I took deep breaths
A couple of months back, I went strawberry picking in Carnation with Kate, her sister Margot, and Margot’s boyfriend Todd. A mere hour or so of backbreaking labor yielded 16 gorgeous pounds of loot and made me almost dizzy with glee—until, that is, I realized that each and every berry had to be washed and dried. To make a long, messy, juice-stained story short, I cooked up three batches of jam from a recipe given to Margot in Italy, and I now have a freezer full of red-to-the-core strawberries. And I can’t stand seeing them just sit there unused, unattended, unloved. These sorts of dilemmas keep me up at night. If you know me, this is no joke. I need my sleep.
But as luck would have it, this past Saturday I chanced upon my sister Lisa’s recipe for Scottish scones. Lisa makes at least a half-dozen varieties of these scones—from plain to lemon, currant, dried apricot, candied ginger, raspberry, and strawberry—each year before Christmas, stashes them safely in the freezer, and then totes them to wherever it is that we’ve all gathered for the holidays. Lisa’s scones are neat and pretty, with a fine crumb and just a hint of sugar and butter. She has the touch, evidently, and on previous attempts with lemon zest and currants, I’ve come close.
But my strawberry scones are something else entirely. They are lumpy. Floppy. Disheveled. They resisted my efforts to knead them neatly, even forcing me to sling a sticky blob of dough onto a nearby wine bottle. Once in the oven, they oozed pools of strawberry juice and then stubbornly braised themselves in it. I’ve never seen a Silpat so dirty. I took deep breaths and fought the urge to reach for the trash can.
But! They taste absolutely divine. Hideously ugly but wonderfully delicate, they barely hold themselves intact around pockets of soft, jammy strawberry. Those berries! That light, tender, almost biscuit-like crumb! It must have been that minimal kneading I was forced into.
This recipe was given to my sister by a good friend of hers who, appropriately, is Scottish. I pass it on to you only on the condition that you try making it first with something neat and non-wet, such as raisins, currants, dried apricots, citrus zest, or candied ginger. Wetter things, such as frozen berries, will send you into murky territory, and it’s best to learn the lay of the land first.
½ c milk (I’ve used skim with no adverse effects, although it might be best to use one with more fat and body)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
3 Tbs sugar (I often choose the finely milled raw cane sugar—hippie sugar, as I call it)
Flavorful additions of your choice, to taste (see above for ideas; if you use berries, make sure they are frozen)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Beat together the milk and the egg and then set aside. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Rub the butter into the flour mixture, working until you have no lumps bigger than a pea. Add the sugar and whatever additions you choose, and stir or toss to mix. Pour the wet ingredients into the dries, reserving just a tad of the milk-egg mixture to use as a glaze. Bring dough together gently with a wooden spoon.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead it no more than 12 times. [Apparently, twelve is the magic number here; surpass it at your own risk.] Pat dough into a round approximately ½-inch thick, and cut into 8 or 12 wedges. Place on an ungreased baking sheet or a Silpat, if you have one. Using a pastry brush, glaze wedges.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack.