Quick breads make entertaining a snap

March 24, 1996|By HEIDI HAUGHY CUSICK | HEIDI HAUGHY CUSICK,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Step into a kitchen redolent of hospitality. Scones are on the counter, tea sandwiches and muffins are on the table, and cake spices scent the air. Welcome aromas fill the room.

Scones and muffins are quick breads that can be mixed and baked in less than an hour.

They freeze well, making it easy to keep on hand a cache of delectables with which to entertain visitors.

Accompanying preserves, honeys and spreads may be made in large batches and kept readily available in the refrigerator, freezer or pantry. With the pastries prepared in advance, the only thing left to do when guests arrive is brew the coffee or tea.

Buttermilk scones with dried cranberries

Makes 16 scones

SCONES:

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled margarine, cut into 6 to 8 pieces

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 cup buttermilk

GLAZE:

1 tablespoon whipping cream

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons sugar

To prepare scones, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add margarine and beat with electric mixer until well-blended. Stir in dried cranberries and orange zest. Pour in buttermilk and mix until blended.

Gather dough into ball and divide in half. On lightly floured board roll each into a circle, about 1/2 - to 3/4 -inch thick. Cut each circle into 8 wedges. Place scones on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees 12 to 15 minutes or until golden.

Meanwhile, to make glaze, combine cream, cinnamon and sugar in small bowl. Set aside.

Remove scones from oven. Brush with glaze.

Cranberry butter

Makes about 2 cups

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped (if frozen, chop them frozen and let thaw)

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup ground walnuts

1/2 cup cranberry sauce (see note)

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons buttermilk

Whip softened butter in large bowl at high speed with electric mixer until pale yellow, scraping sides of bowl to make sure all butter gets whipped. Add cranberries, brown sugar, honey, walnuts, cranberry sauce and orange and lemon zests. Whip at medium speed until mixture turns light pink. Add buttermilk and whip until fully incorporated.

Butter can be covered and stored in mixing bowl or, using rubber spatula, transferred to smaller bowls for storage. It can also be refrigerated 5 minutes to firm up slightly and then shaped into log about 1 inch in diameter for easy slicing into discs. Store, well-wrapped, in refrigerator 1 to 2 weeks or freeze up to 3 months.

Note: If using commercial whole cranberry sauce, empty can into small bowl, stir to loosen sauce, then measure.

Chunky chocolate cherry pecan muffin cakes

Makes 6 large or 12 small muffin tops

CAKES:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

1 3/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/3 cup chopped pecans

2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4 -inch pieces ( 1/2 cup)

GLAZE:

1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar

1 tablespoon water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

To prepare cakes, beat butter in bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Add brown sugar and continue beating until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and continue beating, blending each egg into butter mixture.

Mix together flour, baking powder and baking soda in medium bowl. With wooden spoon, stir half of flour mixture into wet ingredients.

Stir in buttermilk, being careful not to over-mix. Carefully fold in remaining flour mixture, cherries, pecans and chocolate.

Drop batter by spoonfuls into ungreased muffin-tops pan or miniature muffin tins. Bake at 375 degrees 20 minutes. Let cool in pan 5 minutes.

To prepare glaze, mix together powdered sugar, water and vanilla in small bowl until smooth. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon glaze over each muffin top. Remove from pan and serve.

Lemon cucumber tea sandwiches

Makes 24 sandwiches

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

grated zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon lemon juice with pulp

12 thin slices white or whole wheat bread

1 small cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced

sugar

freshly ground black pepper

Cream butter in small bowl with lemon zest and juice. Evenly spread light film of butter on each slice of bread. Cover half bread slices with thin layer of cucumber slices. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and pepper. Cover with remaining buttered bread slices. Trim crusts. Cut each sandwich into 4 triangles.

(From "Scones, Muffins & Tea Cakes" by Heidi Haughy Cusick, Collins Publishers

Pub Date: 3/24/96

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