Scones for Mother's Day ... or any day
It was love at first flip. On a recent Saturday morning I curled up in an overstuffed chair and watched as big flakes of snow gradually formed a thick featherbed over the perennials in my garden. Foolishly believing it was spring, they had begun to peek out from the earth.
I picked up my brand new copy of "The Minnesota Homegrown Cookbook." The cover photos of big red strawberries, plump, dew-kissed blueberries and just-picked heirloom tomatoes pulled me right into the book.
I opened the hard cover and flipped to the first page where I found more beautiful color photos of farm-fresh produce. I felt as if I were taking a summer vacation touring the state of Minnesota.
My fascinating travels began at the North Shore, and with each flip of a page, I arrived at another small farm, a bed-and-breakfast inn, a restaurant or a coffee shop in the Red River Valley, Minnesota River Valley, Pine and Lakes Country, Bluff Country and the Twin Cities. I read profiles of chefs and cooks who believe that food raised by local farmers is not only fresher but tastes better than food that has traveled across the country or around the world. I came to know local farmers and producers who provide their kitchens with that fresh food. I was captivated as I read about relationships that have formed among local food suppliers and chefs and cooks who turn the fresh, seasonal ingredients into delectable foods. I was enchanted by the photos that I could almost step into. I could sense the commitment those chefs and cooks have for serving locally grown and produced food. And I could almost feel the same passion these Minnesota farmers hold for incorporating sustainable practices that not only produce fresh and delicious food products but also help preserve the health of the land for future generations.
Jan Joannides, executive director and co-founder of the non-profit organization Renewing the Countryside, was director of "The Minnesota Homegrown Cookbook" project. With writers Tim King and Alice Tanghe, and several creative photographers, editors and recipe testers, Joannides says she had a team that fashioned a cookbook that is much more than just a compilation of recipes. It's a book that brings awareness to important issues in our food system. It's a book that gets readers excited about homegrown food - local food. Food that is tastier, safer and better for the planet.
And it's a book that does a great job of enticing readers to try out the recipes.
You can listen to my interview with Joannides by clicking on the audio link.
Trotter's Café and Bakery in St. Paul, one of the featured restaurants in the cookbook, shares their recipe for Triple Fruit Scones, an example of their daily made "from scratch" offerings.
As I mixed the ingredients for the scones, I thought of how much fun children would have preparing these as a treat for their moms on Mother's Day. Using their clean fingers to work little chunks of cold butter into the dry ingredients, using a table knife to cut dried fruit into small bits, cracking eggs open, kneading the dough and cutting it into triangles. And then, proudly serving the special handmade-with-love scones to mom. What a perfect gift. And how about a copy of "The Minnesota Homegrown Cookbook" served on the side?
Triple Fruit Scones
3 cups organic white flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) butter, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1/3 cup Craisins
1 egg white
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons orange rind
Combine flour, sugar, soda, baking powder and salt in mixing bowl. Add the butter, apricots and Craisins; mix until butter is in pea-size pieces.
In a separate bowl, combine egg and egg white, buttermilk and orange rind. Add this liquid to the dry ingredients and mix until it just comes together. Using your hands, knead several times in bowl and then place the dough on a lightly floured board. Form dough into a 12- x 6-inch rectangle. Cut into 12 triangular pieces. Bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 13 to 16 minutes, or until lightly browned. Makes 12 scones.
Tips from the cook
--Since the dried fruits are added to dry ingredients along with the butter, I found it easiest to use my fingers to work the butter into the dry mixture. I used chilled butter, right from the refrigerator.
--Craisins are dried cranberries. The dried cranberries I used were quite large, so I chopped them, making them about the same size as the chopped pieces of apricot.
--I grated only the zest from the organic orange that I used. The zest is the colored part of the peel. Be careful not to get any of the bitter white pith underneath. A Microplane grater/zester makes this job very easy.