Category Archives: Cheese

Blue Cheese Bacon Scones

There was buttermilk after a recent biscuit menu, so scones were inevitable. Thought I’d try something savory this time instead of the usual fruit scones I like. These are pretty rich and practically a meal in themselves, so don’t plan them to accompany a heavy meal. In my kitchen, scones have more butter and less buttermilk per cup of flour than biscuits. I like a lighter, fluffier biscuit and a denser scone. I have no idea what a scone from Scotland is like, but it’s probably not like the ones I make.

I bought some Gorgonzola and Stilton, but the Stilton (my favorite) is so good just for eating, I couldn’t bear to hide it in a scone, so the Gorgonzola went in. Bacon seemed like a no-brainer and chives rounded out the savory flavors. While they were meant to be savory, I think they would be yummy with a fig jam, and I’m thinking of going out looking for some right now.

Blue Cheese Bacon Scones

  • Servings: makes 8 scones
  • Difficulty: easy
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Preheat oven to 400°; line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons dried chives

12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) cold butter, diced

4 strips cooked bacon, cut in small dice

1/2-3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

1-1.5 cups buttermilk

  1. Mix together the dry ingredients, including the dried chives.
  2. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients, using your favorite method. I like to rub the butter in with my fingers, but I’ve read that Martha Stewart will use a food processor. As with biscuits, the resulting bits of butter do not have to be of uniform size; some larger chunks are okay.
  3. Toss the bacon and crumbled cheese into the flour/butter mixture.
  4. Stir in 1 cup of the buttermilk until mostly combined. Start with one cup and see if you need more. I did need a little more—you never know how your flour is going to react to moisture based on the variances in temperature and humidity, so you need to be prepared to adjust the ingredients. Just don’t dump it all in at once until you see if you need it. You want the dough to hold together but not be sticky.
  5. Form the dough into a circle or square or no particular shape on a lightly floured surface to no less than 3/4 inch. Mine were about an inch high. I do use a rolling pin for biscuits, but usually just pat and shape scone dough with my hands. I cut today’s savory scones with a 3″ round cutter, but you could make the traditional triangle shape as well, by forming the dough in an 8-10 inch circle and cutting like a pie. Or you could cut them in squares—too many corners for my taste. For reasons unknown to me, I like a sweet scone in a triangle and a savory scone in the round.
  6. Bake at 400° for about 15-20 minutes or until they are browned and seem done in the center. The cheese crumbles will melt and I think this has an effect on the baking, so just watch them. Mine had to go about 17 minutes.

Pizza: Day Two—White Pizza

Here’s the dough this morning, all bubbly and risen. It’ll still be a few hours before I put it in the pan to rise again.

White Parmesan sauce with roasted garlic, arugula, sage sausage, and red peppers. A little mozzarella, too. That’s how I’m dressing the no-knead pizza dough that I made yesterday. I’m only making one pizza today, and putting the second ball of dough in the fridge to be used again in a few days.

I’m using a heavy springform pan, which will make a thick and crispy crust, not unlike the cast iron pan used in the original recipe. I’m  still following the directions from Serious Eats for finishing the dough, but with my own topping ideas.

White Pizza and Foolproof Pan Pizza Dough

  • Servings: 2 10-inch pizzas
  • Difficulty: easy, but requires time management
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Plan for the dough to rise in pans for two hours.

Preheat oven to 500°-550° an hour before putting pizza toppings on dough. My oven doesn’t go to 550° but the lower temp worked fine.

