Penelope Scones

It’s Sunday morning, and Tim wants scones. Something about how the weekend has already unfolded tells him that I’m probably not going to be hopping out of bed on this day, eager to bake (and yes, some days I’m actually like that). So he asks me how hard scones are to make. I’m still in the bed.

“Not that hard. You just have to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the largest pieces are about the size of peas. Oh, and make sure that you don’t stir it too much. Just until it comes together — the more you stir, the tougher the scones will be.”

“Hmm. What if I mix together all the dry and wet ingredients, and you just do the rest?”

And so a scone-baking deal is struck. I want them, too, after all. Anyway, Tim gets started on the recipe I suggest — the classic currant scones from The Joy of Cooking. Problem is, I forget that recipe calls for heavy cream, of which we have none. He has already put together the dry ingredients when we make this discovery (at this point, I have managed to drag myself to the kitchen for the purpose of consuming the requisite amount of coffee needed to adequately perform my end of this breakfast deal).

A quick inventory of the frig shows that we have buttermilk, so we substitute equal parts. Since recipes using buttermilk usually call for a combination of baking powder and soda (I’ve read the science behind this, several times, but still can’t remember enough to pass it on now), we add a half-teaspoon baking soda to the mix. We then decide that, since we have some dried cherries on hand, we might as well use some of them. We opt out of using the optional egg (it makes them more cakey), brush the tops with half-n-half, put them in the oven, and hope for the best.

And they are quite delicious — delicate, with a nice orange kick that is balanced by the cherries. Tim is so happy with our creation, he decides we should write the recipe down, and name them. When he asks Ada what we should name our scones, she says, with conviction, “Penelope.” So I now present to you the recipe:

Penelope Scones

Preheat oven to 425º.

Whisk together in a large bowl:

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar (we used raw cane sugar, or turbinado)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Using a pastry blender, cut in, until the mixture looks like bread crumbs and no pieces are larger than peas:

  • 6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Stir in:

  • 1/4 cup raisins, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped

Whisk together in a separate bowl:

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp grated zest of one orange

Add the wet to the dry ingredients, and stir very gently with a rubber spatula just until the mixture comes together. Gather the mixture into a rough ball, and turn out onto a floured surface. Press gently into an 8-inch round disk, about 3/4″ thick. Cut into 8 wedges. Brush the tops with milk or cream, and sprinkle lightly with more sugar, if desired (we didn’t add more sugar, and they were plenty sweet). Place about an inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet or stone. Bake 14-18 minutes, or until nicely golden. Let cool about 5 minutes before digging in.


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