Chocolate Scones

chocolate scones

All confusion about the raw sugars (demerara, turbinado, muscovado, and sucanat) is resolved here, with the following detailed information and outstanding receipt.

In the mid-1990’s, I got this chocolate scone recipe from Cindy Mushet’s highly appraised Baking with the American Harvest.  I have adapted it by grinding my own flour, which is totally optional, as well as by adding some time-saving tips.  1

Ms. Mushet calls for sprinkling crystallized sugar, on top of the unbaked scones, after washing them with egg; I use demerara here.  This is a form of large granule sugar that gets its name from the location in Guyana, on the northern mainland of South America, where it originated centuries ago.  Today rather than Guyana, this form of cane sugar comes from a number of countries, such as Mexico and India; in the States it is produced in both Hawaii and Florida.

Demerara can be compared to turbinado, muscovado, and sucanat; these are all types of cane sugar, which are classified as raw, even though they do indeed require some processing.  Of these, the first three were originally known as “factory” brown sugars; all are produced during the initial processing of cane juice into unrefined sugar.  2

Most sugar cane grew in colonies or developing countries.  Sugar refining required expensive machinery to be produced; thus, its production came to be divided into two stages.  The initial stage of the crystallization of raw, unrefined sugar took place in factories near the plantations in these poor countries.  Industrial nations-the consumers-performed the expensive final stage, of refining this raw sugar product into white sugar.  3

The making of raw sugar requires two basic kinds of work: crushing the cane to collect the juice, then boiling off the juice’s water.  Originally the crushing called for hard physical labor, which in the Caribbean was accomplished by slaves, and the boiling called for large amounts of heat; thus, deforestation occurred there.  4

Three 19th century innovations helped make the production of raw sugar a more affordable luxury.  First, the application of steam power made this initial crushing process easier.  The next step, heating, was aided by the vacuum pan, which boils the syrup at a reduced pressure and therefore at a lower, gentler temperature.  Also, the multiple evaporator was added, which recycles the heat of one evaporation stage to heat the next.  5

From the Middle Ages until now, there was a clearing of many organic impurities; in the pre-industrial age, this was accomplished, at the beginning of the boiling stage, with the introduction of lime and a substance, such as egg white or animal blood.  These substances would coagulate and trap the coarse impurities.  Today, heat and lime only are generally used to coagulate and remove proteins and other impurities.  6

Then and now, with these boiling and clarification processes, dark brown syrup has resulted, to which seed crystals have then been introduced to bring about crystallization.  The final step, in making these factory sugars, has been the drawing off the molasses from the crystals, which originally occurred slowly-merely by the force of gravity.  For some time, refiners have used centrifuging-much like spinning lettuce-to quickly do this final step, producing raw sugar and the by-product of the first molasses.  7

Beginning in the 19th century until recently, this raw sugar has next been refined in refineries in industrial countries, where white sugar has been consumed.  Now it is produced in such developing countries as Mexico and India.

Today, the making of refined sugar starts with refined syrup being introduced, to wash the raw sugar.  Next, hot water dissolves it; then, a carbon absorbent clarifies and decolorizes it.  Evaporation and crystallization follow, with centrifuging being the final stage, producing white sugar, with the bi-product of cane syrups.  This last crystallization process is carefully controlled, giving individual sugar crystals a uniform size, with an astonishingly pure content of 99.85% sucrose-our white sugar.  8

As opposed to white sugar, “brown sugars” are sucrose crystals coated with a layer of dark syrup, from one stage or the other of sugar refining.  This provides them with a more complex flavor than white sugar.

There are several types of brown sugar.  The first type is factory brown sugars-produced during the initial processing of the cane juice into unrefined raw sugar, as defined above; the second is refinery brown sugars, or sugars produced at the refinery using this raw sugar as the starting material, not cane juice.  There are also what might be referred to as whole sugars, crystalline sugar still enveloped in the cooked cane juice from which it is formed (such as Indian jaggery or gur and Latin American piloncillo, papelon, or panela).

