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My reading of late has been short and fitful, somewhat like my sleeping pattern, ever since my dear husband passed away. I’m still in 2 book clubs, though, and have wanted to keep up with the reading for those.

When I started reading The Divorce Papers: A Novel by Susan Rieger, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue. Initially, it brought back too many unpleasant memories of my divorce in 1979-80. But I kept reading and soon was engrossed in the unusual approach. It’s about Sophie Diehl, a young criminal attorney who gets roped into working on this very messy divorce taken on by her law firm. The entire book is written via letters, documents and email messages between the pertinent parties in this divorce (the couple divorcing, their daughter, both attorneys, her boss, and one of Sophie’s best friends). It’s a clever book. As I write this, I’m about 80% through, so I don’t even know how it ends, but I’ve enjoyed the read so far.

Recently finished Orphan Train: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline. It’s about a little known period of time (1854-1929) when orphaned children were loaded onto trains on the East Coast and sent to the Midwest to be adopted by families who needed or wanted children. Some were adopted by people who were unfit; some of the children were lucky and found good, loving homes. This is the story of one of the girls, Vivian Daly and her journey. Woven into the story is a much later period of Vivian’s life when many facts of  her earlier experiences are revealed. A very, very interesting book; there’s a love story in it too.

Since I’m a fan of Ann Patchett, it’s no surprise that I wanted to buy her most recent book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. It’s a book of short stories, but not fictional ones – it’s a compilation of essays and articles she’s written over the course of her writing life. My favorite is the one in which she describes in intimate detail how she goes about writing a book. About the process, her thinking, and the the hard, hard work it entails. I loved every one of the stories. She is quite self-deprecating about the book – it likely wasn’t her idea to put it together as she never thought any of her essays were worth much. She wrote them to make a living. Each of the chapters (essays) has been updated and/or addended to, so she did have to put some spit and polish on all of them before sending this group to the publisher. She’s written essays for a very esoteric group of publications; some I’d never heard of. But I enjoyed the book from beginning to end.

Also just finished reading The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd. What a story. Sometimes it’s a good thing to read the author’s notes before you read a book. I guess I’m glad I didn’t (in this case the notes were at the end of the book) because it was then, afterwards, that I read that one of the characters in this novel is fictional; the other two (sisters) were real. There’s a bit about the Quaker religion in this book too, which was different. This is a slavery story and about the beginnings of the abolitionist movement. Interwoven between the 2 sisters who make waves about anti-slavery is the poignant story of one particular slave and her hard, hard life. It’s heartbreaking in many respects, not just because of the violence and abuse heaped upon her. The book is almost a page-turner. Very glad I read it.

Also read The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice by Laurel Corona. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I enjoyed it a lot. It has a rather unusual story line, all envisioned by the author from reading a tiny line of elaborate script from a journal at what remains of a foundling hospital (run mostly like a convent by Catholic nuns) in Venice. It said something like Antonio Vivaldi purchased “a bow for Maddalena Rossa.” That started the author’s novel journey. Two sisters are raised at the Ospedale della Pieta. One becomes famous for her violin skills; the other for her voice. One is married “out” and the other stays cloistered her entire life. Then you throw Vivaldi himself into the mix, as he really was paid by the Ospedale for his compositions and for teaching some of the residents to play instruments. It’s an enlightening story about Vivaldi himself (a priest, with a lot of questions about his piety). It takes place in the early 1700s. Fascinating story and I want to listen again in total to Vivaldi’s very famous work, The Four Seasons, as a result of reading this. I’ve heard it many times before, but it will have new meaning now.

IN THE POWDER ROOM: Our guest half-bath has a little tiny table with a pile of books that I change every now and then. They’re books that might pique someone’s interest even if for a very short read. The Art of Travel, a collection of essays about traveling (it’s not a how-to), gathering a variety of stories of some historic authors and where and why they traveled; The Greatest Stories Never Told; and Sara Midda’s South of France; also Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages (just the cutest book – with a miscellany of things – letters, grocery lists, notes, reminders, confessions the author discovered hidden inside the books he purchased for his used bookstore); and The Trouble with Poetry (Billy Collins).

