Baking with Tea: Brown Sugar Oatmeal Scones (V)

IMG_2042Before I get into the contents of the blog, I have to note the massive opportunities I overlooked in writing it. When I took these photos, my sole motivation was to highlight the flower shape of the scones without actual foliage, which I don’t currently have. It wasn’t until I texted the pictures to my family that I realized my puzzle pieces could be an homage to Autism Awareness Month–if only that had been intentional! Then, as I was finishing the post, I suddenly remembered that I had done a floral-themed shoot…on Earth Day. Well, regardless of whether it was my initial intention or not, I’d like to acknowledge both beautiful occasions! I’ll celebrate them despite the fact that I had no idea I’d be doing so before I started this–and, if you read the blog, you’ll see that perhaps that was more fitting than anything else…

I’ve been thinking, as I write at my kitchen table, about all the things surrounding this moment that I would have found unbelievable days, months, or years ago. Every single sentence I pull from the description of today has factors that attest to just how much change has occurred in my life! Let me demonstrate with this simple statement:

On this cold Tuesday afternoon in Pittsburgh, I’m writing a blog post for a recipe series about baking with tea.

First of all, the fact that I’m in Pittsburgh is something that I couldn’t have predicted for most of my life; I’ve never had any direct or indirect ties to the city. Second of all, I would have once blatantly refuted the idea that I might have a baking blog by now. Multiple people had tried to convince me to start one a while back, and I was convinced it was beyond my abilities. Thirdly, the fact that the recipe of choice was centered around tea would have been laughable for a long time because I passionately hated all varieties of tea until around 2017!  There’s also no reason that, before March, I would have anticipated being home writing on a Tuesday afternoon instead of at work–that’s something many of you can understand.  Finally, on a more recent note, I would have been shocked and disappointed two weeks ago as I strolled around the neighborhood in short sleeves, to know that today wouldn’t even reach 50°.IMG_2121

The reason I share this “exercise” of sorts is that it’s a reminder of the fact that, no matter how intently we study the past and present, we can never produce a guaranteed illustration of the future. In fact, our speculations are often wayyyy off. It brings me back to a few weekends ago, when I watched Blade Runner for the first time (great movie with a great sequel, by the way). My roommate and I chuckled at how comical the 1982 filmmaker’s depiction of what 2019 was in comparison to the true reality of that year. The boxy vehicles, eccentric fashion, and impossibly accurate photograph enhancement software from the movie certainly did not resemble the 12 months we’d just lived in ANY way. What’s more, just recall the sheer quantity of apocalypse day predictions that have come and long since passed, or the rapidly changing estimations regarding the current pandemic. Even the ideas I had about how I’d allocate my time today have shifted since I woke up this morning. When it comes to foreseeing the time ahead of us, we humans are simply unreliable.IMG_2070

While this inability is discouraging to a degree–I often wish that I could experience the security of knowing with certainty what awaits me in my life–it’s equally, if not more, comforting. When I look at the sentence I analyzed earlier about my day, I noted that essentially every part of it was something I would’ve never anticipated in the past. And yet, nearly every part of it was also positive in some way: I love Pittsburgh and have called it my home for four years now; I have a blog that keeps me inspired and allows me to share my passion for baking with others; my former aversion to tea has, thankfully, reversed course entirely; and despite the difficulties of quarantine, I’ve found countless rewarding elements of the extra time at home (Sorry, I can’t think of a reason to celebrate the freezing temperatures). What I mean to emphasize is that, if I’d had the option of dictating the future based on my own safe predictions, I would have never experienced the delights of those surprises.

In a time when phrases like “latest death toll projection” and “flattening the curve” and “re-opening phases” are bombarding our individual thoughts and global dialogue (and especially when many of the outlooks tied to them present grim depictions), it’s easy to fall into a despondent, fatalistic attitude. Without crossing the line into denial–certainly, many of these prophecies hold scientific weight–it’s incredibly relieving to acknowledge the unpredictability of life, to remember that no blue print contrived by humans is set in stone. Life will produce its unique combination of expected and unexpected scenarios, despite how vehemently we try to anticipate them.

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What’s more, I believe that we were created by a God who can and will orchestrate goodness through this crisis, even if every single negative prediction surrounding this chaos plays out. Our grasp of normalcy changes by the hour–just imagine what the Maker of flowers and animals and human brains and galaxies can do with today. With tomorrow. With this tragedy. We can appreciate every form of relief available during this time; knowing that we don’t have to (we literally can’t) foresee the days ahead AND that one day we’ll realize something good came from this, something beyond anything we could ever imagine in this moment–what a relief that is.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

James 4: 14-15

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Brown Sugar Oatmeal Scones (V)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/3 cup vegan butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vinegar
  • 1 flax egg (1 TBSP ground flax mixed with 3 TBSP water, left to thicken in fridge for at least five minutes)
  • contents of 3-4 tea bags, depending on strength of tea (flavor of your choice: my favorites are Earl Grey and Jasmine)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
  • Optional: extra brown sugar or turbinado sugar for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the almond milk and oats in a microwave safe measuring cup or bowl. Microwave for one minute, place in a large bowl, and then set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and contents of tea bags.
  4. Mix the vinegar and light brown sugar into the bowl with the oatmeal. Then, mix in the butter (it should incorporate pretty easily as the oatmeal will still be a bit warm).
  5. Mix in the flag egg.
  6. Begin adding the flour mixture to the wet ingredient mixture, mixing until it’s completely incorporated.
  7. Transfer dough to a floured surface, and press into a disc or rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick (either wetting your hands or flouring them will help in handling the dough). Cut desired shapes of scones, flouring your knife/cookie cutter/jar to avoid sticking.
  8. Place the scones on the prepared baking sheet and top with brown/turbinado sugar if desired.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven until just browned on the bottoms, about 15-16 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool, and enjoy!

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