Isn't funny how certain people can profoundly impact your life, or your direction, and they may never even know it? Lora was such a person for me. I haven't spoken with her in years, but I pulled one of her cookbooks off my shelf this weekend and immediately felt flooded with a sense of gratitude.
After my stressful bakery experience five years ago, I knew I wanted to continue cooking professionally, but not in a high-pressure production kitchen. My good friend and culinary guru Jess had been working with a well-established cookbook author in Maine and spoke often about how much she'd learned. I sought a similar experience, and through a combination of good timing and good luck I managed to connect with Lora Brody, a prolific cookbook author who lived 15 minutes away from my home in the Boston suburbs.
For several months, we tested recipes side by side in her kitchen. She was a fount of creative energy -- bubbly, upbeat, and open in sharing the lessons of her career. When I suffered a medical setback during our time together, she provided gentle comfort. I remain grateful to this day for the sensitivity she offered me during that time.
Four months after I began testing recipes for The New England Table, my husband got a job offer in California. It was one of those life-changing opportunities that would untether me from my familiar anchors. I knew we'd have to move west; it would have been stupid not to. But having to leave my friends and extended family, and to separate my young kids from the only place they'd ever known, wasn't easy.
When I told Lora I was moving and would have to stop working for her, she understood completely. She also gave me the name of a colleague in California, a woman with whom I eventually worked for more than two years. Through that simple act of generosity, Lora continued to propel my career forward. I'm not sure I ever told her how much I appreciated it.
Thank you, Lora.
Recipe for Cherry Cream Scones
This recipe is an adaptation of the Classic Scones in Lora Brody's baking primer, Basic Baking, with the addition of a little white whole wheat flour and some fresh cherries. I'm providing a double recipe here because the baked scones freeze so beautifully. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and store them in freezer-safe ziplocs. Pull them out 15 minutes before you want to eat them and let them defrost on the counter. One more thing: if your baking sheets are exceptionally thin, plan to double them up. You don't want the bottoms of your scones to burn.
Makes 22 scones
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2-2/3 cup chilled heavy cream, plus 2 tablespoons for glaze
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted, cut into smallish pieces (I used kitchen scissors)
1/4 cup coarse sugar, such as demerara
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line 3 baking sheets with silpats or parchment. (Or bake them in stages if you only have 1-2 baking sheets.)
Sift together both flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt a large bowl. Slowly add the cream, stirring gently with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.
Flour a work surface and scrape out half of the dough. Begin to knead, incorporating half of the cherries little by little as you do. Knead a total of about 10 times, adding more flour if it feels too wet. (It will feel a little mushy -- don't be alarmed -- just dust with flour. The cherries will definitely give off juice as you work so try to be quick.)
Pat the dough into a rough circle about 3/4-inch thick. Use a bench scraper or knife to cut the circle in half. Then form about 5-6 wedges from each half circle. Place on prepared baking sheet.
Brush the top of each scone with a little cream, then top with a sprinkling of course sugar.
Repeat with the remaining dough.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, reversing the position of the baking sheets halfway through baking. The scones will be golden brown on the tops and bottoms, and dry-ish looking, when done. Serve warm.