Thyme Cream Biscuits

Growing up in Woodstock, our house had lilac trees and lily of the valley outside our kitchen window. The flowers were a common addition to our table and remain two of my favorites. The Chicago apartment I live in now has a gorgeous and well-tended backyard, and I was delighted this spring when lilacs and lily of the valley emerged as the primary aromatics. Their heady spring perfume reminds me of that old house and my childhood on Jefferson Street. 

I spent Saturday at a work-related conference and most of Sunday tackling items on my to-do-list.  In the past few weeks I have revived my weekend baking routine and I wanted to put something in the oven even if I was a bit short on time. I had book-marked this recipe for Thyme-Maple Cream Biscuits from the March 2009 issue of Gourmet Magazine and they seemed like the perfect project. 

Thyme Cream Biscuits

Adapted from Gourmet

Ingredients

2 C cake flour (not self-rising)
1 Tbl baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 C heavy cream
4 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1 Tbl pure maple syrup

Method

Preheat oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with a Silpat mat or parchment.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, combine the cream, thyme and maple syrup. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Turn onto a lightly floured counter and lightly press the dough until it is half an inch thick. Cut into approximately one and a half inch squares or cut using a similarly sized cookie cutter. Place the biscuits an inch apart on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

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dining room table - This one looks delicious! I like the combination.

dining room table - This one looks delicious! I like the combination.

Caroline @ Whippedtheblog - Just catching up, haven’t visited in awhile. “Dropping in” to say hello!

Caroline @ Whippedtheblog - Just catching up, haven’t visited in awhile. “Dropping in” to say hello!

Jenny - A simple recipe comes with a simple delicious cream biscuits =)
Anyway, what’s on the middle layer? vanilla? or just cream?

Jenny - A simple recipe comes with a simple delicious cream biscuits =)
Anyway, what’s on the middle layer? vanilla? or just cream?

gemma - Thanks dining room table. It is a nice a simple combination.
Hello Caroline! Great to hear from you. Perhaps we can meet up at a food blogger picnic this summer? I hope you are well.
Hi Jenny. It is a nice, simple recipe (as biscuits should be!). These are just tall biscuits, there isn’t a middle layer. Though I do usually split them and slather with butter before serving.

gemma - Thanks dining room table. It is a nice a simple combination.
Hello Caroline! Great to hear from you. Perhaps we can meet up at a food blogger picnic this summer? I hope you are well.
Hi Jenny. It is a nice, simple recipe (as biscuits should be!). These are just tall biscuits, there isn’t a middle layer. Though I do usually split them and slather with butter before serving.

Star of david - Thyme Cream Biscuits looks so great. The recipe that you posted is so clear and easy to understand. Thanks for the posting.

Star of david - Thyme Cream Biscuits looks so great. The recipe that you posted is so clear and easy to understand. Thanks for the posting.

Gemma - You’re welcome. Thanks for visiting.

Gemma - You’re welcome. Thanks for visiting.

Chickpea Salad with Lemon & Parmesan

I recently had the good fortune to travel to the Bay Area for a long weekend to visit friends and run the inaugural Oakland Half Marathon.

The weather was amazing.

We enjoyed afternoon sweets at Mission Pie, toured the Takara Sake Factory and worked our way through the Mikkeller single hop series

We enjoyed beautiful sunsets, fresh eggs from the hens Molly and Stefan’s housemates keep, and gorgeous produce (the Berkeley Bowl grocery store is out of this world).

My arrival back in the office came too quickly, but the gorgeous weather followed me. I’ve found myself enjoying many meals outdoors, sitting on our front stoop watching the neighborhood activity or reading on our backyard deck. When I am in the mood for something quick and light, Orangette’s chickpea salad is one of my favorites.

It only has five ingredients – chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, Parmesan and salt – but the bright flavors make a satisfying meal.  I like to add in some lemon zest to Molly’s recipe and often add a few handfuls of red leaf lettuce as well. I’m loving spring.

(For more Bay Area photographs, visit my Flickr
album
.)

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Jada Ach - How pretty–and so simple! I love how chickpeas require little pampering. Lovely photos!

Jada Ach - How pretty–and so simple! I love how chickpeas require little pampering. Lovely photos!

Kalynskitchen - Oh yes. I would do a little happy dance if this was on my plate!

Kalynskitchen - Oh yes. I would do a little happy dance if this was on my plate!

Nicky - Molly’s salad is one of my all-time favorite snacks!

Nicky - Molly’s salad is one of my all-time favorite snacks!

