Lawson: Give baked goods a dry run and add liquid later
It doesn’t matter the season, I love baking (maybe because I love baked goods?). In the winter, I crank up the oven to take the chill off, turn on some music or tune into a classic movie to keep me company while I create cakes and pies and breads. But when the weather is nice, I really want to be outside instead of in the kitchen covered in flour and walking barefoot over spilled sugar and salt. Bottom line: When it’s a warm and sunny day I’d rather be weeding than sifting.
But all of those cobblers, crisps, scones and biscuits that I adore cry out for fresh fruit so it’s a dilemma to want the fruit yet have no desire to spend a lot of time measuring and stirring to create the goodies that go with all those berries, peaches and plums. I mean I love a fresh baked scone studded with fresh fruit for breakfast no matter what the season. And because berries have such a short shelf life I have to spring into action once I bring them home from the market.
Then, with the help of Fine Cooking magazine, I discovered a way to still be semi-lazy in the kitchen and still enjoy baked goods still warm from the oven and filled with the fruit of the moment. A multipurpose baking mix is the answer and I’m not talking about Bisquick. Now on a cool, rainy day when the weather keeps me indoors, I can whip up a homemade baking mix in just a few minutes resulting in a big time savings later. When the strawberries come in the door, it’s shortcake for dessert that night without breaking a sweat.
This wonderful make-ahead baking mix that produces tender, flaky results can be used for all kinds of yummy things: Blueberry Scones, Shortcake Biscuits and Fruit Cobbler. All you need to do is add the liquid ingredients and mix. You can make up to 12 times this recipe, but store each batch in a separate bag in the fridge (for up to a week) or in the freezer (for up to six months). Frozen mix should sit at room temperature until the butter is pliable, about 5 minutes.
Of course this timesaver doesn’t help me look so great in swimwear but it sure makes me happy. Berry happy.
Multipurpose Baking Mix
13 1/2 ounces (3 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 ounces (12 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
In a large bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut or massage the butter into the flour with a fork, a pastry cutter, or your fingers until the mixture looks like cornmeal and the biggest pieces of butter are the size of large peas. (You can also do this in a food processor; just be sure not to overmix.) Proceed with Herbed Cheese Buttermilk Biscuits, Blueberry Scones, Shortcake Biscuits or Fruit Cobbler, or refrigerate or freeze the mixture until ready to use.
Per serving (per 1 ounce): 130 calories; 7 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 49 percent calories from fat); 15 g carbohydrates; 20 mg cholesterol; 180 mg sodium; 2 g protein; 1 g fiber.
1 recipe Multipurpose Baking Mix
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed, picked over, and patted dry
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups buttermilk; more for brushing
3 tablespoons sugar; more for sprinkling
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, combine the Baking Mix with the zest and the blueberries. Break the egg into the buttermilk and stir with a fork; add the sugar and stir briefly to combine. Make a shallow well in the dry mix and pour in the wet ingredients. With as few strokes as possible, stir until the mixture is just combined. It should be loose, but if it doesn’t hold together at all, add more buttermilk 1 tablespoon at a time.
Generously flour a counter and turn the dough out onto it; it will be shaggy and very soft. Scrape any bits in the bowl onto the mound of dough. Flour your hands. Shape the mixture into a very loose rectangle with the short side nearest you. Using a bench knife, a pastry scraper, or a spatula to help lift the ragged dough, fold the bottom third over the center third, and then the top third over the center, as if you’re folding a business letter. Pat down to shape another rectangle, turn it so the short side is nearest you, and repeat the folding. Divide the dough and shape each half into a round about 3/4 inch thick. With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour. With a sharp knife, cut the rounds into six wedges each. Brush the tops with buttermilk and sprinkle them with-sugar. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet (or one lined with parchment) until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
In place of the blueberries, try 1/2 cup dried fruit, like currants or apricots, chopped if large, or 1 cup of your favorite berries or nuts. You could also replace the lemon zest with orange.
Per serving: 260 calories; 13 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 45 percent calories from fat); 32 g carbohydrates; 50 mg cholesterol; 340 mg sodium; 5 g protein; 1 g fiber.