I've had a lot on my mind lately. Everyday when I open my eyes first thing in the morning, ideas start racing across my brain, rushing ahead, trying to reach the forefront first. Sometimes it seems like I can barely remember those days of waking up in a pleasant fog, hearing the birds chirping outside.
And yet... Despite the whirling vortex that I sometimes am unable to calm, thoughts of good food and good times eating food always surface just above the turbulence. Take these scones for instance. Ever since seeing Isabelle's lovely blossom-shaped Lemon Ginger Scones, I have been dreaming of making my own. Scones have outcompeted work, working out, and sometimes even sleep. They have almost won out over the start of cherry season and Game of Thrones... but not quite. (Please, I have my priorities people.) I have made different versions of scones at least 4 times now in as many days. You might think that sounds over the top, but when I decide to do something I do it right.
Simple ingredients for simple scones.
At first I wanted scones with fruit in them. As I mentioned, I am overjoyed with the start of cherry season, but I also had some lingering strawberries I needed to bake or eat before they kicked the bucket. But then I abandoned both those ideas when I realized I would much rather eat a well-flavored non-fruit scone and slather it with fruit jam. I wanted a simple scone, nothing fancy.
Scone dough just after kneading together for just a minute.
Scone dough on a well-floured board.
But here is where the situation got a little tricky. I went in search of a great recipe for plain scones, and they all seemed... a little boring. Plus people were going on and on about how you should add frozen butter, or grated butter, or melted butter and all this to-do about butter got me a little overwhelmed. I also realized that people are very particular about their scones. Some like to add cream, some like them extra dry, others think they should only be eaten with devonshire cream and afternoon tea. Frankly, it all seemed so serious to me, and really, I just wanted to make a simple scone.
The dough is really easy to work with and to cut into mini fluted circles.
Mini scones cut out with a fluted cutter.
So naturally, for a simple scone, I turned to Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food. I usually turn to this tome more for her recipes using fresh ingredients, but I figured she would have a solid scone recipe up her sleeve as well; sure enough, I found it in the bread and grains chapter, a completely unadorned recipe just for "Scones." Could it get more simple? When she said, "You can put this dough together in just a few minutes," I was sold.
Scones brushed with butter before baking.
And do you want to know why you can put the dough together in minutes? It has no butter in the scone dough. This means no freezing, no chilling, no nothing. You can just mix everything in a bowl with a spoon and you are good to go.
Now, I can totally hear all you scone fanatics out there screaming "Blasphemy!" but surely even you can accept that if Alice Waters makes a scone without butter, then she has the street cred to call it a scone. (Well, the recipe isn't completely without butter, since you do brush the top of the scone with some before baking.) Obviously opinions vary widely on what defines a scone as a scone (and what makes it a biscuit instead), but her recipe uses only cream in the dough, which makes it lighter and no-fuss.
Let me tell you a few other things about these scones - they are lightly flavored with brown sugar and rolled oats, which provide sweetness and healthy grains. If you like, you can top these with a bit of extra oats to make them look pretty, or sprinkle them with extra sugar.
Oh, and did I mention they are "mini" in size? Yep, only two small inches in diameter. One is perfect for a lady-like snack...or three are perfect for a craving with jam.
Once I had decided to make these scones with brown sugar and oats, I immediately knew I wanted to take out a batch of my peach jam from last summer. I made loads of jam with different stone fruits - apricots, plums, peaches - and I froze them all away so I could have summer fruit sunshine in the middle of winter. Though summer has come around again, I still have a few jars left in the freezer so I can focus on making preserves with other fruits for now. (Like cherries! Stay tuned!)
After making batches and batches of these scones, they are just the way I want them. They are golden brown and flaky on the top, and just shy of overdone on the bottom. The inside is not dry and even manages to be a little fluffy and chewy, so if you are a dry, crumbly scone fan, these beauties might not be for you. But if you like your scones lightly sweetened, simple, and small, I think you might find these to be just perfect.
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Simple Oat and Brown Sugar Scones
I was inspired to make these scones by a basic recipe from The Art of Simple Food, but I adapted it heavily to include ingredients to fit my fancy. I made these into mini-scones that were just 2-inches in diameter, but you could also make them larger if you like by adjusting the baking time and watching them carefully. My favorite thing about this recipe is how easy it is - there is no waiting time, just mix everything together in a bowl and you are ready to go.
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup rolled oats
Zest of 1 lemon
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 tbsp butter, melted
A 2-inch round cookie cutter
Extra rolled oats or brown sugar for sprinkling (optional)
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, oats, and lemon zest. Slowly stir in the heavy cream, and mix until the dough just comes together. It will be sticky and crumbly at the same time, so turn it out onto a well-floured surface, knead it for a minute or so, then pat it into a circle or rectangle that is between 3/4- and 1-inch thick. Cut into rounds using a plain or fluted 2-inch round cutter, then transfer the scones to a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking liner. (To make it easer, dip the round cutter into a small bowl of flour each time before you cut out the scones. Then shake the cutter slightly to pop out the scone from the cutter - don't push it out.) Or, if you don't have a cookie cutter, cut the scones into triangles that are about 2 inches long.
Before baking, brush the tops of the scones with some of the melted butter. If you like, you can sprinkle the top with some extra oats brown sugar. Bake the scones at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes, checking occasionally, or until the tops are a dark golden brown. (Just to caution you, they might smell like they are burning or getting overdone, but they are really just fine. When you check the tops for color, also carefully lift them and check the bottoms too.) Once they are finished, remove them from the oven and cool completely. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container.