Shipped with Love

A box landed on my front porch. Inside was a recipe, a card, and two bags of chocolate chip scones. It was from a reader here, whose heart was touched by the suffering and struggle of Deacon Howard, our dear godfather and friend who recently passed away.

And the scones just happened to arrive on a Saturday morning. Off to vespers they went with me that evening, and as everything seems to have its own particular path, even scones, they landed in the hands of our priest’s wife, who just happened to be having Deacon Howard’s widow over for dinner.

From the hands of a warm and loving friend in Pennsylvania to a grieving community in Santa Barbara–that’s three thousand miles for love to travel, and love doesn’t seem to mind the journey or the miles.

Sending Them Off

The alarm rang at 5:30 am and I stayed there for a minute, looking at the dark, trying to remember why in the world I was waking so early. Oh, yes! Scones! Scones for the travelers, for the crew of builders our church is sending to Mexico in order to build a home. One home, in one week.

With only four hours of sleep in my system, I admittedly triple checked my brain as I measured and mixed. Two teaspoons of baking powder? Yes? Yes. Only a half teaspoon of salt? Yes? Yes. Wait let me think… Yes. Did I really put in the sugar?

A short while later the scones were cooling on the metal rack and looking delicious. I was still in my PJ’s when I drove them to Joanne, who would drive them to the church, who would pass them out among the crew.

I wasn’t going to write about this round of baking, but it struck me how the underlying theme is so important. The truth is–this team needed a lot of money in order to make building this home possible. And I simply didn’t pull out my wallet. Not because I didn’t want to, but because–right now– we can’t. But I CAN bake scones. There’s always some way a person can contribute to a cause, and this was a gift I could give. An early morning batch of scones, some prayers lifted into the air while the oven performed its magic, and lots of good cheer to send them on their way.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it! 🙂

If you’re interested in knowing more about Project Mexico and the team of willing builders, check out this video they made a few weeks back, or this one, or this one !!! as they thank some of their donors. They could use your prayers this next week.

That’s something all of us can give…

Family Giving :: Episode One

Typically I don’t involve my kids or husband too much in my baking or giving. Sure, I’ll mix a batch of chocolate chip cookies with the little one, or cry out for extra help when my hands are full of flour and the phone rings, but for this next round of giving I thought I’d get the whole gang fully involved. I am asking each person in this sweet family what bread they love. Then, we’ll bake it together, and they get to choose who to give it to–plus they do the giving. It’s the end of the school year, with summer just days away, and this change brings a little fun and laughter into an intense finishing-up time.

My daughter’s enthusiastic about most good things in life. She loves sweets, so when I asked what she’d like to bake, she didn’t say rosemary rolls. She said, “CINNAMON ROLLS.” She shouted soooo loudly I had to cover my ears. That happens with her.

We made a plan.

Who:

Give to Providence Hall teachers–the school where she now sings with the choir, and where she’ll be a freshman next year

What:

CINNAMON ROLLS!

Where:

At the school–one of the teacher’s room–not sure which one

When:

Mix them Wednesday night, bake them Thursday morning. Give them fresh out of the oven at the staff meeting, 8am sharp

Why:

Cause she loves that school and all the teachers, and can’t wait to be there full time!

How:

Bake first, drive second, run up the stairs third, figure out which room fourth, smile and hand over the goodies fifth

Problem was, being the extrovert that she is, she over-scheduled herself and the nighttime mix of the cinnamon rolls didn’t happen. I wasn’t about to bail her out and do it myself, so I didn’t.

Since I do like to schedule, I had already informed the recipients that the cinnamon rolls would be at the meeting. So, we had a problem. People hoping for cinnamon rolls, and no CINNAMON ROLLS!

A problem easily solved by her second favorite morning sweet,

SCONES!

We mixed up one batch of scones together at 7am, and she almost started to cry when she realized we were giving the whole batch away. (It was early…) She said, The whole point was so I could have CINNAMON ROLLS, and ….then…give some away!

She brightened up when I told her we were making another batch for the family when we returned.

We raced over to the school, and she sprinted inside and found the right room (Mr. Elwood’s). She said she felt EVERY adult eye on her when she walked in. And since she’s a stage-happy sort of girl, that’s something.

Then, we raced back home and made that second batch. They were good.

So, that’s it. Episode One.

Stay tuned…

Bright Week and Butter

This year during Lent I looked through many baking recipes to try and find the best bread way to celebrate Pascha. I thought about making the popular Greek tsoureki, which has milk, butter and eggs, plus decorative red dyed eggs on the top–and also considered trying the Lebanese ma’amoul, since I love using orange blossom water in my baking…

But when I told my family my thoughts, they revolted! And I don’t blame them. When you’ve deprived yourself of butter for 49 days, the idea of SCONES pops right to the top of the Meyer Baking List.

I’ve been making the same scone recipe these last twenty years. We rarely have cream in our fridge, so I have substituted the cream for just about every other dairy product imaginable (cottage cheese, cream cheese mixed with milk, sour cream, plain milk…)  and still the results have turned out beautifully. My most common swap for cream is plain yogurt. The yogurt is healthier, and the scones are still so delicious. Here’s the recipe from my tattered, out-of-print Crabtree and Evelyn: A Book of Light Meals cookbook, which automatically turns to page 141. On the eve of Pascha, I splurged and used REAL cream for the scones that we ate and shared with our friends at church.

Time Commitment: Fifteen minutes to assemble ingredients and another fifteen minutes to bake. Makes about 12-16 scones.

Tools you need:

  • Just the basics…
  • plus, an oven :)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup currants (or chocolate chips!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream (or…. plain yogurt)
What to do:

Step One: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir together flour, baking powder, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and the salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the cut butter and work into flour mixture with finger tips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add currants, or chocolate chips, and toss.

Step Two: Make a well in the flour mixture and add eggs and 1/2 cup of the cream or yogurt. Mix with a wooden spoon until dough clumps together.

Step Three for Traditional Scones: Knead mixture in bowl for 30 seconds–do not overwork the dough. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and halve. Form each half into a ball and flatten to form a circle about 3/4 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Cut each circle into 8 pie-shaped wedges.

Step Three for Drop Scones: After mixing ingredients together, use a large spoon and simply scoop up spoonfuls of dough and drop them onto the cookie sheet like you would for “drop biscuits.” If my dough is wet (which it usually is when I substitute the cream for yogurt), then I use this method. If my dough is dry, then I use the above method of kneading and cutting into wedges. Both methods make for attractive and delicious scones.

Step Four: Place wedges or “drops” onto cookie sheet. Brush tops with remaining tablespoon of cream or yogurt and sprinkle lightly with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Step Five: Best eaten warm! Serve currant scones with fruit preserves–or eat chocolate chip scones plain, with a delicious cup of green or black tea, or fresh lemonade.

Don’t forget to share 🙂

Scones for the Sick

Batch of chocolate chip scones

Mixed and baked: 7:30 am

Ate most of them, gave two to the ailing Gishes

I love making scones. One of these days I’ll post the recipe. It’s too good for words, and you can fiddle with the recipe in all sorts of substituting ways and never ruin it.

So this morning I made a batch of scones as a before-school treat for the munchkins–my second batch in just a few days. The photo above is from an Easter batch I made for the folks at church. Here’s my sweet little one, bedecked in his too-cool blazer that he picked out himself for the special day.

While putting the scones on the cooling rack, the phone rang. I learned that some close friends, carpool friends, were ill. 😦  I packed up a couple of our early morning treats and sent them over to our ailing compatriots.

How fun to share! Get well soon, dear ones…

Too Busy to Ask…

double batch of chocolate chip scones

Mixed 12:30

Baked  1pm

Gave to several twenty-somethings holding signs for food, downtown

scones and kids

I’m heading to France in just three days. I’m launching a reading program, hosting a birthday party tomorrow, my husband is out of town and my daughter is in the middle of a run of nine-straight days of opera rehearsal. Tomorrow’s the first performance. I need to write a newsletter, curl my daughter’s hair into ringlets, (every day–and it takes forever!) and put together the party bags. Oh, and clean! I don’t do well when I’m terribly busy. I shut down.

So, yesterday at 4pm I did just that. I had so many things on my list that I became crippled and sat on the kitchen floor, barefoot and in jeans and a cozy sweater, and cleaned the fronts of all my cabinets. I just sat there, for hours, spraying and wiping and monitoring each square inch of painted white. Finally, at 7pm, with the youngest already sleeping, I went to bed, too. I just lay there, a still-dressed lump, until I peeled my body out of bed at 9:30pm to collect my daughter from rehearsal.

Today the race began yet again, but with even less time and more to do. I knew I needed a strategy or I’d end up cleaning some other unimportant furniture item. Knowing my tendency to shut down when overwhelmed I decided all day long that I’d drive in the slow lane and only try to do one thing at a time. No multi-tasking. No eating while typing, or calling while driving, or gardening while hot-air ballooning. Better to leave something undone, than do everything poorly–or have to do it twice–don’t you hate that?!

So, with this strategy of Slow I’ve been able to make some strides forward. I even had a chance to bake a double batch of scones today, taking half to my son’s school for a performance tonight, giving the other half to folks holding signs downtown. We delivered them to several young gypsies who probably haven’t had warm scones in a while. Who definitely don’t look like they’re bothered by lists and getting things done. Maybe they’ve hit the wall, too, like I did yesterday.  Maybe they just feel like cleaning cabinet fronts. I don’t know.

Funny, that. I guess I was too busy to ask.

Shame on me…

scone giveaway nov 09-picniked