Writing and Whole Wheat Cherry Cream Scones
Nothing paralyzes my writing muscle faster than reading, or rereading, a book about writing written by an accomplished, highly regarded writer. For months at a time I’ll go on believing that my writing is improving. Heck, sometimes, I can even lull myself into liking something I’ve written. Sometimes. Then I’ll pick up my worn copy of William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and the dream fades. If I’m feeling particularly masochistic afterwards, I’ll reread something I wrote a year ago. Ouch. And then the paralysis sets in. Fortunately it doesn’t last long, because I also believe, like Zinsser and most writers, that the only way to improve my craft is to write.
Ira Glass of PRI’s This American Life said it best:
What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste . . . But there’s a gap that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good. It has ambition to be good. But it’s not quite that good.
But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is a disappointment to you. You can tell that it’s still sort of crappy. A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. They knew it fell short . . . It didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have. Everybody goes through that. And if you are going through it right now, or if you are just starting off and you’re entering into that phase, you gotta know it’s totally normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you will finish one story.
It is only by going through a volume of work that you will catch up and close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions . . . And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anybody I’ve ever met . . . It takes awhile. It’s gonna take you awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through that.
I keep a copy of Glass’s quote in my journal, in my Big Black Notebook, next to my computer, and on my phone.
And I keep writing.
Whole Wheat Cherry Cream Scones
Adapted from Martha’s recipe for Currant Scones in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.
Let’s face it, good scones are hard to find. Pleasingly crisp on the outside with a soft crumb on the inside, these slightly sweet treats make the perfect mate for your morning coffee or afternoon tea. Yes, they’re loaded with butter and cream, which puts them in the special occasion category, but they’re worth an extra mile on the treadmill. Martha recommends freezing the scones before baking them. I’ve made them with and without the freezing step and can’t tell the difference.
4 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose if you prefer), plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
1 1/3 cups dried tart cherries
2 – 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup milk or cream, for finishing
2 tablespoons coarse sugar (turbinado or demerara)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat.
- Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the butter until coarse crumbs form. Make a well in the center. Pour two cups of cream into the flour and bring the dough together with your hands. Add more cream a tablespoon at a time if the mixture is too dry. You want a soft but not sticky dough.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and pat it into an 11×7-inch rectangle, about 1-inch thick. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into 16 equal-sized triangles and place them on the prepared baking sheets. Brush the tops with the 1/4 cup of milk or cream and generously sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned on tops and dark golden on the bottoms. Allow to cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack.