Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What spice?

I put out a call on Twitter for a spice or herb to use with raspberries. Here are all the suggestions:

From gardenfaerie- cinnamon
From annmjenson- jalapeno or curry
from xitomal- mint or anise
NoraChin likes they idea of mint as well
impstrump wants Raspberry-cannabis, which I think has definite possibilities. She also suggested Echinacea, which has the advantage of also preventing colds, I guess.
DaggerBytesBack wants cayenne
Icemom says cardamom and also white chocolate (which isn't technically a spice...) and also sent me the Cooks Illustrated recipe, which I used (see below).
OpenlyBalanced suggests ginger

Clearly, I have a lot of scones to make. I ended up making plain Raspberry scones with jalapeno jelly (from Trader Joe's, but here's a nice recipe).

And here I am going to depart from the recipes. I used Diane's suggestion and made the recipe from America's Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated, which is probably the best, if the most annoyingly complex, scone recipe I ever made (frozen, grated butter. Ever grate butter? Yeah, butter EVERYwhere.) But the scones are indescribable- flaky and sweet without being crumbly or cloying. (Okay, I guess not indescribable, since I just described them.)

Because America's Test Kitchen is probably my favorite show and I want to marry (and eat with) everyone on it, I'm putting here, in lieu of the recipe, the link to sign up for the site. Yes, recipes on the web that you have to pay for. But if you like to cook, you should susbcribe to this site anyway. (My kickback check will be in the mail, soon, yes?)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Last March I committed my self (and my long-suffering family) to slow food- seasonal, local, organic, whole. Once we got past the early difficulties-- finding local sources, how to stock a larder when you can't just run to the store, etc.-- we've found it a revelation.

I was famous when my kids were growing up for never having food in the house. I refused to stock up on junk food. Junk food, when we purchased it, was purchased for immediate consumption only; I never had bags of chips just lying around.

The problem was, because I wasn't thinking past "no junk food," there wasn't anything else lying around either.

What we've found since committing to this way of eating is that there is ALWAYS food. Because I don't mind them chowing down on real popcorn, or homemade crackers, cookies or scones, because the homemade bread is so delicious, there always seems to be something to eat now.

One of the things we've given up along the way is cold cereal. I never liked it at all, and no one is that crazy about granola, so I've replaced cereal with weekly scones. I've made some delicious ones, and in nearly 4 months of scone baking have yet to repeat one. They were taking over my other recipe blog.

This seasonal scone can be made with any fruit (last week I made them with rhubarb; next week the raspberries should be ripe), and you can substitute oats or whole wheat flour for the cornmeal (play with the texture when substituting). This is a drop scone; leave out the egg yolk and increase the grain for a denser, cut scone.

Strawberry Cornbread Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 1/2 cups diced strawberries (¼-inch cubes), macerated in sugar (abt 3 T)

1/4 cup honey
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Adjust a baking rack to the middle position. In a small bowl, mix the strawberries with 3 tablespoons sugar.

Mix the dry ingredients, then cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, knife or your hands until it resembles a coarse meal. Stir the fruit into the flour mixture. Lightly beat the honey, egg, yolk, milk and sourcream together in a bowl (use the same one you used for the strawberries ), then add this mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Dough will be very sticky.

Using soup spoons (for large scones) or teaspoons (for small scones) spoon out 1 1/2" or 2" mounds onto the cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until pale golden. Transfer the scones to a cooling rack and let them cool slightly before serving.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Apple maple scones

3/4 cup all-purpose flour plus 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg
1/3 cup sourcream
1-2 tablespoon milk
1/4 c maple syrup
1 teaspoon maple extract (or vanilla; maple is hard to find)

1 1/2 cups diced apples
½ cup golden raisins, plumped

Preheat oven to 425°.

Mix together first 5 ingredients. Cut in cold butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, then mix in fruit until blended until blended. Whisk together egg and liquid ingredients in a separate bowl; add to flour mixture, and mix just until blended. Dough will be sticky.

Spoon in large tablespoonsful onto a lightly greased baking sheet (or line a sheet with parchment paper). Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until golden.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sconeday: the art of gardening

I approach my garden as much for art, as for plants or food.

I started life as an artist, actually making a living at it all through my 20s and even into my children’s toddlerhood. It’s hard to paint with little kids around, however; you cannot pick up a baby when your hands are covered in cadmium yellow. It is poison. You can switch to pastels, but then the baby is always Technicolor and anyway, who knows what’s in those as well? So you switch to charcoal, but now the baby looks like you let him crawl around on the cellar floor, which in fact you do, and oh my god what is he putting in his mouth.

So I switched to gardening. This became my canvas, and it is a living one that changes and grows, literally, year after year. I’ve just spent the morning looking at old photo CDs and seeing how the garden has changed over the years— it is a work that is never done, the god’s canvas. The Painter’s Palette dies and is replaced by Baby's Breath, which dies and is replaced by Pineapple Sage. A “water” garden made from pebbles and rocks gives way to an actual pond; a vegetable garden becomes a mulch patio becomes a vegetable garden; the lilies move from the shade to the sun and take off. The coleus really doesn’t like the sun, but pansies and marigolds make a beautiful statement in the same place.

How can you make your garden into art?
Put other people's art in it: A little bronze frog, a clay Medusa, ceramic luminaries.
Put in your own art: A painted gate, a hand-built trellis made of sticks, plant markers.
Make the layout a canvas: Lead the eye through the garden by laying paths, and interrupting the movement of the eye, or letting the wanderer pause with architectural elements like a special plant, or a bench, a luminary or a sculpture.
Paint with flowers: frame a lupine with a green shrub, or create a themed garden (Shakespearian plants, or a color theme)

The words are interchangeable— I am an artist. I am a gardener.

How have you made your garden into art?

Goat cheese scones
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
>1/4 cup white sugar if you like sweet scones
1/8 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 T goat cheese ( a crumbly one works best)
3/4 cup sour cream (thin with milk) plain or vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup honey

½ cup sugared, plumped raisins

Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, and salt into a large bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or rubbing between your fingers until it has the consistency of corn meal. Cut in the goat cheese. Mix liquids together in a measuring cup. Pour all at once into the dry ingredients, and stir gently until well blended. (Overworking the dough results in terrible scones!)

To prepare raisins, plump raisins. Place in a microwaveable container, just cover with water and heat them in the microwave on medium for about 3 minutes. Drain and pat dry, then coat with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon suger. Mix these into the scone batter.

Glaze with yogurt mixed with cinnamon

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and drop batter by generous spoonfuls. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the tops are golden brown, not deep brown.