King Cake Scones

King Cake Scones

A year ago, when starting this blog, I wrote one of my first ever posts about a kid-sized king cake that I enjoy making with my kids during Mardi Gras season. We had so much fun making a traditional king cake into a smaller version to enjoy as a family. This year, Fat Tuesday, the last day of the Mardi Gras season falls a few days after Valentines Day and with all our celebrations and cookie baking, I needed something quick and easy to make this year. These king cake scones take about 30-40 minutes…start to finish! No rise time. No kneading dough. Basically, the perfect sweet treat I was looking for to give us the Mardi Gras feel after a busy weekend of celebrating.

Jump to King Cake Scones Recipe

Cinnamon Flavor

These King Cake Scones are based on the flavors in my kid-sized king cake recipe. Traditionally, king cake is flavored with cinnamon, though you may find other flavors now as well: vanilla, cream cheese, etc… I based the scone recipe off of these chocolate chip scones which we love. The scones themselves are not super sweet with only ⅓ cup of sugar in the dough. The cinnamon sugar filling and the glaze on top really give these king cake scones their sweetness and the balance between the two is perfect.

Grating Butter

One of my favorite tips when working with pastry, scones or biscuits is to grate the butter into the flour mixture. Start with butter straight from the freezer or refrigerator. Grate it into a pile and add the small bits of grated butter to the flour mixture. This grated butter is the perfect size for most recipes calling to “cut in” butter. You can also use a pastry cutter (affiliate link) to get pea-sized pieces of butter sprinkled throughout the flour mixture.

Preheat Oven

I used to be the kind of baker who would forget to preheat my oven. ALL. THE. TIME. As a busy mom, I never thought I had the time to wait for my oven to fully preheat. While that might work for some recipes (I’ll often put loaves of bread into a preheating oven to finish the rise while the oven comes to temperature), it does not work well for others. These scones really benefit from a properly preheated oven. They don’t bake very long and the high heat reacts with the baking powder giving them a beautiful rise. Basically, for this recipe, you won’t want to cut corners. Preheat the oven before baking these king cake scones.

Light Hand

Scone dough is very similar to biscuits or pie crust. If the dough is overworked, the gluten starts to develop, which results in tough, not tender scones. To achieve a tender scone, do your best to use a light hand when working the dough. I use a fork to mix the dough together until it has just barely come together. Then turn the dough out on the countertop and fold it over in a kneading motion two-three times. And that’s about all you’ll want to “work” this dough.

Sandwiching the Filling

Typically, scone dough is rolled out, cut and baked. This recipe differs because you actually cut the dough in half. Roll out both halves of the dough into equal eight inch circles. Then add a sweet cinnamon filling on top of one of the circles of scone dough. Smooth it around, leaving a little bit of space at the edge of the circle of dough. Then sandwich the other piece of dough on top. You get a nice thick layer of cinnamon filling in the middle of the scone. Pinch the edges of the scone dough closed together, moving around the edges of the dough. Initially I thought the scones would be oozing out filling but the filling holds pretty well when baked. A little cinnamon mixture will ooze out a bit, but it is easily removed from the scone after the scone cools if desired.

Glazing and Sprinkling Sugar

Once the scones have cooled, spread the glaze over the top. The glaze is meant to be fairly thick to allow the sanding sugar (affiliate link) to stick to it. If you want a thinner glaze, add a little more cream to thin it out. Sprinkle sanding sugar on top of the glaze in the typical Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and yellow. 

My whole family loves these scones. They taste sweet, cinnamony and are super quick to make. My kids all enjoyed helping glaze and sprinkle the sanding sugar on the king cake scones. King Cake Scones are the perfect low-key way to celebrate Mardi Gras this year! Enjoy!

King Cake Scones

King Cake Scones

Quick, fun and super delicious. These King Cake Scones, sandwiched with cinnamon, covered in sweet glaze and sprinkled with sanding sugar are the perfect way to celebrate Mardi Gras!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8 scones

Ingredients
  

King Cake Scones

  • 2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter cold from the fridge or freezer
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup milk

Scone Filling

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Scone Topping

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3-4 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • green, yellow and purple sanding sugar

