I’m a morning person. Always have been, since I was a little girl. Once the sun was up, so was I – tearing around the house like a maniac (or a herd of elephants, as my parents liked to describe it), and impatiently awaiting…
…well, SOMETHING. I was sure something was about to happen. And I wasn’t going to miss it.
My best friend at about that time was definitely NOT a morning person. We were fabulous friends, and spent most of our time together. She lived out a long dirt road in a big house surrounded by trees with her mom and her grandparents. They had lived there FOREVER. We would spend our days picking wild grapes and chestnuts and sorrel from the land around her folks’ property.
Our sleepovers at her house weren’t the kind you see in those touching coming-of-age movies. You know – the ones where the girls stay up all night talking about boys (what creeps they are), movie stars (totally going to marry them someday), or Ms. Cabbage-schnozz the third-grade teacher (and her terrifying hairy mole). Oh, I’m sure we talked about those things plenty, but not really at night – nights were basically her staying up reading magazines or playing video games or drawing…while I passed out at 10pm. I couldn’t help it. THIS herd of elephants had had a busy day, and needed some shut-eye.
In the morning, of course, it was the opposite: I’d wake up all bright-eyed and ready to greet the day (controlling as best I could the urge to elephant around her VERY large house), and would play Sonic the Hedgehog or fold her laundry until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and then I would tiptoe down the hall to the kitchen where, without fail, her grandma Wanda would be pulling a fresh batch of currant scones out of the oven.
I never had grandparents around growing up. But hanging out at my friend’s house, I became aware that having a grandma was like having a maid and a chef and a tailor and a chauffeur and a scapegoat all at the same time! (I was quickly informed that no, having a grandma was NOT having any of those things, and I’d be wise to remember it). But it sure seemed that way.
And really, it was amazing – SCONES. From SCRATCH. Not just on holidays.
I felt like I had wandered into some sort of fairytale – like if I made too much noise or said something frivolous on those crisp, quiet mornings in the woods, Grandma and her scone making would just -POOF- disappear, leaving just a faint hint of baking butter hanging in the air. So I would slide into the nearest seat at the kitchen table and just watch as she carefully transferred the steaming wedges to a cooling rack and went out to the pantry to grab some butter and some jam. Later, I would help her water the garden (the first “real” garden I ever helped out with) and feed the dogs and the pony.
Life is hard.
My friend (when she finally awoke around 11 or so) wasn’t into scones the way that I was. I always secretly thought it was because she missed that magic time when they were fresh – the time when you have to decide how willing you are to burn your tongue because they are SO HOT but also SO GOOD. Maybe it was because she’d been eating them at least once a week for her whole life, I dunno.
What I do know is that those mornings are some of my favorite memories of that age: waking up early and having scones with Wanda while the sun was peeking through the trees and just beginning to wake up the rest of the world.
I’ve never asked Wanda for her scone recipe (I really ought to). When I found this recipe while researching things to do with lemons (Tyler Florence is one of the few Food Network cooks whose recipes I trust), it transported me back to Wanda’s tiny kitchen, and I knew I’d found a winner.
(and then, of course, I changed everything, fickle baker that I am).
Lemon Blueberry Scones
makes 8 large scones
5 Tbsp butter (I use salted), chilled, cut into small cubes
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (optional )
2 Tbsp sugar (or light evap. cane juice)
1 c unbleached white bread flour
1 c whole wheat pastry flour
juice and zest of 1 large lemon
3/4 – 1 c heavy whipping cream (plus more for brushing on top)
1 c fresh of frozen blueberries, huckleberries, or currants
(or up to 1 c dried currants, cranberries, etc).
1/4 c coarse sugar (to sprinkle on top)
Note: if your berries are very fresh and soft, toss ’em in the freezer while you make the dough. It will make the process much easier if they are a little firmer.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and butter (you can really use just about any kind of flour here, but I like the chewy flakiness I get from using half whole wheat flour and half white bread flour. If you use ALL whole wheat flour, add a little more cream to the dough, and let it rest for 5-10 min before forming the scones). Using your hands, squeeze and pinch the bits of butter into the flour mixture until the whole mixture is crumbly. It should feel fairly dry, but all of the large chunks of butter should be fully incorporated.
Add the lemon zest and juice and mix thoroughly, making sure the zest gets evenly dispersed. Finally, add the heavy cream. This is tricky, because you only want as much as it takes to *barely* hold your dough together. Add a small splash in at a time , working the dough as little as possible, “tossing” the crumbles with your fingers to mix in the cream. If you are using dried berries, add them in at this point as well.
When the dough is ready, it should have the consistency of pie dough – somewhat crumbly, but held together fully when squeezed or pressed. At this time, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
Shape the dough into a large “wheel”; about an inch high and 14 inches in diameter, carefully pressing the berries in as you form it (this is easier if they are slightly frozen, as I mentioned before). when the wheel is holding together well and all the berries are in place, cut it into 8 wedges.
Transfer these wedges onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, placing them as shown in the pictures: point-to-point, then back-to-back. This allows the scones to cook more evenly and encourages convection in the oven.
Brush the scones liberally with cream, and sprinkle them with coarse sugar (sometimes I sprinkle poppy seeds or more lemon zest, too).
Bake them at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until they are slightly firm and beginning to brown on the edges. Let them cool on the parchment paper, or transfer them to cooling racks – keep in mind that they are very fragile while they are still hot.
When they are cool, they should be stored in an air-tight container (like a large tupperware or pyrex storage container) where they will keep for up to a week.
Enjoy these scones warm or cold – they don’t need any toppings, but are pretty killer cut in half, toasted, and smeared with fresh butter.
Also, hide them from roommates or significant others if you expect them to make it until tomorrow. They’re that good.