Monday, June 4, 2018

It's Not About the Scones

It's not about the scones. Even though they were studded richly with ripe Rodriguez strawberries. Even though they were made from my favorite recipe for cream scones. Even though they were presented on the pretty pale blue glass cake plate that I bought years ago at an antique fair. With all that going for them, it was still not about the scones.

It was about the day. A pure, warm, clear Northern California morning, bathed in sunshine so bright I needed sunglasses and a hat. Now, you may think, "Sheesh, she lives in California!  Isn't every day like that?" But asking that would prove to me that you are from anywhere else. The Chamber of Commerce would like to sell you that vision, but the reality is that it exists almost exclusively in the southern part of California, not up here where our famous fog makes it far more likely to have a clammy, overcast morning in spring and summer than a clear, warm one. So, when I awake to a windless morning bathed in sunshine, I have to make the most of it.

It was about the sharing. Knowing that our neighbor is particularly fond of freshly baked scones, I wanted to include her in the feast. Sharing them with her builds neighborly good will (as well as saving us from the entire calorie load of a batch of scones - ahem!) and gladdens not only her day but ours, too. Baked goods have a way of doing that. They are magic.

It was about the crowing. Our local basketball powerhouse, the Golden State Warriors, had triumphed the night before in the first game of the championship series. It's important to crow a little after a win, since the losses sometimes follow and they are much less fun. Crowing with a true fan like Doreen - truth be told, we are fair-weather fans, only really interested if the team makes the finals - makes it even better.

It's about the celebration, really, of all those things. The sun, the warmth of both air and friendship, the flavor of the strawberries ripe in the spring, the fortune of living on a funny little street where neighbors stop and chat even on the days when they can't sit down for a few minutes to eat a scone and share a gloating.

And, okay, it was also about the scones.

Cream Scones, from America's Test Kitchen

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and position the rack in the middle of the oven.

2 cups unbleached flour
1 Tbs baking powder
3 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt (fine, not coarse like kosher salt)
5 Tbs butter, cut into 1/4" cubes
1 cup heavy cream (whipping cream) (or half-and-half if that's all you have on hand)
1/2 cup dried or fresh fruit, chopped to the size of currants
1-2 tsp turbinado (coarse) sugar, optional

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. 
Put the first four ingredients into the bowl of a food processor with the steel blade in place. Pulse 6 times. Remove cover and distribute butter cubes evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times for 1 second each.

Pour into a large bowl and stir in the fruit. Stir in the heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork, just until the dough begins to form, about 30 seconds. (The trick with scones, as with biscuits, is not to handle the dough too much).

Transfer to countertop and knead by hand just until it comes together to form a rough, sticky ball, 5-10 seconds.

Transfer to parchment paper, pat into a round about 1-1/2 inches thick and cut into 8 sections, spreading the sections gently apart to give them room to rise. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar, if desired.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until light brown*. Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Mine took about 5 minutes longer. And, yes, I like using the turbinado sugar.