Friday, September 26, 2014

Coffee and Scones in Canada to the Sierras

Autumn Scones 
from Montreal to LakeTahoe

By Cal Orey

It’s the first week of fall and change is in the morning air around the South Shore at Lake Tahoe. Recently, I returned from a trip to Canada.  Ten degree mornings and pumpkins lined up in front of shops on cobbled streets greeted me as I walked up and down the streets in Quebec City.  I admit a horse and carriage took me for the longer walk.  It was all a sign that autumn--my favorite season at Lake Tahoe--was waiting for me as well as cooking and baking fall foods, especially breakfast fare. 
A carafe of coffee each a.m. via room service to afternoon
lattes boosted my mood and energy and zapped jet lag

On the way home I didn’t have time to savor a Mediterranean breakfast in bed due to an early morning flight.  After an easy go of it through U.S. Customs in MontrĂ©al–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Canada (unlike the 1:00 A.M. sobering interrogation via Immigration coming into Quebec) I made a stop at a coffee shop for a continental breakfast—popular in Europe--which often includes coffee and a croissant.

Going home to Calif.  U.S. Customs was quick

This time around, when coming into the province brimming over with French Canadians at 1:00 A.M. EST, I was stereotyped as a West Coast hungry hippie chick. Clad in skinny jeans with holes (thanks to Victoria's Secret), a vintage gray tee-shirt, combat boots, and minimal make-up, I suppose I looked like a NorCal independent Tom boy as I did back when I was 21 in Quebec... 
Welcomed by a feminine looking redheaded young, cold Canadian Customs Officer with a  strong masculine edge, she darted and repeated her first words, "Do you have any marijuana?"  I did not. No smiles for her nor me. Sleep deprived I submitted to the grueling grilling which took over an hour with absurd questions, including "Are you here for our healthcare?" to "Do you have any friends or family here?"  The last punch hit hard. I noted I am an author whom writes about food with an underlying European theme. The woman mumbled, "There isn't Mediterranean cuisine here!"  But even the hotel I was booked at flaunted in their online description "Highlighting French and Mediterranean flavors, Restaurant Samuel de Champlain offers savory Continental Cuisine."  
I was craving my reserved city view room not a
Canadian Customs interrogation
During the ordeal, I sat down cross-legged on the floor, too tired to toss sarcastic rebuttals. The bullying interrogator scrutinized my itineraries and seemed dumbfounded that my booked train ride to Quebec City didn't include the time--just the day--of returning. Then, she called the hotel --the one with my reserved city view room with decor and food of France and Italy that the gracious French Canadian manager was holding for me. I yearned to plop onto the bed, look out the window and fall asleep after being up since 1:30 A.M. PST... Eventually, the immigration agent settled down. Ironically the probing was no different decades ago for me except it was male agents doing the poking. I had my loyal Lhaso apso with me. I was penniless with no I.D., passport, hotel room or itineraries. Older and wiser, this time I had my papers (and dogs kenneled) in a row but was still barked at... Wondering if they will smile (a bit) if I pack my bags, bring my two dogs, one cat, fish and come back: The Goal: Apply for Canadian citizenship? 
At the airport en route back to my Golden State, I ordered a coffee latte (I enjoyed a lot of these during my adventure) and a large and lovely looking cinnamon scone—a cake-like semi-sweet quick bread (glazed or plain served with butter). The caffeine fix could do no wrong but the pastry was not my cup of tea.  It was sweet enough and big enough but the texture was too hard. It was in one of those big glass jars. The cafe owner told me it was fresh and yummy. I, the California fussy scone girl, thought, “Ah, but she hasn’t tasted my sweet scones.”  I vowed to whip up a fresh batch of homemade pumpkin scones when I returned home to my cozy cabin.
My warm Calif. scones would make Canadians smile


2 3/4 cups 100 percent all-purpose flour
1⁄4 cup white or organic brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1⁄2 teaspoons cinnamon (extra for sprinkling on frosting)
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
1⁄4 cup European style butter (cold cubes)
1 brown egg
1⁄3 cup raw honey
1⁄2 cup 2 percent half and half milk (extra for brushing on top of pre-baked scones)
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Raw sugar (for topping on scones)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and spice. Add chunks of butter, sliced in small squares. In another bowl, combine egg, milk, pumpkin, honey, and vanilla. Combine wet ingredients with dry. Stir until a dough-like mixture forms.  On a floured cutting board, form dough into two circles. Brush with milk and raw sugar. Place in freezer for about 15 minutes to firm.  Take out and cut circles (like a pie) into 8 large triangles or 12 smaller ones. Place onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes till firm and golden brown on edges and bottoms of scones.

Frosting: Mix approximately 1 cup confectioners' sugar, 1 teaspoon melted butter, 3 to 4 tablespoons  milk, 1 capful vanilla extract, and 1 capful almond or maple extract. Swirl a spoonful of glaze-like frosting on scones when warm. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Serves 8-12 scones.

On Wednesday morning my kitchen smelled like a bakery after I baked my first batch of scones for the season. The scent of pumpkin and warm spices filled the air. My first bite of the scone was crisp on the edges and chewy. The raw sugar gives these edible treasures a crunch. The nut flavored glaze is full of deliciousness. Pair with hot coffee latte and you’ll soar into breakfast heaven. The warm scones welcomed me to a new season with promise of colorful hues, fun activities, and cooler climate around the lake. It’s good to be home. Coffee and scone, anyone?

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