There are a few things I don’t have to think about in this life. By think I mean that razor faculty. That analysis. That untying of a concept or action, unpacking it in order to understand it. I don’t have to think about the words to the Jesus & Mary Chain’s April Skies; I don’t have to think about And the world comes tumbling down, hand in hand in a violent life, making love on the edge of a knife. I do, however, have to think to conduct a solid 90% of social interactions. I don’t have to think about my blind, mystic, quantum faith. I do have to think about time; it’s an amorphous blob to me naturally. I’m not made for space time and remarkably lousy at navigating it. I don’t have to think about who I care for. I know. I don’t have to think to draw my runes, to hear. I don’t have to think to sink deep into sleeping swan pose.
I do have to think to say no. I live in a natural state of optimistic yes. I don’t have to think to be abstract; I’m forever spilling my metaphors all over people without ever bothering to explain they’re metaphors. To take me literally is to figure me insane. Or stupid. Not that those aren’t thoroughly fair assessments from time to time. I can be, it’s true, insanely stupid. I don’t have to think to work. It’s an instinct. Experiment, create, document. I don’t have to think to season food properly. I have to consider, but I don’t have to think. And I don’t have to think to make biscuits or scones, which is probably why this is the 3rd scone recipe to grace this site. I can have them in the oven in a few minutes flat. I don’t use a recipe, no. It’s a choreography I know well. I almost don’t have to use my scale. But I do. Hubris is probably no more delicious than it is becoming. But I can mumble my 80′s incantation; I can, bashful & alone, half sing under the April sun, under the April skies, sun grows cold, sky goes black with a smoky, quartz seer’s crystal burning a hole in my pocket, flour in my hair & the air smelling of white sage. I can weigh, pinch, stir, fold, fold, fold. And I can forget plenty of things that need forgetting.
I especially like to bake when I’m sad or anxious or any of those states generally acknowledged to be both unpleasant & inevitable. I like it because when I’m successfully creative in baking, I feel good about myself. Not quite smug. But good. I love it when I can effortlessly incorporate seasonal finds—in this case golden Asian pears grown right here in Tennessee—when I can make do. Use what’s at hand. I had no eggs. Which is why you aren’t looking at a cake right now. Improvisation is liberating, and it appeals to my pathologically independent nature besides.
These, these are my scones. They’re basically a riff on my buttermilk biscuits, and they’re chock full of the flavors of impending winter, of bitingly tart, fresh cranberries and bittersweet chocolate chunks (Chunks, not chips. Not messing around here.), flecks of sweet cream butter, warm spices, and best of all, juicy bites of roasted pears. They’re big and crumbly, crisp on the outside and cakey on the inside. I like lots of crunchy sugar on top. You could make a glaze. I’d make a buttermilk glaze, whisking buttermilk into powdered sugar until I got my desired consistency. But I like them just so. Especially good news? Freeze your unbaked scones on a baking sheet and store them in a ziplock bag once frozen. Bake straight out of the freezer, adding a few additional minutes to compensate for the whole them being frozen thing. Enjoy fresh scones without thinking even if you have to think to make them; there you have it.
Want to make your own version? Say to hell with my fillings? Simply substitute whatever sounds good to you in place of the fruit & chocolate. Add some crushed fennel seeds, bits of apple, and maple roasted pecans? Butternut squash, pine nuts, and sage? Black tea, lemon zest, and dried figs? It’s your life; they’re your scones.
- 2-3 pears, peeled & cut into 1/2" dice
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- 2 cups (250 g) all purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup of sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided in half
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- pinch of allspice
- 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
- 1/2 a stick (4 tablespoons/56 g) unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon size pieces
- 1 cup buttermilk (plus up to a scant 1/4 cup extra if it seems dry)
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks
- raw sugar for sprinkling
- Heat oven to 375°F.
- On a lightly oiled sheet pan toss pears, cranberries, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring them around half way through. Remove from oven and cool completely. You can stick them in the fridge to expedite this process.
- Increase oven heat to 425°F.
- Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and salt.
- Using your fingers pinch the butter into the flour mixture until no pieces larger than a pea remain. You still want butter bits though, so stop as soon as no pieces larger than a pea remain.
- Stir in buttermilk until just combined, adding a splash more if it seems dry. Gently fold in roasted pears & cranberries and chocolate chunks.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
- Turn dough out onto a well floured work surface (I use my counter) and sprinkle the dough lightly with flour. Using well floured hands pat the dough out into a long rectangle, the narrow end facing you. Think of it as the shape of a slightly long piece of notebook paper. Fold into thirds, like a business letter, towards you.
- Rotate the dough counter clockwise, again making sure your hands are well floured and that your dough isn't sticking to anything (flouring the surface as needed). Pat out and fold into thirds the same as before. Rotate counter clockwise once more.
- Pat this out into a long log that's about 1" thick and 4-5" wide and cut into triangles using a well floured knife or bench scraper, gently placing the triangles on the parchment lined baking sheet. Brush tops lightly with buttermilk and sprinkle with raw sugar.
- Bake approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Depending on your oven you might need to rotate the pan halfway through cooking to ensure even browning; I do.
- Remove scones from baking sheet to a rack to cool. Can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container or bag for a few days, but they're much better fresh. If you don't want a lot, I recommend freezing the ones you don't want to bake instead of storing already baked ones. Bake frozen scones straight out of the freezer for about 25 minutes.