Instructions
 

Scone Dough

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • Grate the entire stick of cold butter into small pieces. Add the butter to the flour mixture and mix until little pieces of butter are evenly distributed throughout. Alternatively you can "cut" the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter into pea sized shapes.
  • Mix together the eggs, heavy cream and milk in a liquid measuring cup. Pour into the butter/flour mixture and mix together until it is just combined and forms a ball.
  • Turn the dough out onto a countertop or pastry mat and knead two or three times. Cut the dough into two equal sections. Let rest while you mix together the filling.
  • To a small bowl, mix together the scone filling: brown sugar, powdered sugar, flour, ground cinnamon, heavy cream and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  • Lightly flour both balls of dough. Roll both balls out into equal sized 8 inch circles. Spread the cinnamon scone filling on top of one of the circles, leaving a little gap on the edges.
  • Place the other 8 inch circle of dough on top of the cinnamon filling, sandwiching the scone dough together. Pinch the seams closed.
  • Cut the dough into 8 triangular sections and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Bake scones for 14-16 minutes until baked through and a little brown on top.
  • While the scones bake, mix up the glaze. Whisk together powdered sugar, heavy cream and vanilla extract. After the scones have cooled a bit, top each scone with glaze. Sprinkle colorful sanding sugar on top of the scones. Enjoy!
Keyword King Cake, Scones

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Simple Oatmeal Biscuit Cookies (Gluten-Free)

Have you ever had breakfast cookies? I’m talking the fat, oatmeal-like cookies filled with apple chunks, chocolate chunks or other delicious mix-ins. These cookies remind me of those breakfast cookies from years past in the delicious oatmeal flavor, though they are a little thinner and crispier in texture. Simple oatmeal biscuit cookies are full of oat flavor, perfect on their own or great for a mix in: mini chocolate chips were a big hit. I also like subbing molasses for the maple syrup for a little kick of flavor. I’m planning to bake up a big batch of these when school starts again for a quick breakfast on the go.

Is it a Cookie or a Biscuit?

Grind up oats in a blender until they form a very fine flour

My family loves watching The Great British Baking Show together and we often notice the different terminology used between bakes in the UK verses what we are used to in the US. These cookies are definitely err on the side of a British biscuit which tends to be a little crunchier version of an American cookie, perfect with a cup of tea. Oatmeal Biscuit Cookies are an American version of an English oat biscuit…hence the name: Oatmeal Biscuit Cookie. Whatever you call them, they’re delicious and made with 100% oats…no wheat flour in sight. 

A Few Tips

I prefer this cookie slightly under-baked which gives a little bit softer cookie. The cookie will be a little more crumbly, which is the nature of a 100% oat cookie. It is also delicious with crispy edges and may hold together a little better. Letting the cookie cool completely before eating helps with the crumbs too. 

Gluten-Free, 100% oat cookie

I don’t bake gluten-free all that often, but I do enjoy cooking up some gluten-free treats for my sister whenever we get together. My sister loved these cookies so much when I made them that we even made them twice while we were together. If you are gluten-free and making these cookies, make sure you use gluten-free oats. Some oats can have trace gluten in them depending on where they were processed. The word on the street is that they make amazing cookies to sandwich between a toasted marshmallow and chocolate…bring on the summer Smores!

Very Versatile Cookie

These cookies are a great base for a variety of mix-ins. If you want a breakfast type cookie that would be perfect for kids on their way to school in the mornings, add in some diced, dried fruit. I think currants or cut up Craisins would be delicious. If you are looking for a sweet treat, try adding some mini chocolate chips or drizzling dark chocolate on top. I would even add a little schmear of peanut butter and jam on these as an after-school snack. These cookies would also make a perfect gluten-free pie crust to crumble instead of graham crackers or Oreos. 

Simple Oatmeal Biscuit Cookies

Yield: 20-24 cookies

Time: 10-15 minute mix, 10 minute bake

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups rolled oats (makes 3 cups oat flour, blended)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 12 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons almond milk (milk or water can be substituted)
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (you can substitute molasses or honey as well for a different flavor)
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips, currants, diced up fruit (if desired)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Dump oats into a blender or food processor and process until very fine. 
  3. Add oats, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Mix together in a bowl or in a food processor.
  4. Cut the butter into small cubes. Using a pastry cutter or a food processor, cut the butter into the oat flour mixture until crumbly and fine. Alternatively you could also grate the cold butter into the flour mixture like this strawberry shortcake recipe.
  5. Add the almond milk and maple syrup. Mix together until a dough forms. Add mini chocolate chips if desired.
  6. Roll about 1 tablespoon of dough into a ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Continue until all the dough has been made into cookie balls. Cookies fit about 12 to a baking sheet.
  7. Lightly wet the bottom of a glass (or your hand), and press down on the top of each of the cookie balls so they are lightly flattened.
  8. Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan at the 5-6 minute mark.  
  9. Let cookies cool completely before drizzling with chocolate, sandwiching with jam or topping with a toasted marshmallow and chocolate. Of course they are delicious plain too! Enjoy!

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Derby Day Bars

The first weekend in May is Derby Day here in Kentucky. Typically, kids draw pictures, the library has special activities where we make crafts and we all turn on the TV and watch the “fastest two minutes in sports.” This year, however, things are a little different. The Kentucky Derby has been postponed until September and there will be no large gatherings in Kentucky with the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all quarantined in our homes instead of celebrating with friends or family this year. Even without the “fastest two minutes in sports” racing on Saturday, it won’t keep me from indulging in one of my favorite Derby treats. These Derby Day Bars keep the nostalgia alive and well!

Jump to the Recipe for Derby Day Bars
Wearing our Derby hats at Churchill Downs

Derby Day Pie in Bar Form

Derby Pie is a pie served traditionally in Louisville where the derby is run, but you can find it anywhere in the Bluegrass during Derby time. The name, “Derby Pie” is actually trademarked by Kern’s Kitchen, the owners of Melrose Inn who created the original Derby Pie. No other company, shop or store can name their pie, “Derby Pie” without being liable for copyright infringement (the owners are reportedly quite zealous in the defense of their trademark). Instead you will see stores, restaurants and shops advertising things like “walnut chocolate chip pie.” Even big box stores like Costco sell this during Derby time. 

Gooey Derby Pie Bars are perfect for any gathering

Chocolate, Pecans and Brown Sugar

I do have an awesome recipe for my own variation of “the fastest two minutes in sports” pie but  I also love these Derby Day Bars, maybe even more than the real pie. They are ooey, gooey, and down right delicious with a shortbread bar base and the traditional chocolate, brown sugar, nut mixture on top. I swapped the walnuts out for pecans because of personal preference but you can opt for walnuts and a splash of bourbon if you want a more traditional flavor. I like to give the pecans a pulse in my blender to chop them up so you get a little nut in every bite. 

Use Parchment Paper and One Bowl

Derby Day Bars are ooey, gooey and using parchment paper to line your pan will make your life easier. I wrote a whole post about that here. I also love that these bars can be made using one bowl. I use a fork or spoon to mix together the base ingredients, dump them and press them into my pan and then use the same bowl to whisk up the filling. Not only does this make the recipe super simple, but it also saves you clean up time and gives you more time to decide which horse you’re betting on this year!

The Best Recipe for a Crowd: No Fork Required

These bars are easy to bake, cut and serve for a group or they freeze well if making for your family while quarantined at home. I’m hoping we’ll get to eat them twice this year…once this weekend and again in September for when the Kentucky Derby is rescheduled. Fingers crossed!

Derby Day Bars

Amy
The perfect treat for the Kentucky Derby. Ooey, gooey, chocolate pecan pie bars great for a crowd or family gathering.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 16 bars

Ingredients
  

Shortbread Base

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch *see recipe notes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Derby Bar Filling

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped (or walnuts chopped)
  • 1 splash Bourbon optional

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8 by 8 pan with parchment paper or spray with non-stick spray. 
  • In a small bowl, mix together the base ingredients (melt the butter in the microwave): melted butter, brown sugar, flour and salt. Press into an even layer at the bottom of the pan.
  • Using the same bowl (or a different one if you really want to wash two bowls) add the filling ingredients: melted butter, brown sugar, flour, salt, vanilla and two eggs. Mix together with a fork or spoon until fully incorporated.
  • Pulse pecans in a blender or food processor a few times to chop into small pieces.
  • Add chocolate chips and pecans to the filling and mix together. Add a splash of bourbon if desired.
  • Spread the filling mixture on top of the base bar layer.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes until edges are brown and the filling mixture is set. See recipe notes about length of baking time needed.
  • Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting and serving. Enjoy!

Notes

The bake time on these bars is about 40 minutes. Different ovens bake differently, so watch your bars. When they are no longer jiggly in the middle, they are ready to come out of the oven and cool. This may take more or less time depending on your oven. 
*The original posted version of this recipe left out the cornstarch. I like a little bit of cornstarch to give the bar a smoother flavor. You can leave this out if you want.
Keyword Kentucky Derby

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Southern Biscuits

My family hails from the West Coast of the United States. I grew up eating pancakes and waffles for Saturday morning breakfast and shopping at Costco for ALL.THE.THINGS. After I married and my husband changed jobs, we relocated to the Bluegrass. Kentucky is geographically part of the Midwest, but culturally it is more southern. Biscuits and gravy is a staple breakfast at every restaurant (or hotel chain). Local self-rising flour is purchased with a recipe for biscuits on the back of the package, and I don’t blame them – southern biscuits are delicious! They are also simple to make. This recipe is based on a recipe printed on the back of the bags of self-rising flour from our local mill. 

You only need 5 ingredients to turn out a delicious biscuit; three if you use self-rising flour. These biscuits make the perfect snack or a delicious side to any meal. They also make for a yummy breakfast smothered with chocolate gravy (yes it’s a thing!), sausage gravy or butter, honey and jam. 

I do think that buttermilk is essential to these biscuits. It gives the biscuit the tenderness you are looking for in the layers of flaky goodness. I always keep buttermilk on hand for recipes after years of trying the substitutes because it just turns out better using real buttermilk. If you want to try a substitute (they won’t be 100% the same), you can mix equal parts of sour cream with milk together and add a teaspoon of lemon juice or white vinegar. Let it sit in the fridge for 5 minutes before using.

However, if you are baking with sourdough and have sourdough discard on hand, you can replace the buttermilk with cold sourdough discard from your fridge. This makes for an insanely delicious biscuit with the subtle hint of sourdough. The sourdough has the same acidic properties of buttermilk, which enhances the tenderness and flavor of the biscuits. 

A few other tips for a light and fluffy biscuit:

If you want circle biscuits, don’t twist the cutter or it will seal off the edges and you won’t get the rise you’re looking for
  1. Keep your ingredients COLD: this is key. Some people keep their bowl in the fridge before working with their dough, others use frozen butter. I try to work quickly so my hands don’t warm up the butter too much. Cold butter creates the air pockets in the biscuits when they are baked quickly at high heat.
  2. The dough should be rolled thick (1- 1 ½ inches high )–be careful of rolling too thin.
  3. Use a biscuit cutter or bench knife (or sharp knife). Don’t twist the cutter when cutting the biscuits out (it seals off the layers and they won’t rise as well).
  4. Use a light hand–be careful not to over mix the dough. Biscuit dough is like pie crust in that way. You don’t want to activate the gluten in the dough.

Whatever you choose to make, if you follow these steps I am sure they will turn out delicious. So without further ado…amazing Southern Biscuits. I hope you love them as much as we do.

Ingredients:

Buttermilk Biscuits 

  • 2 cups of plain flour (pastry flour) or all-purpose flour 
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick, I prefer unsalted butter)
  • ¾ cup cold buttermilk
Roll your biscuits an inch to an inch and a half thick for tall biscuits

Alternatively you can try the sourdough biscuits with this recipe:

Sourdough Discard Biscuits

  • 2 cups of plain flour (pastry flour) or all-purpose flour 
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick, I prefer unsalted butter)
  • 1 cup cold sourdough discard

Note: If using self-rising flour, omit the salt and baking powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. 
  3. Using a pastry cutter or the holes on a box grater, cut in the butter with the flour. A pastry cutter is a very handy tool for this purpose. You want pea-sized pieces of butter throughout the flour mixture. If you freeze your butter it will grate easily into the mixture which is another great option. The colder you can keep the butter, the better.
  4. Make a well in the center of your flour mixture and pour in the cold buttermilk OR the cold sourdough starter and mix with a fork until it holds together.
  5. When the mixture is just combined, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and fold over two to three times. Pat into a square or circle. 
  6. Roll out to 1-1½ inches thick and use a bench knife to cut 12-15 rectangular biscuits. If you want circular biscuits, use a biscuit cutter dipped in flour. 
  7. Place the biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet. For soft-edged biscuits place them in the center of the pan touching each other. For crispy biscuits place them apart.
  8. Bake biscuits for 10-12 minutes. Brush tops with melted butter. Enjoy!

Recipe notes: You can use shortening in place of butter in the biscuits.

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Easter Series: Pane di Pasqua Italian Easter Bread

Decorating Easter eggs has always been a tradition for me at Easter time. I loved doing it as a kid, and I have helped my own kids decorate eggs every year since they were little. Even when we lived in Japan and couldn’t find our normal egg dye, we still dyed Easter eggs. This bread is the perfect accompaniment to a family egg dying party. Not only does it look delicious on an Easter brunch table, but it is so much fun to make with kids. 

Pane di Pasqua, or Italian Easter bread, is a braided ring of delicious challa-type bread with a raw, decorated egg placed in the middle that is then baked. As the bread bakes in the oven, it bakes the egg along with it and you end up with a delicious hard-boiled egg, and bread to eat for Easter breakfast (or any breakfast). 

When I showed this recipe to my kids this year, the excitement was palpable. They loved helping braid the bread, dye the eggs (just some food coloring, vinegar and water) and then top the bread with sprinkles. To say this is a hit with kids is an understatement! I hope that you will give it a try and enjoy this delicious recipe with your loved ones around Easter time.

