Sunday, February 10, 2013

pear and cheddar scones

roasted pear and cheddar scones

See above there? Those are some delicious pear and cheddar scones. And what I’m about to talk to you about – has nothing to do with baking, scones, rushed breakfasts, or leisurely brunches. Nothing at all – except this is what has recently been plaguing my brain. So bear with me here…

What has been on my mind lately is how people living in small apartments work at home without having a designated space. There’s a blogger I follow who documents her life in a tiny apartment that she shares with her husband. The apartment, a studio in our neighborhood, is tiny, and she manages to make it look airy and large. Meanwhile, I trip over my own stuff, and our place is about three times the size, and to be perfectly honest here, it feels like a tight squeeze.

cubed butter is pretty

To live in a tiny apartment (and not lose your mind from all the clutter), you must pare down the amount of stuff you own. I’m not one for “stuff”, but we do have a fairly sizeable collection of books (and cookbooks!) and it’s only growing. Then, there’s a matter of pots and pans and a fully-stocked kitchen. There are books in the bedroom, there are books in the living room, and sometimes books even come to hang out in the kitchen. Our living room, also, is home to our desks. Both of our desks. As two writers, we require our own. Andrew’s is a handsome desk from West Elm I purchased awhile ago and it was satisfactory (minus the terrible shoulder cramps I would get from sitting there) until I realized that because I was too short for most desks, I needed an older one (since they were made with shorter people in mind).

My current desk is a handsome Chippendale mahogany secretary-type of a contraption. It has various crevices and drawers with fancy brass knobs, and gorgeous carvings. It cost me a freaking fortune, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a keeper of a piece and I can close it up and the whole thing looks just like a dresser. Still, I could use to keep it less cluttered. A work in progress.

still life with pears and apples

And so back to people in tiny apartments where there’s no designated space for work. Every morning, this young woman takes the dining table and moves it a few inches, then moves a computer on top of it, then adds a simple chair, a notebook, and a cup of tea (or coffee, I cannot tell). And having watched this video a number of times (okay, maybe nearly thirty) I wonder to myself, Well, what if she has to stop work mid-day, but she has chapters of text or something to work with, what does she do then? Put everything back and then when she returns reconstructs her workspace? That seems inefficient.

On the other hand, I marvel at her organization.

So, I did what any sensible (and curious) reader would do: I wrote a comment once asking her what she does about stuff like bills, and staples, and post-it notes, and little sticky flags, and pens, and notebooks, and reminds to make a dental appointment, and birthday cards, and coupons on those amazing face wipes that seem to have the entire beauty world enraptured. What happens to documents, various papers, drafts, recipe clippings (oh boy, do I have a problem on that front), contracts, and magazines? And she responded (though her comment didn’t go into enough details to leave me satisfied), that she simply didn’t have a taste for those things and went digital as much as possible. Yes, I thought to myself, of course, but still, what about those bills and things that need to be stapled or taped together? I dislike those things too, and yet I am forced into the nuisance of office paraphernalia. I fight it, but it seems like the “stuff” (all of the above crap) is winning and the human (me) is losing.

roasted pears

The thing about my desk (or Andrew’s desk for that matter) is that while we both love working in our respective spaces (never mind how ugly they make our living room look, we’re in New York, so we’re sucking it up), Forrest, our cat, simply cannot stand it. Every five minutes or so, he will sneak up on one of us and sit by the office chair, crying in the most anguished manner. You’d think he’s been neglected and abandoned the way he goes on and on. After awhile, if I happen to ignore him, he’ll get up on his hind legs and reach for my elbow, gently swiping at it. I’ll skip enumerating the damage he’s done to my clothes, it doesn’t so much matter, because what’s done is done, but if I somehow manage to ignore sharp claws piercing my flesh, he will sneak up to where my feet are and start nibbling on my ankles. And that can go on for hours, until he exhausts himself and curl up on the couch next to the desk and falls asleep. Should I choose to give up and move my work to the couch, the crying ceases, Forrest curls up next to me, and goes to sleep. Then he twists and turns into the most amazing (and adorable) poses, which in and of itself, is a distraction. Sometimes, he even snores. Cat snores, for the record, are even more adorable than baby snores, in my opinion. Of course, when I have a baby of my own, my opinion may shift to favor the baby, but it’s an unknown at this point. I do hope that I didn’t manage to offend any new mothers. She thinks cats are cuter than babies, someone might think. I don’t – just the cat snores.

