Mini Blueberry Cream Scones

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Hello August.

Hello birthday. Hello to the last lazy afternoons and plane rides. Hello golden afternoons and ever-so-slightly-earlier sunsets.

To be perfectly honest, this new month snuck up on me.

Here I was thinking that summer was just beginning– I had finally learned to take advantage of my weekends and enjoy the season. I learned that I could make it to the pool for an hour after work, or hike in the hills in the afternoon sun. Take a picnic to the local park and enjoy the sunshine and warmth. Have lunch on the lawn. Count on it being light outside until nearly 9 PM. Eat tomatoes and corn and berries for an afternoon snack, because all of the produce is perfectly ripe and sweet this time of year.

And suddenly, it’s August. Back-to-school season, and nearly Fall semester.

I’m going spend another month or two pretending that summer will never end.

One thing you should definitely do this month, before berry season is over?

Make these scones. Make these scones, a blackberry pie or two, strawberry shortcakes, and peach-berry-basil cobblers. But begin with these scones.

These mini blueberry cream scones will be an instant hit at brunch!

These tiny cream scones are incredibly easy to make. You just whisk together your dry ingredients, stir in your cream, and add the best blueberries you can find. There’s not much more to it.

And, especially for being one of the simplest things to come out of your oven, these little scones are delightful. Light, tender, just dense enough. Bite-sized. Bursting with berry flavor, the baked and concentrated juice sometimes running down the sides, sticky and sweet. Golden brown on top and just a little crisp around the edges.

Eat these straight out of the oven or on the same day as you bake them for the best texture. If you need to store these overnight, an airtight container at room temperature will do. But if you can? Always go for fresh scones.

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Banana Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake

This recipe feels strange and out-of-place on my blog in the middle of summer. This recipe does not feel summery at all. It feels like something you bake up in October, when the air turns crisp. Or in December, for an office holiday party. Or maybe in late February, with the first snow melts.

But there have been summer cold snaps in the East Bay, and I feel like they perfectly justify this banana chocolate crumb cake in the middle of July. The longest day of the year has come and gone, and I feel like this city still hasn’t made up its mind about the weather.

I spent the summer solstice wandering city sidewalks, blocks of shops and houses in full afternoon sun. It was Father’s Day, so I painted a mug at the ceramics studio for my dad. I ran a few errands. I went to the market for fresh produce. Filled my bag with corn, peppers, shallots, lemons, apricots, apples, mangoes, and plums.

I had dinner at a West Berkeley comida under string lights and a crescent moon.

It was so hot outside, and the warm weather continued for a week and a half.

Less than a week later, the weather turned cold and foggy. I found myself in the kitchen with a mug of hot chocolate and craving this banana chocolate crumb cake. Sweltering hot days turned into a streak of chilly nights.

The weather is back to normal over here, blazing hot and constantly sunny… But I’m still eating slices of this cake out of the freezer.

Here’s how we make it.

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Apricot Cashew Yogurt Bowl

As promised, a yogurt bowl recipe. Truly effortless. Extremely simple.

A perfect way to use homemade yogurt. A healthy snack, and portable if you make it in a jar.

If you saw my blood orange yogurt bowl recipe, you’ll see that this bowl works the same way– yogurt topped with fresh fruit, honey, and nuts. It’s a fail-proof formula, and one that barely requires a recipe.

This particular bowl– with homemade yogurt, apricots, and cashews– is my go-to late spring, early summer bowl. (I know it’s mid-summer now, but there are still apricots in the markets, so I’m going to say this recipe is still fair game.)

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Strawberry Thyme Quick Jam

Strawberry Thyme Quick Jam | Kitchen in the Hills

If there’s one food item to look forward to in the summer, it’s the baskets of farm-fresh, ultra-ripe, extra sweet fruit at the farmers’ market. I’ve waiting for strawberries all season, and finally picked up a gorgeous basketful at the North Berkeley Farmers’ Market. I like using strawberries to fill and decorate cakes, or cooking them into pies of all kinds.

But there’s an even simpler preparation that yields great rewards. Jam.

Strawberry Thyme Quick Jam | Kitchen in the Hills

This method works with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, stone fruits… Just about any summer fruit works here. But I like strawberries the best, for their fresh flavor and texture.

The simplest and easiest quick jams are just fruit and a little sugar, simmered together until done. You always can fancy-up your jams with all kinds of juices, spices, and flavorings. I chose to add lemon and thyme to my strawberry jam. (Strawberries + thyme are an unexpected flavor combo, but they’re total winners to me!)

