Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Guests and Gifts

Because of serious back pain, it's hard for me to get out and visit people in their homes. I can do it, but it's something I have to plan out carefully to minimize walking and ensure rest stops as well as mentally prepare myself for the pain and the stress that comes along with the experience. People who can just walk out their front door and go anywhere they choose have no idea how liberated they are compared to the likes of me nor can they understand how I envy what they can take for granted.

Since it is so difficult for me to get around, I invite my friends to come to me and I really appreciate it when they make the effort. I know that it is time consuming and tiring to go to someone's house relative to having them come to you. Of course, there is preparation for guests coming to my place as well like cleaning and at least some food preparation, but I'm more than happy to do that as it's something I don't mind and I can operate in controlled circumstances which allow me to manage my pain.

Getting back to my kind guests though, because I appreciate their coming to me, I like to try and prepare a little something for them to take home with them when I have the time and energy to do it. Last time I had guests, I sent them home with some homemade brownies. Darryl (my former boss) came by yesterday and I decided to go for something a bit less sweet for him. He's not so into the overwhelmingly sugary stuff, I believe, though he is a fan of my peanut butter cookies. ;-)

I decided to revisit my sweet potato scones recipe after a very long absence so I could send Darryl off with a few of them (and toss some in the freezer for future breakfasts for me!). These are definitely the kind of thing that I can't make often because they are labor-intensive and require both boiling and baking. The hardest part of making them is forcing the cooked potatoes through a mesh sieve to make the mashed potato fluffy and airy. It's very difficult and messy, but I tried to make scones from sweet potatoes by just mashing them the quick way using a mixer and it produced scones with a less than desirable texture.

Sweet potato put through the mesh strainer looks like small bits of saffron rice but is very light.

I had two large potatoes which I steamed and peeled and forced through the mesh. My hand really hurt afterward, but it was actually enough potato for 3 batches worth of scones so I tossed the rest in the freezer for future goodness without the hand cramps. One lesson I did learn though was that it's a lot easier to mush up warm cooked sweet potatoes than cold ones.

I decided to modify the recipe I linked to because Darryl doesn't do artificial sweeteners. I upped the brown sugar to a half cup and I also decided to apply an egg wash this time so that the top wouldn't rise and would be shinier. The results were excellent with a crispy outside and a tender interior when they were fresh. Tiny bits of sweet potato are interspersed throughout the scones adding moisture and a good distribution of sweet potato flavor.

Unfortunately, the crispy top disappeared overnight as is often the case with baked goods, but the crispness may be revived by wrapping the scones in foil and giving them a little run in the toaster oven.

Darryl one-upped me (unintentionally and in the spirit of pure generosity) on the baking front though by bringing along 6 delicious and moist banana blueberry muffins. The CH was especially taken by them and I hope that Darryl will share the recipe with everyone on his cooking blog (drop by and leave him a message to encourage him to post it... this is my way of forcing his hand and getting him to blog as I already have the recipe in my in box). I was compelled to order some whole wheat flour from Tengu Natural Foods so that I could attempt to reproduce his fantastic muffins.

The visit was just like old times for us. Even though I quit 3 years ago, it's just comfortable with the three of us sitting around gossiping about things back at work and catching up. I only miss my former job when I think about how much I enjoyed working with Darryl as he's a jewel of a person and an ideal boss for the gaijin in Japan. I'm hoping we can manage to synchronize our schedules and get together more often in the future.


Wombat said...

I guess that explains the preparations you were busy with Sunday; scones would be a day-long project here, so I see why you needed the time :)

I've been considering doing something with sweet potatoes this fall, but haven't decided upon it yet. This could be an interesting thing to attempt to get a feel for the creature before trying anything more ambitious...

Anonymous said...

Wow, they look fabulous!!! I love, love scones! I was thinking with the abundance of Kabocha (it taste more sweet to me) Kabocha Scones... the muffins look delish. Any guest would love to have a visit with you... I mean.. gesh scones alone..and for the good company of course!