Cinnamon and Raisin Scones

The local coffee place in Columbus is called Cup 'O Joe. The coffee is ok but their pastries are inedible. They sell these big brown colored lumps of hard dough embedded with chunks of fossilized fruit. They're stale, I suspect at least 3 days old, and they call them scones. If you're unfortunate enough to be lured into buying one of these horrid blocks of starch it's kind of funny to hear the cashier ask if you want it heated up. As if a microwave is going to breath a bit of flavor into these dried up stale pieces of crap.

I knew it wouldn't be hard to do better.

Mine are a modification of the biscuit recipe that's posted on the side of every baking soda can in the world. For convenience, I've been using self-rising flour too. Self-rising flour is simply a fixed mixture of flour:baking powder:salt. I've been using it for biscuits and related baked goods lately. It's pretty awesome.

Cinnamon & Raisin Scones - makes 6
self-rising flour, 2 C
sugar, 3 T
butter, unsalted, 6 T
milk (I used 1%), 2/3 C
cinnamon, ca. 2-3 t
raisins, handful

1. Preheat oven to 450F.
2. Mix self-rise flour and sugar
3. Cut butter into self-rise flour (or use 2 C flour, 1 T baking powder, 1/2 t salt)
4. Sprinkle cinnamon and add raisins to the mixture.
5. Add milk, mix with wooden spoon until the mixture clumps into a ball.
6. Knead briefly and squash into a ca. 6-8" squat disk.
7. Cut disc into 6 pie pieces.
8. Arrange triangular pieces on parchment lined baking sheet.
9. Brush each triangle with milk and sprinkle a bit of sugar prior to baking (for a nice crusted glaze)
10. Bake 15-18 minutes.


Day 4

A slice of the loaf I made Sunday is pictured here, 4 days later. It tastes as good today as it did then. Not quite as crunchy but still full flavored.

In Reinhart's book, he speaks of the famous Poilâne family of Paris. They make a wheat bread that is shipped all over the world. I've had it. It's very old school. Every baker in the Poilâne family of bakeries sees each loaf through from "cradle to grave". From development of the starter to final baking. Reinhart even claims that Max Poilâne believed his bread to be better by the fifth day than on the first. He made and sold a loaf that was several pounds in mass and was meant to feed a family for a good fraction of a week.

I'm not saying I've achieved anything close to a Pain Poilâne, but that rustic country loaf was darn good and fed us a good chunk of the week with a hearty bread that was still tasty 4 days later. I'm proud of it and will try to repeat it soon.


Country French

Pain de Compagne, or country French is something Trish and I have had all over France. It's the most common bread offered while dining in France. Although its quality and characteristics vary from brasserie to brasserie, it has some common features. It's usually wheat, a round loaf, crusty with large holes and is derived from a starter of some kind but does not have a strong sour flavor. I've yearned to make this style forever (to a level I was satisfied with). I tried again this weekend. Twice. The first, unfortunately, was not as good but we brought it to dinner anyway (sorry Gail and Roger for taking a less than perfect loaf but thanks for an exceptional dinner!). The second attempt, I was absolutely thrilled with. It reminded me of the better loaves I've had in France.

The breakthrough came as I caught the end of America's Test Kitchen on our local PBS station a couple weeks ago. They were making Rustic Country Bread. Breads like this have extraordinarly simple recipes. Flour, water, salt, a trace of yeast and optionally, low levels of enrichment (honey and/or olive oil). It's ALL process. You have to see these loaves prepared to appreciate the subtlety of the methods involved. What caught my attention on this show is how long they baked it. A final internal temp of at least 210F but more importantly, they cooked it to a dark brown. Dark. This method calls for a sponge, but I believe the way in which it's described, it's actually a poolish.

This site is free but requires a registration; absolutely worth the time. Their recipe is probably sufficiently detailed to follow. I made a couple critical changes: i. I used Montana Sapphire unbleached white flour and some wheat and rye, ii. to prepare the final dough, I used a bread machine to knead and do the first rise (this is a slack dough and I don't have the patience to knead a slack dough and it's messy). A bread machine is great at kneading slack doughs. The honey addition looks a bit odd but the concentration is small enough to not make the loaf sweet. I also baked my loaf at 425F and cooked the crap out of it. I believe I baked it a full 50 minutes. I let it cool an hour and sliced it up. Julian's parents and Trish and I savored this rustic loaf with a bit of Egyptian feta for a quick snack. Reviews were quite favorable.


It's in the Details

Before I went to the hospital this past weekend to have my chest hair removed by little sticky adhesive electrode patches, I was doing a couple of final runs for the baguette piece. I wanted to remove two items in the procedure to make it a prep anyone could perform with little or no special equipment.

The two items I thought might give some people trouble were: i. the use of a bread machine for kneading/first rise and ii. the use of the special baguette pan I use. So, I decided to try to validate the procedure removing each variable, one at a time. I discovered something interesting. Even though this particular bread recipe is only a straight dough method, it's complexity is astounding. By replacing the bread machine 30-minute knead cycle with a 5 minute hand knead (a timed full 5 minutes of vigorous kneading), I changed the final loaf significantly. It had a tad less volume, the crackly crust was a little different but the big difference in texture AND taste resulted from the finer crumb. The machine kneaded crumb is delicate and cloud-like in appearance, but tasty. The hand kneaded interior was finer in appearance and the taste was "mealier" for lack of a better characterization. It surprised me. I'm going to stick with what works for now and stay with the machine. This bread is worth pursuing at any price.



Guess what happened today? No, Conagra Foods didn't offer me a job baking all day because I endorsed their flour, Montana Sapphire; our local supermarket turned into a Giant Eagle and it has its grand opening today. I stopped in on the way back from daycare because it would make me even more late for work.

I love supermarkets. Trish and I always check out the local supermarket whenever we visit a new place (Paris, Lyon, Amsterdam, LaGrande, Oregon). Even huge chain supermarkets can't help but reflect local aspects of the community in which they're placed. Today, for the grand opening our local Giant Eagle is having a big presentation for the press and all kinds of fancy activities. Their produce section is greatly expanded compared to the last store that occupied that spot and they even have rehired the surly Somalian cashiers. It's just like home again.