672. Scones in the here and now: a recipe, a nudge

Scones in the here and now_ a recipe, a nudge.jpg

Years ago I started making this recipe for scones, adapted from one I found in Fields of Greens by Annie Somerville. Since landing on this scone recipe, I've never made another and it's never failed me. I've made these scones for out-of-town house guests, for confirmation open houses, for graduation open houses, for after-church coffee times, for gifts, for road trips, for all kinds of special occasions and celebrations. I imagine I'll make the recipe again before too long for another arrival of guests, for another event.

But why not now? I asked myself today: for the occasion of me sitting at my desk bringing the next client project forward; the occasion of my husband sitting at his desk crafting yet another job search cover letter; the celebration of this moment of now, this moment that stands brightly on its own even as it bridges all that has been and all that is yet to come.

Why not?

  • 4 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or apricots (if using apricots, cut into small pieces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 cups unbleached white flour
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 pound butter, cold
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut parchment paper to fit a baking sheet.

Combine the orange juice, dried fruit, and almond extract. Set it aside so the fruit can plump while you prepare the dough.

Whisk together the egg yolk and milk. Set it aside.

Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt) in a large bowl.

Cut the butter into small pieces and place it in the same bowl. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it is evenly distributed and resembles coarse meal.

Add the buttermilk and juice and dried fruit mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir together only until just mixed; don't overmix. The mixture will be dry and somewhat crumbly. Sometimes I add a splash more buttermilk (say, a tablespoon more). 

Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Knead it gently a couple times and form into a round about 1-inch high. Cut the round into 8 wedges. (A variation is to form two smaller rounds and to cut each into 8 wedges, yielding 16 smaller scones.)

Place the wedges about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Stack this baking sheet on top of another baking sheet to keep bottoms from burning. (If you have heavy-duty baking sheets or the kind that has airflow space built in, you may not need the double baking sheets but only the parchment paper.)

Lightly brush the egg-milk mixture across the top of the scones.

Bake for about 20 minutes until only lightly browned. Watch closely the last few minutes.

You can make many variations of this recipe. Instead of dried cherries or almonds, I've used rhubarb, chocolate chips, pecans, or dried cranberries. The original recipe called for orange zest and dried currants, with pecans sprinkled on top. Substituting gluten-free flour for regular flour would also probably work well, although I've never tried it.



[Photo: taken of the ice crystal formations on my porch window last weekend, when it was ten below zero with windchill of twenty-seven below.]

Southern sweet iced tea, in volume

A couple years ago I made a massive amount of sweet iced tea--reminiscent of my years in Florida--for my son's graduation open house party. To avoid having to buy a second refrigerator or adding counter space to hold all the pitchers, I made a tea concentrate in advance and then just diluted with water and added ice as needed to meet the demand at the party. It turned out really well and what was leftover was easily saved by freezing in ice cube trays.

Because it is once again the season of graduation open houses, here's the recipe:

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. As soon as it boils, pour it over 55 regular-sized tea bags. Let it steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags. Place them in another bowl. Squeeze them out by pressing on them with a spoon and add that liquid to the rest of the tea concentrate. When the concentrate is still hot, add sugar, if desired. I added 1.5 cups of sugar to each batch of concentrate. Also, if desired, add some mint. I added about 10 leaves of mint to each batch, bruising each leaf a bit with a spoon before adding it to the hot concentrate. This batch will make about 4-6 pitchers of tea. I made 3 batches, not tripling all at once, but separately. It might prove difficult to work with more than 55 tea bags at a time.

To use: put about one cup of concentrate in a pitcher and fill the pitcher with water. May want to use more or less according to taste and size of pitcher. To make by the glass, use one or two tablespoons of tea to a glass of water. Or freeze the concentrate in ice cube trays and use 1 to 2 ice cubes to a glass of water.

Note: Tea should be made with filtered water to keep mineral deposits from clouding it. Also, keep the concentrate at room temp unless you're going to freeze it, also to keep from clouding. At room temp it's good for about a day or so. It's fine also in the refrig but it may cloud up.


Rhubarb muffins

Rhubarb_1The rhubarb my neighbor planted for me two seasons ago is dense with stalks just begging to be baked into treats. I picked some last week and made two batches of rhubarb muffins, using my cousin Vicky's recipe, which I see she has now posted on her blog, "A Portable Pinewood." If you have rhubarb growing in your yard, or packaged in the produce aisle at your local market, maybe bake a batch. Last year I posted a recipe for strawberry rhubarb cobbler, which is another good destination for rhubarb.