Which brings me back to my initial point: none of the above, not a thing, has anything to do with scones or brunch. Except, maybe for the part when you have to explain your unorthodox living room set up when you invite people over for brunch. Brunch, while wildly unpopular with chefs (they really hate brunch), is a very “good thing” (to borrow a term from Martha) in my book. It might seem like a lot of work on a lazy Sunday, but it’s trumps going out for brunch each and every time. You can make things like gravlax and a quiche, and you can serve the most ridiculously delicious scones. With some homemade ricotta, bread from your favorite bakery, strong coffee, and mimosas, life is pretty good – great, even. And the best part – you can linger for hours and hours and maybe linger into the evening when brunch slowly bleeds into dinner – these are my favorite kind of Sundays, even if my desk is cluttered and I can’t find a thing.

Roasted Pear and Cheddar Scones
Slightly adapted from “The Perfect Finish” by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark

Don’t let the fussy instructions turn of you off this recipe. Yes, I know, roasting pears before you tuck them into a scone, seems a little over the top. But just trust me when I say, it’s totally worth it. Really. Roasting concentrates the pears’ essence, making them, somehow, even more pear-y and wintry. The original recipe features apples instead of pears – also very delicious. But in the dead of winter, I reach for a pear more often than for an apple. Either way, they are delightful and, I have a feeling, will take a permanent rotation in your breakfast and brunch baking routine.

You can even roast the pears the night before, cover them with a kitchen towel and wake up in the morning with only ten minutes of scone-making left (minus the baking time, of course). I tried making the scones with firm, slightly under-ripe pears and pears that were growing softer by the day, with ample juice. Both work equally well, the only difference being that you need to roast the juicy pears a bit longer until they dry up. You’ll know when they’re ready by gently touching them with your finger and feel that they’re on the drier side of things. However, if the pears are disintegrating in your hand, I say their time has passed, at least for their scone role anyhow.

2 firm pears (454 grams; 1 pound) – I used Anjou
1 1/2 cups (195 grams; 6.75 ounces) all-purpose flour (preferably Gold or Pillsbury brand – you want a lower protein count as far as scones go)
1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoons sugar (63 grams; 2.2 ounces) divided
1/2 teaspoon (3.5 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (4 grams) fine sea salt, plus additional for egg wash
6 tablespoons (3 ounces; 85 grams) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup (65 grams; 2.25 ounces) coarsely grated white, sharp cheddar
1/4 cup (59 ml; 2 ounces) heavy cream
2 large eggs, divided

1. Position the baking rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a half-sheet baking pan (13×18-inches) with parchment paper.

2. Peel and core the pears and cut them into eighths. Cut each of those pieces into 4 pieces. Each pear should give you 32 pieces. Transfer the pears onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake about 15 to 20 minutes or until the pears take on a bit of color and are dry to the touch. If you use ripe (not mushy) pears that are juicy, you might want to roast them another 5 minutes so they dry up. Transfer the pears to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely. Transfer the pear pieces to a bowl, and reserve the sheet (and its parchment) nearby. (You can do this step the night before and leave the pears to cool, covered with a kitchen towel.)

3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and whisk together for 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture is sufficiently aerated. Set aside.

4. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter, reserved pears, cheese, cream, and 1 egg. Spoon the flour mixture all over, and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together. Do not overmix.

5. Generously flour a work surface and place the scone dough on it. Sift a light layer of flour on top of the dough. Using a rolling pin to gently roll the dough into a 1 1/4-inch thick 6-inch circle. Cut the circle into 6 wedges (they should measure about 2 1/2-inches at the outer edge) and transfer the scones to the reserved parchment-lined sheet (no need to change parchment!). Leave at least 2 inches between each scone.

6. Lightly beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with the eggwash and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Bake scones for about 30 minutes or until firm and golden. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve scones warm with your best butter, jam, and/or clotted cream.

Makes 6 scones.

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22 Comments

  • 1

    We’ve been getting rid of a ton of things in our apartment because the clutter is just out of control… and it was driving me insane. Also, I’m a scone addict and I just love this recipe. Can’t wait to try it!

    February 10, 2013 2:42 pm
  • 2
    olga said:

    Brian – I know the feeling. I feel like it’s a constant clutter control here. Small apartments – sheesh! I hope you do try this recipe, it really is fantastic. And so, so easy, especially if you do the pear roasting the night before.

    February 10, 2013 2:46 pm
  • 3
    Gail said:

    I love this recipe so much. Best scones.
    One time we were away with friends so I decided to make these for breakfast. I mise en placed everything & put the cubed butter in the ‘fridge to keep it cold. (You know what’s coming, right?)
    Well, we were busy yakking and I mixed up the dough, chilled a bit and then cut and baked. I thought they tasted a bit ‘off’, but couldn’t put my finger on it. That is, until I opened the ‘fridge and saw my beautifully cubed butter sitting there.

    Oddly enough, they weren’t bad. But I don’t want to make that mistake again.

    Definitely will try with pears!

    February 10, 2013 3:09 pm
  • 4
    Sarah said:

    I know what you mean about all the stuff! It never goes away, always morphing and permuting in more and varied piles of paper it seems. Oh well, we fight the good fight and try and keep it neat and tidy. I think a scone is a fine coping mechanism when the paperwork gets too much. For me anyway. :)

    February 10, 2013 6:24 pm
  • 5
    Avneet said:

    Hi! I wanted to Pin this post, but none of the photos are pin-able. Will you continue to use Flikr to host your photos?

    February 10, 2013 6:25 pm
  • 6
    olga said:

    Avneet – yes, but if people have been Pinning my stuff for awhile now. Hmm. Let me look into that. In the meantime, follow me on pinterest (omassov) and you can repin my pin – deal?

    February 10, 2013 8:12 pm
  • 7
    Marisa said:

    Oh Olga, I feel you so strongly on struggling with working in your living room and dealing the creeping stacks of papers, books and other sundry bits of stuff. Every day, I wish that there was a way I could close the door on my different projects some evenings, but it’s all still there, staring at me from behind the television. A couple weeks back, I visited a friend in her home office. She has a whole room on the third floor of her house, entirely dedicated to her work. I cannot tell you how this room filled me with jealousy.

    February 10, 2013 11:09 pm
  • 8

    These scones sound like magic.

    February 11, 2013 12:33 pm
  • 9
    Ashley said:

    I’m additcted to the apple-cheddar version of this scone, so the pear-cheddar combination is a must try! And it will hopefully help me use my pears before losing them to utter mushiness (oops).

    My cat snores too. At first it was adorable, but now it’s loud enough to keep me awake if I’m having trouble sleeping. I still can’t resist her adorable moments, though.

    February 11, 2013 12:43 pm
  • 10
    Natasha said:

    Dreams come true with fruit and cheese scones. I just happen to have both pears and cheddar in the house right now–how you tempt me!

    Also, my cat has never snored! I wish he did though, because it sounds so darn cute.

    February 11, 2013 1:01 pm
  • 11

    I hear you on crowded live-work spaces. Because I share a house with housemates and am sensitive to distractions, my work space is confined to my room. Which is horribly distracting too, when I want to hang out in my room to relax. Or sleep. So I just stick everything in boxes, tried to make my itty bitty space as office-like as possible, and try to ignore how much space my elaborate ergonomic set up takes . It works, but my oh my, I drool over those Pininterest real home offices.