Yield: 6 small braided breads

Time: 20 minutes mix, 3-4 hours rise, 40 minutes shape, 25 minutes bake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • ½-¾  cup sugar (depending how sweet you want your bread)
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 cup flour (initially, more will be added later)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4-5 cups all purpose flour
  • Flavorings (optional: orange zest, lemon zest, 1 tsp vanilla or almond extract)
  • Colorful Sprinkles
  • 1 egg for egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 tsp water)
    • 6 raw eggs for dying
    • Food coloring
    • White vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Place warm water, sugar and instant yeast in a mixing bowl. Using a paddle attachment or a wooden spoon, mix in 1 cup of flour and stir well. Add salt and stir again. Then add the vegetable oil and eggs. If you want to add more flavor to the bread, now is the time. Add in some orange zest, lemon zest, almond/vanilla extract or a similar flavoring of your choosing. Mix all of these ingredients together until fully incorporated.
  2. Using a mixer (or by hand), begin adding the 4-5 cups of flour. Switch your mixer to a dough hook as you add in the flour, or begin kneading the dough by hand. Continue incorporating flour until the dough loses its stickiness or is just slightly sticky. This kneading process can take up to 10 minutes.
  3. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours (though this will vary depending on your kitchen temperature). 
  4. While the dough is rising is the perfect time to dye your Easter Eggs. Mix together 3 drops of food coloring with ½ a teaspoon of white vinegar and about ¾ cup of water (this can be adjusted depending on how vibrant you want the colors). Dip or soak six raw eggs in the colors and let dry.
  5. After the dough has risen, punch it down and divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope-like strand, about 10-12 inches. 
  6. Pinch two strands together at the top and twist them around each other forming an easy twisted braid. Bring the end of the dough together with the top of the dough to form a braided circle and set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the other pieces of dough. You will end up with six braided “nests” of dough.
  7. Place each Easter egg in the center of each nest of dough. 
  8.  Make an egg wash by whisking the egg and 1 tsp of water together in a small bowl. Lightly brush the egg wash over the top of each dough nest. Sprinkle some colorful sprinkles on top of the egg wash and cover with a kitchen towel.
  9. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and allow your dough to rise again, about 30-45 minutes.
  10. After the dough has risen and puffed up again, place your sheet pan in the oven and bake for 22-25 minutes. The egg will cook while in the oven along with the bread.
  11. Allow to cool a little before serving for Easter breakfast. Enjoy!

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂

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Irish Soda Bread

I am a “tradition” kind of mom. I don’t think it needs to take a lot of work or brain power to make holidays fun for our family. Just putting out a few decorative plates or making a unique recipe from ingredients I already have on hand is enough. It’s amazing how the little things can form into new family traditions! This Irish Soda Bread is a quick, easy way to bring a little fun to the month of March or to enjoy with a hearty soup year round.

Jump to Irish Soda Bread Recipe

St. Patrick’s Day Traditions

St. Patrick’s Day has always been a day of fun in our house. The weekend before my kids create “houses” for the leprechaun to visit when he comes to our house. I know some families make leprechaun traps which are also a fun idea. We use recycled boxes (thank you amazon prime), all the green construction paper from our craft closet and our imaginations. The night before St. Patrick’s Day they pull out their little houses and set them up around our house. The leprechaun “magically” pays a visit that night leaving little green footprints and a trail to follow which leads to a pot of gold (coins) at the end of the trail. 

St. Patrick’s Day Meal

Other ways we make this somewhat ordinary day special are by wearing green, checking out books from the library on leprechauns and Ireland and eating something green or Irish for dinner. This varies from year to year but we always try to make our dinner something special. I often make this Irish Soda Bread. Paired with a hearty stew, corned beef and cabbage or even some baked potatoes and roasted veggies this would make a great addition to your St. Patrick’s Day meal. By the middle of March, we are all looking for fun things to celebrate as we are coming out of the winter months.

History Behind Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread was adopted in the 1800s after the potato famine. It was inexpensive, with only a few ingredients and easy to make. Originally the bread contained nothing more than flour, buttermilk, baking soda and salt. Over the years, recipes have been changed to increase the flavor and taste but the leavening agent remains the same: baking soda. Some areas of Ireland would cut a cross in the top of the bread to ward off evil and protect their families. The texture and flavor of Irish Soda Bread reminds me of a giant biscuit with a hard crust. It is a crowd-pleaser, quick to make and fun to eat. I hope you’ll give it a try!

Irish Soda Bread

A giant loaf of biscuit-like bread, studded with currants and flavored with some orange zest. This is the perfect bread to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, serve with soup or enjoy as a snack.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Course Bread, Side Dish
Cuisine Irish
Servings 1 loaf

Ingredients
  

  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk see recipe notes
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup currants or raisins optional

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the buttermilk and egg. Set aside.
  • Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together in a bowl and lightly mix together. Add the currants and orange zest if using and lightly coat with the flour mixture.
  • Grate the cold butter directly into the mixture or cut the butter into small chunks or use a pastry cutter until the butter is finely incorporated. There should be no big lumps of butter, just small pea-sized pieces.
  • Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and stir to lightly incorporate. If the dough is a little sticky, add a little extra flour. Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead once or twice. This is a quick bread, so you don’t want to activate the gluten in the flour with a lot of kneading. Shape into a round circle.
  • Transfer the loaf to the baking pan and score a large X on the top. Bake for 20 minutes and then check the top of your bread. If it is browning quickly, cover the top with a sheet of aluminum foil to prevent burning. Bake until the bread is cooked through, about 45-50 minutes. 
  • Allow bread to cool 15 minutes and then serve warm. It can also be eaten at room temperature or toasted for a snack later. Enjoy!

