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Michael Sheldon
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Michael Sheldon

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Scones. Today, that brings visions of large, usually triangular pastries, studded with dried fruit and topped with sugar.

But as a fan of history and cooking, I wondered at the origins. So I looked through my antique cookbooks to find what they were like in the 19th century. That was a bit of an eye-opener in itself, of more than a dozen pre-1900 cookbooks I own, only two had recipes for "Scottish Scones". One, a promotional booklet by the Royal Baking Powder Company, 1888. The other, The 1899 edition of the White House Cookbook. Both recipes were remarkably similar in ingredients, with only minor differences.

This one is from the Royal Baking Powder Company:
Scottish Scones. -- 1 quart flour, 1 teaspoonful sugar, 1/2 teaspoonful salt, 2 teaspoonfuls Royal Baking Powder, 1 large tablespoonful lard, 2 eggs, nearly 1 pint milk. Sift together flour, sugar, salt, and powder; rub in lard cold; add beaten eggs and milk; mix into dough smooth and just consistent enough to handle. Flour the board, turn out dough, give it one or two quick kneadings to complete its smoothness; roll it out with rolling-pin to 1/8 inch in thickness, cut with sharp knife into squares larger than soda crackers, fold each in half to form three-cornered pieces. Bake on a hot griddle for 10 minutes; brown on both sides.

Differences to the White House Cookbook: WH omits the sugar, instructs to roll to 1/4 inch and cut in triangles, provides the option to bake in an oven or on a griddle.

I made a half-recipe:
2 cups White Lily flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons lard
1 egg
approx 1/3 cup milk

You notice here that my 1/3 cup of milk is much less than half of the "nearly a pint" called for. I'm not sure if it's how I measure the flour, or if the standard egg size is now larger, but I had measured out 3/4 cup of milk, and ended up using only half of it.

I rolled the dough out to 1/8", cut it in approximately 2.5" squares, and folded them as directed, then cooked them on a 370 degree griddle, 5 minutes each side.

Regardless of whether you use the sugar or not, 1 teaspoon of sugar in 4 cups of flour is not enough to provide noticeable sweetness. As you can tell from the recipe, these are really much closer to a plain biscuit than the pastry-like modern scones, and much smaller. They are very plain, but surprisingly good. I found myself continually reaching for the plate for another one.

I served these alongside a nice black bean soup, and they were truly excellent. They would also be outstanding split in half and spread with butter, honey or jam.

These could be very handy if you cook outdoors, as a means of having biscuits without having to set up a dutch oven.
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Michael Sheldon

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Can we talk about flour? Specifically for Baking?

And yes, we'll be talking about gluten, but not relating to gluten-free, etc. What we're talking about is how gluten/protein content affects your baking.

And, just to get this off my chest, the biggest lie in baking is "All Purpose" flour. It's not, there's no such thing. What these should be labelled as is "General Purpose" flour.

For reference, more protein equals more gluten. Gluten is a protein. Gluten is what makes a dough "strong". High gluten flours make stretchy, strong doughs needed for free-standing loaves, pizza crusts, etc. If you are using yeast, you probably want a high-gluten flour. Low gluten flours are needed for light, delicate things. If you are using baking powder/baking soda, you probably want a low to mid gluten content flour.

Now for the numbers. Generally, basic wheat flours are going to run a range from 5 to 14% protein content.

* From 5-8% are your cake flours. These are VERY low gluten, to give very light cakes. Also may be milled finer. This is what you want for super-light angel food cakes, etc.
* From 8-9% protein are the pastry flours. Enough gluten to hold together a light dough, low enough to make the finished product very light and flaky.
* From 12% and higher protein are the bread flours. Made from hard wheat, they have high gluten content to allow the bread to hold together while rising. You really cannot make really good free-standing loaves like french breads without it.

And now, "All Purpose", which I have seen defined as 10-12% protein, but actually found in the range of 8-12%. Seriously, that covers a lot of ground.

In the case of one of my favorites, King Arthur All Purpose has a protein content of 11.7%. That means for all practical purposes, it is bread flour. And, it really does turn out perfectly acceptable yeast breads. Enough so that I don't bother buying Bread Flour. The flip side is that it makes lousy biscuits, pie crusts, etc. And cookies, biscotti, muffins, etc are really kind of marginal.