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Challah

Challah | Kitchen in the Hills

Challah has long been one of my favorite breads. I first tried it after baking a loaf with a good friend several years ago. It was soft, springy, eggy, tender, and sweet.

Challah | Kitchen in the Hills

This loaf is from Kamren Siddiqui’s Hand Made Baking. It’s a little less sweet, and a little more sturdy than your typical loaf of challah. It’s wonderful served plain with butter, but you can also toast it up and top it with an avocado or fried egg.

My current favorite topping is nutella. Can we talk about how freakin’ adorable these mini nutella cups are?

Also, can we talk about how delightful Kamren’s writing is? I read his book cover-to-cover for the recipe descriptions and stories alone. Kamren effortlessly links food to memories, stories and emotions. You can read some of his writing on his blog, Sophisticated Gourmet. He’s a skilled baker, but he also has a knack for compelling storytelling. Go check it out.

On to the challah!

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Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies | Kitchen in the Hills

So. I promised you a blog post on Sunday, and here it is five days later. Not the greatest. I go through ups and downs with this blog, and while I love posting regularly, there are definitely more weeks than I like where it seems I’m just too busy or too stressed to make a post. This last week wasn’t bad, but I definitely didn’t put in the hours to make, photograph, write and edit a full recipe post.

This isn’t a full blog post, really. It’s more of an update, with recipe attached. A recipe that was too good not to share. I was reading smitten kitchen last week, and Deb mentioned a chocolate chip cookie that she made and liked. Specifically, this salted chocolate chunk cookie from Ashley Rodriguez’s Date Night In cookbook.

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies | Kitchen in the Hills

The book, which features a bunch of simple, make-it-in-an-evening meals for two, had been on my cookbook wishlist for weeks. (You’ve got to check out Ashley’s website, Not Without Salt. Amazing.) I knew when I saw the cookie recipe that I had to make it. I made a batch for a dinner with friends.

These cookies far exceeded my expectations. They were better than good. There are a lot of good cookie recipes out there, but this one made for big, crispy-edged, soft-centered packages of goodness. Not too sweet, but not too salty, either. These cookies were the first salted chocolate chip cookies that I actually liked— not bland, not too heavily salted, and definitely chocolate-forward. These are probably my second favorite chocolate chip cookies of all time, with ATK’s cookies taking first place.

You should totally make these cookies this weekend. They are so good. 

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Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies

Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies

Last summer, I learned to love rhubarb. Always unsure of what to do with the celery-like stalk, I had passed it by at the grocery store for weeks. But when I finally tried it— in pie, in jam, in lemonade— it was delicious. Rhubarb has a special sweet-tart flavor that’s like nothing else for me. At the end of the season, I made some rhubarb jam and tucked it away in my fridge for the winter.

I’m happy to say that I just polished off my last can of jam about a month ago, and I’m already seeing rhubarb in the markets again. I picked some up to make strawberry rhubarb pie.

Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies

But can I tell you a secret? For a person who so loves to bake, I don’t actually own a lot of baking equipment. A few pans, spoons, spatulas, measuring cups, whisks and mixing bowls. That’s about it. I recently upgraded from one simple metal baking sheet to two. Not a single pie dish in sight. This kind of minimalism is necessary when you’re living in a small apartment, but it does limit your options.

I usually grab a disposable pie tin when I have an important pie to bake. (See this recipe.) But this time I didn’t want to grab a flimsy foil tin. I also wanted something that would look just as gorgeous as the traditional slice of lattice-top pie, with half the effort and mess. And bonus points if I could take it to-go.

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Very Good Pancakes

Very Good Pancakes | Kitchen in the Hills

Confession time: I’ve never been good at making pancakes. Pancakes, the quick-and-easy staple of the American kitchen. Almost everyone I know will choose to make their own batch before reaching for a box of Bisquick. But truth be told, I’ve never had more consistent results than with a box of mix. I have tried so many pancake recipes, and very few of them have worked out well for me. (Especially buttermilk pancakes that use baking soda as the sole leavening. Seriously?!)

Very Good Pancakes | Kitchen in the Hills

But pancakes shouldn’t be hard to pull off.

You shouldn’t have to mix and measure and mix again, dirtying every dish in your kitchen.

And you definitely shouldn’t have to spend Saturday morning with a plate of too-chewy, too-dense, too-icky-sweet pancakes. Especially not after all that effort.

I’m a firm believer in pancake simplicity.

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