Wednesday, July 10, 2013 • categorized in food & drink
You? You're a baker.
Before we get into the baking portion of this entry, though, I must be clear that you do not have to be a baker to successfully make these scones. I am not a capital-B Baker, myself. In fact, it has been approximately 5–10 years since I last baked, so, if you think this baking thing isn't for you, you're wrong.
It is really very hard to mess these up.
Why am I baking now after so long?
I have never been much for cooking — or anything kitchen related, if I am to be perfectly honest about it — but my anxiety has turned itself up several notches as of late. As you can see in the photo below, I was felled by anxiety two nights ago and was dutifully tended to on the kitchen floor by my nurse kitty Onion:
I figured that maybe baking would be a calm, meditative act that might also manage to fill my very Mennonite need to accomplish a task with a practical and clear outcome. I can't just lie around and relax to get over stress. What, are you mad?!
So, the next day I went out and bought baking ingredients, half of which I didn't need, it turned out, and half of which I completely forgot, so I just rewrote the whole recipe to suit whatever I brought home or already had hanging around in my cupboards.
Don't worry, it all works out in the end!
2 cups white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red chili peppers (or a dash of cayenne pepper, or skip it)
2 teaspoons Inglehoffer Sweet Hot Pepper Mustard (or some other kind of mustard, because it seriously doesn't matter. I just found this stuff in my fridge.)
5 tablespoons cold butter (salted or unsalted, because it's all up to you. The world is a crazy place.)
1 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese (or orange cheddar or blue cheese or whatever)
1 large beaten egg (This recipe can be a bit dry, so feel free to throw in an extra one if your eggs are small. There is no egg judgement here.)
½ cup milk, plus extra for brushing (or, in my case, watered down coffee cream, because that's pretty much milk, right?)
Got all the stuff? Good! Let's do this thing.
What To Do With The Ingredients:
ONE: Preheat the oven to 400°F/205°C. (400°F actually equals 204.444°C, but we don't need that much precision. This is us! And that would be too much science for these scones, anyway.)
TWO: Measure out all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix them together (the flour, baking powder, salt, and crushed red chili peppers).
THREE: Cut the butter into bits. Add the butter bits and the mustard to the dry ingredients. Rub them into and through the dry ingredients until the whole mess looks a little bit like coarse crumbs.
FOUR: Mix in most of the grated cheese, taking care to leave some out to sprinkle on top just before baking.
FIVE: Watch out for Cheese Vultures. They lurk on top of refrigerators, are often covered in black fur, tend to mew pitiably, and will sometimes answer to the name "Oskar".
SIX: Stir in the milk and beaten egg until the whole mixture becomes dough.
I like this part, because what all possibly seemed for naught starts look like it might actually be working out.
SEVEN: Dump the dough onto a flat surface. If the dough is sticky, lightly sprinkle a bit of flour on the surface to prevent sticking. Knead it a few times, but not much, and then press it into a circular shape so that the whole thing is over ½ an inch thick.
At this point, I found that my dough was dry enough that it wasn't all sticking together very well, so I rubbed water between the palms of my hands and worked it into the dough. I used this method to avoid accidentally adding too much water, because it is easy to add to much and end up with a ball of glue.
I'm glad I remembered this trick from years ago, because a whole tablespoon would have been crazypants.
EIGHT: Cut the circle into eight pieces like a pizza.
NINE: Place the scones on a lightly buttered baking sheet, brush the tops with milk, or smear it on with your fingers if you don't have one of those fancy kitchen brushes, and sprinkle the tops with your remaining cheese.
TEN: Bake at 400°F/205°C for approximately 17 minutes.
This number is definitely an approximate one. My scones went for 20 minutes in my oven, but ten years ago they went for the required 17 in another oven. Just keep an eye on them after the 15-minute mark and take them out when their tops and sides start turning a golden brown.
ELEVEN: Let your scones cool for about ten minutes before eating, and then eat those mothers with a good dose of butter. Peanut butter goes surprisingly well with them. And coffee. And jam! Try not to eat four at once. Give a mouthful over to appease the Cheese Vulture.
And see? You did it, you little non-baker, you! I'm so proud.
In the future, now that you're filled with all kinds of scone confidence, try throwing in other stuff you like. Things such as walnuts, cranberries, and bits of orange peel won't destroy anything, and they can actually be pretty good. Experimentation leads to surprising outcomes, like this recipe, for instance, with my substitutions and nearly doubling the butter. (Shhh, I nearly doubled the butter.)
Oh, and how did it work for my anxiety? Beautifully. I concentrated on measuring and mixing and shaping so much, that the parts of my mind that were hanging onto repetitive stress thoughts let them go. By the time I set the timer for the oven, I was breathing like a normal person. Amazing.
See! I told you it would all work out in the end.
I eventually want to work my way up to something like a chocolate ganache cake, but I think I'm going to stay at this scones level for a while. It's a damn tasty level.