Heart Baking

IMG_4001In the dark days following the loss of our Newf Fleur, there were rays of light brought by the kindnesses of the folks around us, and one such ray came in the form of a lovely lady named Joyce. Joyce showed up on our doorstep with a couple of pints of local strawberries, and the smell of those fragrant, ripe berries made me hungry for the first time in days.

And, as I find cooking and baking both comforting and therapeutic, I turned my attention to finding a recipe to showcase these beautiful strawberries. It wasn’t hard–strawberries mean shortcake, and I have the perfect scone recipe for the biscuits. Whenever I’m looking for a homestyle baking recipe, I turn to the venerable Company’s Coming title Muffins and More. (Huh–I just realized I’ve probably never made a muffin recipe from this book, it’s full of great loaves, biscuits and coffee cakes)
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I love the cream scone recipe because of the resulting dough: it’s soft, workable, and versatile. In fact, I recalled using it for cinnamon rolls, something I hadn’t made in ages, so I decided I’d make both the scones for the shortcakes, and the cinnamon rolls.

 

Spot the kitty!
Spot the kitty!

THE DOUGH

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Following the recipe, I made two separate batches of dough. Why make two batches instead of just doubling the recipe? Because unlike cooking, baking is based on science, and chemical reactions from ingredients like baking soda and powder; simply doubling a recipe will not necessarily give the same results. So, two batches, because washing the extra bowl is a lot less trouble (not the mention the waste) than having to remake a whole recipe.
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STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

I patted down one batch of dough to about a 1″ thickness, and cut out the scones. Now, if you don’t have a biscuit or cookie cutter, the greased rim of an average drinking glass works fine and is about the right size. Tip: whenever you’re cutting out biscuits or scones, start from the middle of the dough and work your circles outwards, there’ll be less waste than if you start on the outside working your way in. Of note: the recipe claims to make 2 dozen scones, but I’ve never been able to get more than 18.
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As the scones begin to cool, break one in half and slather with butter. This is a test scone and is crucial to the process. You may need to test two for quality assurance.

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Assembly is the fun part, because you can either go old-school (scones, berries, cream) or run wild.
The basic East Coast version is simply to split the scone in half horizontally, pile the berries and real whipped cream on the bottom half, cap with the top half, and you’re done.

I wanted mine to be a little more special. I cut the scone into thirds, so I could have an extra tall shortcake. Rummaging in the fridge, I found this delightful jam from PEI that we had been given. It’s one of those jams that’s too nice for just toast, and I’d been looking for a more interesting way to use it.
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The bright orange note of Grand Marnier works well with berries, and so I spread the jam on all layers of the scone. Super sweet berries don’t need much in the way of flavour adjustment; had these been those giant tasteless California strawberries on steroids, I may have tossed them in simple syrup and a touch of liqueur. Or just tossed them, and drank the liqueur. Not an issue with these, fortunately.
As for the whipping cream part, I added a little sugar and vanilla extract. Whipped cream lends itself to all kinds of flavourings: cracked black pepper will add heat to the sweet, or try peppermint extract for complementary taste. If you don’t have strawberries, use a mix of berries, or whatever is in season.
If anyone out there has a signature shortcake, I’d love to hear about it, and possibly have some delivered to my house.

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CINNAMON ROLLS
The first place I worked as a professional cook was in a small hotel that served a continental breakfast; this is where I came up with the idea of using this scone recipe as a basis for a fast lot of cinnamon rolls.

To make these, I rolled the dough out into a rectangle–I forgot to measure it, but it’s not really critical to the recipe. For smaller cinnamon rolls, you’ll want a rectangle that is, from side to side, wide and from top to bottom, short. For bigger rolls, you’ll want a rectangle that is less wide, and taller.
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Once the dough is rolled out, the assembly begins. The basics involve softened butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar. I don’t measure this stuff out, I just eyeball it–this part is not too scientific.
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First, I used a pastry brush to spread the rectangle with softened butter. Over that, a generous dusting of cinnamon, and then a thin layer of brown sugar (you can use golden sugar, like I did in this particular batch). If you like nuts, now’s the time to sprinkle them in here. Crush some walnuts or pecans and just toss them over the sugar.
Then it’s time for the rolling up, into a cylinder shape, by starting at the bottom edge. Now, I’m terrible at giving instructions sometimes, so let’s go to the pictures to see how it’s done:
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Once I have that cylinder, I slice off rolls with a very sharp knife. It’s a good idea to keep a little flour handy; you can dust your knife blade with it after every few cuts to keep things from sticking to the knife. Thicker cuts mean thicker cinnamon rolls, thinner cuts mean, well, thinner cinnamon rolls.
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Onto a cookie sheet, sides touching. I use parchment paper on cookie sheets, it keeps things from sticking and I don’t have to wash the sheet, which is a delightful side bonus.
Bake at 400F until lightly browned–the cooking time depends on how thick the rolls are cut. Best way to test for doneness is to pull one off the sheet when you think it looks done, and taste it. You’ll need to eat the whole thing to make sure it’s cooked all the way through.
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I ate strawberry shortcake and cinnamon rolls for three days before I felt like getting back to “regular” food; and I started this post during that time but couldn’t bring myself to finish it, until now.

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