We made our first visit to Great-aunt Helen’s recipe box in January 2015 and it floors me that I continue to find recipes worth getting excited about. Besides the first two boxes,we’ve since added two smaller–and most definitely quirky–books.
Sweet, savory, old-school, surprisingly contemporary, some duds though mostly success. And though there are recipes I won’t bother with (taking a pass on Salmon Pudding and State Fair Ham Loaf), there are still so many more I want to make.
This week we’ll piggyback on Helen’s crepes and her European travels. A box of papers held records of her many visits to England where she studied as a Fulbright scholar. Programs and playbills from theater performances, operas, coronations, museums, castles evidenced her high regard for all things culture.As I flipped through her recipes, I stopped short at the page for scones. How very properly British! Maybe Helen first discovered scones while enjoying high tea in London?According to The Queen of Scones, these lovely baked goods first became popular when Anna, Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861), ordered sweet breads and tea as an afternoon pick-me-up. She must have been properly picked up as she continued requesting these same “breads,” some of which were scones, at precisely 4 p.m. each day. Afternoon Tea Time was born!
The first scones were large, round, and flat. Containing oats, they were unleavened and baked on a griddle before being cut into triangles for serving. Today’s scones are quite another thing. Coffee shops sell scones boasting flavors of espresso, raspberry-white-chocolate-chip, double chocolate, etc etc. They are most often triangular and most certainly leavened.
Helen’s scone recipe was oat-free, but likely closer to the original than some. Her instructions were borderline vague and I had to guess at “rounds – cut across twice.” “Bkp” had to mean baking powder, but that’s a deduction only someone with at least a bit of baking experience would make. Calling for 1/6 cup milk was also bizarre (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons – I did the math).
That said, the recipe was easy enough to follow and I strayed only by using unsalted butter in place of the shortening and skipping the raisins in lieu of emptying a bag of freeze-dried berries I’ve wanted to get off my shelf for some time.Though the recipe may have said to cut across twice, I went for thrice and got six small scones. I also sprinkled the unbaked dough generously with a fun lemon-rosebud sugar I picked up at the farmers’ market ages ago.They turned out deliciously and it couldn’t have gone any other way as the ingredients were so basic. These were standard scones, plain and simple, albeit pimped up with freeze-dried berries. Maybe not exactly what Helen had in mind when she penned the recipe in her beautifully flowing script, but my guess is she would approve of the tweaks.Tea will be served alongside these scones, of course, but we’ll dress that tea up somehow when you return next week for Cocktail U.