I need to learn how to deal with failure.
I’ve never been a particularly mellow cook, especially in my early days in the kitchen–though I challenge anyone with ambition to remain mellow on a student’s budget with approximately 18 inches of counter space. Entire dishes ended up in the trash, cookbooks ended up on the floor, and tears were occasionally involved. Like replaying my adolescence, I eventually grew out of my temper tantrums and into a less charged but more sulky manner of cooking. Dinner didn’t turn out? Fine, I’ll have toast, and I’ll mope through every minute of it.
I like to think my attitude has improved, but that position was challenged the other day, with my first batch of these scones. To be fair to fate, I was pretty excited about them, and that usually invites disaster. Everything seemed to be going well. I love rye, and had been daydreaming about using it in new and unexpected ways. These scones were to be my attempt to introduce a less sweet, more–dare I say–mature flavor profile to breakfast.
Then came the time to add the liquids. I pulled the tab on the bottle of farm-fresh, locally-produced cream. I upturned the bottle. Nothing happened. I shook it like ketchup. Still nothing. I looked in, then hesitantly stuck a butter knife down into the cream. The knife stood up straight without touching the bottle.
And for a moment, I was furious. The cream wasn’t expired; it was just too much cream. Somehow I got the bottle with all the milkfat and none of the milk. How are you supposed to mix scones without liquid? I splashed some whole milk in with the cream and mixed the dough, but it was all wrong. I angrily rolled it out, cut the scones, and stuck them in the oven.
I called a friend. “Never let me open a restaurant!” I demanded. “I’d be a terrible, mean chef. I want nothing more than to yell at a milkmaid right now.”
“Okay,” he said. “What’s going on?”
“The cream, oh the cream,” I moaned, and told him.
“How do they taste?” he said.
“Who cares how they taste!” I sputtered. “I can’t use the recipe now, I have to test it again with proper cream, and besides they’ll be ugly. Flat, wet, and ugly!”
“Who cares whether they’re ugly?” he asked. “How do they taste?”
“Well, they’re still in the oven,” I admitted.
“Let me know how they taste,” he said, and hung up.
After 15 more minutes of stomping about the house, I pulled out the scones. Indeed, they had flattened to the point of covering the whole sheet pan with their shapeless, wet, rye-ness. I stomped around the house a few more minutes while they cooled.
When I came back to the kitchen, one of the scones was gone. I found A, sitting at his computer, happily munching.
“How is it?” I asked tentatively.
“This is great,” he said through a mouth full of crumbs.
“But they’re flat and ugly,” I said.
“So? This is really good,” he said, and got up to get another scone.
I followed him and broke off a too-soft corner. I tasted. It was…not perfect, but the idea was there, and the idea was good. It just needed some tweaking, and next time it would work….
In retrospect it seems obvious that recipe-testing and, hence, occasional failure would be inherent to writing a food blog. It only took me a few weeks to realize what I’ve gotten myself into. I’ll do my best, but I have to say: you’re lucky it’s hard to have a tantrum over the Internet.
These scones are neither as rich nor as sweet as most of us are used to. I prefer them this way; you can eat one for breakfast without feeling guilty, and eat one for dessert and feel you’ve done yourself a favor.
Rye Scones with Cherry and Fennel
1 1/4 C rye flour
3/4 white flour
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/8 t salt
1/2 C butter, cold, cut into pieces
2 t fennel seed
1 C dried sweet cherries
1 C buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350° and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter pieces and pulse until mixture is sandy (or alternatively cut butter in with a fork or pastry cutter). Pour flour mixture into a medium bowl and add fennel seeds and cherries. Add buttermilk and mix to combine; do not overmix.
Turn out dough on a floured surface and divide in half. Roll each half into a circle about 8″ across. With a sharp knife cut 6 triangles out of each circle and place the scones on the prepared baking sheet, at least 2″ apart. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly golden.