Scone Experimentation

IMG_2657Over the past week, the number of dreary, grey days has increased as the number of leaves on trees has decreased. Though I love apple cider doughnuts, loose and comfy chunky sweaters, snuggling into my winter comforter, and all other cozy autumn activities, it is always sad to feel the warmth of summer fade.

But autumn brings its own vibrancy, with leaves like flames and multicolored fruits and vegetables ripe for harvest. I had always associated pomegranate seeds with summer because of their “tropical” fuchsia hue and the exoticness of a fruit whose seeds shone like edible jewels embedded in bitter white pith. However, after I discovered they were in fact a fall fruit, pomegranates became a favorite fall time treat (though of course, apple cider doughnuts will now and forever be the best part of fall).

After a week of drab, depressing days drained of color, I needed something delicious, sweet, and visually striking, even borderline garish. Enter my favorite breakfast pastry, the scone, combined with my favorite exotic flavors, green tea and pomegranate seeds. Matcha imparts an earthy, slightly bitter taste, while the pomegranate seeds provide small sparks of juicy sweetness. Paired with a mug of hot tea, these scones are rays of light on rainy fall days.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Captivated by Caraway

IMG_2459

Cooking for one person is no easy task. Lately, my pantry has been getting precariously full and some of my perishable items were beginning to edge dangerously close to expiration. I needed a sweet recipe that involved zero new ingredients.

I settled on a scone recipe (because you can never have too many scone recipes) which called for fruits — great, I have blueberries that I bought for no reason — and a tablespoon of caraway seeds, which I also had and honestly never expected to use. Before making goulash, I had never used or even heard of caraway seeds. The goulash had so many flavors, mainly paprika, that I wasn’t really sure what caraway seeds would add.

I don’t know if this is a testament to caraway seeds or to the fact that I have no life, but that first bite of scone was the best part of my day. The seeds added an earthy, sharp flavor and a spice-y aroma that I instantly fell for. So of course I had to do a little research on the origins of caraway seeds. According to NPR, caraway was Europe’s oldest condiment and became a staple in Northern European cuisine before being spread by the Romans to Southern Europe. However, it was shunted aside in favor of exotic spices and because it appeared mainly in homier dishes consumed by the lower-class, it never garnered the same appreciation as cinnamon or even dill and parsley, members of the same plant family as caraway.

Funny how history works — I’d say more people know the flavors of cinnamon and pepper than the that of caraway. Traditional North European dishes like sauerkraut and pumpernickel bread and some Scandanavian spirit called aquavit still use it, but it has disappeared from the mainstream diet, while pepper is part of basically all cuisines.

Caraway deserves a comeback in a big way. It is no longer the spice of your German grandma; it imparts a truly unique flavor and adds texture to baked goods. I look forward to future forays with caraway seeds…though I guess I’ll have to wait until I clear out a couple more items in pantry :p.

Continue reading

Lemon Poppyseed Scones

IMG_1370

A month ago, I went to Africa for vacation. It was insane and unbelievable, so unbelievable that I look back now and wonder if the whole experience actually happened. It did, and I have the pictures to prove it.

Elephants grazing in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

Elephants grazing in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

Part of the reason it all felt so unreal was because, in a way, it was. We experienced snippets of culture, stopping by a Masai village for an hour, singing and dancing with them, then returning to our hotel, a gated expanse with its own private plantation. The grounds were perfectly manicured, yet we never saw any workers in the fields. And every day, we’d drive around, searching for animals with all the other tourists, spotting elephants and leopards and beautiful birds. It was exhilarating. It was like Epcot and Animal Kingdom on steroids.

Wildebeests crossing the Mara River in Serengeti National Park

Wildebeests crossing the Mara River in Serengeti National Park

While driving from national park to national park, we’d glimpse the Masai herding their goats and cows on red, dusty plains. We’d see people milling about, perhaps looking for work, perhaps not. Women carried bundles of twigs, bunches of fruits, and other large objects on their heads. Men sat outside furniture stores, which seemed to only sell beds. We’d see these people, and for a brief moment, we’d wonder where they were going, what were they doing. And then we’d leave them in the dust.

Masai watching over their cows at the watering hole

Africa was beautiful. Everything was strange and new and incredible. Our guide, Godson, was deeply passionate about animals, describing the movements of different packs of lions, of three cheetah brothers, of the wildebeests. He knew the lions and cheetahs by sight. We searched for rhinos for two days, and long after our family had given up and fallen asleep in the back of the van, Godson and his assistant, Bohke, kept peering into the lengthening shadows of the brush.

For a while, I felt like I hadn’t experienced the true Africa. I felt like a tourist in the worst sense, like I’d just come for the animals. But that would be a disservice to all the people who’ve dedicated their lives to the tourism industry, who work incredibly hard to make sure every one of their clients has a perfect experience. When my parents forgot their luggage at the hotel, we thought we’d never see it again. Pantaleo, the manager of our hotel in Serengeti National Park, called up a friend in Arusha to make sure the luggage was transported properly from Serengeti to Arusha to Zanzibar. For these people, the tourism industry is their life. Angel, our hostess at Tarangire, told us she only was able to see her son every two months.

