Elevenses. The meal eaten by hobbits between the second breakfast and luncheon (J. R. R. Tolkien). A second breakfast – those hobbits are wise creatures.
For me, elevenses isn’t elevenses unless scones are involved. But whose scones?
The American scones have changed from the classic Britisher. No longer are they round, primly delicate, glazed with milk, eaten with clotted cream and jam. The transtlantic type can be stuffed with fresh pears, berries, nuts, chocolate, and did I hear mention of jalapeno? Made with wholemeal (whole wheat), ricotta, cream. Sugar coated, maple syruped, and glazed.
In a word, gussied-up. (ok, two words)
Marion Cunningham’s scones is on this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) baking roster. It’s your classic buttermilk scone, albeit with a transatlantic presentation.
Given my thing about elevenses and hobbits, I had every intention of making classic buttermilk scones smothered in jam and then super-thick cream (yes, I put on jam and then cream, Devon style, sorry Cornwall). But while clearing out the pantry, I saw a bunch of dried fruit and dark chocolate and – dear reader – I made Americanesque gussied-up scones.
That is to say, I blitzed up the dried fruit and chocolates, added a pinch of spice, a tablespoonful of jam, and added the whole thing to the flour mixture. Come to think of it, the dried fruit and chocolate mixture was like the filling for Buccellato or for Cucidati. The fruit mince textured mix-in probably also made the scones look a tad more “rustic”, less like the Britisher scones made with tender white flour.
At first, my inner Samwise Gangee was guzzumped, was I betraying the dainty scones of CWA and the Shire? Then, the Bagginses, Frodo and Bilbo both, decided it’s all good. These scone have left their Shire home and come back full of strange ideas, but that’s what adventure is all about.
I left out the sugar in the scones mixture and relied on the sugar in the dried fruit and marmalade, which resulted in almost non-sweet scones. To sweeten the deal, I added a milky glaze to one batch, which Mr Gander approved of. I ate the others with jam or some plum chutney I had made during a recent plum glut. This may sound strange, but, the plum chutney – with its sweetness tempered by lemon and masala spices – went down a treat.
Next time, Samwise Gamgee, we’ll have clotted Devonish cream and real strawberry jam. Oh yes Mr Frodo, that famousest of Devonshire teas.
Other scones, other Cunninghams
Not to be obsessive, but I also made Marion Cunningham’s cream scones (recipe here), which uses double cream in place of butter and buttermilk. The texture was quite similar, perhaps a little softer, and it was by far the easiest recipe I’ve ever made.
Then, there’s Marion Cunningham’s angel biscuits (recipe here), which uses yeast, baking soda and baking powder in the same dough, to get a light-as-air result.
There’s Scotland’s tattie (potato) scones (example here), which we had for breakfast, in moderation, while travelling through Scotland last year.
Go check out the other TWD bakers at the LYL page (I’ll update the link when the page is up). And speaking of Scottish tattie scones, I’ll leave you with this exchange between Sam and Sméagol/Gollum about taters:
“Sméagol won’t grub for roots and carrotses and – taters. What’s taters, precious, eh, what’s taters?”
“Po-ta-toes,” said Sam. “The Gaffer’s delight, and rare good ballast for an empty belly. But you won’t find any, so you needn’t look. But be good Sméagol and fetch me some herbs, and I’ll think better of you. What’s more, if you turn over a new leaf, and keep it turned, I’ll cook you some taters one of these days. I will; fried fish and chips served by S. Gamgee. You couldn’t say no to that.”
“Yes, yes we could. Spoiling nice fish, scorching it. Give me fish now, and keep nassty chips!”
“Oh, you’re hopeless,” said Sam. “Go to sleep!”
Marion Cunningham’s buttermilk scones
(from Baking with Julia, by Dorie Greenspan, page 210-211. Recipe also here. My changes noted below)
For the Scones
3 cups plain / all-purpose flour (I used about 400 grams)
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces (170g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk
For mix-ins and butter glaze (this is not Marion’s original)
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted, for brushing
Approx 50 grams of mixed dried fruit and dark chocolate pieces
1 tbsp marmalade
1-2 tsp mixed spices (I had a ready made mixture of cinnamon, powdered cloves, cardamom, pink pepper)
1. Chop the mixed fruit and chocolate in a food processor until they have a fruit mince texture. Place into a small bowl and mix in the spices and marmalade.
2. Position racks to divide oven into thirds and preheat to 425°F (220°C). Stir flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together with a fork. Add dried fruit mixture and work it into the dry ingredients until evenly distributed. Add butter pieces and do the same until the mixture resembles very coarse cornmeal (mine seemed extra crumbly and coarse because of the additional dried fruit ‘mince’).
3. Pour in 1 cup buttermilk and the zest, and mix until ingredients are just moistened. If dough looks dry, add another tablespoon buttermilk. Gather dough into a ball, turn it onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead briefly. Cut dough in half (I divided in 3 pieces to get smaller pieces of scones).
4. Roll one piece of dough into a 1/2 inch (1.3cm) thick circle (I think mine were a bit thinner). Brush the dough with some of the melted butter and cut the circle into 8 triangles. Place the scones on a lined baking tray and repeat with remaining dough.
5. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until tops and bottoms are golden. Because I used a heavy baking tray, the bottoms browned quicker than the top so keep an eye on these from about 7 minutes. Cool on a rack, add milky glaze if you like a bit of extra sweetness.
Improvised milk glaze: I don’t have a written recipe. From memory it was about equal amounts of full cream milk powder and icing sugar, mixed with enough full cream milk to form a glaze. Add the milk by quarter teaspoons. The milk powder gives the glaze an extra milky (and less sweet) taste, think Momofuku milk crumbs kind of milky taste.