, use 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, spreading it evenly in a baking dish that you can serve on the table. It adds such a homemade feel and your family or guests can see how beautiful the dessert looks when done. Then dust with 1 tablespoon sugar. To dust the baking dish, sprinkle the bottom of the dish with sugar and lift the pan at an angle so that the sugar coats all around the sides of the pan.
Pitted Cherries in Baking Dish
So, the dish has now been buttered and sugared, place the pitted cherries at the bottom of the baking dish.

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit.
Cracking Eggs Into Mixing Bowl
Crack 3 eggs in a mixing bowl, pour in ¼ cup of sugar, add 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and whisk vigorously until the mixture is well blended. 
Zesting Lemon
Then add ½ cup all-purpose flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon almond extract, 1 cup whole milk and ½ cup heavy cream. 
Incorporating Flour into Wet Ingredients
Once all the ingredients have been well blended, pour on top of the cherries and place in the oven.
Pouring Mixture on Top of Dark Sweet Pitted Cherries
Bake for 50 minutes. That’s all. Serves 6. Voilà! 


The clafouti should be served warm. Just before serving, dust with some confectionery sugar. Vanilla ice cream or some heavy cream goes well with it too. Enjoy.

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Bella Italia, Arrivederci!

I could not end my Italian culinary journey without showing you a few more goodies that I had along the way. Just a few sweets to nibble on. Please enjoy the pictures!
Photography by Robert Demetrius




Tart with Chocolate Crust, Lemon Curd and Berries
Raisin Semolina Bread, Cannolo and Cookies

Ciao!

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Bella Italia Part 2

Since I had mentioned that dinner was our main meal for the day, it was with great delight that we were able to relish our meal. Dinner for many restaurants start at around 7:30pm to 8:00pm and usually lasts about an hour and a half to two hours, which seemed a normal practice for Italians. I also observed that many restaurants had only one sitting for the night, which I thoroughly enjoyed, because it gave us the opportunity to discuss at length the days events and plan for our next excursion without having to rush. Diners seemed to make a delightful affair of dinner. Take your time, it will last about 2 hours... such a great change from our usual everyday quick meal at home.
Grilled Prawns with Orange Vinaigrette


I also noted that Italians may eat three to four courses for dinner. This may not be an everyday occurrence, but something they enjoyed on a regular basis. Starting with an Antipasti, then a Primi Piatti, followed by a Secondi Piatti and ending with a Dolce. As I had mentioned before, ingredients were mostly light and fresh, so it was quite easy to see why it was possible to enjoy so many courses. Portions were also smaller than we are accustomed.
Brie Rolled in Bacon, Fried and Drizzled with Olive Oil
Patrons would sometimes share an Antipasti which is an appetizer, then follow with a first course or Primi Piatti as it is called, that are primarily flavorful pastas, risottos and hearty soups.
All types and shapes of pasta are used. To name a few, spaghetti, tagliolini, tagliatelli, ravioli and heavenly light gnocchi that are small dumplings, were usually fresh and homemade.
Gnocchi with Spinach and Pancetta
Spaghetti with Ragu (Meat Sauce)
Ragu, which surprisingly, was not made with a lot of tomatoes was featured on a few menus. However, fresh asparagus, truffles, spinach, uncooked bacon and fresh seafood were offered very often as sauces for the pasta.
Flavorful Risotto with Asparagus
Risotto, a flavorful rice dish, made from Arborio rice, was also popular as a Primi Piatti with asparagus, smoked duck or truffles.

The season for truffles had barely ended, so I was still able to enjoy the delicacy of black truffles shaved and grated in my pasta, even generous heaps, sliced on top of beef grilled on a fire, right in front of us at dinner with a truffle sauce.
Pasta and Bean Soup
Hearty soups with chickpeas and noodles drizzled with olive oil and cracked black pepper or a farro soup was offered on most menus.
Meats being Grilled by the Hearth
Grilled Steak with Truffle Slices and Hearty Truffle Sauce
Grilled Meat with Shaved Salt
Main courses or Secondi Piatti were mainly pieces of grilled meat, beef or lamb, with a wedge of lemon and shaved salt, seasoned with fresh rosemary, fresh fish, grilled shellfish or stewed meats, like Osso Bucco. Osso Bucco is a veal shank stewed with tomatoes, celery, carrots and onions.
Osso Bucco
Featured as a side, or Contorno as it is called, were grilled vegetables, eggplant, zucchini or sweet peppers, a plate of fagioli beans with olive oil, spinach or a side salad. Very rarely did we see salted potatoes, which were potatoes boiled with the skin, then halved and generously sprinkled with salt or potatoes sautéed in olive oil and rosemary.
Grilled Eggplant, Zucchini and Radicchio
Dinner was always accompanied with wine that came from the area, either from well-known houses or from local vineyards. We were lucky to have always had a good and large number of choices.
Panna Cotta with Mixed Berries
Unfortunately, we were rarely able to make it to dessert, but when we did, we went light. A light panna cotta that is made with milk, cream, sugar and gelatin, which is set to cool, served with fresh berries to cool the palate just before my final espresso for the evening.

