Scones fail

Yesterday I made my first-ever attempt at making scones, using this recipe. While they were tasty, they were not scones. Rather, they were, according to my husband, “orange-flavored biscuits with a glaze.”

I like my scones with a bit more heft: coarser, more dense, and with that glutinous bite that is so unique to a well-made scone. So, I am on the hunt for a better recipe. My friend Laura suggested this recipe, and I shall definitely give them a whack, as I’ve not had a bad experience with a single Smitten Kitchen recipe to date. C says that America’s Test Kitchen has a good recipe. These look pretty tasty as well, although my mouth feels dry just thinking about a whole-wheat scone.

Oh, and I have been daydreaming about lemon curd of late. I have to work from home tomorrow afternoon because we’re expecting a repairman; I may have to intersperse writing with standing over a pot of tangy-sweet spreadable sunshine.

Strawberry pop tarts

I love Pop Tarts, but they are industrialized poison. So, when I came across this recipe via Mrs. Q at Fed Up With Lunch, I decided to give them a whack. My husband likes Pop Tarts, and my son … well, he doesn’t really care for them, which is good, I guess, but sort of a mistake on my part to make them with his school day breakfasts in mind.

Here’s the short version of this recipe: Make a pie crust. Roll it out and cut it into 16 squares. Put a splodge of strawberry preserves in the middle of 8 of the squares and cover them with the remaining 8 squares. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through cooking. Dust with powdered sugar while still warm. The end.

Now then, if you’re like me and you’ve always been intimidated by the idea of making a pie crust and therefore haven’t done it, the longer version of this recipe might be helpful. Why have I never made a pie crust? I don’t know. Now that I’ve done it, effectively, I see that it’s really no big deal and now I never ever have an excuse to spend $15 on a homemade pie at the farmers’ market. I think my Fear of Pie Crusts has to do with having been externally motivated all my life. I craved gold stars, trophies, little pins for my players’ hat to commemorate my (extremely few) achievements in kickball. I needed validation from outer forces to affirm my self-worth. This means that a.) I am afraid to do something that intimidates me because I don’t want to screw it up and b.) the dissertation-writing process has perhaps been more painful and protracted than it needed to be. I’ve never been good at doing things over and over and over until I get them right. I want them done right the first time I do them.

I see my son exhibiting those tendencies and it makes me sad. He will quit in the middle of a Wii game because he’s not winning. Rather than lose and keep trying, he will start the game over. There’s a great Samuel Beckett quote that I have to remind myself of and that my husband and I try to impart a kindergarten version of in our son: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” It’s in the “fail better” where we actually improve; it’s just overcoming that fear of failing that has proven to be my stumbling block, and one I hope we can help to remove from our son’s psychic path as we bring him up.

Which brings us back to pie crust. I think if I had realized that I was making a pie crust as I whipped up these babies, I might not have gone there. But it wasn’t until I was rolling out the dough that it dawned on me. So now I have a pie crust recipe, one that I know is tasty and vetted by Bon Appetit.

Strawberry “pop tarts”

2 c + 2 T all purpose flour
1 t coarse kosher salt
1 t sugar
1 c (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 T ice water
8 tablespoons strawberry preserves
Powdered sugar (totally optional, in my opinion)

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter. Blend on low until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water by tablespoonfuls, mixing until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball. Divide in half. Wrap in plastic. Chill at least 1 hour.

After chilling, line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Working with 1 dough ball at a time, roll out dough to a 13×11 inch blob. Square it up, cut out 8 rectangles. Place pieces on parchment.

Put 1 T of preserves in center.

Roll out the other dough ball and cut out 8 more rectangles. Place these rectangles gently on top of the preserves. Gently press the edges, then reinforce these closures with a fork.

They look like giant ravioli!

Use fork to poke a few holes in the tarts. Place trays in freezer and chill for at least 2 hours.

After freezing, position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake frozen tarts uncovered until golden, reversing sheets after 15 minutes, 25 to 30 minutes total. Immediately transfer tarts to rack. Optional: Sift powdered sugar on top of them. But really, they are just fine “naked,” too.

My husband and I thought they were delicious (we split one while they were still warm). My son was suspicious of them, saying “they don’t look very yummy.” I finally coerced him to eat a small piece, and he nodded noncommittally (how can he already be like this at age 5? I thought this kind of squirrelliness would come closer to age 12 or so). I offered him one for breakfast this morning and he turned it down. So, the box went to work with my husband (he reported a few weeks back that his coworkers had been complaining that I hadn’t been sending many baked goods with him lately, so I hope they’re happy!). I would keep them here for my own breakfasts, but I can’t afford to eat something with 9 POINTS in it for breakfast.

Sunday night dinner

A well-balanced meal

Seared salmon, steamed spinach, crispy smashed potatoes. Four-berry pie bought from the farmers’ market awaits for dessert.

Chicken tikka masala

I’ve been enjoying the most recent issue of Eating Well. Tonight’s experiment was Quick Chicken Tikka Masala, with some adaptations.

Quick Chicken Tikka Masala
4 t garam masala
1/2 t salt
1/4 t turmeric
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 pound chicken tenders
4 t canola oil (whoops! I used Ts instead of ts!!!)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, diced
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, undrained
2/3 cup 2% milk

Stir together garam masala, salt and turmeric in a small dish. Place flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon of the spice mixture and dredge in the flour.
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the pan over medium-low heat. Add garlic, onion and ginger and cook, stirring often, until starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the reserved spice mix and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Sprinkle with the reserved 1 tablespoon flour and stir until coated. Add tomatoes and their juice. Bring to a simmer, then turn off heat and transfer sauce into a blender. Puree the sauce until smooth.
Transfer the sauce back into the pot and add the milk. Add the chicken and simmer over medium-low heat until the chicken is cooked through. Serve over brown rice.

I would give this recipe a solid B. While I was dubious about coating the chicken in garam masala, it was fine. The chicken was cooked perfectly, which was gratifying. However, the strongest note in the sauce was GARAM MASALA, so a little bit of balance would have been nice. Matt and I both agreed that a bit of heat would have been nice, so next time I make this, I will throw in some cayenne or chili powder. As it was, I added sliced jalapenos to my plate for some much-needed kick. I am stuck, though, with two leftover chicken tenders and nearly four cups of leftover sauce. Any suggestions for how to deal with that? I would hate to chuck that sauce.

And I still haven’t mastered brown rice.