I'm back in my kitchen after a 2600 mile road trip to Texas. Anymore, I'd prefer to step on a plane and fly to my destination instead of sitting for 9 hour stretches in a car... especially when the destination is 1200 miles south of the Twin Cities. But we have a Bisous, and I am not ready to leave him behind just yet.
Our first stop was in Dallas where we stayed with a good friend , Lynn (from my days at the Kansas City Art Institute), and her husband, John. We think it has been 15+ years since we last saw each other... how can that be?? Our time together was brief, but filled with what I enjoy most -- food. I have to agree with Lynn that Dallas has the best grocery store anywhere -- HEB's Central Market. It's at least unlike anything in Minnesota. It was our first stop. The variety of oranges, apples and tomatoes is endless. The kind of place I could be left alone to explore for hours... just drop me off in the morning and pick me up at night.
JIMMY'S, a small Italian grocery, was another stop while in Dallas. Small, but packed full of the most wonderful Italian foods!
I had never seen 2-foot-long spaghetti before, or, I suppose, wild boar sausage. (I know... I need to go to Italy; a trip I'm hoping isn't too far off.)
I brought home a shopping bag full of different pastas.
I am still amazed that these foot long macaroni didn't break beneath piles of luggage.
My husband and I were joined in Dallas by our daughter and her boyfriend, who continued with us on our drive through Texas. A night was spent in Waco with relatives before our final destination of Austin. And, I've got to say, we all loved Austin! My husband had an office in Austin many years ago, but I never accompanied him there. In fact, for a while we thought we'd be making a move there for his work. I'm now thinking it might not have been a bad thing. It's a great city and food truck heaven.
One of the few actual restaurants we ate at while in Austin was Guero's Taco Bar on South Congress. It was warm enough in Austin to sit outdoors for meals and these fish tacos were possibly the best I've ever eaten. Yes, you heard me... the best.
Bisous far succeeded my expectations as a travel companion. He was so good!
Our second day in Austin, we stopped on Barton Springs Road where there was a large group of food trucks (area called The Picnic). When I saw my daughter ordering from an Italian food truck, I asked her why would she do that when there were taco trucks just steps away! My mistake... she offered me a taste, and it was the best pasta I have ever eaten... ever! I went to the truck's window and told Salvatore, the owner and chef, exactly how I felt. He said he makes all of the fresh pasta himself, daily. When we returned again the next day, just to eat more pasta, I realized I was not the only one heaping praise onto Salvatore. I heard others telling him it was the best pasta they had ever eaten. So, there you are... it's true. If you visit Austin, you must go to Cannone Cucina Italiana. You will thank me.
The road trip is over, and I am (slowly easing) back in my kitchen. For several mornings after our return, I had nothing to eat alongside my cappuccino, and I really need that. But, I finally got baking and made Nancy Silverton's chocolate-walnut scones. I never question a recipe if Nancy Silverton's name is on it. Years ago whenever my husband was in the Los Angeles area on business, he'd always make the drive to LaBrea Bakery, early in the morning, before his flight home. He'd return with a bag of Nancy's bread for me. I even flew out to L.A. once (back in the days of endless airline miles), for 24 hours, just to eat at Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel's restaurant Campanile. And many years later, I went back to L.A. to eat at Osteria Mozza where she creates small plates at her mozzarella bar in the center of the restaurant (and Pizzeria Mozza next door, the following day). I just find Nancy Silverton fascinating beyond her culinary accomplishments, and have recently streamed her on Amazon Prime, with Emeril Lagasse on Emeril's EAT THE WORLD and on Netflix's, Chef's Table (season 3).
Now, back to these scones. I think they are my favorite... ever. Tender, with a lovely, flaky crumb, and not very sweet. My plan is to always have a bag full of these scones, unbaked, in my freezer, ready to pop in my oven whenever I need one.
NOTE: The original recipe calls for a 1 1/2-inch round cutter for stamping out the disks, and grouping 3 together in a clover shape before baking. I chose to use a 2-inch cutter and baked individual scones.
• 1 1/4 cups walnuts, divided
• 7 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
• 2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
• Pinch of salt
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
• 1 cup (6 ounces) finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
• 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whipping cream, divided
• 1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Place oven rack on middle shelf of oven and preheat to 325˚F. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in oven until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Shake pan halfway through so nuts toast evenly. Remove from oven and cool completely. Increase oven temperature to 350˚F.
2. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine 1 cup of the nuts with 3 tablespoons sugar and process until the mixture is the consistency of fine meal. Add 3 more tablespoons sugar with the flour, baking powder and salt and pulse to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off until the mixture is the consistency of fine meal.
3. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the chocolate pieces. Make a large well in the center and pour in 1 cup whipping cream, the crème fraîche (or sour cream), and the vanilla. Whisk the liquids together. Using one hand, draw in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. The mixture will be crumbly.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently a few times, then gather it into a ball. Roll or pat the dough into a circle 1 1/2 inches thick. Spray the inside of a 2-inch round cutter with nonstick spray and cut out circles, cutting them as close together as possible and keeping the trimmings intact.
5. Gather the scraps, press them back together, and cut out additional circles. (If the dough gets too soft to cut, refrigerate it for 15 minutes.) Place the circles parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Freeze until firm, about 1 hour.
6. Brush the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons cream and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Using the large hole of a box grater, grate some of the remaining one-fourth cup nuts over the top of each scone. Bake for 30 to 34 minutes, until slightly firm to the touch and lightly browned.
+ If you do not want to bake all of the scones at this time, keep in freezer for later use.
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