After getting tired of my biscuits being hockey pucks, in spite of recipes claiming "light and fluffy," I decided maybe the Southern cooks I was getting my biscuit recipes from had an unfair advantage. So I ordered a bag of White Lily flour. Yeah, they really do have an unfair advantage. You see, White Lily All Purpose flour is made from soft wheat, and has only 8% protein content. All of a sudden, my biscuits were reaching for the sky, and my pie crusts would flake to the lightest touch.

So you see that while King Arthur "All Purpose" is really bread flour. White Lily "All Purpose" is really pastry flour. For a fun comparison, White Lily bread flour is also 11.7% protein content, exactly the same as King Arthur all purpose.

That was when I started looking up the protein contents of my flour. And how I realized "All Purpose" was a lie. Trust me, I would never even dream of making yeast breads with White Lily all purpose, just as I will never again make biscuits from King Arthur all purpose.

Now for thickening gravy, light batters like pancakes, etc. any flour will work. Though for batters, I would still lean toward the lower protein flours, even bread flour would work.

Now, the difficulty for us Western bakers, is getting hold of soft wheat flours like White Lily. White Lily is just not sold in stores west of the Mississippi. You can get pastry flour, but it's definitely more expensive. I ended up mail ordering my flour. You can get it directly from White Lily, or through resellers like Amazon. There are some artisan flours available here in the West, but they are very expensive to use for anything but special cases.

For my own kitchen now, I keep both White Lily and King Arthur all purpose on hand, using each to its strengths, even possibly mixing them when I want something "in the middle".

Flour protein content:
http://www.theartisan.net/flour_test.htm

Flour types and their uses:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/packages/baking-guide/flour-101-guide-to-different-types-and-uses.html

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Glen Hein's profile photoMichael Sheldon's profile photo
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For the most part general purpose flours are good enough to do yeast breads. Only the very low gluten flours would not do well, and those are hard to come by in the SW. The only time I really made sure to use bread flour was with large, free-standing loaves.
The exception is for non-yeast breads. Those do best with low-gluten flours. King Arthur makes truly horrible soda bread. Like eating a brick.
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Michael Sheldon

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The traditional bean pot is a an example of a thing perfectly suited to its use.
http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0685/2511/products/ranchogordo-1-4_267f34f0-4bab-4bd3-99c9-0f8e812de266.jpg?v=1448147922

The lid is bowl-shaped, and holds additional water to pour into the beans if needed. And because it's on top of the pot, the water is already the perfect temperature, no cooling the beans and waiting for them to come back to cooking temperature.

Alas, having electric appliances, the narrow ceramic pots won't work very well for me. So I improvised. I have a set of glass kitchen bowls, and found one the right size to act as a lid, without dipping down deep enough to touch the beans.

Obviously, this would work fine for other things that may need occasional introduction of more liquid.
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Michael Sheldon

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So, how many of you have dogs that subscribe to the Hockey "delayed offside" rule?

That's where you tell your dog to get out of the kitchen (Offside!), they turn around, go outside the kitchen boundary (touch up), then come back in.

My youngest ones are positive that "out!" really means "offside!"
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Exactly this.
"Scooter! Out of the kitchen!"
He moves to the carpet just outside the kitchen, I go back to whatever I was doing and he's right behind me again...
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Michael Sheldon

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Fair warning, if you are vegetarian, or get the heebie-jeebies about fat, grease and anything that doesn't involve kale or other "super foods", etc, just avert your eyes and walk on by.

OK, are they gone?

I found this recipe in the "Original Cowboy Cookbook" 1989 by Wes Medley. He attributes it to the J Bar J ranch, Phillip SD, 1923.

This is not health food, though definitely a sight better for you than anything deep-fried at a fair.

Sow Dumplings
1lb Sausage
Bacon grease
2 Medium Onions, chopped (optional)
8" double pie crust recipe.