Notes

Buttermilk: I always pick up buttermilk at the store to use in my baking. I think it is superior to most substitutions. With that said, the best substitutions I have found for one cup of buttermilk are:
  • a mixture of ½ cup plain yogurt (or sour cream) and ½ cup milk mixed together (per cup of buttermilk)
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar replaces 1 Tablespoon whole milk in a cup, let it sit for 5 minutes before using
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice replaces 1 Tablespoon whole milk in a cup, let it sit for 5 minutes before using
Keyword biscuit,, Irish Soad Bread, St. Patrick’s Day

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Easter Series: Paska Ukrainian Easter Bread

When I was researching recipes to make for Easter, I stumbled on this Ukrainian Easter bread. We have wonderful friends from Ukraine who we love like family, so I really wanted to try making an Easter bread from their home country. Paska is a delicious sweet bread eaten on Easter. Ukraine adheres to the Orthodox calendar, which celebrates Easter a week after we celebrate in the United States. Paska is often brought to the church in the morning to be blessed by the priest, along with other foods during the Easter church service.

It is an enriched dough which is typical of Easter breads, many of which are consumed after a period of Lent where sweets and decadent foods are fasted from for a time. This Paska is a brioche-like dough studded with dried fruit and a delicious lemon icing on top. They are baked in special paper molds, but if you don’t have that you can use a tin from canned food (green bean tin, tomato tin, etc…). Paska can also be made in a larger mold, though you would have to adjust the baking time. And speaking of time, this recipe does take a LONG time. That is part of the fun of it, though. It has three “rise” periods and it takes so long because of all of the heavy ingredients in the dough (eggs, butter, sour cream). Despite the amount of time for rising, this is a VERY easy dough to make because I never had to knead it. I think it would be a perfect baking project to make with kids for that reason.

If you want to teach your kids a little about Easter in Ukraine and Russia, here are a few books that go along very well with this yummy recipe. Check them out from your library, watch them being read on YouTube or purchase them on Amazon. You can’t go wrong with Easter books that teach about a new culture.

Rechenka’s Eggs, Patricia Polacco
The Magic Babushka, Phyllis Limbacher Tildes

Or a coloring book of Ukrainian Easter Eggs: Pysanky Coloring Book

Regardless of whether you read a book about Ukrainian Easter, this recipe is a fun one to make with kids. When I texted the photo of the finished Paska to my friend, she was delighted to say it looked similar to their Easter bread! I wish I could have shared one with her with a cup of the delicious orange infused tea she makes. Making this delicious Easter bread would have only been better if we could have shared it together. Hopefully soon!

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Yield: 12 mini paska

Time: 15 minute mix, 6 hours rise, 30 minute bake

Ingredients:

Dough

  • 1 cup warm whole milk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4-5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup currants, raisins or craisins
  • 12 mini panettone paper molds

Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ Tablespoon cream

Instructions:

  1. Whisk together milk, eggs, yeast, sugar, melted butter (not hot!), salt, sour cream and vanilla. Add 2 cups of flour and whisk together. The batter will be thick but won’t form a dough yet. Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place for about 2 hours.
  2. Add 2-3 cups more of flour until the dough doesn’t stick to your hands. Stir in the currants, raisins or craisins (your choice). The dough will still feel a little sticky. This dough does not require kneading. Cover and let rise in a warm place about 2 more hours.
  3. Set up 12 panettone molds on a baking sheet. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and fill each mold. Try not to knead it or push it down too much. Let the dough rise another 2 hours until the molds are almost full.
  4. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes until the top is golden brown. Allow to cool to room temperature and then remove the wrapper if desired.

To make the icing: whisk together 2 cups of powdered sugar, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice and ½ Tablespoon cream. Add a little more cream if it’s too thick, or a little more powdered sugar if it’s too runny. Pour glaze over each Paska and top with sprinkles before the glaze sets.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! I will be posting a new Easter recipe every week leading up to Easter. You can see last week’s recipe here.

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂

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Naan Bread

A few years ago we had the opportunity to live in Japan with our little family. One of the highlights for me was sampling all of the unique cuisine. Not only did we eat delicious Japanese food, but we tried many different ethnic foods. One of our absolute favorite restaurants was a local, family-owned Indian restaurant. With maybe 8-10 small tables in the room, the smell of curries wafting through the air and naan bread the size of your head to lap it up…I can almost taste it all today. I still dream about the garlic-cheese naan I ordered every time, hot from the tandoor oven, to this day. 

Most delicious curries!

