BakingPhil Project 1: Cream Scones

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It may seem ironic that I’m embarking on this baking fest. After all, I started 2015 limiting wheat, milk, sugar, caffeine and red meat. On the opposite end of the spectrum, last night I enjoyed an unhealthy amount of delicious processed food in the forms of nachos, wings, tiny hot dogs, cookies, banana pudding and cake pops. The truth of my appetite is somewhere in between. Maybe because I’m trying to limit all the yummy, supposedly bad for me stuff, I feel the need to make the carbs, sugar and red meat I do have….an event. No plain white bread, frozen beef-patti burgers or cheap milk chocolate for me. No thank you. If I’m going to poison my body, I want to at least enjoy a few moments of deliberate and designed gastronomic delight.

So, here I am at the first entry. I’ve chosen Cream Scones first, because I’ve made biscuits before and wanted to try something different. Second, Jim always orders scones, I’d like to be able to make him some and lastly, as previously confessed, my sister’s taunting.

Cream Scones (Recipe 6.5 in the textbook OnBaking)

This recipe requires that we apply the biscuit method of mixing. If you want the actual recipe, let me know. There are so many recipes online and I’m not really adding anything. The point here is not offer a how to guide ( I cannot claim expertise) or a recipe for scones but rather expose how everything you do, even as seemingly simple as baking bread, can be meaningful and philosophical. We are all hungry philosophers. We all make meaning everyday, even in baking scones. The interesting features of this particular method are:

  1. The fat that gives it flavor and adds air in the form of flakiness is solid. So, if we speak in architectural terms, the butter acts as scaffolding that helps the structure rise, but also forms the spaces. Its poetic to think of the disappearing butter as the secret to a biscuit or scones particular flavor.
  2. In this method, over-mixing is a sin. Don’t do it. The key is to keep the ingredients in a loose aggregate that allows space for the butter to form pockets of air. Aggressive mixing literally squashes the possibility of flakiness, of air/flavor pockets…..and then you get the hard as a rock hockey puck that I myself am guilty of making. I’d like to think I’m a gentler person who believes in supporting the benevolent actions all diverse components, now. The biscuit method demands gentility. As Hannah Arendt wrote, one of the techniques of totalitarianism is in blocking free movement:

“By pressing men against each other, total terror destroys the space between them; compared to the condition within its iron band, even the desert of tyranny, insofar as it is still some kind of space, appears like a guarantee of freedom. Totalitarian government does not just curtail liberties or abolish essential freedoms; nor does it, at least to our limited knowledge, succeed in eradicating love for freedom from the hearts of man. It destroys the one essential prerequisite of all freedom which is simply the capacity of motion which cannot exist without space.” (Origins of Totalitarianism, 466)

Don’t be a totalitarian with your scones, says the recipe.

What I Learned:

  1. Don’t let the fear of over-mixing scare you. In my nervousness I added the liquid BEFORE I cut in the butter. Yikes. Not a good start to this whole project. I grated the solid butter and then added it to the flour under the liquid as best I could.
  2. I didn’t have half and half as the recipe required. So I mixed whole milk and whipping cream. May have been too heavy for the recipe.
  3. The 10-minute baking time needed adjusting. I let it bake for a few more minutes. But I think I could have left in a bit longer to get more color.

Baking may be a science but accidents happen, substitutions and adjustments are often needed. I have a feeling this may be a dominant theme in future posts.

It tastes moist, slightly sweet, flakes as I bite into it. Soft, not hard. The dough was flaky even I was rolling it. Next time, I’d like to try adding more flavorings like orange zest or strawberries. I’d probably give myself a ‘B’ on account of the sequence fiasco and it could’ve risen more and had more color. I’ll perfect it before I send my sister a box.

Credits

Thank you to the book Onbaking and the systems of publishing, my mixing bowls, rolling pin, flour, butter, sugar, baking powder, soda, eggs, milk and the systems that produced, distributed, packaged, branded and sold the ingredients like, chickens, cows, wheat plants, wood, truck drivers, grocery shelf stockers, my oven, my warm house, my kitchen island, my roof, the gas company, the gas, the pipes that brought it to my oven, the timer, the internet, this blog, my camera, my tasters……etc. etc. for making this taste experience of production and consumption possible.

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