#EasyAF Scones (from scratch)
Easy as fuck scones! Yes, all those words in one phrase. No, really. I kid you not. I wouldn’t joke about things like that. The story that precedes the thing is longer than the thing. I promise. Anyone. Can. Make. Scones. Say it with me: I can make scones!
So the story is this. I started with the #ThrowTogetherTuesdays column because I wanted to bring a little value to people’s lives by making things easy. How to get a mid week meal together with as little effort as possible, while still making it count, in nourishment, in decadence, in nostalgia… whatever – was the goal. But! The best laid plans go to pot.
It just wasn’t working.
Firstly, the pressure of getting something out on a Tuesday was killing my joy. Joy sufficiently killed and to-do list a mile long, I blogged less and less and guilted myself. Then I rebelled and said I’m not blogging because I have nothing clever to say. And god knows there’s enough crappy content out there without me adding to the offensive pile.
That didn’t make me happy either.
I write this blog, and have been for over 5 years now, expecting little in return, because I love doing this. So while I was away on vacay in the Maritimes the past couple weeks, I thought a lot about my promise to deliver smart food this year to you wonderful people who take the time to read my blog. And deliver it I will. Because here’s my philosophy… everyone can cook. Recipes are merely one person’s idea of how it’s done. A guideline. If you learn some principles and keep an open mind, eating out budgets can be used for joyous evenings out, not resentful take out runs. Even if your efforts fail, with a little inventiveness, you can rescue pretty much anything – sometimes in a different avatar.
So might I present my renamed column… #EasyAF Food.
These recipes are just that. Easy. As. Fuck. A set of guidelines, sometimes for seemingly obscure things that you never thought to try. And a few ideas on how you might modify to get you started on creating endless variations.
And to prove that there point, here are my easy-as-fuck scones.
I love scones. They are, however not easy to make (I thought). And while I like tea biscuits, the mighty scone’s much easier to make cousin, there’s just something about a buttery, perfectly split-openable scone that I must have.
But here’s the real seller to get you to try this… I have a deep fear of dough/pastry – the line ‘easy as pie’ makes me anxious, my pasta roller sits in its box, unopened; and I rarely make pizza. So trust me when I call it #EasyAF…
So here goes… gather the dry ingredients in a bowl. 2 cups of flour.
Guide 1: Any mix of flour will do. All you need to do is make sure 50% of it (AKA 1 cup) is all-purpose. You need that for the structure. The rest of it, you can mix as you like. I used wholewheat for this. But think multigrain, bean flours, barley, or any mix thereof. You can use all all-purpose too if you’re that way inclined. I’ve done that many times. I was just ready to up the game a bit and hence all the goodness rolled in.
1 tablespoon of baking powder joins the gang. This is rather a lot in the baking world. But that’s what makes that immense amount of flour light and crumbly. Now add 1 tablespoon of flavour. Any kind will do. Herbs, spices, or something from your favourite bottle of spice mix. I went with some garlic, some Montreal steak seasoning, thyme, and oregano. If your seasoning mix has salt in it, skip the salt, if not add half a teaspoon of salt in the bowl. Mix well with a whisk. You can’t hurt flour when it’s dry. So go crazy.
Now grab a cold slab of butter and cut out a third of a cup. Dice it into smaller pieces. Put the butter into the flour mix and rub it between your fingers.
Guide 2: This is perhaps the hardest part of the recipe and it only takes 5 minutes! Plus it’s really rather calming to do. If you want speed things up a bit, rub it between your palms. The end effect you’re looking for is a little like damp beach sand. Like so…
Now chop ¼ cup of pecans relatively small. Throw that into the crumby mix. Followed by the cheese (3/4 cup). Stick this all into the refrigerator for a few minutes to keep its texture.
In a separate bowl, prep the wet ingredients. Here’s how I like to do it. In a cup I squish in a few ingredients that can add a bit more flavour into things. In this recipe I used a bit of mustard and a bit of hot sauce. And filled the rest of the liquid amount with milk (to half a cup). Then I add an egg and whisk it all together. Now pour this mix into the dry mix. And in rich scone-making tradition, use a butter/table knife to stir it all in a kinda cutting motion.
Guide 3: this is possibly the only trick to bear in mind. The more you handle dough, the tougher it gets. And scones ain’t tough. They’re light and airy little wusses.
Cut through and stir till it all comes together. You’re looking for a slightly sticky mess that just about holds together with some straggler bits.
Guide 4: Upend the contents from your dry bowl to the bowl that previously held your wet ingredients. That way you’re not left with dry bits in the bottom that aren’t getting enough liquid.
Now turn your bowl over onto a floured surface. Use your hands to bring it all together into a rough circle about an inch thick. If some bits are still not sticking, you need more liquid – wet your hands with milk and pat into place.
If that doesn’t work, put it back in your bowl. Stick in the refrigerator for 5 minutes then do the knife mixing again, adding a tiny splash of milk at a time till you get a sticky-ish mix. Repeat.
Last step – cut the circle into half, then fourths, then eights – halving each piece. Use your hands to smear some milk on each if you like. Or skip it.
Put the 8 triangles onto a parchment-covered tray and bake in a 400F oven for 15-18 minutes.
You’re looking for it to be golden on top and almost firm to the touch when pressed.
Remove. Let cool for 5. Split one, serve with butter or cream cheese or your fave condiment. Pesto? Tapenade? Jam even – if you like a sweet-salty gig.
Now here’s how you can modify it.
- Replace the nuts with chopped pepperoni and put some tomato paste in with the milk to create a pizza-like flavour. Oregano could be your herb of choice here.
- Change up the cheeses. Keep them to the grated cheese texture though. Drained feta will work crumbled in too. If you’re using a softer cheese like goat’s cheese, reduce the milk a bit at first and add in more as needed.
- Change up the herbs.
Use this basic formula to experiment as you like!
- Replace the amount of cheese + nuts with chopped fresh or dried berries or cherries.
- Or keep the nuts, replacing only the cheese with berries/cherries. If using frozen, let drip in a strainer over a bowl first. Use the liquid with milk to form your milk mix.
- Replace part of the milk with a bit of honey or maple.
- Replace the herbs and salt with sugar.
- Replace the cheese with cream cheese and the nuts with chocolate chips for a bit of take on a chocolate Danish. Start with less milk if using cream cheese.
Really, anything! It’s a pretty forgiving recipe. And even if it goes to pot, it can be rescued by baking some more, and eating hot with a bit of butter. Most things can 😉
Serve as a snack. As a side to soup or salad. Or for breakfast/brunch with your favourite meats/eggs/vegetarian alternative.
My next step is to use frozen oil to try and make this vegan (and replace the milk). I’ll post an update when I get that down.