Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ode to the Barefoot Contessa!

I REALLY love the Food Network. Sometimes I wonder if a twelve-step program is necessary to deal with the addiction. Turns out the FN has been my gateway "drug" to craving more reality programming. Recently I’ve been exposed to HGTV (interest due to construction of the new digs – love Property Virgins) and now I’m hopelessly caught up in TLC’s Jon and Kate plus Eight – a guilty pleasure. Despite all the doom-and-gloom press, there’s hope that they work things out and stay married. I am always so sad for divorcing couples and just love those kids. They’re so damn cute. Let’s face it, life is not easy and this show highlights just how hard it can be for young couples (they’re in their early thirties) facing challenges in their marriages, no matter the stressors. In my retrospective mid-50s mind, I wonder if they can get through this and be fine. (In my own life, I wouldn’t have known it might have been fine, but then, it might not have.) I watch it more than sometimes. It’s whenever I can catch that show. I can stop anytime, though. (Can you spell r-e-h-a-b?) Note: I do have a real life and it’s busy.

When I'm in TV world, I worship the Food Network’s Ina Garten, a.k.a. The Barefoot Contessa. She’s one of the best cooks I’ve ever watched on television. Her joyful manner and calm demeanor add to her charm. I’ve been told I “look like that lady on the Food Network” and while I don’t think so, I can see where people might make a comparison. We both have dark hair, are about the same age, and neither of us are a size six. She sees her husband Jeffrey, a professor, on weekends. I see Russ, also a professor, every third weekend or so. We both have important relationships with wonderful gay men in our lives. That’s where the similarities end. She lives in the Hamptons. I could only dream of living in the Hamptons (though my cousin Billy does!). She used to work in the White House as some sort of engineering, mathematical wizard. The last white house I lived in was a raised ranch on Salem Drive in Saratoga Springs. I took algebra three times before I finally moved on to geometry.

My admiration for the Contessa is great and I use her recipes all the time. She has a terrific approach to creating and serving wonderful meals. There’s no pretension as the food, rather than the cook, takes center stage. She presents a personalized, welcoming table geared toward her guests’ interests. My favorite of her recipes is for raisin scones, which I’ve changed up a bit. Ina calls for heavy or whipping cream and I use buttermilk. She kneads and shapes hers differently than I do. Still, it’s basically the same thing and it gets rave reviews. Rather than claim my scones as an old Irish family recipe (I’ve inherited no old Irish family recipes), I always give Ina credit. If I'm asked, I refer to the Food Network website (, my source for many favorite dishes.

If you're one of those who turns down scones because you find them too dry, do what our friends across the pond do - serve them with jam and/or clotted cream (found in specialty stores like Putnam Market in Saratoga Springs). No clotted cream? Just beat up a very firm batch of sweetened heavy cream, almost to the butter stage.

Next time I bake these I’ll take photos and add them to this post, but for now, here’s the recipe. (Though I swore I’d never use it after high school, algebra ultimately came in handy when I started baking and had to figure quantities! – and wasn’t there something about pie squared?!)

Raisin Scones - makes 24! (double batch – use your algebra and reduce by half if you prefer)

4 cups flour
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
3 bars ice cold butter, finely diced or grated (watch those knuckles)
scant cup of buttermilk – about a tablespoon short of a cup, or heavy cream
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ - ¾ cup raisins, tossed in a little bit of flour
2 tbsp. brown sugar tossed with 1 tsp. cinnamon
egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water)

In large mixing bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter until it mixes in enough and is the size of small peas.
In separate bowl, whisk together four eggs. Add buttermilk and vanilla and pour all at once into flour mixture. Mix until all dry ingredients are incorporated.

On floured surface, separate batter into fourths. Flatten each fourth into a disk about six inches round and one inch thick. For each disk, press one fourth of the raisins into the surface and sprinkle with 1/4th of the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. Roll up jelly-roll style and then shape into a ball, seam side down. Flatten the ball into a new six-inch round circle with more height in the center and tapered a bit at the sides (1/2 inch at sides, inch in the center). Cut each circle into sixths and separate scones. Place ½ inch apart on parchment-lined cookie sheet and brush with egg wash. If you don’t have a pastry brush, just dab the egg on with a scrunched-up paper towel. Sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired.

Bake in preheated 400 degree F oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top. Cool for 10 minutes and remove to wire rack to cool completely, or not.

You will be adored for these.

Next blog: The Food Network’s Ellie Krieger. Her incredible and healthy recipes are the perfect antidote for all the butter in this recipe, and for my future tribute to Paula Deen!

(photo of Ina Garten from Google Images:


  1. I fell in love with scones at the Country Corner Cafe in Saratoga Springs. They are just such a simple, sweet indulgence. Paired with a steaming cup of strong black coffee and I am a happy, happy girl. I've never even considered 'making' them...just seemed out of reach. It appears I might have been wrong! (I'll let you know)

  2. You can do it, and you'll be making your own scones from now on! They freeze beautifully and can be frozen right after cutting into shape - flash freeze individually and then toss them all into a zip-lock bag. When ready to bake, just take out as many as you need, place on the pan, give a light egg wash and sprinkle with sugar, and in the oven for maybe a minute or two longer than if unfrozen.
    You can change them up, too - leave out the cinnamon sugar and add blueberries with lemon zest, or craisins with orange zest, or my son-in-law Bill's favorite: chocolate chips and walnuts! Go crazy!