Scones and the Times

Raspberry-ginger scone 3

I think there’s a zebra hiding under my skin. At least, that’s what it feels like. Just under my ribs, where my body is usually relatively smooth, I can feel big horizontal striations where my stomach muscles are beginning to stretch and separate in preparation for all this growing I still have to do. It’s a little disconcerting. Any day now, I expect I’ll look down to find my flesh tinged with black and white stripes.

But underneath all that? I’m mostly just hungry. And that feels perfectly normal.

I’ve developed a new morning routine in these last few months. When I leave my bed, I head directly for the refrigerator, then to the toaster. (Do not pass GO.) I slide in a slice of Dave’s Killer Bread (the seedy kind), and down the hatch it goes, hot and crunchy, slathered with cream cheese or jam, or both, or—the very best—peanut butter with cinnamon sugar. Then, and only then, do I start my day, dressing, walking the dog, etc. The toast calms my stomach, and prevents those hunger pains from eating me alive.

Saturday, the routine changed. The telephone woke me just after five. On the other end, a panicked friend told me she was heading to the hospital; her six-week-old daughter had a fever that wasn’t breaking, her husband was away, and her two-year-old was fast asleep. We scrambled—no toast—and within minutes, Hilary and I were on our way to Children’s Hospital with little Esme, and my husband was posted on two-year-old duty.

The scariest thing about the ER at Children’s is its silence. While Esme was triaged, I sat in the waiting room, with an early copy of Molly Wizenberg’s new book, A Homemade Life, left in my purse from the day before. I read a mouthwatering story about scones—hot Scottish scones, the kind that are good and crumbly, not muffiny like the typical American version—and then just sat, marveling at the fact that there with kids screaming behind closed doors, parents sobbing, doctors doctoring, and all the noise normally associated with an ER, I found the room eerily peaceful. A lovely place to read, really. I had a bit of a scone daydream, there in the green pleather chair. I was making Molly’s scones at Hilary’s house, and Esme was sleeping peacefully. I’d never made scones before this weekend, but last week, they splashed through multiple conversations, and there, in the daydream, the dough was quite cooperative, and I was very good at cutting a wheel of dough into eight perfect little triangles.

That’s the only chapter I read. We were shuffled into a room, where we sat and paced and worried for 7 more hours. It turned out Esme just had a terrible upper respiratory infection (better than the spinal meningitis they were worried about). But there’s nothing more emotionally exhausting than watching an infant go through the necessary trials of blood draw, urine sampling, and (the most difficult) a spinal tap, especially when all of the above require multiple attempts. (Actually, I’m positive there’s something worse. It’s being the mother of that infant.)

That afternoon, I slept. We went to a party early, equipped with chocolate mousse for 30, and I was a total snore. By 9 p.m. I was curled up in bed, waiting for the start of a different day, one with a positive story on parenting.

Sunday, I woke up with a start, thinking I’d missed an emergency phone call. It was still dark out, and I had no messages, but going back to sleep was out of the question. I headed for the toaster.

But there in the kitchen, mid-stride, I caught the book’s cover out of the corner of my eye. Scones, I thought. I’d survived Saturday without toast first thing (or much of anything all morning, for that matter). I could surely survive without eating until the scones were finished.

Messy knife for cutting scones

It’s true; I’d never made scones. But Molly’s recipe was so exact—you had to knead the dough twelve times, no more, no less—that I couldn’t see much going wrong. And even in the semi-dark, hardly awake, it seemed easy. I rubbed the butter into the flour like you do for pie crust, then added a bit more butter, because I decided I did want a scone bursting with butter, after all. I stirred in the cream, leftover from all that mousse, and strayed a little more: I added ground ginger instead of Molly’s crystallized, and took some raspberries out of the freezer at the last possible moment. The cold, hard fruit got in the way of the dough coming together, and froze my fingertips, but in the end, on the board, it all worked out quite nicely (after twelve quick squeezes, just like Molly said it would). It was satisfying, cutting the ruby-speckled round into eight little wedges, right through the crunch of the berries. The best part, though, was indulging in the semi-dark seven o’clockness of it all—no one heard the coffee bubbling, or saw how I’ve started to collect flour on the lower stomach part of my shirt each time I bake, or watched me put my messy, pink-tinged hands right on the clean knife handle without washing them off first. They’re the perfect breakfast to make when no one’s looking.

