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Great Britain 1, Me 0

by Carilyn on April 21, 2016

Lemon Cranberry Scones 014

I’m a goat. I will eat just about anything. I’m not squeamish or squirrely about much of anything. Like creepy food. Or random bodily injuries (just ask the poor surgeons who have been asked on several occasions to show me the excised cyst, tumor, polyp, tonsil or wisdom tooth of the unwitting family member who thought it would be a good idea to take ME as their designated driver to a surgery).

(Oops. Sorry, I forgot this was a food post, not a let’s-gross-each-other-out post.)

But, despite this near-iron stomach, there is a food category that I JUST DON’T GET: sweet non-desserts. Think Orange Chicken (blech). Muffins (Really, just pick already! If you are trying to be a dessert, own it and add some icing, if not, just be bread.).  Granola (Cereal should either be plain and nutritious <Cheerios, oatmeal>, or sugar bomb, smack-you-in-the-head delicious <Cocoa Krispies, Cap’n Crunch>. Quit trying to fool us with these sugar laden “healthy” cereals. Bah humbug.).

And so we come to scones. Scones, to me, epitomize the whole “I’m so confused! Am I a dessert or a savory dish?” conundrum. A semi-sweet biscuit? A very bland cake? What?! What are you, you bready brick of dead dessert dreams?

And then to add insult to injury, someone (Hello, Great Britain. I’m talking to you.) decided that a scone must have dried fruit in it. Ugh. It’s like the British said, “Let’s make a national dessert that no one else will ever like so we can CLAIM IT FOREVER! Bwahahaaaaa!”

But then things got a little muddled after I bought The Baking Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. She’s the Queen of Baking who tests and tests, then re-tests and re-tests every recipe on the planet. And then she writes the recipes up like she is teaching a culinary baking course. Rose is irreproachable in the world of baking.

And I had a ½ stick of cream cheese that needed to be used and her scone recipe called for exactly 1/2 stick of cream cheese. Yes, it came down to that.

Besides, I figured that after I made scones from the Scion of Baking (You can use that, Rose. You’re welcome.), and they were still lame, I could write a whole “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE” post mocking all you scone lovers for your unexamined love of pastry hockey pucks.

And then…

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE, YOU MAGNIFICENT LUMPY TRIANGLES OF CREAMY, FLAKY, LEMONY NIRVANA?!

Oh. My. Goodness. How could I have been so wrong? How could I have not appreciated that beautiful balance between lightness and heft, sweet and substance. Scones, I love you.

Well played, Great Britain. Well played.

 

Cranberry Lemon Scones

(adapted from The Baking Bible Flaky Cream Cheese Scone recipe, by Rose Levy Beranbaum)

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold

1/2 block (4 ounces) cream cheese, cold

3/4 cup heavy cream, cold

1 1/3 cup cake flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon aluminum free baking powder

3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest

1/2 cup dried cranberries, cut in half

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon honey

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Drape a large sheet of plastic film over a 9 inch cake pan.

Cut the butter and cream cheese into small cubes. Cover the butter in plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator. Do the same with the cream cheese. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Pour the heavy cream into a mixing bowl and place it in the refrigerator along with the beaters (next to the bowl, not in). Chill for at least 15 minutes. Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Return to the refrigerator. (I forgot to mix the cream and just poured it straight in. They still came out delicious.)

In a large bowl, mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest.

Add the cream cheese cubes and cut into the mixture (using two knives) until they are pea size.

Add the butter cubes and toss to coat with flour. With your hands, gently press the cubes between your fingers until you form thin flakes.

Stir in the cranberries.

Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in your whipped cream and honey. With a silicone spatula, slowly mix the flour mixture into the cream in a circular motion until it is just moistened. Knead dough just until it holds together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times. You want to handle the dough as little as possible, just getting it to a point where it is stretchy and can be shaped.

Shape the dough into a disk and place it on top of the plastic film cake pan. Shape the disk so that it fits to the diameter of the pan. Cover with the excess plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

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Cut the disk into 8 triangles and space evenly on the baking sheet (try to leave a couple of inches between scones).

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Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the pan 180 degrees and bake for 10 to 15 more minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

Cool the scones on a baking rack. Glaze, if desired.

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Lemon Glaze

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (more if needed)

Whisk together the sugar and lemon juice until it is thin enough to drizzle over the scones.

 

 

 

 

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Baking 045

Continuing the theme of “Feel Sorry For Me Because I Can’t Run”, I’ve decided to wax poetically about the joy of doing…not much (really, I’m just going to whine, but I don’t want you to run screaming so I’m trying to make it sound like you are going to get something quasi-literary out of this).

I am a compulsive doer, and not always in the I-can-run-Facebook-while-raising-three-prodigies-without-a-nanny-and-finding-a-cure-for-alopecia kind of way. More in the I-must-I-must-I-must-I-must kind of way. More in the annoying kind of way.

And most of the time it serves me well (even if it drives my loved ones crazy). I will run in hail storms and dive into freezing pools to get my workouts done. I will go to the grocery store every single day if necessary to make sure I have every ingredient for that damn Tiki Masala I promised I’d make for the dinner party. I will finish “great books” just because they are supposedly enlightening even if I think they are drivel. I will be on time to everything even if it means dragging my left leg dangling from its socket. I will. I will. I must.

So, what does someone like me do when she can’t run, when she can’t do the thing that shapes her days, weeks, months and years? And what does she do when this “can’t run” thing happens at the same time her birdies leave the nest, there’s a hard landing in Middle Age, and a bittersweet return home to aging parents (who seemed so young when she left) to care for?

She throws herself a pity party complete with chocolate cake, a good book, a cup of coffee and a very, very comfy chair, and does absolutely nothing else.

Because sometimes there just ain’t nothing you can do about any of it and no amount of motivational quotes or inspiring documentaries is going to fix any of it.

Sometimes it just sucks.

So, if you find yourself in the middle of your own shit storm, maybe this chocolate cake will help just a wee little bit. And if it doesn’t, maybe if you eat another slice the sugar rush will at least boost your serotonin levels.

 

Berry Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

(Adapted From King Arthur Baking)

2 cups King Arthur Cake Flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 3/4 cup sugar

1/2  cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (softened)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon bourbon vanilla extract (or plain vanilla)

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup cool, brewed coffee

4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter two 9″ round pans and cover centers with parchment paper. Set aside.

This recipes calls for you to pass the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa, and sugar through a strainer over your mixing bowl. If this is a pity-party cake, I would just skip this step. Be proud of yourself for making the cake in the first place and just throw it all in the bowl. It will all work out just fine, I promise. Just stir the mixture with a fork. It’s all good.

Add the butter and mix on low for 1 minute. While the mixer is running, slowly pour in the oil and continue mixing until the mixture looks like sand.

Combine vanilla, milk and cool coffee together and then add to batter. Mix for one minute on low, stop and scrape the sides and bottom, and then continue mixing for 30 more seconds.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. The batter will be thin.

Pour into pans and bake for 30 minutes. Cakes are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

 

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients together until smooth. Double the recipe if you wish to ice the sides of the cake. I prefer to leave the sides “naked”, but it’s your call. You can never go wrong with too much frosting, especially when you are blue.

 

After you ice the cake, cover with fresh or frozen berries of your choice. Stare at it lovingly (maybe even Instagram it), then attack it with a fork while singing an Adele song.

 

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