Heat oven to 400F. Divide the sausage into 12 balls. Heat about 2-3 Tbsp Bacon fat in a skillet on medium heat. When the pan is fully hot, brown the sausage balls in the bacon fat until evenly well-browned all over. Let cool on a rack or paper towels until cool enough to handle.
Roll out the pie dough and cut 12 squares. Dampen the edges of the squares, and wrap around a sausage ball, sealing the edges. Place seam-side down on a parchment lined sheet.
Bake the dumplings for about 10 minutes, enough to cook the dough.
Optional
Meanwhile, in your skillet, add the onions and cook until browned, add flour, stir in until a paste forms. Add water until you have a nice gravy, salt and pepper to taste. Pour the gravy over the dumplings and serve.

With the gravy, this makes a nice main dish. Without, they make an excellent appetizer.
You could use just about any kind of sausage. I made these from Green Chile brats made by The Pork Shop here in AZ. To die from for.
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Michael Sheldon's profile photoDarren Tyler (CA starman)'s profile photoJason Lynch's profile photo
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And now I'm hungry!
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Today's bean is the Scarlet Runner Bean
This is a relatively large bean, mottled purple and black. Larger than a kidney bean, but smaller than a dried lima.
Cooking time was about 4 hours, with the beans holding together well, with a firm but smooth texture inside. The skins had started to split, but do not show signs of separating.
The taste is nice, hearty.
The color is lighter after cooking, but they retained their mottled appearance.
The cooking liquid was thin, with nice color and good flavor.
Size after cooking is typical of frozen lima beans, not the baby limas.

I think this would be a good bean to use in cold salads, since it didn't get mushy. Should also make a very hearty bean chili. Great soup bean if you want large beans with an interesting appearance. I don't think I'd try making refried beans from them, I don't think they would get creamy enough.
6 new photos · Album by Michael Sheldon
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Eric Merchant's profile photoMichael Sheldon's profile photo
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Yeah, definitely a good stew bean
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Michael Sheldon

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Made buttermilk pancakes this afternoon, using Maseca (instant masa) instead of flour. Very light, quite tasty. This recipe is the bare essentials, you can always doctor it up, or try replacing the wheat flour with masa in a regular recipe.

1 cup instant masa
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2-3/4 cup milk

Start griddle or skillet heating to medium to mediem-low heat.
Mix dry ingredients.
Mix buttermilk into dry ingredients, then slowly add milk until it reaches a slightly thick batter.

Make pancakes :) If using a non-stick skillet or griddle, no oil needed. If using cast iron, a very light spray or wipe with an oiled paper towel should be all that is needed.

If the batter is thick, it will make thicker, lighter pancakes, but you will need to lower the heat a little to prevent burning.

BTW, this is the kind of thing you do when you have ten pounds of masa, because your spouse did the grocery shopping, and thought masa was the same thing as corn meal. 😎 (I already had a brand new bag of Maseca.)
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Nice to know I'm not the only one who made that error....
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Michael Sheldon

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Another day, another bean. Today is Bolita.

In appearance, they are definitely the least interesting. Mostly a solid mud-brown color, they cook up to a reddish-brown in about three to three and a half hours.

Cooked, they hold their shape well, firm, but with a very smooth texture. The flavor is mild and pleasant.

I made a batch of refried beans with these. They produced what I would call a very traditional texture and flavor, and very tasty. Heavier and thicker than the Mayacoba beans, but every bit as enjoyable.
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Today's bean is the Mayacoba

A pinto-sized pale yellow bean, it cooked in about 4 hours to a tan color with a very creamy texture. The taste is mild and pleasant. While they hold their shape, it takes very little effort to mash them once cooked.

So today, I made Frijoles Refritos (refried beans). From The Tex Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh:

You will need something to mash the beans with. A potato masher works, or anything with a large flat end. I happened to have a masher/tamper for making sauerkraut that worked perfectly.

3 cups cooked beans, drained (1/2 pound dried Mayacoba made 3 cups)
1/2 cup of liquid drained from the beans
1/4 cup lard
1/2 large onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste.

Over medium heat, melt the lard in a skillet. When the lard is hot, add the onions and cook until done. Add the beans, and gently mash them into the lard and onions, until you have reached the texture you like. I like all the beans to be at least broken, but not all to a fine paste, I like it a little bit chunky. Add the salt and mix in, then slowly add the bean liquid until you reach the consistency you like. Add and mix in the pepper.

No, you don't have to use lard. Bacon grease would be delicious too. If that gives you the heebie jeebies, well, you can use vegetable oil, but it really won't give the same texture, or taste as good.