Factory brown sugars originally got their name, because of their production in factories near the plantations in cane-producing, tropical countries.  The first, demerara, then and now, has been a partially refined, large, somewhat sticky, yellow-gold grain, produced from the first crystallization stage of light cane juice into raw sugar.  It has a delicate, caramel-like, toffee flavor that augments certain baked goods (it is especially good for sprinkling on top of them).  9

The second, turbinado, has been raw sugar partly washed of its molasses coat during the centrifugation, resulting in large golden crystals that are not as sticky as those of demerara.  Though more refined than demerara, turbinado is less refined than what we now call brown sugar (refinery brown sugar), which is generally white sugar with molasses added back into it.  10

The artisanal muscovado, appearing to be very dark form of our refinery brown sugar, actually has been the product of the final crystallization from the dark mother liquor, or first molasses, in the making of raw sugar.  It was and is an unrefined cane sugar in which all the molasses is not removed, like it is with what we call our regular brown sugar.  11

This muscovado sugar, however, is more refined than demerara and turbinado, with a small-grained, wet, sticky texture that has a sweet impression at first that dissolves into a rich, floral, bittersweet note, leaving a slightly smoky aftertaste. Most of the muscavodo sugars, of which there is both light and dark, come from Mauritius, a republic made up of islands off the southeast coast of Africa.  12

On the other hand, sucanat, which stands for “sugar cane natural”, is the most unrefined of the raw cane sugars; it is merely evaporated cane juice, which has been handpaddled; this cools and dries the dark syrup, which is obtained by heating the extracted cane juice in a large vat.  It is a much finer grain than the demerara and turbinado crystals, and it is the healthiest of all the cane sugars, with an intense, dark, rich flavor, which is ideal in spicy baked goods.  13

With their minimal processing, all these raw sugars retain some minerals and vitamins, making them somewhat healthier than refined white sugar.  They, however, contain large amounts of sucrose, which is a composite molecule made up of one molecule each of glucose and fructose; thus, they should be eaten cautiously, as they may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, among other health issues.  14

How we treasure comfort foods, of which these scones are one of the best.  Our words, much like food, can comfort.  We are instructed to comfort those with the comfort which we have received; these opportunities delight our souls.

We are only equipped to do such, as we learn our lessons in life’s trials.  Slowing down in the midst of these storms allows for this equipping to best be established.

Webster’s describes establish, as to order, ordain, enact (a law, etc.) permanently.  Reading recipes isn’t required once our “muscles” have kinetically learned all the required movements, through multiple times of preparation.

Much like baking, establishing life’s lessons-and the laws they represent-is a process; we are perfected (matured) through practice, as we repeatedly go over the given steps, until the means for victory is indeed fixed in us.  By necessity, such progression requires patience, just like following a receipt, but once achieved we can share words of comfort with those in need around us.

I recently made a batch of these scones, with the following recipe, which I completed with clotted cream (I purchased a jar of imported Somerdale Devon Double Cream, from World Market).  Being unaware, my plans to take them to my regular prayer meeting, however, were thwarted, for it was the fourth of July, and prayer had been cancelled.  Quickly I decided to bless various neighbors with this treat, which brought great joy (and comfort) to all.

 

References:

  1. Cindy Mushet, Baking with the American Harvest, 5 volumes (Santa Monica, CA: Cindy Mushet, 1993-1996) Vol. 4, #1, p. 12.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 674.
  3. Ibid., p. 673.
  4. Ibid., p. 671.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid., pp. 670-672.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., pp. 671, 672.
  9. Ibid., pp. 672, 674.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. https://www.care2.com/greenliving/what-is-demerara-sugar.html
  13. http://shop.wholesomesweet.com/Organic-Sucanat/p/WHSM-305000&c=Wholesome@GranulatedSugar
  14. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/demerara-sugar

prepped scones

Chocolate Scones  Yields: 8 scones.  Adapted from Cindy Mushet’s Baking with the American Harvest, Vol. 4, # 1, Spring, 1996.  Total prep time: 1 hour (only if grinding flour fresh, an additional 3/4 hr resting time is needed)/  active prep time: 40 min/  baking time: 20 min.

