Pumpkin and Traditional Cream Scones

Isn’t coming home supposed to be glorious, comfortable, and a fleeting sort of happy-ever-after?

they’re happy, at least until I eat them.

they’re happy, at least until I eat them.

Junior year was brutal. You know that feeling when you try to jump over a fire hydrant but because you have stubby baby Asian legs, you end up tripping and fracturing your femur? (Not that this has happened to me or anything, of course.) Junior year was like that, but over and over and over again. I’m going to write a senior thesis! NO YOU’RE NOT YOU IMBECILE BITCH, says the neuroscience department. I resolve to lose weight and be fit and attractive! YOU FORGOT ABOUT WATER WEIGHT, HOPELESS NERD, ridicules my body. I’m going to have friends! HAHAHAHAHA u funnay. Love, the world.

we too love your misery because we’re carbs and you’re on a diet

we too love your misery because we’re carbs and you’re on a diet

So much for trying new things. Which is why it’s comforting to make the same caramel cappuccino cheesecake five times in a row. When academia and social life and even the sad conglomeration of overtired cells that you call your body fail you, the cheesecake will always come out perfectly creamy and rich yet subtle but altogether delicious, figuratively patting you on the back and telling you with sexy cinnamon undertones that there is still at least something that you can do right.

lol I’m an egg

lol I’m an egg

Coming home is supposed to be comforting like that, but this time it’s different. I was only home for three weeks, and now I’m back at school again for work. On top of this rare and frustratingly short stay, my cousin immigrated to the States just days before I came home and is living with us now. That and the fact that I started this fitness and diet challenge with a friend this summer (encourage me, life has no meaning anymore) means that I could no longer traipse around the house in a bathrobe and wet hair, eating potato salad out of the carton. Now I have to eat spinach and wear clothes and dry my hair and my life is just really hard and it’s all so discomforting. #firstworldproblems

my kind of workout

my kind of workout

poser cake wannabe

poser cake wannabe

Home’s not supposed to change, you know? Just give me three weeks of comfortable unchangedness so that I can forget about the trauma of the schoolyear. Change is hard, I should know, sings Zooey Deschanel, and she has really big eyes so you know she’s an honest manic pixie dream girl who would never hide the truth.

But then I look back at all of the weird new things I tried this past year – dancing, radio theatre, ginger powder, blogging – and they weren’t all bad. Small doses of change can be fantastic. Like scones. Making and eating scones were a big and open-minded step for me because historically, I hate scones. After marathoning Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, I’ve decided that it might be an American thing, but admit it. All the scones out there look like something that you should sit on, not put in your mouth.

perfect triangles or daggers that look like they’re made out of orange shit…

perfect triangles or daggers that look like they’re made out of orange shit…

Scones are hard to make as well because the wet to dry ingredients ratio is absurdly low. When kneading the dough, it looks like the entire mess is shedding giant flakes of pasty white skin and it’s hard to make one cohesive dough lump. In order to fix that, I’ve found that it’s vital to freeze the dough for at least a night before throwing it into the oven the next day. My dad thinks it’s weird that I freeze dough prior to baking, but he didn’t complain when he ate three freshly baked scones the next morning, so there.

unfff

unfff

scones whisperer

scones whisperer

Ancient Chinese Han dynasty secret to baking: listen to your food when you take it out of the oven; it tells you the exact texture and cookedness of the inside of the pastry. When I went to my boyfriend’s house this past winter, his mother made these chocolate lava cakes FROM GOD. When they were done, I went to the stovetop where the cakes were resting and put my ear to them to listen to their ~*voices*~. I’m sure Ben’s parents regretted their son’s choice in human beings then, but I have pulled them to the dark and informed side because one by one he and his family came over to hear the sweet whisperings of the lava cakes. And indeed they spoke to us: you could hear a quiet, tight crackling sound as realization dawned on their faces and they joined me in my madness. Speak, cake, and we shall hear.

It really works, though. Physically testing the cake is the safest method, but I hate it because makes everything punctured and ugly. Instead, listening to the cake as well as gauging its color is just as effective. If the cake gives a soft, controlled, tight crackling sound, then the inside is very moist, which is what you’d hope for with something like lava cakes. On the other hand, if the cake or bread or cookie or whatever you’re making gives a loud cacophonous crackling sound, it’s dry inside and might be a bit overcooked. This is the kind of sound you want from something like biscotti.

this is my scone army

this is my scone army

As for the scones, they were a bit loud but had a very dense crackling sound, which was a relief because it meant that while they were heavy, they were also moist inside. And guys, girls, nonbelievers – they tasted amazing. A little raspberry jam spread on the side and my god. You know that moment when you look at someone and you realize that it is meant to be and that the stars have aligned in both your lives to bring you to this very specific and spectacular moment and now the future is not an enigmatic mystery but rather a wondrous flight of fantasy because from this moment on, whatever you brave, you brave together, and your tears will never be unwiped, your sorrows unheard?

It was like that. But possibly better, because scones will never not text back.

Pumpkin Scone with Cream Cheese Glaze

Pumpkin Scone with Cream Cheese Glaze

I’m too lethargic to find any takeaway from this, besides the newfound knowledge that English food is not as nasty as it looks and that you should never judge a pastry by the American version sold in Starbucks. Still, it’s kind of promising, right? Sometimes you need that one random, small, absurd, unimportant thing to go well to remind you that you’re still capable of brain and life. I’m in humid Vermont for another eight weeks, so it’s a welcome reminder that I’m still okay. It’s my first East Coast summer, and the novelty of it is a bit disconcerting, but if turns out half as well as these scones did, then it won’t be bad at all. Cheers to that. And as the Brits would say, cheerio.

Recipe adapted from Lovin’ From the Oven and The Tampa Tribune. Pictures by Ben M.

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Mango Royale

As much fun as college can be sometimes, it often just sucks.

life is just tragic.

life is just tragic.

There are just those days, you know, when the weather is just too chilly for your favorite shorts, when there’s dozens of freshman Intro Biology students swarming you during your TA hours asking how to run a T-test, when one of your friends is ignoring you and it’s really your fault, when people say things about you and it’s unwarranted and just not nice, and on top of that, there is just no way you can memorize all of the endocrine influences on meiosis II in the production of spermatids in the seminal vesicles.

DSCF1825

someone two doors down from me is passionately playing the bongo drums during finals week and it is helping nothing.

DSCF1854

isn’t this much better than reality?

Everyone has their own coping mechanisms, though, and like many a capable and wronged young woman, food will never not love me. But don’t get me wrong – I’m not one to wallow in grocery store brownies and Twix bars. That’s all fine and good, and but it’s like a short-term, shallow, superficial kind of comfort, a fling that’s devastating in hindsight. Everything is all right for the moment, but suddenly the chocolate is gone and you can’t even think about wearing clothes the next day because you feel sluggish and unattractive and empty, despite just having consumed 643 calories in Mars and Hershey products.

the bones of my enemies

the bones of my enemies

I’ve heard of people joining fight clubs or wrestling teams to get over a broken relationship or being fired from a job. A clever approach, I think, but for me to exert myself, there must be food. Consequently, I find refuge in making food rather than in just eating it. Bad grade on my last Endocrinology test? I’mma whip this cream until it turns solid. Woke up late for my music class? Gotta crush graham crackers until they are a mere semblance of their previous selves. One of your closest friends just yelled at you and took your food? CHOP MANGOES AND PRETEND THEY’RE HIS BODY.

BURY THEM!!!! #ANGER

BURY THEM!!!! #ANGER

But enough about my anger for now. There will always be anger. But you know what there won’t always be? Ripe mangoes. I decided to make mango royale, a Filipino ice box cake, in celebration of spring and a constant temperature over 50 degrees Fahrenheit. But life has killed the dream I dreamed, because the advent of Vermont spring does not bring with it ripe, plump mangoes the way it does in California or in Taiwan. Instead, it sheepishly offers mango-shaped bricks better suited for self-defense and not for eating.

This proposes a huge problem for mango royale. Most of the recipes I studied stated that it would be best to use very soft and slightly over-ripe mangoes. In baking with fruit in general, it’s best to use fruit that’s a little bit past its prime. But what to do about my predicament? Modern technology has the answer, and the Internet never fails: we shall MICROWAVE THE MANGO.

the master at work

the master at work

No, really. After browsing a couple of E-Hows titled something like, “How to Ripen a Mango in the Microwave”, I cut some holes in my mangoes to let the steam out and to pseudo-ripen them evenly, as suggested by said websites. Then I wrapped them in paper towels for – again for even ripening – and chucked them in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time. The E-How said for only 10 seconds at a time, but these mangoes were that rock solid. Like, if my ab (I currently have one general ab) felt like one of those mangoes, man, I… I don’t know what I’d do. I’d probably use it as an excuse to eat more.

look at that valiant effort. tiff vs. mango, lesgo

look at that valiant effort. tiff vs. mango, mango clearly wins

Unfortunately, E-How proved itself less than a guru in how to ripen very raw fruit in 20 minutes. Not only that, but upon taking the mangoes out of the microwave and beginning to peel them, I burned myself on one of the mangoes. Who’s ever heard of anyone burning themselves on a mango? You have, now, that’s who. There goes my chef cred.

It turned out okay in the end, though, because the cream filling of the ice box cake was so unbelievably sweet that the unusually tart flavor of the mango was actually very welcome. The only problem was that they were a bit hard, especially because I had put the cake in the freezer for three hours to set. This made the consistency of the cream delightfully like ice cream, but made the hardness of the mango like ice.

layers. layers like an ogre

layers. layers like an ogre

obligatory fork shot

obligatory fork shot

Still, the cake tasted fantastic. I thought the cream part would be uncomfortably heavy because it incorporated an entire can of condensed milk, which is viscous and thick as hell. Freezing the cake lightened up both the flavor and the density of the cream part, however, which then complemented the crushed graham cracker crust beautifully. Like I said, the only lacking part was how hard the mango pieces on top were, but you can’t have everything. And given the awkward state of the mangoes to begin with, I’d say the mango royale turned out pretty well.

smile! there's cake!

smile! there’s cake!

It inherently proves, I think, the efficacy of my method of dealing with life’s problems. When life gives you lemons, my God, you make lemon cream cheese cookie bars, obviously. While you make whatever food you choose, you take out your anger on that mixing bowl! Be as violent as you never could be in polite hipster society, and lose twelve pounds in the process. Then, when the food is ready to be eaten and you’re exhausted, devour everything you just made and gain back all those lost pounds. There’s been no net change, per se, but you know you’ll be okay. Even if the mangoes are unripe and you can’t memorize any more estradiol pathways, things will be all right. There will always be hope. And even when there’s no hope, there’s still cake.

Mango Royale

Mango Royale

Recipe adapted from Ang Sarap, NY City Eats, and A Thirst for Life. Pictures by Olivia C. and Ben M.