How to bake a proper scone

    MannaXPRESS scone-2 How to bake a proper scone

    [dropcap]I[/dropcap] just returned from England, which still celebrates an afternoon ritual: tea, specifically, cream tea, or tea and scones. A scone is similar in texture to a baking powder biscuit but sweeter, more dense, thick, and tender. It is a deceptively simple quick bread. Deceptive, because how carefully you handle the dough will decide whether the scone is moistly tender or tough and dry.

    Once upon a time you had tea and scones in the late afternoon, long past lunch but too early for dinner. Tea and scones cured one from feeling a bit “peckish”—hungry, but not hungry enough for a meal. Today you can have scones, or tea, or both anywhere anytime—though they don’t add up to the ritual of a cream tea. In a cream tea, you are served your own crockery teapot, tea cups and saucers, sugar, creamer, scones, and jam. Cream tea is not to be confused with afternoon tea, in which you also get cakes and finger sandwiches. But without the ritual these things are just items to consume.

    Rituals. Even in a de-ritualized world we all have them. Rituals give our meals order, continuity, and a sense of community: Think picnic fried chicken, Thanksgiving turkey, Easter ham. Ritual defines food as being more than an isolated abstraction. Scones and tea at tea time or turkey and dressing at Thanksgiving, that’s singular. The ritual is greater than the sum of its parts. Yet our modern pace of life works against ritual. No time anymore for the family meal around the dining room table. When eating becomes merely filling an appetite or individual satisfaction, ritual disappears. Celebrating our lives together as a family or church at a meal is not just about appetite. It’s about gratitude for the goods of the earth. It’s about affirming our shared collective humanity in Christ.

    When Christ appeared on the road to Emmaus, the apostles didn’t see him truly until they broke bread together. In the ritual meal they received the communal gift of sharing in Christ’s resurrection. Each time we receive the Lord’s Supper, we renew and affirm that gift. Ritual begins with living (and eating) together.

    Now tradition has it that the cream tea has been around since the 11th century. So we’re grateful the English still find time for their ritual, hot water, tea pots, crockery, and all. But there’s one more item in a cream tea that deserves special consideration. It’s the cream–clotted cream, that is, or specifically the Devon or Cornish clotted cream spread on the scone. Clotted cream is a thicker, richer, more-buttery-than-butter spread made by scalding extra heavy cream and cooling it until the cream rises to the surface and forms “clots.” Clotted cream is available prepared and unrefrigerated on your grocery shelf or fresh in the dairy section at places such as Whole Foods and Fresh Market.

    We tried cream teas everywhere in England–north, south, east and west, in cathedrals, tea shops, and national country houses, but our favorite was in Derbyshire, specifically the National Trust’s Haddon Hall near the village of Bakewell. (Derbyshire, you may recall, is the site of Pemberly, Darcy’s estate in Pride and Prejudice.) There’s something wonderfully celebratory about taking time to have tea and scones. It gives pause and ritual to our overly busy days.

    Buttermilk Scones with Dried Cherries or Currants

    3 c flour

    1/3 c sugar

    2 ¼ t baking powder

    1 ¾ sticks unsalted butter cut in small cubes

    1 c dried sour cherries or currants

    1 c buttermilk

    1 T orange zest grated

    1 T butter melted

    ¼ c sugar for dusting

    Stir the dry ingredients together and with your fingertips or pastry cutter blend in the cut-up butter to the texture of cornmeal. Mix in the cherries, buttermilk, and orange zest until barely moistened. Gently press the dough till it holds together and knead very lightly on a heavily floured surface. Roll into a ¾-inch thick circle. Cut into scones with a large biscuit cutter or drinking glass. Brush tops of scones with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with tea, Devonshire Cream, and jam.

    Joanne’s Quick Tips: Do not use a mixer or food processor. Blending in the cold pieces of butter to enrobe the flour as you do with pie crust will make the dough tender. Be careful not to twist the biscuit cutter in the dough when cutting it. Twisting will flatten the edges and retard the scones from rising in the oven. Scones freeze beautifully and can be popped in the microwave to heat.


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