Jada Ach - I just tried this recipe last night–well, kind of. I used raw cheddar instead. It was so deliciously springy! Thanks, again, for the idea.

Jada Ach - I just tried this recipe last night–well, kind of. I used raw cheddar instead. It was so deliciously springy! Thanks, again, for the idea.

gemma - Hi Jada Ach, I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe! Cheddar sounds like a lovely variation.
Thanks Kalyn! It’s amazing how often I make this.
I agree, Nicky!

gemma - Hi Jada Ach, I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe! Cheddar sounds like a lovely variation.
Thanks Kalyn! It’s amazing how often I make this.
I agree, Nicky!

Becca - I made the chick pea salad and shook in a dash of Worchestshire (sp?) sauce in lieu of salt, and it made it really delicious!
Thanks for sharing!

Becca - I made the chick pea salad and shook in a dash of Worchestshire (sp?) sauce in lieu of salt, and it made it really delicious!
Thanks for sharing!

Citrus Vinaigrette

As the seasons change, so do my eating habits.  A winter of braising and baking has given way to fresh fruits and vegetables and an interest in a personal salad spinner for my work desk. Add some sunshine to your plate with this bright and simple vinaigrette. I've been using it to dress spinach and fennel salads with freshly grated Parmesan.

Citrus Vinaigrette

Ingredients

Zest of one Meyer lemon
Zest of one orange
Juice of one Meyer Lemon, about 2 Tbl
Juice of one orange, about 1/2 C
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbl honey
2 Tbl olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

In an 8 ounce jar (or larger) zest and juice the lemon and orange. I use my hands instead of a hand-held juicer because I think the pulp adds a nice element to the dressing. Add the remaining ingredients. Screw on the lid and shake to combine.  Taste the dressing and adjust as needed.  The amount of juice in the orange and lemon will vary.  You will likely need to balance the flavors by adjusting the salt, oil or vinegar.

show hide 14 comments

shannalee - That top photo of the sky is just, oh, it’s perfect. We’ve had some nice ones lately.

shannalee - That top photo of the sky is just, oh, it’s perfect. We’ve had some nice ones lately.

blair - I am new to you blog but its really wonderful! love this recipe, thank you for sharing, I usually just give my salads a squirt of lemon juice, so this is right up my alley and i am sure will be much more tasty!

blair - I am new to you blog but its really wonderful! love this recipe, thank you for sharing, I usually just give my salads a squirt of lemon juice, so this is right up my alley and i am sure will be much more tasty!

Terry B - Sounds bright and fresh and springlike, Gemma! I’m still stubbornly in the braising mode, but need to move on.

Terry B - Sounds bright and fresh and springlike, Gemma! I’m still stubbornly in the braising mode, but need to move on.

Meghan - I got inspired by this post last week and picked up a Meyer lemon and a tangerine on my way home from work. It was so good. I didn’t have honey, so I used some agave nectar and added a splash of white balsamic.
I can’t wait for summer, and now that I work right around the corner from a farmer’s market, I might need that personal salad spinner, too.

Meghan - I got inspired by this post last week and picked up a Meyer lemon and a tangerine on my way home from work. It was so good. I didn’t have honey, so I used some agave nectar and added a splash of white balsamic.
I can’t wait for summer, and now that I work right around the corner from a farmer’s market, I might need that personal salad spinner, too.

Lynn - Meyer lemons have such a great, fresh flavor. Your vinaigrette looks like springtime in jar.

Lynn - Meyer lemons have such a great, fresh flavor. Your vinaigrette looks like springtime in jar.

Recipeman - Lemon Zest adds SO much .. i make it a point using when i can

Recipeman - Lemon Zest adds SO much .. i make it a point using when i can

gemma - Thanks Shannalee. The skies have been stunning this spring.
Thanks for visiting Blair, I’m hope you like the recipe.
Hi Terry — nothing wrong with braising! Some days nothing but fresh and bright flavors will do though. I hope you are enjoying your spring!
Hi Meghan – I went ahead and bought the mini salad spinner and I am very happy with my purchase. The number of salads I eat each week has dramatically increased. Definitely worth it so far!
Hi Lynn, I agree, the flavor of Meyer lemons is so bright and fresh. The co-op near my house has started to sell them at a reasonable price and I couldn’t be happier.
Hi Recipeman — I definitely agree. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

gemma - Thanks Shannalee. The skies have been stunning this spring.
Thanks for visiting Blair, I’m hope you like the recipe.
Hi Terry — nothing wrong with braising! Some days nothing but fresh and bright flavors will do though. I hope you are enjoying your spring!
Hi Meghan – I went ahead and bought the mini salad spinner and I am very happy with my purchase. The number of salads I eat each week has dramatically increased. Definitely worth it so far!
Hi Lynn, I agree, the flavor of Meyer lemons is so bright and fresh. The co-op near my house has started to sell them at a reasonable price and I couldn’t be happier.
Hi Recipeman — I definitely agree. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

