Ugly Scones

Ok, I have to complain for just one quick second about BIB. I’m not a patient person, so this is mostly my own issue.  But lots of the recipes, muffins and scones in particular, require some overnight facet to their production.  Remember how muffins need to rest?  Which, by the way, is completely legit.  It makes a difference.  And these scones?  The (ugly) dried cherries had to macerate overnight.  Did you hear that fancy word I just used?  It actually kind of sounds like a gross thing: macerating.  Like some kind of destructive thing is happening.  Which it is, but in a yummy way when we’re talking about Chocolate-Cherry scones.  My layman definition is to soak something in simple syrup.  Here’s the actual definition.  I’m not far off…


mac·er·ate

ˈmasəˌrāt
verb
(esp. with reference to food) soften or become softened by soaking in a liquid

I can also be very easily distracted.  Does that go hand-in-hand with impatience? We’ve got these orange trees on our property that are just dripping with sweet, juicy oranges.  I really wanted to make some orange chocolate scones because one of my most favorite blogging bakers makes them killer-style, right here http://joythebaker.com/2011/01/orange-and-dark-chocolate-buttermilk-scones/.  I highly recommend you make those also.  But this time, I stayed focused; on task.  I shall not waiver from the BIB for now.  Otherwise, I’ll be 80 when I finish baking my way through it!  Deciding to save laminated doughs for the summer days of no kids to educate, I settled on these here Chocolate-Cherry scones.

So you know what real scones mean, right?  More butter.

Again, with the butter.  But we’re baking here folks.  There’s very little way around the B-word.  And if you did go around it, your scones just won’t be the same.  So suck it up and run an extra mile so you can eat this.
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I think my pretty blue bowl helps the aesthetics of the hideous dried cherries, don’t you?
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Not so much, but the bowl is still pretty 🙂
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Turns out, macerating does no cosmetic magic for dried cherries.  They are still ugly.  And so is their juice.  Truth be told, there is nothing very beautiful about these scones.  EXCEPT.  The way they taste.  This magic created by cream and butter in the freezer.  Let me tell you, there was much eye-rolling over these “beauties”.   Here’s the cast of ugly characters:
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I must insert a humbling fact here:  I MADE A MISTAKE.
Thankfully, I realized it once I saw this:DSC_7516
See this powder-y looking stuff?  That’s bad scone, baby.  Scones are definitely on the dry side, but this is just WRONG.  In this house of many souls, I cannot feed all mouths sufficiently unless I at least double every single recipe, which I did here.  Only, I didn’t double the cream.  Cringe.  I quickly remedied the problem and moved on.DSC_7517 That’s more like it!DSC_7518 Yes, I measured them.  Because, I’m baking Bouchon and honestly, they bake evenly when they are the same size.  Fact.DSC_7520
They go into the freezer just like this, covered with plastic.  The beauty of freezing them is that you can pull out as many as you want and throw them into 350 whenever you crave an ugly scone.

This also happened this week:
(please try to ignore the unfinished painting.  That should be solved this summer…)
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Remember how I mentioned that mess in my kitchen was an inevitability?  Well, I scratched myself out a little Bouchon Corner.  It’s smaller than it looks, really.  And the rest of my kitchen looks  a little crowded so I can have one place that’s neat.  But I’m okay with that, ok?

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Here’s another BIB take-away: Scones need glaze like muffins need streusel.  There’s just something cosmically right when butter laden baked morsels are topped with more heaven.  So these got topped with a mix of the ugly cherry juice and powdered sugar.  Which, is also not very beautiful to behold, except with your tongue.
DSC_7532 I’m getting all Fancy-food-blogger here and posing my scone with some coffee.  It’s totally authentic though.  I stood here at my tiny island and ate this scone (while rolling my eyes, of course) and drank this coffee.  
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Rum Cake and such

It sounds simple enough, right?  I’ll have a food blog.  It merges two of my great loves: baking and photography.  It will be fun and whimsical and people will chuckle as they read my posts.  Then I started baking, and trying to take pictures while I was doing it.  Of every step.  It became obvious that while I love my kitchen, our life is hectic and my prep and baking areas are usually a mess.  And speaking of messes, how about my hands? Nails half-painted and breaking off because of same said hectic life.  Nobody wants to see that!  Then it dawned on me that the only proper light for taking beautiful natural light photographs (during the day) does not usually correspond to when my hectic life allows for baking (usually late at night).  So all these obstacles led me to some unique solutions: keep my kitchen cleaner (or use a small aperture so the  mess in the looks like some kind of mod wallpaper in the background); keep my hands in better shape (or bribe friends with baked goods, iced coffee and swimming if they will come use their better looking hands for my shots); strategize a few baked items in a row so I can plan them more carefully and take advantage of natural light (there’s no fudging that).  I do love this process; this food journey.  Just need to put on my walking shoes to get over these little bumps in the road.

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Moving on to the BIB.  I’m not a very patient person.  I decided to REstart this whole baking-my-way-through-Bouchon thing with scones that take two whole days to make.  Perfect.  So, while there is macerating and freezing going on (more on that later), Rum Cake is happening RIGHT NOW. Rum cake is some kind of wonderful.  It’s not super-boozy, its just yummy and warm.  Like a Hot Toddy, but not quite so strong that it makes you want to go to bed.

There are a couple things about this cake: butter (obscene amounts, really) and eggs (11 of my home-hatched beauties).  There’s other stuff, mind you.  Almond flour, Rum, of course.  But if we’re talking high-volume ingredients, we’re talking butter and eggs.  Because, just what you need when you’ve just started working out again after a 10-week hiatus due to a terrible ankle sprain and right before you go to Hawaii, is butter-laden cake.

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Now, you maybe have noticed in some of my pictures my super awesome stovetop, which could only be made better by a griddle.  Lest I sound ungrateful, I was sold on this 80’s kitchen by the stovetop alone.  Which is great, because I also love to cook.  But let’s be real, bakers use ovens.  Period.  In our old house in (cringe) suburbia, I had a magnificent convection oven, in which I could bake three sheets of cookies at once, no problem.  Also (don’t tell Papa Murphy’s this), I baked TWO pizzas at once *GASP.  You have not, however, seen this:

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It’s the red-headed stepchild of my kitchen.  Even the sadly yellow cabinets enjoy a higher station in kitchen life than this monstrosity.  You may think it’s from the 50’s, but according to the home inspector, ovens looked like this well into the 80’s, when the previous owners built our house.  So here it stands.  It bakes unevenly.  It’s always 6:15 in my kitchen.  I store baking pans in the bottom oven because it burns everything.  I can cook one thing at a time.  But hey, I once spent six months with NO oven in my old house before magnificent convection beauty was installed, so I can handle this.  I’m flexible.

So, bake to Rum Cake.  First, BIB suggests using a cast iron bundt pan, which sounds dreamy.  I have lots of cast iron, which I love dearly, but the array does not include a bundt pan.  So, I used what I had.  Here you will see the butter and sugar coated pan.  I have mixed feelings about doing this.  It was indeed pretty, but there was somewhat of a disaster upon disembarking the cake from the pan, which you will soon witness.  I sheepishly admit this is most likely due to the fact that I did not apply an adequate layer of butter.  But, this is a learning process and honestly, I am used to buttering and flouring a pan, not sugaring it.  And, probably BIB suggests cast iron because it creates some kind of magic with the butter and sugar coating.

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This Rum Cake, it was luscious from the start…

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 Seriously, look at this batter.  I may or may not have *tasted some.

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It was magnificent to behold straight out of the oven….

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This cake gets a pretty little bath of Rum simple syrup.  You know why they call simple syrup, simple?  Because it is SO very simple.  Equal amounts sugar dissolved in water.  That’s it.  Then you can add lemon juice if you fancy homemade lemonade concentrate, or Rum in the case of this cake.  So while the cake was still warm and fragrant, it was bathed *and I mean BATHED, in rum simple syrup.

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Alas, my funky metal bundt pan did not create the aforementioned butter and sugar magic.  So, then there was this:

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Obviously, it made absolutely no impact on the flavor, because right after it got drizzled with that rum simple syrup, it looked like this:

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(did you notice the pretty towel I hung on the fridge?  It’s totally crooked.  Yay me.)

So as my tasters rolled their eyes in Rum Cake ecstasy I said, “Hey, this is supposed to have glaze!”  They rolled their eyes again and were speechless.  So I poured yet more rum, some powdered sugar, half and half and some vanilla paste (my own addition) into sweet bliss together in a bowl.  This is what happened:

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There was more eye rolling as I did this and then begging for more tastes.  At which point, I had to bring in the big guns (daddy) and supply the necessary coffee he would need to wash down this baked beauty.

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And the next day? There was this.  But don’t worry, even the crumbs were scrubbed together with small fingers and consumed with much eye rolling.

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Once Upon A Muffin

So these muffins are…old.  Let me clarify:  I made them long ago in a far away summer before homeschooling 4 kids and moving to 8 acres consumed my every waking moment.  Now things have “settled”; that’s probably the wrong word.  It’s actually definitely the wrong word, but I miss baking and in the midst of making big decisions about how to kill monstrous weeds and which math curriculum will make my kids not want to run away screaming, I must bake.  So I began with blueberry muffins, because honestly, if you’re going to make cake in a muffin pan and eat it for breakfast, it should at least have fruit in it, right?  Here’s tip #1 I learned from BIB (if you remember, that means Bib Intimidating Book): rest your muffin batter overnight in the fridge.  It creates this heavenly crumb from some kind of crazy chemistry that happens with all the gluten and fat and moisture.  Plus, then the batter is ready first thing in the morning and you don’t have to try to read a recipe while you’re waiting for coffee to brew!

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Remember way back when? That time we talked about molasses and how it adds this certain kind of dreaminess to cookies?  Turns, out, it is just as dreamy in your blueberry muffins.  Crucial Muffin Tip #2 (listen up, I don’t like to repeat myself!): NEVER, EVER make a muffin without streusel.  I mean EVER.  Again, in your life.  Because, as if muffins were not already tasty and soft and wonderful, then there’s this crunchy, sweet, nutty goodness on top that puts them over the top.  I’m not even kidding about streusel.  You can use white sugar, or brown.  Pecans or walnuts (but, really why wouldn’t you use pecans?!).  You can add cinnamon, or not.  Just do it.  I promise, you will never look back.  Ok, streusel rant over. Whew.

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Aren’t these flour dusted frozen blueberries so beautiful?  I mean, they’re so happy!  Muffin Tip #3 to take away from BIB: frozen blueberries will not squish all to bits when you incorporate them into your molasses-laden muffin batter.  Brilliant.  And, it actually works!

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Just in case you wondered if I actually used my nifty scale?  The answer is absolutely!  I even use it when I measure the streusel.  Promise not to go off on that again… It’s so handy, and I don’t even miss my measuring cups.  That “Tare” button is my new BFF.

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Seriously?! Come on!  Look at the brown goodness happening here!  Perfect muffin crumb to streusel ratio.  Perfect golden crunch with that cake-like muffin crumb.  If you need further proof that these muffins are indeed uber-nosh worthy, I submit for your review the following picture:

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My youngest boy literally shoving the muffins into his mouth.  This would be his second, as evidenced by the crumbs on his plate.  Each of my kids shoved the muffins into their mouths in the same way, at the very same time, gushing about how these were the best muffins they had ever eaten.  I let the little rule of not talking with your mouth full go, just this once.

Quick recap of Muffins 101:

* Rest your batter

* Freeze your berries

* Always and forever put streusel on your muffins

* Let your kids talk with their mouths full when they’re complimenting your cooking