Finishing the dough per the original recipe with my comments in brackets:

  1. Sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour, then transfer it to a well-floured work surface. Divide dough into two pieces and form each into a ball by holding it with well-floured hands and tucking the dough underneath itself, rotating it until it forms a tight ball. [I put one of the balls in the refrigerator to make another day.]
  2. Pour 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of two 10-inch cast iron skillet or round cake pans [or springform pans with foil wrapped around bottom to avoid dripping oil into oven]. Place 1 ball of dough in each pan and turn to coat evenly with oil. Using a flat palm, press the dough around the pan, flattening it slightly and spreading oil around the entire bottom and edges of the pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough sit at room temperature for two hours. After the first hour, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 550°F.
  3. After two hours, dough should be mostly filling in the pan up to the edges. [Mine did not fill the pan, but was bubbly and soft enough to spread very, very easily.] Use your fingertips to press it around until it fills in every corner, popping any large bubbles that appear. Lift up one edge of the dough to let any air bubbles underneath escape and repeat, moving around the dough until there are no air bubbles left underneath and the dough is evenly spread around the pan.
  4. [See my own toppings and finishing below.] Top each round of dough with 3/4 cup sauce, spreading the sauce with the back of a spoon into every corner. Spread evenly with mozzarella cheese, letting the cheese go all the way to the edges. Season with salt. Add other toppings as desired. Drizzle with olive oil and scatter a few basil leaves over the top (if desired)
  5. Transfer pan to oven and bake until top is golden brown and bubbly and bottom is golden brown and crisp when you lift it with a thin spatula, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the pizzas and transfer to to a cutting board. Cut each one into six slices and serve immediately.

White Pizza

  • 2 cups Parmesan White Sauce with Roasted Garlic (below)
  • 1 lb bulk sausage, browned (I used a sage country sausage)
  • 2 roasted bell peppers, cut in chunks
  • 1 lb mozzarella, grated (do not use fresh mozzarella)
  • 1/2-1 cup baby arugula or regular arugula, chopped
  1. Top each pizza with 1/2-3/4 cup shredded mozzarella.
  2. Spread about 1 cup of white sauce (below) over dough and cheese.
  3. Top with browned sausage, roasted bell peppers, baby arugula, and a little more mozzarella.
  4. Follow the baking instructions in step 5 above, making sure to preheat the oven early.
Parmesan White Sauce with Roasted Garlic

Makes 2 cups sauce.

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Garlic from 1 head of roasted garlic, mashed
  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4-1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated

In small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and work in mashed garlic until combined. Stir in flour, cooking until there are no lumps. Slowly pour in milk, stirring to combine. Continue stirring until mixture comes to boil. Stir in cheese to combine. Set aside to cool, covered. Use as above.

Wow! The dough here is excellent for a pan pizza. It was incredibly light, yet crispy on the edges and bottom. You didn’t feel like you were eating a loaf of bread with this crust. We usually prefer a thin crust, but were enthusiastic about this one. Give it a try some day when you can plan ahead. You can make the dough one afternoon and put it together the next. I went to the extra trouble of roasting the garlic and peppers, but you can find ways around that.

FYI It took a little muscle to open the springform pan

Improved Cheese Danish Bars

A few weeks ago, I tried the popular web recipe for Cream Cheese Squares and I noted that I thought they were overly sweet. Here’s my original post with a link to a video of the original recipe. I also suggested some other ways to improve the recipe, and here’s a much better version that is closer to a cream cheese danish, but still in bar form:

Cheese Danish Bars with Puff Pastry

  • Servings: 12 bars
  • Difficulty: easy
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Preheat oven to 375°

Butter an oblong baking dish, no bigger than 13″ x 9″

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, just thawed

2 8oz packages cream cheese

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla (you could use almond extract to complement the same in the icing)

  1. Mix cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla in large bowl until smooth and fluffy.
  2. Roll each puff pastry sheet on floured surface to fit your baking dish.
  3. Lay first sheet in bottom of buttered dish. It’s okay if it goes up the sides a little, but not necessary.
  4. Spread cream cheese mixture over pastry sheet up to edges, but not touching dish, to avoid browning the filling.
  5. Lay second pastry sheet over top of filling.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until pastry is puffed and browned. Once the pastry puffs, it will brown quickly, so you might want to start peeking at 15 minutes, just to see how your oven bakes. When those little bits of butter in the pastry explode the flour into its flaky layers, it finishes quickly.
  7. Set dish on rack to cool. The pastry will sink a little as it cools.
  8. Cut in bars while still a little warm.
  9. Cool completely and drizzle with icing (below). Top with sliced almonds.

