Mon, Dec. 12th, 2005, 03:59 pm || In which I attempt to make even more food

add to memories

Finally, I get to the scones, which are what had me cooking in the first place!

While I was gathering ingredients last week (in a rather frustrated and haphazard manner), I saw Draeger's Aisle o' Jams and thought, mmmm, jam! I should get strawberry preserves if I'm going to be making scones! (I also tried looking for pumpkin butter, but there was none to be found, which made me sad.) After carefully picking a brand of strawberry preserves, by which I mean being completely overwhelmed by the selection and then randomly picking a jar, I saw lemon curd! Lots of lemon curd!

I have a new appreciation for lemon curd since my forays into afternoon tea. It's just like the filling of a lemon tart! In other words, best thing ever!

But lemon curd is much more expensive than anticipated. So in another fit of insanity, I decided to call up poor consonantia.

"Uhhh... Angela, could I ask you something and if you answer I will let you eat as many scones as you want?"

"Huh?" said Angela.

"Errr. Could you look up a recipe for lemon curd on FoodNetwork.com and let me know how many lemons it needs?"

"Uhhh... ok," said Angela, probably questioning her roommate's sanity and the sudden need for lemons.

Armed with the knowledge that I needed 4 lemons and some eggs, I went forth to gather even more ingredients.

I had my internal debate on cornmeal, and then exited Draeger's with everything I needed. Except for the coffee filter for clotted cream, but that was a thing in and of itself.

I snitched coffeeandink's recipe.

Except, in another fit of insanity possibly inspired by having cooked polenta and 20-clove garlic chicken and clotted cream and watching too much Food Network, I somehow decided that I would sort of mix together Alton Brown's scone recipe with Mely's. Aka, I would rub cold butter into the batter.

According to my TV (wait, what do you mean I'm not supposed to believe everything I see? ^_~), coating some of the flour particles with fat and leaving some of the fat in flaky lumps will mean nice flakes in the end product, with enough flour coated in fat for tenderness. Unfortunately, I sort of forgot that cookbooks in general know what they are doing! So I rubbed in the butter. I blame Alton Brown! He made me do it! Sort of.... Anyway, rubbing in butter is really weird! The book said it was sort of like rubbing a puppy's ears, except I was trying very hard not to picture rubbing furry ears while rubbing butter in flour.

The batter turned out to be really, really dry, probably because there were still a lot of butter chunks (for the aforementioned flakes!). I ended up flouring a dinner plate and using that because all cutting boards were used up, and I figured Angela would not appreciate it if I floured the entire kitchen counter!

This time, I remembered to oil down the baking pan (I forgot for the 20-clove chicken, oops). However, because I am stupid, I accidentally threw away the kitchen sponge. This luckily didn't impact the scones (buuut... dun dun DUUUUN!).

Fifteen minutes later, voila! Scones!

Unfortunately, since I tinkered with the recipes, they were much more stone-like than scones should be. Boooo.

Looking back now, I think the addition of the cornmeal to the scone batter meant that the batter would be a little tougher in terms of texture, ergo the addition of melted butter instead of rubbed-in-chunked-butter. Because yes, my scones definitely could have used some softening.

But... they were still lovely and golden and wedge-shaped! And I made them! (I will never cease to be impressed with the fact that I can make things.)

Take 2: I attempted scones again on Saturday, having run out of them. I was a good cook this time and followed instructions to the letter (I even measured my circle to make sure it was 8 inches!). In return for my obedience, I was rewarded with light and fluffy scones! Well, not too light and fluffy, or they wouldn't have been scones, but just enough!

Take 3: I felt a bit down yesterday night, and so decided to make... even more scones! Uh. Yes. They actually take very little time to make, and I like seeing things come together. Also, it's enormously satisfying pulling out finished scones from the oven. I poured the milk-and-brown-sugar mixture into the butter instead of the other way around, but I don't think it made too much of a difference...

The only thing was that I made my circle too big and flat this time, so the scones are a little flat. On the other hand, I was actually free to eat when they were done this time (the other times I was cooking or cleaning or doing something), so I finally got to eat them hot out of the oven. Scones hot out of the oven are so very, very good. Mmmm.

I plead hubris and insanity for the lemon curd.

The recipe is, of course, from Good Eats (I really have to write up a post on Alton Brown some day):

5 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
4 lemons, zested and juiced
1 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled

Add enough water to a medium saucepan to come about 1-inch up the side. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium size metal bowl and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Measure citrus juice and if needed, add enough cold water to reach 1/3 cup. Add juice and zest to egg mixture and whisk smooth. Once water reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low and place bowl on top of saucepan. (Bowl should be large enough to fit on top of saucepan without touching the water.) Whisk until thickened, approximately 8 minutes, or until mixture is light yellow and coats the back of a spoon. Remove promptly from heat and stir in butter a piece at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next. Remove to a clean container and cover by laying a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

My version:

Decide last minute to make lemon curd, as jars of lemon curd cost $7 (!!!). Call roommate from grocery store and annoy her by making her look up lemon curd recipe. Gather lemons and eggs.

Go home. Cook polenta and 20-clove garlic chicken and make clotted cream and scones. Decide to finally start on lemon curd. Spend half an hour trying to figure out which metal bowl fits best into which pot to use as a double boiler. Find perfect bowl.

Find that perfect bowl was used to mix scone batter and that kitchen sponge, so stupidly tossed away during the Baking of the Scones, remains in the trash can. Freak out. Debate momentarily if kitchen sponge can be fished out and reused. Nix notion for sanitary purposes (I go by the five second rule, but a trash can is too much for even me!). Look desperately for other sponges. Find sponges used for cleaning bathtub, cleaning sink, cleaning rat cage, but no actual dish sponge.

Weep in despair.

Try looking for another perfect bowl.

Wring hands when another perfect bowl turns out to be nonexistant.

Decide to suck it up and use paper towel and detergent. Learn that paper towel is not optimal sponge replacement, as it lacks scrubbing qualities so necessary in getting scone batters out of bowls. Suck it up and scrape at bowl with paper towel and fingernails.

Fill pot for perfect bowl with some water, set to simmer.

Attempt to separate five egg yolks from the whites. Remember that trusty TV show recommended a slotted spoon for handy yolk separation. Crack egg into slotted spoon. Joy! Egg white dribbles through, leaving egg yolk intact.

Notice that bits and pieces of egg white still remain with yolk. Jiggle spoon. Find, to great dismay, that slots in the slotted spoon are too wide and that the egg yolk starts seeping through.

Swear.

Attempt to rescue egg yolk with fingers before it breaks. Swear again as egg yolk breaks in hands and two drops contaminate egg white. Get broken egg yolk off hands and into perfect bowl.

Decided to separate eggs the old-fashioned way, with hands. Separate eggs. Dig eggshells out of eggs. Stare woefully at egg yolk contaminated whites. Freeze anyway for later use, per trusty TV show's recommendation.

Add sugar, whisk eggs with chopsticks. Decide that whisk should be on shopping list for next time, as chopsticks are too slow. Switch to fork. Make firmer resolution to buy whisk.

Check water. Water not yet simmering.

Go forth to zest four lemons. Realize that there is no zester in house. Find cheese grater. Find that cheese grater is in sink with other dirty dishes, thanks to grating cheese for polenta. Curse own stupidity again. Scrub at grater with paper towel.

Put layer of plastic wrap over smallest grater size, per trusty TV show's advice. Remember to put grater over plate to collect zest. Start to zest lemons.

Discover that integrity of plastic wrap does not hold up through four lemons. Discard top layer. Find, to great relief, that much lemon zest still remains.

Juice four lemons into measuring cup. Sing Oxo's praises for making the nifty angled measuring cup. Find that instructions says to add cold water if there is not enough juice for 1/3 of a cup. Find that cup holds over 1/3 cup of lemon juice. Debate tossing some. Selfishly decide to keep all of it, given the effort involved in juicing (lemon juice, fingers, eyes. Not happy.).

Whisk eggs again, as bubbles have gone flat. Temporarily worry about overwhisking. Decide: to hell with it and whisk away. Add lemon juice and zest and whisk more.

Place perfect bowl on top of now-simmering water (cheated a bit and turned up heat). Whisk. Continue to whisk. Whisk even more.

Read instructions. Contemplate meaning of "Whisk until thickened, approximately 8 minutes, or until mixture is light yellow and coats the back of a spoon." Contemplate color of mixture. Contemplate meaning of "light yellow." Contemplate mixture again. Realize that whisking has resulted in a layer of bubbles and that underlying color of mixture is difficult to see. Conteplate color of mixture under bubbles. Contemplate back of fork used for whisking. Contemplate meaning of "coats."

Worry an incredible amount during said contemplation that lemon curd is not setting properly, due to prior selfishness with regard to lemon juice.

Switch from whisking fork to spoon, to better contemplate the concept of "coating."

After ten minutes, give up on contemplation. Taste back of spoon. Taste is satisfactory. Melt butter in while perfect bowl is still on top of pot. Whisk more. Desperately hope that mixture will thicken more. Mixture thickens, but not as much as hoped for.

Refrigerate.

Check up on next day. Mixture is thicker! Joy! Mixture is unfortunately not thick enough and slides off scones! Woe! However, mixture is tasty and coats plate with nice light yellow color. Check if anyone is watching. Lick plate.

In conclusion, I had scones! The first round wasn't that great, but when combined with clotted cream and jam, it was quite good. Well, actually, the clotted cream was a little odd because it is the texture of those cornstarch slurries you make as a kid... really gooky and almost solid at first, but then liquid on the spoon. Very interesting. And my preserves were too sweet, so I ended up using the cherry preserves instead. But it was good. Clotted cream also doesn't lend that much flavor, but it adds a really nifty texture and tones down the sweetness of the jam a bit. And lemon curd is simply wonderful.

And there are more at home! I can have scones in 20 minutes any day! Ok, maybe half an hour, but still.