Bake On! – Scones

January 30th, 2016

Great British Bake Off Series 1, Episode Two

Technical Challenge – Paul Hollywood’s Scones

All right! After last week’s good to eat but definitely totally wrong Victoria Sponge, it’s on to Scones. In the spirit of getting better at this, I actually watched the instruction videos on how to make these _before_ I tried the recipe! A huge problem with this project is  that for most of these bakes, I have never tasted a “proper” one. I can judge if I think something is good, but I can’t really speak to whether it is up to Mary Berry’s standards. But I’m not letting that stop me.

I'm sorry TV Grandma!

I know you’re judging me and I don’t care!

British Scones are different than US Scones. The ones in the States tend to be triangular and very sweet. The British ones are round, having been rolled and cut, and are not as sweet.

Can you see what's missing?

Can you see what’s missing? I’ll bake for the first person who sends me the correct answer.


I got the ball rolling (ha!), greased and papered a pan. I could have used silicone but I went with parchment. I don’t think it makes a difference. Sonic and the Outlaw came over to play Berry and Hollywood for the day.


Do you trust these people with your dough?

I knew that the handling was key. You don’t knead this dough, as you want it to stay very soft and fluffy. You “chaff” the dough, which is a gentle folding that incorporates the rest of the flour and smooths the dough without developing too much gluten.  Hollywood has you use bread flour (strong flour for the Brits) (if you follow this path you will need to research both terms and unit conversions, teaspoons are NOT the same in the US and the UK). This _could_ develop a lot of gluten, so you need to be on guard! It is not kneading.

His other super pro move is to keep back 50 grams of the flour from the mix for the chaffing, to dust hands, board and dough.  This ensures that you don’t screw up your ratios by adding flour during the chaffing, you have just enough.

So soft and fluffy!

So soft and fluffy!

Once the dough is chaffed and smooth, it is gently rolled out to about 1″ thick (the width of my thumb) by the enthusiastic three year old you keep in your kitchen.

Kitchen Gremlin, hard at work.

Kitchen Gremlin, hard at work.

(Don’t worry, to cute keeps coming next week as well). Then it is cut with a biscuit cutter. You can roll the dough a second time to cut more out without too much worry but the third roll is a bad situation. The three scones in the middle of the pan were from the third rolling of the dough. They tasted fine but they lacked height.

Martha Stewart advises (and I agree, so that’s weird) that you should just cut them out of the dough to avoid any wastage if you aren’t worried about looks.  I’ll do that next time. They were very pretty, but I’d rather have more sconces than pretty scones.

Seriously, the best part of this is that my kid is super excited to do it with me.

Seriously, the best part of this is that my kid is super excited to do it with me.

I then put the egg wash over the top, taking care to keep it off the sides, as it can arrest the rise.  I think when I do these again I might wait until after the rest to add the egg wash. It’s not a biggie, but I think the shape of the tops was a bit small and wonder if waiting on the egg wash would allow the tops to expand in line with the bodies.

After the rest, during which they puffed up a bit, into the oven. And…

Golden, fluffy, split in the middle perfection.

Golden, fluffy, split in the middle perfection.

How do they taste? They are what we in the US would call a baking powder biscuit with a hint of sweetness.  They make an excellent vehicle for butter and jam and the fun sorts of cream that one can get in the UK.

Butter and Jam, you say?

Butter and Jam, you say?

This week was a victory. I feel very good about scones. We demolished most of the batch over a couple of pots of tea. A+ would bake again.



Next week, the Cob!


Bake On – Victoria Sponge

January 23rd, 2016

Great British Bake Off Series 1, Episode One

Technical Challenge – Mary Berry’s Perfect Victoria Sandwich



So, Victoria Sponge or Victoria Sandwich, a quintessentially British cake, closely tied to High Tea. Not a cake many US people would have made or eaten. It looks simple, and tasty!!

Pretty easy to set up, small ingredient list. Self rising flour? Weird. It’s just all purpose flour with salt and baking powder added. I looked up a recipe and knocked it up really quick.

Let's bake!

Let’s bake!

I knew from the get go I had a problem.  My butter was not room temperature and it needed to be creamed with the butter. Bonus – I go to the gym on Saturday mornings and my arms were wrecked.

(Sonic – You had T Rex arms! You can’t cream butter with T Rex arms!)

I can't make caaaaake!

I can’t make caaaaake!

I should have just used my mixer but the recipe was an all in one (throw everything together) rather than a cream then add flour recipe.  I would have been better served to diverge from the recipe to fix what I knew would be a big problem than to stick to a recipe that would be problematic.

My mix was not good. I was so worried about over mixing, that I didn’t get it anywhere near smooth enough.

I did remember to deploy my oven thermometer and actually get my oven fully preheated and to the correct temperature.

When my oven beeps to say it's pre-heated...

When my oven beeps to say it’s pre-heated…

I got the sponges into the oven. My tins are 9 inches across and the recipe calls for 8 inch tins.  I didn’t adjust my baking time. I was also cautious about opening the oven early as cakes _will_ fall if they get a cold draft too soon during baking.

Done? Done!

Done? Done!

They were golden! But unevenly so. The outside edges of each sponge were darker. I need to spin and adjust bakes to keep them browning evenly (look how much I’ve learned already). I let them cool and then applied jam. It seemed like a lot but next time I would use more.

Golden orbs.

Golden orbs.

