Some combination of excitement, nervousness and sheer, unadulterated fear, no doubt.
I felt that same frenzied conglomeration of emotion welling up in my throat yesterday afternoon, as I carefully fastened the last button on my newly acquired chef’s jacket, my fingers trembling with trepidation.
I didn’t know what to expect when my eyes met in the mirror – to be honest, I thought I’d look like a phony playing dress-up.
Except as I stepped back and took a full stare at myself, from the crisp white jacket to my carefully tied-back mop of hair, I felt something a little different. I felt like me.
In two weeks, I start my chef training certificate, a two-year program I’ll take on evenings and weekends between work. It’s expensive, time-consuming and in a terribly inconvenient location, but I don’t care. Because at the end of it, I get to be a chef.
It’s been two years since the idea first popped into my head – in fact, just as I’d filled out my application to Prince Edward Island’s Culinary Institute of Canada, I was offered my job here in Toronto. Needless to say, my application was tossed in the garbage bin as I packed for the move.
I thought that working for a food magazine would settle my desire to go to chef school, but if anything, it made it stronger. My passion for food developed into full-on obsession, and I’ve been rolling up my sleeves to develop recipes in my own kitchen ever since.
I wish I could say that I have some sort of plan – that after graduating, I want to work for a bakeshop and bake cupcakes all day, but there’s no such thing. Maybe I will decide that cooking is what I’m meant to do, maybe I’ll hate it. Maybe I’ll just be a better home cook, or maybe I’ll turn out to be a real culinary genius. Either way, I owe it to myself to give this a shot, to open myself up to failure and accept that I have a whole lot left to learn.
This recipe is the result of some over-zealous grocery shopping – I spotted a sale on fresh Ontario peaches and stocked up, not realizing that my boyfriend hates the stone-fruit, leaving me to devour all four pounds of peaches before they start to get mushy. So, armed with a basket of the yellow fruit and a pantry full of baking goodies, I set out to make the best peach scone I’ve ever had. With speckles of vanilla bean, flaky pastry and chunks of juicy peaches, these scones are just that. And with whole-wheat flour, a sprinkling of flaxseeds and very little sugar, they’re a perfect healthy start to my day.
Vanilla Peach Scones
Makes 6 scones.
The trick to baking with peaches is to blanche them first – this allows you to peel away the skin, revealing supple, juicy flesh ready to stir into your favorite pancakes, muffins or scones!
1 large peach (or 2 small peaches)
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp ground flaxseeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled
3/4 cup half-n-half
1 tsp almond extract
1 vanilla bean pod (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Slivered almonds, for garnish
1. Bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice and arrange near stovetop.
2. Turn peach upside-down and cut a shallow ‘x’ mark into bottom of skin; do not puncture flesh. Add peach to pot and boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Carefully remove from pot and immediately transfer to ice water. When cool enough to handle, peel peach by lifting skin by the ‘x’ mark. Dice peach and set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, flaxseeds and salt. With the large holes of a box grater, grate butter into flour mixture, occasionally tossing flour over shards of butter. With your fingers, work butter into flour mixture by rubbing together until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add peach and toss gently to coat.
4. Split vanilla bean and run the tip of your knife through center to extract beans. In a small bowl, whisk half-n-half, almond extract and vanilla beans. Form a well in center of flour mixture and add half-n-half mixture to well. With a rubber spatula, gently mix until just combined.
5. Lightly dust a cutting board with flour. Turn dough out onto flour and gently form into a ball. (TIP: Do not knead or overmix; the key to flaky scones is to work the dough as little as possible). Flatten ball into a 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick circle. Cut into six equal pieces.
6. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush each with egg. Top with almonds and bake in center of oven for 16 to 18 minutes, until golden. Let cool on sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack.