Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Scones for Breakfast; Scones for Lunch


I'm a biscuit maker from way back, but as a Scot, scones and I have always loved one another.  A tiny bit sweet and lovely with butter, jam, cheese, ham or honey, they're biscuit like in taste and texture, but are also just enough different that you'll become pretty obsessive about them once they're made once or twice. 

Recently, while daughter Emily was home from grad school, I made a batch of scones early in the morning.  Dave and I each had one or two (ok two) and I left the rest for her coffee.  She was one very happy girl.  Beautiful thing about them is they're not only good for breakfast, but they're a whole different meal when paired up a hot cup of tea come late afternoon. I think if you make them fresh just once--oh say around 3  or 4pm one cold day, you'll be into it for a lifetime.  Certainly anyone else who happened to be around just then would probably never let you forget you knew how to make scones.

This is not me reinventing the wheel, though I do experiment with baking recipes sometimes.  Scones?  Why?    I have a couple of Scot cookbooks, but this particular recipe comes from Marion Cunningham's Fanny Farmer Baking Book.  (Read here for more on Marion...)  This all-purpose baking book is out of print, though you may find a used copy available.

Scones recipes vary in many ways--cream/milk, eggs/no eggs, sweet/not so, fruit/ no fruit,  oats/without, etc.  This is a basic scone recipe to which you could add raisins, currents, chopped fresh fruit, etc., but I like them just like they are.  Light, but hearty.  Warm and comforting, even dunkable,  maybe.  Compatible with any drinks (leaded or unleaded) or jams you dream up.   

Scones require no special equipment and while the butter must be "cut in" to the flour, it can be done with your fingers.  A bowl, baking sheet, spoon, fork, measuring equipment and knife are all that's required.  The ingredients are mostly likely ones you keep on hand in your refrigerator and larder.

Scots scones used to be made on a girdle...something like a griddle that hung up above the heat source with chains.  You can today make scones on the stove top; here's a blogpost about how to do it.   My mom sometimes made biscuits or cornbread in a cast iron skillet on top of the stove.  I've seen people do it in the fire while camping.  Before home ovens were common, many breads were made in some similar way like our very earliest breads.    You only have to think of how many ancient culinary traditions include something like  tortillas or chapattis.

Skones are often called pronounced "skahns" as well as "skoans."

Try them for breakfast one morning maybe and then have some with cheese for lunch, and then again at tea time with honey. Pair them the next night with a big bowl of soup or a glass of wine with cheese or even a wee dram of whisky (Scotch).  Start all over again and they're about gone.

 scones              makes 12

2 cups flour (all purpose, unbleached)
21/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable shortening (I use butter)
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, slightly beaten

GLAZE:  2 tablespoons milk
                 2 teaspoons sugar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Use an ungreased baking sheet.  Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl.  Stir well with a fork to mix and aerate.  Add the shortening (butter) to the flour mixture and either cut in with a pastry blender or two knives, or work in using your fingertips  (I use a food processor.)  until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.

Stir in the milk and the egg.  Mix only until dry ingredients are moistened.  Gather the dough into a ball and press so it holds together.

Lightly dust a surface with flour and turn the dough out onto the surface.  Knead lightly about 12 times.  Pat the dough into a circle 1/2 inch thick.  

For the glaze:  Brush the milk over the dough and sprinkle evenly with the sugar.  

Cut dough into 12 pie-shaped pieces.  Place scones 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until tops are golden brown.  Serve hot.  (Or warm or at room temperature or cold.)

Whole-Wheat Scones:  Substitute 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour for 1/2 cup flour.    

If you liked scones, you might like my post on BANNOCKS, ANOTHER GREAT SCOTS BREAD.

THIS WEEK ON More Time at the Table :  Streamlined Beef Burgundy with Vegetables.

Have fun baking and taking care of yourself,

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