On being creative + a winter scone recipe

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“There is no such thing as creative and non-creative people. Only people who exercise their creativity and those that don’t.” – Brené Brown

I listened to a podcast interview with sociologist, book author and TEDtalk celebrity Brené Brown while I was on the way to Tanzania (more on that in the coming weeks!), and it really struck a chord with me. Brown’s research focuses mostly on issues that hit very close to home: overcoming perfectionism and shame, and instead, letting ourselves take risks and be vulnerable – in our work and our life. For Brown, a very important signifier of someone who is living what she calls, a “wholehearted life”, is engaging in creativity – whether full time, or in one’s spare time. When we choose, not only to do creative work, but also to put it out there in the world, we are forced to let ourselves be truly vulnerable, and according to Brown’s research, it is those people who allow themselves to be vulnerable, who accomplish great things and live truly full lives.

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It’s funny how much resonance this had for me, as I was sitting on my first of two 8 hour flights. For almost my entire life I’ve convinced myself I’m not a “creative person.” I was just OK in art class. I went to theatre camps but I never considered myself an actress. I was a huge music fan, but I labeled my guitar and piano playing mediocre. There’s a lot of judgment we pile on ourselves when it comes to creativity, because it’s not enough to enjoy it, it also has to be good, or often the best. I used to call myself, “a full time appreciator” of art/creativity, not a practitioner, because unless I was amazing, I should probably just stop trying.

Starting a blog like this, I realized, is me taking another stab at adding creativity into my life, and at trying to live with a little more vulnerability. I’m constantly trying to convince myself that it’s dumb, that I’m not a “blogger” (just like I wasn’t an actress/artist/musician). It’s a huge struggle. But it’s also extremely fulfilling to have a creative outlet, and there is a part of me that is feeling like after years of being strangled, I’m starting to be able to take some small breaths.

In other words, I’m looking forward to letting myself be a bit more vulnerable here.

And with that, I wanted to share a baked good recipe, because baking is one of my other favourite ways to feel creative. This is my go-to scone recipe, which I learned from Cook’s Illustrated (one of the best baking resources out there). The regular recipe is for blueberry scones, but I adapted these for winter with an orange-cranberry variation. We had them for a Valentines weekend breakfast, and I like to think they contained a hell of a lot of L-O-V-E. Enjoy 🙂

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Orange-Cranberry Scones
barely adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine
Makes 8 scones

Note: I know the process seems labour intensive for scones, but it results in these amazing layers of flakey dough you’d never have otherwise, so how can you complain? This video is helpful in understanding how to fold the dough.

16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), frozen whole (You’ll only end up using 10 tablespoons, see step 1)
1 ½ cups dried cranberries
½ cup whole milk
½ cup sour cream
2 cups all-purpose flour (10 ounces), plus additional for work surface
½ cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1 tablespoon raw (turbinado) sugar (for sprinkling) or use regular sugar if you don’t have
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
The zest of 1-2 oranges (I had smaller oranges so I used 2)

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment. Score and remove half of wrapper from each stick of frozen butter. Grate unwrapped ends on large holes of box grater (you’ll end up grating 8 tablespoons here, just the open half of each stick). Place grated butter in freezer until needed. Melt 2 tablespoons of remaining ungrated butter and set aside. The rest of the butter is for another use (bonus butter!).

2. Whisk together milk and sour cream in medium bowl; put until fridge until you need it. Whisk flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest in medium bowl. Add frozen butter to flour mixture and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated in flour mixture.

3. Add milk/sour cream mixture and cranberries to flour mixture; fold until just combined. Transfer dough to liberally floured work surface. Dust surface of dough with flour; knead dough 6 to 8 times, until it just holds together in ragged ball, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking to your work surface.

4. Roll dough into 12-inch square. Fold dough into thirds like a business letter, using spatula (or butter knife if you’re me) to release dough if it sticks to countertop. In it’s business letter shape, lift short ends of dough and fold into thirds again to form approximate 4-inch square – it will be extremely tall. Transfer dough to plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in freezer 5 minutes.

5. Bring dough back to floured work surface and roll into approximate 12-inch square again. Using bench scraper or spatula, loosen dough from work surface. Roll dough pressing to form tight log (like a jelly roll). Lay seam-side down and press log into 12 by 4-inch rectangle. Using sharp, floured knife, cut rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles and transfer to baking sheet.

6. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18 to 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 10 minutes before serving.

These are great made ahead. I almost always make them the night before, and store in the fridge overnight. If you want to do that, just follow steps 1-5 the night before, and do step 6 when you’re ready to eat them. They also freeze very well! For frozen scones, freeze after step 5. When you’re ready to bake, heat oven to 375 degrees, follow directions in step 6, but extend cooking time to 25 to 30 minutes.

7 Comments

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  1. Scones are what dreams are made of. Lucky for Jo that you have a creative drive in the kitchen.

  2. I fully relate to the “not feeling like a creative person” – especially when my job revolves around numbers and legal-type jargon day in and day out (commercial insurance). I took a stab at photography at one time, but struggled with ideas, leaving me feeling like I just wasn’t “cut out” for a creative career. However, I have been thinking of starting a blog of my own so I can have a creative outlet, like you say, if nothing else but for personal fulfillment. I am glad that I stumbled upon your blog via Instagram and I will visit often. Keep doing what you’re doing because I happen to think you’re onto something good with this creative outlet of yours! 🙂

    • Thanks so much for stopping by Alanna! This comment made my day! It’s amazing how much fulfillment I get out of fiddling around with a camera/on a computer and I hope you can find that creative thing that sparks that ‘something’ in you as well. It’s about the process. I really hope you do start your own blog, and please share the URL once it’s up!

  3. A weird (not-so-)secret: I don’t consider myself a creative person, either. Despite years of drawing and painting and crafting, I’ve always firmly maintained that I have a useful skill set but that I don’t generate the kinds of new concepts or exhibit the kind of passion that Creative People clearly do. When you step back from that and realize the absurdly high standard we’ve put on what something has to be before it’s Creative in our eyes, you realize how much more the act of creating has to do with being creative, and not necessarily the output.

    (That being said, your writing, picture-taking, gift-wrapping, and knitting skills all turn out beautiful-as-hell work!)

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