Here’s the thing I’ve learned about being a barista: in order to have everyone’s morning coffee ready, you have to be awake before they are. Try as you might to imagine it, but while you are (hopefully) sound asleep at 3:30am, there are mornings when my alarm is going off to get dressed and head to work. And don’t think that this is the kind of situation where I need a while to get ready…truth be told, if I am waking up at that time, I don’t care what you think I look like. This means, therefore, that 3:30am is the absolute latest time I can sleep in order to brush my teeth, put on appropriate work clothes that are neither inside out or backwards (most days), and make it on time to my coffee shop at 4am.
Yes, you read that right. Yes, I am aware that this is appallingly early. Yes, I know it seems like we shouldn’t have to be there. Here’s the thing, though: there are some of you who are actually waiting at those doors when I open them. What are you doing, anyway? Are you baristas, too?
Now, don’t get yourselves in a tizzy over this, because there are welcome sides to it, too. See, I spent over 20 years of my life not encountering this time of night. Sure, I had pulled all-nighters in college. There were even times when I was still out and about celebrating! But those were always times when it was happenstance that the early morning and I encountered one another. There is something much different about starting your day when the rest of the world is asleep. And some days, I kind of like it. Key words: kind of.
Last week, for example, I found myself charmed at 4am with the night. Walking into the building, I noticed that, though the dark air was still humid from the last few lovely weeks of summer’s end, there was the slightest, chillest suggestion of fall. And here I am, seven days later, cozied up in a sweater, with my central air turned OFF, enjoying what seems to be a new season.
Let’s celebrate this shift with a recipe that is the essence of October. Ripe with oozing, roasted apples and fragrant, sharp cheddar cheese. Baked until golden and crisp. Glittering with the tiniest dusting of sugar, reflecting light as our days get darker earlier. Sure, it will only get colder from here, but thank goodness we’re here now, when apples are at their prime and warm, toasty scones are a welcome respite from the changing seasons outside.
One Year: Creamy Tomato Soup.
White Cheddar and Roasted Apple Scones
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (in words, not in ingredients)
Makes 6 generous scones
2 firm tart apples (I recommend Granny Smith), peeled and cored
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons for sprinkling
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt plus additional for egg wash
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes plus additional for baking sheet if not lining it with parchment
1/2 cup sharp white cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
Position a rack at the center of oven and preheat oven to 375 °F. Cut the apples into one-sixteenths sized chunks. Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake them until they take on a little color and feel dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. They will be about half-baked. Let them cool completely (you can speed this up in the fridge). Leave oven on. Sift or whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Set aside. Place butter in a large bowl, along with cooled apple chunks, cheese, cream and one egg. Sprinkle flour mixture in thirds and, with your fingertips, cut and rub the butter into the flour. This might seem awkward with the apple chunks in there, but they’re going to ooze and break apart as the scones bake, anyway. Do this until it comes together into a shaggy dough. Do not over mix. Generously flour your counter top and place the scone dough on top of it. Sprinkle with flour. Gently knead the dough into a 1 1/4-inch thick, 6-inch circle. Cut circle into 6 wedges. Transfer them to a buttered baking sheet. Leave at least 2 inches between each scone. Beat remaining egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with egg wash and sprinkle them with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. With a spatula, lift them to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Before you eat one, make sure you realize how addictive they might be. Once you’ve got that down, go for it anyway. Scones are best the day they are baked.