My greatest fear after a thought provoking, revelatory experience, is coming home. Coming home means returning to a place of comfort, a place where those moments of unimaginable inspiration and those vows to pursue lofty dreams can all too easily disappear into the routine of everyday life.
In a desperate attempts to avoid this slippage back into normalcy and instead make myself a better me, I write lists. I detail my goals. “Be more appreciative.” “Take risks.” “Stay in touch with friends.” They are always vague like this. Always. While I realize this ambiguity makes my goals ten billion times harder to achieve, I like them written this way. Unlike, say, losing ten pounds, these goals aren’t given a time line, but rather are meant to serve a lifetime as that little voice in the back of my head. They’re not something I want to check off a to do list everyday. No, they are things I want to learn to slowly engrain in my daily life.
When I returned from Central America, I wrote a list. Many lists in fact: Things to Cook, Books to Read, Cake Ideas for Kent’s Party, (don’t worry, the chosen cake will make an appearance here shortly!), and Goals. Topping the list were these two: “Challenge myself. Push my limits” and “Meet knew people”. Both I had done gloriously during my journey as much out of necessity as out of desire.
As a nod towards these goals, last Tuesday I attended a Version Fest event in Bridgeport, (which I had read about through one of my favorite sources of foodie updates, Tasting Table). The premise was to bring together a small group of people, most of whom didn’t know each other, in a dinner party setting. Each of us was asked to bring a raw ingredient (grain, vegetable, meat, fish, etc.), a spice, a beverage, and a music selection, which were representative of us culturally. Contributions included everything from maple syrup and kimchi to squid and gizzards. We were then divided into teams and cooked together using the components we had brought. The resulting dishes were, surprisingly, mostly good.
The experience though was about much more than the final product. It proved the community building and culture sharing power of food. Coming together with people, whether they be your best friend from childhood or the random person you just met that night, seems nearly as essential to our existence as breathing. After all, while we all value our alone time (I’m currently sitting…alone…in my bedroom, door closed, writing this post, and jamming out to this and this and this), we operate as a society, together, thriving off of each other. Food is something we share universally. It is both the perfect lens into another culture, another place, and the perfect excuse to reach out a hand and introduce yourself. “Hi. I’m Jessica. Can you tell me what kind of spice is in this?”. Done.
People often ask me why I like to cook and I think that’s the very reason. It’s a connector. And these scones did just that. They made their way from my childhood home in the western suburbs, to a sail boat in Chicago filled with friends from high school, to Evanston, where my former roommates (now awesome friends who let me sleep on their couch) had their chance to indulge. Everyone loved them. Including me. I ate two for lunch that day.
Whole Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones
from the Smitten Kitchen
Those of you who have made scones before might be surprised by how wet this dough is. This wetness, and the challenges it may cause when patting out the dough and transferring them to the baking sheet, is what keeps the scones moist even after being baked. Just make sure to keep your counter and hands floured well and you should have zero problems. On an ingredient note, I used part-skim ricotta cheese instead of whole milk. The scones were still delicious but, if you have it, go with the whole milk version. More fat is always good.
Makes 9 scones
1 cup (120 grams) whole wheat flour
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) cold unsalted butter
1 cup (136 grams or 4 3/4 ounces) fresh raspberries
3/4 cup (189 grams) whole milk ricotta
1/3 cup (79 ml) heavy cream
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bottom of a large, wide-ish bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, sugar and salt together.
With a pastry blender: Add the butter (no need to chop it first) and use the blender to both cut the butter into the flour mixture until the biggest pieces are the size of small peas. Toss in raspberries and use the blender again to break them into halves and quarter berry sized chunks.
Without a pastry blender: Cut the butter into small pieces with a knife and work the butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Roughly chop the raspberries on a cutting board and stir them into the butter-flour mixture.
Both methods: Add the ricotta and heavy cream together and stir them in to form a dough with a flexible spatula.Using your hands, gently knead dough into an even mass, right in the bottom of the bowl. The raspberries will likely get muddled and smudge up the dough. Don’t worry. This is beautiful!
With as few movements as possible, transfer the dough to a well-floured counter, flour the top of the dough and pat it into a 7-inch square about 1-inch tall. With a large knife, divide the dough into 9 even squares. Transfer the scones to prepared baking sheet with a spatula. Bake the scones for about 15 minutes, until lightly golden at the edges. Cool in pan for a minute, then transfer to a cooling rack. Try to resist the urge to jump right in and start eating them. They’ll be best if you let them cool about halfway. Sorry.
Do ahead: Scones are always best the day they are baked. However, if you wish to get a lead on them, you can make them, arrange them on your parchment-lined sheet and freeze them. If you’re prepping just one day in advance, cover the tray with plastic wrap and bake them the day you need them. If you’re preparing them more than one day in advance, once they are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or container. Bring them back to a parchment-lined sheet when you’re ready to bake them. No need to defrost the froze, unbaked scones, just add 2 to 3 minutes to your baking time.