Peter Aitken's Recipe Collection

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cooking recipes kitchen food 12


Traditional scones

Please save me from the cantalope-size commercial scones that are laden with chocolate chips and god-knows-what-else. The traditional plain scone is a real treat and, with a food processor, easy and fast enough to make fresh for breakfast. This makes 6 to 8 scones.

2c cake flour (low gluten flour, I use White Lily all purpose)
5 TB butter, cold, cut into pieces
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 TB sugar, divided
1/2c heavy cream or maybe a bit more
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 450f. Place rack in lower-middle position.

In your food processor, pulse the dry ingredients to blend, using 2 TB of the sugar. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the egg and cream and pulse to get a sticky and slightly crumbly dough. You may need to add another TB or two of cream depending on your flour. Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and knead once or twice, just enough to gather the dough together. Pat out the dough to 3/4 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter or drinking glass, dipped in flour to prevent sticking, cut dough into 2 inch rounds (more or less) and place on a baking sheet (either non-stick or lined with parchment paper). Gather remaining dough and form by hand into similar shapes. Brush tops of scones with cream and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.

Now you have a choice. You can put the scones in the oven right away or you can let them sit for 10-15 min first. Letting them sit results in a slightly lighter and airier scone, but the difference is subtle.

Bake for 9-12 minutes until nicely browned. Serve warm with clotted cream or butter and your best jam and marmelade.


No-knead bread

This is based on a recipe I saw a while back in the NY Times. It results in a rustic bread, great flavor and chewy.

3c bread or all-purpose flour (replace 3/4c with whole wheat if desired)
1-1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1-1/3c cool water

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and then stir in the water to get a sticky, shaggy dough. This will be wetter than other bread doughs. Add a little more water if needed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at cool room temperature for 12 to 18 hours. Or, leave in the fridge overnight, taking it out first thing in the morning. The end result should be dough that has about doubled in size with lots of bubbles on the surface.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface (a dough scraper is useful for this). Pull the edges up and over toward the center to get a roughly round shape. Invert the dough onto a well-floured linen or cotton towel or a baking cloth. Cover with another towel and let sit until about doubled in size.

Meanwhile, put a covered, heavy 4-5 quart pot (cast iron, le Creuset, etc) in the oven and preheat to 475f for at least 30 minutes (See warning below). Remove the pot from the oven, remove the cover, and invert the dough into it (seam side up). Immediately replace the cover and return the pot to the oven.

Bake for 30 min. Remove the cover and bake another 10-20 min until the bread is a nice brown color. Remove from the pot and cool on a rack.

Warning: Most electric ovens turn on the broiling element as well as the baking element during preheating. Oven-proof handles on your pot may not be broiler-proof. If you are worried, preheat the over first and then put the pot in it for at least 30 minutes.


Topping for crisps and crumbles

These are great and easy desserts, fruit tossed with sugar and maybe some spices, then topped and baked. This is the best topping I have found, and you can use it for just about anything you like. This makes enough to top about 2 lbs of fruit.

1/2c flour
1/2c rolled oats
1/4c white sugar
1/4c brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
6 TB butter, cold, and cut into pieces
1/2c walnuts or pecans

Put all ingredients in your food processor and zap until crumbly. Use to top your fruit, then bake as directed.


Irish soda bread

A very tasty quick bread that can be made in less than 2 hours. Makes great toast, too.

1-1/2 c each all purpose and whole wheat flour
1/4c sugar
1 TB baking powder
1 tsp each baking soda and salt
2c buttermilk
1 egg

Mix all the dry ingredients together using a whisk, being sure they are well combined. Whisk the egg and buttermilk together and stir into the dry mixture until well but not completely combined. Turn out onto a floured surface. You'll have a shaggy, wet, sticky mess that is nothing like the dough for a traditional kneaded yeast bread. Using floured hands, form as best you can into an 8 inch round and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Using a wet serrated knife, cut a deep cross in the top (very traditional!). Bake at 325f for about an hour, until an instant-read thermometer reads 205-210f in the center of the loaf. Cool on a rack.


Orange-poppy seed cake

One of our favorites. I think it goes well with plain yogurt.

3c all purpose flour
2c sugar
1/4c poppy seeds
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1c cooking oil (I use canola)
3 eggs
3/4c milk
2 tsp grated orange zest
1/2c orange juice

Spray a 10 inch bundt/tube pan with non-stick spray. Preheat over to 350f with rack at lower-middle position.

Put the dry ingredients in a mixer bowl and mix to blend. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low to blend then on medium-low for about a minute, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice. Scrape batter into pan and even out the top. Bake for 45-50 min until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10-15 min and then invert into a plate.

Optional glaze: mix 1c sifted powdered sugar with 3-4 TB orange juice until you have a smooth, thick paste. Drizzle over cake once it is almost completely cooled.