Rosemary, Black Pepper & Brown Butter Soda Bread

I waded through rainy streets and crowds of St. Patrick's Day revelers yesterday on my way to meet my friend Joanna. Our conversation focused on food, as it often does, and she mentioned this brown butter soda bread recipe as one of her favorites. In the weeks leading up to this holiday each year, I encounter half a dozen different Irish soda bread recipes earnestly claiming to be the most authentic.  I liked the idea of adding rosemary, fresh black pepper and browned butter to this quick bread base to create a decidedly non-traditional version. 

The end result of the recipe was wonderful. A few notes: I found that my dough was quite wet after following the instructions, so I ended up adding about half a cup more flour than the original recipe calls for. Be sure to have a some extra flour on hand so that you can get the texture just right. You want a moist dough that just comes together in your hands.  I didn't knead this bread at all. I simply mixed the dough in the bowl until it formed a smooth ball and then formed the loaves. Lastly, I decided not to spend the money on fresh rosemary and instead used about half a teaspoon of powdered Spanish rosemary leaves.  Definitely use fresh if you prefer.  

Rosemary, Black Pepper & Brown Butter Soda Bread

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

1/4 C butter
3 1/2 C flour, plus 1/2 C
1/2 C old-fashioned oats
1 Tbl sugar
1/2 tsp powdered rosemary (or 1 Tbl fresh, chopped)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 3/4 C buttermilk

Method

Place a baking stone in your oven and preheat oven to 375F.  (Don't worry if you don't have a baking stone, you can simply use an ungreased baking sheet. Don't place it in the oven as it heats. If you'd like a baking stone, check out this great post on making your own for $3.)

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat and cook until golden brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the buttermilk and butter.  Mix well and add the buttermilk and butter.  Mix until the dough comes together in a smooth ball. Add more flour if you need it (I did). Form dough into two rounds with your hands and transfer to the baking stone or baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut an "X" in the top of each loaf – about 1/2 an inch deep.

Bake until breads are a deep golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center — about 45 minutes.  Allow to cool for a least 30 minutes before slicing. Serve with plenty of high quality butter.

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dana - that’s a great looking crust! can you really taste the brown butter?

dana - that’s a great looking crust! can you really taste the brown butter?

Joanna - So glad you liked it! I made a couple loaves yesterday too.

Joanna - So glad you liked it! I made a couple loaves yesterday too.

Sprout - Brown butter really is god’s gift to man, good call on using it here.
Thanks for sharing!

Sprout - Brown butter really is god’s gift to man, good call on using it here.
Thanks for sharing!

Kalynskitchen - I love the way you’ve flavored this bread, sounds delicious!

Kalynskitchen - I love the way you’ve flavored this bread, sounds delicious!

Gretchen Noelle - This sounds delicious! I have been looking for ways to use my neighbor’s rosemary bush that I spotted!!

Gretchen Noelle - This sounds delicious! I have been looking for ways to use my neighbor’s rosemary bush that I spotted!!

Jen Z - I made it last night and it was fabulous!

Jen Z - I made it last night and it was fabulous!

Anna/quilted giraffe - That looks so scrummy! I’ll have to whip up a batch this week. Thanks for sharing!

Anna/quilted giraffe - That looks so scrummy! I’ll have to whip up a batch this week. Thanks for sharing!

Gemma - Hi Dana, thank you! The brown butter flavor is subtle, but it does add a nice nuttiness.
Thanks again Joanna. Great recipe suggestion!
Thanks Sprout, I love brown butter too.
Thanks Kalyn! The flavors work great together.
Hi Gretchen, thanks for stopping by. Very jealous that you have a neighbor’s rosemary bush to borrow from!
Great to hear Jen! I hope all is well with you.
You’re welcome Anna, I hope it works well for you!

Gemma - Hi Dana, thank you! The brown butter flavor is subtle, but it does add a nice nuttiness.
Thanks again Joanna. Great recipe suggestion!
Thanks Sprout, I love brown butter too.
Thanks Kalyn! The flavors work great together.
Hi Gretchen, thanks for stopping by. Very jealous that you have a neighbor’s rosemary bush to borrow from!
Great to hear Jen! I hope all is well with you.
You’re welcome Anna, I hope it works well for you!

