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.

1950’s Pear Pie

Fresh pear pie

fresh pear pie

The history of sugar is intriguing, spanning the continents.  Here we will examine the major turning points in the background of this substance.

My mother gave her children the choice of birthday cakes.  I was hard put to choose between banana cake-see 2016/08/08-and fresh pear pie.  My soul still thrills with the beautiful taste of baked pears, rich crumb topping, and the best of pie crusts.

I am so health conscious; thus I have experimented with using sugar alternatives here.  Coconut sugar or sucanat (evaporated cane juice) can not compete with cane sugar in this receipt. Only sugar insures the right texture and flavor in pear pie.

Sugar has been around for the longest time.  Saccharum officinarum, sugar cane, originated in the South Pacific’s New Guinea and was subsequently carried by human migration into Asia.  Sometime before 500 B.C., people in India were producing raw, unrefined sugar.  1

Its first known reference was in 325 B.C., when  Alexander the Great’s admiral Nearchus wrote of reeds in India that produce “honey” without any bees.  The word sugar began to appear frequently in Indian literature around 300 B.C.  This Sanskrit word sarkara, meaning gravel or pebble, became the Arabic sukhar, which finally came to be sugar.  2

The use of Indian sugar cane spread.  Around the 6th century after Christ, it was planted in the moist terrains of the Middle East, where the Persians made sugar a prized ingredient in their cooking.  After Islamic Arabs conquered Persia in the 7th century, they took the cane to northern Africa and Syria; it eventually made its way to Spain and Sicily.  3

Sugar in Europe was barely known until around 1100, and it remained a mere luxury until the 1700’s.  The western Europeans’ first encounter with sugar was during their Crusades to the Holy Lands in the 11th century.  Shortly thereafter Venice became the hub of Arabic sugar trade for western Europe, while the first known large shipment went to England in 1319.  4

At first the western Europeans treated it like other exotic imports-e.g., pepper and ginger-strictly as medicine and flavoring: it was produced in small medicinal morsels, as well as preserved fruits and flowers.  These sweets or candy first began being made by apothecaries, or druggists, which were making “confections” to balance the body’s principles.  The word confection is taken from Latin conficere. meaning “to put together” or “to prepare”.  5

The medieval years brought sugary nonconfections to Europe, such as candied almonds, as well as the use of this substance in recipes for French and English courts.  The chefs of royalty employed sugar in sauces for fish and fowl, for candying hams, and in desserts of various fruit and cream/egg combinations.  Around 1475, the Vatican librarian Platina wrote that sugar was now being produced in Crete and Sicily, as well as India and Arabia.  Columbus carried the cane to what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1493, on his second voyage.  6

By the 18th century, whole cook books were devoted to confectionery, which had become an art no longer associated with medicine.  During this century, sugar consumption exploded in Europe, with the rise of colonial rule in the West Indies and the enslavement of millions of Africans, resulting in the sugar industry becoming the major force behind slavery in the Americas (one estimate holds that fully two-thirds of the twenty million African slaves worked on sugar plantations).  This industry saw rapid decline later in the 1700’s, with the abolition movements, especially in Britain; the other European countries followed, one by one through the mid-19th century, in outlawing slavery in the colonies.  7

Sugar, however, had now become a world staple.  Presently 80% of its production comes from sugar cane, while most of the rest is derived from sugar beets.  8

Wisdom and moderation are needed with this substance.  Today our nation consumes sugar in unhealthy amounts.  Personally I hold fast to the adage of Mary Poppin’s:  “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”  My standard is to substitute more beneficial sweeteners wherever possible.  However, there are times when only cane sugar will do.   My precious pear pie is one of them!

Enjoy this carefree, mess-free recipe.

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking  (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 648.
  2. James Trager, The Food Chronology  (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), p. 19.
  3. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking  (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 648, 649.
  4.  Ibid., pp. 648, 649.
  5. Ibid., p. 649.
  6. Ibid., pp. 649, 650.
  7. Ibid., pp. 650, 651.
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugarcane
Pear pie, whipped cream, and freshly ground nutmeg

pear pie, whipped cream, and freshly ground nutmeg

Pear Pie with Hot Water Pastry Crust  Yields: 1-10″pie.  Total prep time: 1 1/4 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 45 min.

1 1/4 c unbleached white flour  (Bob’s Red Mill is high quality.)

1 1/3  c whole wheat pastry flour  (May grind 1 c soft white winter wheat berries for 1 1/2 c total fresh ground whole wheat pastry flour, carefully measuring needed amounts.)

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

2/3 c oil  (Grapeseed or avocado oil is best, available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s and Costco.)

1/3 c boiling water.

1 c sugar  (Organic cane sugar id preferable; available in 2 lb packages at Trader’s, but more economical  in 10 lb bags at Costco)

1/3 c butter, softened

5 lg Bartlett pears, ripened  (May use Anjou pears as well, but Bartletts are best, must be ripened.)

1 c heavy whipping cream  (Lightly sweeten this with powdered sugar.)

Nutmeg  (Freshly ground is superb!)

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Blend unbleached white flour, 1 c of whole wheat pastry flour, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Add oil and boiling water; mix lightly with a fork.
  4. Divide into two balls, one much larger than the other; cover balls with plastic wrap and place on hot stove to keep warm.  (You will need to use 3/5’s of dough for this single crust for a 10″-pie plate; may bake leftover 2/5’s of dough in strips with butter and cinnamon sugar.)
  5. Roll out the large ball of dough between 2-18″ long pieces of wax paper. Form a very large, oblong circle which reaches to the sides of the paper.
  6. Gently peel off the top sheet of wax paper; turn over and place piece of rolled dough, wax paper side up, over a 10″-pie plate. Very carefully peel off the second piece of wax paper.
  7. Patch any holes in crust by pressing warm dough together with fingers. Form rim of crust on edge of pie plate by pressing dough together gently, using excess dough from heavier areas to make up for areas where dough is sparse.
  8. Mix 1/3 c of whole wheat pastry flour and sugar in same bowl in which you made the pie crust.  Blend in butter with a fork, until mealy in texture.
  9. Sprinkle 1/3 of this mixture in bottom of unbaked pie shell.
  10. Fill crust with peeled pear halves.  Fill in spaces with smaller pieces.
  11. Evenly spread remaining flour mixture on top of pears.
  12. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes more, or until crust is golden brown.
  13. Cool, serve with whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg.  Mouthwatering!