Blueberry or cranberry muffins

6 TB unsalted butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1/2c milk
1 tsp lemon zest
1-1/2c all purpose flour
1/2c whole wheat flour
1 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c fresh or frozen (not thawed) blueberries or cranberries

Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together then beat in the eggs, milk, and lemon zest. Sift the dry ingredients together and add to the wet mixture, beating slowly until you have a mostly smooth but somewhat lumpy batter. Stir in the fruit by hand. Spoon into a muffin tin lined with paper cups, filling about 2/3 full. Makes 6-8 large muffins. Bake at 400f for 25 minutes or so until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Banana nut muffins

The best recipe I have tried!

1 stick unsalted butter (1/2c)
3/4c sugar
1 large egg
4 tsp lemon juice
1-1/2c all purpose flour
1/2c whole wheat flour
1/2 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large or 3 small bananas, thoroughly mashed
1/2 c chopped walnuts or pecans

Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth, then beat in the lemon juice and egg. Sift together the dry ingredients and use a wooden spoon to mix into the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Thoroughly stir in the bananas. The batter will be stiff but moist throughout - if needed, stir in a few TB of milk. Finally, fold in the chopped nuts. Spoon into a muffin tin lined with paper cups, fill each one about 2/3 full. Optional - place a walnut or pecan half on the top of each muffin.

If you are using the large ("Texas-size) muffin cups you will get 7-8 muffins. Bake about 25 minutes at 350 until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If you use the smaller, regular muffin cups start testing after 16-18 minutes.

Really good fruitcake

Yes, fruitcake is the butt of many jokes, but it can be pure ambrosia when done right. This is the best I have ever tasted and I (literally) am begged to make it over the holidays.

4 c dried fruit

This is the heart of the recipe and does not have to be any precise mixture as long as it is varied. My preference is to use 1 cup each of golden raisins and currrants with the remaining 2 cups made of of at least 3 or 4 of the following: cherries, cranberries, apricots, pineapple, blueberries, apples. Larger fruits should be chopped into raisin-size pieces

Zest of 1 lemon and zest of 1 orange, chopped into raisin-size pieces

You can use a zester (basically a fine grater) but I prefer to use a sharp potato peeler to remove the zest in strips and then chop. Remember, you want the colored outer layer of the fruit, where the flavor is, and as little as possible of the white layer underneath.

1 c Myers dark rum (or similar)

Mix the dried fruit, zests, and rum and microwave for 4-5 min, stirring a couple of times, to rehydrate the fruit. Put the fruit and liquid in a non-reactive pan (stainless, non-stick, enameled) along with:

1c sugar
1c apple cider or juice
1 and 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger

Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Sift together:

1-3/4c all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Add to fruit mixture and quickly mix with a wooden spoon. Add

2 large eggs

and stir until eggs are completely mixed in. Fold in

1/2c coarsly chopped toasted pecans.

Divide mixure between 2 small (8x4 inch) loaf pans (greased with butter) and bake at 325f for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on rack. Brush top of loaves with cognac (see note) and allow to cool completely. Remove cake from pans and place in a container that has a tight-sealing lid and enough room for both cakes with a little space around them. Seal the container and let sit at room temperature for 2 weeks. Every 2-3 days, open the container and brush the tops with cognac - just enough to moisten. At the end of the 2 weeks (or even longer) they are ready to enjoy.

Note: Yes, use Cognac instead of ordinary brandy - the difference is noticeable. You do not need to use an expensive cognac.

Savory Mini Oat Breads

Based on a Jacques Pepin recipe, these are great with soup.

1 leek
1 stick unsalted butter
1 egg
1/2c milk
2/3c all purpose flour
1c "quick" oatmeal
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
grinding of black pepper

Slice the white and tender green of the leek lengthwise and then into 1/8" slices. Rinse carefully and drain well - you should have 1 cup. Melt the butter in a large bowl and stir in the leeks. Microwave for 2 minutes to cook the leeks. Allow to cool for a few minutes then add the milk and beat in the egg. Mix the dry ingredients together and add to the leek mixture, stirring to combine. Divide between 12 small muffin tins - I like to use the paper liners that are about 1 inch tall. Bake at 425 until cooked through and browned on top, about 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Carrot Cake

An excellent recipe from a friend. Can be halved.

2c flour
2c sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mace
1 tsp salt

Sift all above together. Add 1c vegetable oil and beat until mixed. Add 4 eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each. Add 3c finely grated carrots and 3/4c raisins, mix. Put into greased pans - you can use two 9" round pans or a larger rectangular pan. Bake at 350f for 30-35 min until a toothpick entered in the center comes out clean. Place pan on rack to cool for 10-15 min then turn out. Frost while still warm with cream cheese frosting:

3/4 stick butter
4 oz cream cheese
1 lb confection's sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1c chopped pecans or other nuts

Let butter and cheese come to room temperature and cream together with the sugar and vanilla. Mix in the nuts.

