Mix Up

I am a saver. I am not a hoarder, I have full ability to clean, purge, recycle, and toss, but I do hang on to things that I might need. I am currently reducing this collection of Might Need Someday, clumsily inching my way toward minimalism. My fridge and freezer reflect my attitude toward saving. Any usable leftover, be it tomato sauce, pinto beans, grated cheddar, or small chunks of mozzarella, can be found squirreled away in my freezer, a myriad assortment of Pyrex & Kerr & Deli containers. Items stay in the fridge if I know I’ll use in a day or two. This system usually works for me, but confusion or misidentification can happen.

My favorite story of incorrect freezer ID, was the lunch I sent to work with Spouse a few years back. It was post Thanksgiving and there were turkey leftovers in the fridge and I was certain I had mashed potatoes in the freezer. Still jammied in a dimly lit kitchen, I pawed around the freezer until I found that container with the frozen white mass inside. Success! I opened it, threw some turkey on top,  and packed it, the last item in Spouse’s lunch carrier. Later that day, Spouse sent what I thought was a rather cryptic email regarding his lunch, so I ignored as one of his less-than-better jokes. Pizza was on the menu for dinner and I readied my longer-rise partial Emmer pizza dough. When it came time to assemble ingredients, I pulled items from fridge and freezer: strained tomatoes-frozen, mushrooms-fresh, pesto & pepperoni-frozen, arugula-fresh, but I could not find the made-by-me mozzarella that I knew I had saved, the reason we were even having this meal, it was not in the freezer. A quick drive to QFC allowed me to purchase an inferior replacement, and pizzas were baking when Spouse returned home.

Ever so smug, Spouse quipped about more mozzarella, and described to me his lunchtime experience. He had heated up his lunch, but the mashed potatoes weren’t responding as they usually did. They were remaining pretty solid and frozen. He removed the turkey and heated the rest for a bit longer. When it was finally pliable, he realized instead of potatoes, I had given him a large, healthy portion of mozzarella cheese to eat with his turkey. Delicious. He ate it, finding it completely hilarious. I was mad that I didn’t get to use my beautiful cheese on the pizza, but eventually found myself laughing out loud at the faux pas.

Ok. So fast forward to this morning. In my fridge I had a baggy of butter bits, leftover butter from my current class, butter still papered but handled by kids so my assistants didn’t want it for themselves. I had taken it home, knowing I could use it in something baked. In the same fridge compartment as the butter bag, I had found another bit of something that I assumed was more butter, so all of it, plus a little more to reach 6 ounces, went into the bowl of fresh-ground Einkorn, orange zest, currants, kefir, and the leaveners. Scones for Junior on Veteran’s Day.

The scones mixed and baked up beautifully. I did however notice a small anomaly: some of the butter seemed to be coagulated rather than melted-how weird! I sampled a scone and the light crisp butter/flour magic was there, along with the slight of orange, the bit of currant-sweet and…what was that? The coagulated something was cheese! That extra bit I threw in? Parmesan. Not butter. It was a tiny amount so the scones aren’t so much savory as they are confusing. I’m hoping the jam Junior adds will cover my crime, an offense his taste receptors, if detected, will not appreciate. Oh well. Perhaps it’s time for a fridge system overhaul!

ps: this is the same scone I always make!

Mmmm sweet cheesy goodness!

Bakers Gotta

It’s been hot. This is Seattle and it’s been hot. Record-breaking, sleep-interrupting, Why-isn’t-everything-air-conditioned hot. The garden needs more water and extra shade. The lawn is already August-brown. The rhubarb and raspberries are in complete denial. My looks-great cement-everything patio radiates warmth well after sundown. We’ve filled the house with box fans. I can barely produce a meal. However, I love to bake. I miss baking. I am happy when I bake stuff. So I did. On the patio.

With this. IMG_6991

I made these.

IMG_6996

Quarter-size sheet pans, raspberries, blueberries, same old recipe, and a convection toaster oven. Life began to feel normal, less record-breaking, more me. Otherwise, I’m making a lot of kids-class versions of Doro Wat, Injera, Tomatican, Empanadas, and Picnic Chicken. In an air-conditioned, well-appointed, kitchen classroom.

IMG_1287

Happy July!

Pumpkin Scones

Today. For breakfast. Breakfast at 11AM because I was still in bed reading recipes until 10. These were yummy. I found them on The FauxMartha. I fell in love with The FauxMartha upon discovering and recreating her Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake. Oh my goodness. When visiting the site this morning, I found this scone recipe. I had all the ingredients, failed to take any process photos, used Emmer instead of white whole wheat, and reduced the sugar by a tablespoon. I didn’t use any pepita seeds.

Pumpkin, spices, cream, butter, flours, sugars, etc.
Pumpkin, spices, cream, butter, flours, sugars, etc.

With the use of Emmer and pumpkin, the scones end up with a rather meh color. Taking photos of them against my wood counter tops heightens that meh, but these scones were light, tender, not overly spiced, and with the glaze, a perfect sweet for our family.

Pumpkin & cream glaze
Pumpkin & cream glaze

Some days I take the time to make a recipe my own. Today I just wanted to make pumpkin scones.

Yum.
Yum.

Cheers!

Tuesdays With Dorie: Buttermilk Scones

Fumbling around the internet for cookie recipes or cake recipes made with lower amounts of sugar, seeking the What Happens When of reducing sugar in a recipe, trawling the sea of information for specifics that could only really be found in the mind of a food scientist or seasoned pastry chef, I bumped into Tuesdays With Dorie. Tuesdays With Dorie is a blog designed for people with blogs wishing to work through the recipes of Baking With Julia, and other books by Dorie Greenspan, over the course of a year, posting results on, yes, a Tuesday. As usual with internet searches, this was not what I was looking for but, intrigued, I signed up. I got the green light from the TWD élite in time for a March start.

I have owned Baking With Julia since purchasing my First Edition copy the year published, in 1996. I had fallen headlong in love with cooking and baking, was taking classes, feeding family and friends and coworkers, dreaming of little cafes. This book is a companion piece to one of Julia Childs’ PBS cooking shows. The series filmed in her kitchen, has the illustrious Julia keeping company with a variety of breadmakers, pastry chefs, restaurant owners, cookbook writers, each creating some of their signature baked items for her. I never watched many of the PBS episodes but have fiddled with several recipes in this book. For any number of reasons with me and cookbooks, I found the 2 or 3 recipes that became standards, and have rarely picked up the book since. Tuesdays With Dorie sounded like a motivating way to give the book another look and write more posts here. Happily, the first assignment for March is one of my standards: Buttermilk Scones.

One stipulation of TWD is that we are not to include recipes in our posts, instead encouraging others to purchase the beautiful book for themselves. For this rendition of scones, I have measured equal parts just-ground whole wheat and organic white unbleached all-purpose flours, salt, leaveners, cold butter in pieces, and coconut palm sugar. (Always try new recipes as written, then give yourself permission to try different flours or sugars or mix-ins, as long as they are in kind.)

mise en place
mise en place

The original method calls for combining the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and for working in the cold butter with fingers, a pastry cutter, or a knife & fork. I am comfortable with this method, but usually use a food processor for this first step of the process.

flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and lemon zest
Ready for pulsing.

A food processor is powerful, so pulsing the mixture into a coarse meal happens in less than a minute. I am able to keep the cold butter away from my warm hands, processing it quickly so it stays cold. At this point, I pour the flour/butter mixture into a mixing bowl before adding the liquid.

Ready for buttermilk
Ready for buttermilk.

As these scones are Buttermilk Scones, the recipe calls for buttermilk. When I have buttermilk on hand, I always save 1 cup for scone-making. The slightly sour, thick liquid works a magic with the other ingredients. When I don’t have buttermilk, I can use 1 tablespoon of vinegar + enough milk to make 1 cup total. The recipe calls for lemon or orange zest to be added along with the buttermilk. I zest the fruit over the food processor bowl instead, letting the long strands from my zester pulse with the butter. Also at this point, you can add a few currants or other diced plump dried fruit. I have even mixed in blueberries or pieces of firm pear with great success. I mix the flour and milk with a fork until combined. Like biscuits, scones don’t want to be overworked. While still in the bowl, I work the dough/batter with my hand, kneading gently until I can gather into a ball.

Ready for the work surface.
Ready for the work surface.

On the counter, I gently knead the mass for 2 or 3 more turns. The ball of dough is then divided in half, flattened into disks, brushed with melted butter, and cut into wedges. The disks should be 6- to 7-inches in diameter. You can also sprinkle extra sugar over the brushed-on butter.

Ready for cutting.
Ready for cutting.

For tiny scones, I create 3 disks instead of 2, with a diameter of 4-inches or so. This makes a nice size scone for a tea-tray. With all the cut scones positioned on a parchment-lined baking sheet, we are ready for a hot oven.

Ready for the oven.
Ready for the oven.

These scones only bake for 10-12 minutes. The hot oven of 425F gets the cold butter melted, leaving little caverns for the steam and leaveners to push out further. The result, even with the whole wheat I use, is some lovely light, flakey, crisp outside, tender inside just-baked yum.

Mmmmm
Mmmmm!

With the light glistening off my mirabelle plum jam, I will excuse myself now to go enjoy some Baking With Julia goodness.

Buttermilk Scones • Baking With Julia • Contributing Baker: Marion Cunningham • pages 210-211

Bartlett

For as long as I can remember, I have loved pears. Growing up, Pear only meant Bartlett. Green when picked, left to ripen in box or on counter, the bright yellow skin giving way easily to knife, juice on fingers and chin, my early childhood introduction to decadence and wealth. Our neighbors had grandparents with an eastern Washington fruit farm, so each late summer-early fall brought boxes of free-stone peaches, all kinds of apples, and Bartlett pears to our house. I could not appreciate the scope of such good fortune.

In my now, I have the beautiful fortune of being involved with a group of people who want to support small farms and local farms. This all-volunteer, list-serve organized group finds farmers and produce, creates spreadsheets, organizes pick-up points, giving farmers & consumers access to each other that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Vince's pears
Vince’s pears

For three years running, my pears have been from Vince at Valley View Farm. These pears arrive without labels to remove, picked, sorted, and packed by people I have met, grown with respect for the planet and the workers who aid, part of a dream to provide good food for a family and anyone else who connects. The 35 pounds of pears ripening in my basement took their time, teasing with some yellow, but still too crunchy for eating, until BAM-they were all ready for the kitchen.

This year we ate pears daily, I canned 7 quarts of what Junior calls “Jar Pears”, I dehydrated a load into   sweet, tender deliciousness, and I used some in baking. One of my favorite uses for fresh pear is to combine with cardamom and bake into scones.

My scone recipe originates from Baking With Julia. These scones are light, not too sweet, are tasty with lemon zest only, and hold up well when adding blueberries, raspberries, apples, or pears. I use a food processor to mix the dry ingredients and cold butter, which is then poured into a mixing bowl. I next add the fruit, followed by the liquid. Scones, like biscuits, don’t want to be over-handled, preferring to be kneaded with a “light hand” just until the dough comes together. The dough is then divided into two circles, brushed with melted butter or heavy cream, cut into pieces, and baked in a hot oven.

I think to take pictures well after a project has begun
I think to take pictures well after a project has begun
Almost ready for oven
Almost ready for oven

Care taken by keeping the butter cold, pieces processed just to the size of peas, will give the scones lightness and lift as the hot oven melts the fat, leaving precious tiny pockets of air in the finished product. This recipe calls for buttermilk which I never have on hand, so I substitute sour milk: 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar poured into a 1 cup measure, add milk to fill; let sit for 5 minutes.

Delicious!
Delicious!

Try other fruits, fresh or dried, and different spices to combine with. Add a tablespoon of grated lemon or orange zest. Try out with your preferred gluten-free flour mix or vegan fat of choice, as long as the fat is solid at room temperature. In the recipe below, I used a combination of Einka and whole wheat flours, a total of 3 cups, but a useless measure when using alternative flours. I use a standard of 1 cup flour = 4.9 ounces to make conversions.  Cheers!

Pear-Cardamon Scones
Preheat oven to 425F

Ingredients
8 oz Einka
6.7 oz just-ground whole wheat
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
2 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp fresh ground cardamom
6 oz cold butter, cut into small pieces
¾ cup diced pears
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1-2 tbsp melted butter or heavy cream
Combine the dry ingredients in bowl of food processor.
Pulse to combine.
Add the bits of butter and pulse carefully until it becomes the size of peas.
Place flour mixture into large mixing bowl.
Stir in diced pears, coating well with flour.
Pour in milk, stirring gently to avoid crushing the fruit.
Gather  dough into a ball, turn onto lightly floured work surface.
Knead gently & briefly, 10-12 turns at the most.
Divide dough into two equal parts, form into disks, brush with melted butter or heavy cream.
Cut each disk into 6 wedges.
Sprinkle with coarse sugar for an added sweet and sparkly finish.

Bake 10-12 minutes.