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small engraved sterling silver tea spoons that I use to taste as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Breads, on October 18th, 2008.

wednesday breakfast scones from Anne Hughes Cafe

I’m not sure I ever thought I’d find a scone recipe that I liked as much as my own Buttermilk Scones with Golden Raisins. I’ve made them for years, and have been so happy with the recipe, I’ve never wanted to change. Then we stayed in Portland, Oregon for a couple of nights, at the Rose Cottage B&B just outside the city. The owner, Sally, served us just the lightest, most flavorful scones. The proportions of things are very similar to my tried-and-true recipe, but these have more flour in them – mine are more like very rich, flaky round biscuits. Sally’s were light, perfectly crumbly, huge and served in wedges. And, incidentally, if you’re ever up Portland way, I highly recommend Sally’s Rose Cottage as an ideal close-by location. She’s not in downtown, but it’s easy driving distance. She’ll serve you a breakfast that is enough to feed a small infantry, but it’s worth every single delicious-laden calorie.

Sally was kind enough to share the recipe for the scones with me. She said it was printed in the Portland Oregonian newspaper in 2004, and she raved about the chef, Anne Hughes, who created them. I believe she said the café that Hughes used to own is no longer in business. But Sally was happy she had THIS recipe from her café. Sally follows the recipe to the letter with the following exceptions: she mixes it by hand with a pastry blender AND she freezes the butter – she cuts the butter up in small chunks and puts that in the freezer so they’re all ready to go when she decides to make a batch (as a B&B owner, obviously she makes the scones quite frequently), then uses the pastry blender to cut it up a bit more (from a frozen state). She said you definitely don’t want to mix it so much that you can’t see the butter flakes. If the chunks are a bit larger (like little flat pieces the size of your little finger) they’ll be perfect for the flakiest results. These have a hint of lemon peel in them, and you briefly knead the dough just to pull it together, roll it out, sprinkle some of the zest on top, fold it over, then slice the pastry into wedges before baking on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sally also adds fruit (like fresh Oregon blueberries) to the dough sometimes. I made my batch in the food processor (per the Oregonian recipe) and they seemed wonderful to me, but perhaps doing them by hand would produce even more flaky and flavorful scones. I also didn’t have frozen butter either, but I do like these enough that I might try those techniques next time I make them. I made them for my hubby’s Bible Study group the other day. They were gobbled up in short order.
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Wednesday Breakfast Scones

Recipe: Anne Hughes, of Anne Hughes Kitchen Table Cafe, Portland, OR
Servings: 8-10

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon sugar — to sprinkle on top
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter — cold, cut into small cubes
1 cup buttermilk
3 teaspoons lemon zest — from about 2 lemons
1 tablespoon heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 400. Set aside an ungreased baking sheet (lined with parchment).
2. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, add the flour, baking powder, soda, 1/3 cup sugar and salt. Process with 6-8 one second pulses.. Remove the cover and evenly distribute the butter over the dry ingredients. Cover and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a few slightly larger butter lumps (about 16-20 one second pulses).
3. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the buttermilk and half the lemon zest; use a wooden spoon to stir until mixture begins to form a dough, about 30 seconds.
4..Transfer the dough to a floured surface and divide into two equal balls. Use a rolling pin to lightly roll each half into a circle about 7 inches in diameter. Sprinkle the remaining lemon zest over both circles and use the rolling pin to lightly press the zest into the dough, then fold each circle in half (making a half circle), then cut each into 4 wedges.
5. Place the wedges on the prepared baking sheet.
6. If desired, glaze the scones by brushing tops with the heavy cream and sprinkling with the remaining one T. of sugar.
7. Bake until the scone tops are golden brown, about 18-23 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes to firm up. Serve warm if possible.
Per Serving (assuming you make 8 very large scones): 382 Calories; 19g Fat (43.8% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 48g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 50mg Cholesterol; 498mg Sodium.

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  1. Anne Hughes

    said on September 5th, 2011:

    Dear Caroline,

    I chanced on your post about my Wednesday Breakfast Scones and was delighted to see that you enjoyed them and passed it on to your followers.

    Your blog brought back fond memories of the guest house, the Wednesday Breakfasts and the Kitchen Table.

    I am now somewhat retired, though I do organizing work for various clients, and I even make up a batch of those scones once in a while.

    Thanks again for the mention.

    Best regards,

    Anne Hughes

    Thanks for the memories!

    How very sweet of you to send a comment. And yes, indeed, we enjoyed those scones very much. I don’t make scones very often anymore either – except when we have guests. Yours are really special, though! . . . carolyn t

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