Note: best served with clotted cream, though butter and jam are also good; an imported Somerdale Devon Double Cream is available at World Market.

1 2/3 c unbleached white flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached flour is ideal, or may grind 1 1/3 c organic soft winter wheat berries; this makes 2 c whole wheat pastry flour, with which 1/3 c flour must be removed after grinding-set this aside for flouring board.)

1/3 c cane sugar or coconut sugar  (Coconut sugar is healthier, with a lower glycemic index-for details see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24.)

1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder  (Trader Joe’s carries a brand of high quality, reasonably priced.)

2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

1 stick (4 oz) cold unsalted butter

3/4 c heavy cream

To Finish

1 lg egg, lightly beaten

Demerara sugar, or crystallized sugar  (Demerara sugar is available inexpensively in bulk at our local Winco.)

  1. grinding fresh flour with Kitchen Aid attachment

    If grinding flour fresh, do so now; see photo.

  2.  Preheat oven to 425 F (if grinding your own flour, wait to preheat oven).  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  3. In a sealed storage bag, shake together: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
  4. cutting butter easily

    Easily cut cold butter into small pieces, by cutting stick in fourths length-wise; keeping cube in tact, rotate this stick and cut in fourths again; then, shave small pieces off end.  See photo below.

  5. Place butter in bowl with flour.  Using a pastry cutter, or two forks, blend until mixture is like a coarse corn meal, and flour is incorporated.  See photo below.
  6. Add cream and stir just until dough forms what Ms. Mushet calls “shaggy clumps”; flour will be barely incorporated.  See photo at bottom.
  7. mealy dough mixture

    Place this loosely formed mixture on a lightly floured board and knead several times, until dough is formed.  Do not over knead.  ONLY IF FRESHLY GROUND FLOUR IS BEING USED, place dough back in bowl, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 45 minutes.   (Freshly ground flour is a coarser grind, which doesn’t absorb the moisture as readily as the store-bought white flour; thus, this resting time is required.)

  8. Pat out into a 7” round; cut into eighths.  Holding individual scones in hand, brush top and sides of each with egg wash and sprinkle top with crystallized sugar.  Place on parchment-covered pan (see photo at top of recipe).
  9. dough in “shaggy clumps”

    Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until edges are firm, but center is soft to the touch.  As you press on the edges, there will be a yielding, due to its high concentration of hot fat; scones, however, firm up as they cool.  Note: if using freshly ground flour, 18-20 minutes will be required for baking.

  10. Cool on wax paper at least 10 minutes before serving.  Ideally served with clotted cream, but butter and a good jam are also great.

Cocoa Bread from 1920’s Portland, Oregon

Roaring twenties' cocoa bread

‘roaring twenties’ cocoa bread and fresh rosemary loaf

The spell-binding Cupid’s Book was a cookbook published twice in this city of roses in the 1920’s.  The downtown retailers enticed the brides-to-be into their shops with colorful advertisements, bountiful recipes, and good instructions on how to be a wife in these two editions.

The recipe for cocoa bread is the best of this collection.  It is a slice of heaven!  Unsweetened cocoa powder lends a flavor to this yeast loaf that makes one think of pumpernickel, with the first bite.  Hints of chocolate surface as one experiences it further.

I discovered this blessing, while I was researching at the Oregon History Center’s excellent library, during my graduate work.  1991 marked the completion of  my Master’s Degree, at which point I had exhausted every inkling to food in this archive.  My 114 page thesis, which they have on file,  closely documents the library’s details on nutrition.  It was here that I found the two romantic cook books appropriately named Cupid’s Book.

Bread is the staff of life!  It sustains one’s soul when made with love from scratch.  I grind the flour for all my bread from organic hard red spring wheat berries.  My understanding is these-of all the wheat berries-have the highest content of protein.  One serving has 7 grams of this compound, the same as an egg.

The superb quality of the freshly ground flour allows the bread to last for up to six weeks in the refrigerator.  It is, however, necessary to wrap it in paper towel to absorb the moisture, which keeps it from molding; always store the bread in an air tight storage bag.  Toasting it brings out optimum freshness.

Making bread with a food processor is quick and mess-free.  I encourage you to venture out using my technique; learning this will bless you with easy, homemade bread forever.

Be nourished by the baking and eating of this luscious loaf!

bread dough in food processor

bread dough after kneading twice in processor

Cocoa Bread  This is adapted from a recipe in Cupid’s Book (Portland, Oregon: Oregon History Center, 1921, 1925). Yields: 1 loaf.  Total prep time: 3 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/ inactive prep time: 2 hr/  baking time: 30 min.

1/4 c tepid water (Temperature should be 105-115 degrees.)

1  individual package active dry yeast  (May use 3 level tsp of Red Star Active Dry Yeast, available in a 2 lb package at Costco, which keeps well sealed in the freezer.  Yeast is best at room temperature for proofing.)

1/3 c, plus 1/4 tsp sugar  (Organic cane sugar is ideal; available at Trader Joe’s in 2 lb package, or less expensive at Costco in 10 lb package.)

2 1/2 c whole wheat flour  (Bob’s Red Mill flour is high quality.)

1 1/2 c unbleached white flour  (You may grind 2 2/3 c organic hard red spring wheat berries to make the total 4 c of flour.)

1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available inexpensively at Costco.)

1 1/4-1 1/2 c tepid milk, 110-115 degrees  (May use alternative milks, such as hazelnut or almond.)

3 tbsp oil  (Any kind of oil will do, for oiling the inside of a 13-gallon plastic bag.)

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is best.)

  1. Dissolve yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar in 1/4 cup water.  Let sit until it foams, looks creamy, and is nearly doubled in size, about 10 minutes.
  2. In an 11-c-or-larger food processor, blend well the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.
  3. dough after first kneading of 35 seconds

    Add yeast mixture and 1 1/2 c milk to flour mixture (only 1 1/4 c milk will be needed, however, if grinding your own flour, as the grind is coarser and doesn’t absorb as much liquid.)  Knead for 35 seconds, see photo.

  4. Let rest for 4 minutes; then, knead one more time for 35 seconds (see photo at top of recipe). Note: processing dough will heat it and kill the yeast if cooling isn’t allowed.
  5. dough after kneading by hand

    Take out and knead by hand for about 8 minutes, or until satiny smooth (see photo).  This process is relatively foolproof, but if dough is too wet and sticky, add flour to board to facilitate kneading; it helps to wash hands, if dough is sticking to them.  Dough should be firm, elastic, and smooth to the touch after kneading.  If, however, it is too stiff to knead easily, place in machine, and knead in 1 tbsp water.  Repeat this last step, if needed, until severe stiffness is gone, it is flexible, and kneading by hand is facile, carefully resting dough as not to overheat.  It should be firm and satiny smooth when finished kneading by hand.

  6. Place in a 13-gallon plastic bag, in which several  tbsp of oil are evenly distributed. Let rise in a warm place for 60 minutes, or until double.  (Only if you’re grinding your own flour, punch dough down and allow to rise an additional 30 minutes. for lighter bread with coarser freshly ground flour.)
  7. Punch down and form into a loaf.  Place in a bread pan sprayed with oil; loosely drape a piece of plastic wrap also sprayed with oil over loaf.
  8. Let rise 50-60 minutes, or until double.
  9. Important: 30 minutes into the last rising process preheat oven to 400 degrees; this insures oven is ready when bread has fully risen.
  10. Remove plastic wrap when loaf is double.  Bake for 27-30 minutes, or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  11. Cool on rack.  Enjoy!