The scones came out tanned and oozing red juice. I woke Jim, and grabbed the New York Times off the front steps, and decided that yes, this is an acceptable new morning routine. And really, nothing blankets what you see on the front page quite like a batch of scones.

For the record, you butter-stingy Scots (AKA folks who like scones made the right way) can get your hands on the real recipe when the book comes out in March.

Raspberry-ginger scone

Not-So-Scottish Raspberry-Ginger Scones (PDF)

Though this recipe is quite similar to the one for Scottish Scones with Lemon and Ginger in Molly Wizenberg’s upcoming book, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table, don’t be fooled: I use about 50% again as much butter and a touch of sugar on top (as well as heavy cream in place of half-and-half, simply because it’s what I had), which transforms them from a traditional scone to one that’s a bit more muffiny. Don’t even think about taking the raspberries out of the freezer until the oven is hot and the wet and dry ingredients are prepared; thawed berries make mushy (and very pink) dough.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more for glazing
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups very frozen raspberries
3 tablespoons sugar, plus 2 teaspoons for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and ginger together in a mixing bowl. Add the butter, and use your fingertips to rub it into the flour mixture, like you’re making pie crust, until the all the butter pieces are pea-sized or smaller. Set aside.

Whisk the cream and egg together in a small bowl. Add the raspberries and 3 tablespoons of the sugar to the dry ingredients, and stir to coat the raspberries with flour. Add the wet ingredients, and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. At this point, the dough should look fairly hopeless and dry, like it might not come together. Using your hands, squeeze the dough a few times to incorporate the flour at the bottom of the bowl.

Dump the dough out onto a clean board, and knead twelve times. (The goal is to get the dough to hold together, but there may be stray pieces of dough and flour that just plain refuse to be incorporated. That’s okay.) Pat the dough into a wheel about 1” thick, and cut into 8 wedges, like a pizza.

Carefully transfer the wedges to the prepared sheet. Pour about a tablespoon of cream into a small bowl, and use a brush to dab cream over the tops of each scone. (Dab, don’t brush, or you’ll smear pink juices everywhere.) Sprinkle the tops with the remaining two teaspoons of sugar, and bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Let cool slightly on a wire rack, and serve warm.

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7 Comments

Filed under bread, Breakfast, recipe

7 responses to “Scones and the Times

  1. What a nice surprise! You write wonderful pictures and I’ve been craving scones something awful since I started watching my carbs. After today…. Heat up that oven,… Butter, Cream and Scones here I come!

    Looking forward to Molly’s book,
    CJ

  2. elisfoods

    Those scones look amazing! I am going to have to try those!
    Thanks for sharing!

    Eli

    http://www.elisfoods.wordpress.com

  3. John Racine

    Thanks for the words that we can practically taste. Now, if only these scones were gluten-free. (sigh)

  4. First time’s a charm. Right out of the oven, I’ll bet these were the perfect comfort food after some of the stuff going on! Hi to the l’il Zebra. :-)

  5. Hey! How’d you get a copy of Molly’s book so soon? (I’m new to your blog, so I’m just going to make a wild guess here and say you two must be friends…) What a delightful recipe. So precise!

  6. Yes, I know her, and I do some cookbook reviews for magazines, etc… it’s worth the money, whatever price tag they put on it!

  7. I also heart Molly Wizenberg. I haven’t tried the scone recipe yet, but the lemon yogurt cake turned out wonderfully! If you’re interested, check out in interview I did with her on my blog WordHappy: http://toddiedowns.com/2009/03/delicious-writing-an-interview-with-molly-wizenberg/. She’s as nice in person as she seems in her book and blog.

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