Flaky pastry dough in the food processor

This dough has a multitude of uses such as empanadas, pot pies, and anything that requires a rich, buttery, flaky crust.

2c all purpose flour
1/2t salt
1/2t sugar
1 stick butter
1 TB shortening (such as Crisco)
1/3c ice water (appx)

The butter and shortening should be cold, straight from the fridge. Put the dry ingredients in the FP and pulse to blend. Add the butter, cut into 1/2" chunks, and the shortening. Pulse a few times until the mixture looks like coarse meal - the largest pieces of butter should be about 1/4 inch. Add the ice water and pulse again once or twice. Do not overdo the mixing!! The dough will still look like crumbly meal but if you take a bit in your hand and squeeze it will hold together. If necessary add another TB of ice water and pulse.

Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Use the wrap to gather the dough into a solid mass and shape it into a disk that is about an inch thick. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer (this resting stage can be omitted but does give a better result). When ready to cook, roll the dough out to 1/8 or thinner. If your kitchen is warm, use a chilled marble slab or cutting board to do the rolling - it makes things a lot easier. Cut and shape as needed.

Auntie Terrie's Bran Muffins

This delicious recipe comes from my wife's Auntie Terrie. Do not substitute other brands of bran cereal for the All Bran - I have found the Kellogg's works the best. The recipe can be doubled.

1c Kellogg's All Bran cereal
1c milk
1/2c vegetable oil
1/2 white sugar
1 egg
1c all-purpose flour
1/2 TB baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2c raisins
1 apple, peeled and grated

Soak All Bran in milk until soft, about 30 minutes. In a separate bowl mix together oil, sugar, egg, and vanilla. In another bowl mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add oil/sugar mixture, dry ingredients, raisins, and grated apple to the All Bran and mix by hand. Fill muffin cups 2/3 to 3/4 full, as this recipe does not rise a great deal. Bake at 350f for 30 minutes. If using a convection oven bake at 325 for 23 minutes.

Easy yet great French bread

There's nothing like a baguette or batard fresh from the oven. While there are many recipes for "authentic" French bread, and many of them produce good results, the following is by far the easiest and most reliable I have found. It is adapted from a recipe in The Best Bread Ever by Charles van Over. The flour you use will make a difference. My preferences are King Arthur's unbleached all-purpose white flour or their French-style flour. You do not need "bread" flour - all purpose works just fine. The recipe uses a food processor, which not only saves time and effort but allows you to use a rather wet dough that results in a superior bread but is next to impossible to knead by hand. It also uses a baguette pan, eliminating the hassle of creating nicely formed loaves. You'll also need a water sprayer.

Measure by weight if you can. You will soon get a feel for the best consistency.

1 lb (appx 3-1/2 c) flour (all white or 3/4 white and 1/4 whole wheat)
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp instant dry yeast
1-1/4c water

Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in the food processor and pulse to blend. With the machine running pour in about 90% of the water into the mixture and process for 20 seconds. The dough should come together in a single mass and be shaggy and sticky. If it is dry and crumbly add 2 TB water. If it is too "soupy" add 2 TB flour. Process for an additional 25 seconds. This dough will be a bit wetter than a typical bread dough.

Scrape the dough into a large ungreased bowl. Cover and let rise at room temperature. Here's where this recipe is very flexible. You can let the dough rise all day, punching it down as needed - longer rising gives better flavor. Or, you can let it rise only until it is almost doubled in bulk - about 2 hours. For best flavor put it directly into the fridge and let it sit overnight. Then remove the next day and continue.

Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto your work surface. It will be very sticky, and rather than dusting with flour to prevent sticking I prefer to work with a dough scraper. Divide the dough into 2 (for batards) or 3 (for baguettes) equal parts and form each portion into a ball. Cover and let rest for 15-20 minutes. 

Press each ball of dough into a rough rectangle about 4x6 inches and 1" thick. Fold one long edge about 2/3 of the way over the top and press to seal the dough. Repeat with the other long edge. Fold the resulting "log" in half lengthwise and press to seal. Using your hands or the dough scraper roll the dough until you have a loaf about 14" long. Roll the load off the edge of the counter into the baguette pan, having the seam end up on the bottom. Cover the loaves and let rise for about an hour. They should increase in size by at least 50%.

Place the oven rack slightly below the middle position.1/2 hour before baking preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Just before baking, uncover the loaves and slash the tops diagonally in 3 or 4 places using a razor blade. An alternate method is to use a pair of pointed scissors to cut the slits in the bread. Put the baguette pan on the rack and quickly spritz the inside of the oven 5-6 times with water, using a plant mister. Reduce the oven setting to 450. After 2 minutes open the oven and repeat the spritzing. Bake for an additional 20-22 minutes until the crust is brown and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. An instant-read thermometer will read 205-210 degrees in the center of a loaf. Cool on racks. These times are for batards. If you make the thinner baguettes the times will be less.





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