Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Good Scone is Hard to Find

I spent my junior year of college away in St. Andrews, Scotland, where I was introduced to "real" scones. Unlike most of my friends there, I spent my weekends working in a small, family-owned cafe called Janetta's. The cook/baker extraordinaire, Rona, made fresh scones every single morning, and I can still remember the warm raisin smell that would fill the place before we opened. I relished grabbing the huge scones with tongs, setting them carefully on the white ceramic plates, and laying down before the local Scots their most-beloved breakfast/teatime treat. If a scone was leftover at the end of the day, the servers would either split it and eat it straight from the counter or one of us would get to take it home. Sometimes, that was my dinner. Each one felt like it weighed a pound and was jammed with golden sultanas and dark raisins. Those were good scones.

It has been my experience on this side of the Atlantic, at least here in central Virginia, that most people do not know what a Scottish scone is like--its consistency being the hardest part to grasp. It shouldn't be chewy like a brownie (common misconception!) or light as a cake. It shouldn't be any sort of tough or spongy (a very, very common problem). It shouldn't be as sweet as a donut. It should, however, be somewhere between a biscuit and a heavy muffin. Scones are usually a little dry on the outside, soft and crumbly (but not dry) on the inside, and should have a little weight. A scone should be lightly sweetened, the sugar being a sweet discovery you make after the initial bite.

The best scones I've tried to make on my own are Martha Stewart's Cherry Scones. These scones have never disappointed. They're easy to make and are a good introduction to the art of the scone. You can eat these with the traditional devon cream, butter, or just by themselves. I suggest coffee or Earl Grey and a few good friends as the perfect accompaniment.

I made these scones this morning for Brandon's birthday breakfast. They brought a little bit of our history to the table--Scotland has a lot to do with why and how we met. We both watched as our baby grabbed pieces of scone with her two fingers, furrowed her brow, and crammed both hand and scone into her mouth.

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