I don’t fully remember how I stumbled upon Anna’s blog, but I do remember being instantly hooked. I read about her project to create a cookbook in 100 days, which she was documenting through a series she called “The Cookbook Diaries.” One of the first posts I read happened to be the one where she was requesting volunteers to test recipes for the book. I immediately emailed her. I knew right away in my gut that I wanted and needed to be a part of this project of hers. There were a few reasons why: First of all, and most importantly, I just wanted to be a part of this project. It was so inspiring to me, and I wanted to be involved in whatever way I could be. Secondly, as a new blogger I was looking for ways to connect with other bloggers. This seemed like the perfect opportunity, and Anna seemed like exactly the kind of person I wanted to be connected to. Thirdly, she mentioned that all recipe testers would receive a complimentary copy of the book. I will do a lot of things for a free cookbook. (Please don’t use that information against me.) Lastly, I assumed that by helping to recipe test someone else’s recipes, it would ultimately help me to become a better recipe writer myself, and I think it certainly has taught me a few lessons.
Anna’s book, The Yellow Table: A Celebration of Everyday Gatherings, is a true labor of love. She decided to create her own cookbook, a long-time dream of hers, rather than waiting around for the opportunity to land in her lap. She took matters into her own hands. Through her book, she wants to “inspire people to cook simple, healthy meals, and to spend time with friends and family around the table.” I believe she is accomplishing her goal ten-fold. This woman is making it happen.
As I tested her recipes and continued to follow her cookbook project through her blog and various social media platforms, I got an even better sense of how special Anna truly is. I think we would totally be friends in real life, and we’d probably throw a lot of dinner parties together. She would be the queen of the party for sure, and would probably spend most of her time helping me to avoid a meltdown. (This is the role that Robert usually plays.) I’m not always the best at planning large dinners, but her cookbook is inspiring me to learn and improve.
I almost can’t even tell you how excited I am for her book. Everything I’ve heard or seen about it – from the recipes, to the design, the wine pairings, the menu suggestions – it’s all so wonderful. I can’t wait. I want to do a whole dinner party from it when it comes out, complete with wine pairings. (Who wants to come over?!) Her enthusiasm for the project is infectious. Did you know she went on a cross-country dinner party tour? Not only did she dream up that idea as a way to create a buzz for the project and her Kickstarter campaign (which was fully funded a WEEK EARLY), but she also reached out to some companies for help and got Volkswagen to lend her a car, Whole Foods to sponsor the ingredients and wine for the dinner parties, and GoPro to give her a camera to document the trip. Wow. She’s got some mojo. Can you see why I’m so inspired?
I’m also excited for this book because it is just SO REAL. Anna wanted her book to “be full of simple, (mostly) healthy recipes that can be shared around the table with family and friends. Like, on a random Tuesday night.” She wanted it to be an every day book, with fresh, seasonal ingredients that are easy to find. Well, from what I’ve seen and tasted, that’s exactly what it is. And that’s my favorite kind of cookbook! It’s the kind you will turn to again and again, whether it’s for a dinner party with friends or a simple weeknight meal.
I tested 5 recipes for a vegetarian brunch menu, and they’re all winners. Her Maple Pecan Granola might be Robert’s new favorite. (Speaking of which, I should probably make him another batch.) The Mini Frittatas with Spinach, Goat Cheese and Slow-Roasted Tomatoes were so insanely good that I kept popping them into my mouth like candy. This is weird for me; usually that only happens with actual candy, like raisinets or swedish fish, …. or cookies. Her Citrus Salad with Arugula challenged me to try a kind of salad I’ve never made before, and now I look forward to making similar salads in the future. The Orange Zest Scones with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote, the recipe I’m sharing with you today, were some of the lightest, fluffiest scones I’ve ever had, and the compote took them to the next level. They were probably my favorite part, but then again I love me a nice baked good.
As part of our recipe testing process, Anna asked us to throw an actual dinner or brunch for friends using our assigned menu, and then to document it. Our brunch ended up being a really fun and lovely day. I have to give some shout outs to my girls Kelley and Abbey – I could not have done it without these two. Without their help, brunch would have been about four hours late instead of two. (I’m still working on my time management skills in the kitchen.) I also have to thank Robert for spearheading the setting of the table, prepping our living room for this brunch, and for taking these lovely photos. Despite the fact that brunch was a little later than planned, we had a great day setting everything up together, drinking iced coffee and some cocktails while we prepped the food, and then ate a delicious brunch while cracking ourselves up trying to act natural for the photos.
And isn’t that what this is all about? We created some memories while prepping and eating this meal together, which I think is exactly what Anna is going for. It doesn’t matter if the table is perfectly set or if you’re still prepping the salad an hour after you were supposed to sit down – what matters is the people you’re with and the time you spend together. We had so much fun! Anna has created a whole community around her cookbook, virtually inviting people into her home and her heart through this project. I’m so grateful to her for letting me be a small part of this.
If you’re interested in getting your hands on Anna’s book (which you should be), it is available exclusively on her site, where you can pre-order it now. It’s set to be released in November, just in time for your holiday shopping.
A note about these scones: If there’s one thing I learned from recipe testing, it’s that everyone’s kitchen is different. It seems that my oven acts a lot differently than the one Anna has. This recipe is based on my notes and how it worked for me. Keep in mind that cooking times, etc. will not necessarily work the same way for you, so just keep an eye on those scones in the oven.
- 2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries (about 1 lb)
- 2 cups sliced rhubarb (about 1.5 medium stalks)
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2.5 cups all purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
- 5 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- 1 tbsp freshly grated orange zest
- 6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, sliced into ½-inch slices, plus additional for serving
- 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
- 1 cup heavy cream, plus additional for brushing the scones
- turbinado (raw) sugar for sprinkling on the scones
- In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine the strawberries, rhubarb and sugar. Stir until the sugar melts and it comes to a simmer, about 3-5 minutes. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is mostly broken down, but with some chunks remaining. (This took me about 10 minutes.) Stir in the orange juice and pour into a heatproof bowl to let it cool.
- Store for up to a week (or two, if you have a magical refrigerator like me) in a sealed airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the butter and use a pastry blender to cut it into the flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk and heavy cream until combined. Add the cream mixture to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and sprinkle with additional flour. Knead the dough a couple times with floured hands. It will be sticky at first, but will become easier to handle. Try not to overwork the dough as it will result in denser scones.
- Shape the dough into a fat rectangle. Mine was roughly 6.5 x 5.5 inches and 1.5 inches tall. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter dipped in flour, stamp out as many rounds as you can from the rectangle. Roll the scraps together and repeat as necessary. (You could also form the dough into a circle and cut triangle wedges from it with a sharp knife.) I ended up with 11 scones.
- Place the scones on your parchment-lined baking sheets about one inch apart. Brush the tops with a bit of cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
- Bake until a pale golden color, about 15-20 minutes, rotating your pans every 5-7 minutes. Let cool on a cooling rack for about ten minutes. Serve with butter and strawberry rhubarb compote.