Gina’s recipe for Pear Scones

I know I regularly write about how to improve business communications, but since I firmly believe we don’t have a professional life and a personal life – we just have a life – I am taking this moment to share something from my life – that I find pretty tasty!

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Since moving to Ireland, I have discovered scones are an integral part of life.  If it’s morning time and you walk into a café, a coffee shop or a diner, there will be scones.  One of the companies I am consulting with at the moment has a monthly communications meeting from all the department heads.  Before the employees walk into the conference room, they pause to take a scone from the heap of them on the long table out front.  The typical trifecta of flavors are “Brown” with wholewheat flour, “Fruit” – which usually translates as raisins or currants, or “Plain,” uhm, which is plain.

Scones are served with fresh whipped cream, Irish butter or jam to be slathered on.  And they’re not just for breakfast, either.  The first time I met someone for afternoon tea, the waitress asked me, “Would you like a scone with your tea?”

I like the scones here.  They’re not the dried out, flattened biscuits that are passed as scones in other parts of the world.  They’re dense yet still moist.

Interestingly, I have never had a pear scone here in Ireland – that I didn’t make myself.  I’ve been baking mine for about four years from some recipe I found online when we lived in Italy long before I ever imagined I would be moving to Ireland. I don’t remember the official source, since I hand-copied the recipe and the slip of paper now lives in my recipe box.  So, I don’t claim to have created this recipe, but I am happy to share it with you as “mine.”

Without further ado, here is my recipe for Pear Scones! Slainte!

Gina’s Pear Sconesscones

2 Cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

¼ Cup white sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¾ Cup diced fresh pear

5 tablespoons cold butter

1 Cup cream (or half regular milk and half vanilla yogurt, which I have substituted when out of cream – and it worked great!)

Mix dry ingredients and cut in butter until tiny crumbs.  Stir in diced pear and the liquid. This dough is pretty sticky – but that’s fine. Turn out onto floured service and lightly knead.  I put it then into an 8 inch cake pan and cut into 8 wedges.  Sprinkle top with white sugar –(I prefer caster sugar, which is really fine white sugar you can get here in Ireland/UK easily –  if you have it.)

Bake at 220C/400 F for 12/15 minutes

I cut mine in wedges although all the scones here are round.  I suppose you could easily cut the dough with an overturned and lightly floured glass if you’d prefer the round shape.

Et voila! I hope you like them.

Cheers, and happy life!

Gina

Copyright 2016 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.  

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Winter means it’s Time for Soup!

It’s dark and cold outside as Lulu and I walk home after buying Christmas presents at Arezzo’s darling holiday mercato which just set-up this weekend.

Under a canopy of white, Italian leather purses  hang next to another kiosk which features fluffy robes and slippers.

“I want some new ciabatte,” Lulu cajoles.  “I don’t care if they’re not the right size,” she adds noticing that all the slippers on display are clearly for full-grown women.

We buy what we came for (not slippers/ciabatte) and trek up the steep Via Madonna del Prato up to our home.  Inside, we’re met by the savory aroma of the soup I made earlier this afternoon.  Scotty has been watching over it as it simmered. Making sure it didn’t dry out or burn – so hopefully it will taste as good as it smells right now.

It does!

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The photo doesn’t do this justice: I promise this soup was amazingly delicious!

And since I am one of those people who rarely uses a recipe when I cook, I was so pleased with the flavor of tonight’s winter stew, I am going to write it down before I forget what I put in.  Hopefully I can make it again – and also successfully share its secrets with you!  Okay, so, I’ll call this:

Mamma Gina’s Hearty Rich Winter Beef Stew

1 pound of beef stew meat – chopped small (I have no idea if it was really a pound since beef here is, of course, sold by the kilo. About a couple of handfuls of cubed beef anyway.)

4 medium potatoes chunkily diced

2 carrots sliced

1 onion diced

2 minced cloves of garlic

2 stalks of celery sliced

5 or 6 mushrooms chopped

4 or 5 small plum tomatoes chopped

5 or 6 bay leaves

1T flour

1 bouillon cube (No,  I rarely make my own stock – shame, I know. Here in Italy, I use “Classico” bouillon cubes – they seem pretty chickeny actually)

5 cups or so of water.  This will need some monitoring.

