Being relatively new to blogging, I thought it would be a good idea to jump in on one of the cooking events out there. The one that particularly caught my eye was SHF or 'Sugar High Friday'. Since the tagline for my blog is 'one man's search for dessert perfection', it only seemed natural that an event involving sugar would fit well with my primary purpose for this blog. This month's theme is 'Going Local' and the idea is to showcase local delicacies from your region. I have to say I had a hard time trying to come up with an idea for this one. When I think of the Northwest, and particularly, Oregon, I tend to think of Salmon - and that just wasn't going to fit well for a SHF event. So I just tried to think of a local ingredient or dish that would represent us here.
I really was having a hard time with this. I can't really think of a dish that says Oregon. We're quite a mix of many different influences - everything from Native American to Asian to European to Mexican - you can find it all here. Willamette Valley in Oregon is also becoming world renowned for it's Pinot Noir, but I just couldn't think of a good way to work it in to my baking - perhaps another post. My own ancestors are from Sweden and Ireland, and while both are well known for their baked goods, even those dishes didn't really say 'Oregon' to me. So, I was in my back yard a few days ago when it hit me, or rather, scratched me - Blackberries. I was reminded of the fact that Oregon, in particular, the Willamette Valley, is considered the 'caneberry capital of the world'. Caneberries? If you are not familiar with that term, it refers to any berries grown on planta that grow large stocks, or canes. Some of these 'caneberries' include blackberries, raspberries, Loganberries, and our very own, Marionberries (uniquely grown only here in Oregon, and quite a tasty berry I might add). I originally thought about showcasing Marionberries (a cultivar of blackberries), but the season was over and I wanted to go fresh, not frozen. It just so happens I have a thriving blackberry plant growing in my back yard, and there were plenty of berries to go around. What to make? I wanted to do something other than a blackberry pie, muffins or tart. I wanted to stick with a baked item, but something we enjoy frequently in the NW. Thinking again of coffee (I think I need a cup, I can't get it off my mind) I considered scones. Definitely not a Northwest creation, we do enjoy these tasty little baked treats in the coffee shops that dot our landscape. As I was considering a recipe for blackberry scones, I just wasn't happy with the idea of a blackberry scone. Not long after that, I was struck in a moment of inspiration to consider another very Oregon ingredient - Filberts.
What is a Filbert, you may ask? Well, around most of the world, Filberts are known as Hazelnuts, but here in Oregon, one of only 4 places in the world where these nuts are grown, they are referred to by fans and growers as Filberts. Though Oregon represents only a small amount of the total hazelnuts produced worldwide (Turkey is the largest producer), the hazelnuts grown in the temperate climate of Oregon are considered to be the biggest and tastiest in the world. I wanted to use a recipe that could really show off the great flavor of this nut. Since we have such strong ties to coffee and baked goods here in the Northwest, I thought I'd try my hands at a goodie I've wanted to bake for awhile now, so I tracked down a basic recipe for scones, and went from there.
That being said, I still had the blackberries to consider. I still wanted to use them, but I wanted something unique. Thinking back to a tea event I did some cooking for awhile back, it struck me - curd. This traditional English dish is most commonly made with lemons, but many other fruits can be used. Curd is a type of preserve that uses fruit juice, sugar and eggs. It is smooth and creamy and pairs well with scones (as well as making a great filling for cakes and other pastries). Now I had my recipes in order.
Since I have never made scones before, I was concerned that I wouldn't get the right texture. A friend of ours, who is quite the hand at making scones, was out of the country, so thanks to my old standby for recipes, Allrecipes.com, I found a basic scone recipe and some great tips from readers. Following their lead, I decided to make the dough entirely in a food processor, and I'm glad I did. The recipe calls for frozen butter, cut into small pieces, and then incorporated into the flour mixture using a pastry knife or by hand. The food processor, made this step very fast and turned out a well incorporated, yet not overworked, dough. For the hazelnuts, I purchased raw whole nuts and toasted them myself in the oven at 400 degrees F for 8 minutes on a foil lined baking sheet. I removed most of the skins by wrapping them in a kitchen towel, letting them sit for 5 minutes, then rubbing the toasted nuts in the towel. Boy, did that smell good!
Many thanks to Johanna at The Passionate Cook for her choice of themes for this month's SHF. It really made me think about what dishes and ingredients I have to work with in my area, and I think, has enlightened me about being more aware of some of those choices. Also, thanks to Jennifer of Domestic Goddess for starting SHF. You can find the information on this month's SHF by clicking here. Update - Johanna has posted the results for this month's SHF and can be found here - be sure to check out some of the great entries from all over the world.
Overall, I was very pleased with my results. The scones, in my opinion and the opinion of Mrs. wannabe baker, came out very well. I can definitely say there is no replacement for freshly toasted nuts - they really came through in the scones. In fact, the scones would have been great on their own, however, the blackberry curd really went nicely with the nutty flavor of the scones without overpowering them.
Following are the recipes I used for this post, as I made them, including the few modifications I made. If you would like to know a little more about Oregon Filberts, follow the link here for an interesting article from Saveur magazine.
Hazelnut Scones (adapted from Simple Scones from Allrecipes.com)
2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Sugar
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
8 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Cut in small pieces and frozen
3/4 Cup Toasted Hazelnuts, finely chopped (I used a coffee grinder to chop mine)
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1 Large Egg
Plus, 1 additional egg, 1 tablespoon milk and decorator's sugar
1. Pre heat oven to 400 degrees F and adjust oven rack to lower-middle position.
2. In a food processor or large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt, mix briefly. Add frozen butter. For the food processor, pulse until the butter is incorporated - it should resemble course meal. If you are not using a food processor, mix the butter into the flour with a pastry blade or two knives.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg and the sour cream until smooth.
4. Add the sour cream/egg mixture and the hazelnuts into the food processor. Process until a ball of dough forms, about 1 minute. For those not using the food processor, mix the sour cream/egg mixture and the hazelnuts in with a fork. Once combined, use your hands to press the dough together until it forms a ball.
5. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7 to 8 inch diameter circle, about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut into 8 triangles. Whisk together the remaining egg and milk and brush onto the scones. Sprinkle with decorator's sugar.
6. Place scones on a baking sheet lined with parchement paper or a silicone baking mat. Space the scones approximately 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 - 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, serve. Scones can be frozen and used later.
Blackberry Curd (adapted from Triple Berry Curd from Cooking Light Magazine)
3 Cups Blackberries (fresh or frozen, thawed)
2/3 Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1/8 Teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
3 Large Eggs
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1. Place berries in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Press berry mixture through a sieve. Reserve 1 cup of the puree for the curd, refrigerate any leftover. Discard the seeds.
2. In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk together. Add 1 cup blackberry puree, lemon juice and eggs. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add butter, stir until butter is melted and combined. Cool at least 6 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator up to 4 weeks or freeze up to 1 year.