"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

Easy Scones (But how do you pronounce it?)

by Julie Tilsner on October 5, 2006

in Sugar and Spite, Sweet!

Sconefaceannie Christina Bess, a kitchen Goddess I worship, once told me that there are two kinds of people. Pie people and bread people.

I am, according to her, a pie person. I went through a phase years ago of making apple pies from scratch at Thanksgiving time. These, to my delight, seemed to turn out deliciously, and won the accolades of everyone who dared a mouthful. Alas, peeling and cutting a bag of apples and making pie pastry by hand takes patience and focus I no longer seem to have, so I haven’t made a signature pie in a long time.

But apparently I still have the baking stuff. For someone who’s a bad home cook, I can bake surprisingly well. Not like Audrey Smith, of course, but I can make edible Christmas ginger snaps and passable Toll House cookies. It’s also a little known fact that I make a mean zucchini bread.

So the other day my daughter was looking through her “World Cooking” book and asked if we could make scones. I’d made these once before, using the recipe from Mark Bittman’s marvelous “How to Cook Everything” book, and presented them, along with tea and a dozen chipped and mismatched tea cups, for snack to her Brownie Girl Scout troop. They were a huge success. And not too hard, as I recall.

Funny thing about scones. We here in the states pronounce them “Scones,” with a long O, and joke about the hoity-toity British, who pronounce them “Scawnes.” Actually, though, in Britain, where accent dictates who you are and where you sit on the economic and social pecking order, only Sloans, or the wretched upper classes, pronounce “scones” with a long O.

“Only ponces say Scones,” sniffed Annie’s Dad, Luke, who happens to be a Brit from North London. Non-ponces (middle class and below) pronounce it “scawnes.”
Well. Who knew?

I tried to say “scawnes,” for a long while, but in the end, it just sounded too, well, poncey for me, so I reverted to my Yank diction.

At any rate, darlings, making the bloody little things is dead easy.

From Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”

2 cups all purpose flour (plus some more as needed when it’s time to knead the dough)
1 scant teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons cold butter
3 eggs
¾ cup heavy cream
1/3 cup raisins, cranberries or blueberries
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 450
Mix the dry ingredients together, reserving 1 tablespoon of sugar
Cut the butter into bits and work them with your fingers into the dry ingredients until you have an ever-so-slightly moist mix.
Beat two of the eggs with the cream. Using a few swift strokes, blend this into this mix. Use only a few strokes to beat your raisins or whatever into the mix.

Turn the now sticky mixture into a ball and place it onto a floured surface to knead, no more than ten times.

Press the dough into a ¾ -inch thick rectangle and use a glass or a biscuit cutter to cut into rounds.

Place the rounds onto an un-greased baking sheet. Reshape the leftover dough and cut again.

You’ll get about 10 scones.

Beat the remaining egg with the 1 tablespoon of water and brush the top of each unbaked scone with this mixture. Sprinkle each with a little sugar from your extra tablespoon.

Bake 7 to 10 minutes or until the scones are a golden brown.

It couldn’t be easier. But of course, you must pay a little more attention to details than I do if you want perfect success. My scones came out OK, but a little dry. When I went back over the recipe, I discovered a few mistakes I made:

I preheated the oven to 350, not 450.
I read the part about withholding one tablespoon of sugar, and withheld one tablespoon of butter instead. So of course my dough was going to be dryer than it should have been.
My daughter was helping me knead, and got carried away, because let’s face it, kneading is fun. Like playing with Play-Dough. I think over-kneading changed the consistency of my dough.
Feh. How typical of me. Christina wouldn’t have made such trifling mistakes.

In the end, the scones were OK. Good enough for the kids, anyway. But it was another humbling moment for me, reinforcing my knowledge that a little concentration goes a long way in the kitchen.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

elfini October 6, 2006 at 2:25 pm

I would like to place an order for some ginger snaps and zuchinni bread. Do you need my FedEx number?


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