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Breakfast Blueberry Cornbread Muffins *gluten free!*

My dad does something really really weird for breakfast. He eats breakfast sandwiches. “How is that weird?” you ask, “A sandwich with egg and bacon on an English muffin is perfectly normal.” Oh, wait, I forgot one crucial detail: He puts fruit jam on the breakfast sandwich.

Breakfast Blueberry Cornbread Muffins

Breakfast Blueberry Cornbread Muffins

Told you it was weird. It makes absolutely no sense and I’ve never seen anybody else do it. But if we go to a cafe for breakfast and he orders any kind of breakfast sandwich, he asks for a side of jam. If he’s bought frozen breakfast sandwiches and reheats one in the morning, he opens the fridge for a scoop of jam. If my mom or I ever happened to make breakfast sandwiches fresh, he’d definitely eat one with a knife sticking out of the jam jar. So it’s no surprise that when I was making my variations on my new cornbread muffin recipe, Dad’s favorite was the one with blueberry jam. But jam on a cornbread muffin is a more normal addition, so if I call these Breakfast Cornbread Muffins maybe he’ll replace the weird breakfast sandwich habit with something less bizarre. Like these. 

Cornbread Muffins *Gluten Free!*

There are some common, easy to spot clues that tell you it’s September, that fall is finally here! Kids are going back to school, leaves are just about to start their turning to oranges and reds, pumpkin spice takes over the world…

GF Cornbread Muffins

GF Cornbread Muffins

Yeah, that doesn’t happen in Southern California. The kids have been back in school since mid-August. All of our foliage is a wonderfully uniform shade of brown (thank you severe drought). Pumpkin spice–okay that has already started to take over. It’s unfortunate that we don’t get four seasons (I like to joke that LA has two seasons: Hot and Less Hot), but at the same time it means that we can still have cookouts through til October 😉

Ham and Swiss Tea Sandwich

We definitely have enough recipes here to fill a second and third tier of an afternoon tea, but I do recognize that there is a…um…severe lack of first tier fillers? The dot dot dots and question mark are my writing way of giving you all a sheepish, almost embarrassed look. Whhhaaaaattttt? Yes, I’m sorry, but I love baking so much and am way more likely to recipe work mid-morning (when it’s too early for lunch and therefore tea sandwiches) or mid-afternoon (when I’ve already eaten lunch and therefore want dessert over tea sandwiches). So I blame the clock for the lack of savory tier recipes. You aren’t buying that excuse are you? Sigh. I tried.

Guess I just need to give you a tea sandwich recipe I’ve had in my back pocket for a little while now.

Ham and Swiss Tea Sandwich

Ham and Swiss Tea Sandwich

Sweet Potatoes Au Gratin

I know what you’re all thinking right now: “Uhhh what?! Sweet potatoes au gratin on a baking blog specifically about afternoon tea? What is she thinking?” I thought the same thing when I mentioned this recipe to my amazing friend Kat (remember her from The T Room?). When I told her that I had come up with this incredible new recipe for Thanksgiving and how I wished I could share it on my blog because everyone should make it for Thanksgiving dinner. And yeah I stretch the “afternoon tea” part of this blog when it comes to baking recipes, but trying to justify sweet potatoes au gratin? That was going too far. And what did Kat say?

sweet potatoes au gratin

sweet potatoes au gratin

“It’s your blog. You can post whatever the heck you want.”

Review: The T Room

It all started when some friends and myself needed food after a round of mini golf and found ourselves driving past a tearoom that wasn’t on my To Review list. So when my best friend and fellow tea aficionado came back from a trip to England, what better way to catch up than over afternoon tea at this little find?

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First Impressions and Service

Review: Steampunk Coffeebar and Kitchen

Welcome to an alternative Victorian age, where the Industrial Revolution has permeated society’s machinery and the supernatural may or may not exist. Welcome to the Steampunk Movement. Originating as a sub-genre of science fiction, steampunk has become an entire culture that combines Victorian styles with accents inspired by machinery and steam-powered anything. Think Sherlock Holmes (not the BBC version with the beautifully voiced Benedict Cumberbatch), The Time Machine, the 1999 Will Smith movie Wild Wild West, and the new stage show at Disneyland “Mickey and the Magical Map”. Oh, and it’s the name of one of my favorite local coffee shops that hosted its first afternoon tea.

 

Owners of Steampunk

Owners of Steampunk Coffeebar and Kitchen

First Impressions and Service

I’ve been to Steampunk in its usual coffeeshop/delicious brunch incarnation multiple times, so I already knew to expect very talkative, enthusiastic, and friendly people. Even though the tea was put on by an outside company, my expectations were met! All the servers and chefs were dressed in true steampunk fashion. Their costumes were incredible, and almost felt like a Hidden Mickey hunt because so many of them had Disney Steampunk pins as accessories. Steampunk and Disney is a much more common combination than you’d think!

Steampunked Servers

Steampunked Servers

The tea was scheduled to start at 4:30 and I arrived exactly on time. This may have been an event that it was better to arrive fashionably late as they weren’t quite ready for tables to sit yet. A few of the tables in the back of the restaurant were still being used for sandwich assembly. It made it pretty confusing as to where to sit or what to do. There wasn’t a hostess and no assigned seats despite the tea being a ticketed event. Things felt a little chaotic. Easy solution for next time is to preassign tables or have one employee play hostess once people arrive to direct/explain things. Other than that, throughout the two hour event (and after it was officially over but we all stuck around talking) the servers were amazing and engaging and seemed genuinely happy to be there.

 

Décor

Steampunk (if it’s capitalized assume I mean the coffee shop not the style) already has a very distinctive décor every day. The walls are a bright blue that somehow manages not to blind you or be too obstrusive and serve as an eye-catching backdrop for works by featured artists. On a non-tea day the artwork alone serves up hours worth of talking points for you and your friends over Mexican Mochas. The tables are mixy-matchy complete with pipes for legs. Lots of that bright blue, lots of bronze, lots of brass, and lots of fun. There was no added décor for the tea event, but the patrons dressed up in their finest steampunk attire alongside the employees almost felt like extra decoration! It also can get pretty loud in there (all that metal doesn’t really absorb sound) but that actually made it feel more exciting and fun and you can still hold an easy conversation.

Steampunk Coffeebar and Kitchen

Steampunk Coffeebar and Kitchen

Steampunk is very much a coffee shop and café, not a tearoom. But as long as you aren’t expecting a ton of lace doilies and floral arrangements, you will find it a fun location. Remember, this is a themed tea! I’d have been really disappointed if they had broken away from their roots in the steampunk movement.

 

Tea Selection

Chef Justin Bastian (owner and head chef of Midsummer Night’s Confections) creates his own tea blends and served five of them throughout the event. Tea is brewed loose leaf (1 point!) and the servers walked around with fresh pots of all different teas, ready to immediately refill your cup. If the server at your table didn’t have the tea you wanted, they went and got a fresh pot of the one you did! A few times the teas were overbrewed and the servers would tell you it was one tea when it was really a different one (quite a shocker to drink a lemongrass tisane when you were anticipating a raspberry black tea). Those are just kinks that will be worked out at the next event. As for flavor, the teas were all amazing! I tried all five and had a hard time making up my mind as to my favorite. I might have had 12 cups of tea over the meal. Each tea was a unique twist on a traditional tea flavor and were made up of tea leaves, dried fruits, herbs, and other flavorings. Nothing was artificial. Everything was delicious.

A quick rundown of the teas:

  • Lavendar Grey: Earl Grey Moonlight, Irish Breakfast, Assam, Lavendar, Marigold flowers, a very robust black tea that was one of my favorites. Lavender is a very pronounced flavor in this tea.
  • Gaslight Floral Chai: Pu-erh Tahiti, Chocolate Chai, Spearmint, Hibiscus, Cornflowers, another robust tea, strong chai notes are mellowed out with the spearmint and flowers, excellent with a touch of sugar.
  • Viscount’s Strawberries and Cream: Assam, Wild Strawberry, Cream, Rosehips, another favorite, more mellow black tea, strawberries and cream flavor very pronounced. The chef said some people actually mix the clotted cream into this tea! I wasn’t adventurous enough to try that. Excellent dessert tea!
  • Minerva’s Raspberry Caramel: Ceylon Sonata, Caramel, Rooibos, Jasmine, Orange Peels, Raspberry, an unexpectedly delicious combination, great option for a dessert tea, enjoy as is or with cream and sugar.
  • Chamberlain’s Tisane: Chamomile, Lemongrass, Lemon Verbena, a good caffeine free option, but I don’t like chamomile so personally didn’t like this tea.

 

Food

IMG_5247When I say everything on this menu was homemade, I mean everything, down to the mayonnaise in the chicken salad. The theme of the food seemed to be “Slight Twist on Tradition” mixed with “What Flower Can I Put In This (insert food item)”. Everything was well balanced in flavor, fresh, and well-portioned. This tea was a set menu of savories, scones, and desserts. All the food was brought out at once and it was up to your discretion as to which order to eat everything.

Sandwiches

Ham and Apple

Ham and Apple

The ham and apple jam on squaw bread was a nice change from the more common pairings of ham-and-cranberry-sauce and ham-and-cheese. The apple jam stood up to the heartier ham slices and the squaw bread was soft with the right amount of flavor. Personally, this sandwich felt too large, but really that is only because it was a pure half of a sandwich instead of two fourths. Mathematically the same, presentation not so much. While tasty, this was the most forgettable item on the menu. It was more of a standard fare that just filled up a slot on the menu.

Cucumber Cream Cheese

Cucumber Cream Cheese

Every tea has to have a cucumber sandwich, right? This cucumber sandwich was perfection. There was the perfect ratio of cream cheese to cucumber; the cucumbers were cut into thick slices so you actually felt the freshness and taste of cucumber instead of those watery shreds so many tea sandwiches use. The bread was a beautiful, thick French bread that had an actual crust to it! Yes tea is supposed to be a light food affair, but sometimes the airy white bread that is normally used with cucumber sandwiches makes you feel like you are eating…well…air. This sandwich had substance and therefore has my approval. Oh and the cream cheese, I could eat it all day. In the flower theme, the cream cheese was a rose-mint cream cheese that wasn’t too floral or too herbaceous or to tangy, just well balanced and not overpowering to the cucumber.

Strawberry Chicken Salad

Strawberry Chicken Salad

Alert the presses because I had chicken salad, with mayonnaise, and LIKED IT. With so many examples of my anti-mayo rants in these reviews, I am as shocked as you that I had no problem with this chicken salad. The mayonnaise is a housemade olive oil-based mayo which probably explains why I liked it. Strawberries added to the chunky chicken salad was an inspired touch, and the fresh basil leaves add that floral plant note more sandwiches should have. The bread was a white bread, but it had more weight to it than a Wonder Bread. It was still light enough to let the chunky chicken and fresh chopped strawberries shine. I would have liked more strawberries though!

 

Brie and Apricot Croissant

Brie and Apricot Croissant

The coup de grace was the warmed croissant with thick slices of fresh brie and homemade apricot jam. I can’t describe the cheesy, tart, sweet, buttery fantasticness (a new word I am coining only for this sandwich) with enough justice. They broiled or baked the croissants before they delivered them so the cheese was all melty and the jam was beginning to caramelize and now I’m craving it all over again. This was the standout savory options by far!

Scones

Currant Scone

Currant Scone

Out of the three courses, the scone course was the weakest, though still better than some of the other places’ I’ve been to that shouldn’t even call what they serve a scone. The first was a small currant scone that was a little overbaked. The bottom was too brown and the rest was a little too dry, but the flavor was spot-on British. There were nice layers to the scone as well. Bake a little bit less and it would be perfect. The second scone was a pretty big lemon-lavender scone that I know my dad would have loved. The lavender was almost too subtle (I really like floral flavors though) and the lemon was robust both in the scone itself and the lemon glaze poured on top.

Lemon Lavender Scone

Lemon Lavender Scone

This texture was better, lighter, and not overbaked—a good combination of dense and light. The clotted cream is the closest thing you are going to find to authentic, British clotted cream in an American kitchen. It was thick, creamy, not sweet, and a perfect accompaniment to the scones though the scones didn’t need it. The chef’s partner is Welsh and wouldn’t let him use the sweetened whipped cream so many teahouses claim is clotted cream. I approve of her, and of his clotted cream. Gold Star!

Desserts

Neapolitan Cupcake

Neapolitan Cupcake

Cutest thing ever was the Neapolitan cupcake baked directly in a teacup.  One of the moistest chocolate-vanilla swirl cupcakes I have ever tasted, swirled through with fresh strawberries and topped with the perfect amount of chocolate-vanilla-strawberry frosting. I have nothing to say about this other than pure perfection that I could eat everyday.

Butterscotch Cookies with Salted Caramel Frosting

Butterscotch Cookies with Salted Caramel Frosting

The second dessert was a butterscotch shortbread sandwich cookie with salted caramel frosting. The cookie softened over the course of the meal so by the time you bit into it it was soft and firm at the same time. And the frosting wasn’t too sweet at all! In fact, considering the main flavors were butterscotch and caramel, this cookie wasn’t a cavity-inducing sugar high in the slightest!

 

Steampunk and Chef Justin did a phenomenal job with their inaugural afternoon tea event. The food was fantastic, the setting eclectic and fun, and the people were so personable and friendly that I walked out of the tea feeling more like I was family than a customer. I can’t wait to see this event continue to improve and become one of the must-do events of Los Angeles.

Steampunk

Steampunk Coffee and Kitchen

12526 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village, CA 91607

818-508-1276

$25 per person, but prices subject to change with the event’s popularity

Recipe: Peanut Butter and Jelly Scones

I love peanut butter. Like LOVE IT. So much so that I could probably live off it. In fact if you saw my pantry, you’d probably think that I do. There’s crunchy peanut butter, creamy peanut butter, white chocolate peanut butter, cinnamon raisin peanut butter, almond butter (yes I know that doesn’t technically count but it’s still fantastic and obsessive), dark chocolate peanut butter, honey peanut butter, banana nut peanut butter, powdered peanut butter, and there may or may not be even more jars of the same varieties because I’m so afraid to run out of peanut butter that I buy extra jars unnecessarily.

And by may or may not, I totally mean there is. What? I eat it with practically everything! It’s delicious!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Scones

Peanut Butter and Jelly Scones

So it was a no-brainer that peanut butter scones, and possibly a whole host of peanut butter based scones, would eventually show up on this site. Hey, if I can make scones out of mascarpone cheese, why not peanut butter? Okay those have nothing to compare each other to and I just wanted to justify my peanut butter obsession.

Recipe: Cucumber Scone Finger Sandwiches

Afternoon tea is steeped in tradition; one of those traditions seems to be offering cucumber sandwiches as a savory option. The quality of a tearoom sometimes hinges on this one little morsel.

And I love cucumber sandwiches. They are by far one of the things I look most forward to when sitting down to tea. Sometimes they are completely nondescript Wonder Bread and cream cheese, but sometimes you have a revelation of pickled cucumbers or dill cream cheese that is nearly transcendent.

Lemon Thyme Basil Cucumber Sandwiches

Lemon Thyme Basil Cucumber Sandwiches

So when a few weeks ago I finally perfected the recipe for Lemon Thyme Basil Scones (weren’t those sooooo good?) I had a lightbulb moment: could I make these into cucumber sandwiches? How great a twist on a classic would that be, the savory herbs blending with the sweet, crisp cucumber. I could almost taste it, mouth suddenly parched from desire of wanting that ultimate refreshment.

I practically ran to my refrigerator and found a glorious cucumber…and a lack of cream cheese. *Head smack* But I wouldn’t give up, hopping in my car to drive to the grocery store and buy the smallest container of cream cheese I could find. The checkout lady gave me a weird look and say,”Don’t you want a bagel with that?” “No,” I responded. “I have scones.” Let her contemplate that one with confusion all day!

Lemon Thyme Basil Cucumber Sandwiches

Lemon Thyme Basil Cucumber Sandwiches

Ingredients assembled, I took a bite into my first open-faced sandwich. Yeah, it worked beautifully. No bagel or Wonder Bread required.

These bite sized open faced sandwiches are the perfect choice for afternoon tea. Not only are they unique yet classical, but they also show off your scone-making skills in a whole new light. A scone turned into a sandwich? What could be better than that other than more scones?

Lemon Thyme and Basil Cucumber Scone Sandwiches

 

 

 

Lemon Thyme Basil Cucumber Sandwiches

Lemon Thyme Basil Cucumber Sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 2 cups self rising flour
  • 3 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped lemon thyme
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • full fat cream cheese (do not use herbed cream cheese as that would overwhelm the scones)
  • thick slices of fresh cucumber

Preheat oven 450°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, sift together flour and salt. Mix in fresh herbs.
Break up butter by running it through a cheese grater. Rub into flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk and knead until all ingredients are incorporated and the dough is smooth.
Turn out onto floured surface (this can be lightly floured as the dough is pretty self-contained) and pat down to desired thickness (1 cm). Cut out into scones (5 cm) and place on baking sheet. Recombine scraps and continue cutting out additional scones. Bake for 8 minutes until beginning to toast on the edges. Turn out to cool on a wire rack immediately.

Once cooled, cut each scone in half. Top each half with a smear of cream cheese and a slice of cucumber. Serve these super light and refreshing savories to all enjoyment.

Recipe: Honey, Blueberry, White Cheddar Scones

Honey, Blueberry, White Cheddar Scones

Two weeks of savory scones, is it time to return to our sweet friends? If so, this is the perfect scone to make that transition. A combination of sweet and a touch of savory to not shock the system after two weeks of salt and umami, Honey, Blueberry, White Cheddar Scones may sound like a risky bake, but they are a risk well worth taking.

Part of the fun of developing my own scone recipes is coming up with combinations that I’ve never seen before. As I’ve said, my inspiration really comes from just about anywhere (hence always carrying a little notebook around with me) but I don’t always know how to add that little extra twist to create a truly unique scone. Enter The Flavor Bible. I simply choose an ingredient, turn to its entry, and am presented with other foods and tastes that the world’s master chefs have determined are complementary. I am fascinated by the pairings they come up with; I would easily spend hours pouring over its pages in wonderment. What goes well with plums? Bay leaves apparently.

IMG_4307This scone started by delving into flavor compatibility for honey. I’m excited for the other flavors to come that involve honey, but this affinity combination caught my eye: honey + blueberries + cheddar cheese. And hmmm…I got blueberries at the Farmer’s Market on Sunday and I have that English Coastal Cheddar I used for my Beer and Cheddar Scones…idea perhaps?

Success for sure. I found a recipe for a fig and honey scone and then modified the heck out of it to incorporate the blueberries and the cheese. The end result was a first-pitch home run! The texture was perfect, the scones risen yet sturdy, the flavors melding together in a way I never expected. Each bite starts out sweet and almost florally from the honey before a subtle shock of the earthy cheddar. Well, now that I consider it, the cheddar is less earthy and more…oceany? It has a sense of belonging to a briny and salty coastline (and not just because its name is Coastal!) that I never anticipated harmonizing with the sweet blueberries and the floral honey. But it does. And it does so unassumingly and unusually, but undeniably.

