I’m going to continue 2016 with yet another breakfast / brunch option, though this one is nowhere near as healthy as the zucchini muffins I posted about. Cream, butter, chocolate paired with strawberries… these scones are pretty indulgent if you ask me. Before 2011, the only time I had had scones was from places like Starbucks or no name bakeries. They were hard, kind of chalky, weighed down by those disgusting hard sugar granules on top. I much preferred muffins and never gave them any thought.
Now in 2011, Maheen and I got to visit Malaysia, which was such a fantastic trip, and we got to visit the Boh tea gardens of the Cameron Highlands. Lush hills swallowed by fog and clouds, just chilly enough to wrap yourself in a shawl and curl up with a good cup of tea and some snacks. The best part was a tour of the tea gardens and standing on a deck right above the gardens. Now I know this wasn’t a “discovery”; the whole thing was very touristy and every space was staged, but it was beautiful none the less.
New year, new you, right? I’ll admit, there can be something magical about Winter (when it cooperates). Snow softly falling, twinkle lights wrapped around bare trees, and the idea that we can start fresh. For years I’d be all in when it came to resolutions, promising myself that THIS year would be the year. I’d be healthier, learn to draw / play the guitar / master this skill or that, and in general just be a better / cooler version of myself. And of course, EVERY year, I’d break that promise to myself. I’m sure many of you have had very similar experiences. So I started taking a different approach.
As you guys may have noticed, I’m trying to put what’s really on my mind into my posts these days. This is part of a personal initiative to just be more reflective, and stay true to my inner self. It’s so easy to get caught up in our privilege and petty complaints that we forget to be grateful for what we DO have. Though it’s been a pretty mild winter in Minnesota, it’s still winter and pretty damn cold out. There are so many people that go without shelter, coats, food, and basics during this time. If you take nothing else away from this post, please take this. Every time you pull on your warm down jacket, or turn the heat on in your car, or breathe that sigh of relief with a warm cup of coffee or tea, think about how not everyone has access to this. Just take a few minutes, and think about how what we consider basics are luxuries for so many others.
Ok so first off.. I’m so sorry I haven’t posted in so long. It’s been a crazy few weeks and I’m still playing catch up. The thing is… I started a new job 🙂 It’s kind of a big deal actually. It’s the first time I’ve been leaving my daughter for extended periods of time, the first time I’ve been back at work after nearly a year and a half, and the first time in a long time where I’m actually reading / studying / feeling the need to prove my skills (daily) in quite some time.
Now as some of you know, I’m a DBA. That’s a Database Administrator. I work with a platform called SQL Server… Ok I can seriously HEAR you dozing off. I work with computers ok? Anyways, being in IT has been pretty good to me so far. I normally used to work a solid 9ish hour day except for the odd weekend / weeknight maintenance or code release window. This new place has me churning out 10-11 hour days regularly! Add a two hour commute daily and that leaves me with barely two hours to see my daughter, much less bake.
But I miss baking. I missed hearing the whirling sound of my mixer. The feel of scooping out flour. The smell of butter and sugar being creamed together. The give and push back on a perfectly baked vanilla cake. Of just letting myself concentrate on a recipe, and then enjoying the delicious results. Or learning from catastrophic mistakes. I thought just having a kid was hard, but being a working mom is a whole other ballgame. It’s so easy to just fall into a routine of getting up, getting ready, commuting, working, commuting again, feeding my daughter dinner, bathing her, eating dinner myself while my husband puts her down for the night, hanging out (ie discussing bills and other house stuff) with my husband and passing out myself.
Where’s the time for me? How do I find time in a day… heck a WEEK… where I can define myself based on just me and not as an extension of a another person or a job? It’s not that I don’t enjoy my job… I do… I honestly love it. And it’s not that I don’t love being a mom. It’s that I don’t want to wake up one day a few months or years down the line and realize that I spent all my time being a someone to everyone else that I forgot to be a someone for me. It’s hard to keep up this blog right now… but I’m going to stick with it… because it means something to me… and it’s one of the ways I define myself.
So there you are. No fancy reason for choosing this recipe out of the dozens I have saved. No homesickness, no birthday, no specific craving, no dire need to use up over a dozen eggs before they expire… just a little bit of comfort in the actual act of baking and then enjoying the results of this marble loaf. I love that it’s just barely sweet. That the vanilla is complemented so well with the dark chocolate. And that there’s no bells and whistles in a glaze or a frosting. No matter how you slice it… you always know what you’re in for. Just like I wish my was.
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
- 1 3/4 cups cake flour*
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup whole milk, room temperature (original recipe called for buttermilk but I didn't have any so I used whole milk)
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan; set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in vanilla. Add add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until just combined. Add milk and mix until combined. Add the rest of the flour and mix until just combined. Set aside 1/3 of the batter.
- In a bowl, mix cocoa and boiling water with a rubber spatula until smooth. Add the cocoa mixture to the reserved cake batter; stir until well combined.
- Spoon batters into the prepared pan in 2 layers, alternating spoonfuls of vanilla and chocolate to simulate a checkerboard. To create marbling, run a table knife (or wooden skewer) through the batters in a swirling motion.
- Bake, until a cake tester comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack to cool 10 minutes. Turn out cake from pan and cool completely on the rack. Cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.
* I've made this recipe twice - once using the 'make your own cake flour method' of adding cornstarch to all purpose flour and sifting, and once using store bought (King Arthur flour) cake flour. The results are definitely lighter and fluffier with store bought flour.
I’m not usually a morning person. Since I’d rather sleep in, I also usually never have time for breakfast. At least not the balanced breakfast that we were taught to have in elementary school that touched every major food group and was based on some triangle.
The breakfast I have usually involves coffee in some shape or form, depending on my mood or the weather. If it’s raining and cold and miserable, I drown myself in a hot mug of coffee with just a little milk and sugar. If there’s a hint of a cool breeze in the air with a touch of excitement, then I turn to a spiced chai or latte. If it’s sweltering and humid and I am berating myself once again, “Why do we still live in this awful city??” then it’s a (very) large glass of iced coffee with a shot of some flavoring. But this post isn’t about coffee, it’s about the disappointing / sugar rush inducing pastry that nearly always goes with it.
Now I may be too tired when I first wake up to get breakfast, but by the time I stumble off the train near work, I’m starving and need something to go with my coffee of choice that morning. This usually leads to a donut, or muffin, or apple tart, or a bagel, or whatever is available. And no matter how many times I’ve been disappointed in the past with the hum drum, nearly tasteless, why-does-it-turn-to-mush-in-my-mouth muffins, I still go back. Something is seriously wrong with me. Until now.