Monday, December 13, 2010

Old-Fashioned Scones

At some point in my childhood, I developed the theory that when I was Grown Up, I would buy myself a container of frosting for my birthday and eat the entire thing. This plan makes me slightly ill to contemplate, and I'm not sure where it came from--I didn't even have too much experience with pre-made frostings. But somehow this act embodied the Best Present Ever to my little mind: someday I was going to get myself exactly what I wanted, and ain't no man (or, more accurately, mom) could hold me back.

Little did I know that when I finally had enough agency and income to act on this plan, my desperate need for sugar would be gone. It's a sad fact of adulthood. Don't misunderstand me, I still like a good sweet now and then (as the ample presence of cookies and cakes and tarts on these pages can attest). But setting aside the obvious hydrogenated shortcomings of a container of Betty Crocker, the sad truth is that I only crave sweets for dessert, not for the bulk of my meal.

This is especially true at breakfast. I am all eggs and potatoes, beans and cheese, looking on in confusion as other diners order almond french toast and pumpkin waffles. I can't imagine feeling satisfied with that dessert-for-brunch approach, but I do covet a taste -- just enough to give my meal a sweet little coda. This is where a small scone like this is absolutely perfect.

If you've ever wondered what the whole scone hoopla is about, these will answer your question. They're delicately flaky, like a biscuit, and just sweet enough to satisfy. Oats and cornmeal add a nubby edge of whole grains (and a slight earthy sweetness of their own), and buttermilk adds just a bit of tang. I'm especially fond of making these with punchy dried sour cherries, but really any sort of dried fruit would work nicely. And although my seven-year-old self wouldn't believe me, I swear it's way better than a jar of frosting.

Old-Fashioned Scones

Inspired by the scones of the same name from the Baker's Cafe, though this noodled variation is pretty much all my own. As with other pastries, a light touch in mixing yields tender scones.

yields ~10 small scones (you'll probably want to double the recipe if you're cooking for any sort of crowd)

3/4 cup rolled oats
1 1/4 cup flour (can swap out some ww pastry flour if desired)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
1 stick cold butter, cut into tablespoons
1/2 cup dried sour cherries, or other dried fruit
~1/2 - 3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp milk or water (aka the egg wash)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and grease or line a cookie sheet.

Place the oats in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until they're blitzed to a mostly floury powder, with a few bits here and there. Add the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar, and pulse until evenly mixed. Add the cold butter, and pulse a few times until the largest pieces of butter are about oatmeal-sized -- do not overmix. Turn the mixture into a bowl. Add the dried fruit, and stir until combined. Add the buttermilk until the dough comes together -- it will be moister than pie crust, but try not to add so much buttermilk so that it becomes gloppy. Form the dough into a cohesive mass, and turn out onto a lightly floured countertop.

Roll the dough out to a thickness of 1", and cut into circles with a 2.5" cutter. Place shaped scones on the tray, and lightly mush together and re-roll the scraps until you've formed all the dough. Brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash, and sprinkle with a light dusting of sugar (you'll just need a few spoonfuls for the whole tray). Bake ~15-20 minutes, until they are starting to get lightly browned. Let cool on a rack and enjoy.


  1. Deena,
    I liked your post, and was interested to see your reference to Baker's Cafe. Did you know that its co-founder, Jane Keating, lives in Portland? I have their cookbook, in fact (a gift from Jane)! How do you know it?

  2. I grew up in that place! I worked the counter and graduated to night baking (with the occasional waitress shift thrown in), during high school and college breaks, maybe ~1992 til the end. Best job I ever had. I didn't overlap with Jane, although now I totally want to meet up and share sugary memories...

  3. This is sad, but...I've never had a scone before. Ever. Although I guess there's an upside: I can skip all the hockey-puck bakery scones I've heard are out there, and just start with making my own. :) Yours look amazing!

  4. Maddie, I'm glad I can do my part in saving you from hockey-puck scones. These are a different animal altogether.