Quick almond icing:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon milk, half and half, or cream

2 tablespoons soft butter

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

  1. Mix all ingredients until smooth. I always put a little butter in my powdered sugar icing to give it more body, as well as a better flavor.
  2. Drizzle over cooled bars.

Sausage and Three Pepper Pie

Just a few posts ago, I traveled back to the 70s to bring you a crazy crust pie. Today, I only go back to the 80s to bring you another meal in a crust, “Sausage and Three Pepper Pie,” from a March 1987 article in Redbook magazine—do they still publish Redbook? The article showed 12 different pies that used either hot roll mix or frozen puff pastry (sheets or shells) for the crusts. The whole idea of a one meal dish with a crust is obviously related to the pizza and even the sandwich, but some of these pies seem a little fancier. Whatever the motivation to invention, it’s both convenient and impressive to serve these creations in a crust.

The pie I made uses hot roll mix for the crust, but I imagine you could use a homemade roll dough instead. I made only a few changes to the original recipe and I’ll give you both versions below.

My Version: Sausage and Three Pepper Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Preheat oven to 425°

Grease a 13″ x 9″ baking dish

1 pound fully cooked smoked sausage, sliced into bite size rounds (mine was a beef sausage)

1 15oz can diced tomatoes, drained

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated

1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips, about 1 1/4 cups

1 large orange bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips, about 1 1/4 cups

1 large yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips, about 1 1/4 cups

1 medium-size onion, sliced, about 3/4 cup

salt and pepper, to taste

1 16-ounce package hot-roll mix (requires 2 tablespoons soft butter and 1 large egg)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup (or more) grated mozzarella cheese

Prepare filling ingredients first, so they cool a little while you make the dough:

  • Heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in each of two large skillets over medium-high heat. In one skillet, cook peppers and onion until they begin to soften, about five minutes. In the other skillet, brown the sausage, then add the tomatoes and garlic, stirring to heat through. Set both aside, stirring half the Parmesan into each mixture.

Prepare dough for crust:

  • Prepare dough according to package directions, using the butter and egg in the directions. I still can’t figure out why the original recipe leaves those out. Add a little extra flour if the dough is too sticky. You need to be able to press it in the pan and up the sides. I added about 1/4 cup extra and it was still a soft dough.
  • Let dough rest, covered for 5 minutes.
  • Press dough into bottom of greased dish and up sides at least an inch. Flour your hands if the dough is sticky.
  • Bake the unfilled dough for five minutes.
  • Remove the dish and add filling. I add the peppers and onion first, and then the sausage and tomatoes, so the juices run over the peppers. Cover with mozzarella.
  • Bake for 20 more minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is browned. Let cool and cut in squares.

Original: Sausage and Three Pepper Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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“A hearty, colorful Italian main dish.” Redbook, March 1987

Preheat oven to 425°

Grease a 13″ x 9″ baking dish

1 pound sweet Italian sausages

1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips, about 1 1/4 cups

1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips, about 1 1/4 cups

1 large yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips, about 1 1/4 cups

1 medium-size onion, sliced, about 3/4 cup

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 16-ounce package hot-roll mix

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Prepare filling: Using fork, prick each sausage in several places. In 12-inch skillet over medium heat, cook sausages about 20 minutes, turning frequently until well browned on all sides. Using slotted spoon, remove sausages to paper towels to drain. when cool enough to handle, cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices, set aside. To drippings remaining in skillet add green, red and yellow peppers and onion; cook over medium-high heat about 5 minutes, stirring frequently until crisp-tender. Remove from heat; stir in fennel seeds, salt, black pepper and reserved sausages. set aside.

Prepare crust: Prepare hot-roll mix according to package directions, using 1 1/4 cups hot water and omitting margarine and egg. After dough rests 5 minutes, pat into prepared baking dish, making thick, high border around sides. Bake 5 minutes. remove baking dish from oven; maintain oven temperature. Spoon sausage mixture into crust; sprinkle with cheese. Bake 20 minutes until cheese melts and crust is golden brown.