Please check back on Friday as I come to the end of my Italian culinary journey! 

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Bella Italia

My husband and I travelled for two weeks, through the splendid hills and valleys of Lazio, Umbria and Tuscany, adamant about immersing ourselves in the culture, the way of life of the people, food and wines of each area.
Photography by Heaven on Hearth





The history of the towns and cities that we visited was quite riveting, like reading a story from a book. It took us back in time and caused us to dig deep, trying to remember the history lessons that we took while at school. It was the first time that I had travelled to Italy during the month of May and my findings were quite unexpected. I noted that not only was the vegetation somewhat drier than September, it was also just as warm as at home. The weather was absolutely beautiful, with a constant light breeze, cooling the hot rays of the sun. It was indeed glorious.
Entering into Panzano in Tuscany
As we drove along country roads, we were treated to spectacular views of beautiful landscapes, groves of olive trees mingling harmoniously with vineyards large and small, sometimes stretching all the way down to a nearby lake. Cyprus trees lined the winding roads and properties along the country side, as we passed also vineyards and farms selling wines, olive oils, goat cheese, honeys and wax candles.

Each day was a new experience with new wonders to see.

As a lover of food, I was eager to learn more about the traditional food and dishes of each area as well as the wines. Fresh, seasonal ingredients were always used, so I was in for a treat each time.

Food and flavors were basic, clean, light and simple. So few ingredients to bring out such bursts of flavor. 

Breakfast is a quick coffee or cappuccino, which I learned, Italians do not drink cappuccino after 11am. Something sweet, like cakes and tarts or Tuscan bread with lemon, strawberry and acacia honey or homemade strawberry or kiwi jams, or perhaps a slice of cheese and salami. 
Cappucino
Lunch is said to be the biggest meal of the day, but I found that they had a tendency to eat light. Like a plate of smoked and dried meats or cheese, a plate of mozzarella and tomato slices, drizzled with olive oil, a small bowl of spaghetti with ragu or even a panini.
Slices of Dried Cured Meats with Tuscan Bread 
Spritz or Aperol Spritz, a lovely drink that I enjoyed in the evenings before dinner, is an aperitif that is served in Umbria and Tuscany.  It’s Prosecco, a dry Italian sparkling wine, Aperol, similar to Campari, just lighter in taste, color and alcohol content with a splash of soda, half a slice of orange and a few cubes of ice served in a wine glass.
Canapes served with an Aperitif
In Italy, an aperitif was served with chips, canapés or olives, or even all of the mentioned. It was such a wonderful and delightful way to start the evening. I also noticed that there was always time for an aperitif. Starting from just before noon, people were drinking.
Aperol Spritz
To make a Spritz you will need the following:

3 parts Prosecco
2 parts Aperol
1 part soda water
ice cubes
half an orange slice

Dinner was a treat as we usually went all out, starting with an appetizer, like a plate of smoked and dried meats, bruschetta, which was surprisingly served mostly with a selection of DOP olive oils and not with tomatoes. Other toppings were mushrooms, chicken liver and zucchini.
Bruschetta with Sweet Tomatoes and Fresh Basil
Another appetizer that was absolutely delicious was a sandwich, which could have been a meal in itself. It was made of a flat bread, called Ciaccino, which was fried, arugula, Stracchino, a fresh cows milk cheese, rather delicate and light in flavor with a creamy texture and Coppa, a cured meat.
Ciaccino with Arugula, Stracchino and Coppa 
Please check back on Wednesday as I continue my Italian culinary journey!

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