One great memory of scones is not of eating them, but of watching other people eat them. Attending Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival one summer, we dropped anchor at a funky old hotel on Princes Street. Our fifth floor window looked right into the café at Jenners Department store next door. Every afternoon, ladies in twinsets and pearls would descend on the café to consume brown pots of tea and plates of currant scones. You could almost hear the clinking of the tea cups. Almost – at the same time every day, a kilted young man played the bagpipes at the store’s street entrance. The noise was penetrating. (I swear at one point he was piping a little Led Zeppelin. Or maybe it was the theme from Star Wars. Hard to tell with bagpipes.)
My scones are a variation of James Beard’s venerable Cream Biscuit recipe, which I love. The recipe omits the business of cutting cold butter or shortening into the flour until “pea-sized” – whatever that means. What size pea? Petite? English? Way too vague, laddie! Instead, the butter and milk are replaced with heavy cream – which is just butter in its liquid state. This is a plain cream scone, but you can tweak it a lot. I like a chocolate-orange scone, but dried cranberry, vanilla-nutmeg, and fresh blueberry are delicious options.
Downside: they are dangerously easy to make. In the time they take to bake, you can brew up a pot of tea, change into your twinset, and crank up the volume on Stairway to Heaven.
Our Favorite Scones
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/4 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
Big pinch of salt
1 Cup heavy cream (plus extra if needed)
1/2 Cup mini chocolate chips or raisins or whatever!
Preheat the oven to 425 degree F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or lightly spray it with cooking spray.
Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add chips chocolate chips.
Pour in the cream, folding very gently with a rubber spatula, just until the ingredients come together into a shaggy dough. Overworking the dough equals tough scones! (If mixture seems too dry, add more cream, 1 Tablespoon at a time.)
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter. Gently pat the dough into a round disk about ½” thick (do not knead it! Again: the toughness thing).
Cover the dough with a towel and let it rest for 5 minutes.
Use a sharp knife to cut the disk into 6 or 8 wedges. Transfer the wedges to the baking sheet. If you like, brush the tops with a little cream and sprinkle them with a little granulated sugar.
Bake until puffed and well-browned on the bottom, about 12-15 minutes.
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