Truly great scones
Posted on May 2, 2009 by Aun
For most guys, scones aren’t exactly the food of our childhoods. They’re things our girlfriends and sisters, mothers and especially our grandmothers, ate. There is absolutely nothing masculine about sitting down for tea and scones. Which meant that for the majority of us boys, during our childhood, it would have been up there with cooties, a trip to the dentist and a haircut. Of course, as we age we get a little wiser and at some point, hopefully a little more genteel. We’re also prone to do anything for the gals in our lives that we love (or think we love) and want to impress. Even if that means sitting through an oh-so-civilized afternoon tea when all we really want to do is hang out with the boys and make fart jokes.
Now, here’s the thing. Most of the scones I have tried throughout my life have been seriously underwhelming. And I’m willing to wager most of my male peers have had similar experiences. I mean, it’s tough enough to sit calmly in an overly romantic and all too prissy atmosphere, string quartet doing serious injustice to Vivaldi, while you sip your Darjeeling from an insanely delicate porcelain cup you’re afraid you’re going to break, all the while trying not to let your significant other have the slightest inkling that you’d rather be in a T-shirt and jeans, throwing back beers and playing video games. You’d hope at the very least that the food you’re being forced to eat — and eat properly (cut scone, spread cream, dollop jam) — wouldn’t taste like dried up cardboard. But most of the scones I’ve tasted, unfortunately, have been hockey puck hard, dry, and spectacularly unappealing.
Women, however, continue to love them. Or at least love the romantic and nostalgiac notion of enjoying them in equally romantic and nostalgiac settings. Or maybe our sisters and our wives and our daughters and mothers have more faith and patience than we men. Maybe, having had a truly great scone at some point in their lives, they have no problem patronizing dozens of mediocre afternoon tea joints hoping for just one more bite of a perfect scone. Women are, it should go without saying (and unlike us guys), willing to put up with an almost unmeasurable amount of crap in the hope of finding something true and good (they put up with us after all).
And a great scone, a really well-made scone, a scone that is buttery and soft and light and yet still firm all at once, is something rather wonderful. And unforgettable. I can count on one hand the number of times I have had that pleasure and fortune. A great scone, served with good quality (clotted) cream and a homemade jam, is nothing less than a work of art. Unfortunately, finding a great scone, as I’ve tried to establish earlier, is like finding a needle in a haystack. The best thing to do, S and I have decided after years of fruitless scone sampling, is to make our own.
The best recipe we’ve found to date comes from the amazing Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. The scones that we’ve been able to make using Ms Greenspan’s fabulous and surprising easy recipe are magnificent. They are light, rich, hearty, savoury, just a touch sweet, and just plain delicious. And the best thing is that I can have them whenever I want, wearing whatever I want, listening to whatever I want, and drinking them with whatever I want.
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours
Makes 12 scones
1 large egg
2/3 cup cold heavy cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1/2 cup currants
Preheat your oven to 200 Degrees Celsius. Ensure you have a rack placed in the middle position in the oven. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
In a small bowl or measuring jug, mix the egg and the cream. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the butter pieces into this one at a time, using your fingers to toss the butter in the flour mix. Then, using your fingertips, crush and rub the butter into the flour as quickly as possible. You’ll end up with small tiny pieces in different sizes, but that’s fine.
Quickly pour the egg and cream into the mixing bowl. Using a fork, stir until everything just comes together. Keeping the dough in the bowl, knead it by hand or use a silicone spatula to turn it a half a dozen to a dozen times. Stir in the currants.
Dust a suitable work surface or a counter and turn the dough out onto it. Divide it in half. Working with one piece at a time, pat the dough into a rough circle that is about 12-13cm in diameter. Cut it into 6 wedges and place them on the baking sheet. Repeat with the other piece. Bake the scones for 20 minutes of so, or until the tops are golden and just firm. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving.