Friday, September 10, 2010

Introducing... the Introduction

As the best cookbook authors know, recipe introductions are way more important than you might think. They situate a recipe, telling you why you should try it, what to watch out for while you're making it, and what you might eat or drink alongside it. And if they're written well, they give you a little insight into the author's personality.

Take, for instance, the new book from Baked authors Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. It's called Baked Explorations and features 75 recipes for "classic American desserts reinvented." This subject practically begs for recipe intros (or "headnotes," as editors call them): why reinvent, say, a New York-style crumb cake? Or chocolate mint thumbprint cookies? Read the intros, and you'll find out.

Which brings me to the the book's Carrot Coconut Scones with Citrus Glaze. Reading the intro--and getting a Tweet from Matt Lewis saying the scones were a big hit with the book's recipe testers--convinced me I had to make them: "I have succumbed to deep self-delusion and equate all carrot baked things with health and nutrition," it says in part. A carrot cake fiend, I immediately identified with this statement. An additional note reads, "the oats and carrot lend an air of nutrition, but deep down this is a perfect treat for morning, noon, and night." Sold, to the lady with the ridiculous sweet tooth who eats oatmeal with candied ginger and cranberries for breakfast.

So these scones: they're outrageously good. And I didn't even make the citrus glaze. I just painted the egg white glaze on them and sprinkled them with sugar. They are sweet but not too sweet. Denser than muffins, but softer and moister than many scones I've had. And divinely textured thanks to the shredded coconut and oats.

Good headnotes are key. They make reading a cookbook fun--and motivate me to carry my cookbooks out of the living room and into the kitchen.--S

Carrot Coconut Scones with Citrus Glaze
Yield: 6 to 8 scones

For the scones:
2 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c rolled oats
1 T baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 c shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 c (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" chunks
1 large egg
3/4 c buttermilk
1 T pure vanilla extract
1/4 c carrot puree (recipe follows)
1 egg white, beaten

For the citrus glaze:
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 T fresh orange juice
1 c confectioners' sugar

Make the scones:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and position the rack in the center. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, oats, baking powder, salt, and shredded sweetened coconut.
3. Add the butter. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until the butter is pea size and the mixture is coarse.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, vanilla and carrot puree. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until the dough just comes together. Gently and briefly knead the dough with your hands. The dough will be sticky and may need to be sprinkled with flour.
5. Roll the dough up, turn it on its end, and gently flatten it into a disk about 1 3/4" high. Do not overwork the dough.
6. Whisk the egg white with 1 T water. Set aside.
7. Cut the dough into 6 or 8 wedges and place the scones on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with the egg white wash. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean. Do not overbake.
8. Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool completely. Place the baking sheet, with the parchment still on it, underneath the rack.

Make the citrus glaze:
1. Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl. The glaze should be loose enough to drizzle. If it is too thick, add a little more oragne juice. If it is too loose, add a little more confectioners' sugar.
2. Drizzle the glaze over the scones and allow it to set before serving.

To make the carrot puree:
1 medium carrot
1/4 c orange juice

1. Place the carrot and juice in a medium glass microwaveable bowl. Cover or wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
2. Microwave on high for about 5 minutes. If the carrot is fork-tender, it is ready. If it is not fork-tender, continue to microwave in 30-second bursts until it is.
3. Blend (in blender or food processor) the carrot and orange juice until smooth, or alternatively, mash with a potato masher until lump free.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

I love your comments about the comments on recipes, I had never thought of some of those things before. I noticed that you do a lot of cookbook reviews and work in the publishing industry. I am working on a vegan/health cookbook and I was wondering if you could give some advice about how to get the book recognized in the main stream book world?

Thanks for any help you can give.