On one hand, we barely spent any time mingling with the populace in town, and learned about six words in Swahili. But the Africans we met in the hotels are not just some two-dimensional workers; they are people who made enormous sacrifices to enter the tourism industry and create a better life for their families.

Two weeks in Africa taught me a lot, though it took me a while to realize it. After studying abroad last year, I had come to equate cultural immersion with the real experience, as if all other experiences were somehow simply superficial. I felt superior to other “tourists” in that I had interacted with natives, spoken their language, tutored their children, even lived in the same dorm as them. But this view is just as entitled as going to a foreign country and hiding in a walled resort, believing everyone outside the safety of the hotel is a pickpocket.

Lion in Ngorongoro Crater

Lion in Ngorongoro Crater

There is no one real Africa. Countries and the people that populate them are multifaceted. In China, I learned to look down on all the laowai, to laugh at them as they got swindled in the markets. I owe it to Godson, to Angel, to Wilson and to all the other people who I met along the way for making me realize that by indiscriminately looking down on tourists, I was looking down on an entire sector of incredibly hardworking people. The tourism industry has heavily influenced many countries, from Greece to Africa to America. It cannot be ignored, and should not be degraded.

This lemon poppyseed scone recipe really has nothing to do with the post, but hey, it’s a tasty recipe. It’s refreshing and light, which I imagine would be a good change of pace after this wordy and somewhat heavy post.

Continue reading

My Drunk Kitchen(whimsies) Pt. 2

scones!

Before you say anything, why yes, it is a Monday night.

Why yes, it is finals week.

But you know what? I just finished the hardest final of my life. Literally, studied for three days, still felt unprepared. I’ve never felt more inadequate or unintelligent in my life. The name of the bane of my existence: Statistics.

I know, I know. Freshmen take Stats. It’s an intro-level course. And yet, I spent hours and hours on the homework, spent hours and hours reviewing for each test, spent hours and hours stressing and worrying and skipping my other classes just to study a little bit more. And when I wasn’t stressing, I was wondering why an intro-level class was so unbelievably difficult. There were days when I thought about dropping it, about just dropping the Econ major all together. But somehow, I fought through.

Every person has his uphill battle. For me, it was an intro-level Economics course. Some part of me still feels ridiculously stupid, but another part of me kind of can’t believe that somehow, I finished the course. That somehow, I was able to overcome my intellectual shortcomings and actually learn a lot more than I thought I could.

So whatever, a girl can drunk bake and celebrate if she wants. I might have accidentally burned myself on the oven door, but hey, if there’s one thing this semester has taught me, it’s that “no pain, no gain” isn’t just another trite cliché.

The star of tonight’s episode of Drunk Kitchen(whimsies) is a buttery, sweet, and fluffy chocolate chip scone recipe. Also, if I made them while drunk, you know it’s a ridiculously easy recipe. You use your hands, one bowl, and seven ingredients, and somehow, something delicious emerges from the oven. I prefer this recipe, but then again, I was drunk. Sometimes you double the salt, sometimes you double the butter, and sometimes you totally forget to put in the flour. (Yes, I have done all of these things while drunk.)

All right, it’s time for Dref to pass out, sleep for a few hours, then re-enter the vicious (and yet oddly gratifying) cycle of feverish studying and test-taking.

Continue reading

To Evenings with Nina and the Stepfather

blueberry scones!

The other day, my dear friend Nina sent me a ridiculously easy scone recipe. It was so ridiculously easy, I almost didn’t try it for fear that I’d waste ingredients in creating some weird dense pastry masquerading as a scone.

Nina, I publicly apologize for doubting you. I should have known that in your time across the pond, you’ve become a true scone connoisseur with the master recipe. These scones were absolutely amazing. Literally they were so good I dedicated this post to Nina. (Also because I miss her and I miss co-hosting our awesome radio show.)

Just a little backstory on the bizarre wonder that is our radio show: first off, it’s called “Evenings with Nina and the Stepfather.” We used to be on air in the morning. Secondly, our tagline was “teaching life lessons through music.” Our radio station didn’t know how to categorize that, so they put us in the “World” music category. To be fair, I don’t even know how I’d categorize the show. Sometimes it’s K-Pop, most of the time it’s a mix of depressing emo-indie music and happy 80s rock. Basically, an hour-long broadcast of our personalities, in the best way possible.

In case you couldn’t tell, I miss Nina and all my other abroad friends way too much right now. It’s been a strange semester without my friends who’ve been beside me since Day 1 of college. Perhaps the most important life lesson I’ve learned this semester is that my friends define a significant part of who I am – a part that I took for granted before they all left for exotic locales around the globe.

Though I am happy I stayed, there’s many moments when I wish they were here, or that I had decided to study abroad (especially when I see pictures of Amsterdam and Paris and Prague and Barcelona. I’m so jealous of all your lives right now). So if it’s any incentive, I will be here, in the States, making scones (and all kinds of other baked goods) and waiting for your return.

Continue reading