The Blog

Just the facts this time: scones my way

My last baking adventure post wandered into a rantlet about scientific method, so for this one I’m sticking to Talking About The Recipe.

Here be my current “scone” recipe. It’s a blend of several scone & buttermilk biscuit recipes because that’s how I roll. PUN INTENDED. HA.

Before you begin:

  • preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • If you’re adding dried fruit, set 1 cup’s worth of fruit to soak in hot water.
  • Find your Really Big Bowl. Getting the dough to behave & fold into yummy layers is MUCH easier in a big bowl than on a counter. Plus then you don’t have to clear as much countertop to work on.

1. mix together in your Really Big Bowl (I use a whisk)

3 c flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2-1 tsp salt
*plus ONLY IF you’re doing a sweet scone: 1/4-1/2 c sugar

2. add in 1 super-cold stick of butter.

recommendations I ignore: cut the butter into small chunks & work into the flour mixture with your fingertips or fork or pastry cutter until it’s all in flour-coated teeny pieces. Being me, I often use soft butter (GASP) and I think the results still come out tasty not “tough,” but YMMV.

* also toss in 6-8 oz shredded cheese at the same time as the butter if you’re craving cheezy/savory scones.

3. add in 1 cup milk or cream or buttermilk or milk mixed w/unflavored yogurt, all the variations give slight differences in final flavor. The important thing is, add about 1 cup total liquid.

*if you’re making sweet fruit scones, drain most/all of the soaking liquid & add the fruit at the same time as the milk.

4. mix it all up in your Really Big Bowl with spoon and then hands until it comes together as a dough. It might be sticky, especially the fruit version if you left a lot of water in the fruit like I do when I don’t feel like being patient/thorough about draining it.

4.1 If it turns out especially pain-in-the-ass wet, at this point you can plop spoonfuls on a cookie sheet and make drop scones out of it.

4.2 Otherwise for shaped treats, keep pressing it all together with floured hands until it just barely holds together in a ball. Fold the shaggy lump of dough in half in the bowl, then gently flatten it out again. Do that three or four times total — the dough gets easier to work each time.

5. Squish out/roll the flattened dough until it’s about 1/2″ thick and cut into your preferred shapes. I like triangles because it’s the most efficient use of the dough, and I can twist up the edge trimmings into freeform weirdling shapes. If the dough has worked up well, I shape & cut it in the bowl so I don’t have to bother flouring the counter.

6. Place treats on parchment papered cookie sheet & slide into the oven to bake.

7. IMMEDIATELY DROP THE OVEN TEMP to 400.

Yes,  I did say pre-heat to 425. You can even pre-heat to 450. Biscuits & scones need the high temp to rise well. But I drop the temp as soon as they’re in because if I leave the temp up, I always misjudge the shorter cook time and overcook the bottoms. Lowering the temp and cooking longer gives me a bigger “done” window.

8. Bake for about 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean/tops turn golden brown. (You can do fancy shit like paint the tops with milk or egg to make them brown up more. I can’t be bothered. Cheezy scones get browner faster than fruit ones, go figure.

FULL DISCLAIMER: the cook time can be vary by plus OR minus 10 minutes depending on the size & shape & variety & oven quirks. That’s nearly a 100% over/under, so keep a close eye on them the first few times.

That’s it. The recipe is super-customizable and you can get a sheet’s worth ready to bake before the oven finishes pre-heating once you get the hang of it. Plus it dirties only 1 bowl & 1 measuring cup and makes anywhere from 10 to 24 scones, depending on how BIG you like them.

Happy experimenting, that’s all until later!

Almost forgot! Here’s my obligatory promotional blurb:

My  fantasy & SF novels make GREAT gifts. Or, y’know, you could buy them for yourself. Order from your favorite local bookstore or choose from online retailers behind this link: My Books2Read.com Author Page

 

Here be more pictures of tasty treats, just for added entertainment value:

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yes, I overbaked some of these, but look at those triangles!

 

Hibernation Alert

tabby cat peeking out from beneath a blue and white woven blanket

I’m indulging myself with a post on a topic I like to call, “Weird things about me it’s useful to know.” I’ve been clicking “follow” and “friend request” on social media quite a bit of late, so it might be relevant.

Today’s topic: seasonal hibernation.

From mid-November through mid-March-ish I become a sleepy, grumpy cat who lacks the strength needed to maintain a Public Face and handle Other People. I don’t actually sleep more, but I have to warn y’all, I do pull away from the everyday world.

A similar retreat predictably happens in early summer, so it isn’t a light-related thing. Nor is it a bad thing. It’s simply a cycle I’ve noticed. I have energy phases. Not ups & downs so much as shifts between outward-tolerance and inward focus.

This inward phase starts around Halloween, and I’m in full retreat-to-the-den mode now.

This is blog-worthy for two reasons.

1. Buffering.  I never want friends to feel neglected, but my emotional tank drains and freezes. Simple activities that come more easily during other months (never easily, let’s face it, I’m profoundly introverted and let’s not even mention the anxiety) take me ten times longer to accomplish and take ALL my energy.

I’m talking little things like reaching out and making phone calls or sending messages. Things like responding to emails, texts, or social media. Important, adulting, professional things. Necessary-to-modern life things. Yeah.

Conservation gets me through. I limit or put off outside obligations until the season turns and I come ’round face to the world again, about the time crocuses open to greet the returning sun. This allows me to devote my small energies to stuff like washing, dressing, creative projects and research. I do my best research in January. ADHD hyperfocus FTW.

Also I ramp up activities like baking (SO MUCH BAKING) blogging like this, decorating my space with sparkly brightnesss & color & coziness, and so on. Nesting, denning, hibernating things. Wrapped-up-in-me things.

Is it selfish of me to go dark in The Giving & Socializing Season? Yeah, I’ll cop to that, but self-care isn’t only a buzzword.  Gotta put on my oxygen mask if I’m to be any good to others…

…because the OTHER thing I’ve noticed is that if I fight this deep-rooted need for quiet downtime, if I pour energy into Pretending Normal and Performing Enjoyment through the gray of winter, an emotional crash-and-burn of epic proportions WILL follow.

NO THANK YOU.

Which brings us to the second reason I’m bothering writing about this:

2. Boundaries. Guilt trips do not motivate me, but every so often someone treats clearly-defined requests for space as a challenge to be overcome with shaming, or they interpret low enthusiasm for their <insert personal topic here> as a value judgment or a failure to care enough about them. Friendship bridges have burned over this.

I’m hoping this forthright admission now will prevent misconceptions later. So.  If you didn’t know this about me, now you do.

Important caveats:

A. My online presence may appear to contradict what I’m saying here. That’s not ideal, but that’s a professional obligation as well as a personal pleasure, so I ALWAYS scrape up new posts and (nearly always) manage to reply to direct contact. (NOT FB Messenger. Sorrynotsorry.)  I lean hard on memes, GIFS, and my habit of sharing random sock & lunch pics. (BECAUSE WHY NOT? I LIKE FUN SOX.)

B. Needing to be quiet and unsocial is NOT the same as wanting to be alone.  Even when I am a sleepy, grumpy cat, I love being around people doing things.  From a corner. Watching.

Having good friends in my Nice Quiet Space, hanging out doing their own Nice Quiet Things. (Or Nice Loud Things, as long as I don’t have to be loud too) is the absolute BEST. I mean, then I can feed people, and that energizes me. Super-best is when they invite themselves over so I don’t have to spend energy to reach out.

But I will invite as much as I can, and I will NEVER be hurt by declined invitations. I grok needing bubble time.  Second best is when I get invited to other spaces by people who make it explicitly clear it’s okay for me to lurk in corners and not stay long.

C. Communication is the most stressful part. I do a fairly good job of faking people skills, but it’s ALWAYS an exhausting job that requires constant mental processing and accessing memorized talking templates while monitoring a bunch of verbal and non-verbal feedback loops to assess efficacy. Example below:

 “Did I react appropriately to that exchange of information, why did they shake their head at what I said, what does that expression mean, they said a nice thing but the tone doesn’t match,  why is that posture vibe scraping my nerves, was that a rude comment, was I too loud, too abrupt, what does that smile mean in this situation…aaaggghhh!!!”

Yes, that is what conversations are like for me. Yes, every conversation. Even ones I enjoy with people I love. Multiple channels running all the time, and a lot of saved verbal scripts used. So I guess that’s a whole ‘nother Weird Karen Thing. Point is, it’s never an easy haul, and in the cold midwinter I don’t have the mental muscle to power through much of it.

ANYway.

That’s all there is for now. Next post will be about baking again. Or maybe about more weird stuff. Time will tell.

Happy hibernation, everyone.

tabby cat peeking out from beneath a blue and white woven blanket
Image by Melanie von Gunten from Pixabay

 

 

 

 

Unpleasant Possibilities.

Zero forward progress has me feeling down.

I’ll have to trunk Sharp Edge if I can’t get these rewrites moving. I don’t want to do it. I REALLY don’t. I’ve promised it to people. I have Rhiannon’s beautiful cover art. I have paid good money for fantastic, insightful edits, and I have plotted out the changes I need to make this already @#%$! amazing book absolutely %!&@$ AMAZEBALLS.

But none of that matters, because I know how the story ends, and writing new scenes into a story whose ending I already know is like trying to tow a loaded ore boat up a canal by hand, all by myself.

Once I’ve dug into a job I’m a strong and steady plodder, but right now I’m slogging through mud where I can’t get any traction, hauling away ay a massive DONE thing that’s sunk in place.

Stubborn determination keeps me sitting at this computer day after day–but every day I find myself working on ANYTHING ELSE during my creative time (like, oh, writing this blog post…) and I finish single paragraphs in Sharp Edge, if that.

If at this point you’re feeling the urge to share pious, sugar-mouthed chirpy cliches like “Just write for yourself/you have to want it bad enough/motivation comes from within,” please keep them to yourself, thank you very much.

I don’t write for myself. I never have. I’ve completed a half-dozen novels not writing for myself just fine, ditto for a dozen shorts.

I only put the swearing and sweat required to squeeze my non-linear thoughts into writing so I can tell stories to OTHER PEOPLE. Therein lies my problem.

At this stage with past books, I hadn’t worn out the few friends who liked seeing the raw pieces as I wrote them. I could convince myself they were urgently waiting and wanting the story. Believing I would disappoint them if I didn’t have something new FOR THEM was like having a whole team of helpers tugging away at me from the other side, countering the weighty DONENESS of the story I was revising.

I don’t have that any more.

Everyone is patient. And understanding. And busy with their own lives and problems, and honestly if anyone said they DID want to read my raw progress,  I would have to be convinced. Several years of experience with Support & Encouragement as Vague General Concepts have taken their toll. I now suspect it all as coming from a place of kindness rather than objective excitement about the story itself, and that’s quite the anti-motivator.

(Hi, my name is Karen, and  my writing kicks ass, but the way some friends get all tense around the eyes and swiftly change the subject whenever I talk about my books makes me sad…)

ANYway.

Anyone out there craving the next scene from this book I am utterly unable to work up any momentum on? Anyone willing to convince– as in NAG– me and insist on being given material to read weekly? Daily?

Anyone love Elena’s whiny teen angstiness and Valerie’s nervous conflict-avoidance that much?

I’m not expecting a positive answer. But I’m working up to facing the reality that if I can’t find someone to help me haul this load, pretty soon I’m gonna have to drop this rope and go find a different towpath.

Even if it breaks my heart to do it.