ButterYum - Stunning loaf!
:)
ButterYum

ButterYum - Stunning loaf!
:)
ButterYum

Allison - Timers - Hai.. These look good. great presentation, i love this.
Thanks.

Allison - Timers - Hai.. These look good. great presentation, i love this.
Thanks.

Mushroom Barley Risotto

I was born and bred in this region, but each Chicago winter feels longer than the last to me. I don't really mind the cold, but I do mind the short days and difficult terrain.  Like most people in my family, I derive a lot of joy in spending time outside and the city feels somewhat limited to me during this season.  The holidays have passed, work is busy, and I find most of my outdoor time is spent simply in transit rather than idle enjoyment. My one, simple resolution this year was to go outside and walk every day at lunch — whether it was particularly inhospitable out or I felt I had too much work to complete.  I'm happy to say I've stuck to it on all but one very bad, very busy day. 

I've begun to notice some indications that spring is on its way. The days are getting longer, hats are not required at all times, and I was recently on a bus with its ceiling air-vent propped open (though, the heat was blasting). I also have a trip to look forward to. I'm excited that all of the pieces have fallen into place for a spring vacation to San Francisco.  I've hardly left town since last summer and I'm in need of a bit of warmth. I'll be visiting some dear friends and running the Oakland Half Marathon. I was 12 the last time I visited the area, so please feel free to share some travel tips!

Here is a hearty dish for these last few weeks of cold.  This Mushroom Barley Risotto is simple, healthy and inexpensive.  The escarole adds a nice touch — one that I wouldn't have thought to add on my own.

Mushroom Barley Risotto

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen and Food & Wine

Ingredients

6 oz white mushrooms, sliced
6 C low-sodium vegetable stock
2 Tbl olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced
1/4 tsp dried  thyme
1 C pearled barley
1 15 oz can of cannelloni beans
4 C escarole, chopped 
1/2 C Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
2 Tbl butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

In a dry pan, saute the mushrooms until dark, fragrant and moist.  Set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat the stock and keep warm.

In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and thyme and cook until the onion is soft, about six minutes. Add the barley and cook, stirring for two minutes. Add the mushrooms and one cup of the stock. Stir until absorbed.  Continue with all but 1/2 a cup of the stock, adding it a 1/2 cup at a time.  This should take about 35 minutes.

Add the beans and cook for one minute. Add the last 1/2 cup of stock if necessary or desired. Add the escarole and stir until wilted and cook for one additional minute.   Add the cheese and butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with extra grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish.

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shannalee - I love, love, love that you resolved to walk outside every day at lunch. That is brilliant, and if I had more than 20 minutes to call my own each lunchtime, I would SO do the same thing. What’s so cool, I’d imagine, about doing that is you SEE the seasons change before your eyes.
And I am so with you on winter – I’ve been ready for it to end since December, but I also get so much joy from the longer daylight we’ve already been given, as well as the hints that spring is coming. Anticipation is kind of a gift, at least when it is finally fulfilled, you know? :)

shannalee - I love, love, love that you resolved to walk outside every day at lunch. That is brilliant, and if I had more than 20 minutes to call my own each lunchtime, I would SO do the same thing. What’s so cool, I’d imagine, about doing that is you SEE the seasons change before your eyes.
And I am so with you on winter – I’ve been ready for it to end since December, but I also get so much joy from the longer daylight we’ve already been given, as well as the hints that spring is coming. Anticipation is kind of a gift, at least when it is finally fulfilled, you know? :)

Lauren - Your walk photos are beautiful. Here in Austin, we usually have lots of sunny 70s “winter” days spread among the storm fronts and occasional chill. But it’s been crazy cold here this year, even snowed this week! So I appreciate your daily walks and looking for signs of spring.
Wanted to share some of my favorite San Francisco spots. Links and photos here:
http://tastytype.blogspot.com/2009/08/san-franciscos-mission-district.html
http://tastytype.blogspot.com/2009/09/boulettes-larder-shortbread-with.html
http://tastytype.blogspot.com/2009/08/boccalone-tasty-salted-pig-parts.html
http://tastytype.blogspot.com/2009/08/ice-cream-from-san-franciscos-bi-rite.html
And don’t miss Kabuki Hot Springs and Japantown.
Enjoy your trip!

Lauren - Your walk photos are beautiful. Here in Austin, we usually have lots of sunny 70s “winter” days spread among the storm fronts and occasional chill. But it’s been crazy cold here this year, even snowed this week! So I appreciate your daily walks and looking for signs of spring.
Wanted to share some of my favorite San Francisco spots. Links and photos here:
http://tastytype.blogspot.com/2009/08/san-franciscos-mission-district.html
http://tastytype.blogspot.com/2009/09/boulettes-larder-shortbread-with.html
http://tastytype.blogspot.com/2009/08/boccalone-tasty-salted-pig-parts.html
http://tastytype.blogspot.com/2009/08/ice-cream-from-san-franciscos-bi-rite.html
And don’t miss Kabuki Hot Springs and Japantown.
Enjoy your trip!

ask a doctor - I love Mushroom.. and this recipe looks great..

ask a doctor - I love Mushroom.. and this recipe looks great..

Erin - Great post, Gemma!
When Matthew and I lived in Tallahassee, I worked as a financial analyst at the newspaper and was ALWAYS busy. But even if it meant staying late (which usually it did), I would try my best to get outside during a break and go walking. It really helped to clear my head.
And that’s fantastic that you’re making your way to San Francisco – I’m sure it will be a wonderful reprieve from Chicago and its winter weather.

Erin - Great post, Gemma!
When Matthew and I lived in Tallahassee, I worked as a financial analyst at the newspaper and was ALWAYS busy. But even if it meant staying late (which usually it did), I would try my best to get outside during a break and go walking. It really helped to clear my head.
And that’s fantastic that you’re making your way to San Francisco – I’m sure it will be a wonderful reprieve from Chicago and its winter weather.

Goody - I looked at that photo, before reading the post and thought, “Oh, I forgot how long winter is in Chicago.” More of a sigh out loud, than a laugh-and I’ve been away more than twenty years. I’ll give you credit for taking exercise-I used to shudder at the thought of walking a few steps to my car.
Hang in there, the 100+degrees are just around the corner.

Goody - I looked at that photo, before reading the post and thought, “Oh, I forgot how long winter is in Chicago.” More of a sigh out loud, than a laugh-and I’ve been away more than twenty years. I’ll give you credit for taking exercise-I used to shudder at the thought of walking a few steps to my car.
Hang in there, the 100+degrees are just around the corner.

Kaitlyn - I know what you mean! I just got back to Chicago from a trip to San Diego, I definitely didn’t want to leave! It was so nice to go hiking and to enjoy nature, I wish we had more chances for that here.

Kaitlyn - I know what you mean! I just got back to Chicago from a trip to San Diego, I definitely didn’t want to leave! It was so nice to go hiking and to enjoy nature, I wish we had more chances for that here.

Sprout - Tried your cabbage last week, it was great! Concerning the risotto- I have an issue with barley’s texture. Is it much different in a risotto, ie not as bouncy and chewy?

Sprout - Tried your cabbage last week, it was great! Concerning the risotto- I have an issue with barley’s texture. Is it much different in a risotto, ie not as bouncy and chewy?

gemma - Hi Shannalee – I’ve really enjoyed making it through the winter and watching each sign of spring emerge. I wish you had a longer lunch break! Loving the longer days, indeed!
Wow, thank you for the San Francisco suggestions, Lauren! I’m really looking forward to this trip!
Thanks Erin — I can’t wait to enjoy some of your California sunshine!
Thanks Goody – would you believe I’ve actually kept up running outdoors this winter too? I’m so glad spring is on its way!
Hi Kaitlyn! It seems like everyone I know took a trip to California this winter. I imagine I’ll have a hard time returning too!
Hi Sprout, very happy to hear you liked the braised cabbage recipe. The barley risotto retains much of the barley texture. If you aren’t a fan, perhaps you could substitute another grain and adjust the cooking time accordingly. I bet a farro would work nicely. Or you could just stick to the standard arborio. I

gemma - Hi Shannalee – I’ve really enjoyed making it through the winter and watching each sign of spring emerge. I wish you had a longer lunch break! Loving the longer days, indeed!
Wow, thank you for the San Francisco suggestions, Lauren! I’m really looking forward to this trip!
Thanks Erin — I can’t wait to enjoy some of your California sunshine!
Thanks Goody – would you believe I’ve actually kept up running outdoors this winter too? I’m so glad spring is on its way!
Hi Kaitlyn! It seems like everyone I know took a trip to California this winter. I imagine I’ll have a hard time returning too!
Hi Sprout, very happy to hear you liked the braised cabbage recipe. The barley risotto retains much of the barley texture. If you aren’t a fan, perhaps you could substitute another grain and adjust the cooking time accordingly. I bet a farro would work nicely. Or you could just stick to the standard arborio. I