TEA WITH…SCONES?

SCONE vs SCONE

SCONE vs SCONE

Standing in line at various coffee shops all over North America I can often be found pondering the same question, “That large, dry, over-priced baked thing covered in sugar, what IS that?” The sign always says the same thing: Scone. Can it be that ubiquitous American coffee chains have truly succeeded in perpetrating this fraud? Do people actually think this is a scone? Surely they understand that this over-baked behemoth, requiring constant sips of equally bad coffee to be choked down is not a scone but unable to find the real thing, have settled for this depressing substitute, the thing my friend Bryan calls a giant coffee crouton.

Now, I’m willing to concede that some of those meal replacement-sized, industrial “scones” aren’t so terrible, they simply fall so short of their namesake that I wish they would call them something else. To those of you who enjoy these knockoff scones that offend me so I say, enjoy. Perhaps though, you will allow me to persuade you to try the alternative, and challenge you to bake them yourself.

MY FAVORITE QUIET TIME IN THE MORNING - BAKING BREAKFAST!

MY FAVORITE QUIET TIME IN THE MORNING: MAKING BREAKFAST (scones are on the stove)

The traditional scones of English tea fame are smallish, most commonly round, fitting in the palm of your hand (the triangle shape also seen stateside hails from when scones were baked as one large, flat cake and cut into slices). They are firm enough on the outside to offer a little crumble when eaten and soft enough on the inside to provide a welcoming pillow for strawberry jam or clotted cream. Eating one instantly fills your mouth with the subtle sweetness of butter and cream without being sugary. They are more reminiscent of pastry dough, less like cake.

FRESHLY BAKED SCONES IN LESS THAN 30 MIN!

FRESHLY BAKED SCONES IN LESS THAN 30 MIN!

In England, I found scones most commonly offered in two flavors, plain or with raisins and have also enjoyed savory ones made with cheese. When you make them at home I think the only limits should be what is seasonally available. When the summertime farmer’s market is overflowing with fruit I highly recommend adding berries and in the fall I like to switch over to savory and try adding different cheeses. If you live in a wintery area and go months without local produce fear not, the plain ones are glorious and jam keeps year round : )

baking basics

Of all the recipes I have tested my favorite is from “Mastering the Basics: Baking.” True to it’s name, the book’s recipe is simple, easy to follow and delicious. It is also one of the best recipes to use as a foundation should you desire to tweak and play, creating the perfect recipe to pass down through your family.

 

 

Rich Scones

(I prefer smaller scones and use a 2″ scone cutter but use whatever shape you like or cut free hand with a sharp pointed, non-serated knife).

2 cups self-rising flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1½ oz chilled butter, chopped into small pieces
1/4 caster sugar (regular granulated will do in a pinch)
1 egg at room temperature
3/4 cup un-whipped heavy whipping cream
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg lightly whisked, to glaze

1) Preheat oven to 425º. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with non-stick baking paper.

2) Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. Working quickly so the butter doesn’t melt, use your fingertips to rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (with practice this step gets easier). Stir in the sugar and make a well in the center of the bowl.

3) Whisk the egg, cream and vanilla together with a fork. Pour into to the well in the dry ingredients and mix with a flat-bladed knife, using a cutting action, until the dough comes together in clumps.

4) Use lightly floured fingers to gently gather the dough, lift it onto a lightly floured work surface and knead very lightly and briefly to bring it together in a smooth ball. Pat the dough out to 1 inch think. Use a floured round cutter to cut out scones (press straight down, do not twist the cutter into the dough). Gather the leftover trimmings and without handling to much, press out again to cut more scones. Place the scones close together (I set them almost touching) on the prepared tray and brush lightly with the whisked egg (when I don’t have a basting/pastry brush I just use my fingers).

5) Bake scones for 10-12 minutes or until they are well risen, light golden brown on top and sound hollow when tapped at the base. Best served warm with butter, honey, jam, marmalade, preserves, clotted cream or all! *Leftover scones keep well in an airtight container for at least 3 days. Do not refrigerate them!

