How to pronounce the word ‘scone’ is a hot topic of debate across the UK and Ireland. In this part of the world, where the lightly sweetened, baking-powdered, dense but flaky tea-time pastry has deep roots, regional dialects and social class divisions translate into some people saying “skon” (rhymes with “away”) and others say “skone” (rhymes with “bone”). It’s one of the words linguists at Cambridge University use to map how English dialects go up and down in the British Isles.
Regardless of how they pronounce it, I guess most across the pond will object to what I’m about to say: Scones can also be a vehicle to curb food waste and sustainably source fruit year-round to eat in the region.
There, simple, understated round scones are mostly split down the middle and occasionally topped with fruit preserves and some clotted cream. American scones are strikingly large and triangular. Having lived in both parts of the world, I like all types of scones, but I work with the American variety here.
My first strawberries of the season were a squishy mess when they landed on my counter. This will teach me to take both dogs with me on my walk to the farmer’s market and back with my reusable bag over my shoulder! After buying a single pint, which wasn’t enough to make jam or even a cake, I toasted the mashed berries with sliced rhubarb and sugar, having no plan for the compote other than having it on hand for breakfast to have. As afternoon tea approached on a recent rainy day, I was craving a scone and pulled out my favorite recipe, one for Butternut Sage Scones, published on Food52.com in 2010 by Liz Larkin, aka The Scone Lady, who all kinds of flavors sell scones at the Pound Ridge (New York) Farmers’ Market.
I didn’t have the half-cup of butternut squash that Liz’s recipe calls for at home, but I did have the compote. The substitution worked like a charm and got me thinking. You know, I love Liz’s recipe because it makes great scones every time. But I also love their technique as they let you make the dough, shape them into eight individual scones and freeze them for about an hour before baking. Cooking a creme scone from frozen stops it from spreading, so the result is a tall, fluffy batter. But it also gives you the freedom to only bake the number of scones you need. They can be stored in the freezer for up to four months.
I could make all sorts of summer compotes out of berries and ground cherries, stir them into scone batter and freeze them for many breakfasts and tea times to come. Unlike jam, in which the fruit pulp is broken up and boiled for a long time into a spreadable form before being made into mason jars, the fruit in compote is quickly cooked, left chunky, and often complemented by savory spices such as chilies and black pepper.
Experimenting with this idea, I learned to follow a few compote preparation rules to get the right batter consistency.
• 1 cup fruit plus 1/4 cup sugar makes 1/2 cup compote and gets the right ratio for the scone recipe.
• Do not add any liquid other than a tablespoon of lemon juice to the pan while making the compote as the fruit will be juicy enough for this process to work.
• Roasting the fruit produces the flavorful compote as the sugar caramelizes to deepen the flavor of the fruit. But it takes a little longer than just cooking it on the stove.
• Always cool the compote before adding it to the scone batter.
• Don’t over-stir when adding the compote to the batter as this will make the scones tougher and give them an odd colour.
The four flavors of scones currently in my freezer are Roasted Strawberry Rhubarb; Cinnamon Blueberry Lemon; raspberry and rose (add dried rose petals to the compote); and brown sugar, chili and cherry. If you fancy this summer fruit preservation technique, let me know which flavors you enjoy.
Local food advocate Christine Burns Rudalevige is editor of Edible Maine magazine and author of Green Plate Special, a column about sustainable eating in the Portland Press Herald and the title of her 2017 cookbook. She can be reached at: [email protected]
Roasted Strawberry Rhubarb Scones
Makes 8 scones
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup chopped rhubarb
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 ¼ cups (10 ounces or 285 grams) all-purpose unbleached flour, plus more for forming scones
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/3 cup heavy cream plus more for topping scones
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla paste
Raw sugar for garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Combine strawberries, rhubarb, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup sugar in a small cast-iron skillet. Place pan in oven and roast fruit, stirring frequently, until fruit begins to break down, 20-25 minutes. Transfer the hot compote to a ceramic bowl and place in the freezer to cool while you prepare the dough.
Mix the flour, 6 tablespoons sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter, using your fingers to first dust the butter with flour and then crush the cubes to incorporate them into the batter.
In a large measuring cup, combine heavy cream, egg, and vanilla paste. Mix well. Pour the liquid into the flour and butter mixture. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry with a fork while gradually turning the bowl. When the dough begins to set, add the cooled compote and gently stir into the dough. Using a plastic spatula, gently knead the dough into a ball. Don’t overmix.
Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly floured board. Gently tap in a 6 inch circle. Using a spatula or large chef’s knife, cut into 8 triangles.
Use a cake server to transfer the scones to a lined sheet pan and freeze until set, about 1 hour. Once frozen, you can keep them in the freezer for four months.
To bake the frozen scones, place them about 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread with cream and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. They’re done when a wooden skewer comes out clean and the underside of the scones is golden brown.
Green Plate Special: triple cucumbers, all delicious