Very Vanilla Scones

I just came across this entry that I meant to post ages ago!  Well, better late than never…

Our friends Teddy and Lynae got married at the end of October, and we were thrilled to join them for the wedding.  I’d forgotten how enamored I am with the East Coast until we spent the weekend in South Carolina.  The old, red brick buildings against mountains dotted in the gold and amber shades of the changing leavings are just stunning.  Moreover, that part of the country actually experiences autumn, unlike here in Texas.  We were sad to end a beautiful weekend spent reconnecting with college friends and celebrating Teddy and Lynae’s love and new life together.

The wedding was lovely, especially because the bride and groom had incorporated so many delightful personal touches into the celebration: handmade programs, homegrown flowers for the centerpieces, and jams made from fruit they’d picked themselves.  We took home a jar of peach-apple jam, which we devoured over the next couple of weeks.  As we ate the jam with our toast on weekend mornings, we thought of the couple and remembered our few days in South Carolina celebrating with them.

Attached to the jam jars was a family recipe for scones.  I whipped up a version of these scones this week, adding a bit of extra sugar and some vanilla.  After I made a batch using a circle cutter, my husband said the scones looked like biscuits. So, I then made a batch of triangle-shaped scones, which I think are much more easily recognizable as scones to our American eyes.  And did you know that the authentic Scottish pronunciation of “scone” rhymes with “John,” rather than “own”?  Really, Teddy and his family swear this is the correct pronunciation, and the ever-reliable Wikipedia confirms it!

Just look at those tiny black dots–heavenly vanilla!  I ordered a bunch of beans on Amazon recently, and I’m extremely excited about my purchase.  Won’t you join me in making some scohns this weekend?

Vanilla Scones
makes approximately 8 triangular scones or 12 round scones

3 1/2 cups flour
3 Tbsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3 vanilla beans
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) butter
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk

1. Pre-heat your oven to 450°. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Slice open your vanilla beans and scrape the tiny seeds into the flour mixture. Stir.

2. Cut your butter into 1/2-inch thick slices. Quickly work the butter into the flour mixture using your fingers. The butter should be about the size of grains of oatmeal.

3. Whisk together the egg and milk, and the add most of the egg mixture to the large bowl. Save enough of the egg mixture to brush over the tops of the scones before baking. Stir with a fork to combine.

4. Knead the dough for a few seconds on a floured surface. Press the dough out until it is about 3/4 of an inch thick. If you want triangular scones, press dough into a circular shape, the cut the dough with a pizza cutter into 8 triangles. If you prefer circular scones, use a 2- or 3-inch biscuit cutter to cut 8 circles into the dough. You can re-roll the scraps and cut out more circle.

5. Place scones on a cookie sheet that has either been greased or lined with parchment paper. Brush tops with egg mixtures. Cook for 10 minutes or until slightly golden, rotating pan after 5 minutes. Serve with jam and homemade whipped cream. I made an orange-vanilla whipped cream–delicious!

Homemade King Cake Sneak Peek

Homemade King Cake

I made a king cake over the weekend in order to practice for our little Mardi Gras gathering we’ll be hosting on Fat Tuesday this year.  Shipping a king cake or two in from Louisiana gets pretty pricey, and I don’t trust the baked goods passed off as “king cakes” here in Texas.  So, I decided to try making my own this year.

Homemade king cake

I was thrilled with the results!  I won’t share how much of the king cake we consumed over the weekend, but the sad number of slices remaining with which I sent my husband to work this morning is testament to this confection’s fabulousness.  The recipe itself needs a tad bit of tweaking before sharing: I’ve got to fine-tune the baking time and temperature, determine the exact ratio for the frosting ingredients, and perfect the fine art of putting the sprinkles on once the frosting is set enough but hasn’t hardened too much.  I’ll be sharing the recipe with you very soon!

In the meantime, I hope you all, wherever you are, get to have a tiny taste of Mardi Gras this Carnival Season!

Tinker Day Doughnuts

I was thrilled when I checked my email this morning and receiving a message wishing me a happy Tinker Day from my alma mater and this blog’s titular inspiration, Hollins University.  I have very fond memories of crisp October mornings in Roanoke spent climbing Tinker Mountain with my Hollins sisters.

from hercampus.com, by Claire McCown

To the uninitiated, Tinker Day may seem pretty wacky, and well, it is.  Tinker Day is a century-old tradition at the all-women’s Hollins University. Formerly, it marked the first frost, but now, Tinker Day takes place on a surprise day in October.  Students and professors alike dress in crazy costumes (think colors so vibrant the 1980s look downright prim along with funky underwear worn on the outside) and hike Tinker Mountain for a picnic lunch of fried chicken and chocolate Tinker Cake.  Skits and singing complete the festive atmosphere.

Heather (right) with friends Lydia and Layla eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts on Tinker Day 2004

First, though, we eat doughnuts.  Our nourishment for the brisk hike comes in the form of gorgeous, glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  We rush over to the dining hall for this delightful meal without bothering to change from our PJs.  Over a breakfast of these heavenly delicacies, we celebrate our community.  We come from all over the country and around the world, but we are able to celebrate our sisterhood with doughnuts.

Maria (center, with finger moustache) on Tinker Day 2011

Today, I’ve made doughnuts, in honor of both Tinker Day and Homefries U, which Maria and I attended at the end of September in Palm Springs.  Homefries U, hosted by the lovely and talented Joy and Tracy, along with the rest of the Homefries Team, was relaxing weekend filled with bacon, sparkling wine, and glittery nail polish.  (What more could you want?)  We took pictures, giggled lots, and talked about red flags.  We made friendship bracelets; we made friends; we made doughnuts.

Tracy and Joy at work

Actually, we didn’t make doughnuts, but Joy did.  She slaved over the stove all morning, and I don’t think she got to eat a single one.  Joy and Tracy worked all weekend on the food, and they didn’t get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.  So, I made Joy’s doughnuts for breakfast this morning.  Thanks for a fabulous weekend, Joy and Tracy!

Happy Tinker Day!  Now go make some doughnuts!

Doughnuts
makes 12 doughnuts, plus many doughnut holes

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (1/4 oz.)
2 Tbsp warm water (just hot enough that it feels barely warm on the inside of your lower arm)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus some for rolling out dough
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
vegetable oil for deep frying (about 10 cups, depending on size of your pot)

1.  Whisk together yeast and warm water in bowl of stand mixer until yeast is dissolved.  Then let stand about five minutes, or until the mixture becomes foamy.

2.  Add flour, milk, butter, sugar, salt, and cinnamon to yeast and water.  Beat on low until mixture starts to come together.  Beat another three minutes on medium-high speed.

3.  Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours, depending on air temperature.  To minimize dirty dishes, scrape down sides of mixing bowl, sprinkle with flour to prevent crust from forming, and cover with a kitchen towel.  If making dough ahead of time, allow dough to rise in fridge overnight.

4.  Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/2-inch thick.  Be sure to flour your rolling pin first to prevent dough from sticking!  Cut out a dozen rounds with a 3-inch biscuit cutter, then cut out the holes with a 1-inch cutter.  I did not have a 1-inch cutter, so I used the top to a soy sauce container.  Feel free to get creative–you can use jars for a 3-inch cutter if you don’t have one!

5.  Optional  Cut out additional holes in the remaining dough with your 1-inch cutter.  Cut and twist the leftover scraps, which you can also fry, and then roll in a mixture of cinnamon sugar along with the doughnut holes.  Try to keep them at an even thickness, so they will cook all the way through.

6.  Transfer doughnuts, holes, and twists to a lightly floured baking sheet (or 2), then cover with your kitchen towel.  Let rise for another 30 minutes, until slightly puffed.  The doughnuts will need to rise for a bit longer if you let your dough rise the first time in the fridge.

7.  Heat your oil (about 2 1/2 inches deep) in a heavy-bottomed pot.  I used my Dutch oven for this.  Your oil should be 350º.  Fry doughnuts until golden, turning as needed with tongs or a slotted spoon.  It should take about 1 minute per side.  After drying, place on plate lined with paper towels.

8.  Fry doughnut holes for about 1 minute total.  Fry your doughnut twists for about 2 minutes, if you made any.  Transfer them immediately from hot oil into cinnamon sugar mixture.

Adapted from Joy the Baker, originally from Gourmet Cookbook

Chocolate Glaze

The original recipe for his glaze made a ton, so I’ve halved the recipe.  Feel free to re-double it if you are making a double batch of dougnuts!

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/8 cup whole milk, warmed
1/2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1 Tbsp vanilla extra
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate (chopped or chips)
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, milk, corn syrup, and vanilla. Melt butter.

2. After decreasing heat to low, add chocolate and stir until melted.

3.  Remove saucepan from heat and add powdered sugar.  Whisk until smooth.

4.  Dip doughnuts in glaze.  If glaze starts to set in the saucepan, you can place it over a bowl of warm water, re-whisk, and leave it there while you dip the rest of the doughnuts.  I didn’t find this step necessary.

5.  Eat and enjoy!  Practice some patience if you can, and don’t burn your fingers and mouth!  Burning your taste buds would be tragic.

Adapted from Joy the Baker, originally from Alton Brown