We had our work Christmas party today. Well, one of them. When you work with two highly sociable Divisions, you don’t just get one work Christmas party – I believe that my official count this year is a modest six, down from a high point of ten a couple of years back. (There will be a seventh party, but it isn’t a Christmas one, so that doesn’t count.) There are Division parties, Kris Kringle for the whole floor, the Institute party, the Admin party, and the party for my little choir. No technician party this year (they had that one during the Conference of Doom), and I don’t generally go to the Union barbecue or the individual lab get-togethers, because enough is really enough, but they exist, oh yes they do.
(Oh, and let’s not forget the work Christmas Choir or Food for Families, which aren’t parties, but do keep me usefully occupied in December…)
Anyway. Today’s party was for the more sociable and hyperactive of my two Divisions, which means we always have to have an Activity, preferably of the Outdoors variety (the lab heads insist… and it’s more fun than lunch at the pub). This year’s party was a bit of an excursion – we took the ferry to Williamstown, and then walked around the coast to Williamstown Beach where we had afternoon tea and beach cricket (a cultural experience that not all our overseas scientists were willing to try). It was actually a really fun day out – like a miniature summer holiday – and the weather was very kind to us. And it turns out that the French – or at least, our French – make surprisingly good cricketers, at least if one is playing by beach-cricket rules, though the Germans were resolute in their refusal to play such a non-soccer-like game. It also turns out that it’s impossible to convince a USA-born Professor that one does not twirl the bat around while waiting for the bowler to run up. And the less said about his (terrifying) bowling style, the better. Baseball has much to answer for.
Anyway. Our best Christmas parties always seem to come with scones, so when we aren’t going somewhere that will make scones for us, I feel compelled to make them myself. This is dangerous, because once I start making scones, I find it difficult to stop, and the next thing I know we have ninety scones, which is silly when I know perfectly well that everyone else is bringing food too. Also, making ninety scones in only one flavour is *boring*, so I’ll always start off making plain ones, and cheese ones, and then the next thing you know I’ll be sticking lavender or pink lemonade in them, and who knows where it will end?
The pick of today’s litter turned out to be the ones I flavoured with blood orange, raisins, spekulaas spice mix and cinnamon. They were really good, with a surprisingly wholemeal-like texture and colour – I think this came from the blood orange juice, interestingly. I sprinkled them with Viennese Christmas Sugar from Gewürzhaus just before I baked them, which gave them a lovely crunchy top.
These scones don’t really need anything on them, as they are pleasantly sweet when eaten plain, but butter would never hurt. And if you have any of The Butter Factory‘s honey and walnut butter, that would be even better.
I am almost positive that these scones constitute a healthy breakfast for Christmas morning.
But I might be lying.
Your Shopping List3 cups self-raising flour 60 g unsalted butter zest and juice of 1 blood orange 2 Australian tablespoons of caster sugar 1 tsp spekulaas spice or mixed spice 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon pinch nutmeg pinch salt 3/4 cup milk (you should have 1-1 1/4 cups of liquid, so squeeze your orange and then top up accordingly. The mixture may curdle which is fine, because you’ve basically now made the equivalent of buttermilk) 2/3 cup raisins Viennese Christmas sugar or raw sugar, for sprinkling
Now what will you do with it?
Pre-heat the oven to 230°C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Prepare a surface for rolling out the dough with baking paper sprinkled with a little more flour.
Rub together the flour and butter between your fingers, until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Alternatively, use the food processor to cut the butter and flour together.
Rub in the sugar and orange zest with the spices.
Pour in the milk, orange juice and raisins, and use a knife or fork to stir everything together as quickly as you can to make a very rough, sticky dough. Turn out onto the prepared baking paper surface, and knead four times – basically, fold the dough over, press it down, turn it 90 degrees, and repeat three more times. That’s it! No more kneading for you!
Still working fast (you don’t want to use up the rising power of the baking powder in the self-raising flour and the buttermilk), use the rolling pin to roll the dough out to a thickness of about 1 1/2 – 2 cm. You may need to flour the dough to stop the rolling pin from sticking.
Cut out 5cm circles with a biscuit cutter, making sure not to twist the cutter as you lift it out of the dough (this can inhibit rising). Place the scones on the tray, brush with milk and sprinkle with the Christmas sugar.
Bake for 12 minutes, then remove from oven and wrap in a clean tea-towel, to keep them lovely and soft until you can eat them.
Serve warm or at room temperature to your very favourite scientists.
This recipe is naturally egg and nut-free, and I think we should keep it that way. It would work with a gluten-free self-raising flour mix, and if you took out the raisins and replaced the milk and orange juice with buttermilk, you’d have a nice low-fructose orange and spice scone. Personally, I’d add more orange zest and spices at this point.
Making these without dairy would be a bit of a pain. You’d need a good butter substitute, and I really don’t think Nuttelex works for this sort of purpose, and you’d also need a buttermilk/milk substitute. My inclination would be almond milk, unless you have a nut allergy, in which case you’d best stick to soy.
Flavour-wise, you could do just about anything with the fruit and spice motif. I think dried apricots could be lovely with maybe a touch of orange flower water and cardamom, too… Could that be my next scone recipe?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~One year ago: Recipe: Pink Scones! Two years ago: Farmers’ Market: Summer Berries!