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Friday, July 19

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It was just two short years ago that I first fell in love with this recipe. I was getting ready to do a two-day walk for breast cancer awareness, and my friend Laurie was spending the night at my place in order to make the 6am check-in time downtown. We decided we wanted a delicious carb-filled breakfast, but we needed something that we could make, pack and eat later (and granola bars just weren't going to do it for us). That's when Laurie whipped out her aunt's famous scone recipe and we hit the grocery store for the few things we needed that weren't on my shelf. What ensued was one of the most delicious and crowd-pleasing baking adventures I've ever had.

Scones are easy — or so they would appear as they gaze out at you from pastry shop windows. What we refer to as "scones" are most often wedge-shaped, filled with berries and smeared with a glaze. (According to wikipedia, a traditional "scone" is more like what we call a biscuit.) They're not exactly health food, but whether they're made with frozen berries in the winter, or fresh ones from a local farmer's market, they're delicious.

In my previous experiences with baking anything scone-like (my experiments with shortbread were a tasteless nightmare) my dog turned up his nose at a sample. Luckily, I've learned a few easy fixes:

The secret to scones is in the blending. So much so, that I've invested just a few dollars on a neat little hand tool called a dough or pastry blender or a "pastry knife." You can find one in any kitchen gadget section of your favorite supply store, or even well-stocked hardware stores. It'll set you back about $5, but your pastries will never be better. What you need to remember is that when you mix something to the "course crumb" level, you've got a lot of stuff to combine. While, in my youth, I used a few knives to "cut in" butter or shortenings, I never could get the mixture, well, mixed evenly enough to give it that good ole buttery flavor all the way through. The pastry knife has a semi-circular set of wires that allow you to easily blend all of the butter (or Crisco or margarine or soybutter or whatever your recipe calls for) into your dry ingredients.

Another extra helper for this recipe is parchment paper. You need it to protect your cookie sheet from the bubbling sugary berries that will ooze from your delicious scones. Parchment paper is like waxed paper (and found in the same place of the grocery store) but isn't waxed. It's not a necessity, but it sure does make clean up a breeze, and it'll save you some wear and tear on your cookie sheets.

And while I talk about blending, once your dry and wet ingredients are incorporated, don't over-kneed the scone dough. For one thing, you'll end up with pretty stained berry hands. For another, you'll end up with little wedge-shaped rocks to eat. Just be gentle, and it will love you back.

But without further stalling, here's the best scone recipe ever.

Blueberry Scone

for the scones:
2 C. All-purpose flour
1/4 C. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
4 T. chilled butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1 C. blueberries (fresh or frozen) or your favorite berry
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel

Mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Using your pastry knife, cut butter into dry ingredients until the mixture resembles course crumbs. In a small bowl, mix together cream, egg and lemon peel with a fork or whisk until blended. Slowly pour cream mixture into dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until a soft dough forms. Gently add blueberries. Kneed dough lightly with a floured hand. Divide the dough in half and shape 6-inch rounds on top of a clean, lightly floured surface. Cut each round into six wedges.

for the crumb topping:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup Crisco
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Mix crumb topping ingredients with a pastry knife until it resembles course crumbs. Pat the mixture on top of the wedges. (I've found that this is a great deal of topping, sometimes too much. If you like, go ahead and save any unused topping in a Tupperware container in the fridge, and use it the next time you bake some scones.)

Carefully place your wedges on a piece of parchment paper on top of a cookie sheet. Leave a little bit of room between each wedge to allow for even baking! Bake the scones 20-25 minutes at 375°. When they are done all the way through, but not over cooked and dried out, remove them and allow the scones to cool.

If you want a bit more sugar, once they are cool, drizzle the scones with a light frosting made from a cup of sugar mixed with a little of the heavy cream.

Now, brew some coffee or tea, sit by the window, and admire the view while you admire your new found skill in scone baking.

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