2 T balsamic vinegar

2 T Worcestershire sauce.  (Yes, I get this here in Italy. Love it.)

2 T sugar

1 T coarse salt

1 T cinnamon (really!)

Red pepper flakes – a shake or two of the spice jar – depends on your personal spicy meter)

Black pepper and dried parsley flakes to taste

2 or 3 glugs of olive oil

All righty, that may seem like a lot of ingredients, but I just used what was in the fridge and the cupboards tonight.

First, I coated a large, deep pot with oil and tossed in the beef with the flour and stirred it up.  I then wantonly tossed in the rest of the ingredients.   Just like that.  I stirred it all up  – letting the onions and potatoes and carrots wilt a tad with the flame on pretty low – but I didn’t worry about it.

After about ten minutes, I added enough water to cover everything up – and brought the brew to a boil.  Immediately after it began to boil, I turned it down to a simmer, helped Lulu put on her coat – and went shopping!

Scotty manned the stove for the next two hours – adding a bit of water as needed and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent burning.  By the time Lulu and I returned home, as I mentioned, the soup smelled delicious.  The meat was amazingly tender and the potatoes had thickened up the broth to a velvety texture.

Honestly, the layers of flavors in this stew are really something.  I sliced up some Tuscan bread and Lulu sopped up nearly everything in her bowl.

Cold winter night coming up? Don’t worry, now you can have my stew – and eat it too!

Baci, Gina

 

 

 

 

Fit to be Pied. My first awesome pie crust – plus the recipe and tips!!

??????????As everyone knows, the true success of a pie lies in its crust.

Why are some flaky and tender and why were mine usually tough like cheap shoe leather?  It’s not fair.

My lineage includes terrific pie crust bakers: my Grannie Raven (Mom’s mom) who made my grandpa his favorite lemon meringue on special occasions and my Grandma London (Dad’s mom) who made us her chocolate cream pie on every occasion.  Unfortunately, both of them went on to pie-baking heaven before I was interested enough to sign up for a personal class.

My mom, who is wonderfully still baking pies here on planet Earth, makes a mean strawberry pie. When we’re together we seem to talk about everything – just not how to achieve crust perfection.

When a request comes in for me to make a pie, I’m paralyzed by pie crust phobia.

I’ve successfully ducked this fear by sneaking in a store-bought crust under my sour cream apple pies each autumn.  The filling recipe, torn from the tattered pages of my beloved “Silver Palate” cook book is so delicious, the standard crust goes unnoticed. And also un-praised.

But, this month, when my husband Scotty asked for a lemon meringue pie – just like Grampa Raven – I was determined to make a praise-worthy crust.  Scotty usually asks for Key lime  – so graham cracker crusts have saved me from dough crust embarrassment. But here in Tuscany, I haven’t been able to find Key limes or graham crackers.

Without help from my mother, but with a lot of help from the internet, I found a recipe, carefully watched a couple of step-by-step videos and – eccolo, ‘here it is!’ –

Okay, so I should’ve made it a little bigger to span the extra-large Italian frittata pie tin I have, and I’m not an artistic crust-fluter yet, but, I assure you this crust was buttery, flaky, and extremely tasty!

Linked here and written out below – is the recipe I used.  Unlike other attempts. this time I took the instructions seriously.  I have learned that, as with other tense circumstances in life, the key word is “Chill.”

Now I’m a true believer that the butter must be chilled before it’s cut into the dry ingredients; you must continue to cut and cut until the mixture looks like cornmeal (not corn kernel) sized crumbs; you must not use too much water and finally, you must chill the dough for a few hours before you roll it out.

Amazing how easy something becomes when you actually follow the directions.

Butter Flaky Pie Crust Recipe

(a single 9 inch crust – so increase accordingly!)

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, first diced, then chilled for about 30 minutes before cutting in

1/4 cup of ice water – you shouldn’t use all the water!

Combine flour and salt. Cut in chilled diced butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Really, that small.  Stir in ice water a tablespoon at a time until you are able to form a ball.  Don’t use all the water.  Form the dough into an inch thick disc and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least four hours.  Lightly flour your rolling surface and rolling pin and roll out dough to about 12 inches in diameter to have room to go up the sides of your pie dish. I gently wrapped the rolled-out dough around my rolling pin and then lifted it over the pie dish for my first successful, no break, transfer!

Press the dough evenly on the dish – since this recipe  is so buttery, you don’t need to grease or flour the pan. Bake according to your pie recipe instructions.

Let me know how it goes. Or tell me other life lessons we can apply from baking!

Baci, Gina