Today was our work Christmas Party. We went to the Zoo. Which was mostly a gallery of sleeping animals, but I’m here to tell you that the meerkats are the cutest and most active animals in the zoo, and that the seals are very good at explaining the importance of not littering…
Today was also a landmark achievement in my culinary life: I made more scones than my Division could eat. I actually didn’t know there was an upper limit on how many scones my scientists could consume, so I feel rather pleased with myself about this…
(Also, I now have a lot of leftover scones. A lot…)
I’ve been muttering about scones ever since we went to the Grand Hyatt for yet another work Christmas Party (the advantage of my job is that I get to go to pretty much all the Christmas Parties… the disadvantage is that by the last couple of weeks of December I have to start turning them down be cause I can’t keep up with my actual work). I was fairly vocal at the time about the general awfulness of their scones and the stinginess of their portions. Also, the discussion at our table turned to lemonade scones, which instantly made me realise that I needed to try making lemonade scones with other soft drinks.
I wasn’t going to do that for today, since I was being given money and the morning off to be the official main caterer, but when I mentioned to the two postdocs who sit near me that I had decided against red lemonade scones on the grounds that Weird Experimental Scones were probably not what I was being paid to make, they both looked so sad at the prospect of no pink scones that pink scones became inevitable.
That meant, of course, that I had to make ginger beer scones, too, as I had promised this to LePetitPrince. And then I had to make cheese scones, because one of our PhD students really doesn’t like sweet things. Which meant that of course I had to make Hungarian Paprika and Celery Salt butter to go with them. And then I had to make plain scones, of course, because what if people didn’t like the weird ones?
In retrospect, making nearly 130 scones for 32 people was possibly a little excessive. But how was I to know that the pink scone batter would make so *many*?
Anyway, these scones are basically your lemonade scone recipe, but with red lemonade. Or ginger beer, if you prefer. They taste pretty much like scones, though they do have a faint reddish-raspberry sweetness to them. And they are pale pink. They are also ridiculously easy to make, so you should give them a try.
Your Shopping List (makes about 30 scones)
Now what will you do with it?
Bring all your ingredients to room temperature if they weren’t already.
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C. This is very important – the scones need to hit a hot oven as soon as they go in. You should also put the oven rack fairly high in the oven – allow room for the scones to rise, but basically, use the top or second shelf for the tray.
Now make sure you have everything ready, says she who trashed the kitchen looking for her scone cutter in a hurry this morning. By everything, I mean that you want your biggest oven tray lined with baking paper, and you want to have on hand a rolling pin, a round cutter that’s about 5 cm and fairly deep, extra self-raising flour to sprinkle over your preparation surface, and a good, broad butter knife. You should also consider getting out a small bowl of milk
for the fairies and a pastry brush – brushing the scones with milk makes them a little more golden and smooth on top.
Incidentally, the reason for all this advance preparation is that once the liquid ingredients hit the dry ones, you have activated your culinary chemistry experiment, and the faster you get everything into the oven, the better the scones will be. You don’t want all those exciting chemical reactions that make scones rise so beautifully to take place outside the oven.
Put the flour into a large bowl. Measure the red lemonade and cream (separately is almost certainly a better idea than together) and pour in at the same time. The lemonade will foam up alarmingly, but then subside.
Use the knife to cut the mixture together for 30 seconds to a minute. I have no idea what that instruction means when they say it in cookbooks, but what *I* mean is run the knife through the mixture (making sure to touch the bottom) repeatedly from end to end of the bowl, turning the bowl a little after every stroke, until you can see that things are somewhat combined but still very rough.
Turn this mixture out onto a floured surface, and draw it together. It’s going to be quite sticky, so you should probably flour your hands and sprinkle a bit of flour over the top of it.
Now we have our very minimalist scone kneading, which I do as follows: I get my hands under about a third of the dough at the front and turn it over onto itself, then pat down gently. Then I do the same thing for the left, the right and the back. At this point, you should have a dough that is roughly rectangular and doesn’t look entirely like something the cat dragged in, though it will still look a bit as though there were cats involved. (Especially if they were trying to get onto the table and kneaded into the dough, which is not something we encourage.) Don’t worry – you’ll be rolling it out, and that will make it look a lot better very shortly.
Pat it down a little, and then use the rolling pin to roll it out to about an inch thick, or even a little thicker. You may pause briefly to admire its delicate pinkness at this point, but do remember that you want to work fast!
Cut out circles with the cutter, making sure you don’t twist the cutter as you take it out, and place the proto-scones close together on the baking tray. When you can’t get any more scones out of that rectangle, press the dough together and roll it out again – try not to knead it any more, even if this means your scones have a rougher top. They will still be better if they are less handled. Keep doing this until all your dough is used up.
Brush the scones quickly with milk, and put into the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until well-risen and golden brown on top.
If you want soft scones, wrap them up immediately in a tea-towel after they come out of the oven. Otherwise, they can cool on a rack, just like any other thing you might bake.
Eat with jam and cream. Of course.
Ginger beer is also excellent in scones! It’s a pretty subtle ginger flavour, but it’s very nice with apricot jam. And of course, there’s always lemonade, which is traditional anyway. One of these days, I will find green Fanta and make green scones for St Patrick’s Day…
In terms of dietary requirements, there is, of course, no egg or nuttiness in these scones. And speaking of eggs, please do not follow any scone recipe that has egg in it. That is not a scone, it’s a cake. (I just saw such a recipe online and was aghast. I had to explain to Andrew that scones are held together by the power of the human will and rise by the grace of God, and eggs have no part in this theological/humanist equation. Which is perhaps a bit more philosophical than necessary, but really, eggs do *not* go in scones.)
Sorry about that. Anyway, you should be able to make these with a good self-raising gluten-free flour mix (which is to say, people all over the internet seem to have done so) – just make sure you get one which works well for cakes rather than breads. This would also make the scones low fructose, too, unless there is something weird in the red lemonade that I’m unaware of. Which is entirely possible, actually.
I have not yet tried this, but I believe coconut milk would be a good dairy-free substitute for cream in this recipe – I don’t believe there is anything intrinsically dairy-requiring about scones, and coconut milk has the right sort of rich fattiness to do all the things that cream does in this recipe. At which point, hooray, we have vegan scones (assuming, once again, a lack of weird stuff in the red lemonade – do check this, because some red food colourings are derived from beetles. Plain lemonade or ginger beer should be safe, however.)! How clever are we?
(Just don’t spoil the effect by forgetting and serving them with jam and cream, OK? Jam is sufficient… or you could make whipped coconut cream to go with it. Yum.)
If you want to try making these scones a tiny bit healthier, you could substitute half the self-raising flour for self-raising wholemeal flour, but don’t be surprised when they don’t rise as much. Wholemeal flour is a lot heavier, and the leaven has to work a lot harder to get any effect. Also, why are you trying to make healthy scones when they have cream and pink lemonade in them? Don’t you think that ship has sailed? Just enjoy them in all their unhealthy glory! I know my scientists did…
This time last year…Recipe: Summer apricot crumble (gluten-free!) Farmers’ Market with summer berries