I bake all the time, almost weekly in fact. Usually it’s cookies for my “should never be empty” cookie jar or some crazy homemade goldfish crackers or pretzel bite recipe I found on Pintrest. And sometimes it’s lush seasonal fruit muffins, either mini or full size. What I like most about muffins is they’re quick to whip up, easy to make nutritious, and ideal to have on hand for a quick breakfast or afternoon snack. So when I decided to enter a local “Summer Berry Bake-Off” contest the first thing that came to mind was… muffins.
I happen to have a knock ’em dead Fresh Cranberry and Orange Muffin recipe that would without question have been a winner. I’ve been making this recipe for years and I have yet to have anyone not like them— children included. (Oh yeah, they’re really that good.) But… unlike a lot of other produce available year round, cranberries are only grown in the Northern United States and Canada and they’re only in season (and available) October through December. So in other words, I would not be making my cranberry-orange muffins in July! Okay, onto Plan B.
Since the combination of cranberry and orange is such a winner then how about another berry and citrus match up? How about blueberry and lemon? Hmmm, a recipe slowly formed in my brain. I still had some homemade limoncello in the refrigerator, that might be a great way to make my muffins stand out against the competition. So there it was, my bake-off entry would be (drum roll please) Blueberry-Limoncello Muffins with a Crumb Topping.
I worked like a mad woman to perfect this recipe. If you were at my house last week or went to camp with my kids then odds are you tasted one of my variations of this muffin. Naturally witness to this baking frenzy were my son and daughter, who were more than happy to partake in the repeated taste testing. In fact my son was so taken with the bake-off idea that he decided he wanted to enter something in the 10 yrs. and under division. Another eager baker in the Greco house? Fantastic! Let’s do a little recipe research my boy and come up with a plan. And so we did.
We looked at recipes that contained a limited amount of ingredients, would be easy for him to execute with only a little help from me, could possibly be made ahead of time and would of course be award winningly delicious. Not such easy criteria to meet, right? But meet it we did. The recipe we ended up picking was a Summer Strawberry and Cream Scone. These scones were loaded with fresh juicy strawberries, easy to put together and could be made and frozen a day ahead and baked fresh the morning if the contest. It was the perfect combination!
Fast forward to the day of the bake-off; we both proudly carried in our entries and were met with numerous oohs and aahs from the registration committee. Would this mother-son team sweep the contest? Would our grinning faces be plastered on the front page of the paper? Would the name Greco instill fear and dread in local baking circles? We added our entries to the others on the table and walked away, it was now all in the hands of the judges.
While we waited for the judging to take place we talked about how great it would be to win. But we agreed that winning wasn’t the most important thing, it was just fun to do this together. That is until my sweet boy, my first-born, my one and only son— rocked his division and won first place! He hooted and hollered, spun around in the air and hi-fived a competitor before they could even tell him what he had won. My daughter rushed the stage, arms raised high, yelling “I won!, I won!”, (which of course if you know her then you know she has to do everything her big brother does.) It was an exciting, entertaining and truly proud moment for our family and the entire bake-off crowd.
He’s already been talking about what he’d like to enter for next years competition and was eager to start making dishes out of the kids cookbook that was one of his prizes. I’d like to think that one day we’ll look back at this bake-off as the beginning of all his culinary adventures.
Oh and you may be wondering how my muffins went over. Well, let’s just say there’s always next year…
Summer Strawberry & Cream Scones
These are delicious on their own but according to my blue ribbon winner, even better with a little strawberry jam or vanilla ice cream on the side!
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, frozen
1 cup chopped fresh strawberries
1 cup heavy cream
1 beaten egg, for wash
1 tbsp. heavy cream, for wash
demerara sugar, for topping
- Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add the butter by grateing it on the large holes of a box grater. Stir the butter into the flour mixture with a fork until the mixture looks crumbly. With a wide spatula, gently mix in the strawberries and then fold in heavy cream. When you’ve given it a good mix, knead it once or twice in the bowl to create one large lump of dough. (Don’t worry about getting the dough evenly mixed. It’s far more important that the dough is not overworked.)
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times to incorporate dry ingredients. Sprinkle top of dough with additional flour and press/pat it into a 3/4 inch thick circle. Cut the circle into thirds and then into wedges. Transfer wedges to the cookie sheet, leaving at least 1/2 inch of space between them.*
- Whisk together the egg and 1 tbsp. of heavy cream. Brush the top of each scone with the egg wash and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Bake 8 minutes, spin the cookie sheet around and bake for an additional 3-5 minutes or until the tops are beginning to brown. Let cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with jam, clotted cream or vanilla ice cream.
*To make ahead and freeze: Make the scones as instructed above. Place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and slide the cookie sheet into the freezer. When you’re ready to bake them brush the still frozen scones with the egg wash, sprinkle them with sugar and pop them into a preheated oven, adding 2 to 3 minutes to your baking time.
*adapted from smitten kitchen