Hi Everyone, people do various things to avoid work such as approaching deadlines, must-do assignments and chores. To avoid work, some people go for a drive, some go shopping, some go to a movie, some clean their homes and vehicles. Me? I bake.
All week I have been putting off writing this week’s column, or even thinking about it. I have been so busy preparing classes for my new students, start of semester meetings and so on, that I have tried to push out of my mind that I need to complete this column on time for the usual Thursday deadline.
Sure I’ve been mulling over the column in my head all week. On Wednesday I even told myself in a stern voice that I just had to complete the column. But sleep got the better of me and I went to bed instead. I woke up this morning (Thursday) with all intentions of turning on my laptop and getting to work. But no, I did not do that. Instead, I headed to the kitchen, turned on the oven to preheat and set about making scones! I moved around the kitchen leisurely as if I had nothing else to do all day but to bake cheese scones.
Now the scones are done baking. They are warm and golden. Surely, I can now get to the business of writing my column right? Wrong. I further delay getting to the task of writing the column by taking photographs – I don’t need to, I already have images of baked scones. Ah, avoidance.
So you may ask, why baking as avoidance for work? After all, baking is work; yes, it is for some people, but not for me. As you may recall from one of my previous columns, I rise to bake!
Baking thrills and excites me – it is unpredictable and temperamental and so success or failure can sometimes seem to be at the whim of the baking gods. Nevertheless, despite its exciting unpredictability, baking relaxes me and gives me an escape. Baking demands attention to details and thoroughness in a way that cooking doesn’t, that is why it is an escape for me. If forces you to focus in a single-minded way until the task is complete. I can leave my work behind and enter into a world where it is just the flour, the butter, the eggs, the milk, the sugar and me.
Depending on what I am making, baking can be an excuse to use all of my toys – rolling pin, whisks, blender, mixer, scraper, pans, thermometer, bowls, scale, graters, spoons and spatulas, to name a few.
I take out my measuring cups and spoons and measure away just as I would have when playing doll’s house as a kid. I get to play with dough and batters. With glee, I whisk eggs until they transform from their liquid form to something fluffy and frothy. I can cut dough into various shapes and sizes. I can lick the remnants of the cake batter without having to share it. I can play with the buttered pan as I roll it and watch the flour coat it; then I flip the pan over, tapping it and letting the excess fall like a mist.
I take out my scissors and ruler; I measure and cut my parchment paper into circles, squares and rectangles. I am having so much fun!
Instead of crayons, I play with food colouring. I stare at my set of decorative icing tips and wonder which ones to play with today or what shapes of cookies should I make? I am caught up in this wonderful world of baking. I shut out the sounds of the outside world and hum as I busy myself around the kitchen.
The length of escape I need frequently determines what I am going to bake. Let’s face it, sometimes you just need to escape in order to save your sanity. In the case of avoiding writing this week’s column, I chose to make scones because I knew that it would give me just enough of an escape and still give me time to meet my deadline.
I now give you my escape scones.
Yield: 8 – 10
2 + ½ cups all purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
8 oz cold, unsalted butter
1 heaped cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
2/3 cup cold whole milk, plus extra to brush on scones
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a large bowl (or bowl of a food processor). Mix. Pulse to mix if using a food processor.
4. Cut in butter/pulse until the mixture resembles small pebbles.
5. Stir in cheese or add to processor and pulse a couple of times.
6. Pour in milk and stir to bring together the ingredients or add to processor and pulse until the ingredients starts to come together. Do not over knead or pulse for too long. Remember, you are just bringing the ingredients together.
7. Flour a working surface. Turn the contents of the bowl or food processor onto the work surface and continue to bring the ingredients together.
8. Pat or roll the dough into a 1-inch thick round.
9. Cut into wedges or cut into squares or circles with a cookie cutter.
10. Transfer to baking sheet, brush with milk and bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until golden.
11. Remove from pan after resting for 2 minutes and cool on a wire rack.
12. Serve warm as is or with a pat of butter