Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Robin Asbell's Big Vegan Blogger Potluck: Matcha Scones with Golden Raisins

I met Minneapolis chef, cooking teacher, and food writer Robin Asbell about a year ago at Rancho La Puerta when I was writing a blog for them about their cooking classes. I spent the day learning about her approach to food and cooking, which I wrote about for RLP and also published on San Diego Foodstuff.

Robin is a self-described "occasional pescatarian." She is basically vegetarian but periodically indulges in seafood. But for her new book, Big Vegan ( Chronicle Books, $29.95), she's delved into the Big Monty of natural foods: veganism.

You can have a chance to win your own copy of the book. See directions below.

Now, while I don't eat a lot of meat anymore I'm neither vegetarian nor vegan. I enjoy my animal products. But if I were to think about it, I certainly do prepare a lot of meals that would fall under the category of vegan, so it was no stretch for me to accept Robin's invitation to participate in a "blogger potluck" she's organized to introduce her book. For the next few days, participants listed below will be rolling out posts around recipes from Big Vegan for everyone -- even non-vegans like me -- to enjoy.

My pick was her Matcha Scones with Golden Raisins. I love matcha--the delicate  green powdered tea, usually whisked into hot water to make a frothy beverage in Japanese tea ceremonies. Matcha is easy enough to find at Asian markets.

Robin explains that, "I think I originally came up with the idea for a Tea and Food Pairing class, and I liked the color. I carry matcha with me when I travel just in case I can't get a cup of tea, and I sometimes put it in my smoothie. I'm really into tea, too."

The ingredients for the scones are pretty basic, but it was the first time I'd baked scones without using the traditional butter and cream that go into them. Instead, Robin uses Earth Balance margarine and coconut milk. And, I liked her suggestion for grating the margarine into the dry ingredients.

First, mix together the dry ingredients.

Then add the grated Earth Balance (it does come in sticks for easier measuring).

Rub it in with your fingers and then add coconut milk.

Finally, you'll add the plump golden raisins and mix it together with your hands before pulling out the dough onto a floured board and shaping it into a disk. The dough is a little sticky so be sure to have extra flour on hand for dusting.

Cut into wedges and then brush with more coconut milk before baking for all of 14 minutes.

Let cool and then enjoy with a cup of coffee or, of course, green tea! The scones are light and have subtle overtones of the matcha -- perfect with the bright punch of the raisins interspersed in each piece. And they certainly fit in with her philosophy about food -- and life:

“I’m an enlightened hedonist,” Robin said back when I first met her. “I want to have fun but I don’t want to suffer.”

Matcha Scones with Golden Raisins
From Big Vegan by Robin Asbell
(Printable Recipe)

For a treat, try these pale green scones, made with cake flour--the whitest flour of them all. It shows off the delicate color and flavor of the tea. You can go back to whole-wheat tomorrow!

2 1/2 cups/315 g cake/soft-wheat flour, plus extra for the counter*
1/4 cup/50 g sugar
1 tbsp matcha green tea powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup/55 g Earth Balance margarine, frozen
1 cup/240 ml coconut milk, plus extra for brushing
3/4 cup/130 g golden raisins/sultanas

1. Preheat the oven to 400℉/200℃/gas 6. Line a baking sheet/tray with parchment/baking paper. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, matcha, baking powder, and salt. With a pastry blender or grater, cut the margarine into the dry ingredients and work it in with your fingers. Pour the milk into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add the raisins and mix with your hands.

2. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and form it into a dish about 3/4 in/2 cm thick for eight scones (or make two rounds for sixteen smaller scones; slice each round into eight wedges). Place the scones on the baking sheet/tray, 2 in/5 cm apart, and brush with milk. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the bottoms are browned and the edges are golden brown (bake smaller scones for about 10 minutes). Let them cool on the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool on racks. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

* Note: Robin tells me she had included cake flour in the recipe but the publisher changed it to pastry flour. I made one batch with whole wheat pastry flour, which was all I could find at my local store, but the results yielded a heavy doughy scone. When I checked with Robin I learned about the change and made a second batch using cake flour--which is what is shown and written about above. What a difference. These scones were light and the flavor of the matcha came through. So, use cake flour or try white pastry flour. Let me know the results.

And, here's the rest of the potluck group with their Big Vegan recipe posts:

Robin Asbell: Maple Barley Granola
Leinana Two Moons: Baguette French Toast with "Cream Cheese" & Apple
Susan Russo: Mango-Jicama Salad with Lime Dressing and Pepitas
Bryanna Clark Grogan: Armenian Red Lentil Stew with Sesame Brown Rice
Nancie McDermott: Korean Miso-Tofu Soup
Jill Nussinow: Squash Quesadillas with Cranberry-Jícama Salsa
Sandra Gutierrez: Green and Red Spaghetti
Robin Robertson: Bengall Curry of Cauliflower and Kidney Beans
Julie Hasson: Spanish Chickpea Fritters
Pat Tanumhardja: New Potato Rendang with Green Beans
Leinana Two Moons: Sundried Tomato-Kale Calzones and Pumpkin Cherry Bundt Cake
Tara Desmond: Peanut Butter Tart with "Ganache"

Big Vegan Giveaway

Finally, I have a copy of Big Vegan to give away. Even if, like me, you're not a vegan, I think you'll find the recipes in this large book thoroughly intriguing and delicious. I've got a list of ones I've marked to try. So, I recommend you enter the giveaway.

Simply leave a comment below about the best vegan meal you've ever enjoyed. Comments must be posted by noon PDT, Monday, Oct. 24. The person I think wrote the most persuasive comment will win the book. I'll reveal the winner in my email newsletter on Tuesday, the 25th. You can sign up for it here or via the invitation on the right. So, enlighten us with your experience!

Need some extra encouragement? Watch Robin here tease her book and what you'll get out of it:

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