Thursday, March 14, 2013

apple :: cheddar :: bacon scones

I'm here today to talk about scones, baking, and the simplest of pleasures in life. 
Besides Jesus, orphan care, and community...baking and cooking is my other greatest passion. 
When it has been a particularly hard day, long day, heart wrenching day, lonely day, etc.... I find nothing more comforting than knowing that if I mix flour, sugar, butter, and a few other things together---I am going to get an amazing result. 
The kitchen is the place where no one is telling me I am doing anything wrong. Or critiquing me. Or giving me their opinion. 
It is an escape and an outlet for blessing others. 
I may even have a bumper sticker on my car that says, "Love People-Cook Them Tasty Food." 
It is biblical after-all ;) 
"Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God. For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment, more than I? For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight;"
::Ecclesiastes 2:24-26::


I got the idea for the flavors from a favorite restaurant in Raleigh, The Rockford. They have this amazing sandwich that is simply called the ABC {Apple, Bacon, Cheddar}. It is served on french toast bread with a honey dressing. It is amazing. The perfect combination of sweet and savory. 
Growing up I remember my mom making an apple tart with cheddar cheese in the crust, and my favorite after school snack was apples with cheddar cheese. 

Fast forward quite a few years, and add in my obsession with baking and reading Joy the Baker's incredible blog. 
You have the birth of the best scone I've ever eaten. 
I promise this is not a prideful statement. Just a true one. 

I decided to start with a slightly less sweet version of a buttermilk scone base. 
As in any recipe the quality of your recipe is key. Sine I am a single gal on a budget I had to pick and choose which of these fine ingredients were going to be high quality, and which ones I could save on. 
I went with organic applewood smoked bacon, organic granny smith apples, Kerrygold Dubliner cheese (a white cheddar type cheese with a hint of sweetness), and organic unsalted Whole Foods brand butter. 
You know. The important ingredients. 

A full house and a full table may be one of my favorite things. Until I have a family of my own I will relish in lady brunch dates. Where we relax and laugh and giggle until our hearts and bellies are full. 

I may or may not have invited Joy the Baker to brunch. Am I a hopeless groupie? 
yes. yes I am. 
Meeting Joy is one of my 2013 goals! I am almost positive she would have approved of these scones. 


Apple | Bacon | Cheddar Scones 
makes about 8 to 12 scones
Adapted from Joy the Baker's Chocolate Coconut Almond Scone recipe. They are also divine scones! Inspiration from this Smitten Kitchen recipe

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons white cornmeal 
1 tablespoons raw or granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 rounded teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 - 3/4 cups sharp white cheddar cheese, sliced into 1/4 inch cubes 
3-5 strips applewood smoked bacon
1 large tart apple (I used granny smith in this recipe), peeled and diced into 1/4" - 1/2" pieces 
buttermilk, sea salt and sugar for topping before baking
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place chopped apples on parchment paper and spread into a single layer. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. Bake for 5-8 minutes to slightly dry out the apple pieces. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Cook the bacon slices in a pan on the stove over medium heat. Cook until crispy, but not burnt. Transfer cooked bacon slices to paper towels to drain and cool. Next, dice cheese and put in a separate bowl. 
Once bacon has cooled roughly chop the bacon into pieces about the same size as the apple and cheese cubes. This is when you may need to test the bacon and the cheese to ensure that they are indeed edible for your guests! 
Transfer bacon, apples, and cheese into a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of flour to coat. This will help the ingredients mix into the scone dough more evenly. 
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Toss the cold butter cubes into the flour mixture.  Using your hands or a pastry cutter, quickly work in the butter into the flour mixture. [the technique I use is starting with the pastry cutter, and finishing the mixing with my hands]  Some butter bits will be the size of small peas, and some will be the size of oat flakes.  Set in the fridge for a few minutes.
In a separate bowl whisk together buttermilk and egg. 
Remove the flour and butter mixture from the fridge.  Create a well in the center of the mixture.  Add the buttermilk mixture all at once to the well.  Use a fork to bring the wet and the dry ingredients together.  Mixture will be shaggy. Add in the bacon, apple, cheese mixture and continue mixing the dough together by hand. The key to successful scones is to work quickly so the warmth of your hands does not melt the butter.  Lightly flour a work surface and dump the shaggy dough mixture out onto the counter. Separate dough into two pieces. Bring together the dough with your hands into a 1 1/2 - 2 -inch thick disk .  Slice the disks into 6 wedges and place on the parchment lined baking sheets. 
Brush with a bit of buttermilk and a few pinches of raw or granulated sugar and a sprinkle of salt.  Bake biscuits for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.  Remove from the oven and serve warm with apple butter or a side of cheesy scrambled eggs! 

Bon App├ętit! 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

strength & lies

This post has been swirling around in my head and my heart for awhile now. I tried to convince myself not to write it. That people didn't need to hear it. That it may cause me to be a little too vulnerable, or to say hard things....but I am convinced that something needs to be said.

I am nearing my 27th birthday, and truth be told I am not where I thought I would be. When you are in your early years of college 27 seems sooooo old, and surely an age where one would be "settled down" with the loving husband, cute house, and babies snuggled in your arms. Currently about 90% of my friends are married, own their own homes, and have a baby on the way, or already have 2 babies! I have loved getting to watch them love their families well, and I have learned more than I could ever express to them. (besides, I live in a cute house and get to snuggle cute babies all the time!) shall I put this....the dating world for me has been....well....essentially non existent for about 4 years. I have been on one date--yep 1--in 4 years. Throughout those four years there have been times of great heartbreak, deep loneliness, and hours of work and prayer to cling to joy and rest in my sure identity in Christ.  Many well meaning people have offered up encouragement, words of wisdom, shoulders to cry on, etc. along the way, and while many people in my life have offered sound wisdom I have also noticed a disturbing trend among Christian circles. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the following in some form or fashion:

"Oh, I am sure he is just intimidated because you are so put together and pretty."
"Mer, I'm sure guys just don't know what to do with you because you have your sh** together."
"I mean...a lot of people know you want to adopt....that is probably scary for guys."
"Oh you are so together! You have a stable job, you go to seminary, you can cook, your pretty....that is intimidating to some guys."
"Have you tried on-line dating? I hear Christian Mingle is great"

REALLY? I mean really folks? Do you know what I hear when people say that??
"Guys want an ugly girl who is an emotional wreck, still calls her ex, frequently gets fired, and doesn't know hardly a thing about their bible."

I know this is not what guys want right? (Please say no!) I have heard this from single women, married women, and even from some married men! I have never heard this preached from the pulpit, and I have felt valued and important to most pastors I have met and served with. So WHERE is this culture coming from? When did it become a social faux pas to be a strong and capable woman? I am not here to stand on a soapbox, or to preach feminism, or to rant about the state of my dating life, but simply to get people thinking. The biblical example of women submitting to their husbands as the church submits to Christ is beautiful, God honoring, and freeing and a role that I look forward to. The redemption and freedom I have found in the gospel has shaped me and molded me into a woman who knows where her identity lies.

Our biblical examples of strong women are not women who were meek and mild and had no depth to them. Ruth moved to a foreign land with JUST her mother-in-law, decided to go work in a field to provide for them, then decided to lay at the feet of an unmarried man to get his attention (Boaz sure wasn't scared off...he went and fought for her!) The Proverbs 31 woman seems like the most capable and put together woman I can possibly think of, and she was considered a woman who is "blessed" and "worthy to be praised." Then we have Mary. She faced shame and ridicule for being pregnant before marriage. Only she knew that she was carrying the Savior. Joseph almost ran, but he stayed beside this strong women who was counted as favored to God.

Clearly there are times when actions need gentle rebuking or patterns in your life need to be called out and then brought to the feet of Jesus. Seek out people in your life who are willing to call you out on your sin. People who will tell you to park your "wagon o' shame" at the foot of the cross and walk with Jesus instead. You is hard. It's really hard. You are going to have to be somewhat strong to make it through with your joy and faith still intact.

To the women: Do not EVER let anyone make you think that you need to stop living a life that is marked by strength and depth and hope. Your only worth and your only identity is in Jesus. Whatever season you are in you lack NO GOOD THING! Also, let's air on the side of vulnerability. In our social media saturated culture it is easy to make our lives look "put-together." How often do you show people an unfiltered version of your life and your heart?

To the men: The women you know....please never make them feel less than or inferior. Encourage their strengths, be strong where they are weak, and continually point them to Jesus. If for some reason you are "intimidated" by a seemingly strong women....I dare you to really get to know her. Learn about her story and what made her strong. Rejoice in the fact that she is clinging to Jesus, and if she isn't clinging to Jesus...humbly point her back to the cross.

To the advice givers: Think about your words before you say them. Think how they will really affect the person who is receiving them. Sometimes....less really is more.

So on this day of is the love I am clinging to. I'm thankful his banner over me is love. That His love was enough to wash away my darkest sins, to calm my worst fears, to dispel my anxiety, and to call me His daughter. We should all live lives of strength. After all....we are sons and daughters of the Most High King.

My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
    and come away,
for behold, the winter is past;
    the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
    the time of singing has come,"

Song of Solomon 2: 10-12