Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What Do April Showers Bring?

by Lisa

Was April the cruelest month for you?

Mine wasn't cruel, but it was definitely a stormy whirlwind of missed deadlines and too many balls in the air, too many irons in the fire, too many cooks in the kitchen, or whatever other cliché that comes to mind. I'm guessing your April wasn't much different. And now it's May (!), and rather than feeling caught up and ready for a new month, I'm looking at an overdue list that is nearly as long as my to-do list (and my want-to-do list must wait a while longer).

It's time for some kitchen therapy.

"Never had there been such...making of car-cakes and sweet scones." Sir Walter Scott, The Bride of Lammermoor 
Nothing helps me to focus on the moment, appreciate what I have, and get my hands back into life's pleasures better than taking the time to cook or bake slowly, with intention. No phones. No email. No music, even. Just me and ingredients and the promise of creating from scratch with nearly immediate gratification.

The yellow tint to the milk is from an early version of the scone recipe, below, where I tried to use part olive oil, part butter. Edible but not publishable. Don't try it at home.
Take scones, for example, a food of humble origins that has risen to posh status, the ingredients for which almost everyone already has on hand. As I was trying to think of clever groan-inspiring titles for this post, I learned that "scone" is a favorite word of punsters (see Scones and Sensibility , by Lindsay Eland, or Alexander McCall Smith's The Unbearable Lightness of Scones), and that the title "A scone by any other name" is far from original (like me, are you curious as to the difference between scones and biscuits?)
Scone: A large round cake made of wheat or barley-meal baked on a griddle; one of the four quadrant-shaped pieces into which such a cake is often cut; more generally, a soft cake of barley- or oatmeal, or wheat-flour, baked in single portions on a griddle or in an oven. Also with defining words, denoting varieties of this cake, as butter scone, potato scone, soda scone, treacle scone; brown scone n. one made of whole meal. drop-scone n. (dropped scone) one made of a small portion of batter dropped on the griddle or on a tin and baked. fried scone n. one in which the ingredients are made into a batter and fried. (Oxford English Dictionary)

The history of scones goes back at least six hundred years (see the fascinating Food Timeline site for origins and recipes), so when I use my fingers to "pebbalize" butter into soft, sifted flour, I imagine myself connected to cooks from centuries past, putting their hands in barley meal and shaping rounds or squares or triangles to be baked on hot "girdles."
"We lay on the bare top of a rock, like scones upon a girdle." Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped

The following recipe is adapted from instructions for "How to Make the Perfect Scone," with some help to convert grams to cups and Celsius to Fahrenheit. This version combines simple ingredients with fresh berries and uses no added sugar, unless you choose to sprinkle some on top.


Here's wishing that April showers bring May flours for us all.

Simple Strawberry Scones
  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons cold butter, cut in small pieces
  • 2/3 cup milk (or cream or half and half)
  • 1 cup diced fresh, firm strawberries (or half diced strawberries and 1/2 small blueberries)
  • milk and sugar for topping (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Add the cold butter pieces to the flour mixture, and use your clean, dry fingers to rub the butter into the flour until the butter pieces are no bigger than tiny peas. Trust me: this feels good.
  4. Add milk or cream, and stir mixture very lightly until almost combined. You don't want it at all to reach the stage of batter, and there will still be some unmixed flour. Add the evenly berries, and use floured hands to fold them in and gather the entire mixture together into a big, soft lump.
  5. Transfer mixture to a floured surface, and gentle pat or roll to a thickness of about 3/4 inch. Cut into ten to twelve rounds or squares. If you wish, brush the top of each scone with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
  6. Bake scones on a baking pan or stone for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned.
Step 7:


  1. Love this post - it gets a mighty shout on my blog today. :-) Thanks, Lisa!

  2. Yes! I love new scone recipes. One day, Lisa, you will have to come to Madison. We have one little place with THE best scones in the world. And really, I have no idea where April made off to. No idea.

  3. I use cooking therapy for myself quite often, so this post really clicked with me! I'll have to try that scone recipe; the last time I tried to make scones, which was actually a very long time ago, I got something akin to hockey pucks. I'd like to think I've moved beyond that skill level.

  4. Thank you for the recipe - the scones look delish!

  5. Yummy! I can almost taste those scones. Scones are featured in my next book Amanda in England-The Missing Novel. Thanks for the wonderful recipe. Can't wait to try it. There is something theraputic about baking for sure.