Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Improvisational baking

As soon as I saw the picture of slab scones on Dinner with Julie’s blog, I was overwhelmed by the desire to make them. Do you ever get this way? That you want to cook something so badly that the adrenaline surge gives you a head rush? Maybe it’s just me? Some kind of little-known baking addiction/withdrawal? I’m not sure why I had that response to this particular recipe, which is, after all, for scones – something I’ve made about a thousand times before.

Not like this, though. There is just something so appealing about the idea of making something this way, with a layer of delicious filling in the middle. Why is this more alluring than mixing the same stuff all through the dough? I don’t know; maybe it’s the concentrated taste, contrasting with the scone texture, as opposed to having it scattered all through in bits? I haven’t analyzed it sufficiently; I just knew that it was a brilliant idea and that I was going to take the first excuse I could to make some.

An afterschool play date provided me with opportunity; then I just had to figure out how to work around my lack of equipment. These days I normally make scone dough in the food processor, because it takes me about 30 seconds and I don’t have to hassle with massaging butter into flour. Under the current circumstances, that option was obviously out, so I went to my next-best option: freezing the butter and then shredding it on a box grater. That way it’s already so small when it goes into the flour that it requires minimal additional work.

The other equipment issue, particular to this recipe, was rolling out the scone dough. I don’t have a rolling pin either, and I’m resisting the urge to buy one, since I already own at least four for this very reason. So I improvised: I filled an empty 1-litre bottle with water and put it in the freezer. Once frozen, it made a perfectly good makeshift rolling pin (if you don’t mind a little bit of a – shall we say rustic? – texture).

Julie’s recipe makes enough scone dough for two pieces of dough; I omitted the sugar so that I could make one savory (filled with about ½ cup of grated cheddar cheese and a couple of rashers of bacon, sliced thin and cooked until crisp) as well as one sweet (filled with about 6 tablespoons of raspberry jam). I got at least 6 big, triangular scones out of each slab, and they were a smash hit at the playdate. As my friend PJ pointed out, they are perfect for transporting, because you don’t need to bring anything extra for accompaniment; all the good stuff is already inside. Still warm, with a cup of tea alongside, they were just thing for a chilly Canberra winter afternoon. And would probably still make a nice snack (or breakfast) even if you’re among those sweltering somewhere in the northern hemisphere.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

New slippers from the dollar store - because mine are in a container somewhere and flip-flops just don't cut it in Canberra in June!

How's the weather where you are?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Free-range cooking

I think this transition may be the thing that finally gets me reading books electronically. Not entirely – I’ve already been to the local library and reactivated my card, and I don’t anticipate giving up my habit of having a book stuffed into my bag, just in case, in favor of squinting at my newly acquired smartphone. But electronic access does come in handy; I can definitely see the value of having one e-reader in my carry-on bag, as opposed to trying to cram four books and a couple of magazines in there. It also facilitates reading in the dark (or at least the iPad does), which is handy when your partner falls asleep well before you do. And then there’s the question of getting access to certain books when you’re used to having Amazon drop stuff on your doorstep within two days and now that’s not really an option any more. Suddenly, buying Kindle editions becomes very, very tempting. Dangerous knowledge for someone who already has a bad cookbook habit and is suddenly in withdrawal from both Amazon and her collection, apart from the three cookbooks that made it into suitcases or airmail boxes sent ahead.

So it is ironic and propitious that I downloaded and started reading Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal electronically when we were at the beginning of this Great Trek. This book validates (and extends) my inclination never to throw anything edible away, and endorses my every theory about the place of leftovers in a frugal and creative kitchen, and making something delicious with a bit of this and a dash of that. A worthy successor to both M.F.K. Fisher and Laurie Colwin in the art of writing about the craft of everyday cooking (no higher praise can be forthcoming from me), Adler’s message could not be more timely for a person contemplating a stretch of living with a minimalist kitchen (to put it kindly) and no car to facilitate food shopping, to say nothing of one who is still learning to break free from recipes and, eventually – dare I say it? - stop buying cookbooks. If you’re looking to cook more with what you have, and less by any other parameters, I highly recommend reading it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Temporary kitchen

We are fully immersed in re-orientation - setting up mobile phones and bank accounts, completing school paperwork and buying uniforms....Internet access continues to be a bit tricky from an actual computer; I'm posting this from the local library, where wifi is now available (a change from 3 years ago), so it might be possible to include a photo with my next update! Our hotel apartment is basic but functional; I was overjoyed to find that it has a gas stove, which almost makes up for the fact that the cooking equipment consists of 3 saucepans and a very small skillet. So I'll be getting creative about what I'm cooking, as well as investing in a few pieces of additional equipment that will supplement my tiny batterie de cuisine without duplicating something I already have and don't need two of. Should make for some interesting challenges in the near future....Recipe and equipment suggestions welcome!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Touchdown 2.0

Hello from Canberra! After completing a jam-packed visit to Boston, a two-day layover in Dallas, and 24 hours in the capable hands of Qantas, we are safely arrived. We've checked in to our temporary accommodation, stocked up on some basic groceries, and are now focusing on staying awake until bedtime. I'm even going to cook my now-traditional First Dinner - Italian bangers and mash (because it requires minimal ingredients and cookware, and can be managed even by those whose jet lag is making them fuzzier by the minute). More updates to follow when I've had a proper night's sleep and have worked out my electronics so I can post a photo or two.

Monday, June 4, 2012

#1 place

After a no-driving day spent taking in the ambience and delicious food of Montreal, we headed south back over the border and into the whirlwind that is every visit to Boston. We've spent the past few days cramming in time with parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins; re-visiting old haunts; and even trying to catch up with a few friends amidst the extended-family onslaught. The weather has been totally uncooperative, featuring mostly grey skies, temperatures in the 50s, and regular chilling, drenching downpours, and making me wish daily that I'd packed more pairs of long pants and fewer t-shirts and shorts. I've decided to consider it preparation for heading into winter in Canberra, and looking forward to picking up the boxes of warm winter clothes that I hope are waiting for us when we arrive in a few days. (Canberra correspondents, feel free to weigh in on what to expect in the next few weeks!)

Happy Monday to all! Hope your weekends have been as entertaining (or as restful) as you could desire.
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