Honey, Blueberry, White Cheddar Scones

Honey, Blueberry, White Cheddar Scones

Honey, Blueberry, and White Cheddar Scones

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 3 tbsp ultrafine sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 3/4 cup English white cheddar (we used Coastal Cheddar from Costco)
  • 2 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, divided

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet (maybe two) with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together bread flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Toss in cheese and blueberries and mix until well distributed. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine honey with 2 tablespoons cream, stirring well. Add honey mixture to flour mixture and begin to knead together. One tablespoon at a time, add the remaining cream until a dough has formed that can hold together. We used a total of 3/4 cup of cream.
On a floured surface, turn out kneaded dough and pat down to desired thickness (1 cm). Use a flour dipped scone cutter (5 cm) to cut and place scones on baking sheets. Knead together excess dough and repeat. Bake for 8 minutes or until the tops are beginning to brown. Remove immediately to a wire rack to cool.
IMG_4316You could probably top this with honey or maybe a honey butter (I do not recommend cream or jam with a scone that has more than two flavors and this has three) but that might throw off the balance of the three flavors. Feel free to try and report back! I love hearing about other people’s experiences and experiments.

Recipe: Lemon Thyme and Basil Scones

Keeping in the trend of last week’s savory scones inspired by what was available in the house’s refrigerator, I offer you this week’s selection: Lemon Thyme and Basil Scones.

By some stroke of good fortune, my mom has kept the herbs her brother gave her alive for more than a few months (my mom will be the first to admit that she has a black thumb so this isn’t me insulting her I promise). Yet even with an avid baker and sometimes avid cook in the house, none of the herbs have been put to much use. She decided to change that and requested that I create a scone using her most abundant herb.

Lemon thyme.

IMG_4219A variant of–obviously–English thyme, lemon thyme fools you into thinking that it is just another thyme leaf, until you start cutting it and releasing the oils inside its leaves. Then you unlock its citrusy aroma, its lemon scent that suddenly wafts through your entire kitchen. And you wonder, what can I do with such a hidden delicacy?

IMG_4192Um, duh, I make scones. And since according to a flavor pairing book my brother bought me for Christmas, basil and lemon thyme have a natural affinity for each other, I killed two birds with one scone and cut off some of Mom’s basil leaves to toss in as well.

And thus the history of the second savory scone success. The flavor of these scones is significantly more subtle than the Beer and Cheddar scones, but no less enjoyable. They have a delicate balance of herbal notes that would probably be broken down if heated for too long, so I highly recommend keeping these scones small to decrease the baking time to the 8 minute mark. It is definitely worth it. Especially for the smell when you open your oven and the lemon thyme and basil take over your senses. The scent along, completely disregarding the flavor, is reason along to start growing lemon thyme.

Lemon Thyme and Basil Scones

Lemon Thyme and Basil Scones

Lemon Thyme and Basil Scones

Ingredients

  • 2 cups self rising flour
  • 3 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh lemon thyme
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, grated
  • 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven 450°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, sift together flour and salt. Mix in fresh herbs.
Break up butter by running it through a cheese grater. Rub into flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk and knead until all ingredients are incorporated and the dough is smooth.
Turn out onto floured surface (this can be lightly floured as the dough is pretty self-contained) and pat down to desired thickness (1 cm). Cut out into scones (5 cm) and place on baking sheet. Recombine scraps and continue cutting out additional scones. Bake for 8 minutes until beginning to toast on the edges. Turn out to cool on a wire rack immediately.

IMG_4197 These scones became the base for another recipe that I am really excited to share with you…just wait and see!

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