    February 11, 2013 1:51 pm
  • 12

    We recently moved into a tiny studio apartment in San Francisco, with a 70lb yellow lab to boot. My genius boyfriend hung hooks from the ceilings in the closets where we hang extra things like suitcases and coolers, all filled with extra linens and papers we “might need one day”.

    February 11, 2013 4:09 pm
  • 13
    emily said:

    i have never heard anyone else talk about this problem, but our cat also HATES when we are at our desks. i try to set up a little seat for him on the table or a chair next to me, but he cries and whines and then knocks everything we’re not presently using off the desk or any other surface in the vicinity. generally he loves to knock things off surfaces, but he is downright MAD when we sit at our desks, and improves as soon as we move to the couch or the bed to compute.
    love cats but man they are crazy sometimes.

    February 11, 2013 9:17 pm
  • 14
    Sally said:

    Olga,
    Love this post and these scones. I am so with you on the out of control clippings that I am now left with since I dealt with the out of control mags. I’ve tried the digital route and it’s just not as satisfying as paper and knowing how spattered some of my cookbooks are I just don’t think electronics in the kitchen is a good idea.

    February 11, 2013 11:48 pm
  • 15

    I think this post is hilarious! My husband is a graphic designer and works from home (thank god I don’t). And we have such a tiny little apartment! When I get home from work I can literally see a trail of where he’s been all day with his computer. There are wires…headphones…empty cups and crumbs everywhere! It’s hard in a small space!

    February 12, 2013 2:12 pm
  • 16
    Erin said:

    Hi there, Olga! I didn’t realize that we’re neighbors! This post is near and dear to me–no surprise there! Sorry to read more about your office struggles (and especially sorry that my response to your initial question wasn’t terribly detailed)! I think for me the honest key is finding places for things. As I mentioned, I have two toolboxes where I keep our stapler and scissors ( and tape and ribbon etc., etc.) and I’m super diligent about returning things to their proper homes. As for bills, I’ve signed up for paperless billing and almost all of my invoices and payments are also digital so there’s not much of a paper trail! In terms of magazines and newspapers and that sort of thing, we have a designated spot where those live while we’re reading them, but each week I leave the issue we’ve read in our entryway for neighbors. I’m simply not an article clipper by nature. I think all of this stuff is a matter of tolerance: I have extremely limited tolerance for clutter and so it’s important for me to manage mine in a way that might seem over the top to someone else. When I say that I almost never leave the house with stray pens hanging about, I really mean it. But that’s just what works for me, and would clearly be intolerable for other folks! Oy. I hope that’s a more thorough response! I’m planning a post about my gardening toolbox in the coming weeks…maybe I’ll do another showing the others! Now: off to dream about those scones!

    February 13, 2013 10:19 pm
  • 17
    olga said:

    Erin – it’s not that your comment was inadequate, it’s just that I feel like within the framework of my life, I needed more info (I should’ve probably read hand-holding) – your response was as detailed as needed based on your life, needs, experience. By the way, I am obsessed with your blog! And hi, neighbor! As someone who’s been trying to write cookbooks, paper clutter can’t be avoided, it seems, and i haaaaaaate it so much. Anyway, I want to make sure that I didn’t, in any way, hurt your feelings, because I wasn’t so much dissatisfied with your response as I was with my own cluttered existence! xo

    February 15, 2013 6:58 am
  • 18
    erin said:

    Feelings not hurt–no worries! Good luck wrangling those pesky papers!

    February 15, 2013 11:41 am
  • 19
    olga said:

    erin – thank you!! i will be victorious!

    February 17, 2013 10:13 pm
  • 20
    James G said:

    I am making these now and your metric conversions seem off–1/2 teaspoon of baking powder is only 3.5g, so which measurement is correct?

    March 23, 2013 11:21 pm
  • 21
    olga said:

    James – it seems yours is. I’ll fix right away. Thanks for the correction.

    March 26, 2013 7:23 am
  • 22

    […] dear friends Vanessa and Tiff, where we served, among many things: this carrot avocado salad, these scones, and this almond cake (it cratered as per my warning in the recipe – as expected – but […]

    April 7, 2014 12:57 pm

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