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Silver Linings Amid Winter Blahs

Talk about Spring weather fake-out. At this time last week, I was admiring the brown grass, puddles, and lack of wind chill. I could taste the artichokes, asparagus, and greens and berries and all the stuff that’s only available in Spring. Now I’m back in stew-mode, eating buttered noodles, watching the ice build up on the sidewalks and windshields of this once-again desolate place. Remind me in October to start planning my winter getaway. I’ll aim for early February, when morale is at its lowest.

On the bright side (because there is always a bright side), Valentine’s weekend was quite the love-fest. Yes, Jake did get me flowers and we went out to brunch at the Red Stag, but also we went out with some friends and saw an amazing show at the Entry. The highlight was Lucy Michelle (and one of her Velvet Lapelles backing her up.) I’d never seen her before, but she is the current sweetheart of the Twin Cities’ music scene. And the girl can out-whistle Andrew Bird AND she sang a version of “Not in Nottingham” from the animated Robin Hood (with foxes!) In addition to the wonderful set by Lucy, Big Trouble kept her up on stage for their set of all. cover. songs. All about love! It was so much fun and a great way to spend Valentine’s eve. (Chris Koza played after Big Trouble, but I wasn’t really feeling it. I mean, how can you top a cover of “I Will Always Love You” on Valentine’s Day?)

The next day, Jake and I discovered this unusual stew recipe. I’ll call it Reuben Stew, since it’s enhanced by sauerkraut and resembles a pale orange thousand island dressing. If you or someone you love loves reubens, then you should definitely try this.

I’ve decided to do one new thing each weekend (not necessarily cooking), mainly to better myself and my life, make Spring arrive a little faster, and also to curb the addiction to Civilization IV. I’m not ashamed to admit that thing can do some major time-suckage. Earlier this month, the new thing was baking scones. I don’t know where the craving came from, since I prefer savory to sweet in the morning, but these were the perfect amount of sweet and buttery. Almost as perfect as the scones Margee and I enjoyed at the British Museum at tea time. I’ve never been able to find clotted cream since, and I doubt it would taste as perfect as it did then.

All of my scone research emphasized the delicacy of the dough. Over-mixing was a huge no-no, so I literally counted out how many turns the spatula made. Five. Then how many seconds to knead the barely-mixed dough. Ten. I was making the scones for a potluck brunch, so I couldn’t take any chances of messing up, especially given my baking track record. I’m happy to say that these turned out wonderfully. Unlike any scone found at a coffeeshop (cough bricks cough). Slightly sweet, with the perfect amount of crumble and flake. And really easy. Easy enough that I want to keep heavy cream on-hand more often (as long as I share the scones, of course…)

Berry Cream Scones
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from America’s Test Kitchen

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (different than baking soda, mind you)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash of cinnamon
5 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup dried berries (I used mixed berries and chopped them a bit)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.

Place flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in large bowl and whisk together until just blended (about six times).

Use your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in berries.

Stir in heavy cream and vanilla with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, at the most, 30 seconds. I stirred just 5 times and it turned out beautifully.

Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Form scones by cutting the dough into 8 wedges with either a knife or bench scraper.

Place wedges on ungreased baking sheet, dust with sugar if you would like, and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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One Response to “Silver Linings Amid Winter Blahs”

  1. February 20th, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Anonymous says:

    I was just telling someone our tea time story yesterday! Wacky.