After our youngest was born (in Japan) one of the first meals I ate, aside from my clinic stay, was this amazing naan bread. All of our kids were always happy going to eat there because they could eat as much delicious naan as possible. When we moved back stateside, we searched for an Indian restaurant that lived up to the hype and memories. Sadly, we haven’t been able to find one and plane tickets for a family of six to Japan for dinner aren’t in the budget.

Instead I got creative and cooked it up myself. The first time we sank our teeth into this naan bread, dripping with garlic butter and oozing with cheese evoked all the memories of our favorite Indian restaurant in Nagoya, Japan. Even though this recipe isn’t quite as traditional (I subbed milk instead of yogurt and used a griddle instead of a tandoor oven), I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Yield: 12 pieces of naan

Time: 15 minute mix, 2 hour rise, 30 minute rise, 4 minute cook

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups milk (warmed)
  • ½ teaspoon instant yeast
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3-3 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 3-4 Tablespoons melted butter

For garlic cheese naan:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 slices Havarti cheese (or other creamy/melty cheese)

Directions

  1. Warm the milk in the microwave or on the stove (be sure it feels like a baby’s bathwater…not too hot). Add the instant yeast and sugar to the milk.
  2. Pour the milk mixture into a mixer (or bowl to knead by hand) and add the salt and all purpose flour. Knead for 5 minutes in a mixer or about 8-10 minutes by hand. The dough should be smooth and form a ball. Let the dough rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.
  3. Separate the dough into 12 equal pieces and shape into a loose ball. Cover and let rest for about 20-30 minutes.
  4. While the dough is resting, preheat a griddle to 400 degrees or warm up a frying pan. You could also use a pizza stone in a hot oven (450-500 degrees).
  5. Roll out each ball of dough into a circle (about 6-8 inches in diameter). You may have to let the dough rest for 10 seconds and then continue rolling depending on how thin you want your naan bread.
  6. For plain naan: Grill on the griddle about 1-2 minutes per side until golden brown spots appear on the bread. Brush with melted butter and serve warm or at room temperature.
  7. For garlic cheese naan: Roll the naan into a 6-8 inch circle. Put a square slice of cheese in the middle of the circle and fold the naan over the cheese, pinching the edges closed as you go. Continue rolling it out if needed with the cheese inside the naan bread. It will be more in the shape of a rectangle. Grill about 2 minutes per side. Add the minced garlic to the melted butter and brush on the naan bread. Enjoy warm!

This naan is delicious dunked in some vegetable curry, butter chicken or chicken saag. If you go the extra step and add in the cheese and garlic butter it will take your meal over the top! Even better than the flavor of this naan bread are the memories they evoke when we smell it, taste it and reflect on the wonderful time we spent as a family abroad.

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂

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Kid Sized King Cake

Last year we took a trip down to the Gulf Coast, driving through Mobile, Alabama and vacationing for a week on Dauphin Island…a little piece of paradise we never knew existed. We added a day trip to New Orleans, Louisiana where we indulged in beignets at Cafe du Monde, danced to jazz music in the street and enjoyed sampling Cajun cooking. We even sampled a piece of their famous “King Cake” and learned about the history of Mardi Gras, something we knew very little about. 

Jump to Kid-Sized King Cake Recipe

Mardi Gras History

Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French. It is traditionally a time of fun and feasting before Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday. Many people give up certain foods and other luxuries during Lent to prepare themselves for Easter. When French settlers moved to North America, they continued their traditions and the first American Mardi Gras was celebrated in Mobile, Alabama or New Orleans (depending on who you ask). Now, New Orleans holds the largest Mardi Gras celebration in North America. Many parades, people dressed up in costume, beads, jazz music and celebrating take place leading up to and on Fat Tuesday, exactly 47 days before Easter.

Introducing Kids to A New Culture

As a mom I’m always looking for fun ways to make connections to the real world with my kids. We don’t traditionally celebrate Ash Wednesday or Mardi Gras but I’m always up for an excuse to bake. After experiencing the fun vibes of New Orleans, I decided Mardi Gras King Cakes were on my bucket-list to “bake with my kids.” I picked up an informational book from our local library (thank you library holds), purchased a few ingredients and we made our own “kid-sized” King Cakes.

One of my mom tips: Pick up a book from the library about the history behind your bakes. It strengthens literacy skills and we all learn new things together.

What is a King Cake?

King Cakes are traditionally eaten during Mardi Gras season. They are baked into the shape of a crown and taste similar to a cinnamon roll, though other flavors are also popular. Gold, green and purple sugar sprinkles cover the creamy icing as a reminder of power, faith and justice. A little doll is traditionally hidden in the cake and the person who finds it (sinking their teeth into it) buys a king cake for the group the next time they get together.