Honestly, I've never had refried beans this good before. It took major effort to not just eat them from the serving bowl.
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Michael Sheldon

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Lime Cilantro Cold Bean Salad

2 cups cooked dried beans.
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Bell pepper, chopped
1-1/2 cup roasted corn kernels
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

I used the white tepary beans for this, but any bean should work. 1/2 pound dried beans will get you close to the correct amount, or if needs must, a 16-ounce can, drained.
1/3 cup lime juice is 3-5 limes depending on your limes.
The quality of your oil really matters here, use a high quality extra virgin olive oil.
Bell pepper can be red, green, orange, yellow, your call based on your preference.
Corn can be easily roasted by putting unpeeled corn on the cob into the oven at 350F for 30 min. Then shuck the corn and strip the kernels from the cob with a corn stripper or knife. (Be careful) Two ears of corn is good. You can substitute frozen corn of you need to.

Add lime juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and cayenne to a jar or sealed container, shake vigorously and set aside.
Mix the beans, corn, pepper, onion and cilantro in a bowl, then add the dressing and mix thoroughly to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours, preferably overnight.

Notes:
This results in a fairly mild salad. I may add a small amount of vinegar, or increase the lime next time.
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Michael Sheldon

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Today's bean of the day: White Tepary.

Dried, these look exactly like the Brown Tepary beans, except, well, they're white. And like the brown Tepary, they took longer to cook than one would expect, about 5-1/2 hours.

After cooking, they are still relatively small, but larger than the brown Teparies were. They are also quite firm, and readily hold their shape, with a thin but tasty broth. The taste is milder than the brown Tepary, but still quite hearty. And the while firm, seemed a little creamier in texture.

I would consider this a very good bean for soups, stews, and maybe white chilli. Also for bean salads. It would not be my first choice for charra/ranch beans or refried beans.

I put these into a cold bean salad with orange bell pepper, onion, cilantro and roasted corn, dressed with a lime and olive oil mixture. But, that will need to mix for a few hours at least, so I really won't know until tomorrow what it's like at its peak.
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Beans with onions and roasted corn.

Pictured below with Scarlet Runner beans, but more common with black beans. Works well with beans that stay firm after cooking. Would be truly excellent with Brown Tepary beans.

1/2 pound dry beans, cooked
4 ears corn, roasted, then stripped from the cobs
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 jalapenos, seeded, de-veined, minced very fine
1/2 tsp cumin
salt, pepper to taste

If the beans are not already in a cooking pot and hot. do so.
In a hot skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, swirl to coat the pan, then add the onion. Cook until the onion is golden brown, then add the garlic, jalapeno, cumin, salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the onion is well browned. Finally mix in the corn, then add the contents of the skillet to the beans. Stir well, then let cook on low heat for at least 30 minutes.
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What is this thing I hear of, specialization?
Introduction
I am the stereotypical jack of all trades:
- Software engineer/codemonkey, I write DNS software
- Actor/historical re-creationist, I perform at renaissance faires promoting greyhound adoption
- Leatherworker, I make sighthound collars and other miscellaneous things.
- Woodworker, I make all of the furniture, boxes, etc for Greyhounds of Fairhaven
- Businessman, I am part owner of Carpe Canem, a store selling Greyhound-related goods. And, I am an officer of Greyhounds of Fairhaven, a 501c(3) charity promoting adoption of retired racing Greyhounds.
- Fewterer, a keeper of Greyhounds
- Cook, I'm the camp cook for Greyhounds of Fairhaven
- Brewer, ale, mead and their wonderful love-child, braggot
- Tailor, I make all of my own costumes
- Musician, I play Irish flute and pennywhistles.

In the past, I have also been a military medic, police officer, IT manager and even fruit-picker.
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First, they are REALLY bad at estimating wait times.Told 30-35 minutes, we weren't seated for over an hour and a half. Bar drinks were very weak. There's only one ratio for a Negroni, 1 part gin, 1 part campari, 1 part sweet vermouth. And yet, could not taste the gin at all. My wife's Cosmo was the same. The beer selection was good, nothing exciting, but solid. The food was good, and the service, once seated was good. But the excessive wait and watered down drinks will keep me from ever going back.
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Chile Philly rocks. Best sandwich bread anywhere.
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