PREPARE WORK SURFACE BEFORE ADDING LIQUIDS TO WORK QUICKLY

PREPARE WORK SURFACE BEFORE ADDING LIQUIDS

YOUR DOUGH BALL DOESN'T NEED TO BE PERFECTLY SMOOTH

DOUGH BALL DOESN’T NEED TO BE PERFECT

CUTTING SCONES

CUTTING SCONES WITH A 2″ CUTTER

 

GLAZING WITH WHISKED EGG

GLAZING WITH WHISKED EGG

 

 

 

 

Play! Try adding to batter:

Berries, raisins/sultanas, dried cherries/cranberries, cheese, caramelized onions (at room temp), orange/lemon zest, and anything else your heart desires! Add your extra ingredients after the butter and before you mix in the liquids. (Notes: for savory scones omit sugar from the recipe. Cut fruit or vegetables such as strawberries or onions will add moisture and therefore a little extra baking time to your scones). Happy experimenting!♥

I LOVE WHEN MY FRIENDS WAKE UP TO THIS

I LOVE WHEN MY FRIENDS WAKE UP TO THIS

THESE MOMENTS ARE THE REASON I BAKE

THESE MOMENTS ARE THE REASON I BAKE

Looking for the perfect jam? Check out my post on Sqirl : )

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TABLE FOR ONE

A common view for me - the empty chair across the table.

A common view for me – the empty chair across the table.

Perhaps it’s because I was raised an only child or maybe it’s the gypsy heart in me but whatever the reason, I have always loved going out for a meal on my own.

Eating alone at a restaurant takes courage. Even as a seasoned soloist I still find myself having the occasional bout of insecurity as the hostess leads me to my table for one. Will people think I got stood up? Do they think I don’t have any friends? Oh GOD…will people think I’m hoping to be hit on?!

The only place where I am truly immune from these fears is New York City where I am mercifully not an anomaly. In my, now native, Los Angeles however, you’d think no one had ever seen a woman eat alone before. Dine solo at a cool spot on a busy night and the reactions multiply exponentially. On the bright side, I’ve lost count of the amount of free drinks I’ve been sent and have even gone to pay the bill a few times to find a stranger has “taken care of it.” Presumably they do this out of pity but hell, I just scored a free meal!

On the off chance that you find yourself needing to grab a bite sans back-up, here are a few helpful hints I’ve picked up along the way:

*Sit at the bar. Being alone at the bar is way less conspicuous and a good place to start if you don’t normally eat alone and aren’t particularly comfortable.

*Bring a book. A book on the table says, “I didn’t get stood up, I knew I was going to be alone.” I used to actually read a book even when I didn’t want to, just to take the sting off the “that poor girl’s eating by herself” looks. That eventually became just placing it visibly on the table, and now I don’t bring one at all (unless of course I genuinely want to read).

*When a place is busy don’t be picky. In my experience being friendly and easy to seat makes a host/hostess more inclined to find you a good spot. Sometimes I end up cramped at the end of the bar and sometimes I find myself being led past other wait-listers to a prime bar stool or table.

*Look nice. This may seem superficial and that’s because it is. I simply feel more comfortable eating alone if I’m lookin’ sharp. I mean, someone who dresses that cool could only be eating alone by choice, right?

*Have a fully charged phone battery. Like me, you might hate the idea of texting or doing sudoku while you eat but trust me, if insecurity hits there is no better pacifier than looking busy on your phone. Just don’t talk on the phone the whole time- people will hate you and I can’t disagree with them.

*Talk to your waiter/waitress. Not as a crutch or in a needy “I’m alone way” but just because how often do you really get to? Now, they might not want to engage with you and that’s fine but in my experience (both as a waitress and as a customer), staff is generally used to being treated as such, and any real human connection is appreciated. I have incredibly fond memories of getting to know the wait staff at my neighborhood haunt or late nights spent drinking in foreign cities with awesome servers who go unappreciated by hurried tourists.

Over the years I’ve come to realize that there are people who are inherently at ease dining alone and those who aren’t. For those of you that are, you don’t need my encouragement but to those of you that aren’t I’ll offer this: Try it! As daunting as it may seem at first, the payoff is epic. Taking yourself out for a great meal can be a true delight. Also, you’ll never have a bad date ; ) ♥

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