Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A riff

It's been two-and-a-half years since my first Tuesday's With Dorie post, and after hell and high water -- or, work and too many social engagements -- keeping me from fulfilling my TWD obligations every now and again, I've been back on track and, finally, it is my turn to pick this week's recipe from Baking: From My Home to Yours.
Since I first read about an online baking group attempting a recipe from Dorie's tome of tried and true breads, cakes, pies, and puddings each week then writing about their results along with the rest of the group, I've wanted to be a part of it. I figured that it would encourage me to bake more often, and bake things that I wouldn't normally choose to bake myself for whatever reason. In these last couple of years, I've learned that the moment Swiss buttercream comes together is a wondrous event, crystallized ginger can be revived through steaming, rugelach may be my favorite pastry, and the freezer is every baker's friend -- all valuable lessons that will serve me well in this lifetime.
As a relative late-comer to the group, and not the most diligent blogger, there weren't too many recipes left to choose from, however, my pick of Oatmeal Nutmeg Scones could not be more appropriate. That this is a scone recipe already has my name all over it -- I've proclaimed my love for them. And my coworkers can attest that my preferred breakfast of champions is a bowl of doctored-up oatmeal. Nearly every weekday morning, I heat up a bowl of old-fashioned oats and water on medium power for five minutes, along with chopped dried apricot, cherry, and whatever nut I have on hand, then finish it off with a puddle of soy or almond milk and generous dashes of cinammon and nutmeg. Nutmeg, oh, nutmeg. Oatmeal just isn't the same with out you. I'm liberal with the spice anytime a Dorie recipe calls for it, and even when it doesn't. There's a reason why I love my Microplane so much, and it has a lot to do with grating whole nutmeg.
Another wonderful, ingredients straight-out-of-the-fridge quick bread recipe, these scones are perfect for mornings when you aim to please but are short on time. The dough was noticeably more wet than the Maple Cornmeal Biscuits from last week, so cutting them into triangles and transferring them to the baking sheet was a bit messy (flouring a dough-cutter before each cut helps), but the resulting product was tender, buttery, and aromatic. The oatmeal added some heft to the pastry, so a couple of these would definitely hold me over until lunchtime, and they were a satisfying vehicle for rich, Kerrygold butter and vibrant, apricot jam as well. Oatmeal, nutmeg, apricot jam? substitute the buttermilk for almond milk, throw a handful of nuts in the dough and I think I've got my new breakfast of champions...

Oatmeal Nutmeg Scones
from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

makes 12 scones

1 large egg
1/2 cup cold buttermilk
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons(10 tablespoons) cold unstaled butter, cut into small pieces

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a bking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Stir the egg and buttermilk together.

Whisk the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips (my favorite method) or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly. You'll have pea-size pieces, pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pieces the size of everything in between -- and that's just right.

Pour the egg and buttermilk mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a fork just until the dough, which will be wet and sticky, comes together. Don't overdo it.

Still in the bowl, gently knead the dough by hand, or turn it with a rubber spatula 8 to 10 times. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Working with one piece at a time, pat the dough into a rough circle that's about 5 inches in diameter, cut it into 6 wedges and place on the baking sheet. (At this point, the scones can be frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight. Don't defrost before baking -- just add about 2 minutes to the baking time.)

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until their tops are golden and firmish. Transfer them to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving, or wait for the scones to cool to room temperature.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In a crunch

When you've just barely gotten back from an 11-day trip to Asia...
When your internal clock is operating somewhere between Pacific and Taiwan/Hong Kong time...
When you've slept 12 hours and feel like you could sleep 12 more...
When you need a little not-too-sweet, buttery breakfast treat and are already late for work...

Then this is the thing to bake.

I've been running on fumes for the last 48 hours. 58 if you count the flight back to Los Angeles, and you should because getting a crick in your neck as you sleep upright really isn't sleep at all, and 82 if you count the minimal slumber from the night before as we tried to make our last night in Hong Kong count (and staying out until 5 or 6am is normal there). Surprisingly, I haven't been suffering from being wide awake at 4am like I would always be when I was younger. In fact, I've been sleeping way too much -- exhibit A being today's sudden realization that it was 9:17am, I should be at work at 9:45, but I still had to make this week's Tuesday's With Dorie pick by Lindsay of A Little Something...Sweet!

But these Maple Cornmeal Biscuits require none of the room-temperature eggs/milk/butter fuss that other baking recipes do. I simply rolled out of bed, preheated the oven, measured out the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and baking soda, waited for the oven to come to 425 degrees, and did that last minute cutting-in of the cold butter and incorporating of the milk and maple syrup before plopping the dough on a cookie sheet. It really was the simplest recipe.

By the time the biscuits emerged from the oven, I was ready to go, and threw them in towel-lined basket as Dorie suggested they be eaten hot anyway. I got to work with the craggy, golden mounds still warm to the touch. With a quarter cup of maple syrup being the only sweetener in the recipe, the biscuits went perfectly with a bit of jam, though not at all necessary either. The cornmeal provided a wonderful texture and was another kick in the head as to its amazing properties in baked goods. Those lingering grains in the finish of a bite get me every time.