Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Brunch: Mandarin Vanilla Bean Jam with Cream Biscuits

One of my favorite morning treats is jam on toast or a bagel or even biscuits, though I rarely make biscuits because they generally end up as hockey pucks.  I am really good at overworking the dough, which anyone who's made a biscuit knows a cardinal sin and inhibits any fluffiness in the biscuit.  A few weeks ago I happened upon a post over at Orangette for cream biscuits that Molly promised are no fail.  I've tried biscuits enough times and had them rarely work that I didn't buy into the whole "no fail" part of her write-up, but then I saw that while making these biscuits she was pretty certain she didn't use enough cream and had overworked the dough.  Those are mistakes I can get behind, because they are things that I would absolutely do.  The best part was that her biscuits still rose and were delicious.  I knew I had to make them right away.

Cream Biscuits
Adapted from The Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham via Orangette

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp table salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar
1 to 1 ½ cups heavy cream
5 Tbsps unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (If you don’t have parchment, leave it as it is, ungreased. The parchment just helps for easy cleanup.)
2. Add the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar to a large bowl, stir with a fork until combined. 

3. Slowly add 1 cup of cream, stirring the whole time. Gather the dough together gently, when it holds together and feels tender, it’s ready to knead. If it feels shaggy and pieces are dry, slowly add enough cream to make the dough hold together.
4. Place the dough on a lightly floured board and knead for 1 minute. (You don’t want to overwork it.) Pat the dough into a square about ½ inch thick. Cut into 12 squares. 
5. Brush each with melted butter so that all sides are coated. Place the biscuits 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve hot.

Well you can't have biscuits without jam.  And you can't have jam in my house unless it's homemade.  We have a shelf in the basement full of all kinds of jams from last summer, jams that we really need to use or give away.  The thing is I discovered marmalade making this winter, even though I just don't love the bitterness that accompanies marmalade I love making it.  It's a long process to prep, but just the fact that I'm working with fruit, prepping it, cooking it down with sugar to get a lovely jewel colored jam-like product reminds me of summer.  So I keep making it.  Plus the Boy and his dad love it so I know it will be eaten.

I had a slew of mandarin oranges that I had originally planned on turning into marmalade, but the process is long, too long to whip up quickly to fulfill my biscuit and jam craving.  Then I remembered a post I saw over at Coconut & Lime for an orange jam and I knew what I wanted to do.   A Mandarin jam, but it would need something else, something to make it just a bit more special, a bit more Jen.  Ginger?  Cinnamon?  What would do it?  Vanilla Bean!  Those gorgeous and flavorful little black spots would be perfect in the bright orange jam.  And I imagined the flavor would be reminiscent of a creamsicle.  Sounds good to me!

Rather than follow the recipe from Coconut & Lime, I decided to use a bag of Redpath Quickset for jam that I had.  I don't normally buy a pectin or anything that helps jam set up but last month I won a contest to Judge Iron Cupcake Toronto for Redpath Sugar, part of my winning included a fabulous Redpath gift basket that included a bag of Redpath Quickset for jam.  There was no better time to test it out than the present and fromt he sounds of the directions on the back of the bag, the jam would come together quite quickly which was exactly what I was looking for.

Mandarin Vanilla Bean Jam
makes 6 250ml jars
adapted from Redpath Sugar

9-10 mandarin oranges, enough for 3 1/2 cups of chopped fruit
1 vanilla bean
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 kq of Redpath Quickset

1. Peel the mandarin oranges, making sure to remove any string or chunks of pith that remain.  Cut each segment into 3-4 pieces until you have 3 1/2 cups of fruit. Place a few small plates int he freezer.
2. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the little black seeds with the edge of your knife.  Add the fruit, vanilla bean seeds and pod, lemon juice and quickset to a heavy-bottomed pot.  Stir to combine.
3.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Once boiling it will thicken quickly, let boil for a few minutes and then test on one of the cold plates but place a bit of jam on the plate, letting it sit for 30 seconds.  If it sets up and wrinkle when you push it, it's done.
4.  Remove pot from heat and ladle the jam into sterilized jars.  Boil in a hot water canner for 5 minutes.

While the jam cooked I took little tastes here and there, like I always do and each time even though iw as alone I couldn't help but say "Yum!" out loud.  It tastes just like a creamsicle, exactly what I wanted.  It is sweeter that I generally like to make jam, but it works perfectly.  Spread onto a delicious cream biscuit I'd say it's a pretty amazing way to start a Sunday morning.  This came together so quickly because of the Quickset, but also because mandarins do not have a ton of pith to clean off, just about any other orange you would use would mean supreming, which while not as time consuming as marmalade prep is not not a quick process, at least not for me.  I will absolutely be hoarding my jars of this beauty in the hopes that it wil last until next winter when I can make some more.

If you're looking for a special Sunday Brunch that is easy and oh so delicious, this is absolutely where it's at.


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