Thursday, February 24, 2011

The rustic side

I am discombobulated. Lit'l ol’ homebody, I-like-to-do-everything-my-way me has too much going on. So much so that it kind of paralyzes me. There’s regular stuff, like kids and rotten attitudes (mine included), cooking and house cleaning, and the skin-crawling frustration that comes from spending several months in very close proximity with each other. There’s also the outside pulls, like church, the Fresh Air Fund, correspondences, and extra-curricular activities (a writers’ group! book club! dance class! financial peace seminar with Damn, I mean Dave, Ramsey!). And then there’s the added stress of a half-dozen doctor appointments (the proverbial wrench thrown into the well-oiled machine), thanks to The Whomping Shovel, and its accompanying juggling act that is childcare. Perhaps the worst part, though, is that my brain has flipped out on me, gone all spastic. It refuses to buckle down and stay focused. Instead, it wants to experiment with new recipes and knit scarves and sort clothes and watch movies and call friends and read my mother’s book and create handwritten Works of Art, and when it can’t, it throws a sulking fit complete with protruding lip, much sniveling, and some good old-fashioned foot stomping. My brain needs to go on time-out.


In an attempt to calm myself down, I invited a new-to-me friend over for coffee and made cream scones to accompany.

I made these scones a long time ago, and then I lost the recipe and then I found it but forgot to write about it, and then yesterday rolled around and when I woke up, I laid in bed for a few minutes pondering those cream scones. The more I thought about them, the more excited I got. So I threw off the comforter, went downstairs, and over the course of the next couple hours, amidst the medicine distributions, the floor sweepings, the granola doling-out, the order barking (brush teeth! bring in wood! pick up shoes! feed the dog!), I managed to whirl some flour with butter, douse the whole crumbly mess with a bunch of rich cream, and bake up a tray of light-as-fairy dust delightfulness.


My new-to-me friend loaded up her plate with two scones right off the bat and then later, when I came back into the room after putting the little boy in yet another time-out, she confessed to helping herself to another one. Not that there was any need to confess. I doubt she has any idea how her ravenous appetite tickled me all the way down to my toesies. Inside my stressed-out body, I actually did a little whoop-and-holler jig. Cooks like me, we love people who eat.

These cream scones are a cinch to mix up, but baking them can be a little touch-and-go. They’re so stuffed with butter and cream that in the oven they slump and spread (like certain body parts will if you indulge too frequently) and butt up against each other. I’ve attempted to fix the problem by setting the tray of cut scones in the freezer for 30-60 minutes prior to baking and then popping them directly into a very hot oven. It does help, some. But still, the finished scones are more than a little on the rustic side, like me and my life.


Cream Scones
Adapted from Bernard Clayton’s Complete Book of Small Breads

These scones are delicious fresh from the oven, but even when they are a day or two old, they’re nothing to sneeze at. While hot, they are quite flaky. For this reason, I don’t recommend bothering with butter or jam—it’d be too cumbersome. Besides, they’re so rich, they really don’t need enhancements.

If you don’t have cake flour, just use all regular flour. I suspect they’ll still turn out fine.

2 cups flour
½ cup cake flour (I used Softasilk)
½ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cold, roughly chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup currants, optional
extra cream and Demerara sugar, for glaze

Put the flours, sugar, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to blend. Add the cold butter and pulse till the butter has broken down into smaller chunks but is not completely incorporated. Add the cream and milk and briefly pulse.

Dump the contents of the bowl onto a work surface, sprinkle over the currants, if using, and quickly bring the dough together into one large ball with your hands—do not knead. If the dough is too sticky (mine wasn’t), add a little more flour.

Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a 6-8 inch disk. Cut each disk into eight wedges. Place the scones onto a greased baking sheet and scoot the tray into the freezer for 30-60 minutes.

Immediately before baking, brush the scones with a little cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake the scones at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. The scones are very fragile when they come out of the oven, so let them set up on the tray for another 10 minutes or so before transferring to a cooling rack. Serve warm.

Yield: 16 scones

This same time, years previous: Molly's Marmalade Cake, foods I've never told you about, part three

7 comments:

  1. How does a new friend differ from a new to me friend?

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  2. Well you are busier than bee in ah clover field! Your scones look and sound so delish I am stompin my foot cause I won't have time to make them till tomorrow! I have knitted four hats and workin on a 5th (hat not bottle). I am busy scrollsawing so I do git out of the house more. Have ah good night my friend!

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  3. I was wondering the same thing as dr. perfection!! My oh my those scones sound yummy.

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  4. "...the skin-crawling frustration that comes from spending several months in very close proximity with each other."

    Yep, that's my life.I couldn't put it into words until I read your post.

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  5. could this be done by hand rather than a food processor?
    And would craisins work in place of the currants?

    S-

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  6. Dr. P and Meshan, Here's my logic. This fine person, this new-to-me friend, has many other friends, so to say she is a "new friend" might make it sound like she's new to the business of being friendly. By saying "new-to-me," I'm putting the focus on me, not on her. Or maybe not? Perhaps I'm just imagining there's a difference?

    S, Yes, you most certainly can make these scones by hand! Just cut the butter in with your fingers and then stir the cream in with a fork. I think craisins would be a splendid alternative.

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  7. I recently read a tip that may help the "spreading" cream scones "problem". Ironically, I was just reading about cream scones and biscuits in my America's Test Kitchen cookbook and they were discussing this exact phenomenon. Their recommendation is to knead the dough more... I know, normally, you want to handle it gently and no more than necessary, but with cream scones and biscuits, encouraging the development of more gluten helps hold their structure. After kneading for 30 seconds "until [the dough] was smooth and uniform", they found the result was higher and fluffier scones. Haven't tried it myself yet, but thought I would share!

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