I didn’t have caster sugar. Sometimes this is ok and granulated will work.  This is not the case for decorating the top of this cake. It was grainy and weird. When we cut into the cake it was crunchy. Eeek. It should be soft! The crumb was large and very irregular.

There you have it!

There you have it!

Now, it tasted fine but it was really not correct. I guess I’ll have to make it again!

Vile, overbaked, badly mixed garbage! Still tasty tho!

Vile, overbaked, badly mixed garbage! Still tasty tho!




Struck by Lightning – The Great Bake On!

January 14th, 2016

Art is like gambling. The thrill of gambling is the uncertain return. We keep trying because we never know what we are going to get. Media is like that, we keep consuming, reading, playing, watching, listening because we never know when something will hit us in such a way that our lives will be made richer, stranger, or more nuanced by the perspective provided.

I watched a season of The Great British Baking Show (in the UK it’s The Great British Bake Off) and I am hooked. I have watched one of the series all the way through four times. I make my family watch it, I make my kid watch it and pick out dishes to make for her. I remembered that I love to cook. Spending a Saturday picking a recipe or two, shopping for ingredients, and making something is a damn fine way to spend time with my kid who is three and a half now and well into scooping, mixing, patting, and holding the top of the new KitchenAid Mixer.

My Grand Idea is to go back to the beginning and bake my way through the entire run of the show. Each episode has a technical challenge and I’m going to work my way through them posting a review of the episode and my attempt at the bake on a weekly basis.


Well, it’ll be fun. But also, I wonder, what does it take to be a Great British Baker? I’m one of those people who isn’t super creative as a cook but I can follow a recipe with no problem. I turn out reliably good food. The winners on this show? They turn out magnificent bakes. They innovate with shape and flavour. They step off the line and kick ass. Can baking a lot give me the confidence to try? Failure is just a lesson, will I find the courage to fail? The courage to think that I have something to contribute? At the very least, if I don’t become a great baker, will I at least become a better one?

Let’s find out!



Cannonball Read 6 – Review #11 – A Confederacy of Dunces

December 29th, 2014

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Laugh-out-loud-while-reading-on-public-transit funny.  (Please head to the Cannonball Read 6 Blog to have fun and fight cancer!)

I read this book because I am very slowly working my way through all the books that have won the Pulitzer Prize for FictionDunces won in 1980. There is a certain anticipation when starting an award winning novel. I wonder  “What is so special about this work? Why did it win?” I wonder if I am up for the challenge, if I can do the work justice as a reader. Read the rest of this entry »

Cannonball Read 6 – Review #10 – Dr. Toy’s Smart Play/ Smart Toys

December 18th, 2014

Dr. Toy’s Smart Play/ Smart Toys by Stevanne Auerbach (Click to link to visit the awesome Cannonball Read blog and help raise money to fight cancer!)

Non-Fiction guide to buying developmentally appropriate toys for children, from babies to teens.

Note: This review was written about a previous edition of the book.  

There are a lot of books on parenting out there. As a first time parent, I wanted to do the best job I could without getting caught up in the feeling of failing because I wasn’t doing it right according to Sears or Spock or whoever.  I read technical books on how often babies needed to eat and when I might need to call 911 but avoided most behavioral texts.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cannonball Read #9 – Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks

October 25th, 2014

This book was read and reviewed as part of the Cannonball Read, click through to read more reviews and help fight cancer!


I have been a musician for thirty years. I sing and play a variety of instruments. I’m the kind of person who can pick up just about any instrument and have a basic capability to play within a few minutes. I have never felt like less of a musician than when I read this book. It’s not that it shows me to be technically insufficient but that he tells of a world of music which I can never hope to experience.

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SonicFyre II: The Return of SonicFyre

September 15th, 2014

Holy flaming balls of monkey poop! It’s a podcast!!

Sonic and Fyre talk about how to play games with your toddler and the impact of repetitive stress injuries on the dedicated gamer.


Because I’m Writing So Many Posts For This Site

September 12th, 2014

Looking through some gaming news today, I’m struck by the amount of hilarious negativity going on. There’s this tongue-in-cheek (or is it?) pessimistic preview of The Crew, along with a whole slew of articles like “The Suck of Destiny”, “Destiny’s Squads Are Too Small”, and “Destiny: It’s a small world after all”.

Some of this is just backlash, the pushback against the half-billion dollar hype machine that Destiny embodies. We knew this was coming; we should only be glad that the gaming press and public had the good grace to wait until the game came out to begin rebelling against it.

But I’m struck with a curious idea for a project, and maybe this is so obvious that it’s already been done to death and I just didn’t notice (wouldn’t be the first idea I’ve had after everyone else). How about an enthusiast game site about just absolutely hating the state of video games? I know there are guys out there like the Game Grumps, Curmudgeon Gamer, Yahtzee, maybe more. What I’m thinking is a character who is cynical and pessimistic right up front about everything about modern game marketing and marketing-driven design.

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To Infinity and Back – Cannonball Read #8

September 2nd, 2014

The Wind’s Twelve Quarters by Ursula K. Le Guin (Please visit the Cannonball Read blog for many, many more book reviews and to help raise money to fight cancer.)

Sci Fi fantasy short story collection by the Earthsea lady. Some of it entertaining, some weird, all thought provoking.

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Finishing it up – Mockingjay – Cannonball Read #7

August 26th, 2014

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. Sci Fi Dystopian Young Adult mega hit.

After a hiatus I picked this book back up. (Mad spoilers for The Hunger Games and Catching Fire) Read the rest of this entry »