Showing posts with label anise. Show all posts
Showing posts with label anise. Show all posts

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Kicking Off PENZEYS Week: Christmas Scones

A small part of my collection (note the Spanish anise,
top row of small jars, fourth from left)
Welcome to Mystery Lovers' Kitchen's special PENZEYS week!

So many holiday and winter-time recipes lean heavily on herbs and spices. The scents and flavors of piquant herbs, lush spices, and luscious extracts can conjure up loving memories with a single whiff, a single nibble. And good cooks know that our dishes are only as good as the ingredients that go into them. The Mystery Lovers' Kitchen bloggers are friends as well as blog-mates, and our food chats extend behind the scenes. We've discovered we love Penzeys spices almost as much as we love getting lost in a delicious mystery. We each have our favorites, of course, so we thought we would dedicate a special week to our favorite spice store. For those of you who haven't heard of them, Penzeys has stores all over the country, as well as a lovely catalog and an online ordering site.

Christmas Scones with a cup of Constant Comment
I'm kicking off the week with these Christmas scones, enriched with a flavor that is the very definition of the holidays to me: anise.

My Grandma Mary Ellen had a handful of recipes she pulled out every Christmas: her amazing lemon cookies, spritz cookies, jelly cake (which is basically layers of flaky pastry separated by thin layers of currant jelly), and panettone.

Panettone is a slightly sweet Italian bread studded with candied citrus and raisins. My grandma's panettone was perfumed with ground anise and had a healthy drizzle of powdered sugar icing.

In theory, it should have been delicious. In reality, it was kind of horrible. The bread is a complex concoction of scalded milk and eggs, and it tended to come out a little dry. Instead of candied citrus, Grandma used that weird citron stuff that is completely fake-looking. And fake-tasting.

Still, for me, that panettone is the flavor of Christmas morning. While we opened our presents, we'd nibble on slices of the bread and sip black tea--strong and sweet--from chipped Blue Willow tea cups.

My challenge was to create a dish that captured the flavors of panettone (the intriguing licorice of the anise, the tart burst of winter fruit, bright notes of citrus, and a subtle homey sweetness) without being, well, my grandma's panettone. I wanted to avoid the pitfalls of her dish and create something both simple and delicious.

These scones offer the flavors of the classic Italian dish in a simple-to-make form that is sure to brighten your Christmas morning. The Penzeys ground anise provides a solid punch of flavor, but be sure to use the full tablespoon to give the scones that "special occasion" zing.

Wishing you all a happy holiday and many delicious memories of your own!

Christmas Scones
Cooling, pre-glazing

2 c. flour
¼ c. sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 Tbs. orange zest, chopped very small
1 c. chopped dried fruit (apricots, golden raisins, and cranberries)*
1 ¼ c. whipping cream
¾ c. powdered sugar
strained juice of one orange

Preheat oven to 425

Sift together dry ingredients (down to orange zest). Mix in dried fruit. Add cream and fold in gently until dough forms. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead ever-so-gently until the dough holds together. Form dough into a 1/2 inch thick square. Quarter the square, and then slice each square diagonally, to make a total of 8 triangles.

Dough patted out for cutting - see the glimpses of fruit!

Place triangles on baking sheet (lined with parchment paper or sil-pat, if you have it). Bake 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool. Meanwhile, mix enough juice to the powdered sugar to make a thin icing. Drizzle over the cooled scones and serve!

* I found a pre-mixed assortment in the dried fruit aisle: cranberries, golden raisins, apricots, peaches, and apples, already diced into tiny bits just perfect for baking.

What about you? What herb or spice says "holidays" to you?


Wendy is the author of the Mysteries a la Mode. Visit her on the web or on Facebook. She also writes the Pet Boutique Mysteries under the name Annie Knox; you can follow Annie on Facebook, too!


Christmas Cookie Contest!

Have you heard about our fantastic Christmas Cookie Contest? Here's how it works:

To enter, send your favorite recipe to Krista (KristaDavis at KristaDavis dot com).
We'll choose 10 finalists, recipes that we'll bake and post here on the blog.
Then you, our readers, will choose the overall winner!

What does that winner win? A fabulous collection of cookie decorating supplies, that's what!

Pastel Sanding Sugar
Primary Sanding Sugar

Powdered Food Colors
Cute Flower Cookie Stencils