Sunday, July 29, 2007

Good Advice

Yesterday afternoon, while my fiance and I were enjoying the rare sunshine warming downtown San Francisco and browsing the shelves of one of my favorite stores in the free world, the Williams Sonoma on Union Square, we stumbled onto a cooking demonstration by the executive chef of Hotel Rex's Cafe Andree, Evan Crandall. As we arrived, Mr. Crandall and his Sous Chef were just finishing a demonstration on making the restaurants signature crab cakes. (As a quick aside, the crab cakes were awesome. On the strength of these crab cakes alone I would recommend anyone in The City go and sample Evan Crandall's menu. I know I'll be there.)

Once the demonstration was completed, I had an opportunity to talk with Mr. Crandall briefly about the trials and tribulations of becoming a chef. I have been debating for some time now going to culinary school and learning to become a pastry chef. With some prodding from my always encouraging fiance, I figured who better to ask than a seasoned chef at a high end San Francisco restaurant. Despite my usual shyness and aversion to human contact, I found Evan extremely helpful and easy to talk to. He gave me some great advice on where to go to school and how to proceed after I've finished. He even went so far as to give me the names and phone numbers of some people who might be able to help me along in my journey to professional pastry chef. So Evan, thanks a bunch. I hope someday to have you eat at MY restaurant.

After the kind words of advice and encouragement from my new friend, I decided to get to work honing my skills at baking. Once at home, I found a simple recipe for blueberry scones, hit the store, and quickly got to baking. Turns out the recipe is great. The scones are sweet and crumbly, with just enough tartness from the blueberries. Not bad for my first go at breakfast pastry. Thank you to my friends at for the recipe. Here we go.

Blueberry Scones

Makes 8 scones

2 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
6 T. unsalted butter
1 c. fresh blueberries (or frozen blueberries, thawed completely)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 tsp. orange zest

Place oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 425 degrees F. Line cookie sheet with parchment or waxed paper. To prevent scone bottoms from over-browning, stack the prepared cookie sheet on top of another cookie sheet.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix in the butter with a pastry cutter or two knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Gently fold in blueberries. In a small bowl, combine the egg, vanilla, cream, and orange zest. Add to the flour mixture and stir just until the dough comes together. Do not over-stir.

Knead dough in the bowl four or five times, then transfer to a lightly floured surface or a large plate covered with waxed paper. Pat dough into a 7-inch circle and cut into 8 wedges. Place wedges on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake at 425 for about 20 minutes, or until scones are browned.

Option: Melt 2Tbs. unsalted butter and brush over the warm scones fresh out of the oven. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon & sugar. Serve Warm.

Storage: After cutting batter into wedges, wrap them in plastic wrap in layers and place in the refrigerator. Let the dough return to room temperature before putting in the oven.