1 Kid-sized King Cake will feed around 8 , this recipe makes 2 King Cakes

Adapting King Cakes for Kids

A traditional King Cake feeds around 18 people. I wanted each of my kids to get to make their own, so we made “mini” versions that make around 8 slices each. For our Kid-Sized King Cakes, I pulled some candy out of the pantry and let the kids choose what they wanted to hide in their cake. I thought an edible version would be better than the potential for a cracked tooth. We rolled up the candy inside the dough, baked it and then the kids had to guess where it was when we cut into the cake. The anticipation seeing if they guessed right and looking for the mystery candies was a hit. The consensus was the caramels held together pretty well. Chocolate was second-best and the gummy bears melted away. They were still fun to find the colors left behind. Moral of the story: use what you have on hand (leftover Valentine…or even Christmas candy works great).

The Process

This southern cake starts out with a sour cream mixture that is heated over the stove. The dough is mixed using a stand mixer or by hand and then left to rise for an hour. After rising, portion the dough into two king cakes (or one large one if you want to make a traditional king cake). Roll the dough out into two rectangles and fill with cinnamon sugar filling. This filling is not quite as heavy for King Cake as a traditional cinnamon roll recipe. If you like more filling, you can double the filling recipe. Choose a candy to hide and place it somewhere on your rectangle of dough. Then roll the dough up cinnamon-roll style and shape into a circle, bringing the two ends together. Let the king cake rise again before baking. Once the cake is baked, top with the icing and cover in colorful sprinkles (affiliate link).

These King Cakes are decadent, delicious and kids are in heaven with the amount of sprinkles they put on top. And while I would never recommend skipping this delicious dough, I won’t bat an eye if you pick up a refrigerated roll of dough from the grocery store and follow the rest of the recipe from there. Either way, get in the kitchen and have fun making a mess with all the sprinkles, living it up with your kid-sized King Cakes and “let the good times roll!”

Kid-Sized King Cake

The perfect way to celebrate Mardi Gras with these kid-sized king cakes. Whether you want to introduce your kids to a fun new tradition or enjoy a King Cake that's a little smaller portion-wise, these King Cakes are the perfect size for a small group and taste delicious too.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 22 mins
Rising Time: 2 hrs
Course Bread, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 2 small king cakes

Ingredients
  

King Cake Dough

  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 3-3 1/2 cups bread flour see recipe note

King Cake Filling

  • 3 Tablespoons butter softened
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 small unwrapped candies to hide in the King Cakes

Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or any flavoring you like
  • purple, yellow, green sugar sprinkles for decorating

Instructions
 

  • In a saucepan on the stove over low heat, cook the sour cream, sugar, butter and salt until the butter is melted. Cool to room temperature.
  • Pour the mixture into a heavy duty stand mixer (Bosch, KitchenAid, etc…) and add the water and instant yeast. Mix in the egg and 1 cup of flour and beat until smooth. Gradually add in the remaining flour until a soft dough forms.
  • Knead with your mixer 5 minutes or by hand about 10 minutes. Be careful not to over-flour your dough.
  • Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour. 
  • Punch down the dough and divide it in half (this recipe makes two “smaller” King Cakes). 
  • Mix together your filling: butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and divide it in half (a portion for each cake).
  • Using one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough out to a rectangle about 16 inches long, or longer and 6-8 inches wide. Spread the filling over the dough trying to get an even coating over all the dough (this should remind you of making cinnamon rolls).
  • Place your candy on the cake at the edge nearest to you and where you begin to roll.
  • Roll up each rectangle like a jelly-roll and then form a circle by bringing the ends of the roll together and pinching the seams together as you
  • Repeat for the second king cake. You may want to put a small, circular, oven-proof dish in the center of the ring to help keep the circular shape in the middle when baking.
  • Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes until puffy.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes until golden and cooked through. 
  • While the cakes are cooling, mix up the glaze with a spoon or hand mixer. Add a little more cream if glaze is too thick.
  • Add glaze to piping (or ziplock) baggies, cut off the ends and let your kids decorate their cakes!
  • Top with purple, yellow and green sprinkles and have your child guess where their “baby” (or candy in this case) is located in their cake. Enjoy the deliciousness of a Mardi Gras King Cake!

Notes

Serving Size: This recipe makes two small king cakes, each feeding about 8 people. If you want to make one large king cake, use all of the dough and make one large king cake (feeding about 18 people).
Bread Flour: If you don’t have bread flour, you can substitute all purpose flour. If you have vital wheat gluten, add 2-3 teaspoons in with the all purpose flour for a bread flour substitution. 
King Cake Candy: Unwrap any of your favorite candy to hide in the King Cake. Caramel held up the best. Chocolate worked well. Gummy candy dissolved but was still fun. 
Recipe adapted from Southern Living
Keyword Kid Friendly, King Cake, Mardi Gras

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Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake.