Scones in my bones

Yes, I again baked scones today. I’m going to keep trying until I get a good recipe worked out.

This one used sour cream and a really high ratio of baking powder.

This one used an egg glaze right before baking. That was a good step in the right direction I think.

It had so much baking powder though that you could taste the slight bitterness from it. Maybe a bit more sugar would cover it up.

In this case I also added slivered almonds and amaretto glaze. Still needs work.

Elitism in coffee

Drop that Starbuck’s milkshake you uncultured swine! (Just kidding)

On true gourmet coffee vs. everything else:

Great coffees, he [Peter Giuliano] says, should be brewed one at a time. “It isn’t consistent with the specialty coffee aesthetic to pre-brew and store coffee in the kind of thermoses you see in gas stations, hotel lobbies, or bullshit coffee shops where they sell French Vanilla.”

God in a Cup

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Permission to be obsessive

Most people would consider it pretty weird that Jay Leno owns over 100 fancy cars. Guitarist’s who can’t play their scales but have 40 different effects pedals are silly gear Nazi’s. It’s OK to collect stamps, but if you spend every weekend combing through old archives for goodies, you’re a nut job. Do you like Lost? That’s cool. So do a lot of other people. Own all 4 seasons on DVD? Must be a fan. Have a T-shirt, write fan-fiction on your blog and have Lost dress-up parties with your friends? Um. You’ve obsessed. Stay away!

Ah, but wait. Some things society gives us (or at least some of us) permission to be obsessive about. Even applauds it. Food and cooking is one of those areas right now:

Along these lines, a comment from specialty coffee buyer Peter Guiliano:

“Most of the people who payed $130 a pound for Geisha had access to coffee growing right next to the auction lot that cost $12.50 a pound. Why would they pay $130 a pound?

“This is an industry where the participants have constant permission to indulge in hedonistic pursuits. We are entrusted to pursue pleasurable things, and pleasure becomes the dominating force in our lives. the culture of coffee is exactly the same as the culture of chefs: society gives us permission to be obsessed. That’s what we think about all the time. I love the hedonism to a certain extend…love when we are comfortable experiencing the world through our senses, but it gets a little weird. Especially given the power structure. At origin, we are like rock stars. We are surrounded by people who want to spend time with us, who offer us every enticement imaginable. You are traveling for a long time, you are a young guy, and it is easy to get caught up in that and lose you footing.

“You’ve got to be off-kilter a little bit to get attracted to this business…By the time you are a little successful, you’ve been poor for a long time. A lot of these guys were social outcasts in the younger part of their lives…don’t have equipment to deal with some of this stuff.” – Peter Guiliano

-God in a Cup: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Coffee, p.232

Coffee and beauty

This, an excellent quote from coffee aficionado Peter Giuliano appears in God in a Cup: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Coffee:

“Fundamentally,” Peter told me, “my interest in coffee is aesthetic. My family is from Sicily,” he explained. “I was brought up by my grandmother, who didn’t speak English. I learned rom her that life is short, brutish, and cheap and that misery lies in wait for you. What interests me in coffee is the beauty of it. The beauty of the moment that coffee can create.” (p.234)

Throughout the hardest ups and downs of life in the past few years, coffee has been a consistant comfort. For a while I was afraid my love of coffee might simply a hedonistic pleasure or maybe even a chemical dependence. Though there surely a bit of both of those things involved, my heart said there was something more. A really good coffee is more like looking at a beautiful piece of art or reading a profound story. It’s like a piece of fallen creation that has been redeemed. It is a good thing in both the eyes of God and man. We as men just have refined techniques of preparing and brewing it. It is the Lord who made the fruit, beginning a long time ago somewhere in Africa. Like any of his creations, it has a purpose. Be amazed.

Along these lines, Doug Wilson has been posting a lot lately on creation and food, God and beauty in cooking. He mostly riffs of of Robert Capon’s quirky book, The Supper of the Lamb. Some of these are really worth reading.

Beef and Guinness Stew

Since, the Misses is away this weekend, I thought I’d cook up something yummy. Well, something that I think is yummy, but that wifey would never eat. I really enjoy a good stew or soup. She won’t have anything to do with them though. Oh well! So I went looking for recipes and I found a beef stew that called for Guinness stout beer as the base instead of water. It’s originally from a cookbook called The Complete Book of Irish Country Cooking. I’d never had anything like this before, so I decided to give it a shot:

The recipe called for 2 pounds of stew beef, but no taters. What the heck? I only had one pound of beef, so I supplemented with some Yukon gold taters.

Continue reading “Beef and Guinness Stew”

Capon on onions

Robert Capon was an Episcopal priest and author, usually writing about theological matters. He also loved to cook, so he wrote a very unusual cookbook called The Supper of the Lamb. It does have recipes in it, but also many pages of steam-of-consciousness writing that ranges from kitchen techniques, natural beauty, theology, and so forth.

In the first chapter, he begins to tell us how to slice up an onion:

Next take one of the onions (preferably the best-looking), a paring knife, and a cutting board and sit down at the kitchen table. Do not attempt to stand at a counter through these opening measures. In fact, to do it justice, you should arrange to have sixty minutes or so free for this part of the exercise. Admittedly, spending an hour in the society of an onion may be something you have never done before. You feel, perhaps, a certain resistance to the project. Please don’t. As I shall show later, a number of highly profitable members of the race have undertaken it before you. Onions are excellent company.

And he goes on like this for 3-4 more pages before the onion is actually cut up and we can move along to the taters. Seriously. I guess that is why he says to set aside an entire hour for this the first time around.

A fascinating book, but you have to be in the right mood!

Excursions in baking

I’ve been enjoying our new kitchen quite a bit lately. There is enough counter space to actually work and our new Kitchen Aid mixer makes a task that used to seem complicated and messy into a pretty simple exercise. I’ve also been striving to throw less cash at the grocery store. So when in need of yummies, I’ve found I have most of the ingredients here at home! I’ve ended up baking three times already this week.

I started with some soft ginger cookies. I took some to the church picnic and also to the office and they were quickly devoured. Next, I tried something a little more unusual with these nutmeg currant butter cookies.

All growing up I never made anything but chocolate chip. It was fun to try something off the beaten path. I even ground the nutmeg fresh from a “nut” (or possibly “meg”) instead of using the stuff from the jar. I did have to procure some currants though, which thankfully only cost me $1.00 for plenty of them at the Co-op. My wife consulted the dictionary and informed me that I had been pronouncing currant incorrectly. It’s not cerr-ONT, but rather a homonym to current (as in up-to-date) and also current (of the ocean or river variety). If you’ve never had them before, they are like miniature raisins, though with not as strong of flavour.

I thought they were pretty good, though not something I would like to have that often. My son has munched through quite a few of the crumbs, since I keep handing them to him instead of (less healthy?) M&Ms when he comes into the kitchen snooping for goodies. My daughter on the other hand declared the nutmeg to be “spicy” and promptly spit out the bite a gave her. Oh well! These went not-as-quickly at the office.

Finally, last night I baked bread again. This time I used freshly-ground hard red flour from my own childhood farm in Oregon. My mother bought a bag of it to me while visiting last week. The taste of the loaf was incredible, but I still haven’t found a good recipe for whole wheat. I tried so hard to avoid a dense loaf this time that I overdid the rising and wetness of the dough. It was really light and fluffy, but fell apart when trying to slice it. I’ll keep trying.

On Wine

Referenced from The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. Reviewed by BWIII here.

Daniel Whitfield has made an astoundingly exhaustive study of every alcohol reference in Scripture– all 247 of them. I quote here his findings:
On the negative side:

  • there are 17 warnings against abusing alcohol,
  • 19 examples of people abusing alcohol,
  • 3 references to selecting leaders,
  • and one verse advocating abstinence if drinking will cause a brother to stumble.
  • Total negative references 40, or 16%.

On the positive side:

  • there are 59 references to the commonly accepted practice of drinking wine (and strong drink) with meals,
  • 27 references to the abundance of wine as an example of God’s blessing,
  • 20 references to the loss of wine and strong drink as an example of God’s curse,
  • 25 references to the use of wine in offerings and sacrifices,
  • 9 references to wine being used as a gift, and
  • 5 metaphorical references to wine as a basis for a favorable comparison.
  • Total positive references: 145, or 59%.

“Neutral references make up the other 25%. If I could add only one observation to Whitfield’s study: There is also one reference to medicinal alcohol: ‘No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of yopur stomach and your frequent ailments (1 Timothy 5.23).

My long and deeply thought-out conclusions: Wine is yummy! Drink it with meals and by itself! Enjoy it, just not too much. It makes for a nice gift too. Apparently God has cursed the baptists. So sad.

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Is there actually a beer worth drinking? The jury is still out on that, but the only real candidate is Guinness.

Guy Kawasaki visits the very neat Guinness brewery, the most popular tourist attraction in Dublin.