Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pumpkin Scones

Thanksgiving? Let me introduce you to my good friend, Pumpkin Scones. These spicy gems answer the call for something cakey, and fill the obligatory Thanksgiving pumpkin requirement. They take just minutes to assemble, leaving you ample time for other things. Like ordering takeout or going on a falafel run instead of staying in the kitchen all day.

You'll find this recipe in my cookbook, Cook, Eat, Thrive, available in spring from PM Press.

Pumpkin Scones
8 scones

For the scones:
1/3 cup non-dairy milk
2 teaspoons apple cider or other vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
½ cup canned pumpkin puree
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
pinch salt

For the glaze:
1 tablespoon non-hydrogenated margarine, melted
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400° F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line it with parchment, and set aside.

Make the scones: In a medium bowl or 2-cup measure, whisk together non-dairy milk, vinegar, oil, pumpkin, and vanilla. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.

Make a well in the center of the dry mixture, and pour in the liquid mixture. Using a flexible spatula, make a scraping-scooping-pressing sort of motion to gently combine the two. When you have only a few streaks of flour left in the dough, remove it to a lightly floured surface. Pat the dough evenly into a circle 6” in diameter and about 1 ½” high. Using a sharp knife, cut the mound into eight wedges; it should be fairly sticky and a bit misshapen; that’s okay. Transfer wedges to prepared baking sheet.

Bake until firm and just baked through (insert a knife; if it comes out clean, they’re done), 12-15 minutes.

Make the glaze: Whisk all glaze ingredients together. When poured into itself, ribbons of glaze should just disappear on the surface.

Transfer scones to a cooling rack. For scones with a delicate finish, drizzle lightly with glaze while slightly warm. For more generously glazed scones, prepare glaze in a shallow dish and dip the tops into the glaze, nuzzling it in to reach any nooks. Turn upright, and return to rack.

While best fresh-baked, the scones will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days (although the glaze will cause them to soften slightly). For faux-fresh scones, leave unglazed and crisp in a 350ยบ F oven for 3-5 minutes. Glaze as directed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day of the Dead

In many Latin American countries, November 1 is Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Celebrants craft small sugar skulls, bake Pan de Muerto, and construct altars to remember loved ones who have died.

In the Philippines, the holiday is known as Araw ng mga Patay. Families fill the cemeteries, setting up camp near relatives' tombs. The graves are above ground, and the stone boxes receive a thorough cleaning followed by a coat of whitewash. Old flowers are replaced, candles are lit, and the family stays to share meals and converse over leisurely games of cards. This is the tradition our family follows.

Our relatives are not buried locally, and I'm terrible at cards, but El Dia festivities can take place anywhere.

We celebrated with a calavera cake, modeled after the skull candies that line altars.
I started with Italian Cornmeal Cake, baked in 2 bowls and trimmed into a rough skull shape.

And then, a crumb coat. This thin layer of buttercream seals in any stray bits and allows you to build up any areas that need help.

The cake is finished in rolled fondant. Vegan fondant is quite the feat, since the usual stuff contains glycerine and gelatin. My version has the same porcelain-smooth finish, but is completely free of animal products.

The calavera gets fondant rounds for eyes and a chunky fondant smile. I had intended to purchase natural food colorings, but didn't have the time. So I made my own: turmeric for gold, raspberries for red, and spirulina algae for green. Mixed with buttercream, the colors are just bold enough, and exactly what I wanted. Red roses I crafted from sugar surround the calavera.

The final touches complete, we sat down to an evening of cake, stories about loved ones who have died, and a few stiff drinks.