Blueberry Cardamom Scones

I love using herbs and spices in cooking. To me, it is the difference between a good dish and a great one. Likewise, it’s amazing how the same food is completely transformed by the addition of a single fleck or sprinkle from another part of the world.

Bluberry Cardamom Scones

These Blueberry Cardamom Scones are the perfect example of the almost magical power of spices. Most of us will recognize cardamom from our favourite Indian curry or chai tea latte but it is also used in some Nordic baked goods, Middle Eastern spiced tea, and is becoming increasingly popular in fusion cooking. Cardamom is extremely aromatic and has subtle hints of citrus so it pairs really well with anything sweet or savoury that might ordinarily use lemon. Although, it is expensive (much like saffron and vanilla) its intense fragrance means a little goes a long way.

I recently had the honour of talking to a local coffee shop about providing baked goods for their new venue. In my meeting with one of the owners, she specified that they wanted their food to mirror their unique personality; each offering needed to be  different to the usual cafe fare. Unfortunately, I was not able to find the kitchen style necessary for such a commitment but I was left with a surge of crazy ideas that I wanted to test out; one of which was this unusual twist on the classic coffee house scone.

Blueberry Cardamom Scones

1 cup fresh washed blueberries (I don’t recommend frozen as these tend to bleed purple all over the dough)

2 cups of self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup butter

1 egg

1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/4 cup milk)

1/3 cup sugar (plus extra for dusting)

1/2 tsp cardamom

Zest from 1/2 lemon

(Note: my experienced baker friends might be confused as to why there is no salt in the recipe but the addition of cardamom makes this step unnecessary.)

Blueberry Cardamom Scones

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix flour, cardamom, sugar together. Rub butter into flour mix until it looks like breadcrumbs. In a separate bowl, whisk together lemon zest, eggs and milk. Add whole blueberries into wet mix. Make a well in the center of the dry mix, and add the egg mixture. Gradually combine all the ingredients with your hand until a dough is formed. (If it seems too dry, add a couple of drops of milk.) Turn out the dough onto a flat surface lightly dusted with flour, and gently form into a flat ball. This is the tricky part. You will need to roll out the dough into a circle about 3/4 inch thick without bursting the berries otherwise the whole thing will turn purple! Slice the dough across (like a pizza) to get 8 triangles. It is important to press and cut straight down with your knife (instead of sliding back and forth) or the scones will not rise during baking. Brush each scone with milk and sprinkle sugar liberally over the tops. Bake for 15-16 minutes until they are golden. Allow to cool completely before serving as the blueberries are full of boiling hot juice.

Blueberry Cardamom Scones

I loved the addition of cardamom and felt that it really elevated these scones from something simple to something spectacular.

Bellini French Macaroons and Lemon-Berry Cake Balls

Bellini French Macaroons and Lemon-Berry Cake Balls

One of my absolute favourite things about our life in Waco is our great community. I don’t know how other PhD couples survive without a strong network of support from fellow students and spouses. It is such a unique experience and both John and I have been comforted and encouraged many times by the knowledge that we are not alone. The words “us too” have brought me so much relief when we are in the thick of the semester, exhausted, missing people far away, worried, and trying to remember why we are here!

Every year, all the families in John’s New Testament program do a fantastic job of welcoming the first years who begin arriving in June/July. This past week, just days after moving to Waco, we threw a surprise party for one of the new students at the request of her husband. He planned and commissioned the whole thing from miles away with people whom he had never met and we were all so excited to take part. I was particularly pleased to be asked to make the desserts and we collaborated on a menu of Bellini french macaroons and lemon-berry cake balls.

I have been wanting to learn how to make these for some time now so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Recently, I published my top tips for any baking project and I can say hand on my heart, these tips truly made a huge difference to the success of this most recent venture. I researched, planned, prepped and practiced- several times- and I was ecstatic with the results.

French macaroons are apparently quite tricky (something I did not know beforehand!) and after a LOT of reading, and a LOT of less than adequate trial runs, I think I can say with confidence that there is no one perfect recipe to follow. This doesn’t mean none of the recipes are great, on the contrary the ingredient lists are all spot on. What I mean to say is that the key with making macaroons is learning the method and mastering this perfect balance in your particular kitchen and climate. Fortunately, there are numerous helpful bloggers out there offering expert advice and it’s just a matter of trying different strategies from different people when things don’t go according to plan. After thorough research, the fastest way to learn how to make perfect macaroons is through trial and error.

Bellini French Macaroons

Bellini French Macaroons

You can find the recipe I adapted  here from Brave Tart. I halved the mixture so I could make smaller batches with more controlled results when testing. The other main difference is that for the flavour I added a 1 tsp mix of peach jam and juice. (The jam is too think to incorporate well into the batter but juice adds too much moisture and not enough flavour so I decided to just mix the two).  You can also add a drop of peach food colouring- seeing as I was making several batches, and wasn’t confident about matching the colour perfectly for each batch, I chose to create an ombre colour scheme instead.

Top Tips:

  • Use almond flour instead of grinding your own almonds
  • Weigh all your ingredients for accuracy
  • Learn to mix your batter to the correct consistency- read read read and watch the experts to know what to look for
  • If you live in a humid climate, age your egg whites at least overnight and once you have piped your macaroon shells onto the baking sheet, allow to dry and harden well. This will give you the signature ‘feet’ (little bubbles along the bottom) and your shells will not crack or hollow.
  • Fill Macaroons and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving.
  • Google specific questions when things don’t go well. i.e. ‘why are my french macaroons cracking?’ There is so much info out there, it is helpful to narrow the search when trouble shooting so you don’t have to weed through pages of general advice.

These are just some of the helpful websites I used to master the french macaroon process.

Bellini Buttercream Filling

  • 1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature (if using unsalted butter, add 1/4 tsp of salt)
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup champagne (I suggest using a good one with a stronger flavour)
  • 1/2 cup peach jam (preferably one that is not watery)

Place all above ingredients into bowl and mix thoroughly until smooth. If the mixture is a little too runny, put it in the fridge for about an hour before piping onto macaroon shells or add a bit more powdered sugar. One your shells are filled, store in the fridge overnight. This will help the filling set and your macaroons will have a better texture.

Lemon Berry Cake Balls

Lemon-Berry Cake Balls

The cake balls were a lot less complicated but I recommend learning from the cake-ball/pop master Bakerella for the best instructions. You can use any yellow cake for this recipe (store bought or homemade) so I chose Victoria Sandwich Cake like the one I made here for my casserole cake last year with the addition of 1 tsp of lemon zest. I love this cake’s rich buttery flavour and think it helps balance the sweetness of the chocolate coating and the frosting.

Lemon-Berry Buttercream

Obviously you can use store bought frosting and add the flavourings below but I really dislike the texture and the mouth feel so I usually make my own buttercream.

  • 1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature (if using unsalted butter, add 1/4 tsp of salt)
  • 3-4 cups  powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup berry jam (I used raspberry and blackberry)
  • 1-2 tsp lemon curd

Mix all ingredients together until smooth. You will probably not need to add all of this buttercream to the cake crumbs. Refer to Bakerella’s instructions and quantities.